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] => [caption id="attachment_154948" align="alignnone" width="1318"] Photo by CHELSEA FERRELL, BHUTAN: A farm and house built in traditional Bhutanese architecture located outside of the UWICER environmental institute and research station outside Jakar, Bhutan.[/caption]

 

WORDS & IMAGE CHELSEA FERRELL, INSTRUCTOR

LOCATION: BHUTAN

If you say you’re going to Bhutan, be prepared for a wide range of reactions. From the skeptical bank-teller (“Hold on, let me make sure that’s a country before I authorize your credit card.”) to the confused listener (“Oh, that’s in Africa, right?”) to the awestruck fan (“Isn’t that the happiest country in the world?!”). While you can’t anticipate others’ reactions, one thing is certain: Once introduced to the country, the people, and the concepts of Bhutan, your perspective won’t be the same.
By virtue of merely being in the country, you are incorporated into the community and your presence alone makes you a valued member.
In June 2018, after months of planning and relationship building, Dragons launched its inaugural summer program in Bhutan. For someone familiar with the country, it’s impossible to miss the many ways Bhutan and Dragons are alike. Both are small. (Bhutan only has a population of 750,000 people!) They are both decidedly independent and not afraid to be different. And both Bhutan and Dragons are loyal to their principles, regardless of the climate among peers. While many countries focus solely on capitalism and generating wealth, Bhutan uses Buddhist ethics in its governance and economic policies. As one of the world’s newer democracies, Bhutan is often cited as an example of a country that is doing development differently. Bhutan has managed to adapt to modern life even while preserving its heritage and remaining faithful to core values. But my favorite similarity between Bhutan and Dragons is the informal, dependable, tight-knit communities entwined throughout each. Bhutan often feels like a neighborhood block party that might take place on a street in the US suburbs. You meet people you’ve never seen but somehow, they seem to know all about you. By virtue of merely being in the country, you are incorporated into the community and your presence alone makes you a valued member. I’ve felt this same way about the Dragons community. No matter where I go in the world, I can be sure of one thing: I’ll likely run into a Dragons instructor, student, or alum.

CHALLENGING DEFINITIONS OF HAPPINESS

My personal journey in understanding happiness in a Bhutanese context began in 2012, when, as a graduate student of Social Anthropology and Tibetan language, I spent a month traversing the country. At that point in my life, I’d lived in several countries and was slipping towards the feeling like I had nothing new to learn or experience in another culture.
The remoteness of the country and the lack of Western ideologies enforced a need to unplug...
A few days in Bhutan, however, was enough to jerk me out of the cocoon that I’d formed around myself. The remoteness of the country and the lack of Western ideologies enforced a need to unplug and naturally created an environment that led me to re-evaluate what I thought I knew.

Bhutan called into question some of the core assumptions in the West so fundamental to our thinking that many of us no longer recognize them as value tradeoffs, such as, “bigger is better” and “nature should be commodified.” My time in Bhutan also led to a recognition of the values of silence, slowness, and a lack of instantaneous gratification. It led me to see the value of technology should not be blindly assumed, but evaluated in this context.

BUILDING THE PROGRAM IN BHUTAN

In planning the Dragons program in Bhutan, we incorporated Bhutanese and Dragons ideals not only into program themes, but into the methodology of how we set up the program. During each step of program development, we were conscious of our impact, securing local input through joint brainstorming sessions and attempts to find service activities that would provide value to the communities with whom we worked.
Our FOI allowed us to explore the factors that contribute to happiness, including the use and value of natural space, community life, and the ways that happiness is embedded in and practiced through spiritual philosophies and traditions.
Seeking an alternative way to chart the country’s progress, Bhutan became famous for coining the idea of Gross National Happiness as an alternative measurement to Gross National Product. The country is especially unique because of its variety of public policies related to environmental conservation and cultural preservation. The Focus of Inquiry (FOI) for each trip is designed to look at themes that will be woven through all program activities and experiences. As we formed the program, we also discussed possible program themes, both with one another and with Bhutanese friends and former colleagues. These conversations often circled back to the idea of happiness because with Bhutanese and Buddhist lens, happiness is often viewed differently than it is in the US. Our FOI allowed us to explore the factors that contribute to happiness, including the use and value of natural space, community life, and the ways that happiness is embedded in and practiced through spiritual philosophies and traditions. The FOI was designed to encourage students to look closely at their own lives and experiences, and to explore their tacit assumptions about happiness.

COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING

In Bhutan, connections stretch out like long games of telephone, particularly as families move between regions with seasonal change. Visualizing how community connections are fostered is best illustrated by picturing a road trip across Bhutan during the summer. Monsoon rains, landslides, and mud on the national highway might cause roadblocks that can last anywhere from hours to days. In the West, this time might be written off as “wasted,” a detriment to productivity. However, in Bhutan, these roadblocks often become social gatherings, a time to meet new people and sip hot butter tea together while watching bulldozers lift massive stones and level out dirt. What seems an annoyance can morph into the best part of the trip. Bhutan is remarkable in this way: It’s a country so small and unplugged that social interactions naturally arise from an unavoidably interwoven community.
What seems an annoyance can morph into the best part of the trip.
With all this in mind, what could be more fitting than Dragons offering a program in a country whose name in the native language literally translates to the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”?

MAYBE THE BEST WAY TO SUM IT ALL UP IS WITH QUOTES FROM THE SUMMER 2018 BHUTAN PROGRAM YAK BOARD:

“Life is very different here. The day starts just before 6:00am in the morning. Everyone works together to make breakfast. It is very much unlike the United States. Back home we usually wake up, eat, and go about our day on our own. Here, they all eat together and get along extremely well. There is a sense that even when they are not talking, they are having a conversation." –Jake Zivkovic, Student

“Bhutan is a small country, but it contains such a vast wealth of history and culture—its diverse peoples, geography, religious traditions, and cuisine are all so colorful and full of spice! Traveling in places like this is difficult, surreal, heavenly, overwhelming, and everything in between all at once.” –Nick Gredin, Instructor

“Some of the first icebreakers my homestay brother had in store for us: ‘Have you been following the World Cup?’ and ‘What is your favorite soccer league team?’ When I went to play later with the Bhutanese teenagers and young adults, they seemed to be shocked when I could barely dribble without tripping over myself.” –Jack Holmgren, Student

“I’m convinced of how special this country is and would like to proclaim myself as Bhutan’s official biggest fan. Why am I so confident about that statement? Almost anybody would feel the same if they could come smell the air and listen to the birds. As I sit in the back of the farmhouse where we are taking residency, I can’t help but stop writing to look at the vast rice fields and clouds gently rolling over the mountains.[...] This may be the quietest place I’ve ever experienced...” –Raif Wexler, Student

“Every meal that we have had at our homestay has concluded the same way; with our homestay mother and grandmother commenting on how little we eat. While attempting to plop more food on our plates, they say that if we don’t eat we will get thin and also point out that we don’t want an empty stomach because that will make us miss our parents.” –Delaney Bashaw, Student

CHELSEA FERRELL works in Global Operations at Tufts University. She received her MA in Social Anthropology from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and her BA in Political Science from Swarthmore College. She has led academic and service programs in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Colorado and presented at national and regional conferences on topics of Himalayan Studies and University Risk Management. She believes that intercultural community experiences are powerful sites of personal transformation.
 

P.S. Head over to see the itinerary and details of our new Gap Year Bhutan Semester!

(This essay was featured in the 2019 issue of The Dragons Journal. We encourage you to visit our archive of issues and essays or even submit a piece for publication in the next issue!)
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Featured Post

Bhutan: Challenging Definitions of Happiness —...

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05/16/19

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Chelsea Ferrell

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If you say you’re going to Bhutan, be prepared for a wide range of reactions. From the skeptical bank-teller (“Hold on, let me make sure that’s a country before I authorize your credit card.”) to the confused listener (“Oh, that’s in Africa, right?”) to the awestruck fan (“Isn’t that the happiest country in the world?!”). While you can’t anticipate others’ reactions, one thing is certain: Once introduced to the country, the people, and the concepts of Bhutan, your perspective won’t be the same.
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We are loving this College Study Abroad Nepal program wrap-up photo and caption from Parker Pflaum:

#dragonscollegestudyabroad ❤️ #repost @pnomadism "This group of lovely, silly humans has just two more days together in Nepal after spending almost four months living each day in very close quarters. We have spent so much time together in the metaphorical foxhole, through thick and thin, ups and downs, experiencing challenges and breakthroughs, learning so much, and it is both sad and hopeful that this study abroad program is coming to an end. I am left with immense gratitude and appreciation for our sangha’s commitment to compassion, honestly, inclusivity, love and support and I know that I will miss each of these lovely human beings. Thank you."

[post_title] => Featured College Study Abroad Nepal Program Wrap-Up Photo [post_excerpt] => We are loving this College Study Abroad Nepal program wrap-up photo and caption from Parker Pflaum: "This group of lovely, silly humans has just two more days together in Nepal after spending almost four months living each day in very close quarters... " [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-college-study-abroad-nepal-program-wrap-up-photo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-09 12:48:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-09 18:48:00 [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] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 48 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 48 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors )
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    [post_content] => Dear friends and families,



We are in our second of three days in Ayacucho. We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking. We saw so many beautiful landscapes, but most importantly we learned so much about Peruvian history. The presence of the Wari in this part of Peru has been a constant during our time in Sondondo. We visited some ruins that had not been explored by archeologists and only the community works to maintain them. We also visited the house of one of the most important chroniclers of this part of the world, Guaman Poma de Ayala. This was such a grounding experience. I have learned for so long about Guaman Poma and being in his house just made me feel much more connected to my history.
I started to question my own values, the reasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life.
Personally, the most powerful experience came from an interaction with two people. While we walked the route, we encountered many people. One lady that we crossed on the road, offered me a liter of milk for free just out of the desire to make us feel welcome. I was touched by this act, but it was that same night that I had an even stronger interaction. My co-instructor Sandy and I went to the store to buy a couple of things. I was waiting for Sandy, when an old lady came to the store. Her name was Isabel and after a short conversation about our reason for visiting the area, and her giving us a welcome talk to the region, I listened to her interaction with the owner of the store. Dona Isabel wanted to buy one Sole (Peruvian currency) of bread and one Sole chocolate powder. The owner of the store told her that she didn’t have any chocolate, and only had coffee, the coffee was one sole and fifty cents. Dona Isabel told her that she didn’t have enough money. She left saying goodbye with a big smile. Minutes after, she came back with a big piece of cheese that she offered me for free. When I insisted to pay her, she just said that it was her cariño (love for me), even though we had not talked for more than 10 minutes.
I think that these are the types of experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life.
I left the store very touched. I actually started to tear up. I started to question my own values, thereasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life. I felt so cared for and embraced by this person and I started to think about my own grandparents, and about the things that I am teaching to my students and questioned their validity. I think that these are the types of  experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life. I am so happy that we came to this part of Peru. We decided to dedicate three days to Ayacucho and learn about the historic importance of this city, not only for Peru, but for all the continent. It is here where the last battle of the independence of South America was fought. Incredibly thankful, Jhasmany [post_title] => The Magic of Sondondo - Featured Instructor Reflection from the South America Semester [post_excerpt] => "We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-magic-of-sondondo-featured-instructor-reflection-from-the-south-america-semester [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-02 11:55:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-02 17:55:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 48 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 48 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors )
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Not many of our instructors have, "Rwanda, China, and Latin America Instructor" written on their instructor biography...

But Zach Siddall does! As if the scope of his world knowledge weren't enough, he's now impressing us all with his videographer skills. We invite you to explore the world of our China and South America semesters via the lens and mic of @zsiddall:

China Semester Videos...

South America Semester Videos...

Head over to his @zsiddall's Instagram profile for more!

[post_title] => Instagram Videos of the China & South America Semesters by Zack Siddall [post_excerpt] => Not many of our instructors have, "Rwanda, China, and Latin America Instructor" written on their instructor biography, but Zach Siddall does! As if the scope of his world knowledge weren't enough, he's now impressing us all with his videographer skills. We invite you to explore the world of our China and South America semesters via the lens and mic of @zsiddall... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => instagram-videos-of-the-china-south-america-semesters-by-zack-siddall [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-24 11:57:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-24 17:57:19 [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] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 48 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 48 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 33 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 33 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors ... )
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Modeling the Values of Responsible Travel

A Conversation With Education Abroad Professionals

Responsible travel is a concept that we talk about frequently at Dragons. On programs, we employ a variety of approaches to help students understand and then engage in activities that are responsible in nature. We might do that by asking students to dress in culturally appropriate ways, encouraging students to use the target language with host family members, teaching students how to use local transportation, etc. (see our position paper for more examples of how we strive to travel responsibly). Many of these approaches are, in essence, an effort to ask our students to adapt to the place rather than demanding that the place adapt to our own needs, desires, and expectations.
Many of these approaches are, in essence, an effort to ask our students to adapt to the place rather than demanding that the place adapt to our own needs, desires, and expectations.

Defining Responsible Travel

When talking about responsible travel, the basic question is “what distinguishes travel from being responsible or not”? In the most simple terms, it is whether or not the travel is in alignment with a specific set of values we hold to be true. Broadly, we think that responsible travel aims to minimize the negative impacts that international visitors, like our study abroad students, might have on a local economy, environment, or culture. Moreover, our sense is that responsible travel is not only about minimizing harm, but also about attempting to have a positive impact on host communities.
Broadly, we think that responsible travel aims to minimize the negative impacts that international visitors, like our study abroad students, might have on a local economy, environment, or culture.
And what ARE the values that underpin responsible travel? We recognize that there isn’t a right answer to this question, but at Dragons, we have attempted to come up with a definition to help drive our work. We define this concept as travel that aligns with the values of being culturally conscious, environmentally responsible, and focused on developing meaningful connections and mutual respect in communities.

Why Modeling Matters

As part of her Master’s thesis, our colleague Shino Marta Yoshen recently conducted a series of interviews with Dragons US-based, field staff and alumni. Shino's research revealed how important and meaningful it was to staff that Dragons, as a whole, demonstrated a willingness to incorporate the values of responsible travel into the organizational functioning. The interviews seemed to indicate that people are inspired and work more passionately when they feel their work is actively aligned with their values. Those Shino interviewed seemed to be engaging in the field of intercultural education primarily because they believe in the importance of such work. We think this is a core reason for most of us to work in this field, and therefore being mindful of how we can embody our values ourselves keeps us connected to why we choose this work. And it reminds us of the importance of these values and of passing them on to students.
Modeling the values of responsible travel is also important because students can tell when we walk the walk...
Modeling the values of responsible travel is also important because students can tell when we walk the walk, and are more likely to embody these values when they see it modeled, or can tell it is modeled. Alumni being interviewed described instances when they saw responsible travel modeled as significant moments of learning. Modeling these values before students depart for their host communities is helpful in preparing students to actually embody them when on program. Modeling values both during and after the program is also helpful because it shows students that these values can influence the way they engage/live even when they are back home, beyond just their abroad experience.

Beyond the Boundaries of a Program

While the work of striving to travel responsibly on education abroad programs is crucial, we believe it is not enough. Recently, several members of the Dragons team attended The Forum on Education Abroad conference which focuses on the best practices in the field of education abroad. As part of that conference, we invited a long-time collaborator, Darren Grosch, from Mt. San Antonio College to help us facilitate a session in which we asked our colleagues from universities and colleges, study abroad program providers, government agencies, etc. to broaden our thinking about responsible travel. In short, we considered the following question which has become increasingly central for us at Dragons: “How do we model the values of responsible travel beyond the boundaries of a program?" In other words, are there ways our work can model values such as being environmentally responsible or developing mutual respect in communities for our students before or after they go, in the ways our offices approach particular things, or in the ways we develop other programming which is not abroad?
How do we model the values of responsible travel beyond the boundaries of a program?
At Dragons we have tried to do this through ensuring program budget funds go back into local communities, having staff policies which provide paid leave for volunteering in home communities, or by creating incentives to bike to work; to give a few examples. As part of our session, we asked our colleagues from across the U.S. and the world to consider how they are or could be modeling the values of responsible travel in their offices or on their home campuses. We asked them to think broadly - things they are doing (or want to be doing) with students before or after programs, actions that model values in the way their office operates or the standards leadership sets, or how they could collaborate with other departments / organizations / or communities.
we asked our colleagues from across the U.S. and the world to consider how they are or could be modeling the values of responsible travel in their offices or on their home campuses...

A Call To Action

As a culmination of this conversation, we encouraged our colleagues to commit to one action they felt they might be able to realistically accomplish in the coming year which would help their specific work environment better model the values of responsible travel. And commit they did! Included below are a number of the inspiring responses to this call to action.

Make Your Values Known

  • “Model responsible travel through inserting values into general study abroad recruitment tools, presentations, and initiatives.”
  • “Train peer ambassadors on the values of the larger office.”
  • “Use responsible travel values as a guide for marketing and promotion. Do the messages we put out contradict these values?”
  • “Create a handout for faculty who lead programs regarding what responsible travel means and how to model it.”
  • “Have the institution integrate responsible travel values in the larger mission statement and strategic vision.”
  • “Incorporate responsible travel questions and assessment process in the faculty-led program proposal process.”

Train Students Before they Go Abroad

  • “Adding responsible travel as a topic during pre-departure programming.”
  • “Facilitate conversations with students pre-departure on resource awareness and ethical travel habits.”
  • “Implement a responsible traveler workshop for faculty and students to compliment regular pre-departure training.”
  • “Create a credit-bearing course during pre-departure and returnee process to make students more accountable for their actions while abroad.”

Be a Student Yourself

  • “Provide staff with resources to learn the language and history of host countries where we oversee programs.”
  • “Provide on-campus language workshops: conversational skills taught by native speakers.”
  • “Train staff members to the tools and importance of preparation and reflection.”
  • “Offer opportunities for staff to learn indigenous culture, etiquette, and key phrases.”
  • “Provide language training to all staff.”
Create Spaces to Share Values Learned Abroad
  • “Create a re-entry session about modeling values learned during study abroad now that students are back on campus.”
  • “Have a workshop with students who have previously gone abroad to share lessons learned about responsible travel and cultural engagement.”
  • “Start an alumni panel as the peer models for responsible travel.”
Connect with the Local Community
  • “Invite and encourage return study abroad students to attend international student events and support their fellow students both at the home campus and abroad.”
  • “Develop programs that encourage students who have returned from study abroad to engage with the local community.”
  • “Train international students on the home campus to help lead pre-departure preparation for study abroad students going to those students’ home countries.”

Value the Contributions of Host Communities

  • “Hire local scholars in order to model the value of local expertise and counteract ‘savior’ narratives.”
  • “Create a formal feedback process for community partners - their opinion matters just as much as the students’.”
  • “Organize speakers from the Global South to be brought to the home institution for shared learning and exchange.”
  • “Incorporate host community feedback and perspectives via the assessment process.”
Focus on Sustainability Efforts
  • “Create a PDF for travelers on how specific actions can offset the carbon footprint per mile traveled.”
  • “Call together a sustainability working group for colleagues at the university.”
  • “Encourage students to have conversations about consumption.”
  • “Composting and more responsible recycling at headquarters office.”
  • “Collaborate with the on-campus programs and student organizations focused on sustainability to improve practices while abroad.”
In reading through these commitments to actions, it is clear that Dragons is not alone in believing that there are, indeed, numerous ways that we can model the values of responsible travel outside of direct programming. This discussion is an evolving one and one that we feel is essential to keep at the forefront of our mind. We are committed to continuing this exploration amongst our own team and within the field of education abroad. We hope you’ll join us in that conversation. 

  [post_title] => Modeling the Values of Responsible Travel: A Conversation With Education Abroad Professionals [post_excerpt] => Dragons admin attended a conference focused on the best practices in the field of education abroad and considered the question: "How do we model the values of responsible travel beyond the boundaries of a program?" [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => modeling-the-values-of-responsible-travel-a-conversation-with-education-abroad-professionals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-16 13:33:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-16 19:33:47 [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] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 21 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 33 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 33 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 26 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 26 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, For Parents ... )
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THE DRAGONS JOURNAL

