Posts Tagged:

College Study Abroad

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    [ID] => 155011
    [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] => 2019-06-05 14:43:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-05 20:43:18 [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] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 50 [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] => 27 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 27 [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] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 50 [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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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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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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Trying to plan a gap year? Or get your parents on board with your gap year idea? Or need help understanding your gut instinct to take time off and travel? We’ve compiled reasons and rationale and stories from our gap year and student alumni. Read this essay addressing one of the most popular questions we hear from students and parents:  “WHY Gap?” as part of Dragons Travel Guide Series.
You’re reading this because you need to be convinced. Or you need to convince your parents. Or you just need words to explain a gut instinct to take time off and travel. Good news: We have research and experiences to share with you. And most importantly, we have 25-years of student alumni who can put it all into beautiful little summaries of well-earned advice. Let’s get to it.

Here’s 10 good reasons to consider a gap year or study abroad program...

#1: To catch your breath between high school and college.

Out of clutter, find simplicity.  ― Albert Einstein
Burnout from the intense scheduling and competitive pressure of high school is real. Jumping straight into 4+ more years of academic rigor can crumble the best of us. It pays in the longterm to invest in a re-set. A gap year program gives students a break from constantly juggling home lives, work roles, academic responsibilities, and even social media accounts. Time abroad and away from all those socially constructed ideas of who we are can offer just the quality of space to find a fresh perspective, to reassess goals, and to, ultimately, return to an education path more focused and dedicated. Some supporting research: [caption id="attachment_151487" align="alignnone" width="1695"] Photo by Amanda Lai, China Language Program.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“I no longer get impatient in lines in the grocery stores or complain about the long wait for my coffee. My world is bigger now, and my town feels smaller. I feel a little more caged in -- not a great feeling, but I know that it will push me to keep on getting out of my comfort zone and keep traveling.” - Kate Canning, Madagascar Program

“I am still the loud, direct, gregarious, person that I was before my program, but the sheer amount of beauty, difficulty, and happiness that I saw in Guatemala convinced me to look a bit closer. I realized it might be worth it to stop every once in awhile, be quiet, and see what life was trying to show me.” - Will Jamieson, Guatemala Program

"My semester with Dragons in​ ​Indonesia ignited a passion for environmental and social justice causing me to choose my specific majors and minors at school. It gave me so much direction for who I want to be. Even three years later, I think about my homestays, instructors, and friends from the trip all the time. ” - Crissy McCarthy, Indonesia Semester

 

#2: To escape the classroom walls, get out into the world, and access new stories and perspectives.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. ― Augustine of Hippo
Our own worldviews can start to feel stifling. We hunger for stories different than the ones we’ve been told over and over and over again. Or we’re just tired of reading about it, and want to hear it in a voice that resonates with personal experience and human emotion. And not everyone's stories get heard! Sometimes you have to cross a border to hear the story of immigration by a homestay father, the story of the fallout of an earthquake by a local doctor, the story of the destruction of an ecosystem from a glaciologist working high in the Andes, the story of water rights from activist in the Mekong, or the story of an arranged marriage by a Hindi teacher in India. Consider this your opportunity to personally connect with people just like you, yet living on a piece of land on another side of the planet. Some supporting research:   
  • “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.” - From, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?- TheAtlantic.com
[caption id="attachment_152727" align="alignnone" width="885"] Rural Sufi village in Senegal.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

"I learned far more on this course than I expected. I knew I would learn about Nepal​ and ​its history, language, people, ​and ​religions​.​ ​B​ut beyond that, I learned what it means to be a global citizen and about the interconnectedness of my actions." ​- ​Zoe Barr, Nepal Semester

“Spending several weeks living in the country, I quickly realized the problem with labeling countries like Bolivia as, “3rd world” and “developing.” It also forced me to rethink how my culture defines poverty. Now I always look to unpack the ethnocentrism that lies in my country.” -Abby Miranker, South America Semester

