Staff Spotlight: Jenny Wagner

Africa Program Director
Jenny is a cross-cultural facilitator, anthropologist, and writer with a passion for global experiential education. Currently she oversees summer and semester programs for Where There Be Dragons in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East.

What is your favorite travel memory?

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Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Rwanda is probably one of our most underrated destinations. Most people associate this country with the genocide that happened in 1994, but it has made huge strides as a model of democracy in the region. The natural beauty of this mountainous country, the resilience of the people there, and the learning opportunities for our students to understand issues around international development make this one of our most incredible programs. I don't think any of our programs are "overrated." I would say that our programs in Peru are fantastic and tend to be quite popular, but I actually think some of our best learning in South America happens in Bolivia, a country that people don't often have on their radar.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working with Dragons inspired me to pursue my graduate studies in the Social Anthropology of Travel and Tourism, researching the impacts and paradigms around the international travel industry. Our instructor community is an amazing collection of critical thinkers, activists, community leaders, and educators who I continue to learn an unspeakable amount from. The people who work with us represent many shared values, and they are all living these values through an incredible diversity of cultural lenses. I think my own view of the world has become more nuanced, more compassionate, and more complex through the work I've done with Dragons.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

The way Dragons designs our courses is unique. We put 12 students and 3 instructors on each course, and this student-to-instructor ratio allows for every student to be individually mentored through their growth process throughout the course. Many international education companies work with ground operators, but we rely mainly on the expertise and extensive in-country knowledge of our instructors to craft deeply personalized experiences on each course. Our instructor teams know the countries where we travel intimately (many of them are from there!), and they are seasoned educators who are skilled at interpreting cultural nuances for students. A major focus of any Dragons course is helping students engage with the places where we travel and empowering students to learn directly from the communities that so graciously invite us into their homes.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

There are too many stories to count! Most recently, one of our office interns just got back from his Dragons semester course in Indonesia. The group was traveling from the Banda Islands (nutmeg has its origins here) via boat and were surrounded by a pod of dolphins. The boatmen said it was safe to enter the water, and the students were able to swim with almost 100 wild dolphins! These are the spontaneous moments that make Dragons courses so special.