Posts Tagged:

College Study Abroad

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    [ID] => 155343
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-29 12:58:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-29 18:58:38
    [post_content] => We are loving this interview with Dragons students Danielle (South America Semester Alum '19) and Chinelle (Nepal College Study Abroad Alum '19) that played on Jamaican National TV this week. The discussion exploring their Gap Year experiences is well worth your six minutes to watch!

Ps. Danielle was a recipient of Dragons scholarships. Dragons Fund scholarships are generated entirely from the donations of generous Dragons alumni, instructors, and staff. You can learn more about how the fund ensures access for all students, regardless of their financial circumstances at: dragonsfund.org.


Ps. Want Dragons blog updates sent directly to your inbox? One email a week. Nothing markety. Unsubscribe any time. Subscribe to Dragons Blog and stay connected to the community. ❤️
[post_title] => Interview with Dragons Alumni on TVJ Smile Jamaica [post_excerpt] => We are loving this interview with Dragons students Danielle (South America Semester Alum) and Chinelle (Nepal College Study Abroad Alum) that played on Jamaican National TV this week. It's well worth your six minutes to watch! [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-with-dragons-alumni-on-tvj-smile-jamaica [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-17 09:17:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-17 15:17:06 [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] => 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] => 32 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 32 [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/ ) [1] => 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] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 34 [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] => About Dragons, Alumni Spotlight )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-06-05 10:24:58
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-05 16:24:58
    [post_content] => 

Loving this group reflection from Dragons Spring 2019 Nepal Study Abroad Students....

As our study-abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months:

In Nepal I experienced love. Not the eros kind but the philia, philautia and the storge types for sure. When I came here I wasn’t very sure of what to expect, I wasn’t sure of how to feel. However amidst all the discomfort, the pain, the hardship, the cognitive dissonance at times and the deep loneliness that I experienced; what I hold most dear are the times when I truly felt love. I felt belonging, comfort and acceptance and those times are what I remember most.  Maya Angelo once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those times when I felt love are what got me through.

So I guess this is to everyone: to the friends I’ve made in this group, to the homestay families that I stayed with that are like family now, to the strangers I met in the streets or on ISP, to my instructors who were who held our hands along the way, to myself for making this decision to embark on this journey, thank you and I love you all!

In Nepal, I experienced an intense group experience and significant challenges. I stepped outside my comfort zone in various ways and consequently, experienced many different ways of thinking, viewing the world, and living. We met a diverse range of Nepalis: Tami farmers, permaculture practitioners, young urbanites striving for change, Newari artisans, Kagyu Karmapa Tibetan Buddhist lamas, hiking guides, influential fixers and liaisons, and travelers. That access allowed us to problematize and nuance our understandings of this country that is increasingly connected with the global community and navigating its way through complex questions of modernity and tradition, a democratic transition, rule of law and rule of people and corruption, and industrialization and various developmental paths.

I experienced a supportive, inclusive, and compassionate group culture. I got chances to step up as a leader, take on significant autonomy, independence, and decision-making responsibility. I experienced life in a Buddhist Monastary, hiked in Gaurishankar Conservation Area, lived in Patan in the Kathmandu valley, solo traveled, and much else. I connected with many local people, and hopefully, made some lifelong friends!

In Nepal, I experienced earth-shaking thunderstorms, bruised hips from terrible jeep rides, and countless red rhododendron bushes, growing smaller as the altitude increased. I experienced sharp pain followed by instant relief as I washed my aching feet in frigid opalescent pools, and stifling silence when we awoke to a fresh blanket of snow covering the small Tibetan ethnicity village we were staying in. I experienced wonder as I craned my neck to look at the stars, which reminded me of bioluminescent plankton floating in the sky, and when I watched old women carry impossibly heavy loads on their heads. I experienced sadness as I learned how fast the aquamarine glaciers overhead were receding, and when I sat with women, tears streaming down their faces as they relayed their life’s unimaginable hardships. I experienced gratitude upon receiving endless cups of dudh chyaa, and comfort as I fell asleep next to my sister and her nursing baby, listening to the deafening hail bounce off the tin roof above us.

In Nepal, I witnessed my host father in Patan make 19 silver rings. On the first day, he cut the raw silver stock into thin strips and bent them into little circles, using a blowtorch to solder the ends together. On the second day, he cut little triangles out of the edges and used a hammer to smooth out the surfaces of the rings. On the third day, he used a hammer and curved chisel to carve his designs into the face of the ring. On these rings he carved an endless knot, an auspicious symbol in Buddhism that represents the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. On the fourth day, he polished the rings and they were finished.

In Nepal, I experienced so much that it is hard to pin-point any one single moment. But I can talk about the overall emotional experience that I had. When I first met the group in Patan we were unsure of each other, but by the time we began orientation our group culture began to form. We were immediately open with each other and willing to be vulnerable in order to bridge the gap of our differences. This culture of open-mindedness allowed us to relate to each other in ways that we could not have imagined if we took each other at face value. Despite our different backgrounds and virtues we began to see connections and similarities in very intimate parts of our life. Struggles and fears that had previously been kept locked away, were divulged to each other. We found commonalities in our group and once we established this among us we applied this attitude to the rest of the trip. During homestays and outings I was able to relate to the many individuals we met despite our geographical and lifestyle differences. My Patan family felt so familiar to me after staying there for a month that it felt as if I was staying at a longtime friend’s house. This is not to say that our lives were analogous but we were able to bridge the gap with small stories and experiences that brought us closer. Even in the more foreign space of Chokati, I was able to feel a strong sense of connectivity with my host family. Our communication was limited but this made what was understood even more meaningful. Not one meal was quietly as we laughed with each other over my sloppy Nepali and obtuse use of my hands while eating. This approach to my surroundings was forged by our group culture which was established during our early orientation. If it was not for this, my trip would have been immensely more shallow and my take-a-ways greatly limited.

In Nepal, I witnessed:
  • Stray puppies huddled together on sheets of cardboard in the middle of the street.
  • Trash burning in piles along the side of the road.
  • Traffic intersections clogged with motorbikes and taxis and clouds of dust; women pulling the edges of their scarves over their mouths and noses.
  • Fruit vendors on bicycles selling oranges and grapes from the Terai.
  • Cows wandering the streets, sometimes crouching right in the middle of a busy road, so traffic parted around them like the water of a river parts around a stone.
  • Women in bright red saris, smudging the foreheads of their children with vermillion powder.
  • My aama burning incense and spreading rice on the stone markings on the roof.
  • Dishes of spices; yellow turmeric; burnt orange cumin.
  • The white peaks of the  mountains peeking out from behind the clouds.
  • The golden carvings of temples half destroyed by the earthquake.
  • Children in soiled clothes,  following tourists down alleys, begging with open hands for spare rupees.
  • Boudhanath Stupa at dusk, ringed by prayer flags and hundreds of people prostrating at its base.
  • Yaks with bells tied around their necks on the high mountain trails near the border of Tibet.
  • A dead daphey, the national bird of Nepal, lying limp at the river bank.
  • A storm rushing in through the valley, enveloping us in cold mist.
  • My aama washing laundry on the roof by hand, crouching over the buckets of soap water, her hands plunged elbow deep.

In Nepal, I experienced:

  • Getting lost in the streets of Patan and asking a shopkeeper if I could use his phone to call my host family; my host dad arriving on his motorcycle with my sister on his back, laughing at me because I was only ten minutes away the whole time.
  • How it feels to sit in the middle of a room of people and not understand what anyone is saying and smile and sit and eat the food that is given, and to be content with that.
  • Singing karaoke with my host family in their living room.
  • Sitting on the front porch of my home in Chakoti, staring out at the valley as the sun rises.
  • Early morning tea so sweet it stings my tongue.
  • Arriving in the shelter of a tea house in the Himalayas, after a long day of trekking through ice and rock, pouring thermoses of hot duhd chiya into cups that we pass around the table and drink with such pleasure, it’s like the tea is no longer tea, it’s a magic brew imbibed with the power to revive us from the stupor of cold and tiredness.
  • The reality of development; unpaved roads; tangled lines of wires; limited water.
  • Being ignored or looked down upon by men because I am a woman
  • Learning about the dharma from a Tibetan Buddhist Lama; meditating for the wellbeing and liberation of all sentient beings; hanging prayer flags for our loved ones on the hill.
  • Getting dragged down the road by a group of little girls in the village on Holi to play with balloons.
  • Eatings so much dal bhat for dinner I think I’ll be sick if I ever eat another bite of dal bhat again – and then eating more dal bhat for breakfast.
  • Walking down the narrow streets of Boudha in the midst of a mob of monks, sandwiched so close together we can smell each other’s breath.
  • Haggling with taxi drivers; getting ripped off.
  • Getting scolded by my host family for coming home past 8pm.
  • The strength of the women of this country; how they wake up and cook and work, carrying loads of stones in baskets on their backs they secure around their heads, and still manage to smile and laugh and welcome me into their homes, offering tea and biscuits. How grateful I am.

