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Dragons programs help students build an in-depth understanding of place while uncovering a more profound sense of self. By carefully screening students, selecting only the most qualified and experienced instructors, and keeping our groups small, we maintain a level of intimacy and instruction that is unsurpassed in the industry. We also carefully construct each program from the ground up. We do not sub-contract programs to in-country operators, and we do not run pre-packaged programs that can be run in multiple sessions. Every Dragons program is a unique learning adventure that is carefully stewarded by a dedicated administrative team, and takes maximum advantage of the unique character of the group and place, as well as the strengths of the instructional team.
Every day is designed to strike a balance between structured programming and un-orchestrated opportunities for cultural engagement. On a typical day during home-stays, students may gather at the central Program House for language study or a guest speaker and then fan out into the local community to join a learning service project. A typical travel day may find students in a train car or a local bus, traveling until they reach a family-owned guesthouse. On trek, students can expect to wake up early, hike through the morning light and settle in for family-style meals each night. Please contact Dragons Program Directors for more information about a specific course itinerary.
Every Dragons course consists of nine program components. We use these fundamental building blocks to ensure that every course hits the mark: delivering a comprehensive, well-mentored learning experience for every student. Consult a specific Program description or the Program Component Comparison chart to read more about the program components emphasized on a particular course. As you learn more, you’ll notice that some courses are ranked ‘five star’ trekking courses; others may be ranked ‘five star’ language study programs. Dragons Admissions Team is here to support you as you go through the program-matching process; please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d love to help you out.
Dragons Instructors join our community from all walks of life. While our courses explore the great diversity of human life in the field, our instructor community reflects such diversity in leadership and experience.
When we hire new staff, we look for individuals with an enduring commitment to Dragons four pillars: placing student safety, program quality, community sustainability, and economy at the center of every Dragons course. Ninety percent of our new hires are referred to Dragons Staffing Director by past instructors: this internal vetting process helps us connect with educators who are already familiar with Dragons work.
On average, Dragons Instructors have 4+ years of in-country experience and a high level of cultural and linguistic fluency. Years of in-country experience allow our instructors to manage responsive course itineraries and draw on personal contacts and community connections during the course design process.
More than anything, instructors understand that a Dragons course is a student-centered experience. They are dedicated to building strong connections with each student and driven by the idea of mentorship. They are invested in delivering a safe, educational experience. They value reciprocal relationships with our host communities and work hard to sustain open and enduring connections with our partners in the field.
Our Admissions Team works with each applicant to determine whether or not the student is right for Dragons and whether or not a student has chosen the best Dragons program to support his or her needs. Students are also assessed for risk issues, and for their readiness to accept the challenges and limitations of a Dragons program. In some cases, Dragons might not be a good fit for a student, in which case we will advise a student to consider another program or reapply at a later date.
Dragons runs programs that are appropriate for students 15-22 years of age. Broadly speaking, our summer abroad programs are designed for students 15-18, although older students are generally welcomed on a few of our more challenging and theme-focused programs. Dragons semester abroad programs are designed for either gap year or college-aged students (depending on the program). Our preferred age demographics have been carefully considered over the years, and they’re largely based upon the emotional and physical challenges that accompany the adventure into a program area, not to mention the challenges that accompany each program’s core components. Occasionally, Dragons does make exceptions to our rule, especially considering the frequency with which we come across amazingly mature, flexible and open-minded applicants. This is a conversation that will need to occur with our administrative staff, and especially with our Admissions Director, who most clearly understands the character of each individual student group.
Dragons has five Red Rules that we ask all students to abide by for the duration of the course.
Our Red Rules are:
No sexual intimacy or inappropriate exclusive relationships
No new tattoos or piercings, or engagement with any activity that could bring a student into contact with things that may poison his/her blood
No use of forbidden modes of transportation, such as motorcycles
No harm to self or others
Failure to comply with any of the above rules could result in dismissal from the program.
We work with exceptional emergency response services and evacuation providers, and we have carefully researched in-country medical facilities. Our instructors go into the field with comprehensive emergency management tools. When and if a student becomes ill, we respond effectively and immediately, working with our medical adviser to ensure appropriate medical care, and liaising with our evacuation company if it is determined that a higher level of care is necessary. Regarding any emergency issue, we are committed to immediate and transparent communication with parents.
In addition to regular reports that we get from the US, Canadian and British Departments of State, we liaise with consular offices in the countries to which we travel. Primarily we rely on our own in-country contacts: the people with whom we set up our program elements, the current instructors with whom we work, and the 400+ past instructors who now work in foreign governments, for the UN, as university professors, and as NGO managers and foreign consultants. By virtue of the fact that we work with small groups and that we staff our programs with professionals who bring considerable in-country knowledge, we maintain extraordinary mobility and dynamism. We can easily change course at a moment’s notice, and we always maintain back-up plans and secondary itinerary options.
Gender issues are first discussed in a mandatory safety briefing, within the first few hours of a course’s start. They are re-addressed continually during the course, and particularly prior to home-stays. We tailor workshops, checklists, and in-country assessments to ensure proper training among staff and proper attention to female safety throughout the length of the course.
Dragons has been running courses exclusively in the developing world since 1993. With the experience of more than 200,000 participant-days in the field, we’ve had to deal with cases of appendicitis, dog bites, gastro-intestinal problems, and broken bones. In each instance, we’ve managed the issue with an uncompromising commitment to provide the absolute best care available, evacuating to another country when necessary. The biggest advantage of working with small groups and mature instructors is that we can easily respond to changes in students’ health. We’ve developed both solid strategies for preemptively dealing with medical issues, and tightly conceived and rehearsed strategies for managing emergencies should they occur. We are concerned with keeping students’ stomachs healthy; we are concerned with transportation safety; we are concerned with female safety issues; we are concerned with political safety; and we are concerned with students’ emotional safety. Through careful assessments of course areas, careful planning, careful staffing, careful student assessment, careful course preparation and training, and careful student briefing, we minimize the potential for risk issues to occur. Dragons has an exceptional safety record, and we will be very candid with participants about potential risk issues and the history of our responses to in-field health and safety issues.
Once a student has submitted the deposit, the student has twenty-one days for which a portion of the deposit is refundable ($650), however after twenty-one days, the entire deposit becomes non-refundable. Accepted students are not eligible for a refund of deposit. The remainder of tuition is due 80 days prior to departure, and is non-refundable after that date. Students and families who are concerned about a students’ ability to join the program are advised to purchase trip cancellation insurance.
Students’ tuitions are distributed to realize maximum in-country learning and to ensure maximum participant safety. Tuitions cover curriculum development, staffing and staff-training, instructor expenses, in-country expenses, back-end administrative support, risk management and emergency response. On average, summer and semester tuitions are distributed as follows: 35% goes to instructor expenses; 25% for in-country food, lodging and transportation; 25% for US-based administrative support; 5 % for instructor training and pre-course work; 5% for equipment, pre-course materials, and post-course follow up; 3% for site management, scouting and program development; 1% misc., and 1% for in-country charitable giving.
Dragons offers need-based financial aid to many students each year. Over the years we have done our best to increase our ability to offer aid and make our programs available to any student who is appropriate, regardless of tuition costs. For more information, please visit our Financial Aid Page. For scholarship specific questions, please write to the Dragons office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also outside sources for scholarships and aid; most commonly for undergraduate students. Please note that most college scholarships are only applicable if you are participating in the program as for-credit student. Some example external scholarships to explore include:
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
- Boren Awards for International Study
- The Fund for Education Abroad
- STA Travel Scholarships
- Freeman Awards for Study in Asia
- Go Overseas
- Generation Study Abroad Excellence and Travel Awards
- HI USA Explore the World Travel Scholarships
- Rotary International
In addition, you can use the following scholarship search engines to search for additional scholarship opportunities: StudyAbroad.com, IIE’s Study Abroad Funding Directory, InternationalSchoalrships.com, Abroad101.com, and CollegeNET.
All instructor teams carry cell phones and, when cell phones have limited use on a program, Dragons provides a satellite phone. Dragons maintains an on-call risk management team whenever courses are in the field, and instructors have 24-hour access to Dragons emergency response resources. Family members will be able to reach a Dragons administrator seven days a week, through a dedicated office line. Individual participant cell or satellite phones are discouraged, and parents sending along personal phones are asked to respect our phone policy – in which instructors carry the student’s phone and make it available on request.
There is a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio on every Dragons course. On occasion, we shoot for an even more impressive ratio, enrolling 10 students to travel with an instructor team of 3. Learning alongside a small group is critical to the Dragons experience, and working within a team of co-instructors is integral to running a safe, intimate and educational program. Dragons attracts near equal numbers of male and female students, and always strives for an equal gender ratio when supported by a balanced applicant pool.
There is seldom a lifestyle that we cannot work with, and all of our courses have been designed to accommodate people of varying backgrounds with varying needs, including diet. Please contact us to discuss your lifestyle need or any health history that you may have so that we can determine if a particular Dragons program is right for you.
Most Dragons participants are U.S. high school and college students, from across the country and from private and public schools alike. With the shrinking of the global community, we are also proud to attract an increasing number of international students, including students from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.
Please do! For a full list of past participants, please contact the Dragons office: email@example.com. Close to 100% of all Dragons participants volunteer to serve as references following their program, and many continue to stay involved with Dragons by serving as mentors for in-coming students, offering pre-trip assistance to students and parents once a participant has enrolled.
High School Summer or Gap Semester Program: Dragons operates with a rolling admissions process. While there are no specific deadlines, there is limited space! We recommend submitting your application as early as possible, as each program has space for a maximum of 10 to 12 students. In general, application deadlines for all programs are determined according to the time needed for a student to prepare for a course (i.e. obtain appropriate country visa, inoculations, etc). Interested students may apply online. Dragons cannot reserve space for a student on any program roster until we have received the completed application form, in conjunction with a deposit of $850 payable by credit card or check.
College Study Abroad Program: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with the following final application deadlines: Spring terms: October 15 & Fall terms: May 15. As with our other programs, there are limited space on our college programs so we recommend you apply early. The application process involves an online application, a transcript, a form from you Study Abroad advisor, and a recommendation from a professor.
