North India: Identity in Exile High School Summer Program

Video and Photos


Explore mountain cultures and mountain landscapes on the roof of the world. Stretching more than 1500 miles from Pakistan to China, the Himalayan Range boasts half the world’s highest peaks and is home to diverse mountain peoples. Examine the roots of Tibetan identity, join refugee communities for a learning service project, discuss climate change in the Himalayas, and trek into Ladakh’s sacred high peaks. Ladakh is a particularly unique region in this mountain expanse. Clinging to the far western flank of the Tibetan plateau, jagged peaks and windswept valleys have largely preserved local cultures, but the region is particularly susceptible to a warming climate and hasn’t experienced a similar economic and development boom as the Indian plains. This course is a window into diverse Himalayan cultures and landscapes, as the region adapts to both challenging environmental and political climates.

  • Extensive discourse on both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism and the role that religion plays in Indian culture, frequent meditation and yoga practice. Broad introduction in Sikhism and Islam.
  • Look at resource management, creative responses to climate change, human rights, political economics, cultural preservation, democracy and communal conflict in India.
  • A 6-8 day high-altitude village trek in the awe-inspiring Ladakhi Trans-Himalaya.
  • A 6 day homestay with Tibetan refugee families in Dharamsala, a 5 day homestay in a remote Ladakhi village. Introduction to Hindi and Ladakhi languages and learn a few Tibetan phrases.
  • Help Buddhist monks and nuns in Dharamsala practice their English conversations skills at LHA, a Tibetan right organization. Work with environmental educators in Ladakh with the option to visit local schools.

New: Fall and Spring Domestic Gap Semesters

We are excited to announce two North American Gap Semesters - the Rio Grande Semester: Stories of Culture, Identity, & Environment Along the Southern Border and the Colorado River Basin Semester: Sustainable Relationships with Land and Water in the Western United States.

Questions & Answers

Interesting question! We couldn't find the answer, but definitely suggest reaching out directly to the program provider:


10 Rating
based on 5 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Growth 10
  • Support 10
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 9.8
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 5 of 5
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

The Eternal Course

Once I returned home, the following six months were full of questions along the lines of “How was your trip?” Throughout much trial and error, I can now keep my answer under 2 minutes. But through this process, I’ve learned that I haven’t quite grasped a full understanding of what exactly my experience was, as I found it harder to explain my transformation than I thought it would be. My Dragons journey is with me everyday, and everyday I come closer to comprehending my knowledge that I gained on course. Having those meaningful conversations with NGO leaders, nurses, poets, religious officials, locals, homestay families, and instructors were so impactful. The knowledge that I walked away with was not directly taught to me, it was gained through experiential learning, which fostered personal growth and a stronger sense of self. Dragons demonstrated that in order to effectively interact with a community, I need to be able to listen first. I used to, and still struggle with, letting my preconceived notions dictate what a community needs. But I learned the concept of solidarity. And through transference (the last stage on all Dragons courses), I was taught how to bring these complicated, beautiful, intricate, exciting conversations and experiences back home with me. And through this I have found that we, westerners, are so unaware of the unknown. The unknown showed me that I’m far happier without a phone and that I don’t mind not showering for a week. That’s why I urge you to push your limits and jump into the chaos of another country and take the opportunity to view the world from a different lense. Dragons will venture into the unexplored. Will you?

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience

Participating in a Dragons course was the most incredible experience of my life and the best decision I ever made. The opportunities I had were ones that I would never have elsewhere, such as staying with a family in rural villages high in the Indian Himalayas, studying buddhist philosophy with a nun, and creating my own Independent Study Project to dive deeper into my personal interests. I learned more this summer than I have in my whole life, and I am forever grateful to everyone at Dragons for making it possible.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

North India: Identity in Exile

In 6 weeks, Dragons opened my eyes to the world and its opportunities; to the infinite amount of things to see and do and learn that exist. I learned invaluable lessons that I cannot explain on paper, from about my innermost self to the history and plight of Tibetan refugees. The depth of my experience, the people I met, the places I saw, and the things I learned both solidified and changed me as a person. The program components include home stays, trekking, rugged travel, language study, learning service, focus of inquiry on comparative religion, development studies, and independent study projects. Each of the program components are integral parts of the experience. My personal favorite were the home stays, because I was able to connect with people that I would never have been able to form relationships with, and the relationships I was able to form with my families were unbelievable to me. The academic focus on minority issues in Ladakh added another layer to exploring the region, as we understood and knew much about the region that many Western travelers do not. Overall, it was an incredible experience that I am very blessed to be able to have had.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Immersive, Educational, Transformative

Where There be Dragons is truly an incredible organization and I had such a positive experience on the Identity in Exile course. My instructor team was absolutely amazing and their combined wisdom and experience in country allowed my group to learn so much, explore remote locations and have the opportunity to meet with inspiring individuals throughout our travels. My two favorite aspects of the trip were our homestays and the Independent Study Project. Being able to live with 2 different families in both and urban and a rural homestay was one of the most valuable opportunities that Dragons has given me and I fostered such profound connections with the families I was fortunate enough to become a part of. I also really enjoyed our Independent Study Project. I chose to study Hindi and I had 2:1 lessons over the course of 6 weeks with my instructor, a native speaker. My group-mates explored a variety of topics ranging from Buddhism, Social Justice to meditation and it was so awesome being able to explore an area of interest and later share that with the rest of my group. I loved every second of this course and I would recommend it to the open minded, curious and adventurous traveler in a heart beat.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Leap of Faith

Where There Be Dragons really and truly changed my life. I gained a sense of independence, a strength of character, and a feeling that I could conquer any obstacles that came in my way. I met a truly exceptional group of people, people who I was able to get to know in such a deep and personal way due to our shared experiences. Going to India was by far the most interesting, scary, and amazing experience, and without this program, I would never have been able to expereince it the way that I did. Our instructors definitely did an amazing job, for they not only provided help when we needed it, but also allowed us to truly grow in this strange environment. The times I remember most are the times when I or other members in the group had to step up, assume responsibility, and lead the group on. This program is not for those who are not willing to open their hearts and their eyes, and to this day I think of this trip as one of the more difficult things I have ever done. However, it was by far the most amazing thing. I learned to open my eyes in a way I did not dream was possible, I learned to accept things about myself that I could barely acknowledge, and, above all else, I came back a better person, a better citizen of this world. I cannot do Dragons justice just with these 5 stars and this jumbled review, but to anyone reading this, I beg of you, take a leap of faith, just as I did. You will be changed forever.