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

A transformative summer

My experience with wheretherebedragons was extremely transformative. Not only did it exponentially improve my Spanish speaking, but it challenged me to become a better version of myself. I was pushed both physically and emotionally during the trek, and emerged a stronger and more resilient human because of it. Being away from technology was particularly impactful, as it challenged me to refocus my priorities and reflect on my core values. My instructors were incredible, and I bonded closely with all of my peers. I would 100% recommend this trip for any young adult, not because it was “fun” or “easy”, but because it taught me more about different cultures, people, and myself.

What was your funniest moment?
Funniest moment was definitely playing random games with my friends on the treks!
  • Homestay/bonding with family
  • Summitting the trek
  • Exploring new foods
  • Sicknesses/parasites
  • No other cons!
  • No other cons!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Unique adventure along the Mekong

My time in Southeast Asia was a very intense journey with ups and downs and turnarounds...

From deep within the rainforest in quiet villages to vibrant cities, my experiences covered a wide spectrum of accommodations—moving from the warmth of local family homes to the convenience of hotel stays. Getting around involved a mix of travel methods, from hopping on public and private buses to tuk-tuks (no motorbikes!), mini tractors, sitting in the back of trucks, boats of different sizes, sangtaos, and even exploring by bike or strolling on foot.

Gestures spoke volumes, and our mother tongues couldn't have been more different. I picked up stories from monks, shared moments with mothers, and had laughs with same-aged youth and people from different backgrounds than mine. Chatting with bomb removal workers, specialists from various walks of life, farmers, and fishers—each encounter painted a richer picture of the journey.

Venturing beyond my comfort zone, I immersed myself in hands-on experiences like cultivating rice and weaving bamboo, cooking, and learning from locals, and forming bonds with families and cultures previously unknown to me.

Embracing the simplicity of daily life, including the joy of sticky rice, hammocks, re-packing my backpack countless times, and saying goodbyes became a cherished part of my routine.

The absence of a phone heightened genuine connections, helping me to learn to navigate moments of boredom and discomfort, just observe and take in present moments more consciously.

Traveling along (and swimming in) the Mekong, I explored spirituality (eg. visiting countless temples) and environmental awareness, witnessing their impact on locals in villages and vibrant cities alike.

This Dragons journey exposed me to cultural richness, and personal growth through challenging norms gave me a glimpse into the Southeast Asian world, and ignited the curiosity of a young traveler, setting the stage for their future global adventures.

  • Very well trained, passionated and educated Instructors.
  • No phone, offline for 3 months.
  • Almost no international students, primarily Americans.
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Yes, I recommend this program


What an incredible semester! Not only did this expand my views on the world but also my capabilities to live within it! I experienced amazing insights surrounding culture, art, religion, history and more! It was great experiencing all of these places without a phone as well because I was even more out of my comfort zone and it forced me to stay present and utilize interpersonal resources. Our group felt like a family by the end as we had experienced so much with one another, and grew incredible relationships along the way as well!

What was your funniest moment?
I was playing volleyball with locals in the Amazon. A kid hit the ball and it rolled off a ledge! I ran after it and jumped over! Slid 20 feet and ran into the river. Ball saved.
  • Practiced Spanish
  • Stayed with locals that took you around
  • Hiked in all different ecosystems
  • Many illnesses
  • I was a little stinky
  • Changes in altitude took adjusting
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Yes, I recommend this program

South America Semester with Where There Be Dragons

This program provided an amazing mix of trekking, homestays, and time to explore. We traveled with a group of 12, as well 3 instructors, providing an excellent ratio and an amazing group dynamic. We traveled throughout Peru and Bolivia, interacting with many local communities and people, creating an experience that felt unique and distinctly not touristy. Additionally the treks we did allowed us to see much of the beautiful nature these countries contain. Overall my experience was invaluable to learning more about myself, making amazing friends, and improving my language anf traveling skills.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go into the program with no expectations and just go with the flow. Try to live in the moment and enjoy everyday.
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No, I don't recommend this program

Indonesia review

Not only with my dragons trip was I able to learn so much about different communities and cultures, but also about myself. I loved my dragons program and I without a doubt would recommend it to others. My favorite portion of the trip was the second home stay in Langa. Here, I lived with a family which had three young men who loved to do outdoor activities, so we ended up going on early morning runs everyday. Indonesia as a whole was a really incredible experience and the places I stayed were very different from my home.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be sure to bring Dramamine and be prepared for some tight squeezes
  • Cultural immersion was amazing
  • Great community and helpful instructors
  • Lots of educational experiences not only in regard to conservation
  • Many travel days
  • Sickness
  • Miscommunication at times/lack of communication from instructors


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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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