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Introducing Our Newest Offering: Independent Spring Experiences (ISE) 

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Dragons HQ

Maybe you’ve done a group travel program with Dragons or another organization. Maybe you’re feeling ready for a more independent experience abroad…

But here’s what you’re wondering:

  • How can I avoid the backpacker tourist traps?
  • How do I get an authentic learning service experience that avoids the pitfalls of the “voluntourism” industry? 
  • How do I build authentic connections with individuals when I don’t know anyone? 
  • How do I find a homestay family that’s been vetted and recommended? 
  • How do I avoid feeling like I’ve been “placed” without in-country mentorship and guidance?
  • Who do I call on for support when I have questions or if something goes wrong? 

It can be hard to know where to even start. We’ve heard from many past Dragons students that the travels they pursued on their own after a group program left them feeling lost, unsupported, or even conflicted about the ethics and efficacy of their presence and projects. 

So we’ve launched the Dragons Independent Spring Experience (ISE). 

Here’s what our ISE Programs offer:

  1. Meaningful cross-cultural engagement outside the structure of a group semester, but still with the support of Dragons local (in-country) resources and mentorship. 
  2. A co-created, personalized, and self-directed gap year or study abroad experience.
  3. Direct Support from Dragons international network of trained in-country staff and vetted resources. 
  4. Access to Dragons Administrative Team & our decades of expertise in managing international risk and emergency response.


MORE DETAILS: What does an ISE program consist of?

ISE programs are offered in places where Dragons has long-established and active community networks. We are currently offering ISE options in:

  • Guatemala
  • Bolivia
  • China
  • Senegal
  • Nepal
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia

Each program site is staffed by a Dragons On-Site Coordinator: a veteran Dragons instructor with expertise in the country and extensive experience working with Dragons Gap Year students and to our standards of excellence.

The On-Site Coordinator has weekly face-to-face meetings with each student, conducts a multi-day orientation focused on safety, cultural norms, and strategies for engagement, and acts as a cultural facilitator and mentor throughout. ISE programs have a strong emphasis on cultural and language immersion and in-depth exploration of critical issues.

Participants are placed with a trusted homestay family for the duration of the program, receive intensive language instruction (as desired), and are paired with local mentors for an Independent Study Project (ISP). In addition, participants have 24/7 access to our in-country and international emergency response resources.

ISE programs have two start dates (January 15 and February 12) with a 6-week minimum length and the option for weekly extensions (up until May 1st). ISE programs were created specifically for those who have previously completed a group travel program (international or domestic), of one month or longer, with any provider.

Dragons Independent Spring Experience Program

Visit our INDEPENDENT SPRING EXPERIENCES Page for more program details and guidance on how to enroll. 



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