Bhutanese Exchange Experience

by Urgyen Wangmo

Almost a month ago, several St. Markers had the chance to host students from Desi High School in Bhutan, which they visited last summer as part of the Lion’s Roam experience. I invited sixth former Urgyen Wangmo to write about her experience, and here’s what she had to say:



“In April, I had the awesome chance to host Yeshi for a week and a half. She had just graduated from her high school. Though we only spent half a day at Desi High, they provided an amazing showcase for us last summer. The students sang and danced traditional Bhutanese songs as well as “Watch Me” by Silentó. As a response, ten St. Markers dressed in traditional Bhutanese garments sang the National Anthem and St. Mark’s favorite, “Sun of My Soul”.



Prior to the exchange students’ arrival, students and faculty who went to Bhutan were worried. What would they like? Are they going to feel sick? Will the culture shock be too much? Needless to say, their arrival day came, and we found ourselves greeting ten Bhutanese citizens in the front circle. We knew our first words in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan: “Kuzuzangpo-la”, which it means hello . Holding a reception in the faculty room, we learned that it was their first time flying. We all laughed as they recalled details and frights of the long, bumpy 16 hour journey.


One thing we did not anticipate was that the Bhutanese exchange students and faculty were vegetarian. After three days, Yeshi was quick to say that she missed red rice, potatoes, cheese, and most importantly, spicy foods. All staple Bhutanese foods that Flik could not provide. To help them accommodate to our dining hall service, Flik prepared rice every lunch and dinner.. Funnily enough, Sriracha sauce helped them satisfy their cravings for spicy food at home. They put the sauce into every meal they had at St. Mark’s.



During her stay, Yeshi shadowed me to classes and sports. Since I participate in Recreational Tennis this spring, Yeshi had gotten the opportunity to play tennis for the first time ever! She loved it! However, after shadowing three days of my classes, Yeshi had grown tired of my classes. Granted, my classes were in full swing and almost all were involved in group projects at the time.


Yeshi’s best memory was her visit to Boston. I was at a college visit then, but Yeshi raved about how big Boston is compared to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. She was amazed at the vibrancy of the city, cars honking at red light, a swarm of people rushing across the sidewalk, dog owners walking their dogs in the Boston common. This was completely different from her home. Thimphu had much less cars on streets and a lot more green. It was much quiet than Boston.  I joked to her, “Good luck in New York.” After a week and half at St. Mark’s, the Bhutanese exchange students stayed in New York for a couple of days before their long flight back home.



To me, the most unforgettable memory was the day before the Bhutanese exchange students left when Jamie’s exchange student, Tsering, broke her collarbone. Thursday morning around 5 AM, I awoke to a loud sound of something dropping onto the floor. My instinct was not wrong. One of the girls had just fallen from the top bunk onto my hard dorm room floor. Holding her shoulder, she groaned in agony and could not stand up. Afraid, Yeshi and I assumed that she had dislocated her shoulder and that it should be popped back into place. However, since Yeshi and I both lacked the ability to perform such a maneuver, I called Ms. Behan, the Thayer Dorm head. Ms. Behan quickly rushed into my room to assess the situation before calling health services. The health services nurse had called 911. Less than an hour later, my room was filled with police officers, ambulance workers, and firefighters. What can I say, it was an unforgettable experience. As Tsering was wheelchaired out, Yeshi and I laughed. There was only 24 hours before they would depart from the St. Mark’s campus, yet Tsering, as clumsy as she was, had managed to find her way to the hospital. When Tsering returned from the hospital with X-rays determining that she had broken her collarbone, she rested in Health Services. When Yeshi and I visited Tsering, she laughed at how embarrassing the whole situation was. We joked that since St. Markers visited a Bhutanese hospital (due to food poisoning), it was only fair that they had a chance to visit an American hospital.”


Needless to say, both the Bhutan students and the St. Markers benefited a lot from this experience. We can’t wait to learn more from being a global citizen!