First Day Reflections from Utpal
We had an early morning today; by 7AM we were on the bus heading to Utpal Academy. When we arrived at 8:30, we joined the assembly and briefly introduced ourselves and our schools. From there, the girls were split into pairs and attended classes as per each students’ respective grades. The students had the opportunity to interact with the Utpal students. They sat in on classes, led the student in fun games, and cracked many jokes. At 12:30, we headed into town and ate a traditional lunch. From there, we headed back to Utpal to help the student pick up garbage for their eco-month. We then played a friendly game of basketball against the Utpal students. Afterwards, the students sat down with the Utpal students to talk about Gross National Happiness and what happiness means to them. It was amazing to see so many similarities and differences between our two cultures. We then paired up, and made our way to the dormitories where we would spend the night. Staying overnight at the school with the students allowed us to foster new friendships. The Utpal students were extremely welcoming and took great care of our students- they even tucked everyone in for the night. Stay tuned for our reflection of our second day at Utpal.
-Caitlyn Kovalcik and Natalie Bot
Second Day Reflections from Utpal
To describe the entirety of our time spent at Utpal over the course of this blog post would be bordering on impossible. You would be remiss if you were to omit the tale of our absurd defeat in basketball to the Academy’s team, or perhaps how we were all tucked into bed by our respective roommates in the dorm. It was in a word surreal, a type of bizarre world wherein everything was slightly different from home. At the very beginning it was of course difficult to adjust and fit in with the students however within a few hours everyone began to relax and have fun. By the evening all of us had made new friends, hence the aforementioned tucking in. Today, for obvious reasons, was more bittersweet, having to say goodbye to our new friends proved difficult. A great deal of fun and laughter was had throughout as we enjoyed many demonstrations of singing and dance and even gave one of our own. To my mind the most important aspect of our time at Utpal was the huge differences in environment that allowed us to gain a completely new perspective on our own lives. A particularly enlightening moment was when a student asked me if we did “work like this at your school?” as we cleaned the local highway’s gutters. That caused Owen and myself to take pause and think about how much more relaxed our own school lives were in comparison. Of course I cannot speak for the girls but from what they have told me I believe they experienced similar moments of perspective in their time. It was an incredibly unique and important experience for all of us.
Our second day at the Utpal Secondary School was an incredible experience where all of us students learned not just about the Bhutanese students but also about ourselves. The day started early in the morning with a plate of fried rice and hardboiled eggs. From there we attended the student’s first classes of the day and learned more about their contrasting lifestyle. Personally, I learned how to code webpages in html format. Following this, we took part in a student run leadership workshop where we assimilated different techniques on how to be a leader. As a group we learned how the Bhutanese students value different leadership qualities and reflected on our own strengths and weaknesses. As a whole, the two days at the Utpal school were an eye opening experience for both us and the Bhutanese students. For most of us, we were thrust outside of our comfort zone but luckily we were accepted with open arms. The past two days have taught me that the Bhutanese are just as intrigued by our culture as we are to theirs. Watching their dancing and singing performances today really showed how Bhutan is changing as a nation. On the one hand, there were multiple traditional songs and dances, but on the other hand we heard Ed Sheeran, K-Pop, and The Chainsmokers. While their way of life is so much different than our own, it is clear that they also share so many similarities. Speaking for the whole group, I know that we will never forget our “Ut-pals” that we have made over the past two days.