5:00am wake ups are easier when these mountains call for you to get out of your tent. Photo by Cecelia Palmquist (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest, 1st Place), Nepal Semester.

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Where There Be Dragons

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    [post_content] => While we're not fully out of the pandemic quite yet, we are still able to find meaningful ways to travel. How do we ensure that we are running safe, meaningful, and responsible travel programs in the current climate? Read on to find out how and why we've returned to travel and where we go from here.

[caption id="attachment_158289" align="aligncenter" width="638"] Mario and Celestino, community leaders in the Parque de la Papa community in Peru.[/caption]

Para nosotros es como nuestros hijos y bueno hermano, tú nos enviaste tus hijos para cuidar y para compartir nuestra cultura de parque de la papa y nuestros ancestros de todo lo que vivencias de nuestra comunidad. Las puertas están abiertas y cuando usted puede enviarnos los hijos, estamos a la espera. 

For us, it's like our own children and well, brother, you sent us your children to care for and to share in our culture from Parque de la Papa, from our ancestors, and all the ways of life here in our community. Our doors are open and when you can send us your children, we are eagerly waiting. – Mario, Parque de la Papa, Perú.

**********

On a Sunday afternoon in July 2021, my phone beeped with a video message from Luis Reyes, our Latin America Program Director, who was visiting a Dragons student group in the Peruvian Andes. Like a nervous parent answering a call in the middle of the night, I held my breath until I could be sure all was well. As soon as I opened this message though, two familiar faces reassuringly greeted me. 

Mario and Celestino, longstanding homestay parents and community leaders in Parque de la Papa, were dressed in their technicolored traditional ponchos and chullos (beaded hats). It had been a year and a half since Dragons students had been able to visit their community and even longer since I’d been there in-person. 

After so many months of navigating mercurial pandemic conditions, of meticulously mapping a responsible return to international travel, of thinking through the myriad ethical and safety questions, the sincerity and simplicity of Mario and Celestino’s message finally brought it all home: we can travel again. And, we can do it with integrity.

While no one needs a detailed play-by-play of the pandemic, we can all stand to learn from the unique challenges of the past two years and what they can teach us about creating safe, responsible, engaging, and original travel experiences in this new global reality. What I hope to offer to you is two fold:
  1. How did we get here? Let’s briefly revisit the sudden shutdown and incremental reopening of international travel so we can better understand what the future holds.
  2. How can we travel again with integrity? As an organization, Dragons has tried to intentionally learn from our successes and failures over the past three decades. Let us share some of what we’ve learned firsthand over this pandemic.  

How did we get here?

In February 2020, Dragons had student groups traveling in 14 countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. As COVID-19 rapidly escalated from a regional epidemic to a global pandemic, we worked around the clock to safely bring our students home as international borders and flights shut down with unprecedented haste. If you, or anyone you know was involved with international travel during that time, I offer you a heartfelt handshake and hug! Those were stressful times to navigate and perhaps a story for another day! By the end of March 2020, we had officially entered a new global reality in which once easily passable international borders had hardened into a seemingly ever-growing wall of COVID travel restrictions. By May, the US State Department would change the entire basis of its travel advisory system due to COVID concerns, essentially throwing 80% of countries into an alarming red “Do Not Travel” category. The cliché that the ‘only certainty is uncertainty’ had never felt so true. As the pandemic tragically surged at home in the US, remote work and virtual learning became the new norm. An emergent mental health epidemic swept across the nation, particularly affecting our youth, with dramatic increases in anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles. The Dragons mission to “cultivate meaningful connections through immersive and responsible travel” felt impossible to embody amidst a global pandemic. The virtual classroom was embraced out of necessity. While it's nothing short of a technological miracle, in the long run, we all know that screens can never substitute for real face-to-face human connection, especially when it comes to travel and experiential learning.

How can we travel again with integrity?

