Where There Be Dragons

Where There Be Dragons

About

Dragons has offered immersive and responsible Gap Year and Summer Abroad programs in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the USA for over 30 years. Engaging as travelers, not tourists, programs give students the rare opportunity to genuinely experience the places they travel and meaningfully connect across cultures. Each small-group program is custom-crafted by expert instructors and combines 9-hands on program components such as homestay, trekking, and language learning. With Dragons, students gain new perspectives, knowledge, and skills needed to be more active and resilient participants in the world.

Scholarships

Where There Be Dragons Financial Aid & 529 Funds

Where There Be Dragons offers need-based financial aid to students that demonstrate reasonable financial need and are excited to engage with communities around the world.

Reviews

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Solomon
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

My adventure

I feel so lucky to have traveled with wtbd. The trip was so packed with adventures that it takes a few months post completion to realize what you accomplished. The program was beautiful, challenging and an opportunity to become a better person. I made new friends, tried new food, and visitied places i would never have discovered without the program. I miss the andes so much, the scale of the mountains and the culture and history that lives inside of it is out of this world. I miss hiking up the side of a mountain and taking a boat ride down the river beni into the amazon basin. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself signed up for this program, get excited and take every opportunity that comes your way when in south america. Dont hold back and be yourself.

Pros
  • Personal growth
  • Cultural immersion
  • Unique communities
Cons
  • Traveling as a youth group not as adults
  • Hiking speed
  • Timing
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Alex
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Lifechanging.

I've done a few summer and semester programs like Dragons with various other companies, and Dragons really blew me away. I felt guided and supported towards learning the culture, language, leadership, interpersonal skills, etc., and pushed out of my comfort zone to figure a lot of it out on my own, which I really loved. I got to bushwhack in the rainforest, swim in a glacial lagoon in the Andes mountains, sleep in ancient Incan ruins, dance with my host family in a huge parade, and so much more that I never would've dreamed of. By the time I left, I was forgetting words in English.

Pros
  • Extreme self-growth
  • Spanish language/culture immersion
  • Incredible experiences in nature
Cons
  • Probably will have some gastrointestinal issues at some point along the way
Response from Where There Be Dragons

We're so glad you loved your experience, Alex. Thank you for your thoughtful review!

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Joshua
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Review of WTBD Guatemala Trip S22

I had a wonderful time on the trip. At first I was really nervous, I spoke Spanish terribly and I knew very little about Guatemala. Those fears were quickly dismissed. Everyone in the group was nice and everyone had something offer. The staff were very nice and they did a good job of keeping the group together, not letting it form into individual cliques. Our counselors were Jochen, Paula, and Kelly. They worked together to keep us safe and they worked non-stop to making plans for the group. I know this all sounds like insincere hyperbole but it’s true! But that’s not to say there weren’t hiccups. During our 4 day trek we had to send two kids — one by one — by ground transportation to the destination, leaving us with only Kelly for a day. Three of us got sick because they forgot to filter their water. But despite these challenges, we all had a great time. Not to mention that I came back way better at speaking Spanish than when I left. We all grew a whole lot in that summer month. And we all still keep in contact.

Pros
  • Spanish speaking skills
  • Fun group
  • Beautiful cities and mountains
Cons
  • You can’t choose what to eat
  • You’ll get sick if you’re not careful with your water
Response from Where There Be Dragons

We're so glad you enjoyed your experience, Joshua. Thank you for your thoughtful review!

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Margaret
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

LOVED this experience!

I loved my trip with Where There be Dragons to Thailand. I was fully immersed into Thai culture. I learned about their language, customs, and traditions. We even participated in a week long homestay in a rural village. My host mom was amazing and I was so sad to say goodbye. After our homestay we city hopped and visited some super cool monasteries, night markets, and museums. Parts of the trip are definitely challenging and way out of your comfort zone. As long as you keep an open mind to change you will have an awesome time!

Pros
  • Learn something new just about every second
  • Exploring your limits
  • Make lifelong friends
Cons
  • Housing might be out of your comfort zone
  • Using the bathroom can be very different
  • Limited food diet
Response from Where There Be Dragons

Wow - great photos! We're so glad you loved your experience, Margaret. Thank you for your thoughtful review!

Default avatar
Slate
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

The best time.

