Indonesia Semester (Gap Year)

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About

Spanning from Malaysia to Australia, with over 17,000 equatorial islands, Indonesia hosts the world’s highest level of biodiversity and one of the richest cultural tapestries on earth. Dragons Indonesia semester program takes students on an ethnographic adventure into remote communities and ecosystems rarely visited by travelers. Comprised of over 17,000 islands and 700 living languages, Indonesia is home to the highest level of biodiversity of any nation. As the largest Muslim nation in the world, students examine how Islam has influenced and adapted to Indonesian society, while also looking at how other religious traditions concurrently thrive. Throughout the semester program students experience the complexities and controversies of development, conservation, and human ecology.

We offer comprehensive, personal home visits so that we can answer your questions in person. One of our expert staff members will present on our program options and share stories from their own formative Where There Be Dragons program. To request a home visit in less than 2 minutes, fill out this form.

Highlights
  • Explore the impacts of modernization and development as they relate to ecology and land-use within protected and un-protected areas. Delve into issues of political marginalization and under-representation.
  • Study ancient, imperial, and modern politics and the development of market economy; gender and race studies; cultural and environmental preservation; marginalized and dominant cultural communities.
  • Spend time in three homestays of two weeks or longer in both urban (Jogyakarta) and traditional communities (Langa, Sampela) and begin to understand their natural environments, cultures and political significance to Indonesia.
  • Examine Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, as well as Animist and Shamanistic traditions, with a focus on religious pluralism, rituals and festivals/ceremonies, religious conflict and resolution.
  • Pursue self-selected studies of issues that are pertinent to the communities we visit, as well as deep engagement with the Indonesia world of arts (gamelan, shadow-puppetry, street art, yoga, dance) and culture.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

100%
based on 7 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 7 of 7
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Yasmeen
10/10

Best Decision of my Life

This trip absolutely changed me as a person for the better in a way I don't think any other opportunity could have measured up to. Do not feel intimidated by this trip -- I went in with no prior backpacking experience. The trip has been something I talk about with nearly everyone, and my experiences there have not only been cherished by me, but also other people respect me for my decision to travel and to learn more about others around the world.

It challenged me mentally and physically every day, and it gave me an opportunity to leave everything I have ever known to learn more about the world and to reflect on myself. There is something amazing about accomplishing a feat you never imagined you could do -- it has given me a self-confidence that has gotten me opportunities after the trip and still now in college with internships. You come back with stories no one's could beat, and strength that no one can take away from you.

I 100% recommend this trip. Indonesia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, and WTBD ensures that you are the leader within your experience and to make of it what you will and feel comfortable with. They are there to guide you and to help you if you need, but in no way do they force you to do anything, which I think is a great part of the trip. I built relationships with people I met there, and I wish every day that I will one day go back and see them again. If you are willing to throw yourself wholeheartedly into something that will make you uncomfortable at times and will challenge you, but will also leave you with incredible memories, a unique, unforgettable experience, and a new perspective of the world, then this is the trip for you.

Attached to this review is my video summing up what I saw and did, and it was amazing.

How can this program be improved?
I cannot imagine a single way this could be improved. I would have loved to stay for longer!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Quinn
10/10

Life-changing

My semester in Indonesia with Where There Be Dragons was absolutely one of the most important experiences in my life. The opportunity to travel to a developing country and see how the rest of the world lives in a culture completely different to my own has changed the way I think about how I interact with and exist in the environment around me. The instructors are kind, thoughtful, and inspiring. Dragons is a great organization for gap year experiences – the students are encouraged to make the trip their own and have autonomy, but in a safe and supportive structure. Indonesia is a diverse and fascinating country that few Americans know anything about, despite its massive population. The places we lived in on the trip were all unique and wonderful in their own ways. I still think about the trip every day, even a year later, and I will forever be grateful I had the chance to travel to this amazing country with such incredible people.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Cat
10/10

Life changing

This program was absolutely incredible. My home stays were the most amazing part throughout my trip- I cried after leaving all four of them because I just felt like I was a part of the family. From spearfishing to going on jungle hikes looking for durian, this trip will blow your mind. There is intimacy within the group and the instructors are incredibly helpful. This creates a safe space on the trip, which is super important when looking at gap year programs. I tell all of my friends to take a semester off because this trip was so influential and I want others to feel and experience the same awesome things I did on this adventure.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
OY
10/10

Incredible

This was an incredible trip - I swam with dolphins and learned to spearfish with an adopted Bajo father, I played soccer in bamboo forests and on pitted fields dotted with cows and I became a part of three families that I'll never forget. Every day I was a part of these things and dozens more, things I hadn't imagined and each of them informed my worldview and inspired me to explore and find out whatever was around the next corner like nothing else ever has.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
lbarron
10/10

Transformation

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 can 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.
Yes, I recommend
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Shannon
10/10

Amazing Home-stays and CULTURAL IMMERSION

Where There Be Dragons is an AMAZING company. I spent the semester with them in Indonesia on a gap year program and loved everything about it. We did 4 different home-stays, which allowed for very deep connections to the local communities and full cultural immersion. Day to day we would had various activities with our group of 12 and then spend the rest of the day with our separate home-stay families. The day would be spent doing whatever your family was doing. If they were going to market, so was I. If they were working in their restaurant, so was I! My favorite part was learning how to spear fish in the Bajau community, where we lived on houses built on stilts in the middle of the ocean. I highly recommend the Indonesia gap year or any Dragons program!

Yes, I recommend
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smartiesfan
10/10

Best Decision of My Life

If I had the option of going back and going somewhere else with a different program or simply spending my summer doing something else... I would've still chosen Indonesia. Dragons is a program that lives up to its promise of rugged travel and cultural immersion. I can honestly say that I have never felt dirtier or more exhausted during my experience, but I have also never been happier. Every snorkeling destination and landscape we came across was exotic and stunning. My home-stays were the best part of the trip; Indonesia has become a home to me, and I know that if I ever want to go back, I have family there waiting with open arms. I ate weird foods and drank the freshest fruit juices available to man; I learned of the differing environmental issues unique to each of the areas we visited; I was able to explore a topic of my own choice independently. The adventurer in me came alive in Indonesia, and that would not have been possible without the most amazing instructors and a loving, outgoing and open-minded group of friends that I will never lose touch with. There was the perfect mix of language classes, trekking, rugged travel, survey of developmental issues, home-stays and just overall excitement. This trip instilled in me the desire to take every chance I get in life to experience the world and the communities around me, and to be flexible with life and just enjoy it as it comes. Dragons also makes sure to prepare you for culture shock and reverse culture shock at the beginning and the end of your trip. The only real problem I had going home was jetlag, because the best friends you come home with can be your outlet; they know exactly what you're going through and can relive the memories with you. If I could go again, I would. And if I ever decide to travel to another country through a program, and it is an option to go with Dragons, I would choose Dragons every time.

Yes, I recommend

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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...