Emily Hembre, MPA ’17

J-Term Practica, 2016
IMG_6182March 30, 2016

My experience in Bhutan is one that was long anticipated. I had never heard of Bhutan prior to MIIS presenting the option for an immersive learning trip. I was thrilled when I first heard of this opportunity and even more excited when I realized this would work within the credentials that I needed to fulfill degree requirements.  Excitement overwhelmed in preparation departure of this trip as well as a little bit of nervousness of the unknown. I have spent much time in Asia and have a deep interest and passion for the culture and the people. However, Bhutan was not something that was relatively comparable. Having remained isolated for many years to the outside globalized world, Bhutan with a small population of 750,000 people approximately remains quite indigenous. The people of Bhutan have effortlessly worked to preserve a beautiful form for measuring success as they develop. The level of the measure has based a measurement of GNH (Gross National Happiness). Throughout the years this model has not only been implemented subconsciously by this society but has been developed into a concrete form of measurement for the society as a whole.

This trip widely expanded my horizons to the reality of GDP not being the all encompassing, only viable ways of measuring wealth. Wealth within a society and amongst people can actually portray so much more than this. As an American, I know the pressure to “chase success” that we are placed under from such a young age. The pressures to not just meet the status quo but to surpass, tromping over anything and anyone that could stand against reeps a mindset that remains progressive individualized. What bond community? What can make such large groups of people “collectively happy”? These questions race through my mind as I began researching possible deliverable prior to departure. The answer I found was an underlying valuing of something. While religion is strongly preserved, a theme of serving one another is far more valuable than serving oneself to the Bhutanese. These ideas have been preserved and valued so deeply that it is a part of who they are without even having to intentionally exert themselves. As I experienced this trip we were able to be involved in a diverse way. We listened to lectures from many Bhutanese leaders, we traveled and experienced major historical spots, we stayed in homestays in rural agricultural communities, we learned about the environment and protected species. Among all this and more, evidence of collective effort to better Bhutan and preserve Bhutan for all its resources and beauty commonly trended throughout. The people, as a result, were highly motivated. And when need to adapt arose they were impactfully useful at utilizing the assets they had as a whole. From agriculture to handicrafts, this collective mentality has and I feel will continue to preserve the life and environment of Bhutan for many years to come.

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