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

Program Details

Boating Remote Exploring Trekking
Fall Spring
Boat Guesthouse Host Family Lodge Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
Price Details
Land cost for the Southeast Asia Semester is $16,950 for three months. Financial aid is available.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Some Equipment Meals Park Fees Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Some Equipment Travel Insurance Visa
Mar 06, 2024
Dec 14, 2023
17 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Travel to China remains effectively closed to foreign travelers. We hope the borders will open, but if they do not, we plan to run the Mekong program in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.

Explore the largest river basin in Southeast Asia as you travel from Southern China to Laos, Cambodia, then Thailand. The Mekong Semester examines issues of transboundary resource management, explores diverse spiritual belief systems, and allows students to participate in meaningful learning service initiatives, driven by the communities they visit.

During the program students will experience daily life in Tibetan, Lao, Thai and Cambodian homestays. Trek through the Himalayas down to the tropics all while exploring exploring hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls along the way. Learn about the history of the region by meeting with community to understand the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, The Secret War and Pol Pot’s Regime.

Financial aid 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.



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

  • Explore the diverse range of spiritual beliefs and religions within the Mekong catchment including: Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Animism, Catholicism and Islam.
  • Meet with community members to learn about the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, The Secret War and Pol Pot’s Regime.
  • Witness the negative impacts of large-scale hydro-power dam developments ecological systems.
  • Experience rural village life in a Tibetan, Lao, Thai and Cambodia homestays participating in the daily rhythms of each place.
  • Trek in arid Himalayas and humid wet tropics exploring hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls.

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates

Program Reviews

4.67 Rating
based on 3 reviews
  • 5 rating 66.67%
  • 4 rating 33.33%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Growth 5
  • Support 5
  • Fun 5
  • Housing 5
  • Safety 5
  • Housing 4
  • Support 5
  • Fun 4
  • Value 5
  • Safety 5
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Unique adventure along the Mekong

My time in Southeast Asia was a very intense journey with ups and downs and turnarounds...

From deep within the rainforest in quiet villages to vibrant cities, my experiences covered a wide spectrum of accommodations—moving from the warmth of local family homes to the convenience of hotel stays. Getting around involved a mix of travel methods, from hopping on public and private buses to tuk-tuks (no motorbikes!), mini tractors, sitting in the back of trucks, boats of different sizes, sangtaos, and even exploring by bike or strolling on foot.

Gestures spoke volumes, and our mother tongues couldn't have been more different. I picked up stories from monks, shared moments with mothers, and had laughs with same-aged youth and people from different backgrounds than mine. Chatting with bomb removal workers, specialists from various walks of life, farmers, and fishers—each encounter painted a richer picture of the journey.

Venturing beyond my comfort zone, I immersed myself in hands-on experiences like cultivating rice and weaving bamboo, cooking, and learning from locals, and forming bonds with families and cultures previously unknown to me.

Embracing the simplicity of daily life, including the joy of sticky rice, hammocks, re-packing my backpack countless times, and saying goodbyes became a cherished part of my routine.

The absence of a phone heightened genuine connections, helping me to learn to navigate moments of boredom and discomfort, just observe and take in present moments more consciously.

Traveling along (and swimming in) the Mekong, I explored spirituality (eg. visiting countless temples) and environmental awareness, witnessing their impact on locals in villages and vibrant cities alike.

This Dragons journey exposed me to cultural richness, and personal growth through challenging norms gave me a glimpse into the Southeast Asian world, and ignited the curiosity of a young traveler, setting the stage for their future global adventures.

  • Very well trained, passionated and educated Instructors.
  • No phone, offline for 3 months.
  • Almost no international students, primarily Americans.
26 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


I went on the Mekong Semester in the spring, almost a full year ago, and I still am unpacking how it has affected me as a person. I met incredible people, saw fantastic landscapes, ate the best food in my life, and fell in love with everywhere I went. My curiosity in Buddhism has only deepened, as has my desire to learn languages-- I'm now studying Chinese in college because of this trip, and I'm hoping to learn Lao and Cambodian someday. I feel more confident and prepared in college, and I think that I understand myself to a much deeper degree now. The instructors are what made my experience, as they are all so knowledgeable and passionate! I miss the temples and marketplaces I wandered through, and I cannot imagine what I would be like without Dragons.

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

Awesome Trip!!!

I went on the Mekong trip last year for the first part of my gap year, and it was an incredible experience. I learned so much about regional culture, food, language, and politics during my time traveling through China, Laos, and Cambodia and developed frienships on the trip that have continued to this day, almost a year later. I will always remember my WTBD trip as one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

106 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers