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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The reality of providing the highest-quality and best-staffed cultural immersion experiences in the industry is that the associated costs are high. Although Dragons program tuitions are still competitive with the general market, we recognize that summer and gap year programming can feel out of the realm of financial possibility for some students. To make Dragons more accessible to students/families of all economic means, we offer need-based financial aid. In fact, more than 20% of the students on Dragons programs do so with the assistance of financial aid (Average aid packages generally cover between 20% and 80% of the cost of a program). If you feel certain that Dragons is right for you, then we encourage you, regardless of your financial considerations, to go through our aid application process. Don’t worry: It can seem intimidating at first, but if you have the passion and motivation, we’re here to answer your questions and help you through the process. If you need some extra encouragement, we’ve even included a few quotes of guidance from some of our past financial aid recipient students at the end of this post.

THE PROCESS FOR APPLYING FOR FINANCIAL AID

STEP 1: Fill out the standard online application. The $850 application fee is waived for students applying for financial aid.

STEP 2: Submit a cover letter and supplemental financial documents. Email them to [email protected]. Your cover letter should include:

  1. Your reasons for wanting to participate in a program, and why we should consider you for aid
  2. Why you think you would be a great Dragons student
  3. Your top THREE preferences for program/country/area.
  4. A summary of how much tuition you and your family can contribute toward a program and any other relevant information about your family’s finances you think we should know.
  5. Financial Documents: Please submit either a copy of your parent’s most recent tax returns OR a copy of your FAFSA.

STEP 3: As soon as we have all of the three pieces of your financial aid application (online application, cover letter, and financial documents), we will get in touch with you. You can expect to hear back from us within a couple weeks. If you are selected by the Financial Aid Committee to move onto the next steps of the application process, we will set up a phone interview.

STEP 4: You can also find this information on the Financial Aid Section of our website.

OUR ADVICE

  • APPLY EARLY: We accept students and award aid on a rolling basis. You can apply anytime, but the sooner you apply, the greater the chances funds still remain to be allocated.
  • PATIENCE: It can take time for the Financial Aid Committee to make a decision as the enrollment and fund allocation process involves many moving variables. Feel free to check in on the status of your application by getting directly in touch, but also be aware that the process might take some patience before a final decision is reached.
  • FLEXIBILITY: The more flexible you are in terms of the location and type of program you seek, the more likely we will be able to find a space for you. It’s for this reason we ask you to list your top three preferences for program/location. You can also be open to going on any program!
  • JUST APPLY! When in doubt, just apply! Some students don’t apply for financial aid because they assume they won’t qualify or be selected. But we encourage you to take the chance and time to apply, regardless of your personal questions and concerns. If you feel strongly that Dragons is right for you, we want to hear from you.
  • TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: As much as we would like, we cannot award aid to all students. We select students who are the best fit for our programs, students who will bring the most into a course and get the most out of it, and those who take the time and energy to demonstrate that in their application.

ADVICE FROM PAST FINANCIAL AID RECIPIENTS

There are a number of student alumni who are willing to be touch with prospective students considering applying for aid. If you would like to be connected with any of these past students, just let us know. They are great resources for navigating the application process as well as for tips on how to raise additional funds to cover the remaining costs associated with a program.

“I do not have a lot of money and had doubt if I would get any financial aid at all, but I took the time to tell Dragons about myself, my past experiences, and why I wanted this. I ended up being able to go the Thailand for a month for a tuition that was affordable. It was absolutely worth the 30-mins for the 30-days of incredible experience. Just take the time to apply.” THAILAND PROGRAM PARTICIPANT

“What really convinced me was talking with a Dragons Instructor and an alum student. Hearing their perspectives helped me realize that Dragons was the right program for me. I was nervous about the Financial Aid application, but Dragons was very helpful and supportive through the entire process. Being a scholarship/financial aid student was stressful because there was no specific location at first to dream incessantly about, until I was told. In the end, this allowed me to think critically about skills and experiences I wanted to gain as opposed to specific places I wanted to see.”  SENEGAL PROGRAM PARTICIPANT

"I was a little skeptical about applying because I didn't see how typing up a simple cover letter would help me get a scholarship. But Dragons keeps things simple, and authentic to merit, so there was no need to submit all those additional documents." - BOLIVIA PROGRAM PARTICIPANT

“I never thought studying abroad would be possible for me given my family’s financial situation. My mom immediately shot down the idea, but nevertheless I contacted Dragons asking about the financial aid process. They were incredibly helpful. With diligence and hard work, a few months later I got an email saying they would make it possible for me to study in Nepal for the summer. I cannot begin to express what a transformative experience it was for me. The financial help is out there if you have you have a true passion for travel and learning about the world around you!  NEPAL PROGRAM PARTICIPANT

