Where There Be Dragons

Program Reviews

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Ellen
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I decided to spend a semester of my gap year with Dragons because I wanted to challenge myself. It certainly was a challenge, but it was so worth it.
Varanasi is a beautiful, colorful city, unlike any place I had ever seen before. There is so much to explore. I loved sharing meals with my homestay family.
After a fast-paced six weeks in bustling Varanasi, Ladakh offered me much-needed peace and space to reflect. I hope to one day return to the Himalayas.
In India, I encountered for the first time various physical and mental limitations, and worked through the difficult process of figuring out which of those limitations I need to accept and which ones need to be challenged. I made incredible bonds with people I never would have met otherwise. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought possible.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do as much as you can. Go out of your comfort zone and take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Talk to locals - and listen - and form relationships with them. I spent a large portion of my program being really afraid, but I got home and regretted not pushing myself to do more. Be safe, of course, and take care of your physical and emotional health, but pursue the things that excite you. You can rest when you get home.
Courtney
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience with Dragons played an integral role in defining my values and determining the person I am today. The Dragons community is also one of the best I've ever been a part of. There were of course ups and down, but what I was exposed to and learned about myself and the world have changed the way I see everything since. Being part of a small traveling community of ten students and three instructors was also perhaps the most beautiful thing I've ever been a part of. Not only did the programming push and challenge me, but so did my peers. Every semester is a bit different, so I can't speak to specifics, but certain conversations with locals I'm sure to remember for a long while. Our theme was "Resistir es Bella," To Resist is Beautiful. The program did a great job balancing fun + goofiness with intense conversations about the reality of injustice in our world. The program turned my worldview upside down and inside out, and I am absolutely better because of it, as well as more at peace with my place in it, and more sure of who I want to be.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Keep an open mind, and prepare to think deeply. While it may seem counterintuitive, it's not about you. Your learning and growth will happen as you put your own comfort and beliefs aside and let the experience unfold. It's three whole months--not every moment will feel formative. That's okay.
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Ned
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.
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Ian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Myanmar was incredible and opened my eyes to the diversity and differences between my culture and others. It is really difficult to put into words exactly what the trip meant to me due simply to the vast quantity of moments that changed my perspective or taught me lessons about life. The journey across the 3 months was challenging and there were many high and low points. But if I had to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing. Each low taught me something unique and conversely each high was rewarding and fun. The trip was a complicated series of adventures that taught me a lot about myself and what it means to be human. Experiencing a different cultures lifestyle and being able to get close to it while traveling is difficult. Often times you are treated as a tourist and it is hard to see through the veil. Dragon's does an incredible job of pulling back the veil and providing a more authentic experience. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. If I could do it again I would in a heartbeat.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
One day when our group was trekking we had a lunch meal of rice and chicken on the jungle floor. This part was delicious, one of the side dishes however was very strange to me. It was small fermented and fried fish that were cooked whole bones skin and all. Honestly a bit crunchy for my taste but it was an experience to consume.
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reilly
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This experience allowed me to understand how to navigate group dynamics and a foreign country! I now feel confident in my traveling abilities which was one of my main goals when signing up for this trip. It was very unique and dug deep into the cultures that we experienced. We went to the jungle and to the tops of ice peaked mountains. My favorite part was the backpacking trips where we would go from the Andes down into the Amazon. It was amazingly beautiful and we got to meet wonderful people along the way.
I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn how to travel safely but not to anyone who values independence. There was not much time for personal growth or doing anything on your own but lots of time for group bonding. There was also lots of time spent in cities and probably two weeks in total spent outside. That is important to note.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would take advantage of every single opportunity :)
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Paul
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Traveling with WTBD in Indonesia was one of the most extraordinary and remarkable experiences I've had in my life thus far, and will most definitely stay branded in my memory forever. Two factors that made this adventure a serious impact on me was how we learned to speak Indonesian through immersion, and most of us could speak it quite well after only two weeks due to that first hand learning, plus it also gave me a boost of confidence with languages because I had trouble with Spanish in highschool. That other critical factor was how we were all taken in by our host homestay families and integrated into becoming part of the family. For anyone looking to go I the future, I would recommend that you try to be as much of a minimalist as possible, because you will collect things on your trip and it's even more difficult if your pack is stuffed from the beginning. I consider myself very lucky to have been apart of this experience because it gave me the takeaway of being able to interact with a country in which the US had meddled in, and to see that even so, they were some of the kindest people I will most definitely ever meet. It also gave me a first hand look at the sadness and tragedy of deforestation and the animals of which it harms.