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

The Dragons Journal Mission & Description: The Dragons Journal is a compilation of stories, ideas, and experiences of our participants, alum, educators and international colleagues, and communities. It is a publication of Where There Be Dragons, an experiential education organization dedicated to nurturing meaningful intercultural relations through immersive travel. The Dragons Journal has a circulation of about 12k copies and is mailed out to alum, schools, counselors, new participants, and more. Content is often recirculated by blog and social media. The Journal is also tied directly into Dragons values of exploring the full spectrum of human experiences, amplifying marginalized perspectives,  and planting the seeds of a more just, compassionate, and equitable society and future. Example: Here's a digital version of the 2019 issue. What We’re Seeking:  In each publication we try to represent all of Dragons programming (Student, Adult, Educator/Partnership), a range of regional areas, and a diversity of voices. We invite anyone from within Dragons community (alumni, staff, participants, community hosts, admin, etc.)  to submit all forms of literary essays and sub-genres of creative nonfiction. This includes:
  • personal essays
  • Interviews
  • co-authored essays
  • lyrical essays
  • flash (super short) essays
  • research-based essays
  • literary journalism
  • travelogues
  • poems  & lyrics
  • photo essays
  • true stories
  • experimental forms:  lists, step-by-steps, re-definitions, and hermit crab essays
  • Submission or nomination of Yaks also encouraged!
What We’re Especially Seeking: Co-authored pieces that demonstrate a collaborative approach to sharing multiple perspectives;  stories that feature voices and perspectives not often heard or that don’t normally have access to being heard; value-based essays. Examples:
  • A collaborative essay that tackles one issue/subject from the perspective of student, hosting community member, instructor and/or other.
  • A student interview of her homestay sister and/or vice versa.
  • A homestay mother conversation with a student’s mother at home.  
  • A photo essay documenting the day of an NGO worker or ISP mentor.
  • An essay written on any subject in tandem between  instructors of different citizenships.
  • ANYTHING! We’re simply encourage creative thinking and collaboration!
Submission Guidelines: The Dragons Journal typically features 1-pg and 2-pages essays between roughly 600-1500 words.  We sometimes publish one longer essay of up to 2,500 words. Typically the editorial process involves cutting copy, so it’s okay to submit essays between 600-3,000 words. If selected for publication, there will be an editorial revision process and a request for a writer byline and supplemental hi-resolution photos (if existing). The Dragons Journal Committee will finalize the selection for each print issue. Timeline: Essays submitted by June 1st  will get priority consideration for publication in the next year’s issue. But we accept submissions all year long and might also publish essays on Dragons Blog, via our Social Channels, or elsewhere. How to Submit:  Questions, proposals, nominations, and submissions can be emailed to christina@wheretherebedragons.com. [post_title] => The Dragons Journal: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS [post_excerpt] => We invite anyone from within Dragons community (alumni, staff, participants, community hosts, admin, etc.) to submit all forms of literary essays and sub-genres of creative nonfiction... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-dragons-journal-call-for-submissions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-11 12:11:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-11 18:11:21 [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] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 17 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 651 [name] => Announcements [slug] => announcements [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 651 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [parent] => 0 [count] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/announcements/ ) ) [category_links] => The Dragons Journal, Announcements )
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We hope you enjoy this featured yak written by Fernanda Zorrilla, a student on the Mekong Semester:

 

For a short period of time I worked as an assistant teacher in a Montessori school, the same school that I went to as a child. I was working with kindergarten kids, children from four to six years old. Everyday was a little adventure, somehow they managed to fill every hour with drama, tears, and fights, and then quickly switch to laughter, games, and a lot of love.

I really believe I learned more from them that they did from me. One day, the teacher made a circle with the students and placed a pencil in the middle. Then she simply asked, “What is this?”

They all answered the logical way and said it was a pencil, then kept silent. The teacher asked again, “What else is this?” The 5 year old students where thinking, some where questioning what she meant, and some others started to get distracted with whatever they found.

Suddenly a boy said, “It is also wood!” Then another added that it also has yellow paint. And so on, and so forth, with all the materials and elements of the pencil. Another kid screamed (he even stood up from his chair), that pencil needs a tree because it’s wood, and that tree needs water to grow.

One clever kid concluded: This pencil is everything.

With little help from the teacher, the children where able to imagine the trees that needed to be cut down by a lumberjack, who needed food to be strong, so therefore someone had to grow the food and transport it to a supermarket so the lumberjack could buy it and eat it to cut the trees and make the wood to have a pencil. They imagined more and more. They had no limits, they started to question each other on what else needed to exist for that pencil to be there. Their imagination went so far that they ended up talking about planets. One clever kid concluded: This pencil is everything.

Watching 5 year olds explore and understand the concept of oneness left me in complete awe. Most people may not think about this in their entire life, and others (including me) tend to forget easily. This past month has constantly reminded me of this exercise, watching those kids understand something so complex, and yet so simple.

My time here has made me see this more clearly and closer than ever. It has also made me realize how frightening this idea is, especially since we act like individuals that are not integrated. When in reality, it is inevitable that everything is connected, and everything to be one. But it is beautiful too, being here in this little piece of land surrounded by water, that same water that marks the border between Laos and Thailand, that same water that feeds millions and kills some others, the water we pollute and then consume. The Mekong River is one, but it is not been treated as that.

how would we treat a pencil if every time we used it we saw the entire world participating on its existence?

So then I wonder, how would we treat a pencil if every time we used it we saw the entire world participating on its existence? How would we treat our rivers and resources? How would we treat each other and ourselves? I really don’t know the answer to this, but I’m a challenging myself to be more conscious, and right here and right now is the perfect time to practice. To be aware of this beautifully fragile concept of oneness. And I think to myself that if kindergarten children where able to do it, I must be capable too.

You can read more from the Mekong participants on the program Yak Board.

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