Our amazing group of instructors at our all-staff orientation in the High Sierra mountains, California. Photo by Parker Pflaum.

Posts Categorized:

About Dragons

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 158288
    [post_author] => 1535
    [post_date] => 2022-05-10 10:12:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2022-05-10 16:12:38
    [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. 

[post_title] => Considerations for Traveling Internationally in 2022 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => is-it-safe-to-travel-internationally-right-now [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-05-11 10:37:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-05-11 16:37:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [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] => 28 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 28 [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] => 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] => 36 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 36 [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/ ) [2] => 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] => 6 [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 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 ) [4] => 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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [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, From the Field ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 159145
    [post_author] => 1535
    [post_date] => 2022-05-03 17:25:15
    [post_date_gmt] => 2022-05-03 23:25:15
    [post_content] => We are so excited to announce the 2022 Dragons Video Interns! This summer we'll have five interns traveling across the globe, capturing the day-to-day experience, exciting moments, and beautiful stories that make up Dragons' programs. We spoke with a few of the interns to show you what they're up to and why they are excited for this project! Some interns are Dragons alumni and we have some folks who have been around the Dragons community — and we're so lucky they're here with us this summer to tell the Dragons story.

[caption id="attachment_159150" align="aligncenter" width="566"] Danielle Mullings, 2022 Video Intern[/caption]

Danielle Mullings, 2019 South America Semester Alumni  

Where are you in life now? What are you up to?  Marrying her love for technology and the arts, Danielle is a The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Scholar studying for a BSc in software engineering with a minor in film studies. Her dynamism currently finds her as the UWI Mona Guild President, youth leader, television host/producer and partnership and campaign officer for Transform Health. Exciting for Danielle is the opportunity to be working with youth groups for other key digital health initiatives, including the Governing Health Futures 2030 operated by the Lancet and Financial Times commission. A champion for advocacy, Mullings was also recognized as one of the Young Experts in Tech for Health in the Americas Region. In addition, Danielle was also a UNICEF U-Report Jamaica ambassador. She and her team worked assiduously to begin the development of a mental health chatline, which was recently launched in March of this year. Why are you excited about this project?  I have long been passionate about documentary making which I view as the gateway to cultural retention and the edification of a shared identity. Here within the Caribbean, I aim to advance our capacity to accurately represent our own stories through my work. Thus, I am excited to tell the story of Dragons students, instructors and the communities we engage with. To this day, I still carry the Dragon's spirit of a curious, conscious and socially aware traveler who is eager to meet and engage with new people. Thus, traveling with this team again is always a welcomed adventure and opportunity.   [caption id="attachment_159149" align="aligncenter" width="566"] Arian Tomar, 2022 Video Intern[/caption]

Adrian Tomar, 2022 Video Intern 

Where are you in life now? What are you up to?  My name is Arian Tomar, I am an international student from the land historically stewarded by the Wahpekute Dakota Band in what is now known as St. Paul, Minnesota. I am studying in so called British Columbia on the unceded territory of the Scia'new Beecher Bay First Nation at Pearson College UWC, one of the seventeen United World Colleges whose mission it is to use "education as a force to unite peoples, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future." This fall I will be heading to Los Angeles to study film production at the University of Southern California. I am a documentary filmmaker and outdoor media creator who draws from my diverse interests and background as a Third Culture Kid to tell stories that connect audiences with the world around them, generate empathy, and motivate socially aware action. Currently I am finishing up a documentary project to uplift local perspectives from Vancouver Island to support salmon restoration and conservation across the Pacific salmon bioregion. I am also hosting this season of Coastal Insights, a webinar made in partnership between the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Take a Stand: Youth for Conservation. This season, our guests are speaking about hope, equity, and advocacy in the face of the climate crisis.  Why are you excited for this project? I am excited to be part of this project because of my experience with the UWC movement and my belief in the power of media to bring the world together. Through the cross-cultural, experiential learning model of UWC, I have learned so much about my place in the world and how I may make an impact on a global scale in a community of change-makers. Furthermore, I hope to use the power of media and storytelling to motivate audiences to take socially aware action for the betterment of all. Where There Be Dragons brings these two sides of me together to capture stories of resilience, growth, reflection, and community at a time in the world where hope feels distant. In working with Where There Be Dragons, I hope to highlight what makes us all human and inspire audiences to share Dragons' vision to foster a more compassionate, just, and inclusive world.  
[caption id="attachment_159151" align="aligncenter" width="566"] Benjamin Swift, 2022 Video Intern[/caption]

Benjamin Swift, 2016 South America Semester Alumni 

Where are you in life now? What are you currently up to? After two gap years (one after high school during which I did my Dragons semester, and one last year during Covid), I am in my last semester at Colorado College where I am studying sociology. Why are you excited for this project?  In addition to my sociology studies in college, I completed several filmmaking courses and learned to love telling stories through film. However, many of my films thus far have not directly related to my interest in activism and social change, which is one of the components of Dragons I am excited to explore through this project. I have always seen film as a way to share important stories in an engaging way, and am thrilled to begin doing that as a video production intern. [post_title] => Announcing the 2022 Summer Video Interns! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => video-interns [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-05-05 11:17:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-05-05 17:17:49 [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] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [1] => 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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 26 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 26 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, About Dragons ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 158834
    [post_author] => 1534
    [post_date] => 2022-02-08 17:00:33
    [post_date_gmt] => 2022-02-09 00:00:33
    [post_content] => After years of whizzing through Spanish classes in school, acing quizzes and learning vocabulary like a pro, you feel confident in your skills. Except when that person who stopped to ask you a couple of questions (in Spanish) on the street, you freeze. All of those vocab words seem useless now because you're forgetting how to string together a sentence or conjugate the correct tense of the verb (preterite or imperfect? Do I need to use subjunctive...ahhh). When you get home, you open your laptop and quickly google "Where is the best place to learn Spanish?"

[caption id="attachment_126156" align="aligncenter" width="1673"] Students take language classes in Bolivia (divided into small groups based on language level)[/caption]

The first thing you're sure to find is lists of countries or cities where we're promised to learn "the most authentic Spanish", or “the Spanish that does not have an accent". However, after having accompanied first hand the learning process of many students who have become fluent in Spanish, I have a confession. The best place to learn a language is not necessarily a place. It is, first of all, an environment.

[caption id="attachment_126064" align="aligncenter" width="1695"] A student learns how to weave from a Bolivian man.[/caption]

What's the best environment for learning Spanish?

The best environment for learning Spanish is one that gives you the opportunity to learn and practice in a classroom environment, and then practice what you learned with the local people — in the same day. This structure gives you the possibility “to learn how to learn” from a local point of view. That is to say, an environment in which, through the cultivation of deep and respectful relationships with the communities you visit, the doors are opened for you to critically reflect on your learning process. Thus, stop being docile receivers of information and become co-protagonists in the production of knowledge. [caption id="attachment_130717" align="aligncenter" width="1695"]Summer Travel Abroad Peru Where There Be Dragons Photo by Ryan Kost, Instructor.[/caption]

How does Dragons structure language learning? 

And it is precisely this type of environment that we seek to promote (foster) in our Dragons programs in Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia, the three most indigenous countries in Latin America. Whether in semesters such as Andes & Amazon or Guatemala Language Immersion, or in the summer programs, we seek to combine personalized Spanish instruction with extended homestay and community engagement in which you have the opportunity not only to learn Spanish in an abstract way but from the ways of existence of the place that welcomes you. It is through these experiences that you will develop better understanding of how to respond to your environment. It will also deepen your comprehension of why people use the words they use, or why they chose to say things the way they do.   [caption id="attachment_155513" align="aligncenter" width="1440"] Students celebrate with host families in Peru.[/caption] Whether it is talking in a market with the lady who sells fruit, at home with your homestay father, or in an indigenous community learning about the use of medicinal plants, you'll be learning Spanish.  You will be encouraged from the moment you land to the last day of the trip (and beyond!) to learn and to question what we have learned, in a profound way. This will not be a trip to learn Spanish in Peru, Guatemala or Bolivia, but a journey through which you will learn how to learn Spanish through the profound and meaningful relationship you will establish with Peruvians, Guatemalans, and Bolivians, and the breathtaking landscapes they inhabit. Click here to learn more about our immersive language learning programs in Latin America. [post_title] => Where's the Best Place to Learn Spanish [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wheres-the-best-place-to-learn-spanish [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-06-21 20:06:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-06-22 02:06:18 [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] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 28 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 28 [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] => 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] => 36 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 36 [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/ ) [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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 26 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 26 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, From the Field ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 158759
    [post_author] => 15
    [post_date] => 2022-01-24 17:07:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2022-01-25 00:07:40
    [post_content] => Few skills are more empowering than being able to communicate in a foreign language. About one in four adults in the United States can hold a conversation in a language other than English. But even if you speak multiple languages, chances are your high school didn’t offer classes in Bahasa Indonesian, Aymara, Khmer, or Wolof. 

