Location
Multiple Locations +2
  • Peru
  • Bolivia
Length
4 - 26 weeks
Program Tags
Adventure Travel Arts College Credit Conservation Cultural Immersion Hands-On Learning Language Immersion Music Post-High School Social Justice Study Abroad Volunteer Abroad Wilderness +3
Need-based funding, General grants/scholarships, 529 Plan eligibility, BIPOC funding
Health & Safety

Program Details

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

Pricing

Starting Price
16950
Price Details
The South America Gap Semester's cost is $16,950 for three months. Need-based scholarships are available.

What's Included
Accommodation Activities Some Equipment Meals Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Visa
Sep 27, 2023
Dec 13, 2023
41 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

From snow capped mountains to lush tropical rain forests and everything in between! The Andes and Amazon program guides you through the dizzying tapestry of cultures and landscapes of both Bolivia and Peru.

The diverse regions of these two countries provide an ideal backdrop for learning. Through extended homestays, intensive language classes, exposure to remote indigenous communities, and trekking through diverse ecosystems Andes and Amazon students will deeply connect with local cultures while venturing into the rich panorama of Andean and Amazonian realities.

Dragons students will also examine current social movements, political trends, and environmental conservation efforts in the jungles and mountains of Peru and Bolivia. Students will also participate in an independent study project of this choice with a local expert in topics like traditional weaving, Andean spirituality, traditional agriculture and conservation.

Scholarships and college credit is available.

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

  • Engage with issues in resource management, modernization and globalization, indigenous movements and political representation, urbanization and rural poverty, environmental conservation, and community and sustainable development.
  • Settle into the rhythm of life in an agricultural community, living with a family, deepening your language skills, and exploring an Independent Study topic of your choice.
  • Four weeks of personalized language instruction with local teachers for 16-20 hours a week, in addition to opportunities for language immersion throughout. Quechua lessons also available.
  • Participate in multi-day treks moving from the high Andes to the Amazon basin. Wilderness exploration also includes travel through remote rainforests of Bolivia and Peru, and a challenging trek in the Ausangate range in Peru.
  • Explore land use and relationships, social and political activism, and indigenous identity and representation. The semester also delves into pre-Incan and Incan history and culture, the coca leaf, sustainable agriculture, and the arts.

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates
-
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Program Reviews

4.89 Rating
based on 18 reviews
  • 5 rating 88.89%
  • 4 rating 11.11%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Housing 4.4
  • Support 4.7
  • Fun 4.8
  • Value 4.75
  • Safety 4.75
Showing 1 - 8 of 18 reviews
Default avatar
Maya
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

WOW!

What an incredible semester! Not only did this expand my views on the world but also my capabilities to live within it! I experienced amazing insights surrounding culture, art, religion, history and more! It was great experiencing all of these places without a phone as well because I was even more out of my comfort zone and it forced me to stay present and utilize interpersonal resources. Our group felt like a family by the end as we had experienced so much with one another, and grew incredible relationships along the way as well!

What was your funniest moment?
I was playing volleyball with locals in the Amazon. A kid hit the ball and it rolled off a ledge! I ran after it and jumped over! Slid 20 feet and ran into the river. Ball saved.
Pros
  • Practiced Spanish
  • Stayed with locals that took you around
  • Hiked in all different ecosystems
Cons
  • Many illnesses
  • I was a little stinky
  • Changes in altitude took adjusting
53 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Laura
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Semester with Where There Be Dragons

This program provided an amazing mix of trekking, homestays, and time to explore. We traveled with a group of 12, as well 3 instructors, providing an excellent ratio and an amazing group dynamic. We traveled throughout Peru and Bolivia, interacting with many local communities and people, creating an experience that felt unique and distinctly not touristy. Additionally the treks we did allowed us to see much of the beautiful nature these countries contain. Overall my experience was invaluable to learning more about myself, making amazing friends, and improving my language anf traveling skills.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go into the program with no expectations and just go with the flow. Try to live in the moment and enjoy everyday.
57 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Holden
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Living in Bolivia and Peru

Living with families in Bolivia was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. Their culture is far separated from the US, and though the families had no reason to show us acceptance and love, they welcomed us as their children. Our time in the Amazon jungle also felt like a step into a National Geographic magazine. Except everything was real, the trees, the animals, the houses, and the people. Down to earth and fiercely family oriented, I loved all of the guides and the people of the town.

53 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Sam
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Where there be Dragons Andes and Amazon review

The program was amazing! There was a perfect blend of experiencing culture, backpacking, spending time in towns and cities, and seeing the natural wonders of Peru and Bolivia. I became connected with people from both countries through homestays and classes. I spent two weeks with a family in Peru and 2 weeks with a family in Bolivia, during which we had Spanish classes, and classes with local mentors where we learned things such as pottery, weaving, and cooking. It was amazing to share meals with a host family, and to become connected to the place and community there. I also formed incredibly close bonds with my friends in my program group. We spent so many days traveling, exploring, hiking, and just hanging out, sharing so many experiences, memories and laughs. This program thought me how to be a conscious traveler and gave me the confidence to do solo backpacking trips in other parts of the world, something I would have been terrified of doing the year before. I would highly recommend doing a program with Where There Be Dragons!

Pros
  • The homestay experience
  • Backpacking through incredible landscapes
  • Gaining so much confidence as a traveler
Cons
  • Slightly less backpacking/camping than I thought
68 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Elliott
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Reignited my curiosity and love of learning!

Where There Be Dragons Andes and Amazon was a once in a life time trip. I am forever pining for that type of immersive and genuine travel experience. Dragon's local connections and understanding of the culture, people, social and political climate, and every day life of the places changed the way I thought about the world and my role in it. The instructors were thoughtful and fed our curiosity. To learn like that is an incredible privilege. Seven years later, three of my 11 trip-mates are still some of my dearest friends and travel companions.

Pros
  • Local connections
  • Immersive homestays
  • Knowledgable and passionate instructors
70 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Emma
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Changes my life every day

My experience with Dragons six years ago now continues to change and challenge the way I think even to this day. I consider myself a global citizen and a group member and I believe that my experience with Dragons oriented me to think culturally at a young age. I took calculated risks and made amazing friends, both in my group and in the field. I really stand behind the Dragons organization and I’ll blab about it to anyone that will listen. I’m so proud to be an alumna of an organization that functions with intent, care, and grit. My time in Peru really challenged my westernized way of thinking and my default exotification of other cultures. I tried many new things and had experiences much more unique than visiting touristy sites. I even went back to visit my homestay family earlier this spring.

Pros
  • Local culture
  • Trekking
  • Self-actualization
Cons
  • Rugged (could also be a pro)
  • Expensive (attracts a lot of the same class group)
  • Difficult
68 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Sarah
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing, educational program full of varied, unique experiences

I had a wonderful time doing the Dragons South America Semester. My favorite aspect of the program was that out activities were varied over the course of the semester. We went backpacking, took Spanish lessons, had rural and urban homestays, learned about local social movements, and ate delicious food. It is very structured, so for those seeking more independence, this is not the program for you. However, thanks to that structure, instructors can give us access and introduce us to people and experiences we otherwise never could have learned about. Thanks to these resources, I learned much more about Bolivian and Peruvian culture, politics and life than I even could have as a solo traveler.

Pros
  • Homestays
  • Tight-knit group
  • Outdoor and hands-on learning
124 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Solomon
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

My adventure

I feel so lucky to have traveled with wtbd. The trip was so packed with adventures that it takes a few months post completion to realize what you accomplished. The program was beautiful, challenging and an opportunity to become a better person. I made new friends, tried new food, and visitied places i would never have discovered without the program. I miss the andes so much, the scale of the mountains and the culture and history that lives inside of it is out of this world. I miss hiking up the side of a mountain and taking a boat ride down the river beni into the amazon basin. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself signed up for this program, get excited and take every opportunity that comes your way when in south america. Dont hold back and be yourself.

Pros
  • Personal growth
  • Cultural immersion
  • Unique communities
Cons
  • Traveling as a youth group not as adults
  • Hiking speed
  • Timing
131 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers