Mekong: Tibetan Plateau to the Heart of Southeast Asia Gap Year Semester

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To Tibetans, the Upper Mekong is a powerful spiritual entity. To the Chinese, the river is a means of economic development. By focusing on the interdependence of people and the natural world, The Mekong Semester examines how the demand for electricity and anthropocentric needs are causing irreparable damage to delicate ecosystems and traditional ways of life.
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.

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.

  • 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.
  • Trek in arid Himalayas and humid wet tropics exploring hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls.
  • Experience rural village life in a Tibetan, Lao, Thai and Cambodia homestays participating in the daily rhythms of each place.
  • Witness the negative impacts of large-scale hydro-power dam developments ecological systems.

Questions & Answers


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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.

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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.