Staff Spotlight: Laura Chase

Course Leader
Laura hails from Portland, Oregon, and does her best to fill her time adventuring outside around the Pacific Northwest or seeking sunsets in far off places. Laura believes in the power of cross-cultural experience and fresh air. She has spent time traveling all over the world and has led programs in the Pacific Northwest, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea, and Senegal, and The Gambia.

What is your favorite travel memory?

volunteering in African village

Most of my favorite travel memories include kind people, different languages, beautiful landscapes, tasty foods, and experiencing the unexpected.

My favorite memory is sitting in the village of Temento Samba in southern Senegal eating freshly roasted peanuts under a sky of stars. The day had been filled with harvesting rice, feeding the horses, pulling well water for the cooking of couscous, and chasing baby goats.

At night, the stars are so bright because of the lack of electricity. Donkeys wander and the song of the Pulaar language is heard wafting among families as they sit and drink tea, celebrating the day's gifts and preparing for the night.

There is a kind of sweetness that only exists in a Senegalese village, and it leaves you with a feeling of peace.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I have never been to South America and I marvel at the diversity of culture and language that exists. I have always wanted to stand under the sweeping peaks of the Andes and see the powerful Amazon river.

Both of these things take place on the Andes and Amazon program with Dragons, and Dragons does it well. The course has been run consecutively for many years with high success, engaging in both worlds of South America with depth and unspeakable reward.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Where There Be Dragons is unique in that it allows for instructors to challenge students in ways that are meaningful and rewarding. There are so many components that go into each program that allow for a well-rounded, challenging yet rewarding experience.

Not only does Dragons has a focus on cultural immersion with language, homestay families, and comparative religion, there is also a strong academic focus as well as an emphasis on adventure, such as extended trekking.

To be able to do all of these things effectively, safely, and well requires incredible support from headquarters, inspiring instructors who have lived full, interesting lives, and amazing students who want to be pushed and challenged in multiple ways.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe the biggest factor in being a successful company lies in its ability to balance risk management, support for its employees, while running an interesting program that inspires growth through challenge and experience for its students.

Feeling supported while running a program abroad is difficult and it's important to feel like there is adequate support coming from headquarters. Safety is also of the upmost importance, and if it isn't managed well, then the program won't run effectively.

Emphasis on learning through experience and challenge is important, and is difficult to do when safety isn't a priority, or is too much of one. The balance is difficult to achieve, but makes for a successful program.