A Dragons student looks out over a field of ancient pagodas at Bagan

Southeast Asia Semester

Spirituality & Resilience

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

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Duration
80 Days
Description

Volunteer at a Buddhist monastic school, meet with international development experts, explore issues of migration and human rights, and immerse yourself in meditation practices. Upcoming semesters and COVID-19.

Spring Dates

Mar 8 - May 26, 2021


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2020


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

14 Weeks

Fall Begins In

11 Weeks

Land Cost

$13,910


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,210

Kalaw

Yangon

BANGKOK

CHIANG MAI

bagan

Program Overview

HOME TO OVER 153 ETHNIC MINORITY GROUPS, THE THAI-MYANMAR BORDER IS A MELTING POT OF SPIRITUAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY


The post-WWII decolonization of Southeast Asia led to new land borders. Overnight, entire communities along the Thai-Burma border found themselves divided by an invisible line that dictated movement. But despite the physical boundaries, their spiritual beliefs remained strong and unchanged.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Take part in a multi-day meditation retreat in a Theravada Buddhist monastery in northern Thailand practicing techniques such as such as anna panna (breathing), metta (loving kindness) and Vipassana (insight) meditation.
  • Stay in traditional ethnic Karen bamboo stilted houses and learn about grassroots cultural preservation efforts from respected village elders.
  • Meet with NGO representatives working on human trafficking and migrant…

The post-WWII decolonization of Southeast Asia led to new land borders. Overnight, entire communities along the Thai-Burma border found themselves divided by an invisible line that dictated movement. But despite the physical boundaries, their spiritual beliefs remained strong and unchanged.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Take part in a multi-day meditation retreat in a Theravada Buddhist monastery in northern Thailand practicing techniques such as such as anna panna (breathing), metta (loving kindness) and Vipassana (insight) meditation.
  • Stay in traditional ethnic Karen bamboo stilted houses and learn about grassroots cultural preservation efforts from respected village elders.
  • Meet with NGO representatives working on human trafficking and migrant worker rights.
  • Participate in an ethical learning service project that fosters real cultural exchange between Burmese school students and Dragons students.

Students on this semester program explore themes related to human migration, spiritual resilience, and cultural preservation. Starting in Bangkok, we board a train to Sukhothai, Thailand’s first capital and begin lessons in introductory Thai, Theravada Buddhism, and the ethnic, historical, and political landscape of Myanmar and Thailand.

Traveling further north to Chiang Mai we meet with local NGOs and activists working on human rights, and sit with monks and laypeople to unpack the complexities of traditional Buddhist life. The next few weeks are spent meeting and living with several ethnic Karen and Dara’Ang minority tribes who face hardships relating to land ownership, access to healthcare, and discrimination in schools. We take part in unique Buddhist and Animist ceremonies and discuss the importance of spirituality as a form of resilience. At the end of our first month we enter a multi-day meditation retreat to sharpen our mindfulness practice.

Crossing the border into Myanmar, we spend two weeks living in a rural monastic school alongside local students. Here, daily meditation as well as classes co-facilitated by Dragons instructors, local school teachers, monks, and students, foster meaningful exchange. After a rural homestay, we travel to Yangon to see the country through the eyes of entrepreneurs and young activists who aim to redefine the way the world views Myanmar. Concluding in Bangkok, we get a glimpse of the megacity from the perspective of migrant workers living thousands of kilometers from home.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

Learn and practice meditation daily, building core competencies in several techniques leading up to a formal 3+ day Buddhist meditation retreat with the potential for a longer (10 day) retreat at the end of the program. Witness unique Animist beliefs and practices when living with ethnic groups.

5/5
Development Studies

Comprehensive examination of international development issues, complexities of globalization, effects of modernization on traditional livelihoods, minority status and cultural preservation, and creative grassroots solutions to global problems.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Community-based development, social justice, conservation, and human rights.

2/5
Homestay

Stay with several ethnic groups in rural areas in northwest Thailand and central Myanmar who have been hosting Dragons students for many years.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Interviews and research on a myriad of topics in rural and urban areas, especially during homestay and temple-stays.

2/5
Language Study

Basic Thai and Burmese language classes with instructors and and language immersion opportunities throughout the course, especially in homestay.

4/5
Learning Service

Approximately 20 hours of service credit earned through a combination of education (monastic school), rural development, and environmental awareness/conservation activities and curriculum. Learning service activities may include: building adobe houses, harvesting bamboo and other seasonal crops, participating in language exchange and assisting tree planting projects.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Buses, trains, bicycles, tri-shaws, tuk-tuks, minivans, trucks, and boats. Expect older vehicles on pothole roads, wooden benches on daylong trains in Myanmar and higher quality roads and vehicles in Thailand.

2/5
Trekking

Easy to moderate grade hikes including 3-4 day village to village treks in northwest Thailand and western Myanmar (weather depending). Day hikes in mountainous jungle and forest areas and floodplain lowlands through rice paddy fields explore sacred sites, waterfalls and hot springs.