Photo by Fye Maithai, Student.

Posts Categorized:

Alumni Spotlight

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    [post_date] => 2018-07-26 12:11:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-26 18:11:20
    [post_content] => 

We LOVE IT when we get news (and photos) of Alumni student groups re-uniting in new locations.

Here's a photo and caption from Jennie Adler (Madagascar/Senegal Semester Fall 2017) in which seven of the original nine students in the group were able to meet up in Amsterdam for a 10-day reunion. She says the best part was just...
...being able to go to sleep and wake up to seeing each others faces once again like we did on our Dragons trip. Dragons Student Group Reunion in Netherlands
"When we said goodbye in the DC airport no one anticipated that just we were just 7 weeks from the majority of us meeting again at the Schiphol airport in the Netherlands to spend 10 days with each other and explore the city of Amsterdam. People arrived at the airport over the span of three days and as the greeting party increased so did our celebration each time one more of our friends walked through the gates and into our arms. Amsterdam is a great city, with roads that let you wander without getting bored and without feeling that you're lost even though you’ve come to a dead end twice and have no idea where the bus station is. But the highlight of our trip was not the museums or the canals, (though it might have been biking for Grace); the whole trip was ultimately about being able to go to sleep and wake up to seeing each others faces once again like we did on our Dragons trip. We all went our separate ways when we left, to different states and even different countries, and couldn’t help but wonder if things would be the same upon our reunion. But our time together is a testament to the bond you create on a Dragons program. All together again, our trip was filled with smiles and laughter, as though no time had passed.  This isn’t our last reunion, and I can’t wait to have all of us to be together again by a fire laughing over stories from Temanto Samba and Ranomofana, and to keep that part of ourselves we left in those two countries very much alive."

Have YOU had a post-course reunion? Send us a photo and caption! We'd love to share it.

[post_title] => 2017 Semester Group Reunites in the Netherlands in 2018 [post_excerpt] => Here's a photo and update from Jennie Adler (Madagascar/Senegal Semester Fall 2017) in which seven of the original nine students in the group were able to meet up in Amsterdam for a 10-day reunion. She says the best part was, "being able to go to sleep and wake up to seeing each others faces once again..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 2017-semester-group-reunites-in-the-netherlands-in-2018 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-26 12:24:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-26 18:24:50 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 38 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 38 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) ) [category_links] => Alumni Spotlight )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-06-28 09:14:22
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-28 15:14:22
    [post_content] => 

Susie Rinehart is a past Dragons Director and treasured member of our community. We offer a standing ovation to this TedTalk introducing her powerful message and life story on the work of letting go of perfectionism...

Excerpted from the TedX website:

"Women have never been more successful. They have also never suffered more from anxiety and depression. Before the diagnosis of a rare tumor wrapped around Susie Rinehart's brainstem and vocal cords, she won several acclaimed ultramarathons at the Masters level. She was good at striving for goals and checking off achievements. Then she found out she was going to die young and without a voice. She wrote down how she wanted to move forward: "I choose joy over fear and brave over perfect." This is her uplifting story of losing, then finding her voice in all its power."

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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-23 11:23:47
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-23 17:23:47
    [post_content] => 

Will LeVan (Alumni of Dragons Peru Summer Program) decided to pursue a Gap Year in 2018-19. And he was kind enough to answer some questions we posed of his decision making process. Take a look...

Q: How did you come to the decision to take a Gap Year? Was it an intuitive or calculated choice?

A: During junior year I began to consider taking a gap year.  I was fatigued from a challenging high school education and hoped that a gap year would revitalize and re-inspire my education.  However, my decision was quickly made after my six-week Dragons trip to Peru. After the trip, I realized that traveling and working abroad as I did in Peru would teach me in ways that a classroom no longer could.  Additionally, the opportunity to increase my Spanish proficiency and enter college with work and service experience abroad were integral in making my decision.

Q: What were/was your biggest questions going into the process? How did you get them answered?

A: Would it be affordable?  Could I find programs that would make it meaningful?  What would I do? These were my biggest questions going into my gap year.  Through a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I scanned through dozens of programs. The trips ranged from three weeks to eight months and included volunteer work in Philly, education aboard sailboats in the Pacific, and hiking the Camino in Spain. By skimming these programs, a picture of my gap year manifested, including a Where There Be Dragons Semester program in Nepal, volunteering on a sustainable farm in Spain, helping build converted vans in Washington state, and hiking the Camino de Santiago. Websites like WWOOF and Helpstay were very helpful in my search.

Q: Did you have any regrets after making the decision?

A: I only wish I could do more.

Q: Do you know anyone else that's taking a Gap Year? Do you ever feel lonely in the decision?

A: I have a few friends who are considering it, but never have I felt lonely in the decision because others have been so supportive, and sometimes envious, of my choice and plans.  

