Better in Bhutan An FFT Fellow researches Happiness

In the aftermath of the pandemic, Christine Mitchell's faith in the goodness of others flagged. She saw the same disillusionment in her students. Their school community is an isolated one, with little diversity in race, culture or worldview. Covid exacerbated this insular attitude and emphasized the social and emotional challenges teens already face.

"I felt beaten down by our society and hoped that an experience like this fellowship would bring the sparkle back to teaching others; it was still there, just harder to keep bright."

As a practicing Buddhist who even sat under the Dalai Lama, Christine was familiar with the meditative lifestyle -- and the fact that Bhutan measured the well-being of its citizens with a Gross National Happiness Index.

"Who knew you flew over Russia to arrive at Katmandu?"

So with a 2023 Fund for Teachers grant, she journeyed 7,500 miles to the Himalayan Kingdom to see how the lifestyle and culture could inspire students at Northwestern Regional High School/Middle in Winsted, CT.

An amazingly kind and beautiful land with the nicest guides EVER!
"On this fellowship I was under true duress at times: hotel bedbugs; altitude sickness when gasping for breath on cliff hikes; being sandwiched like sardines on a flight from India (15 hours); and crossing a long wire bridge despite my fear of heights. Deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness were my survival tools....and they REALLY worked! How we choose to think about our situation sets the course, despite many challenges and discomforts."
Collaborating with fellow artists at VAST art center in Bhutan, and preparing a meal with my host family in Haa...

Homestays and meetings with VAST Bhutan, a creative community, fueled Christine's passion for the country's people and also an idea for an art exchange between her students and those she met.

A small child creating at the VAST gallery

"The fellowship was life-changing for me," said Christine. "I learned that I am far more capable and brave than I have ever given myself credit for. It gave me a total sense of confidence and the ability to appreciate my strengths. Professionally, I came to realize the impact I have on my students. They followed my trek on Instagram (@trek2shangrila) to be part of the experience and I've since reworked the focus of my art class to work on greater creativity/expression inspired by my conversations with the arts community in Bhutan."

The country is covered with the most beautiful and inspiring artwork...every inch of it!

"I was totally inspired by the landscape, architecture and animals of Bhutan and am beginning my own body of art work -- paintings to illustrate my experiences."

Inspired by the sights and sentient beings of Bhutan - creating my own art!

Since returning home, Christine is actively bringing Bhutan's "happiness" back by:

  • Starting an art and pen pal exchange between her students and children in the arts community in Bhutan;
  • Incorporating mindfulness practices and more opportunities for self expression in art classes;
  • Sharing a presentation to the school community about her fellowship and served ema datchi and momos (traditional foods) to faculty and students;
  • And, is planning a student field trip to Bhutan for the year 2025-2026 to expose some students to the culture and people first hand!

"Kindness and compassion are part of the Bhutanese culture - everyone tries and so can WE!"

All sentient beings are valued and respected from the largest to the smallest.

Christine is one of 386 teachers awarded $1.7 million in fellowship grants last summer. We will announce our 2024 FFT Fellows on April 4 at

Christine welcomes your questions at her email: