Towards the end of high school, I was extremely hesitant to take a gap year. Having now completed it, I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do, and that Where There Be Dragons was the right program to go with. I miss Senegal every single day. I had never travelled anywhere other than Europe or North America before I went, and going changed my entire perspective. Senegal overwhelms the senses. The heat, the taste thieboudienne, the songs, the sounds of shouted greetings and the feeling of gritty sand between my toes are all vivid in my memory. It is unbelievable how truly kind and outgoing the people are.
A major part of the reason it was so life changing for me was how Dragons is run. It teaches you the ropes of the culture, the language, how to be safe, and how to get around, while simultaneously allowing you to be extremely independent. Because of this independence, you are able to truly able to integrate yourself into the community as an individual, rather than being sheltered within a group of your own nationality.
The experience is not easy. Going to a country where the food is different, the language is different, the culture is different, the climate is different, and the resources are different is an extremely challenging experience. But it was the difficulty of that experience, and the fact that Dragons allowed me to face the challenge head on, that led me to acquire invaluable life skills and grow immensely as a person.