Q: How did your parents respond to your decision?

A: They were very supportive.

Q: Is it hard to stay committed to your Gap Year vision when all your friends are talking about their fall school plans?

A: Not really.  Since I applied to college during this school year and have deferred my enrollment, I’m not too jealous about my friends’ fall plans at college because I’ll know that I’ll have those experiences eventually and don’t have to worry about the stresses of college applications in the meantime.

Q: Do you have any fears regarding your Gap Year?

A: Part of me is worried that I’ll enter college behind in my studies.  I think this is a common fear among students. However, I’m confident that I won’t be too far behind and can make it back up quickly.  Additionally, I think the lessons I learn over my gap year will be just as valuable, it not more, than anything I can learn in the classroom.

Q: Did you already know where you wanted to go for your Gap Year?

A: I really had no idea where I wanted to go.  I did a lot of research and looked at places like Chile, Jordan, Madagascar, South Africa, the Galapagos, Australia, and eventually ended up on Nepal in the fall and Spain for the spring.  How did I decide on these places? First off, I love to hike and the opportunities to hike in the Himalayas and along the Camino in Europe are hard to pass up. Additionally, the ability to study Spanish in Spain was a big pull for me.

Q: What do you hope to learn from your Gap Year that you couldn't learn in school?

A: How to live independently, work with others from different backgrounds, and be more aware and conscious of the world around me.

Q: Did language study play a role in your Gap Year decision?

A: Yes it did.  After my Dragons summer experience in Peru, I knew that I wanted to experience more Spanish immersion in a non-classroom setting.  I also believe that going into college and feeling more confident in my Spanish proficiency will only be beneficial. Therefore, I plan on volunteering and interning in Spain in the spring of my gap year and then hiking El Camino de Santiago in Spain to cap off my year.

Q: Will you be pursuing any type of internship or particular study of craft during your gap year?

A: Due to busy summer schedules throughout high school, I haven’t had many job experiences.  This in part played into my gap year decision because I wanted to have more work experience before college.  There isn’t a specific type of craft I’ll be pursuing, but instead just volunteer and work experiences in general.  To fulfill this, I plan on working on an organic or sustainable farm in Spain.

Q: What would you say to someone on the fence on if they will pursue a gap year or not? A: There are very times in life when you will be able to shed responsibilities for a year and just go travel and learn. A Gap Year is one of those opportunities. Additionally, the experiences you have and lessons will be long-lasting. If you can design a Gap Year that will be productive and constructive, I think it’ll be an amazing experience that you won’t regret. Thank you Will!

Are YOU going to do a Gap Year in 2018-2019? If so, we encourage you to share the news of your plans via a social post with the tag #gapyeardecisionday. If you'll be a Dragons students next year, include the tag #wheretherebedragons so that we can find and potentially feature you!

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WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-02 11:39:51
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-02 17:39:51
    [post_content] => 
We are loving this video created by an India Gap Year Program student as part of her ISP (Independent Study Project) this fall. Here's a few words from the creator, Sarah Soucek:
"Traveling in India this past fall gave me many things -- a sense of direction, perspective, new aspirations, and a chance to learn from many different people. Learning from Uttara and Anandi was easy... I've never been so eager to hear the answers to a few questions from a pair of people. I'm incredibly grateful for their time and effort put into the interviews. I hope you enjoy watching this film as much as I've enjoyed creating it." 
Her India from Sarah Adeline Soucek on Vimeo.
[post_title] => India Semester Student ISP Video by Sarah Soucek [post_excerpt] => From the video creator, Sarah Soucek: "Traveling in India this past fall gave me many things -- a sense of direction, perspective, new aspirations, and a chance to learn from many different people. I hope you enjoy watching this film as much as I've enjoyed creating it."  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => india-semester-student-isp-video-sarah-soucek [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-07 09:28:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-07 15:28:53 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 38 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 38 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [1] => 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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mixed_media/ ) ) [category_links] => Alumni Spotlight, Mixed Media )
WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 152914
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-04-19 10:25:39
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-19 16:25:39
    [post_content] => 

Since Earth Day deserves more than one day a year, we’re going to give it a few days of alumni student love. Starting with Dragons Student Ambassador Benjamin Swift

[caption id="attachment_152916" align="aligncenter" width="567"] Photos by Benjamin Swift, South America Semester Alumni Student.[/caption] Captioned: "For Earth Day, I'm sharing pictures from my South America semester of fellow student, Trisha, picking up trash on a trek we did while doing our service trip in the Altiplano. Trisha and I also visited the Tiquipaya landfill (pictured, top), which inspired an article that I wrote for my campus newspaper (goo.gl/S16dEQ). This interest in the environment and trash helped lead me to Haiti, where I visited my Dragons Instructor, Ellie Happel, and learned about her work and research fighting proposed metal mining. While there, we visited SOIL (oursoil.org), a composting toilet company that provides dignified access to sanitation for people who would otherwise not have access to it, creating rich organic compost in the process. At SOIL, I wrote an article (goo.gl/RiYSFd) for them after helping the workers empty poop buckets all day. Through these photos, which include images from a landfill in both Colorado and Bolivia, I hope to highlight that the waste we create is an issue, whether it is obviously visible or not. In Bolivia and Haiti, trash is conspicuous in cities and in the environment, though, per-capita, people create much less of it than in the United States. Americans generate much more waste, but simply do a better job of concealing it, thus creating an illusion that it does not exist." 🙏🏼 you Benjamin. #earthday #wheretherebedragons #wheretherebe🐉

Want to see more? Visit Dragons Instagram Feed.

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    [ID] => 152911
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-04-18 11:04:05
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-18 17:04:05
    [post_content] => Please enjoy these two reflections from South America Semester Alumni students which were a past feature of the Map's Edge, Dragons Community Newsletter.

A MONTH OF CONTRASTS by CINDY LIU, Alumni of Dragons Andes & Amazon Semester

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past month is to feel as equally with my heart as with my mind, so although much of what I’ve seen still confuses me, I know that at least these impressions will stay with me long into the future.

HOW CAN ONE YAK EVEN BEGIN TO SUM UP MY IMPRESSIONS OF PERU, or any of my experiences for that matter? But as I think back on the past month, four images wrought with irony and contrast stand out to me.

The first is of a taxi driver who drove a group of us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, and his pouring a sip of his Fanta on the ground as an offering to the Pachamama before drinking from the bottle. The second is of my home-stay mama in the town of Japu in Nacion Q’eros, who pulled a cellphone out of her pocket the night we were there. When I asked her if there was reception, she shyly shook her head no. The third is of a young university music teacher, who presented to Emma and I an entire table of Incan and Pre-Incan instruments at the Inka Museum in Cusco; among them included panpipes made from condor feathers, flutes made from llama bones, and ceremonial whistles in the shape of a hummingbird. He was initially wearing a ‘North Face’ sports jacket, but halfway through donned an indigenous poncho and wool hat ‘in case we wanted to take photos.’ The final one is of reading in the Machu Picchu museum that the terraces at the ancient Incan city were now covered with a type of African weed, because it appeals more to the ‘Western aesthetic.’

These four images remind me of the complicated dynamic between traditional culture and development. It is interesting to see a taxi driver remain loyal to his ancestors’ beliefs, but it is ironic that he did so with a soda produced by a Western company. It was bittersweet to see my home-stay mama with a cellphone, because I didn’t know how often she had use for it, or how much modern technology had touched the people of Q’eros, who still seemed very attached to their land and traditional lifestyles. It was funny to see the young music teacher drape his poncho over his Western-branded jacket, as if doing so would give us a more authentic experience. It was sad to see a site as mystic as Machu Picchu so touched by tourism, and confusing to realize that tourism is probably also what sustains the preservation and continued excavation of the city. What these impressions have taught me though, is that development is not black or white, nor good or bad. The struggle between preservation and development is real, albeit unconscious, as I’ve seen with my very own eyes. I can still remember Fabian, our local guide in Q’eros, who had been the president of the five local communities, sitting in the grass telling us about his wish to preserve the culture and practices of the indigenous people, but acknowledging that he had moved his family to Cusco so that his children could get a better education.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past month is to feel as equally with my heart as with my mind, so although much of what I’ve seen still confuses me, I know that at least these impressions will stay with me long into the future.

RESPONSE TO CINDY’S POST by MARTINA HILDRETH, Alumni of Dragons Andes & Amazon Semester

The best I can do is to stop imposing my own preconceptions upon their reality, and instead embrace what I see, in all it’s complexity and incomprehensibility, with open eyes and a mind free of judgement.

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO CINDY for putting so eloquently something I’ve felt unable to express in words. The contrast and complexity within Peruvian and Bolivian society has been very evident, and at times hard to reconcile with how I think things are, or how I wish they were. It is especially difficult when it appears that travelers like me are partially responsible for creating the confusion, as illustrated by Cindy’s example of the grass at Machu Picchu.

I believe that I am looking for a culturally “authentic” experience with Dragons, but what does that mean? Does it mean bemoaning and overlooking the facts that Peruvian museum workers wear North Face and express their thanks to the Pachamama with Fanta? No, I don’t think so. The best I can do is to stop imposing my own preconceptions upon their reality, and instead embrace what I see, in all it’s complexity and incomprehensibility, with open eyes and a mind free of judgement. I realize that the places we are visiting are impossible to know and understand in just a few months. I will strive to value the questions I have been given just as much as I would the answers I lack.

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