[caption id="attachment_158763" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Language Classes in Guatemala  Students taking Spanish language classes in Guatemala[/caption]

So what happens when you want to travel to one of the many interesting places in this world where you don’t speak the language? Here are the top ten tips we’ve learned over 30 years facilitating language study for beginners.

A little goes a long way. If you don’t have much time to study before you travel, consider focusing on a few key phrases that are helpful in any language. Hello. Thank you. Sorry. Where is the bathroom? Do you have ____? How much does it cost? I don’t understand.

Loosen up and practice, practice, practice. Imperfection is your friend when learning a language. Don’t stress about small mistakes, and feel free to fill in the gaps with whatever is available. It’s okay to break the rules— people who grow up speaking multiple languages often mix them together in the same sentences.

Don’t let words get in the way of meeting people. One of the best ways to motivate yourself to communicate is actually having people to talk to. Communication experts agree that the majority of human communication happens through body language and tone of voice. Use non-verbal communication skills such as hand gestures and facial expressions to interact with people.

[caption id="attachment_158760" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Taking time to learn Arabic on the flight.[/caption]

Set yourself some daily challenges. Pick one small language task for yourself every day. Go buy some basic necessities in the local market. Memorize a phrase to repeat to a taxi driver. Introduce yourself to someone and ask them their name. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even try learning a local joke or tongue twister.

Stay with a family. Learning a language is about more than just learning words. Languages are born out of cultural contexts, and living with a family means steeping yourself in the many subtle ways of being that are deeply connected to communicating in a new language. This is one of the many reasons homestays are a core component of every Dragons program.

Kick off your travels with a basic class. Even a single hour-long class with a local teacher can go a long way. Try to find a teacher who uses a communicative approach and gives you chances to practice your skills in class or on field trips outside the classroom. Take advantage of your time with your teacher to ask questions about cultural norms.

Learn from someone who understands both cultures. See if you can find someone who is willing to unpack some of the cultural differences you might encounter in your new environment. In addition to being multilingual, many of our instructors play the role of intercultural mediators, helping language learners understand the “why” and “how” of language alongside the “what.”

[caption id="attachment_158761" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Mandarin language classes[/caption]

Give yourself a break. Do you feel like you’re hitting a wall with your language learning? Take some time off to give your brain a break. Sometimes when there is a lot of new language input, our mind needs time to digest and process. Don’t be surprised if a week later you experience a sudden explosion in your language skills! Language learning takes time, one of the many reasons why our programs emphasize slowness and depth.

Have fun! Learning a new language opens up new experiences, friendships, ways of thinking, and maybe even a new favorite song, film, poem, or proverb. Don’t forget to take a moment to delight in it all!

Find a penpal. Staying in touch with friends you meet during your travels is a great way to keep your language skills from disappearing once you return home. A video call can transport you back into a homestay experience, and social media, texting, and emailing are all low-pressure ways to keep a new language alive in your brain. 

We wish you the best of luck in your travels, and hope you find it fulfilling to cultivate meaningful connections with people you might not normally be able to communicate with!
    [post_title] => Can You Travel to a Country Without Knowing the Language?
    [post_excerpt] => 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => open
    [ping_status] => open
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => can-you-travel-to-a-country-without-knowing-the-language
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2022-05-10 14:42:29
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-05-10 20:42:29
    [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] => 655
                    [name] => Continued Education
                    [slug] => continued_education
                    [term_group] => 0
                    [term_taxonomy_id] => 655
                    [taxonomy] => category
                    [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference.
                    [parent] => 0
                    [count] => 11
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 4
                    [cat_ID] => 655
                    [category_count] => 11
                    [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference.
                    [cat_name] => Continued Education
                    [category_nicename] => continued_education
                    [category_parent] => 0
                    [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/continued_education/
                )

