Where There Be Dragons

Where There Be Dragons

Why choose Where There Be Dragons?

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.


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.

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

Unfortunately, discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and skin tone exists in different forms all over the world. In some destinations, especially rural or ethnically homogenous areas, people may not have had much exposure to racial diversity. As such, people with certain physical characteristics may experience unwanted attention. Most commonly, this might include staring, insensitive comments, people taking your photo (with or without asking), or attempts to touch your skin or hair. Black students traveling in parts of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa have often reported higher levels of unwanted attention than their peers. White students traveling in parts of Asia and Africa have also reported receiving unwanted attention. Students are encouraged to communicate with staff if they feel their personal boundaries are being violated or if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any situation. We encourage you to believe your peers if/when they share experiences like this with you.

LGBTQIA+ Support

Social, cultural, religious, political, and legal attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community vary around the world. According to the Global Acceptance Index, average levels of acceptance for LGBTQ+ people around the world have been increasing since 1981. However, many countries where Dragons operates programs may have social discrimination or even laws against being LGBTQ+. We have safely supported LGBTQ+ students in all of our program areas, and provide specific cultural and geographic advice to help students stay safe on course.

In some cases, students may be advised not to speak about their sexual orientations and/or gender identities with local contacts (such as homestay families, ISP mentors, language teachers, and guest speakers) due to safety concerns. Likewise, transgender and non-binary students may have to choose to present outwardly as male or female in certain contexts during the program. In other cases, “coming out” to some or all host community members may be a safe choice.

Neurodivergent Support

For students with neuro-differences (such as dyslexia, ADHD, ASD, TS, and dyspraxia), it is important to be aware that neurodiversity is likely viewed differently abroad than at home. People might not be familiar with labels or terms that are very common where you come from. If you struggle with lots of external stimuli, you should be prepared that you will be in some environments that are louder and busier than what you are used to.

Accessibility Support

If you are a student with a physical disability, you might encounter challenges around accessibility than you have at home. Many of the places we travel at Dragons don’t have building codes or other regulations in place to support people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments. You may need accommodations or support that you don’t usually require in your life at home.



Dragons defines responsible travel as travel that is culturally conscious, environmentally responsible, and focused on developing meaningful connections and mutual respect in the communities to which we travel. Over the course of Dragons 25+ year history, we have cultivated long-standing relationships with respected community leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs and professionals involved in environmental and cultural preservation. In the more than 20 countries in which Dragons has operated, we have steadfastly adhered to minimum impact travel, an accurate and informed understanding of place, and the realization of maximum benefit for the communities we visit.

Ethical Impact

Dragons believes that we need to shift the way we think of volunteer travel. Instead of focusing on “service work”—on the idea that short-term volunteers can contribute to communities abroad—we advocate a paradigm shift: we choose, instead, to focus on “learning service.”

Learning Service is a holistic experience that combines an intimate and authentic engagement with the local community, the study of effective development, and the contribution to an established community-driven project. It is the process of living, working alongside, and humbly absorbing the culture of those being served while coordinating closely with project managers to understand the trajectory of the project, from inception to completion and beyond. It is an acknowledgment that often it is the volunteer who stands to gain as much or more from the work. And it is a commitment to making contributions that create positive impacts in the communities coupled with the humility to always listen and learn first.


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Yes, I recommend this program

Great and Safe Experience!

The trip helped me grow as a person and learn while being culturally immersed. Truly unique and worth it! Despite going on a trip during a period of political instability, the staff and program leaders ensured the safety of the students while prioritizing having fun and thoroughly learning. There were daily lessons and the instructors really helped bridge the language gap we experienced and allowed us to have a level of independence in our learning while being safe and mindful. At the end, the company also provides great support beyond the trip.

  • Amazing instructors
  • Unique itinerary
  • Extremely flexible schedule
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Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience In Ladakh

This was my second Dragons trip, and I had high expectations after a fantastic summer in Nepal the year before, but Ladakh did not disappoint.

The trip was fast-paced which had us moving around a lot. All the moving meant lots of bus rides, but spending time in the bus allowed for a unique view of the beautiful ladakhi landscape and countless views of the powerful Himalays.

