All in all, a semester spent with Dragons in South America is filled with amazing hiking, fun homestays, and all sorts of eye-opening new experiences. The strong connections Dragons has with local communities, organizations, and guides provides for experiences that you otherwise could never obtain on your own. On the Andes and Amazon Gap Year Semester, you get a little bit of everything--language instruction, backpacking, homestays, work with indigenous communities, and lots more--which I think is an incredible pro and my favorite aspect of the program, but could rule out a participant who is searching for one central focus. For example, immersion and instruction in Spanish undoubtedly improved my Spanish speaking abilities, but if you're looking for a program with a very heavy focus on language instruction, I wouldn't necessarily say this program has that central focus you might be looking for. Regardless, traveling with a group of other students and amazing instructors is an experience that I will never forget and one that I likely won't ever have again. In looking back on my semester, I am continually amazed at how each day brought on a new challenge, perspective, and experience, which led to an expanded worldview and yearning to experience more. That's not to say that there weren't a few hardships and rough patches along the way, but dealing with those challenges and growing as a group were part of the amazing experience that is a Dragons semester. Ultimately, I continue to look back fondly on my semester with Dragons, and I aspire to seize each day as much as we did when traveling through the Andes and Amazon!
What would you improve about this program?
One thing that I would maybe improve upon is clearer communication in terms of plans for the semester at the beginning of the semester. I think my semester may have been unique because it was Dragons' first time doing homestays in Urubamba, Peru for the Andes and Amazon Gap Year Semester (which could have accounted for some uncertainties at the beginning of the semester), but there were a couple times where I felt as our plan was slightly too loose. For example, I thought we were going to be doing our long homestay in Cochabamba, Bolivia when gearing up for the trip until hearing directly from my instructors. That said, my time in Urubamba actually ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip and any kind of plan or itinerary has to be loose when considering international travel. Additionally, I really enjoyed being able to tailor our itinerary and plans to our group's interests.