Alumni Spotlight: Abby Miranker

Abby took a gap semester with Where There Be Dragons in Bolivia and Peru. She is now a student at Brandeis University studying Latin American and Hispanic Studies and Art History.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because it incorporated several of my interests. I wanted something that would take me to places that were not frequented by tourists. I also wanted an opportunity to have a language immersion. Lastly, I was very interested in the outdoors and backpacking.

Dragons combined all of these with a unique 9 – program component that seems perfect for me. Overall, I wanted to have a completely unique experience that was like nothing I had experienced before, and Dragons gave me just that.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The office in Boulder was very helpful with a specific question my mom and I had about the trip, such as application materials, and packing/travel information once I was accepted into the program. I still had to be on top of my materials to make sure everything was submitted on time.

In terms of the trip itself, the program provided experienced instructors with flexible itinerary and course structure that would allow me to get the most out of the trip. What I had to bring to the table was willingness to learn.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My advice is to say that you should not expect an easy adventure. My course challenged me in so many ways, and I came out the other end completely changed.

I had so many incredible experiences, but a lot of those incredible experiences came with hard work and being pushed out of my comfort zone.

Make sure that you go into the trip with an open mind, and you will be so happy you did!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

How can I describe "average" with this trip! In a homestay, an average day looks like waking up with your homestay family, eating breakfast, attending classes, going home for lunch, and then usually allowing the afternoon for independent projects or group presentations at the program house. Outside of a homestay, such as travelling in cities or on trek, we wake up very early and make sure to pack in as much as we can in one day.

To be honest, there really is no such thing as an "average" day or week on this course because the itinerary is flexible, and we are always doing something new and different. I will say that typically you wake up early and go to bed early. There is always time for meals and for self-care no matter how packed a day might look like.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was the uncertainty of what was to happen next. My whole life had always been centered around a specific schedule, always thinking about the future. Dragons allowed me to overcome this expectation of always knowing what my plan is and what is happening.

I was allowed to live completely in the moment and take my experience day by day. This was one of the most valuable things I learned, and I am still able to transfer it to my life at college now.

Will I get homesick?

You will definitely get homesick! The worst part of the trip for me was that I got very homesick even though I was having an incredible time away.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop using all electronics, and find ways to vent your feelings about wanting to be home without letting it turn into a habit. Once you are home, you are going to miss it so much. It can be tempting to think about home, and sometimes hard to stop. Try your best to get your mind off of it or let the thoughts out in a controlled manner. You will be home soon enough. Live in the moment!