Bhutanese students embrace life in England

Bhutanese students in national dress
Photo: Thinley, Dawa and Lungten from Bhutan.

Lungten Wandi performs a Buddhist song
Photo: Lungten Wangdi performs a Buddhist song.

Dawa Zangmo from Bhutan
Photo: Dawa Zangmo from Bhutan.

Lungten Wangdi finishes Hastings Half Marathon
Photo: Lungten finishes the Hastings Half-Marathon with fellow student Washington, holding the Tibetan flag in support of Pestalozzi's Tibetan students.

Thinley Dhendup with Pestalozzi students
Photo: Thinley (2nd from left) at an awareness-raising event with fellow Pestalozzi students.

Dawa and Thinley
Photo: Dawa and Thinley visit the nearby historic town of Battle.

Thinley with staff and students
Photo: Thinley and Dawa wait for an event to start with Emilie (staff) and Sandra (student).

Lungten Wangdi, Pestalozzi student from Bhutan
Photo: Lungten Wangdi from Bhutan.

6 May 2014

Three students from Bhutan are enjoying their first year studying in England thanks to Pestalozzi International Village Trust. Anthony Musker, student at the University of Brighton, reports.

Pestalozzi is a UK-based charity with more than 50 years’ experience of offering life-changing opportunities to young people from disadvantaged communities around the world. They award scholarships to exceptional 16-19 year olds who are academically gifted but have limited educational prospects in their home countries. These young people have all demonstrated their enthusiasm for helping to make a difference in their communities.

First Bhutanese scholarships

There are currently 43 students from eight different countries at Pestalozzi, studying for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Of those 43, three are from Bhutan. Thinley Dhendup, Dawa Zangmo and Lungten Wangdi have had the amazing opportunity to experience life with Pestalozzi as the charity’s first Bhutanese students.

"It definitely means a lot, because it’s very rare for Bhutanese people to study in the UK, especially at our age," says Thinley, who studies at Sussex Coast College Hastings with his friends. "There are about 30 Bhutanese people studying in the UK in total and almost all of them are at university, unlike us. We are the first tenth grade students from Bhutan to earn a scholarship here."

Challenges and opportunities

The students have been in England for almost nine months now, and are well settled in their new home in the East Sussex village of Sedlescombe.

Thinley, who is the youngest of Pestalozzi’s three Bhutanese students at 17, says the first few months in England were "interesting and challenging" as he adapted to English food, people and places. But he also reveals the joys of life in the charity’s diverse community. "Pestalozzi is full of excitement and fun. With friends from countries around the world, I’m learning so many things. I’m being helped and guided in every step I take. We get up to lots of stuff like going for adventures, dancing, celebrating birthdays and cooking," he says, before adding, "and academic activities, too!"

For Lungten, the eldest of the three, the trip to the London International Model United Nations (LIMUN) conference earlier this year was a highlight. "Taking part in LIMUN was a great experience," he says. "It was incredible to get to know more than 60 people from 52 nations."

Culture, technology and education

Dawa Zangmo, 18, explains how she found her way into the world of Pestalozzi. "I was told by my teacher about the scholarship and was inspired by the principles of Pestalozzi: educating the head, heart and hands. I applied and fortunately I got it."

Now she finds herself exposed to a world she has not known anything like before, and is making the most of the whirlwind experience. "Living at Pestalozzi is great. I am enjoying every moment and always learning more about myself and others, as it is a multi-faith and multi-cultural community."

Lungten pinpoints some of the key differences between education in Bhutan and in England. "The availability of advanced technologies and equipment in the UK is vastly distant to Bhutan. The internet services and other high-tech studying materials allows for more quality."

Individual and community change

These young people clearly hold their Pestalozzi scholarships in high regard.

"Getting this precious scholarship means something that everyone in Bhutan will appreciate and dream about," says Lungten. "I hope I can gain valuable knowledge so I can bring good changes to a very wide range of people."

Dawa agrees, saying, "This is the finest opportunity to change myself and my community as a whole. I see this as the formula to make my dreams come true."

All three students are set to return to Bhutan this summer for the school holidays, to visit family and friends and volunteer in their local communities. Pestalozzi places a great deal of importance on their students maintaining ties with their home countries.

During their second year at Pestalozzi, the students will begin applying for full scholarships to universities, many in the USA, in order to continue their education and go on to make a difference in the world.

Sharing Bhutanese culture

On Thursday 29 May, Pestalozzi will be holding a Bhutanese Cultural Evening, hosted by Dawa, Thinley and Lungten.

Lungten is passionate about having the chance to showcase the wonders of Bhutan to guests in England. "The first thing that comes in my mind is to make all guests feel happy and appreciate our event. We are planning to show our skills and talents in such a way that everyone would love to come again."

Dawa is also excited for the night, which is part of a series of cultural evenings that Pestalozzi puts on throughout the year. "It will be a fantastic forum to let the people know about our beautiful Kingdom, and I am really looking forward to it."

Email or call 01424 870444 to reserve a ticket.

Peace, security and encouragement

Pestalozzi’s Bhutanese students are clearly having a fantastic time thanks to their scholarships. Lungten explains, "The motherly care given in the village by staff helps me to live very securely. The peaceful and calm environment in Pestalozzi is wonderful and inspiring. My hardworking and enthusiastic international friends motivate and encourage me in many ways."

Many Pestalozzi alumni have gone on to fantastic careers around the world, making a difference in sectors from public health to economics, education to the environment. And Dawa, Lungten and Thinley, the scholarship is a chance to continue that trend.

The students hope that others in Bhutan, young and old alike, will be inspired by their journeys and will benefit from Pestalozzi’s ethos of giving back and making a difference in the world.

Read a previous article about our Bhutanese students here.

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Inspiring young people to make a difference in the world.