Mekong: Heart of Southeast Asia Gap Year Semester

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From its sacred headwaters in the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong River flows 4,800-km towards the South China Sea, cleaving a boundary between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, and coursing into the heart of mainland Southeast Asia. Tracing the hidden contours of mountain valley and village for more than 2500km from the Tibetan plateau to the plains of Cambodia, the Mekong semester program is an odyssey of mind, body and spirit.

At times students will find themselves immersed in a broad examination of language, culture, cuisine, spirituality, history and politics, while at others the immensity of the river journey becomes all-consuming and we are submit to the course mantra: Mind like water. It is seldom the distance traveled, nor the mountains or temples, that students remember after such an odyssey, it is the collection of people and their stories that makes the Mekong a living deity.

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.

  • Gain insight into Tibetan, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, as well as the influence of animist traditions, Islam and Christianity in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
  • Examine international water resources as relates to mega-dam projects, ecology and biodiversity, cultural ecology, economics, sustainable development, and regional politics.
  • Examine comprehensively issues pertaining to international aid and development, the effects of damming on fisheries, wildlife conservation, minority status and forced relocation issues, effects of modernization on traditional livelihoods, and the impacts
  • Challenge yourself on multi-day treks in Kirirom National Park near the Cambodian coast, in the karst limestone and rain forests of of eastern Laos and within the sacred peaks of the eastern Himalaya.
  • Live with home-stay families in a Tibetan community in northwest Yunnan, a Catholic village on a tiny island in the Mekong in Laos, and an idyllic Khmer community just south of Phnom Penh.

Questions & Answers


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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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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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.

Yes, I recommend this program

About Where There Be Dragons

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...