Rob Rodriguez found his passion for different cultures at the age 6, reading books about different countries. And, after his summer abroad with the Global Scholars, he knew he needed more. This past summer Rob studied abroad at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in Jakar, Bumthang Dzongkhag, Bhutan. During his time abroad he spent six weeks in Bhutan and an additional five days in Thailand.
Upon arrival in Bhutan, the curriculum started in the capital, Thimphu. Here the group started classes with both Bhutanese and American professors. The class was titled “Eastern Himalayan Forests and Rural Livelihoods” and was split up into an ecological section and a sociology section. The research adviser, Kinley Tshering, is the former head of Dorji Wangchuck National Park, the largest national park in the country. Tshering also led the field research.
In addition to research and classes, Rob still found time to hike for three days from the Jakar Valley to the neighboring Tang Valley 20 miles away, hike up to Kikila Pass to have class above the Tharpaling Monastery, and play soccer with the local town’s team.
Near the end of the program, Rob had the opportunity to present his research group’s findings at the Jakar Symposium held on the UWICE campus. Government officials of the city as well as experts in the ecological field attended.
“Going abroad made me much more aware and appreciative of the lifestyle in a rural location. For anybody who is interested in studying abroad, do it. However, I really advocate going somewhere unique – somewhere where you can look back on it and say that you never thought you would be going. Also, it is extremely important to step out of your comfort zone when abroad, no matter where you are at. By doing so, you could learn so much more about the place you are living and studying in as you slowly start to assimilate yourself by doing more local style activities. I believe that study abroad is very important because you acquire the sensitivity and insight to different cultures and can take those lessons and implement them in your everyday life.”