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 nearly 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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Anna
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Princeton Bridge Year Bolivia

My gap year in Bolivia opened my mind up to different ways of being and living in this world. I met so many wonderful people and was exposed to many new things. While my time there was sometimes challenging, it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. The lessons I learned about myself and my values still shape who I am today. I also had the opportunity to learn more about Bolivian history and culture as well as reflect on United States history and culture, especially as it relates to South America.

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Lily
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Revealing of myself and of the world

I took this trip (2.5 month semester program) between graduating high school and starting college to explore and discover a different way of life away from the American standard. What I did not realize about this trip is that it provided me a place and space (with our fabulous group and instructors) to dive into the essence of myself and rediscover the passions I'd lost in the busyness of school. I was always slightly homesick for most of the trip but once I came home I experienced reverse culture shock which was fascinating to me. I was able to see my own family life, culture, and old habits in a new light. I look back on my trip very fondly, even if it was challenging at times. The instructor team was absolutely stacked. You could tell that this wasn't just a job for them but a passion and a lifestyle. This was easily seen in their relationships with students and their knowledge and dedication to their environment and work. From my impression the Where There Be Dragons program was very well connected and close with communities in which we stayed or explored in. There seemed to be authentic relationships between our instructors, the overall program, and locals. We had extensive briefing on Nepali culture, customs, and language as a group before we went out in the open. We also had classes whilst in our city homestay that were taught by guest speakers, the instructor team, our even fellow peers that ranged from gentrification, food privilege, Honey hunting in Nepal, Learning Service (voluntourism), What Happens to Our trash, Compost, etc.. Our group of 13 students and 3 instructors still keep in touch over a WhatsApp group chat sharing memories from the trip.

Words of advice:
-Journal everyday, even little things. It is so worth it and will be so fun to share with loved ones back home
-Bring a lot of hiking socks (5-8 pairs)
-don't get wrapped up in checking your personal email--it definitely makes you more homesick
-bring the vitamins they recommend and just take them everyday as a precaution
-leave behind pre conceived notions of yourself and "who you are". Challenge your beliefs!
-bring a big travel duffel to store your pack in (one kid's backpack broke through TSA)

Cons:
-not a racially diverse group of students
-the food was toooooooo good but a tad hard on my tummy with all the rice (big bloat)

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Theo
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Trip to Nepal with Dragons

The Where There Be Dragons trip to Nepal is incredible. The instructors were highly qualified, adaptive, and most importantly, knowledgeable and passionate about Nepali culture. They were able to share once in a lifetime experiences with us through their extensive knowledge of Nepal and vast network of connections throughout the area. The other participants on the trip were very kind, but also gritty and ready to take on challenges. The trip attracted a very diverse and interesting group of people that I am so grateful to have shared this experience with. There were some challenges on the trip related to living conditions and food, but all the participants were prepared and the instructors supported us through any hardship. Overall, it was a truly a positively life changing experience.

Pros
  • Very experienced guides that were able to share very special parts of the country with us
  • The trip attracted very cool and nice people
  • Really able to experience authentic parts of Nepali culture
Cons
  • Low variety in diet
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Aria
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Dragons Adventure

This experience was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had. I had such an amazing time that I dont even think that if I went back, it would be the same. Regardless of which program suits you, you will, no doubt, receive amazing instructors and meet new people that you wont forget for the rest of you life. And where ever you choose to go, WTBD will make sure that you get the most unique experiences that place has to offer. On these programs, you get to look back into the history and understand why the ground you're standing on is the way it is today. When I went to MachuPicchu, I learned that this mountain we call "Big Mountain" in the local language, doesnt actually have a name. I highly recommend going on a program with WTBD, it will be an experience of a lifetime.

Pros
  • Community
  • Self Exploration
  • Food
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Mariner
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience!

My experience in Bolivia was amazing and completely changed my life. I met some of the most incredible people and learned so much about the bolivian culture from the homestays and getting the opportunity to be fully immersed in their traditions. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone who seeks an adventure but also a learning experience. I would especially recommend this trip to anyone who wants to be pushed outside their comfort zone and explore different aspects of the world that might aid them in their personal growth.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve-racking moment for me was the trek and the physical intensity of it all. There were definitely moments where I was exhausted and scared but the people around me were so supportive and the view was captivating that I knew I had and could push through. I completed the trek feeling so proud but also loved, the whole group completed this challenge together despite the fear and nerves around it.

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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