Dragons spent the summer months of 2020 collaborating with other travel providers and educational institutions to develop program protocols in-line with public health guidance. With the unpredictability of international travel, as well as the ethical responsibility to the places we visit, Dragons first focused our energies on developing US domestic programming rather than rushing to return to travel abroad. Over Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, Dragons was able to safely bring together student groups for our new Rio Grande and Colorado River Basin Gap Semesters In order to return to in-person programming at a time when nearly all school campuses still remained closed, we took extensive precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID while allowing for genuine community engagement and values based education. To highlight a few of the risk mitigation tools we initially implemented:
  • Students kept a daily health log prior to arrival, submitted a pre-travel PCR test, and agreed to adhere to our COVID Participant Agreement that outlined our expectations and best practices for prevention.
  • We offered pre-travel webinars openly sharing the risks, protocols, and need for adaptability under changing circumstances.
  • We designed COVID conscious itineraries to mitigate exposure risks by prioritizing outdoor spaces, minimizing time in urban areas, and considering COVID risks for each activity. 
  • Once together, student groups went through a multi-day “Pod Formation” phase before undergoing additional PCR testing and finally being able to relax protocols amongst group members.  
  • Throughout the program, our instructors were trained to uphold our detailed COVID In-Field Protocols & Management Manual, which in addition to common sense safety measures outlined a plethora of contingency plans.
For Dragons, the innovation of these US domestic programs were an unexpected silver lining in the ongoing pandemic thunderstorm. At a time when experiential education seemed like only a remote possibility, we were able to safely bring together students, turn off our screens, and dive into an immersive travel experience.

Returning to International Student Travel

A successful return to travel closer to home was also an important step for honing our COVID safety practices for the reopening of international student travel, which would happen in July 2021. As public health guidance and global travel restrictions evolved, we were able to adapt our extensive domestic travel protocols and response plans to the international context. For example, we added regular in-field testing throughout the program, extensive COVID safety briefings for local community contacts and host families, and protocols specific to each cultural context.  We also went through a rigorous country-by-country assessment for each of our destinations, developing a COVID Country Risk Assessment Matrix that accounted for the following key considerations:
  • COVID case numbers, testing capacities, vaccination rates, and trends 
  • Travel restrictions and COVID specific entry requirements such as arrival testing, quarantine measures, etc. 
  • Availability and access to general medical care as impacted by potential increases in hospitalizations 
  • Local restrictions and community norms related to social distancing, mask wearing, perceptions of foreigners, and public health practices
  • Activity limitations and modifications to program components such as homestays, transportation, independent time, etc. 
Drawing on a variety of resources--both objective metrics and more informal conversations with people on the ground--we grouped our travel destinations into Red, Yellow, and Green tiers. Importantly, we continued to revisit those assessments as travel start dates approached, and due to changing conditions in certain regions, even had to downgrade or cancel some programs based on new or unpredictable information. Having solid evaluative criteria and the adaptability to respond to regional circumstances have proven key to a safe and responsible return to international travel. 

Planning on Traveling Without the Support of Dragons?

The above is a very brief summary of how Dragons navigated a return to travel during the pandemic. You may now be asking, what questions should I be asking for my own independent travels? Here are some questions you should ask before departing on an international trip of your own. There is a lot to consider, but here are a 4 important questions and to get you started:

1. What are the current travel restrictions and COVID conditions in my desired destination?

In addition to the country specific factors outlined above, be sure to consider how often those restrictions and conditions have changed; knowing the history of how a country has closed borders or mandated lockdowns in the past is an important indicator of what could happen in the future. Limiting unpredictability as much as you can is very helpful!

2.   What risks do I pose to the people and places I plan to visit?

We require vaccination for all of our travelers and believe that perhaps even more significant than the risk of you contracting COVID is the possibility that you contribute to community transmission, particularly amongst vulnerable populations. Remember to always consider how you are mitigating your risk to others, not just to yourself, and travel accordingly.

3.  Are travelers welcomed right now in the places I want to go?

Some communities may be welcoming of visitors, while others are fearful of foreigners right now. It is important that you tune into local perceptions of travelers and receive informed consent before entering a community as a guest, especially outside of well-trodden tourist zones.

4.  What are my contingency plans should the unexpected happen on my trip?

Whether it be needing to quarantine abroad because of a positive COVID test or change your itinerary on the fly due to travel restrictions, we’ve learned to not only expect the unexpected, but to be well prepared for it too. Make sure you’ve thought through the possible scenarios and have at least a rough plan of what you’d do should things go wrong.

In Conclusion

Based on our most recent country assessments, we are able to now bring Dragons students to Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Senegal, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Morocco, and Indonesia. We've come along way since 2020! You can read more about how our recent Dragons trips have gone in the words of students and instructors on our Yak Board. While we’re not fully out of the pandemic just yet, we are continuing to monitor program destinations based on the criteria outlined above and informed by a multitude of information channels. We’re excited to return to the communities that we’ve known so well for decades and once again introduce our travelers to the people and places we hold close to our hearts. 

***

Aaron Slosberg has been working with Where There Be Dragons since 2008 and is the current Director of Programming. 

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Featured Post

Considerations for Traveling Internationally in...

Posted on

05/10/22

Author

Aaron Slosberg, Director of Programs

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While we’re not fully out of the pandemic quite yet, we are still able to find meaningful ways to travel. How do we ensure that we are running safe, meaningful, and responsible travel programs in the current climate? Read on to find out how and why we’ve returned to travel and where we go from here. Para nosotros es como nuestros hijos y bueno hermano, tú nos enviaste tus hijos para cuidar y para compartir nuestra cultura de parque de la papa y nuestros ancestros de todo lo que vivencias de nuestra comunidad. Las puertas están abiertas y cuando usted... Read More
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    [post_content] => During gap year and travel abroad programs, students are paired with local mentors to dive into an artistry, craft, tradition, or issue prevalent in the region. These independent study projects (ISPs) are the perfect opportunity for students to gain a deeper understanding of a culture and community. 

From the exploration of socio-political issues to learning traditional dance and music, independent study projects offer a truly enriching experience. While not a school project, ISPs are intended for students to pursue their own passions and interests while studying abroad.

[caption id="attachment_154042" align="aligncenter" width="4608"]Summer Travel Abroad Nepal Where There Be Dragons A student with her Independent Study Project Mentor in Nepal. Photo by Susie Rinehart, Former Director.[/caption]

Study Abroad and Gap Year Independent Study Project Options

Learn traditional crafts from local artisans

Our independent study projects allow students to learn about the traditional artistries and craft making from those active in the community today. Each program location offers a rich cultural experience truly unique and special to that region.  Learn traditional crafts such as bamboo weaving, embroidery, and traditional silk dying in Laos' cultural hub, Luang Prabang. While in South America, students can learn traditional weaving, dancing, and music as well as carpentry, sustainable construction, and silversmithing. Students can also receive mentorship to learn stone carving, mask making, and jewelry making while in Nepal. Music and dancing are also common areas of independent study. 

Discover traditional cooking and medicine

From Morocco to Bhutan, traditional cooking studies offer a unique perspective into the history and culture of a region. Students are able to gain experience and mentorship to cook traditional cuisine and learn about ancient medicines and remedies. Experience the power of medicinal plants and how sustainable agriculture is supporting communities, as well as traditional agricultural practices.  [caption id="attachment_126127" align="aligncenter" width="1695"] A student learning weaving from an Independent Study Mentor in Bolivia.[/caption]

Dive into comparative studies on social issues

Social issues, politics, and ecology can be studied as a part of an independent study project. Learn about how global and local issues impact the region, including human migration, public health, education, water rights, gender equality, and more. You can also learn how tourism is impacting traditional and rural communities and beyond. These mentored studies can be eye-opening for many, offering a brand new perspective on global problems and solutions. 

