Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Posts Tagged:

Gap Year

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    [post_date] => 2020-02-27 16:41:26
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    [post_content] => Planning any kind of travel means asking yourself a laundry list of questions: Where should I go? What should I do? What do I pack? More recently, articles identifying air travel as a major emitter of greenhouse gasses have demanded climate-aware travelers ask themselves: How can I travel if I care about the Earth?

Experienced travelers at Dragons have wondered the same and are always looking for new ways to reduce our impact. We want to add to the conversation by sharing what we have learned from our years in the field. We also want to hear from you about the ways that you are choosing to be conscientious in your daily life!

For us, it all starts with taking stock of our environmental impact. Simply existing on planet Earth begets a carbon footprint. However, the decisions you make in your everyday life can help control how big or small that footprint is. Our advice? Start small. Break down your travel choices one-by-one and find simple, actionable, and measurable changes that can help reduce your footprint—especially while traveling. 

1. Reduce

Have you ever tried to keep track of how much waste you produce every day? Many products designed to be convenient are used once or twice and then sent straight to the landfill. Yet much of the time, it’s relatively easy to choose a less wasteful option. For example, you can:
  • Carry a reusable travel mug for your morning coffee 
  • Use a steel instead of plastic straw
  • Carry a packable reusable bag in your backpack or purse for all your shopping needs
Think twice when you toss your trash, when a barista offers you a plastic straw, or when you can choose to walk to your destination. Take a look at the products you use and ask yourself if there is a zero-waste or minimal-waste option. 

2. Buy Better

From the many apps available for buying used goods to brick and mortar second-hand shops, there are numerous ways to shop for used gear. Choosing a locally-oriented app or used store as opposed to websites like Amazon eliminates carbon emissions associated with shipping and transportation. Research reusable travel products and then look for a used version that is still in good condition.  Want to use top-quality gear but don’t need it to be new? Environmentally conscious companies like REI and Patagonia have designated used-gear sections. Want to go even further? Rent or borrow from a friend or family member! Host a gear swap and encourage your community to dig out their unused gear to help support your mission.  Gear You Find Used/Borrowed: 
  • Backpack
  • Down Jacket
  • Warm Layers
  • Camping Stove
  • Sleeping Bag 
  • Camping Gear
Eco-Friendly Travel Items: 
  • Refillable Water Bottle 
  • Steel Straw 
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
  • Bamboo Toothbrush
  • Reusable Shampoo and Conditioner Containers 
  • Toothpaste Tablets 
  • Reusable to-go container 
  • Reusable Spork/Utensils 
  • Handkerchief 
  • Rechargeable/solar batteries
  • Reusable silicone bags instead of zip locks
Other green alternatives:
  • Opt for bulk or homemade snacks to avoid excess packaging
  • Opt for digital copies of documents whenever possible
  • Politely say no to unnecessary promotional items and explain why (organizations will stop sending them if they hear the message from their clients!)
  • If ordering any food “to go,” try offering to bring your own reusable containers for food transport. 
  • Kindly decline single-use plastics on airplanes by asking for the drink in a can with no cup, or using your own coffee/tea mug. 
  • Remember, every time you politely decline single-use plastics (bags, straws, cups, etc.) you send a gentle message to the establishment about how they can make their clients happier.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen in oceans. 
  • Don't purchase souvenirs that steal from nature (shells, ivory, etc.). 
  • Be mindful of your environment if you choose to use chemical bug repellants.
  • Vote with your dollar
  • Do research on the companies that you choose to support; from the products you use to the places you shop or the airline you fly. 
  • Choose to buy from companies whose values align with the environment and social justice.
  • Support B Corp certified businesses and join the global movement of people using business as a force for good.
  • If air travel is your only option for travel to your destination, choose an airline that already offsets their emissions. Fly economy so that more seats are taken up on your flight. Fly direct whenever possible to eliminate unnecessary emissions. 
 

3. Go Slow

Join the slow travel movement.  
  • On your way: Use public transportation. Travel by boat, bike, bus, train, rather than airplane.
  • When you get there: Stay for longer, shop local, sit down to eat instead of taking food to-go, stay in locally owned accommodation
  • When you get home: Apply the minimal-waste mindset to your daily life. Inspire your community to do the same. Share your reflections and decisions with others. 
By choosing to support local and reduce emissions, you are directly empowering the local economy and reducing your cultural and ecological footprint. Dragons 2-9 Week programs are designed with Slow Travel in mind. By traveling via public transportation and living as locals through homestays to supporting locally-owned businesses and educating ourselves on local initiatives, we are doing our best to understand reduce our cultural and environmental footprint when we travel.  Offset what you can’t reduce.  Calculate your CO2 emissions: use this calculator to measure the number of emissions per mile flown. 
  • Offset your carbon footprint:  Carbon offsetting is the act of reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for emissions that were produced elsewhere. For example, you can offset your flights by donating to an environmental project
  • See what Dragons is doing to offset our emissions.
 