            [1] => WP_Term Object
                (
                    [term_id] => 653
                    [name] => Global Community
                    [slug] => global_community
                    [term_group] => 0
                    [term_taxonomy_id] => 653
                    [taxonomy] => category
                    [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects.
                    [parent] => 0
                    [count] => 47
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 7
                    [cat_ID] => 653
                    [category_count] => 47
                    [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects.
                    [cat_name] => Global Community
                    [category_nicename] => global_community
                    [category_parent] => 0
                    [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/
                )

            [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] => 43
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 10
                    [cat_ID] => 641
                    [category_count] => 43
                    [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ.
                    [cat_name] => About Dragons
                    [category_nicename] => about_dragons
                    [category_parent] => 0
                )

            [3] => WP_Term Object
                (
                    [term_id] => 669
                    [name] => Engage
                    [slug] => engage
                    [term_group] => 0
                    [term_taxonomy_id] => 669
                    [taxonomy] => category
                    [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. 
                    [parent] => 0
                    [count] => 13
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 14
                    [cat_ID] => 669
                    [category_count] => 13
                    [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. 
                    [cat_name] => Engage
                    [category_nicename] => engage
                    [category_parent] => 0
                )

        )

    [category_links] => Continued Education, Global Community  ... 
)
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 158045
    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2021-09-17 16:19:05
    [post_date_gmt] => 2021-09-17 22:19:05
    [post_content] =>  

[caption id="attachment_158047" align="aligncenter" width="762"]Lake Superior: The Good Life  A group photo from Dragons' Lake Superior: The Good Life program — Summer 2021.[/caption]

To better support students coming from all backgrounds and identities, we’re excited to share two resources: Allyship Abroad & “Traveling as You: A Guide for Specific Identities”.  It’s our hope to create a culture and community that supports each participant to travel as their fullest self. These resources, and pedagogical approach, help all participants learn more about themselves, and how to be better allies in the world. 

We walk through the world carrying our experiences and histories. Some aspects of ourselves are visible, but much goes unseen, to us and others. When we travel, we gain more understanding of all that we are, and all that we are not. We begin to learn that while there is certainly a shared human experience, we’re also individuals that have unique and nuanced identities. Although we leave home, we still carry these identities with us when we travel. 

Diversity, Inclusion, and Allyship Abroad: Fostering a more just, compassionate and inclusive world.

The Allyship Abroad webpage is full of information on how to support individuals with specific identities and general resources for diversity and inclusion. It’s broken down into these five sections: 
  • For families: Discover why it’s important to talk through your family values and be aware that we facilitate and welcome conversations around these topics on our programs. 
  • Glossary of terms: A helpful tool for defining the key words related to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. 
  • Identity and you: Through a series of questions, you’ll be guided through defining your identity and why it’s so important for everyone, even people from dominant identities who might not have reflected on this much before. 
  • Skillbuilding for allyship abroad and at home: Discover the tools that will help you become a better ally through podcasts, online resources, books and articles, and more guided questions from our team. 
  • Identity related risks and travel: All travel involves risks and challenges, and some participants might have different challenges abroad based on factors such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and ability. This section is designed so you can equip yourself with helpful skills and resources to stay safe, informed, and thriving on your Dragons program.

Traveling as You: a Guide for Specific Identities

The goal of Traveling as You is to serve as a resource for allyship. The webpage walks you through different identities and explains what might come up for each specific identity while on a Dragons or student travel program. It goes more into depth for the following identities:  
  • Race, Ethnicity, Nationality 
  • Sexual Orientation (LGBTQ+)
  • Gender 
  • Religion 
  • Political Ideology 
  • Disability 
  • Body Size 
  • Low Income and First Generation Students
For each identity, the guide provides example scenarios of situations that may come up on your Dragons program, and reflection questions to get you thinking about how to prepare. Of course this is helpful for your own identity and for being aware of all the identities around you, especially those on your program.  And no Dragons guide would be complete without providing extra resources — which can be found at the bottom of this webpage. This list was designed to be your one-stop as a quick place to get an overview of the amazing and comprehensive resources out there to support diversity abroad. Whether you’re eager to learn how you can become a better ally at home and while traveling on a program, or you want to know more about your identity in the world, then these resources are here to help. We hope to continue fostering a more just, compassionate, and inclusive world, one student and one program at a time.  [post_title] => How to Become a Better Ally, at Home and Abroad [post_excerpt] => At Where There Be Dragons, we’re always striving to improve diversity and inclusion within our student body and travel programs. That’s why our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee created two resources for becoming a better ally as well as a guide to traveling as you. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-become-a-better-ally-at-home-and-abroad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-23 17:18:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 23:18:05 [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] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [1] => 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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) [2] => 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] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, About Dragons ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 157585
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2021-01-12 14:56:01
    [post_date_gmt] => 2021-01-12 21:56:01
    [post_content] => Across cultures stories are told about a hero’s journey to distant lands, only to find that what they seek is where the journey began: home. 

