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Course planned in Bhutan

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by Rebecca Cooper
Arts & Entertainment Editor

University of La Verne students who want to study abroad in January for Core 310 or 340 credit have a new option – the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

The trip, which was conceived by Christine Broussard, assistant professor of biology and her husband Jeremy Korr, adjunct instructor, is only the second of its kind in the country.

Dennis Taylor, biologist at Hiram College in Ohio, was the first professor to lead study abroad trips to Bhutan.

In 2002 and 2003, Taylor received permission from the Bhutanese government for his trip.

Very few foreigners have visited Bhutan. Tourists were first admitted to the tiny country in 1974, where television first aired in 1999. The Bhutanese government charges a visitor tariff of $200 a day to each visitor, and $150 a day to student visitors. In 2000, there were only 7,500 visitors to Bhutan.

“The challenge is that Bhutan is a very expensive place to visit with non-negotiable costs, and it’s a very hard place to get into,” Korr said. “The $150 includes everything, besides souvenirs. So, it doesn’t matter what hotel or lodge you stay in, what tour bus you go on, what restaurant you eat in or even if you’re trekking in the mountains ­ it’s all covered by that fee. But it means that long trips are very expensive.”

Expenses for the trip, which includes airline, lodging and food, are expected to be $4,900. This is slightly more than the $4,500 study abroad trip Jeffrey Burkhart and students took to Kenya.

“We’ve enjoyed teaching Core 340 this semester. Our discussions about food prompted us to think about sustainability in a more holistic sense, not just limited to food,” Korr said. “We thought about studying sustainability in Bhutan because of its unique situation. Bhutan’s natural, spiritual and cultural character are all challenged by the desire to modernize.”

The country, which lies between Tibet and India, is trying to modernize at a rapid pace but still remains as it has been for hundreds of years. A national law states that 60 percent of the country must remain forested forever.

The natural and cultural sustainability of the country will be the main focus of the trip. Students will take daily hikes, speak with local farmers and villagers, visit factories and explore various museums and villages, including Paro and Thimpu, the country’s largest cities.

The major guidebook for visitors is “Bhutan” by Stan Armington. In the book, he writes about the places tourists can stay.

The lodging ranges from simple huts catering to yak herders to the Olathang Hotel, which was built for royal guests.

“All rooms in (government) approved hotels in Thimpu and Paro have electricity, telephone, private bathroom and at certain times of day, hot water,” according to Armington.

The country first received the internet and television in 1999, and it’s national airline, Druk (dragon) Air, has a total of two airplanes. The airline and one road from India are the only ways into and out of Bhutan.

The trip to Bhutan will leave Jan. 4, 2004, from LAX to Bangkok, Thailand. The class will stay in Bangkok for two days and then head to Bhutan Jan. 7 to Jan. 20. They will then head back to Bangkok and return to the United States Jan. 21.

The trip, which graduating seniors can return for in January, will receive final review today by the General Education Committee.

The committee will look over the syllabus and travel plans to make their final decision.

“The GE Committee is usually very supportive of these kinds of trips,” said Zandra Wagoner, general education program director. “It’s a once in a lifetime trip and a great opportunity for students, and I’m sure the committee will agree.”

For more information, call Dr. Broussard at extension 4597, or e-mail Dr. Korr at jlkorr@aol.com.

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