Experience environmental issues in directly impacted areas

Students dig into the complex issues and politics that relate to environmental issues, land use, and the shift in resources. They gain context to the impact of globalization, capitalism, and colonization. During studies amid natural resources, students document issues and observances to comprehend the full scope of environmental conditions and changes. Independent study programs dive into study of local flora and fauna, conservation and how sustainable agriculture and sustainable construction are being used to adapt to the changing climate.

Go on a fully independent study experience

Where There Be Dragons also offers independent travel gap year programs for anyone who has completed a group travel program and feels the urge to travel solo. The Independent Spring Experience provides opportunities for students to co-create an educational and meaningful experience with on-site mentors.  Be immersed in the community and traditions of locations such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Senegal, Nepal, China, and Indonesia. Independent study programs provide helpful resources for students to confidently travel on their own. [post_title] => Experience an Independent Study Project Abroad [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => experience-an-independent-study-project-abroad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-08-02 15:20:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-08-02 21:20:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news// [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
View post

Experience an Independent Study Project Abroad

Posted On

08/02/22

Author

Kimberly Manning

Description
During gap year and travel abroad programs, students are paired with local mentors to dive into an artistry, craft, tradition, or issue prevalent in the region. These independent study projects… Read More
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    [post_content] => While studying abroad, social justice education offers a unique opportunity for students to comprehend complex topics from a new perspective. In addition to curriculum covering social and environmental issues, students learn through everyday experiences and conversations. Engaging with communities, traveling responsibly, and participating in learning service projects can all influence the understanding of social injustices throughout the world.

Where There Be Dragons programs include global justice and climate change curriculum to support the journey for students to discover their role in the complex systems that influence these issues. Students are also encouraged to engage in the community to learn new perspectives and what it means to be a global citizen. 

[caption id="attachment_151522" align="aligncenter" width="1695"] Photo by Ella Williams, Andes & Amazon Semester.[/caption]

Benefits of Social Justice Education Abroad 

Learn from Local Activists

The best way to learn about an impact a community is facing is by talking directly with those in the situation. Students are encouraged to engage with and learn from local activists. These individuals are typically active in their communities and vocal about issues that impact equity and justice in the world. Local advocates may offer a new or different perspective than students have been otherwise exposed to, which allows students to unravel their current assumptions of these global issues. 

Understand Privilege from a Global Perspective

It can be challenging to fully grasp a situation without having the perspective of how it impacts people all over the world. Social and environmental impacts vary greatly throughout the world, so responsible travel can alleviate some of the mystery behind the global impact of social, economic, and environmental issues.

Gain a Deep Understanding of Living Responsibly

Studying abroad offers a massive benefit to young adults as they are able to live and learn in a new way for a short period of time. This new vantage point of life can open someone’s eyes to their connection to materialism and consumerism. Students are able to see and experience different cultures and how they use resources, goods, and food. These experiences can help reshape the perspective of waste, energy usage, sustainability, and more. [caption id="attachment_151553" align="aligncenter" width="1695"]Amazon Andes & Amazon program, photo by Lindsay Coe[/caption]

Where There Be Dragons Environmental and Social Justice Commitment

Where There Be Dragons as an organization takes social and environmental responsibility very seriously. We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion on our staff, instructors, students, and partners. Additionally, we engage in projects and missions that include having a B Corp Certification, carbon offsetting, tuition funds, community grants, financial aid, and more.  [post_title] => Environmental and Social Justice Education While Abroad [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => environmental-and-social-justice-education-while-abroad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-08-01 11:13:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-08-01 17:13:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news// [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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This week's Yak of the Week is brought to us by Asha Roy, a student on the Nepal Summer 2022 Program. 

[caption id="attachment_159755" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] Instructor Hemant blesses student Asha Roy with a tika during the arrival ceremony. Photo by Alex Biddle, Dragons Admin.[/caption]

I was in 4th grade the first time I heard the word “caste.” My family is Indian on my dad’s side, and American on my mom’s, and since I have lived in the U.S. all my life, the vernacular associated with my Indian side is pretty much non-existent. So, when my teachers asked me and two other Indian students to present on our culture, I got a little bit anxious. I couldn’t (still can’t) pronounce words in Hindi as my two classmates could. I didn’t (still don’t) go to India every summer. My mom is also white, so there was that too. Right before the presentation, one of the kids presenting pulled me and the other presenter aside, and began to whisper frantically: “Don’t talk about the caste system! Whatever you do, don’t talk about it. Got it?” I nodded mutely. I had absolutely no idea what the caste system was. I shrugged it off in that signature little-kid way, assuming it was something really obscure. However, in the presentation, the same kid who had urged me and my classmate to avoid the subject, spoke up, talking a mile a minute: “Oh and also there’s this thing called the caste system and my family are Brahmans that’s the highest one. But obviously it doesn’t matter because everyone is equal. Obviously.” The kid gulped. He had probably heard the same note of pride in his voice that I had. I could see the struggle between pride and recognition on my friend’s face. When I finally asked my mom what the caste system was, I thought that this incident said more about my classmate’s personality than the nature of the caste system, but as I learn more about castes here in Nepal, I’m starting to change my mind.

Although the caste system in Nepal has been abolished, I have still been asked about my caste. After being asked a few times, I started to get curious. If the caste system harms more people than it helps, why are people so desperate to hold onto it? I have heard the refrain “it is so embedded in society that it is impossible to really abolish” over and over. While this explanation is totally accurate, I think it is only half the story. The other half is human nature. Think about capitalist ideology, or racism. It works because there is (almost) always someone lower down on the ladder than you. However wrong, we are validated just a little bit. For example, in the U.S. there are countless marginalized groups. If all of said groups came together, they would have the political power. But they don’t. Instead we see marginalized groups turn against one another. Why? It is so much easier to fit into the system, taking our wins, however small, than risking our positions for no status at all. The other part of human nature at play here is our visceral need for organization and classification. When we meet someone for the first time, before we even realize it, we are drinking in everything about them, processing, and then organizing them into our minds. They fit like a puzzle piece that we have created, in a puzzle that we have also created. In other words: we decide who people are and how they fit into the world. Similarly, this need to orient the world around us applies to the Caste system too.

[caption id="attachment_159757" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] Life in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Photo by Alex Biddle, Dragons Admin[/caption]

Take this same situation: you are meeting someone for the first time. Have you ever caught yourself making a judgment about someone else that also applies to you? If you have caught yourself, you are in the minority. Of course, any time we make a judgement about anyone else, we should stop to consider how it reflects on us. America, unsurprisingly, has a habit of hypocritical judgement. We don’t hesitate to reprimand other places and cultures for doing things that we ourselves also do. It’s not that these things aren’t wrong or shouldn’t be stopped, but rather we should also be transparent about our shortcomings. The caste system is a perfect example of this phenomenon. We denounce the caste system in Nepal and India, and yet we have our own, less official but equally effective, classification systems of our own. We claim that the “American Dream” overrides class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, yet we have only had one black president, no openly LGBTQ+, Jewish, Muslim, or female presidents. We learned in a History of Nepal lecture that a family called the Rana family ruled Nepal. Although they have since been thrown out officially, they still hold positions of power. This story sounds eerily similar to the ones we have heard about America and the Western world. Our caste system is no less pervasive than that of India or Nepal, so respectively, it should get no less attention.

A few weeks before I left for Nepal, I was sitting on a bench at school with my friend, the same one who talked about the caste system in our presentation way back in 4th grade. It was late spring and all the cherry blossom trees around campus had bloomed. I was hesitant to bring up a contentious topic on such a nice day, but I decided to take the opportunity. I asked him if he remembered our 4th grade presentation, and how he brought up the caste system. He replied that he most certainly did not. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I have no real way of knowing whether he told me the truth. Whether he actually forgot or only wanted to forget, the impact is the same. The caste system, in India, America, Nepal, or England, is a topic we would rather sweep under the rug.

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    [post_content] => Learning a new language offers a myriad of benefits, which is why it’s one of the key program components of Where There Be Dragons gap year and study abroad programs. In general, language study improves cognitive ability, builds empathy, and empowers individuals to become global citizens. 

[caption id="attachment_158114" align="aligncenter" width="1695"]Chinese Language Lesson Chinese Language Lessons in Kunming. Photo by Eric Jenkins-Sahlin.[/caption]

3 Benefits of Language Study While Abroad

Developing language skills enables individuals to gain a widened perspective on new cultures and ways of life. Learning a new language in its country of origin offers a great opportunity for individuals to truly understand and engage with the community. 

Receive Daily Instruction in Small Groups

On language intensive programs, students receive 3-4 hours of daily language study with a small group. These courses serve as an opportunity to hone in on grammar and fluency. Small groups offer students the ability to study the lessons, ask questions, and engage in a collaborative environment.  [caption id="attachment_159144" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Travel Program in Guatemala Spanish Lessons in Guatemala, Photo by Dave Haffeman, Dragons Administrator[/caption]

Build Conversational Skills by Interacting with Locals

There’s no better way to develop language skills than through communication with those who speak it. During their homestays, students learn directly from their host family and practice what they study. Students are also encouraged to engage with the community and break down cultural barriers through honest and open communication with others. These moments in between often pose the biggest benefit.

Develop Cultural Context of Language

Among conversations with locals and community members, students are able to gain a cultural context of language and communication. These are skills and lessons that simply can’t be taught in a classroom. Cultural context amid language study also helps with building relationships, understanding social injustices, and cross-cultural competency.  Language study helps students develop leadership skills as well as self-reliance and humility. Learn more about Where There Be Dragons program offerings and components to determine the opportunity that best serves you. [post_title] => Benefits of Language Study While Abroad [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => benefits-of-language-study-while-abroad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-07-20 13:34:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-07-20 19:34:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news// [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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Benefits of Language Study While Abroad

Posted On

07/20/22

Author

Kimberly Manning

Description
Learning a new language offers a myriad of benefits, which is why it’s one of the key program components of Where There Be Dragons gap year and study abroad programs.… Read More
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    [post_content] => A gap year is a valuable experience for recent high school grads and college students alike, offering unequivocal life skills and a broadened perspective. There are countless things to do during a gap year and truly depend on the experience you’re hoping to have. 

Where There Be Dragons gap year programs encourage students to be immersed in a new community. From the modes of daily transportation to the type of accommodations, students are ingrained in the day-to-day routines, traditions, lifestyle, and culture. 

Senegal Travel Abroad

Things to Do During a Gap Year

Each of our gap year programs offer a uniquely different experience in locations such as Southeast Asia, Morocco, Bhutan, Senegal, and more. Consider the focus of study, length of the program, and location when deciding the best gap year program for your goals. 

Learn Backcountry Skills

Our backpacking and remote programs help students develop skills to survive in the wilderness and gain knowledge of how humans interact with the land past and present. Students build leadership and backcountry skills, such as pitching a tent, understanding weather patterns, and navigating trails. While trekking through remote wilderness and diverse ecosystems, students explore changing landscapes, study indigenous land rights, and learn resource management. 

[caption id="attachment_159686" align="aligncenter" width="1500"]Senegal Travel Abroad Photo by Christy Sommers, instructor.[/caption]

Visit Historic Religious Monuments

Visiting historic religious and spiritual monuments offers a truly unique perspective into the history of a culture and its traditions. During travel abroad, students are encouraged to observe traditions and read relevant texts to gain a greater perspective of the region and its people. Religious and spiritual monuments can be eye-opening experiences for many students. 

