aerial view of fourteen people hiking up a mountain
« Back to Blog

What Makes a Great Study Abroad Instructor?

Posted on



Nicole Adams

A great study abroad, gap year or summer program is one that provides students and travelers with a meaningful and immersive experience in a new culture while also potentially supporting their academic goals. Beyond the travel itinerary or course outline, it’s ultimately the instructors that are responsible for inspiring and guiding their students to make the most out of their experience. 

What to Look for in a Study Abroad Program 

An excellent study abroad program is designed to provide participants with a transformative experience that broadens their cultural awareness, expands their academic horizons, deepens their confidence and self-awareness, and prepares them for success in a globalized world. Cultural immersion is an important aspect, because it allows students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture, which include living with a host family, participating in cultural activities, and taking part in community service projects.

A top notch program will have pre-departure information and orientation, so students know what to pack, what to leave at home, and how to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for their upcoming adventure. It should balance engagement and solo time in an environment of safety and support. It should provide opportunities for students to connect with each other and be immersed in the community. It should also provide support and resources to help students navigate the challenges of studying abroad, and have protocols in place for emergency situations.

The knowledge and experience of program leaders is one of the most integral aspects to consider, as they are the link between students and the adventure that lies ahead. The program offers students an opportunity to live and study while immersed in communities throughout the world, but it’s the teachers and mentors that help students realize the educational benefits and opportunities for personal growth through hands-on experiences and carefully curated program components.

Experiential Education in Indonesia

Dragons instructor Stew Motta leading a discussion on complex and interconnected social issues. Indonesia Semester.

What Makes a Great Study Abroad Instructor? 

A great study abroad instructor is someone who is passionate about the journey, experienced and committed to helping their students make the most out of their time abroad. Here are some additional qualities that make for a great teacher.

  • Knowledgeable about the host country and culture: they should have a deep understanding and experience with the location of the program, and be able to provide students with insights and context to help them better appreciate and understand the local culture.
  • Culturally sensitive and respectful: they should be aware of cultural differences and be able to help students navigate these differences in a respectful and appropriate way.
  • Skilled at facilitating learning: the instructor should be able to facilitate learning in a way that’s engaging and meaningful, while creating a safe and supportive learning environment that encourages students to explore.
  • Approachable and supportive: studying abroad can be a challenging experience, the instructor should be approachable and supportive, and able to listen to their students’ concerns and offer guidance and support as needed.
  • Flexible and adaptable: study abroad programs can be unpredictable, and a great teacher is flexible, adaptable, able to handle unexpected situations and make adjustments to the program as needed.
  • Communicative: a teacher should be able to clearly convey important information and instructions to students and be available to answer questions and provide feedback.
  • Enthusiastic: an instructor should be eager to share their enthusiasm, and able to motivate and inspire students to get the most out of their experience.

Where There Be Dragons has a team of dedicated instructors who are highly educated and connected to the communities where our programs take place. Instructors help students learn how to minimize environmental and cultural impact by traveling responsibly and deepening their understanding of the area’s culture, ensuring students and educators are travelers, not tourists. Highly experienced and familiar with program components, our teachers understand the intention behind each experience and are well-versed in cultural nuances. 

Dragons has a high instructor retention rate, with 80% returning each year, and 60% contributing to three or more programs. Ongoing education is also a priority for our instructors to gain new skills and learn about issues from a global scale. Our educator programs contain integral skills for cross-cultural programs, including how to authentically engage with communities, build relationships, drive conversations about critical topics and issues, and consideration of global impact through education. 

Discover one of our educational programs located in communities throughout the world, including Taiwan, Nepal, British Columbia, Lake Superior, Senegal, and beyond. If you’d like to learn more, please give us a call at 800.982.9203 or contact us

No Comments Yet

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Comment

Fields marked with * are required