This was my first experience traveling abroad in a meaningful way and for an extended length of time. I had zero expectations for what the trip was going to be like and I ended up having the best three months of my life, I’d go back tomorrow if I could. Dragons does a really good job of teaching students how to be travelers not tourists, and I’ve learn so much about international travel from that alone. The instructors on the trip really make the trip as good as it can be, their familiarity with the regions and knowledge of the culture makes them the best people to learn from and lean on for support when traveling for so long and to unfamiliar places. My trip with Dragons changed my perspective of the world in a lot of different ways, I cannot wait to travel abroad again.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because Dragons wasn’t a typical abroad company. They go off the beaten path, they have great resources in-country, and they explore in a way that embodies ethical travel and respecting the local community. Dragons also emphasize traveling with an open mind and open heart, something that I value most while going abroad.

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

Dragons were so great with assisting me. They organized a general layout of the itinerary, along with providing students with packing lists and vivid directions as to how to acquire insurance, visas, passports etc. Dragons also provided medication, which is something that can be a huge challenge for travelers. They were fully equipped with any and all medication needed by the students in-country.

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

I guarantee that there will be times when traveling with Dragons where you will feel out of your comfort zone. I’m not talking dangerous situations, I’m talking adapting to challenging situations that haven't been presented to you yet. Embrace this opportunity, don’t shy away from it. I believe people learn the most from situations that involve pushing yourself slightly more than you're used to. Be sure to welcome these experiences.

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

One of the many beauties of Dragons is that the itineraries are subject to change given the availability of opportunities on course. For example, if the Dalai Lama is near a Dragons group, they may try and see him as opposed to doing another scheduled activity. The amount of flexibility within each program really separates Dragons from the rest. In terms of what an average day/week may look like, it really may be a multitude of things. Or we could wake up in a homestay, help our families with daily activities, meet with our groups for ISPs, and then have a very open afternoon. It all depends.

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

I have never been that good at picking up foreign languages. Whether it’s in a classroom or abroad, I always felt I was one step behind everybody else. However the language lessons on Dragons courses are so unbelievably amazing. It’s focused on oral pronunciation, so it’s actually useful for when we speak to locals or our homestay families. Dragons also provides students with a respectable amount of words and phrases to focus on, so our skills are developed but the students aren’t overwhelmed with the amount presented to them. I also realized I picked it up much faster than I realized because when you are living in homes that speak the language, you get much better at the language much faster. I looked forward to every language lesson we had!

How much freedom did the students have on designing the daily itinerary?

Lots! Feedback and student input are a largely emphasized among the Dragons community, so students had lots of influence when it came to molding the itinerary. Also, throughout the course of the program, there were roles assigned to each student, and one of the roles was a leader position. Leaders were in charge of various things, but one of them was partially designing the day's itinerary.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Justin Kiersky

Job Title
South & Southeast Asia Program Director

Justin has spent the majority of his adult life traveling and working around the world, and eventually based himself in Yunnan Province, China where he worked as an Editorial Director for printed magazines and a producer of film documentaries. He began leading Dragons programs in the summer of 2011, and has led custom, summer, semester, and Princeton Bridge-year courses in China and throughout Southeast Asia.

What is your favorite travel memory?

The dark alleyways of dozens of countries, exaltation in the highland jungles, stripped naked in the deserts, or huddling in the high Himalayan valleys as the winds tear at the fabric of the earth... Waking up to Holi in Hampi, finding the ruins of Kuelap, impromptu soccer matches in the Zocalo. Often, the memories that endure are thoughts elicited from the travels that end up scrawled across the pages of notebooks and napkins.

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

Fatherhood has changed me most significantly. And yet, I see that growth running parallel with our responsibility to hold a program vision for a region, and to see the big picture of education. The role of a Program Director forces one to apply patience, care, creativity, and courage for teams in the field which require support.

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

The best story I've heard recently is from a student who had no interest in politics or global affairs. After attending our Myanmar semester course, she returned home with great confidence, passion, and drive to devour all the news she could – ultimately deciding to transfer universities – in order to keep herself informed about the world.

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

The Colombia course provides profound, timely insight into peace and conflict reconciliation in a country that has suffered for generations and is only recently sowing the seeds of a better future. I'm fascinated by the human history, biodiversity, and social change in restive places around the globe.

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

When times are toughest, I work with some of the best in our industry. Our commitment to radical safety (leaning into risk) and to deep immersion is, when tested, unparalleled. In no other work environment have I been surrounded by people as knowledgeable about the world and committed to education as a tool of social change and activism.

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

Respect for community and culture. True connection comes with humility.

A company that treats others as it would like to be treated is an organization that understands an adherence to a higher value of ethics (than simply work or money), and one that breeds loyalty in its employees.

The more we challenge our own entitlement, the more authentic our programs are.

Professional Associations

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