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

Program Details

Activities
City Exploring Remote Exploring Trekking
Timeframe
Fall Spring
Housing
Ashram Guesthouse Host Family Hotel Tent
Primary Language
Nepali
Age Min.
17
Age Max
22

Pricing

Starting Price
16950
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.

Impact

Sustainability

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
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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 9 - 15 of 15 reviews
Max
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour

I really don't know where to begin with this, so I guess I'll just start it from the very top.
The initial reason I wanted to visit Nepal was not some sort of altruistic goal for global understanding and for the betterment of others, it was actually quite selfish! I wanted to see the Himalayas...simple as that. But what ensued over the next 3 months was so profound and ego dissolving, that I came home to a completely different world than the one before I left. On the night of September 16th, myself and the 10 others that I was about spend the next three months, with, touched down in Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu. As soon as I stepped off the airplane, reality seemed unreal, as I picked up my duffel bag off a pile on the floor, and left the airport doors to be greeted by hundreds of people trying to sell me this or that. I didn't even know how to comprehend it. Not knowing how to comprehend a lot of the experiences I had on my journey was a common theme for me throughout the three months. In the time we were there, our group went on 3 seperate treks, lived in the Kathmandu suburb of Patan, lived with Nuns in a Buddhist Nunnery and spent time in the tourist-town of Pokhara - however the one place where I was pushed most outside my beliefs, and probably gained the most at, was the small village of Chokati. I lived with a family who did not speak a single word of english, in fact, nobody in the village except us spoke any english! Living with a family who produced less trash in three weeks than I do in a single day and who's "extended" family extended to the entire village really got me reflecting on my conceded ideas about development equating to a prosperous and happy society. All in all, there is no way for me to sum up my trip to Nepal on an internet blog, but if I were to leave a couple nuggets for whoever's reading next, I would say this - Taking a year before going off to University and travelling to Nepal is a decision that has had an impact on me that I have yet to fully understand. I would have never been able to do it without countless other people supporting me financially (partially), namely my parents, as programs with Where There Be Dragons tend to be silly expensive. If you have the kind of resources to go to a place like Nepal with a program like Dragons, it'll probably be the best decision you'll ever make. However, if you're like most people and can't afford to pay 18 thousand dollars (canadian) to go travel, know this - Experiencing the things I experienced doesn't have to be a with a program abroad, in fact it doesn't even necessarily need to be abroad! Just try listening instead of speaking, let go of some of the "truths" that you may hold onto so firmly, and the magic I experienced in Nepal can be felt where ever you may find yourself in the world.
Thank you :)

What would you improve about this program?
It could be made a little bit more accessible for people from lower-income families.
192 people found this review helpful.
Olivia
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

My Semester in Nepal

My Himalayan semester was one of the best experiences I have ever had. From rural homestays to trekking in the Himalayas, it was full to the brim of adventure, community, culture and collaboration. My instructors were absolutely amazing as were my fellow Dragons students. The space that Dragons creates for self reflection and growth along with building an incredible group environment was something unique and awesome. On a trip like this it is expected that at one point or another you are pushed outside of your comfort zone. This was incredible because you end up watching your comfort zone expand and grow with you. Going from being a complete stranger and foreigner, lost in Kathmandu, to a confident traveler catching crowded busses and chatting to the person next to you in Nepali was incredible.

One of the countless stunning moments on this trip was when I was sitting on a rock on a mountainside. It was near sunset we were at 13,000 feet of elevation, and the pinkish orange light of the setting sun began to creep across the massive peaks of the Himalayas in the Lang Tang region. I sat there, watching the sun dip down below the cloud layer, and was struck by the silence. No sound whatsoever penetrated that beautiful serene mountain silence. It was almost like the world had frozen briefly. Stuck in that dusky state between day and night. The giant peaks only adding to the splendor, putting the size of humanity in its place yet again.

