• Nepal
    • Kathmandu
4 - 26 weeks
Need-based funding, General grants/scholarships, 529 Plan eligibility, BIPOC funding
Health & Safety

Program Details

City Exploring Remote Exploring Trekking
Fall Spring
Ashram Guesthouse Host Family Hotel Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
Price Details
The cost for Nepal Semester: Himalayan Studies is $16,950 for three months. Financial aid is available.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Some Equipment Meals Park Fees Tour Guide Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Travel Insurance Visa
Nov 27, 2023
Dec 13, 2023
37 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Trek in the shadows of the world's tallest mountains, study Buddhism and practice meditation at a monastery, and learn a traditional craft with Dragons!

At the heart of the Himalayas, Nepal is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and beliefs. For a month-long urban homestay we explore the cultures and traditions of the Kathmandu Valley. We will meet with local activists and scholars to learn about the remarkable country. During that time you will have a chance to mentor with a local expert of your choice, examples include: Ayurvedic medicine, cooking, comparative religion, gender issues, traditional painting. The trip will continue to the mountains for a two week trek to the remote corners of the country followed by a rural homestay where we will learn about traditional farming practices.

Dragons Himalaya students with dive deep into the cultures and religions of the region all while practicing self-awareness and reflection.

Video and Photos

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

Unfortunately, discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and skin tone exists in different forms all over the world. In some destinations, especially rural or ethnically homogenous areas, people may not have had much exposure to racial diversity. As such, people with certain physical characteristics may experience unwanted attention. Most commonly, this might include staring, insensitive comments, people taking your photo (with or without asking), or attempts to touch your skin or hair. Black students traveling in parts of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa have often reported higher levels of unwanted attention than their peers. White students traveling in parts of Asia and Africa have also reported receiving unwanted attention. Students are encouraged to communicate with staff if they feel their personal boundaries are being violated or if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any situation. We encourage you to believe your peers if/when they share experiences like this with you.

LGBTQIA+ Support

Social, cultural, religious, political, and legal attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community vary around the world. According to the Global Acceptance Index, average levels of acceptance for LGBTQ+ people around the world have been increasing since 1981. However, many countries where Dragons operates programs may have social discrimination or even laws against being LGBTQ+. We have safely supported LGBTQ+ students in all of our program areas, and provide specific cultural and geographic advice to help students stay safe on course.

In some cases, students may be advised not to speak about their sexual orientations and/or gender identities with local contacts (such as homestay families, ISP mentors, language teachers, and guest speakers) due to safety concerns. Likewise, transgender and non-binary students may have to choose to present outwardly as male or female in certain contexts during the program. In other cases, “coming out” to some or all host community members may be a safe choice.

Neurodivergent Support

For students with neuro-differences (such as dyslexia, ADHD, ASD, TS, and dyspraxia), it is important to be aware that neurodiversity is likely viewed differently abroad than at home. People might not be familiar with labels or terms that are very common where you come from. If you struggle with lots of external stimuli, you should be prepared that you will be in some environments that are louder and busier than what you are used to.

Accessibility Support

If you are a student with a physical disability, you might encounter challenges around accessibility than you have at home. Many of the places we travel at Dragons don’t have building codes or other regulations in place to support people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments. You may need accommodations or support that you don’t usually require in your life at home.



Dragons defines responsible travel as travel that is culturally conscious, environmentally responsible, and focused on developing meaningful connections and mutual respect in the communities to which we travel. Over the course of Dragons 25+ year history, we have cultivated long-standing relationships with respected community leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs and professionals involved in environmental and cultural preservation. In the more than 20 countries in which Dragons has operated, we have steadfastly adhered to minimum impact travel, an accurate and informed understanding of place, and the realization of maximum benefit for the communities we visit.

Ethical Impact

Dragons believes that we need to shift the way we think of volunteer travel. Instead of focusing on “service work”—on the idea that short-term volunteers can contribute to communities abroad—we advocate a paradigm shift: we choose, instead, to focus on “learning service.”

Learning Service is a holistic experience that combines an intimate and authentic engagement with the local community, the study of effective development, and the contribution to an established community-driven project. It is the process of living, working alongside, and humbly absorbing the culture of those being served while coordinating closely with project managers to understand the trajectory of the project, from inception to completion and beyond. It is an acknowledgment that often it is the volunteer who stands to gain as much or more from the work. And it is a commitment to making contributions that create positive impacts in the communities coupled with the humility to always listen and learn first.