What would you improve about this program?
Even though limited access to technology is already in place, I would recommend making it completely mandatory
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Nina
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What I loved most about the Dragons program was how our instructors incorporated every aspect of travel into our day. We learned about culture, language, religion, and politics, we saw the world wonders, and explored off the beaten trail. They taught us to be travelers but also while
people.
My favorite memory is after our last homestay party facetpainting the cheeks of the children in the village. They were having a blast, and I know I laughed just as much as they.

What would you improve about this program?
I think some of the other students on the program weren’t as willing put themselves out there and really take on the challenges of the semester
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Lily
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did this Dragon's course in India for the second semester of my gap year and absolutely loved it. The course is rather structured and you are in a big group for a lot of the time, but there is also a lot of free time that they leave for you to utilize on your own. Through this structure, we all soon realized that it is really up to us to have the experience we want. Yes, the program has a strong structure and set of rules, but pretty much everything else is left up to you. If you don’t ask any questions yourself, you won't find any answers.
I took an academic course, Regional Seminar, for credit alongside the mandatory classes that are part of the regular course (i.e. Hindi, ISP). Classes for credit seemed to be more of a new, experimental part of the course and because there were only a few students taking courses them out of the group of 12, there was not a lot of opportunities to hold discussions or write papers, or really have class at all. I am glad I did it though, because taking an academic course like Regional Seminar and being able to put the readings in context really allowed me to dive deeper into my experience and connect more with what I was seeing around me.
Dragons instructors are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. They are there to facilitate your experience and help with any problems you might have. At the same time, they emphasize that they are not there to hold your hand during your travels. The course aims to teach it’s students to travel mindfully and view the world as a global citizen, and it did just that for me. Thank you, Dragons!

What would you improve about this program?
The course also relies heavily on group dynamic, and that dynamic being very good and strong. I think it is great that they put so much thought into these dynamics and their rules against excluding people, but if there is a problem in the group (or some kind of beef) it is very hard to deal with
Tomas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I completed the Nepal Spring Semester Where There Be Dragons course in May and I can say for certain that this program is the best gap year course available hands down. From the way the groups are chosen to the instructors, mentors, and experiences; the program is designed around fitting to your needs and interest while also giving you a healthy dose of new perspectives. All the students I did the course with also share my belief is saying that this experience was not only valuable, but crucial to our development as people. The way things were presented, from religion, art and politics, to family life, always aligned to this student centered design. Throughout my experience I truly learned what cultural immersion is while gaining a deeper understanding of Nepal as a whole. This is reflected in the 9 different locations we visited. Even the time spent in each felt like the adequate amount of time to truly learn about the places we traveled to. I would also like to add that my three instructors have become such an inspiration for me as an example of leaders that share their passion by allowing others to experience the world they have come to love. Lastly, I would like to say that even if Nepal is not your interest, Dragons Courses are set up in a way where no matter where you go, personal growth will come hand in hand with cultural learning. This course is so valuable for that reason. Thanks to this course I now know a lot about Nepal, but I have also learned how to truly visit a country as a traveler and not as a tourist.

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Margo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Do this program- i don’t know if there is a more unique, immersive, and educational way to travel. This program has a amazing connections in these countries that allowed us to do things like trek in high altitude mountain communities, do multiple homestays, get talks from people like a man whose worked closely with the current indigionous Bolivian president, get a mine tour (and dinner) with a young man who was in a documentary on being a child miner in one of the most dangerous and profitable mines in Bolivia, learn how to graffiti from local extremely talented artist, learn how to weave, stay in Amazonian community, and so so much more. Do this!