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot, 4 Quartets


On December 28th I embarked on a personal journey, a journey that resembled my first foray into the American West after graduating from college two decades ago. Last week I hugged my family goodbye and hopped into my van. Outfitted with warm layers, sleeping bags, food, and podcasts, I headed toward the “Four Corners” region, where CO, UT, AZ, and NM meet. I had no idea how far I’d get or where I’d sleep, other than knowing I’d be in the back of my van, somewhere. For a week I meandered. I roamed Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa, their dried canyon river bottoms blanketed in snow; I sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon, confused by the deafening silence and overwhelmed by the full nighttime galaxy, unadulterated by city lights; I descended the Colorado plateau into the great Sonoran Desert, and felt its soft winter warmth. After a challenging year, reconnecting with the American West, and my twenty-year old self, was like drinking from a well after a long period of thirst. I felt a deep gratitude for my post-college journeys into these landscapes, which were closer to the surface of my consciousness than I had ever realized. For nearly three decades Dragons has taken participants on journeys to discover the world and, in the end, themselves. When the pandemic closed down the world, Dragons turned inward to North America. This fall we offered two outstanding domestic Gap experiences: the Rio Grande Semester and the Colorado River Basin Semester. Because of their success, we are excited to announce that this new programming will extend into the 2021/2022 season and will continue to  be an important core of our work.

Keep an eye out for our new 2021 domestic program announcement!

The confluence of COVID-19, a heightened awareness and reckoning of racial injustice, and vast political divide in the United States has increased the need for domestic programming and specifically for a Dragons-style education. Our domestic programs strive to understand the complexity that arises when diverse peoples inhabit a land, looking closely at settler colonialism, power and privilege, and racial, social, and environmental justice issues. We examine how people have changed landscapes, for better and worse, and how those landscapes have in turn shaped our present realities. At a time when connection is hard to come by, the Dragons experience seeks to connect us to each other, our natural world, our collective and shared histories and, in the end, ourselves. Like all of our programs, our domestic courses help students confront important realities and understand their agency in shaping our collective futures. As we slowly return to the soulful international programming that has always been the hallmark of a Dragons experience, we’re moving into 2021 with increased self-awareness of our home here in North America. That rediscovery will weave itself into our global tapestry, augmenting even more depth and breadth to our programming.
After college I moved to New Mexico, and then California. I spent my time guiding wilderness trips for youth. It led me to Dragons, and in my late 20’s I found myself on the Tibetan Plateau, leading a Dragons group from Lhasa to Mount Kailash, a sacred pilgrimage route for Buddhists and Hindus. I was struck then by how much the Tibetan Plateau reminded me of the Colorado Plateau and the vast American West. And now as I travel and live in the southwest, I’m reminded of Tibet. Future Dragons students will now share the rediscovery of a place many people call home, and come to know it for the first time with new eyes and understanding. As you start thinking of your plans for 2021, I hope our domestic programming is something you will consider. And if you decide to join us, I hope your experiences in the American West will always be with you, right beneath the surface, waiting to reawaken you, as it did for me this past week. With hope for the future,
Reed Harwood, Executive Director
[post_title] => A Return Home [post_excerpt] => Across cultures stories are told about a hero’s journey to distant lands, only to find that what they seek is where the journey began: home. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-update-jan-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-23 17:18:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 23:18:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/the-empty-nest-and-what-comes-next-for-dragons-copy [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [1] => 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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) [2] => 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] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, About Dragons ... )
1 2 3 8