Program Highlights

  • Spend a week at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery to learn about Buddhist philosophy and meditation and inquire deeply into the daily practices of Hinduism with homestay families and other local friends.
  • Embark on a challenging 2-week trek through rugged parts of the Himalayas in remote areas, with an additional mini-trek and day hikes throughout.
  • Spend 4 weeks in urban homestays in the ancient city of Patan, located in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley. Live in a rural homestay for up to 2 weeks while learning about local cultures and traditions.
  • Month longer mentorship with local experts in fields such as ayurvedic medicine, mask making, yoga, dance and singing, women’s issues, comparative religion, jewelry making and much more.
  • Examine issues of health and education, human rights, environment and land use, globalization, the caste system and poverty.

Popular Programs

Photo by Jack Greene.

Explore a Himalayan kingdom during this 10-day semester extension program. Travel to vast and ancient landscapes, examine Buddhism and sustainability with monks and environmentalists, and hike to sacred cliffside monasteries.

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates

Program Reviews

4.93 Rating
based on 15 reviews
  • 5 rating 93.33%
  • 4 rating 6.67%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Housing 4.9
  • Support 4.95
  • Fun 4.95
  • Value 4.95
  • Safety 4.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 15 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Semester in Nepal!

This was an incredible experience. Nepal had a completely foreign culture to me, and through this course, I felt not only growth in terms of cultural exchange but also in personal development. I learned to be more self reliant and more appreciative of the people and places around me.
I also felt safe at all times, and made some lifelong connections both with fellow students and with Nepali people.
This experience left me with a desire to continue exploring and living more fully.
I also felt that my language retention skills increased because of learning Nepalese which was an unexpected outcome.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
It was less what I ate and more how I ate it. We ate dal bhat (rice and lentils) with our hands, which was incredibly different from what I was used to. I grew to enjoy it though!
  • the scenery during the trek
  • the animals we encountered along the way (seeing a rhino in Chilean Natl Park)
  • the village homestay
  • not making as many lifelong friendships as I wanted to
70 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Best three months ever

Best three months! Awesome kids and instructors. Crazy experiences, fun adventures, and so much perspective. Couldn’t recommend this trip more! I had so much fun getting to know a new culture a community. I learned so much, and Nepal is unique in that you learn about religion just by being there because it is so ingrained in Nepali culture. I made the best memories and saw the most beautiful things, especially on our trek of Mt. Manaslu! Once again, couldn’t recommend more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

68 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Nepal Semester Rating

I came to Nepal expecting nothing and got everything I never could have imagined and more. I have been home for a little over a month now and I can say with certainty that the lessons and experiences I have had will stay with me for the rest of my life. Coming home I have realized how much my world view has been broadened and how positively my morals have been re-evaluated. Although the program is “rugged” at times, there was never a second that I felt unsafe or uncomfortable in my situation. I strongly recommend this program to anyone who wants to experience the rich cultures of the world and learn so much about yourself in the process.

  • Amazing nature
  • Introspective
  • Lifelong friends
  • None
145 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience

February 2022 I thought the next 5 years of my life was set in stone, go directly to college. Then the next week I no longer had a plan. I decided to go on this course because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. This was my first time traveling by myself, going trekking, learning skills like navigation and wood carving. I was super nervous at first, but everyone in my group was stoked, ready to grow, and learn! You can take the dragon out of Nepal but you can never take Nepal out of the dragon! I met so many new people and have made a new home for myself half way across the world.

  • The people-from shop keepers, to restaurant owners, to families, to guides, and more
  • The traditions- such as Tihar
  • The mountains, the Terai, and the hills
  • City traffic
  • undomesticated dogs
187 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Gap Year Course Avalible

I completed the Nepal Spring Semester Where There Be Dragons course in May and I can say for certain that this program is the best gap year course available hands down. From the way the groups are chosen to the instructors, mentors, and experiences; the program is designed around fitting to your needs and interest while also giving you a healthy dose of new perspectives. All the students I did the course with also share my belief is saying that this experience was not only valuable, but crucial to our development as people. The way things were presented, from religion, art and politics, to family life, always aligned to this student centered design. Throughout my experience I truly learned what cultural immersion is while gaining a deeper understanding of Nepal as a whole. This is reflected in the 9 different locations we visited. Even the time spent in each felt like the adequate amount of time to truly learn about the places we traveled to. I would also like to add that my three instructors have become such an inspiration for me as an example of leaders that share their passion by allowing others to experience the world they have come to love. Lastly, I would like to say that even if Nepal is not your interest, Dragons Courses are set up in a way where no matter where you go, personal growth will come hand in hand with cultural learning. This course is so valuable for that reason. Thanks to this course I now know a lot about Nepal, but I have also learned how to truly visit a country as a traveler and not as a tourist.