In Nepal, I experienced what it feels like to stand in the presence of a receding glacier and be immersed in its beauty, knowing that what I see in front of me will no longer exist in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, as it exists today. I experienced family and compassion. I experienced the earthy scent of homemade fertilizers and the gift of growing food. I experienced confusion, anger, tears, joy, excitement, and more confusion about the human experience.

In Nepal, I experienced what it is like to be a part of a true community. Everyone addresses each other as “brother” or “sister” even if they are complete strangers, and they will not hesitate to go way out of their way to help each other out. The communal mentality reminded me how important it is to be connected to others, and it was refreshing to see that there really are people out there who are selfless, caring, and altruistic.

In Nepal, a poem:

The sun is setting.

The sky is a shade somewhere between grey and blue. The breeze is cool, as is the grass, and speckled with violet petals falling from the large tree in the yard. Behind me is Kathmandu, sprawling and smoky. It is behind me in more ways than one.

The sun is setting on our time here. It sets in shades of vermillion and saffron, like dried tika smearing across a forehead. It fades like the clang of a brass bell hanging in a temple, echoing in the air. But there’s still light left- enough to see the page- enough for me to write and rewrite everything I want to say about this place. To try and find the words for that which I have only ever found wordless.

Nepal is a sensory country. It presents itself in sights and sounds, touches, tastes and smells. It is alive in a way I have not experienced before. It’s this spark I struggle to name. But it is surely there, and, because of it, I have learned many things I wasn’t aware I didn’t know.

I have learned that the pagoda was first designed by a twenty-year old artist brought from the valley to the court of a grandson of Genghis Khan.

I have learned that goddess Annapurna is not a woman but an overflowing pot of grain, symbolizing prosperity and success. And it is a stunning snow-covered massif that dominates the pale sky.

I have learned that if you’re too loud, too cocky, too bold– the mountain spirits will come for you. I still have not learned why they came for me.

I learned how to braid momos, how to cut tiny tomatoes with a very dull knife, and how to walk along the edges of a terraced bean field, holding up the hem of a scarlet sari.

I have learned that “Namaste” means “I recognize the divine in you”, and I have learned to recognize the divine in the worn faces of millions of gods I have met here.

I have also learned to recognize the divine in the only god I knew before.

I have learned that I am a very accommodating person. That I will eat anything you serve me, however you serve it. Against my better judgement, I’ll finish the whole plate and I’ll even try to eat with my hands until someone takes pity and gives me a spoon.

I have learned how to accept help.

I have learned that culture exists in the grit and grime. In the dust created by civilizations. Its in the magenta and bright coral smeared across my hair playing Holi. In the cracks between stones of a temple, in the carved hands a goddess on a roof strut. It’s in the crimson, auburn, and ocher spices thrown over chopped potatoes frying in a pan of sunflower oil. It’s even in the dust over Kathmandu, a specter so vast and omniscient and sentient that it has become its own character in the story.

I have learned to search for that which makes this place so alive and I have found it wherever I have looked.

It’s in the spread of rhododendron petals, the glow of a marigold. The pound of a mandal to the repeating versus of a song I do not understand. In the braids of school girls and the sparks showering a boy cutting metal in the streets. In the cry of a rooster hours after dawn. In the flutter of prayer flags, and the long, steady ring of a bell.