We spent time in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, exploring the markets and the Leh Palace. We completed two different treks, one that reached 17,000 feet at the top of our pass! We also did a rural homestay, often a highlight of Dragons trips. Getting to build connections with the local people, often with a heavy language barrier, is one of the most fulfilling and challenging parts of a course.

Another core piece was visiting different monasteries and learning about Tibetan Buddhism. Our instructors helped us understand Buddhist philosophy and practice as we got these new experiences, and it was really interesting to get a ley perspective on Buddhism.

Dragons fosters a very open, caring community, which has allowed me to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually over these last two summers. I am forever grateful for the wonderful relationship with instructors and other students I have built. I have developed a true love for Himalayan culture, and there is no doubt that this course has changed the trajectory of my life.

  • Pushes you in all the best ways for growth
  • Allows for really unique experiences in an authentic and safe way
  • I can't stress enough from both trips the safe, loving environment created by the instructors and students
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Yes, I recommend this program

Nepal Semester Rating

I came to Nepal expecting nothing and got everything I never could have imagined and more. I have been home for a little over a month now and I can say with certainty that the lessons and experiences I have had will stay with me for the rest of my life. Coming home I have realized how much my world view has been broadened and how positively my morals have been re-evaluated. Although the program is “rugged” at times, there was never a second that I felt unsafe or uncomfortable in my situation. I strongly recommend this program to anyone who wants to experience the rich cultures of the world and learn so much about yourself in the process.

  • Amazing nature
  • Introspective
  • Lifelong friends
  • None
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing, educational program full of varied, unique experiences

I had a wonderful time doing the Dragons South America Semester. My favorite aspect of the program was that out activities were varied over the course of the semester. We went backpacking, took Spanish lessons, had rural and urban homestays, learned about local social movements, and ate delicious food. It is very structured, so for those seeking more independence, this is not the program for you. However, thanks to that structure, instructors can give us access and introduce us to people and experiences we otherwise never could have learned about. Thanks to these resources, I learned much more about Bolivian and Peruvian culture, politics and life than I even could have as a solo traveler.

  • Homestays
  • Tight-knit group
  • Outdoor and hands-on learning
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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.

  • Personal growth
  • Cultural immersion
  • Unique communities
  • Traveling as a youth group not as adults
  • Hiking speed
  • Timing


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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.

Hilary LeBlanc

Job Title
Admissions Associate and Field Instructor

Hilary has worked for Dragons since 2016. She is lucky enough to be able to split her time between the Admissions Department in the Boulder office, and the field as a Summer Instructor in India and Rwanda.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I think that one of my favorite memories was during our rural homestay last summer in Sitong, a small community in West Bengal. Our students were helping out one morning planting rice in a nearby paddy. It ultimately turned into a mud fight with the local kids. Afterwards, everyone went down to the river to rinse off, swim, and enjoy a picnic lunch together. For everyone involved, it felt like a day of just pure genuine fun!

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

I think that beyond specific stories from return students about something they experienced on a program, I love hearing about what students do with their lives upon completion of a Dragons course.

Dragons helps students learn more about themselves, and has the capacity to inspire new passions, and provide trajectory in a direction that a student might not have previously imagined.

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

I have always been intrigued by our course in Indonesia. All of our programs travel to places radically different than what most of our students have ever experienced, but this is one that has always stood out to me. Perhaps it is the fact that I lived in Colorado where water is scarce, and many of the communities we spent time with in Indonesia lead lives that are so intimately tied to the ocean.

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

There are a number of things that make Dragons unique, but what I feel most proud of is our community of instructors. Dragons hires instructors who are true experts in the countries in which they run programs, and they are passionate about sharing that with students.

Every season, each instructor team carefully crafts an itinerary that follows a certain theme or emphasis but is also totally unique. Rather than the office drafting up an itinerary, contracting out to providers in country, and handing all these plans over to instructors, we allow instructors to use their own local knowledge, contacts, and resources to design the itinerary.

They are bringing students to communities where they themselves have lived and worked. This allows students access to places they might otherwise not be able to go to or even know existed. It’s a fair amount of work but the result is truly transformative for students.

Professional Associations

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