On my Dragons program, we talked a lot about using our money thoughtfully and buying products that we knew were being produced in fair conditions where the people who were involved in making them directly benefited from the sale of their work. Now that I am at home, I think about where my clothing was made, and whether the people involved in making it were treated and paid fairly. I think about where my food comes from, and whether it makes sense environmentally to buy produce grown in another country —Lindsay Eiseman, Student.
 

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[post_title] => Three Ways to Make Your Travels More Sustainable [post_excerpt] => How can I travel if I care about the Earth? Experienced travelers at Dragons have wondered the same and are always looking for new ways to reduce our impact. We want to add to the conversation by sharing what we have learned from our years in the field. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => three-ways-to-make-your-gap-year-more-sustainable [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-11 10:07:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-11 16:07:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 24 [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] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/recommended/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Recommended )
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    [post_date] => 2020-02-17 11:56:56
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    [post_content] => Duke Gap Year Program

Dragons is excited to partner with the Duke Gap Year Program (DGYP) in the shared mission of increasing access to Dragons Gap Semesters for Duke  students.

Dragons and DGYP have a strong alignment in mission and values and we look forward to making our programs available to a greater number of DGYP students each year, especially those with financial need.

The Duke and Dragons partnership will increase access to highly impactful and intentional Gap Year experiences for Duke students.

Head over to the Duke Gap Year Program website to learn more!

[post_title] => Dragons Partnership with the Duke Gap Year Program (DGYP) [post_excerpt] => Dragons is excited to partner with the Duke Gap Year Program (DGYP) in the shared mission of increasing access to Dragons Gap Semesters for Duke  students... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-partnership-with-the-duke-gap-year-program-dgyp [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-02-17 11:56:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-02-17 18:56:56 [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] => 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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 42 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 651 [name] => Announcements [slug] => announcements [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 651 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [parent] => 0 [count] => 56 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 56 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => For Parents, About Dragons ... )
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    [post_content] => 

We LOVE seeing our alumni featured in the press, and this piece spotlighting Blake Myers (Dragons Nepal Semester) is so fresh and thorough.

We've included a few of our favorite excerpts below. Head over to Buzz Magazines to read the full feature!

"Blake graduated from the Emery/Weiner School and was accepted to colleges, including Boston University, but he decided to put his formal education on hold. “I didn’t feel ready to go back to school again,” he said. Blake’s mom, Lisa, suggested looking into a gap year. She says Blake is an extremely good student and hard worker, but he was worn out and tired of school by the time he graduated. “We would rather buy a year of growing-up time so he can be excited about college than him going and maybe not having a great year,” she said." 

Alumni Magazine Feature

"Lisa says she is not surprised at all that her son chose such an unusual adventure. “We travel a lot as a family, and Blake always loved it more than the other kids,” she said. Blake spent his junior-year summer in Guatemala, where he became fluent in Spanish, and the experience reinforced his interest in learning about other cultures. “The change in him has been huge. He’s more mature with a broader view and appreciation of things,” Lisa said. “Travel has given him a whole different perspective. Living in Nepal piqued his curiosity to learn more about different Eastern religions, and he’s much more interesting and worldly.”

Read the full article, Bridging the Gap, online at Buzz Magazines.

 

Also, if you are alumni and were featured in any press after your Dragons program, please let us know!

 
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. ❤️
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    [post_content] => In addition to taking on everything from chaos theory to Rosa Parks, trusty and entertaining hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have addressed ALL the questions associated with Gap Years in a recent episode of the Stuff You Should Know Podcast.

In 55 minutes they banter with hard research and humor on subjects including:
  • The history & evolution of the Gap Year
  • The risks of schooling burn out
  • Stats that will soothe parent concerns regarding a child's wish to do a Gap Year
  • Different ways to approach planning & doing a Gap Year
  • How colleges are responding to incoming students who want to do a Gap Year (#positively!)
  • How to offset the costs of a Gap Year
  • and lots more.
Bonus?! Chuck & Josh giggling over the name, "Where There Be Dragons" at the 13-minute mark! :) Head over to the podcast to listen to the full (and fun) episode. You can also check out the show notes in this article in which the author, Clint Pumphrey, comments:

"I've always thought asking 18-year-olds to pick a college major is a recipe for disaster. How can we expect anyone with such little life experience to know what they want to do for the next 40 years? After writing this article, though, I can definitely see how a well-planned gap year might just help some people make better decisions about their future. I think it's great to take a year after high school to learn more about yourself and your interests, and even have a little fun in the process. It certainly beats switching gears when you're a few years into college, or worse, saddled with the responsibility of a family, career and mortgage!"

If you have more questions after listening to the episode, feel free to post them in the comments and we'll answer them.  
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. ❤️
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_155381" align="alignnone" width="4512"] PHOTO: Fernanda and her homestay mom, Ouleye; dad, Ibou; and brothers, Sidikh, Rassoul, and baby Mame Cheikh.[/caption]

WORDS by FERNANDA ROMO

SENEGAL PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR PROGRAM ALUMNI

Mungi dox literally translates to, “it walks.” In conversation, however, one might use it to mean “it’s going,” “it’s fine,” or “it works.” When I set out to write this piece, with the prompt of mungi dox in mind, I immediately thought about my family. After all, I’m living in a homestay with a total of nineteen people (I think), including three married couples and twelve kids of various ages. This is naturally bound to be a bit chaotic and might seem like a headache for people more habituated to smaller “nuclear family” living arrangements. For this reason, writing about how my household functions, how everyone pitches in, and how living in these big families actually works was sure to be a crowd pleaser. Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes?
“Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it.”
Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it. Mainly, because I can’t. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that the chances of me being able to provide a fair analysis of this family’s dynamics are about as high as those of snowfall in Dakar. The mere idea of scrutinizing the way these people behave within their family, just to arrive to the conclusion that it surprisingly “works,” feels foolish at best and condescending at worst. However, my impending erroneousness is not the only thing holding me back from writing about the people in Senegal who are so dear to me. For a long time I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why I felt a tinge of discomfort every time I thought about turning the people I consider family into the subjects of my writing, especially when said writing is directed to Western audiences. I remember once, I considered blogging about Mame Maty, my instructor Babacar’s 10-year-old daughter, who I love like crazy and who is definitely one of the people closest to my heart here. I ended up deciding against it, because something about it wasn’t sitting right with me. And even though I didn’t entirely understand why, one thought kept popping up in my mind: she’s my friend. That’s also what I feel today when trying to make myself produce some insightful conclusions or lessons gathered from analyzing my homestay family. I don’t want to “report back” on what Senegalese families are like, both because it’s not possible to do so accurately, and because these people are, first of all, my family. Not subjects of study, not sources of all-encompassing revelations, but people who treat me like a daughter, a sister, a friend. And just as I wouldn’t write up a couple pages about my best friend back in Mexico and send it to an audience of people who she will never meet and who will form their entire perception of who she is based on my words, I don’t particularly feel inclined to do that here. And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, I think the main reason why the Bridge Year Program works, and is so incredibly meaningful, is because of relationships. The moments when I have felt that my time here has the greatest value have all been centered around having strong bonds, familiarity, and overall friendship with people. It’s really beautiful to think about how my Senegalese family and I genuinely care about each other, and how our lives have been enriched as a result. So I guess if you asked me, “Does it work to put a random toubab1 in the middle of a household in Dakar, Senegal, and have her be a part of this family for a few months?” I’d say yeah, mungi dox.

FERNANDA ROMO left her home in Mexico in 2017 to travel to Senegal for nine months as part of Dragons Princeton Bridge Year Program. She is currently a student at Princeton University, where she spends her days looking at pictures of her time in Dakar at 3am, facetiming her five dogs, and going on rants about the fake Mexican food in the dining halls.

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. ❤️
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    [post_content] => Maybe you’ve done a group travel program with Dragons or another organization. Maybe you’re feeling ready for a more independent experience abroad...

But here’s what you’re wondering:

  • How can I avoid the backpacker tourist traps?
  • How do I get an authentic learning service experience that avoids the pitfalls of the “voluntourism” industry? 
  • How do I build authentic connections with individuals when I don’t know anyone? 
  • How do I find a homestay family that’s been vetted and recommended? 
  • How do I avoid feeling like I’ve been “placed” without in-country mentorship and guidance?
  • Who do I call on for support when I have questions or if something goes wrong? 
It can be hard to know where to even start. We’ve heard from many past Dragons students that the travels they pursued on their own after a group program left them feeling lost, unsupported, or even conflicted about the ethics and efficacy of their presence and projects.  So we’ve launched the Dragons Independent Spring Experience (ISE).  Here’s what our ISE Programs offer:
  1. Meaningful cross-cultural engagement outside the structure of a group semester, but still with the support of Dragons local (in-country) resources and mentorship. 
  2. A co-created, personalized, and self-directed gap year or study abroad experience.
  3. Direct Support from Dragons international network of trained in-country staff and vetted resources. 
  4. Access to Dragons Administrative Team & our decades of expertise in managing international risk and emergency response.
 

MORE DETAILS: What does an ISE program consist of?

ISE programs are offered in places where Dragons has long-established and active community networks. We are currently offering ISE options in:
  • Guatemala
  • Bolivia
  • China
  • Senegal
  • Nepal
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
Each program site is staffed by a Dragons On-Site Coordinator: a veteran Dragons instructor with expertise in the country and extensive experience working with Dragons Gap Year students and to our standards of excellence. The On-Site Coordinator has weekly face-to-face meetings with each student, conducts a multi-day orientation focused on safety, cultural norms, and strategies for engagement, and acts as a cultural facilitator and mentor throughout. ISE programs have a strong emphasis on cultural and language immersion and in-depth exploration of critical issues. Participants are placed with a trusted homestay family for the duration of the program, receive intensive language instruction (as desired), and are paired with local mentors for an Independent Study Project (ISP). In addition, participants have 24/7 access to our in-country and international emergency response resources. ISE programs have two start dates (January 15 and February 12) with a 6-week minimum length and the option for weekly extensions (up until May 1st). ISE programs were created specifically for those who have previously completed a group travel program (international or domestic), of one month or longer, with any provider.

Dragons Independent Spring Experience Program

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

   
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