But ringing bells is for the morning and night is falling. With night comes stars, and in stars, constellations. Memories. Images that will always glimmer. A tiny goat jumping onto the table. The mist over a sacred mountain. My sister sliding a dozen silver bracelets onto my narrow wrists. A crinkled old woman, crouched in hazy, silvery darkness, smoke from her cigarette unfurling around her head, the rain on the tin roof so loud her mouth seems to move silently. And her friends, wrapped in patterned scarves and wreathed in a gentle light, sitting around her, listening and replying. They hear what she is saying. I can forever only wonder.

In these moments I will carry what I have learned– just as I have carried cookie crumbs and tattered rupees all across these hills- back to where I came from. Because, most importantly, I have learned that wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love- in love with this country, this once forbidden kingdom, a place of great history and great promise.

The navigators of old used the stars as maps, and someday I hope the constellations I have will guide me back. Back to the gentle, cerulean mist of morning on the side of mountain. Back to the vivid burn of midday in narrow back-alleys and bricked squares. And back to the pitch darkness, just past midnight, standing outside in the high, snow-bound village of Naa. When I looked up at the diamond-crusted sky and breathed slowly to make the time last. When I knew here, I wasn’t alone. Here, I could never really be cold. And here, I was alive.

—-

In Nepal, I learned:

  • That if I think I understand something, that I have gotten to the bottom of it and reached a sound conclusion, then I have most likely missed the point entirely.
  • That people’s lives are not postcards; villages are not rarefied or isolated places that exist solely for my desire to help, or my scrapbook album of exotic places I’ve been, and just because a culture is unfamiliar to me, doesn’t mean it’s a product meant solely for my consumption.
  • That development can look different depending on what a society values and what they need.
  • That it is far better to stop and ask questions, than to act without listening.
  • That the people of Nepal are incredibly kind and generous!
  • That learning the language of another country not only opens up doors of communication, but is also an act of great respect – that humbling yourself in the face of things you don’t understand is a vital part of growing as a human being.
  • That dal bhat is delicious.
  • That everything I’ve bought, sold or thrown away is still on this planet, somewhere.
  • That everything has a cause and an effect, and my actions are never isolated incidents.
  • That I am incredibly grateful for everything I’ve had the chance to experience in my life; for my parents; my education; the abundance of resources in my country. That despite everything, I appreciate my country more now than I did in the beginning of this trip.
  • That I want to be more involved in the world; in politics; in my community; that even though everything feels very vast and convoluted and confusing, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make a difference.
  • That people are people wherever you go; that everyone laughs and cries, and shits, and dreams.

In Nepal, I learned that there are many different ways of looking at the world, and many different life paths. I learned about Nepali history, politics, economics, language, religion, society, development, women’s issues, and much else. We got access to speak with many, many different folks from here and so we learned about their lives and their issues and their thoughts. I learned how to navigate the sometime chaotic streets of the bustling capital, and also how to graciously accept countless offers of milk tea. I came to learn that simple dal bhat meals are what my body needs.

I learned to design curriculum and to teach. I learned how to balance my own needs with group needs in order to stay present, engaged, supportive and positive. I learned how to interact successfully in a different cultural context, from the small daily interactions to the complex conversations and events that make up our lives as human beings.

From my students I learned many things. I learned about yoga, and building with bamboo, and permaculture, and reggae and other music genres in Nepal. I learned about the tensions between tourism and conservation and the challenges of different perspectives on holy peaks and places, I learned about women’s issues, healthcare, and pregnancy and birth in rural areas, and about traditional Poubha painting and its history in the valley.

I learned about development issues and social justice issues. I learned about the problems of service tourism and “do-goodery”. I learned about the hard decisions that Nepali young people are having to make in order to make ends meet. I learned about challenges in doing heritage conservation while continuing to develop and strive towards “modernity”, whatever that word means. I learned how to get around the city (which isn’t easy!). I learned about different ecosystems and environments in Nepal and the diverse flora and fauna here. I learned about different class and caste issues here. I learned so much!