“The community from which I come has shaped many of my views, mannerisms, and perspectives; while this is generally okay, such a cloistered outlook on the world inevitably leads to a lack of perspective concerning the lives, thoughts, and struggles of people around the world. Exposure to Moroccan people, in all their differences compared to Americans, radically changed my worldview. Meeting Muslims daily and having informative conversations about their faith changed the way in which I view religion.”   - Brett Cohen, Morocco Program

 

#3: To adventure in the mountains and wilderness of the natural world.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity. ― John Muir
Our students don’t always know how much nature they are missing in their lives until they discover a new level of silence or awe when tucked into a sleeping bag under a blanket of stars in the Himalayas, swinging in a hammock in the shadow of a volcano in Nicaragua, trekking across the Tibetan Plateau in China, or resting on a wooden deck in Indonesia. Are you a little tired of all the digital alarms, reminders, and alerts in your life? Does a dirt road meandering into the horizon seem intriguing? Are you curious what it feels like to have everything you need for a week right on your back? Are you craving some silence, or just the real life white-noise of waves crashing on rocks, wind rushing past trees, or rain pummeling your tent? Some supporting research:    [caption id="attachment_151313" align="alignnone" width="1695"] Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“I had never felt such a deep sense of connection to nature and understanding myself and how I fit into the world. The stunning views are indescribable, but they awakened in me this sense of possibility and sense of adventure - two things I had lost sight of for a long time.” - Ishanya Anthapur, Nepal Semester

“My time in the more remote areas of Nepal allowed me to experience a new rhythm of life: I learned joy can come from just exchanging songs with my Nepali homestay family.  We sat in a circle one night underneath a candle's fire. Their rich voices surrounded me in the dark. Although we had a hard time connecting through words, the music provided such warmth.” - Nicole Wong, Nepal Semester

 

#4: To gain language fluency via immersion.

To have another language is to possess a second soul. - Charlemagne
Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and French of course. But on Dragons gap year programs students also have opportunities to study such languages as MalagasyQuechuaNepali, Burmese, Wolof, Bahasa Indonesian, Khmer, Arabic, and more.  Many past students have reported acquiring more language skills in a month of immersion than from their years of classes in school. Here’s your opportunity to take your language to the next level. Or pick up a new language right from the beginning! Language Study is one of Dragons core program components because we firmly believe it is the most respectful key to unlocking direct experiences of story and culture. Dragons Instructor Jeff Wagner explains it best: 

“Across the world, we learn language because each one has its unique stories to tell, and we open ourselves to new possibilities. We encounter these stories in newspaper columns, love letters, bed-time stories, idle chatter on the street corner, and philosophy. They’re told around campfires, written in beautiful curly scripts, and carved into ancient stone walls. Stories in English today have become dominated by the pragmatic, blunt language of global business, capitalism, and material success. Spanish stories express a multi-continental history of struggle and complex identity. Most speakers of Spanish are descendants of colonized people, building a resistance against imperialism out of the language of their former colonizers. Tibetan stories seem to be built around knowledge and understanding of the mind and devotion to a greater purpose. Life in Hindi seems to be a poetic unfolding over infinite time; the words for tomorrow and yesterday are the same in Hindi. A language is made from the stories that its people tell and the manner in which its speakers move through the world. [...] We don’t learn language to barter in the market for bracelets. We learn language to think and communicate more like the people who have different stories to tell, to understand the world as they perceive it not through their eyes, but through their ears. We learn language to understand other mindsets and ways of being. Anywhere we travel, there are stories waiting to be told; stories that could never exist in an English-speaking world.” (Read the full essay, “Why we Learn Language”)

Some Supporting Research: [caption id="attachment_131647" align="alignnone" width="836"]Chinese Language Lesson Study Abroad with Where There Be Dragons A Dragons student has a lesson in calligraphy. Photo by Eric Jenkins-Sahlin, China Language 4-week.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni

"​I​ am leaving with a foundation on how to​ travel, learn, expand my worldview​,​ and connect with ​people on a deeper level." ​- ​Grace Powell, South America Semester

 

#5: To do an internship or work alongside local experts and mentors in a new trade,  craft, art, or skill.