Experience Traditional Culture

From food to shelter to transportation, students on gap year programs engage with cultures in a way that is otherwise impossible. When traveling abroad, students will do day to day activities with their homestay family and fellow participants. Dragons programs are fully immersive, so students learn about daily routines as well as locally important issues, movements, history, policy, ecology, and more.

Senegal Travel Abroad

Study a New Language

The easiest way to learn a new language is to be immersed in communication in that language. Students in all Dragons programs participate in language instruction and are encouraged to engage in conversation. These conversations are believed to offer the most benefit for students to build a vocabulary and gain cultural understanding of the language. 

Contribute to Local Community Projects 

Are you hoping to offer your service to local communities during your gap year? Contributing to local projects offers value to students as well as the areas in which they serve. Where There Be Dragons prioritizes learning service, which is a holistic experience of learning, engaging, and communicating with local communities on projects that create positive impact. [post_title] => 5 Things To Do During a Gap Year [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => things-to-do-during-gap-year [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-07-20 13:32:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-07-20 19:32:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news// [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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5 Things To Do During a Gap Year

Posted On

07/20/22

Author

Kimberly Manning

Description
A gap year is a valuable experience for recent high school grads and college students alike, offering unequivocal life skills and a broadened perspective. There are countless things to do… Read More
WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 159747
    [post_author] => 1537
    [post_date] => 2022-07-20 13:20:29
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    [post_content] => Located in North Africa, Morocco is a culturally rich and ecologically diverse country that sits at the crossroads of Middle Eastern, African, and European cultures. Morocco boasts a mystical essence that is palpable throughout the country. From the rugged terrain of the Atlas Mountains to the imperial cities of Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Fes, the country is diverse in its land and its people. 

[caption id="attachment_154384" align="aligncenter" width="2100"]Summer Travel Abroad Morocco Where There Be Dragons Photo by Stefan Reutter, Student.[/caption]

What to Know When Traveling in Morocco

When traveling in Morocco, students are exposed to the great diversity of people who live here, dominant social issues, and local ways of life. This region along the western-most edge of the Arab world boasts warm hospitality, stunning natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich traditions.

Hospitality

Morocco is known for its unrivaled hospitality, whether traveling in urban centers or small villages. Families welcome guests into their homes as if they are relatives, making sure everyone feels at home. Travelers feel boundless generosity from Moroccan people. When staying with a Moroccan family, it’s common to always have a full belly of food and tea.

Languages

Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is spoken by the majority of the population of Morocco. Another popular language spoken in Morocco is Berber, which is a native language spoken in informal settings. Students on Where There Be Dragons programs in Morocco will work toward fluency and build vocabulary with formal and conversational classes 2-3 times a week while traveling. [caption id="attachment_151995" align="aligncenter" width="2592"]Trek Abroad in Morocco Where There Be Dragons Photo by Slade Cogswell, Instructor.[/caption]

Nature

From the beaches along the North Atlantic Ocean to the mountain peaks of the Atlas and down to the Sahara desert, the terrain is as diverse as the people of Morocco. The country of Morocco comprises three unique ecosystems in the ocean, mountain, and desert landscapes. 

Faith and Traditions

Islam is the most dominant religion in Morocco. Islamic culture and faith can be both seen and heard throughout city centers and small villages. Witness the beauty of ornately decorated mosques that draw locals as their place of worship, and experience the impact of religion on daily activities, culture, and traditions among both the indigenous Amazigh and Arab peoples. 

Art and Culture

Moroccan arts and culture is a melting pot of inspiration from North African, Mediterranean, French, Indian, Italian, and Swedish influences. Morocco is known for its vibrant colors and intricately detailed artwork, design, decor, and architecture styles. Rug weaving, shoemaking, carving, and jewelry making are common decorative arts handmade in Morocco. Where There Be Dragons currently hosts two travel programs in Morocco, including a four-week summer abroad program and a three-month gap year program [post_title] => Traveling in Morocco: What to Expect While Studying Abroad [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => traveling-in-morocco [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-07-20 13:20:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-07-20 19:20:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news// [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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