In Nepal, I learned how to weave a basket from long wet strips of green bamboo. I learned how to fill that basket with rice or flour or bricks and load it onto my back, wrapping the sling around my head and supporting the weight with my strained neck muscles. I tried to learn the grace with which my host mother carried her load up the steep terraced hillsides, but my steps were clumsy on the bumpy footpaths and my basket wobbled precariously on my back. I learned that my mother’s grace was the product of decades of practice, carrying her baskets up the hill day after day, month after month, year after year.

In Nepal, I learned to approach life with empathy and open-mindedness. There is so much time dedicated on the differences in this world, because people are too entrenched in their “way”. To live this way is to live your life with limits. When someone’s perspective is challenged it often causes them to become frightful as if their world is ending. What I have learned throughout my life and over the course of this trip is that gaining a perspective is broadening your world and it will expose you to so many new, and wonderful experiences and relationships. I was blessed to be a part of a group that felt the same way, which is why this trip was so enriching. I hope I am able to bring home this mindset and spread it to just a fraction of people, because a world of empathy is a world without hate.

In Nepal, I learned that you can never get tired of dal bhat.

In Nepal, I learned a lot about a lot. From Nepali language, culture, history, norms and religious practices to development issues, colonialism and consumerism  as well as class, caste and the injustices surrounding that. We also dabbled in some outdoor education and learned about and discussed environmentalism; the list goes on and on.

The more I learned, the more I realized that there was more to know. In fact, there will be always more to know. The quest for knowledge has always been exciting to me, the process of gaining new knowledge and getting a greater understanding of the world around me has always been thrilling. The knowledge I gained on this trip  has undoubtedly impacted me greatly and has caused me to reconsider a lot of my previously held-beliefs and views. The more I learned on this trip the more I realized I knew little about my own history and my leaning here has ignited a desire to learn more about that.

In Nepal, I learned that bar-headed geese can fly at higher altitudes than any other animal and that red pandas poop the equivalent of their own body weight every week.

[post_title] => Featured College Study Abroad Refection: "In Nepal I learned..." [post_excerpt] => "As our study abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-college-study-abroad-refection-in-nepal-i-learned [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-03 12:56:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-03 18:56:39 [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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 53 [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] => 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] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 34 [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] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight )
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    [post_date] => 2019-05-09 12:45:42
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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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 53 [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_date] => 2019-04-17 13:56:31
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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. 

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    [ID] => 154483
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    [post_date] => 2019-03-11 13:35:07
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    [post_content] => 

Did you know that Dragons now offers College Study Abroad SUMMER programs in Bolivia and China?

Like all our College Study Abroad Programs, our approach to these new 4-week long summer offerings is to provide high-quality academic experiences in unconventional places. In addition to rigorous academic exploration, we learn by doing, travel like locals, live with families, and get dirty for the sake of discovery.

These programs offer college study abroad students the opportunity to dive into the heart of either Bolivia or China. We do so through language study, homestays, and workshops focused on pressing local and cultural issues. Students earn 4 semester credits in Spanish or Mandarin and receive a transcript from our School of Record. Both programs run from July 10 - August 8, 2019 and language learners at all levels are welcome to apply.

Here is a snapshot of each program:

Bolivia - 4-week Language and Cultural Exploration: Students expand their Spanish language abilities through interactive instruction, investigate Bolivian culture in an extended rural homestay, and learn first-hand from local communities. To learn more about the Dragons Bolivia summer program, visit the Bolivia Summer College Abroad Program page.

China - 4-week Language and Cultural Exploration: Students experience life in rural and urban China while improving their Mandarin language skills, engage in multiple homestays, and examine complex cultural issues. To learn more about the Dragons China summer program, visit the China Summer College Abroad Program page.

We hope you enjoy exploring these new options for college students! Feel free to be in touch with questions anytime.

Sincerely,

Cara Lane-Toomey and Shino Yoshen

 

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    [post_content] => 

Hopefully you know by now that Dragons offers College Study Abroad programs for university students?

And our newest catalog is fresh off the press. Check you home mailbox, order a new one, or take a peak at this digital version to check out our College Study Abroad course offerings:
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