Where There Be Dragons


Dragons programs are authentic, rugged and profound learning adventures that expose the beautiful and complex realities of the countries in which we travel. Featuring extended itineraries, Dragons programs encourage deep immersion into strikingly different physical and cultural landscapes, combining the best in experiential education, travel, service learning, and physically and intellectually challenging experiences.

Programs from Where There Be Dragons

Program Reviews

  • Larkin Barron
    Age: 19-24
    United States
    Middlebury College

    Last fall, I was a student on the Where There Be Dragons Semester course in Indonesia. I hadn't planned on taking time off between High School and College, but my ED school (Middlebury College) accepted me with a gap semester. The idea terrified me, challenged me, and ultimately has been an incredible gift. The course with Dragons changed my life.

    One of the most incredible parts of Dragons courses are the instructors. Each program is made up of twelve students and a minimum of three instructors, at least one of whom is native to the counrty and citizens of the world, and each came to the program with a wealth of experience in human rights, conservation, academics, and cultural building. All were wonderful, passionate people with a will to open our minds, widen our knowledge of this world, and to grow with us as we experienced the consciousness-expanding wonder of deep, informed travel.

    Whether the experience is four weeks or three months, being immersed in a new culture can be immensely challenging. It is so important to have quality mentorship in times of intense growth. Dragons recognizes this, and the instructors are people who can hold space for this kind of transformative opportunity. I found that, beyond being more than qualified to inform us on human rights issues, the environment, cultural tendencies in the developing and western world, and many more intellectual pursuits, the instructors were there to support us mentally and emotionally. They guided us, challenging us when necessary, but always there for us. They took care of us, but they also helped us learn to take care of ourselves.

    Another amazing thing about Dragons is the relationship they build with local communities. Everywhere we went Dragons sought to create a sustainable friendship that benefits students and locals equally. This certainly deepens the student experience as it opens up doors for the friendships and mentorships. A homestay family that trusts Dragons as an organization will be more likely to get excited about sharing their world with a student. I will never forget the connections I made with parents, children, and friends as we traveled through Indonesia.

    In each community we studied the culture (religion(s), history, customs, political dynamics, and role of the western world in all of this). environment (conservation issues facing communities, the impact of these on their everyday lives, changes being made going forward, and our roles in these issues), and community (what are the health care and educational systems, how far away is the nearest hospital, how and what language do the children learn to read). We studied all of this through community interaction: we'd sit in on community gatherings, organize talks with the village head, midwife, shaman, workers, and professors, and we'd ask them to tell us about their lives and their world. We also set aside time to process with the group, to learn how best to handle the intensity of our experiences.

    The course had a great balance of time spent learning with the group and time spent exploring, hanging out, and integrating our experiences into a newfound awareness of self and the world. Each day we would come together for at least two hours to check in with everyone, take care of medical needs, and rediscover solidarity with our peers. When we needed it we would always make time to go snorkeling in the nearby coral reef, explore the regional volcano, sing songs around a bonfire, have a dance party, drink a coconut, and decompress.

    I know that this trip changed my life. On my own, I never could have made it to such remote and beautiful places, experienced so much depth in new cultures, made such close friendships, and internalized my experience as lasting inspiration. I have been blown away by the integrity and values exhibited by all the staff at Dragons, and I am so incredibly grateful to have been their student.

    Each student faced many challenges on this program: we went into the unknown and fought against our comfort zones. We pushed into growth and found that, as we were challenged, new worlds started to open up to us. New perspectives appeared, deeper empathy was felt, greater integrity was realized, and we were suddenly more mature, more moral, more in touch with our inner selves, and more sensitive to the lives of those around us in this vast, unpredictable, beautiful world. Having had this experience, I will never be able to live without thinking of myself in service to my community. I can't go back: I will always work harder in my friendships, find ways to explore, adventure, and deepen, and remember that I am a citizen of the world.

    I wish that more of my friends would do Dragons programs. I have complete faith they would find their minds and souls expanded by it, just as I have.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would continue working on and building relationships with the community, so that there are just as many chances to give back as there are to learn. I would also lengthen the amount of time spent in each place and increase instruction of Indonesian Language. This, as well as working in more time to study the history of Indonesia as a whole (beyond specific communities), and facilitating more discussions on development.

    The group on the top of Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in the world. We hiked through the night, to summit as the sun rose over Java. We were exhausted, exhilarated, laughing, and proud.
    A rural homestay of the south east tip of Sulawesi. We spent two weeks swimming in coral reefs, spear fishing for dinner, playing with children, and learning the life of people who find home in the open ocean.
    A few of us spent the night 100 feet above the canopy floor in this platform, deep in the rainforest of Maluku. We watched the Cocatoos, Lorakeets, Kus Kus, and Flying Foxes for hours, in total awe of the ancient, powerful, pristine forest and the life that it supports.
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  • Sophie
    Age: 19-24
    Mekong Semester in South East Asia

    With a group of 13 other gap year students and 3 amazing instructors, we traveled down the length of the Mekong River in South East Asia observing the culture, ecology, and development issues in China, Laos, and Cambodia. In each country we did home-stays (ranging from 4 days to 3 weeks) in amazing communities, trekked, and immersed ourselves in the culture.

    How could this program be improved?

    Although this program is almost perfect, there is a lot A LOT of traveling- so beware!

    Angkor Wat
    Buddhist Temple
    The Mekong River
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  • H. McCall
    Age: 19-24
    Boston, MA
    University of Virginia
    Life Along the Mekong Semester

    I traveled with WTBD to China, Laos, and Cambodia on the Life Along the Mekong semester course and had an absolutely fantastic trip. Highlights included: hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Yunnan province, spending 2 nights in the jungle in Laos sleeping under lean-tos made of banana leaves and bamboo, living on an island in the middle of the Mekong for almost 3 weeks, biking to Angor Wat and watching the sunrise, and relaxing on the beach at Rabbit Island off the coast of Cambodia after 3 months of exciting travels.
    The instructors were amazing and our group was comprised of 13 hilarious, fun, and brilliant students. I highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to explore Southeast Asia in a way that you will simply not be able to do on your own.

    How could this program be improved?

    If I had to change one thing it would be the homestays in Cambodia. We had amazing homestays in China and Laos but I felt that the homestay in Cambodia could have actually been found if I had been traveling alone and it was not a homestay that WTBD had used in the past - I do not think they are planning to go there again.

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  • EB
    Age: 18 or younger
    North Carolina
    Authentic experience and Brilliant Instructors

    I am a student on my gap year after high school, and I just went on the Where There Be Dragons semester-long program to Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. It was an absolutely incredible and life-changing experience.
    The instructors that I had were some of the most amazing and accomplished people I have ever met. Three of my instructors were local Myanmar people, and the other two instructors had lived in Asia for many years. To travel with locals and to travel with people that have experienced the culture and have so much knowledge about it enhanced the trip enormously. I learned so much from them, and I will always remember the impact they had on me.
    Furthermore, the way the trip was organized pushed us to delve deeper into the culture and to appreciate and understand the people. The trip truly did follow the motto of teaching us to be "travelers rather than tourists."
    I am walking away from the three months with a love for the country and people of Myanmar and fond memories of my instructors and fellow students.

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  • Nick
    Age: 19-24
    Boulder, CO
    University of Southern Maine
    Dragons is the best!

    The Dragons experience isn't a vacation; it's engaging, challenging, mentally and physically exhausting, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The program skillfully includes a dose of healthy stress by insisting on using public transportation and often going places where nobody spoke English, but always while avoiding any real danger. Through this intense immersion, I have a working knowledge of the Nepali language after a mere three months of practice. I found this experience to provide a greater wealth of learning than any other semester during my undergraduate education.

    We traveled around quite a bit, but our 'home-base' was in Kathmandu. On the average day there, I would wake up and eat breakfast with my home-stay family, walk to our Program House and attend classes on language and various other topics (religion, history, culture, etc.), then take a bus to Boudhanath, the Tibetan neighborhood, where I spent my afternoons learning with a Tibetan doctor.

    Two years later, I still think about these experiences every day. Much of what I learned has been very useful during my graduate studies, and will most certainly help me get my career off the ground. I recommend Dragons to everyone.

    How could this program be improved?

    Some people might be disappointed to find a lack of the "partying" type of fun, but I think this is more of a problem with the participant than with the program.

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