We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work.  ― Thomas A. Edison
When the four walls of the classroom start to feel claustrophobic, it’s time to get out and get your hands and creative brain playing. Every Dragons student is paired with a local mentor and invited to study a particular intellectual question or artisanal craft in greater depth. We’ve had students study everything from Bollywood dance, to West African drumming, to Yoga from an Indian Guru, to Chinese calligraphy, to the impacts of mining in Bolivia. It can be a great way to develop place-based expertise and hone ethnographic research skills. Sometimes it’s hard for students to understand what this program component looks like in the field, which is why we created this video (using student voices and music and imagery) describing our Independent Study Project program component. Some supporting research:    [caption id="attachment_152653" align="alignnone" width="849"] Senegalese drumming ISP. Photo by Micah LeMasters, Senegal Semester.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“I’ve started meditating daily since I got home, and have been keeping a gratitude journal I write in every few days. When it is so easy to get swept away in the chaos of my senior year of high school, filled with college applications, difficult classes, family responsibilities, friends, and everything else, I have found that my experiences abroad have become a grounding force.” - Silvana Montagu, Sikkim Program

 

#6: For career direction and exposure to the world’s diversity of work.

Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.  ― Gautama Buddha
You might feel like a gap year is a pause, or be told it’s a step backwards, when in fact, it’s a leap forward! Yes, you’re learning about a new place and global issues, but more significantly, you can gain clarity on who you are and what excites and propels you forward. Students who take the time to purposely discover what makes them passionate tend to hold higher GPAs, are more motivated, involved in campus activities, and are better contributors in college and beyond.  Some supporting research:    [caption id="attachment_139745" align="alignnone" width="851"]Rice Fields Thailand: The Spirit of Greng Jai Working in the rice fields on Where There Be Dragons Thailand: The Spirit of Greng Jai.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“Before my Dragons course, I knew I was passionate about global engagement, but had no idea how to translate that internal drive into action. After my course, I felt as if I gained the confidence, courage and support to get out into the world—whether that meant becoming involved in a club at my school, as a volunteer in my local community, or with the issues of a country far from home.” - Olivia Sotirchos, North India Program

 

#7: To get offline, slow down, unplug, and spend time reflecting.

In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. ― Leo Tolstoy
This excerpt from our Travel Guide Essay on, “Finding the Value in Unplugged Travel” sums it all up nicely: “On a Dragons course, we leave phones behind. We encourage students and instructors to simultaneously disconnect from lives back home while deeply engaging with the present moment in a new place. [...} Snapping and quickly posting photos would surely yield some likes, but we’d also be abruptly jerked from the “right here” of the human realm to the “over there” of the digital realm, where those little hearts and upward-facing thumbs validate (or not) what we saw, what we did, how we felt, and what it meant. Instead, we deliberately keep open space in our itineraries and invite magic into unscheduled hours. While on course, instructors commonly use the phrase “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” In the moment, this might mean [...] sitting with your experiences, and processing their meaning and value and worth before sharing them. It might mean not knowing what your friends are doing or what feels like blindly trusting that your experience, your time, and your days away are valid in and of themselves.”(Read the full essay.) Some supporting research:    [caption id="attachment_152493" align="alignnone" width="849"] Photo by Julianne Chandler. South America Semester.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

"My biggest goal was to leave the trip more present, curious, and inspired. I came alive on this trip. I am excited to continue to push myself when I return home." ​- ​El Williams, South America Semester

"The strengths of Dragons’ programs lie in the depth at which instructors go with supporting the students’ own journey, and their ability to guide them and offer them opportunities to learn about themselves in a very conscious way.” ​- ​Parent of Meredith Nass, ​Nepal​ Semester

 

#8: To learn about service or apprentice with a problem in the world of importance to you.

