Skip to content

Programs : Brochure

This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
Fact Sheet:
Program Description:



  • 18 years of age or above
  • Good academic and disciplinary standing at Penn State
  • 2.80 cumulative GPA or better at the time of application review
  • Sophomore standing or above at the start of the program 
  • One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science
  • Note: SFS programs are very popular. Applications may close early if a program location reaches capacity for a given semester. Applications for the spring 2024 SFS Bhutan program have now closed.

Program Description 

Venture to the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, where change is on the horizon. Few foreigners ever step foot in Bhutan’s small villages and stunning Buddhist monasteries – not until 1974 did the country open its borders to tourism. Now, Bhutan is developing rapidly. At the SFS Center in Paro, you’ll explore the challenges of protecting biodiversity and maintaining traditional rural lifestyles in this time of transition. Study conservation and environmental issues firsthand against the backdrop of vibrant culture and Buddhist philosophy. Learn more about the famed principles of Gross National Happiness, gain an in-depth knowledge of local ecosystems, and wrap up the semester with an extensive field research project.

Embark on a multi-day cultural trek to through remote villages and high mountain passes to experience the natural beauty of Bhutan’s countryside and the traditional lifestyles of its people. Visit monasteries and take part in unforgettable tsechus (festivals) to learn more about Buddhism and Bhutanese culture. And explore Bhutan’s diverse range of biomes through trips to Himalayan ridges, the subtropical Punakha and Chukha Valleys, and the alpine meadows of Phobjikha.

This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Bhutan.


Fall: late August - early December
Spring: late January - early May

Refer to the SFS Bhutan website for the specific dates, if available. 


The Center for Himalayan Environment and Development Studies is located in Paro, Bhutan. Its verandas overlook the flowing Pachhu (main Paro River) with sweeping views of the beautiful Paro Valley. Paro is set in the picturesque Paro Valley, offering views of the flowing Pachhu (main Paro River). This growing town offers a variety of shops, groceries, and cultural opportunities, and the cliffs surrounding the valley are home to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest).

The Kingdom of Bhutan, referred to as the abode of the gods and home to immortals by Eastern classics and books of wisdom, is nestled in the remote and rugged mountains of the eastern Himalayan region. The culture and the traditional lifestyle of Bhutan are still richly intact and permeate all strands of modern-day secular life.

The eastern Himalayan region is characterized by extensive and numerous mountains and valleys, hosting the world’s highest peaks and a diversity of vegetation types ranging from subtropical broadleaf forests through subalpine conifer and alpine shrub and meadows. The country boasts a 70% forest cover and 26% of land area under formal conservation protection.

Bhutan has been identified as one of the ten biodiversity hotspots in the world and is home to an estimated 770 species of birds and an astonishing diversity of plants and orchids. Takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep, tiger, water buffalo, and elephant are among Bhutan’s diverse wildlife. Six vegetation zones are found in the country, ranging from subtropical broadleaf forests in the south, through broadleaf forests, subalpine conifer forests, alpine shrub and meadows as one gains elevation. The highest elevations comprise rock and ice. In the temperate forests, trees are related to the North American conifer and broadleaf taxa, including pines, firs, maples, and birches.

The field station is a former hotel located in Paro, Bhutan – a town located along the Paru Chhu River about one to one and a half hours west of the capital city of Thimphu. The rooms house 2-3 students and have a bed, desk, and storage spaces. Each student room has a private bathroom attached with showers, sinks, and western style toilets (these are rare – you’ll encounter many squat toilets during your time in Bhutan). The field station also has a classroom space, kitchen and dining area, staff housing and office space, and common spaces for students to relax. You will be staying in hotels and guests house while traveling on expedition, as well as camping.

Education Abroad in Countries with a Penn State Restricted Travel Designation

In order to comply with Penn State’s International Travel Policy, students interested in studying abroad in countries that Penn State has designated as “restricted” for travel, a petition for a waiver must be submitted. Once a petition is complete, and if the student is approved for study on the program in question, the student may be asked to meet with the Director of Education Abroad and the petition will be reviewed by the Penn State International Restricted Travel Committee (IRTC). The necessary petition will be included in the online application process for this program. To see if your program is taking place in a restricted travel country, please visit the Penn State Global website.


Available Fields of Study

Agricultural Sciences, Biology, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Ecosystems, Environmental Studies, Geosciences, Political Science, Religious Studies, Sustainability

Course Listings

To find courses at SFS Bhutan, follow the instructions on their website.

To see what Penn State students have previously taken on this program, see the Historical Course List, which is meant to be a guide as to what courses might be available and how they might transfer to Penn State. Courses listed here may not be offered during the semester you attend the program and the credit amount or course title may have changed. 

Note: You are not limited to choosing classes on the program Historical Course List. You should consult the full list of courses on the SFS website before choosing a program.

Course Selection

To find appropriate courses that will fit into your degree requirements, you will need to work with your academic adviser. Suggested tips:
  • Research courses available on your program
  • Meet with your academic adviser to discuss potential courses abroad and your degree requirements 
  • Keep in mind that courses abroad may change or may be unavailable for your selected term, so you will need to discuss possible back-up course options
  • To register for courses on this program you will work with SFS

Program-specific Course Information

On the Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition program, you will take the following courses:
  • Three 4-credit disciplinary courses
  • One 2-credit religion and culture course
  • 4-credit capstone Directed Research course.
Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

Academic Policies

  • You must enroll in 18 total credits on this program
  • You cannot take any courses abroad on a Pass/Fail basis
  • World Campus courses should not be taken in addition to or as a substitute for courses offered abroad
  • You may not take sport or physical activity courses (e.g. sailing, bowling, yoga, etc.) abroad
  • If you are studying abroad in your final semester at Penn State, please note that Penn State may not receive your grades in time for graduation 

Course Equivalency Process

In order for courses from abroad to appear on your Penn State transcript, each course must be given a course equivalency. Please visit the Academics section of the Penn State Global website for information on the course equivalency process.  

Courses can be submitted for course equivalency before, during, or after the education abroad program, however, you should begin this process as soon as possible as it can take on average 2-4 months or more for courses to receive a Penn State course number. In some cases, it can be difficult to obtain syllabi from abroad before the start of the term, but when possible, courses can be submitted for review before departure. Talk to your Education Abroad Adviser about requesting syllabi.

Grade and Credit Conversion Scale

Grades and credit conversions from your host institution cannot be changed. They will be converted to Penn State credits and grades based on the following scales:
Grade Conversion Scale
Host Institution Grade Penn State Grade
A-  A-
B+  B+
B-  B-
C+  C+
Credit Conversion Scale
Host Institution Credit Penn State Credit
3 credits per course  3 credits per course 

Housing and Meals


Students will live on-site at the field station. The rooms house 2-3 students and have a bed, desk, and storage spaces. Each student room has a private bathroom attached with showers, sinks, and western style toilets (these are rare – you’ll encounter many squat toilets during your time in Bhutan).

Independent housing is not permitted on this program. There will be no exceptions


Daily meals and snacks are included in the program fee.

Costs and Funding

Program Costs

Fall Costs
Spring Costs

The cost of a program is based on Penn State tuition rates and partner institution fees. Due to the variety of locations and partner institutions, costs will vary depending on the program. Education Abroad works closely with our partners to ensure the most accurate cost estimates, however, fees can change quickly and without prior notice. Consult the cost sheets for your chosen program often and if you have any questions please contact your Education Abroad Adviser


The Education Abroad Office awards a number of grants and scholarships to students who participate in an education abroad program through Penn State Global. The application for the scholarships awarded through the Education Abroad Office is included with your program application. Eligibility is based on academic merit and/or financial need. You must have a current FAFSA on file to be awarded. There are additional scholarship opportunities through our partner universities, Penn State Academic Departments, and other sources. To view a full list of scholarships, eligibility requirements, and deadlines visit Funding Study Abroad.

Program-specific Scholarships and Funding Opportunities

All students are welcome to apply for SFS need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans. Visit the Financial Aid section of the SFS website for more information.

Student Aid

Penn State students who plan to study on a Penn State approved program can use most forms of financial aid towards the cost of the program. Exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships. If you have specific questions regarding your aid awards, contact the Penn State Office of Student Aid

Withdrawal & Refund Policy 

Withdrawal and refund details are dependent on the timing and reason for your withdrawal from a Penn State Education Abroad Program. For specific details and steps on how to withdraw, read the Education Abroad Policies

After Commitment

Once a student has committed to a Penn State Education Abroad program, they are financially responsible for any fees incurred on their behalf. Therefore, if a student plans to withdraw from a program it is their responsibility to immediately notify the Education Abroad office, in writing; email is preferred. 

Regardless of the timing or reason for the withdrawal, the student will be responsible for paying the Education Abroad Administrative Fees. Additional fees from the partner institution will be assessed according to their withdrawal and refund policies at the date of the withdrawal notice.

After the Start of the Program 

If a student withdraws after the start of a program, any adjustment of Penn State tuition charges will be made according to the Tuition Adjustment Schedule as determined by the Office of the Bursar. Students may be responsible for up to 100% of program costs. In most cases, partial credit cannot be awarded for leaving a program before its successful completion.

For additional information on withdrawal policies, separate and apart from financial consequences, please consult the University Senate Policy on Withdrawal and Leave of Absence.