What would you improve about this program?
I thought that it was fantastic as is.
188 people found this review helpful.
Meredith
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Nepal Semester in the Himalayas with Where There Be Dragons

Nostalgia, humility, and gratitude flood my consciousness as I think back on my three months spent in Nepal with Where There Be Dragons. I think about standing among hundreds of prayer flags at 17,000 feet and never wanting to come down. I think about carbo-loading dal bhaat by candlelight and drinking dudh chia with my host family. I miss my Dragon siblings who went through it all with me. I think about the tears I shed from exhaustion and laughing too hard, of all the lessons learned in between. I think about how far I came; not just over miles of mountain passes and through villages, but over miles of awareness, understanding, perspective, and growth. As I reflect on the person I was before embarking on my journey with Dragons, I recognize the dramatic and positive transformation Dragons guided me through.
Ultimately, this journey allowed me to find magic and growth in myself and within every single moment of our experience in Nepal while also opening my eyes to what it really means to be a global citizen.

116 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Lyla
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Authentic Travel, Transformative Experience

Each morning in Ale Gau, a small agricultural village in the foothills of the Himalayas, I woke up to the sound of crowing roosters and cool mountain mist. My Aama and I would huddle around the open fire, sipping fresh, warm bison milk and preparing breakfast. Aama would knead rice flour and water to make roti, and I would stir the vegetables in a large pot, naming the spices in Nepali as she added them to our dish. "Besar" I would say, as she sprinkled tumeric into the sizzling pot. "Ramro (very good)!" she would reply with a hearty laugh and toothy grin. Through cooking and sharing meals, Aama and I forged a new kind of family, built on love, trust, and openness rather than blood.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly, I loved every minute in Nepal. It was a deeply transformative experience for me-- I learned a lot about myself and about the world. I really appreciated being in certain places for long-periods of time. For example, the 5 week homestay in Kathmandu and the 3 week trek. I found that the places I spent the longest time in I felt more like a traveler, and less like a tourist. So, I would say minimize the amount of places and maximize the amount of time spent in certain places to facilitate deep connections.
91 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Nick
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
54 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Amalya
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Dragons will change your world!

I signed up for Where There Be Dragons sort of on a whim,only knowing that I wanted an immersive and independent travel experience. I chose to go to Nepal with Dragons because of the Kapan monastery stay and the trekking experience. Dubious of anything group oriented or heavily guided, I was a bit tentative about Dragons at first. But once I realized the immense amount of wisdom and insight my instructors and peers and the whole program of experiences had to offer me, and let myself be open to them, I fell in love. With the country, with the program, with the people I was traveling with and the people I met along the way. I had such an amazing experience abroad. It was one challenging and eye-opening experience after the other. There were so many times I felt like crying and going home, like taking the easier option would have been better, but I am 100x more proud of myself than I ever have been before for rising to the countless challenges and overcoming them. For instance, climbing a 13,000 ft pass in the Himalayas, and learning a 6 minute traditional Nepali Folk Dance and performing it for hundreds of family members and friends. My sense of self-worth increased immensely from my experience with Dragons, and despite moments of regression, I truly feel like I can do anything now. The amount of roughness, the things you learn to live without (and live happier without), and the unexpected connections you make with people are life-changing. I feel like I am a better, more competent and confident, more self-aware and culturally sensitive, and interesting human being since my experience abroad, and I feel empowered both physically and intellectually.

What would you improve about this program?
While it's true that no program is perfect, I do firmly believe that some of Dragon's imperfections are also a major part of the experience. This is not some cookie-cutter, air-conditioned bus tour where you get your experience handed to you on a silver platter with instructions included. This is very much a do-it-yourself kind of experience. While you have instructors on the trip and a whole office at home working to make sure you get the experience you want, there are bumps and potholes along the way. Learning to deal with the imperfections, with these forks in the road and plan changes, etc, are a major part of your own learning experience. I traveled for a month on my own after my Dragons semester, and if I hadn't had the chance to be independent and involved in planning, in figuring things out with Dragons, I couldnt have traveled by myself so easily.
55 people found this review helpful.
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Meredith
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience in Nepal was life-changing

With Where There Be Dragons, I was able to experience life in an urban setting in Nepal, as well as life in a rural setting. My instructors had great in-country connections, and were able to find every single student a mentor for their specific Independent Study Projects. The home-stay families were all extremely generous and kind, and I always felt safe staying with my family in Kathmandu. Trekking in the Himalayas was intense but so beautiful, and gave us all a real understanding of why development in Nepal is so difficult. I have come home with a new perspective on my own life, and with a better idea of who I am and what I want to do with my life.

53 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.