“I had an idea to write up a brief letter about this trip opportunity and send it to local businesses or organizations and family asking for a donation in a specific amount or for a specific item in return for a presentation (or something less formal for family) on my experiences.” NORTH INDIA PROGRAM PARTICIPANT

"I never thought studying abroad would be possible for me given my family's financial situation. My mom immediately shot down the idea, but nevertheless I contacted Dragons asking about the financial aid process. They were incredibly helpful.  With diligence and hard work, a few months later I got an email saying they would make it possible for me to study in Nepal for the summer. I cannot begin to express what a transformative experience it was for me. The financial help is out there if you have you have a true passion for travel and learning about the world around you! Some tips: 1) Stay organized! Make a spreadsheet with all of the application details. This will help you stay on top of deadlines and give you the peace of mind of having it all in one place. 2) Buy used backpacks and hiking gear. Often, it was only used minimally and then never needed again. It is a great way to save money!" - NEPAL PROGRAM PARTICIPANT
 
"It is important to have adult support. Initially, I did not think I could do this. But I was encouraged to get a catalog and just look. The catalog is so beautiful- the photographs and descriptions are inspiring and I lived with it for awhile, imagining what I would do and where I could go if finances weren't limiting. So first piece of advice: Get the catalog and live with it! My mom encouraged me to just apply. It is an easy and fun application and they ask great questions. I would encourage anyone who has the traveller spirit to just try and see what happens. If you have a few adults on your side -- a parent, teacher, mentor -- they can assist you in helping to raise additional funds. Doing this program enabled me to see how I might be able to travel by myself as well - I am looking forward to my next adventure." - EAST HIMALAYAS PROGRAM PARTICIPANT
"If you're passionate enough about going, you WILL get there. Getting your parents on board can be tough. Mine were hesitant to let me travel thousands of miles for thousands of dollars, but get your parents to email people at Dragons, have them read past participants reflections, or even have them give the office a call. That definitely helped. My parents were a lot less nervous after talking with the people whose jobs are to keep me safe." - MADAGASCAR PROGRAM PARTICIPANT
"Dragons staff was so helpful in making the experience possible. Whenever my parents and I had questions about the application process, we would email them and they would get right back to us with a helpful answer." - GUATEMALA PROGRAM PARTICIPANT 
 
"When I was first looking at Dragons programs, I couldn’t imagine anything I would rather do, but it seemed impossible. I had absolutely no means to pay for such a program, and was intimidated about applying for a scholarship. I didn’t want to apply and get my hopes up just for them to be crushed if I were to be rejected in the application process. I almost gave up on applying entirely. But then, on the day of the deadline at the very last minute, I submitted my scholarship application - just in case. I was still so nervous and felt this weird guilt around having to apply for a scholarship, but I figured I had to at least try, and that is my advice to anyone interested in a Dragons program who needs financial assistance. It seemed like a miracle when I got an acceptance letter with a scholarship offer. And since that trip, my life has taken a completely different path. That first trip to China led me to another Dragons trip to China, which I was able to receive ANOTHER scholarship for, and that trip led me to my decision to major in Chinese in college. Dragons has influenced my life drastically in so many ways, and it was all because I took a chance on applying for a scholarship." - MULTIPLE  PROGRAM ALUMNI STUDENT

Here’s a PDF version of Dragons Financial Aid Process & Advice that’s printer-friendly if needed.
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    [post_content] => Oh! We love it when our past Gap Year students send us video footage from their year abroad!  Thank you Benjamin Swift (Dragons South America Semester, Fall 2016)

“Thanks to everyone who made the past year+ great! Here's to more adventures in 2018 (albeit a bit late) Scenes from my 2016-17 gap year in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador. Highlights included traveling with Where There Be Dragons, interning with ecologists in Quito, diving in the Galápagos Islands, and volunteering at the AmaZOOnico animal rescue center in the Ecuadorean Amazon.”



Gap Year Highlight Reel from Benjamin Swift on Vimeo.
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“Thanks to everyone who made the past year+ great! Here's to more adventures in 2018 (albeit a bit late) Scenes from my 2016-17 gap year in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador. Highlights included traveling with Where There Be Dragons, interning with ecologists in Quito, diving in the Galápagos Islands, and volunteering...
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    [post_content] => (The following is part of Dragons Travel Guide Series: Essays and Tips from our Community on Why and How to Travel)

The search for a perfect summer or semester program provider can be overwhelming. Every good project starts with great questions.

Here are some for you to consider or ask of different providers as you do your research...

  • How many years have you been running international programming for students?

  • What is the maximum number of students in each of your groups?

  • What is your ratio of instructors to students?

  • What are the typical professional qualifications of your staff?

  • Do your instructors speak the local language?

  • What tools do you use to facilitate reflection and dialogue on course?  

  • What’s the average age of your instructors?

  • How many of your staff return year after year?

  • How do your proactively manage risk on course?

  • How do you manage an emergency?​

  • What type of emergency response team is on-call at your offices?

  • Are itineraries fixed before the program?  Are they the same from season to season?

  • How do you foster a safe student dynamic?

  • How do you define ethical travel?

  • How do you approach the theme of “service” and manage the dangers of “voluntourism”?

  • How do you manage the sustainability of your programming on local communities?

  • How do you help students apply what they've learned abroad at home?

  • What does your financial aid program look like?

  • Can you put me in touch with an alumni student?  

 

Ps. And here are Dragons answers to these questions!

  • How many years have you been running international programming for students? Over 25-years. 
  • What is the maximum number of students in each of your groups? 12 students. 
  • What is your ratio of instructors to students? 1:4 or one instructor for every four students. 
  • What are the typical professional qualifications of your staff? Do your instructors speak the local language? They are experienced, career, professionals! Typically, when a Dragons instructor team heads into the field they collectively represent multiple languages, ten or more years of in-country experience, and years managing student groups abroad. 
  • What’s the average age of your instructors? 30+
  • How many of your staff return year after year? We have a large number of return and veteran staff, with an annual return staff rate that typically hovers between 60%-90%.
  • How do your proactively manage risk on course? See our Risk Management page.
  • How do you manage an emergency?​ See our FAQ page. 
  • What type of emergency response team is on-call at your offices? With Administrators based domestically and internationally, our support team—with acute attention to the safety and security of our participants—is on-call 24/7 while students are in the field.
  • Are itineraries fixed before the program?  Are they the same from season to season? Every program is custom-crafted and unique! Dragons itineraries are flexible to create space for unscripted, serendipitous, and candid moments of surprise and discovery. Learn more about what makes us different. 
  • What tools do you use to facilitate reflection and dialogue on course? How do you foster a safe student dynamic? This is a great question to ask of one of our traveling instructors. You can request a home presentation and meet one! 
  • How do you define ethical travel? See our About Dragons page. 
  • How do you approach the theme of “service” and manage the dangers of “voluntourism”? See our Position Paper on Service Learning
  • How do you manage the sustainability of your programming on local communities? See our Position Paper on Responsible Travel
  • How do you help students apply what they've learned abroad at home? See the Transference section of our Blog for examples!
  • What does your financial aid program look like? Here's all the details on our financial aid program.
  • Can you put me in touch with an alumni student? Absolutely! Just send us a note requesting references to past students!
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The aim is a cross-cultural, experiential education, Vanek said. That means no five-star hotels or fancy buses, but rather home stays with local families, volunteer work, trips on public buses and often, language immersion. The small-group trips "aren't touristic. They aim to broaden students' perspectives about the world and themselves through these really intimate experiences," she said.
You can read the full piece on the ChicagoTribune.com [post_title] => Dragons in the Chicago Tribune [post_excerpt] => We're excited to see our Admissions Director, Eva Vanek quoted in the Chicago Tribune... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-chicago-tribune [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-07 08:47:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-07 15:47:38 [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] => 48 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 48 [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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 53 [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] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 52 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 52 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => 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] => 60 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 60 [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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In the spirit of gratitude, we are sharing this photo from our Guatemala & Nicaragua semester of the student group at a Tzu'tujil ceremony at sunrise at San Juan La Laguna, Solola.

Thank you Ti'xar Bazar & Collectivo for sharing this photo and caption with us!

[caption id="attachment_152130" align="alignnone" width="1194"] Photo by @ti.xar, Guatemala and Nicaragua Semester.[/caption]

We give thanks to the sun and to the darkness. To the land, it's fruit, and the wind. From the heart of earth to the heart of sky, we connect with our ancestors for wisdom, power and spirit. We must plant trees because trees give us life - Without them there is no soil, no water, no food, no air, nor beauty. We give gratitude for what we have, because it's worth more than what we have not.

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    [post_content] => Loving this shot shared with us by Ellie Happel from the South America, Andes & Amazon Semester...

See more photos on Dragons Instagram feed. Updated weekly.
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    [category_links] => Mixed Media
)
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