Life Abroad

General Information 

Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and transformative experiences of your college career. It is an opportunity to develop independence, build cross-cultural competencies, grow as a person, and enhance your academic program. Entering a new culture can be challenging for everyone. You may ask yourself: is this the right country for me? What are their cultural norms? How will my identity be perceived there? What can I do to prepare for this experience? What will my daily life be like? Below are resources to help you answer these questions.


Penn State Education Abroad works closely with campus resources and our partner institutions around the world to ensure that students of all abilities reach their goal of studying abroad. While we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all program sites and locations, specific accommodations may be arranged on an individual basis. If you have accommodation needs or further questions please consult with the Student Disability Resources office and your Education Abroad Adviser. Additional resources are available through the Penn State Global Website. Disability information will not be used during the admissions process, but rather is meant to provide students with resources to help in planning a successful experience abroad.

Program-specific Accessibility Information

Students requesting physical and health accommodations should contact the SFS Safety and Student Life Department. Students requesting learning accommodations should contact the SFS Office of Academic Affairs. SFS will work with students, home institutions, and physicians to determine the required level of accommodation and whether or not it can be safely and reasonably maintained on program. While SFS strives to make accommodations for most disabilities, due to the remote nature of the programs, there are varying levels of accessibility, services, and accommodations at each SFS center. 

Fieldwork by its very nature is physically arduous: the days are long, the traveling seldom comfortable, and creature comforts generally lacking. The program involves a few fairly strenuous hikes as part of the academic program, so physical conditioning is strongly advised. In order to withstand the pace and rigors of the program as well as any “foreign” health risks of the country, it is strongly advised that you be in good physical health. Due to the humidity and temperatures, SFS has noted that chronic health problems often flare up, even if they are under control in the U.S. You should discuss such conditions seriously with your physician and SFS Admissions or the SFS Safety and Student Life Department to see if this SFS program will be right for you

Gender and LGBTQA

There are dramatic and subtle differences in how gender, identity, sexual expression, and sexual health are perceived in different countries. Before going abroad, it is important that you research the specific country or countries you will be visiting and have a full understanding of their cultural norms. Below are some resources to help you with that research and provide guidance for your life abroad.

Race, Ethnicity, and Faith

When choosing a study abroad location and preparing for your travels, you will want to be mindful of how your experience will be different than what you are used to in the United States. Your racial, ethnic, and spiritual identities may be interacted with and labeled by others differently than what you expect. Here are resources to help you prepare for these differences.

Non-U.S. Citizens

It is possible for non-U.S. Citizens to study abroad through Penn State. To do so successfully, you must plan early because this process may involve obtaining visas and other governmental procedures. Check with your DISSA Adviser prior to committing to a study abroad program and speak with your Education Abroad Adviser for specific information on the host country. If you plan on traveling to other countries during your study abroad experience, you will need to research and make plans to adhere to immigration policies for all of the countries that you plan to travel to and through. You are responsible for applying for visas for all applicable countries on your own. Advisers in the Education Abroad office cannot apply for your visa for you. Additional information may be available through your country's embassy and the consulate for your study abroad country.

Next Steps

Steps to Study Abroad

The planning stages outlined on the Penn State Global website will help you have the best study abroad experience possible. We recommend that you begin this process at least one year prior to the semester you plan on studying abroad. Visit the Steps to Study Abroad section of the Penn State Global website. 

How to Apply

Click the “Apply Now” button on this page to get started!

Application procedures can vary by program. Students should consult the application instructions available within each application. For more information, see the Application Process section of the Penn State Global website. 


You must apply to this program by the Penn State deadline. For a list of deadlines visit the Application Process page of the Penn State Global website.

Contact Education Abroad 

If you have general questions about Education Abroad opportunities at Penn State, please email

Peer Advisers

Education Abroad Peer Advisers are Penn State study abroad returnees who advise students on education abroad opportunities at Penn State. Each Peer Adviser can explain program options, give an overview of the study abroad process, as well as provide information about their experience abroad. Peer Advisers have walk-in hours in Boucke Building during the fall and spring semester when classes are in session. For more information, visit the Education Abroad Peer Adviser website. 

Education Abroad Advisers 

Education Abroad Advisers can provide information about courses, support services, application processes, housing details, program costs, cultural expectations, pre-departure requirements, and much more. Education Abroad Advisers have two types of meetings - scheduled appointments and walk-ins. For more information about how to meet with an Education Abroad Adviser, please visit the Penn State Global website

Social Media

Facebook   Snapchat   Instagram   Pinterest   Twitter   Flickr   Youtube

For information about upcoming events, scholarship opportunities, deadlines, and much more visit the Penn State Global Events Calendar and follow us on social media!

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2024 03/01/2024
03/12/2024 TBA TBA

Indicates that deadline has passed