If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.  ― Barack Obama
At Dragons, instead of focusing on “service learning”—on the idea that short-term volunteers can contribute to communities abroad—we advocate a paradigm shift and choose, instead, to focus on “learning service.”  Learning Service is a holistic experience that combines an intimate and authentic engagement with a local community, the study of effective development, and the contribution to established community-driven projects. It is the process of living, working alongside, and respecting the culture of those communities that so kindly host us.  We acknowledge that Service Learning projects often benefit the volunteer and his/her understanding of a social problem in the world, just as much as they might add value to a hands-on community project. This essay by Dragons Alumni instructor Daniela Papi explains the essential need to, “...create solutions to global challenges that are grounded in a deep understanding of those problems and primed to fuel collaboration and collective impact.” Some supporting research:    [caption id="attachment_151320" align="alignnone" width="1695"] To heal a land scorched by 36 years of civil war, this man planted 20,000 trees by hand. Meet Armando Lopez, founder of the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Pachaj, Guatemala. Photo by Cate Brown, Guatemala Summer Program.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“I learned about resource extraction, the lives of indigenous tribes in the Amazon, Andean spirituality and music, and about my fellow Dragons who made my experience truly unforgettable.  But the greatest effect that my experience had on me was my perspective on myself. Through reflection, Peru taught me more about my role in the world as a global citizen, my role with my peers, and about who I want to be.”  - Will LeVan, Peru Program

My time in Indonesia has allowed me to act, advocate, and lead by example for friends and family about world issues I really care about. Even three years later, I think about my homestays, instructors, and friends from the trip all the time. It ignited a passion for global environmental and social justice causing me to choose my specific majors and minors at school (Environmental Studies, Sociology, and International Development). My semester in Indonesia gave me so much direction for who I want to be.” - Crissy McCarthy, Indonesia Semester

 

#9: To build meaningful relationships.

Nothing builds meaningful relationships more quickly that a carefully crafted group culture with a small group of engaged students who are willing to face challenges and grow together. We're not saying it's easy. Groups, like all relationships, have dynamics and life cycles that often involve as many lows as highs. But what we do know is that this is the type of experience that bonds people that bonds people authentically and builds alumni and in-country relationships that last a lifetime. When students come home they are often surprised by the resiliency of these new, yet profound, friendships. Some supporting research:  
  • “The interactions we have with other people affect the way we feel about life. Our close relationships keep us grounded and influence both happiness and the sense that we are part of a larger community. Interestingly, even our interactions with people we do not know that well give us a sense that we are part of that larger community. “ From, “Why Other People Are the Key to Our Happiness” - psychologytoday.com
[caption id="attachment_139947" align="alignnone" width="755"] Photo by Hannah Elbaum, Guatemala Program.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni: "The Ladakhi guides, the Buddhist monks and nuns, my language teacher, my host family​ --​ all these friendships opened my eyes to how diverse the world can be and how many lifestyles one might find to suit them." ​- ​Charlie Santos, India Semester “I was challenged. I became more confident. I became more inspired. We had incredible discussions. I learned about a new culture which in turn made me think critically about myself and my own life. I reevaluated my values and I think I am now a more loving, compassionate, understanding, curious, and inspired person.” - El Williams, South America Semester “My trip showed me a whole new way of life, of not complaining, but of acting, of researching, of making friends and forming communities.” - Maggie Needham, Guatemala Program  

#10: To try something new, daring, and challenging.

All happiness depends on courage and work.  ― Honoré de Balzac
Sometimes we just need to break out of our routines in order to find the space to try something new: be that sitting in meditation at a Buddhist retreat, hiking over an 18,000 foot pass in the Andes, listening to a guest speaker in Mandarin, learning to play a Djembe drum in Senegal, navigating the train station in New Delhi, or being taught how to spearfish by your host father on an island in Indonesia. It takes guts to leave everything you are familiar with at home in favor of the completely unknown. Just getting on the plane is worthy of recognition. But the opportunities that follow are countless in number and value. Some supporting research:
  • Research shows that students who take a Gap Year graduate with higher GPAs than their peers and are more satisfied with their careers. Clagett, 2011.    
[caption id="attachment_130916" align="alignnone" width="849"] Students hiking through rice paddies in Tona Toraja, Indonesia.[/caption] Words of Wisdom from our Student Alumni:

“I often catch myself thinking and speaking in Spanish, or wanting foods that I know don’t exist in American culture. My craving for Peru feels like a secret that I don’t have the authority to share. People ask if Peru changed me, I mostly just nod and smile, because sometimes talking about my experience feels like trying to explain color to the blind.” - Emma Bailey, Peru Program

“I have learned to let go of the things that scare me and jump directly into the things that I find most important. I have learned that it is vital to savor life and the world. This came from wandering around an unfathomably different country and embracing the wonderful feeling that comes from learning and understanding. Without my time with Dragons, I can truly say that I would go back to being the timid, sheltered girl that I was before embarking on this incredible adventure.”  - Halina Bennet, Nicaragua Program

"This will be the most profound experience of your life. It will be educational, exciting, beautiful, challenging, deep​,​ and raw. The hardest moments will teach you just as much as, if not more than, the magical ones." ​- ​Claire Lindsay, Africa Semester

Want to hear more stories directly from our students?  Dragons Yak Board is full of participant reflections. Here are some excerpts; Just follow the links to read the full essays...

[caption id="attachment_151654" align="alignright" width="300"] Dragons Yak Board[/caption]

“About 20 minutes before the top of the pass, Fabian stopped the ground and reached for a rock. He held it in his left hand and told us that this rock symbolizes the weight that each of us carries. I picked up my rock, a black heart shaped rock with white stripes, and thought about the weight that I carry. Is it the worry over registering for classes and rooming next semester? The distress of my friend group at school growing further apart? The uncertainty and sadness of my parents moving away from the community I grew up in? These thoughts and more moved up with me as I walked to the top of the pass. We circled up around a large rock pile on top of the pass and Fabian took off his hat and lifted his rock into the air. We all followed suit. Quecha words to thank the Pacha-Mama and Inti-Tayta (Mother and Father of the world) for all their gifts were repeated by us all. One by one we tossed the rocks onto the pile, Apu would now take these worries for us and give us strength to continue on.” – Emily Smith, South America Semester. Read the full student essay.

“That struggle, one with vague political origins, has morphed into an undeniably human one, one in which the good side is determined not by unspeakable acts of evil but by where on a moral Venn Diagram some far-off policy maker sits as he asks himself if ensuring the health of the Indonesian republic by keeping Sampela a permanent Bajau community regardless of the toll it places on nearby reefs and its human inhabitants is worthwhile. Should the strictly protected reefs of this island chain be enlarged, risking a war but preserving an ecosystem that was here long before there were people in it? Should the elite few who may make those decisions be more concerned with a fisherman and his kin going hungry or with the loss of life from the most diverse ecosystem on the planet or, on a larger scale, does the wellness of a nation of over two hundred and fifty million people or uncountable oceanic animals matter more than the wellness of thousands of laughing, crying, feeling humans?” – Owen Yager, Indonesia Semester. Read full essay.

“I know I have grown and changed in the past three months, and I’m proud of all that I have learned on this course. I have learned to lean in to uncomfortable situations and I have embraced a completely different way of life. I have learned so much about Nepali culture and as a result I have examined my own culture in a different light and really reflected on how I live my life. I have become so much more aware of my immense privilege and learned how I can better use what I have been given to create positive change. I have grown so much in my gratitude, especially for things I usually take for granted like clean air, a constant supply or filtered water, and a bathroom inside my house instead of across the street. I have seen and experienced so much in a short period of time and will forever be influenced by my time in Nepal.” - Austin Schmidt, Nepal Semester. Read Full Essay.

[post_title] => 10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year and Travel Abroad between High School and College [post_excerpt] => Trying to plan a gap year? Or get your parents on board with your gap year idea? Or need help understanding your gut instinct to take time off and travel? We’ve compiled reasons and rationale and stories from our gap year and student alumni. Read this essay addressing one of the most popular questions we hear from students and parents:  “WHY Gap?” as part of Dragons Travel Guide Series... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 10-reasons-take-gap-year-travel-abroad-high-school-college [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-18 11:16:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-18 17:16:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 21 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 34 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 9 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 9 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, For Parents ... )
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