243 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Living Different Lives

There is simply no better way to learn about yourself and the world around you then by travelling. What Dragon's gives you, and what this program gives you is exactly that opportunity. I flew to Nepal full of nerves and expectations. I spent the next three months with a group of unique and inspiring individuals as we explored a country full of beautiful moments and even greater people. When I finally came home, those nerves were long gone and instead were replaced by a greater confidence in who I was as a person and what I wanted from my life. While I cannot say that each person's experience will be the same, I can feel certain when I say that no matter what it will be a highlight of one's life.

As I often think back to my time in Nepal, I think about the experiences I had. Whether becoming part of two Nepalese families, hiking through the Himalayas, apprenticing as a blacksmith, learning from Buddhist monks, or exploring Kathmandu I always look back with a smile. I think what is a true testament to Nepal and Dragon's is just how happy I am to have taken a gap year. I could spend the rest of the year doing nothing but my three months in Nepal and it would still be one of best decisions I have made.

What would you improve about this program?
While it certainly has academic qualities, people should understand that the academics is largely experiential and requires initiative by individuals. My program gave us the tools to learn but it certainly did not force us to learn. I think before the trip I had envisioned more of a structured learning environment. I quickly realised that the classroom was Nepal, and I had to seek the knowledge.
243 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Nepal, outer beauty and introspection

Nepal with dragons was a transformative experience. My perceptions of the world were turned upside down! New ideas were planted in my head that I will always carry with me. Impermanence, beauty, joy, compassion.
This trip introduced me to the sacred, something that was missing from my life, just like many young Americans. The sacred mountains, temples, practices all so new to me and so ancient to the world.
Dragons gave structure and meaning to the often challenging backpacker norm. I feel, now, that I have a foundation for what it means to be a traveler and not a tourist.
Something I really appreciate about the dragons course now, during my current travels, is the approach to going home. Learning how to reintegrate or not, how to set intentions and work to embody all that one has learned.

What would you improve about this program?
I enjoyed every minute! But I wish that more time could be spent in each place. Especially the village home stay!
247 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

More Than Mountains

When my plane touched down in Nepal, I knew three things about the country: Nepal had mountains. Kathmandu was the capital. "Namaste" means "hello." I knew virtually nothing about the country I was about to spend the next eight months in.

I had decided to take a gap year between college and grad school. I wanted to live in a new country and fully submerse myself in a new culture, something I hadn't taken advantage of during my undergrad. I chose Nepal mostly because of the Himalayas and my love of trekking. After much consideration (and budgeting), I decided to do my first three months with a gap year program, then travel on my own after that. Dragons gave me all the resources to prepare myself for Nepal: book titles, phone conversations, and even a copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook to Nepal. I could've prepared better, but I didn't. So it was that I found myself on the other side of the world in an unfamiliar culture with a group of strangers that were about to become my family for the next three months.

Those three months were beyond anything I could have imagined... Sitting cross-legged on a mud floor drinking sweet masala tea with my aamaa. Dancing with my homestay family on a balcony in Kathmandu while the city sparkled with millions of lights. The chanting of fifty monks, young and old, echoing in the cavernous puja hall. The burning of my lungs as we crossed Gosainkunda Pass and the sea of clouds on the other side.

The mountains were incredible, no doubt, but they aren't what I will remember most about Nepal. As I said goodbye to my the fellow travelers at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, I had tears in my eyes. It was these people along with many others that had made Nepal beautiful. I would be spending another five months in Nepal, but unlike the last time I arrived at the airport, I was ready.

What would you improve about this program?
This program is advertised for students 18-22, but is marketed toward students just graduating high school. I had just graduated from college and was the oldest of the group by a few years. I was nervous about the age gap at first, but I was fortunate to have an amazingly open, mature group. I think Dragons could do a better job marketing the program to college students. It's a fantastic program wherever you are in your college journey. No sure what path to take? Even better.
248 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

The programs can be very intense but risk is managed very well and space is created to talk through any experiences that are overwhelming. There is always time for reflection and both programs I went on involved creating ceremonies to acknowledge endings or beginnings of phases of the trip, which is helpful in processing experiences.