Monday, 14 October 2013

All Bhutanese want to study in Australia ... or so I've been told.

Today I read an interesting post from my friend Andrea about happiness in Bhutan - her response to an article by Bhutanese blogger Langa Tenzin about the difference in motivation (and financial remuneration!) that exists between BCF volunteers who want to come and work in Bhutan and Bhutanese workers who want to go and earn money by studying and working part-time in countries like Australia. It's a topic that's been on everybody's lips here in Chamgang as many of my colleagues research what's involved in going to study in Australia. I enjoyed both articles and my response to Langa's post was too long to fit in the comments sections so I've posted it below.
Hi Langa,

As a teacher (and blogger!) from Australia working in Bhutan through BCF, I appreciate the gratitude you express for the work we have been doing in Bhutan's schools. And in turn, I want to thank you and all other Bhutanese for the kind and generous way in which your country has welcomed my wife and me into your country. Kadinche La!

I think your analysis of the different motivations that would compel Westerners to want to come and work in Bhutan are good: for me, the opportunity to make a big difference in my classes and to experience a simpler, more communal and less-consumer driven culture are the main reasons I love teaching here. The beautiful environment and warm-heartedness of most of the people I meet are two further compelling factors.

As an Australian, whenever educated Bhutanese find out where I'm from and if they haven't already been to Australia to study, they instantly want to talk about the kinds of study and work opportunities that exist there. As a result, I've talked to many people about this topic including many friends and colleagues.

I can understand many Bhutanese people's desire to want to go to Australia to earn money and I wish them well on their endeavours. I hope that when they return to Bhutan that they feel content with their earnings and can feel comfortable about their future. I also hope they can avoid the trap of immediately casting their eyes around at how much their neighbours, who also went to Australia to work, have managed to bring back, how many decimals of land they have been able to buy and what kind of SUV they are now driving.

I have personally seen way too much of this kind of mentality in Australia and the kind of misery that it brings to people and hope our Bhutanese friends can avoid it. I'm sure that if these entrepreneurial souls can enjoy their material wealth without letting it take priority over their family relationships, friendships, fulfillment in work, health, spirituality and other contributors to happiness, then their efforts will definitely be worth it!
One thing on this topic that I wanted to mention here, is that it seems to me that some of the Bhutanese who are trying to go to Australia are so hell-bent on getting there, that they are at risk of not being realistic about the amount of money they will need and where they are going to get this money from. Word is already filtering back to Bhutan from Bhutanese working in Perth, WA, for example, that jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to get.  As China starts to face up to the limitations of its unrestricted buying of Australian raw materials, the Australian economy, especially the mining sector, is also projected to drop which will send more workers from the mines back to cities like Perth looking for jobs. The IMF has recently forecasted a rise in the Australian unemployment rate fro 2014. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about pursuing your dreams and don't want to sound like a terrible naysayer - but sometimes certain causes and conditions need to align for our dreams to eventuate. Clinging on to false hopes or ventures that are doomed to failure can lead to deeper misery and unwanted complications that can make peoples' lives worse than they were before they took the initial risk in the first place. 

All of this is no problem if a Bhutanese student has been lucky and hardworking enough to land an AusAid scholarship or something similar, the expenses are much less daunting. But for the majority of Bhutanese who I meet, who are trying to study in Australia as 'private' students - the initial outlay of expenses is considerable. 6 lakh for course fees and health insurance per year, 1 lakh at least for return airfares per person, 30 lakh in the bank account to demonstrate access to suitable funds, at least 3 lakh (per person) as set up costs.  That's 43 lakh (AUD $70,000) for a couple of which at least 13 lakh (AUD $21,000) has to actually be spent and re-earned in Australian dollars and cannot be easily borrowed, placed in a bank account and then given back to the lender as with the 30 lakh needed for visa purposes.

These kinds of funds need to be taken seriously, as do the considerable expenses involved in living in a country like Australia. I hope that many Bhutanese wanting to visit Australia think carefully about their choices and the potential risks involved. Maybe for some, they will need to spend a few more years saving money and harnessing their resources before planning their trip, whereas for others now may very well be the appropriate time. Websites like the Australian Government's studyinaustralia site has good information on available courses and approximate living costs.

Best of luck and Tashi Delek to all!


  1. Hello Mattie,
    I saw your comment on my blog post and the link you shared which brought me here to your blog. Thank you for reading my post and giving a detailed reply. It was nice reading it. You have mentioned some interesting facts and estimated costs of achieving the dream of earning money by going to Australia.
    It was nice also to read about the reasons why you wanted to come and work in Bhutan. I believe the reasons for many others who come to Bhutan and work for some duration are more or less same. The pleasure is all mine, Mattie. You guys have done an amazing job by volunteering to come to a harsh environment and teach the kids in Bhutan. They will have definitely learned man things from you which they wouldn't have, if you haven't been teaching there.
    Like you, I too would like to wish them all the best. I also wish you a good stay in Bhutan, however long or short it must be. Thank you once again for reading my post and giving a beautiful and interesting reply.
    If you wouldn't mind, I would like to post this reply of yours in my blog. Please let me know.
    Have a good day. :)

    1. Hi Langa,

      Thanks for getting back to me. Now that I know about your blog, I look forward to reading more! Please feel free to post my reply to your blog, I'm sure it will be some cause for debate re costs of things in Australia. I just updated it two minutes ago to include some links to relevant news articles about the Australian economy etc. All the best, Matt

  2. You are welcome. Thanks for the permission and the updates. I have posted it on my blog.

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