For more information, visit our “How to Enroll” page.
Dragons never runs a cookie-cutter program. Each experience is organic and new, with administrative members, instructor teams, and students working together to craft a unique focus and direction for the program. Most importantly, a flexible itinerary can effectively respond to specific concerns as they pertain to political realities, group health, and other unforeseen circumstances. By not being locked-in to a particular schedule, our groups are able to respond to the shifting on-the-ground situations in the places we host programs. In addition, this dynamism allows our groups to move at their own pace to react to personal and group interests, and to take advantage of the learning opportunities that accompany the unexpected.
Yes, depending on the type of program you enroll in. Dragons offers two kinds of programs on which students can earn college-level credit: Dragons College Study Abroad Programs (all) and select Gap Semester programs (Nepal, South America, China, and India). On Gap Semester programs students can take up to 2 courses for-credit. On College Study Abroad Programs, students can take 3-4 courses for-credit. Each course is worth 4 semester credits and costs $1,200 in addition to other program fees. Transcripts for all programs are provided by Dragons School of Record: Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Please reference the program pages for more information on academics (see links below).
College Study Abroad Programs:
- Study Abroad China: Mountains, Deserts & Megacities
- Study Abroad India: Mosaic of Culture & Contrasts
- Study Abroad Nepal: Passages and Peaks of the Himalaya
- Study Abroad South America: The Spirit of the Andes
Gap Year Semester Programs:
Student participating on select Gap Semester programs (Nepal, South America, China, and India) may choose to take courses for-credit. Two college-level courses are available for credit (Language Study and Independent Study Project) and students may choose to take 0-2 (zero to two) courses for-credit while participating on the Gap Semester program. Students who choose to take 1 (one) or more courses for-credit will receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record after successful completion of the program.
Our for-credit courses are not for everyone participating on a Gap Semester program. Some students come on our Gap Semester programs to get away from traditional learning for a while, and do not want the additional structure. Others may have trouble following through on tasks and are not as self-motivated in their learning. For these students, we would encourage you to not take courses for credit. Our for-credit courses are most fitting for students that have already demonstrated an ability to study independently and are academically curious about their place of travel.
Please reach out to Dragons Administration with additional questions regarding taking courses for-credit on the Gap Semester programs.
Academic curricula for each for-credit college level course offered on select Dragons programs is developed in partnership with Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Naropa University serves as Dragons School of Record and for-credit students on College Study Abroad programs receive a transcript from Naropa University at the end of the term. In addition, students who choose to take courses for-credit on Dragons Gap Year Semester programs will also receive a transcript from Naropa University documenting courses and final grades. Naropa University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a Buddhist-inspired liberal arts university that offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Based on an educational philosophy called contemplative education, students are challenged to know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others, all the while delving rigorously into academic materials. Each Dragons study abroad course is vetted through the standard Naropa University approval process, including the Curriculum Committee. For more information about the courses, see the Academics section on each program page.
Meet with your home institution’s study abroad or academic advisor to understand your school’s process for transferring credit. College and universities have varying processes and policies related to transferring credit from study abroad programs. Prior to your meeting, we recommend you review the Academics section on each program page of the website in order to be able to share this information with your advisor.
All College Study Abroad students take 12-16 credits. Once you have been accepted into the program, you will register for your specific courses with Dragons. After successful completion of the program, grades will be submitted to Dragons School of Record: Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Students can then request an official transcript (for $5) from www.studentclearinghouse.org.
If you would like to use federal financial aid for your College Study Abroad program, you should contact your home institution’s federal financial aid office and complete your FAFSA form for the appropriate academic year. Your home institution’s financial aid office will tell you if your federal, state, and/or institutional aid package is transferable to a Dragons program. If your home institution requires a contractual or consortium agreement with Dragons, please contact Dragons about applicable deadlines.
A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. Some families are interested in using funds from a 529 plan to pay for Dragons programming. Because the requirements vary from plan-to-plan and from state-to-state, families should reach out directly to their 529 plan administrator to understand if those funds can be used to pay for a Dragons’ program. In general, we have found that it may be only possible to put funds towards for-credit courses (offered on select programs) and require that students be enrolled in an institution of higher education. Again, because each agency has different requirements/processes, families should contact their plan administrator directly.
Our for-credit college courses, offered on a limited number of Gap Year semester programs, are an extension of our Core Curriculum and 9 Program Components. The majority of the work required of for-credit Gap Year semester students will also be required of non-credit students. For example, all students will study language, participate in an Independent Study Project, and learn about the themes of the Regional Seminar. However, for-credit students will be held to a higher level of academic rigor, have additional readings and other assignments. and also be assessed on comprehensive final projects for each for-credit course. Sometimes this can seem like quite a bit of additional work for a student on a gap year semester program and this will likely pull students away from other course and group activities at various times. For exact hours of each for-credit course, please see the academics link for that respective semester.
As with Dragons programs in general, the courses offered on our College Study Abroad programs are dynamic. During extended homestays you can expect regular language classes, several formal lectures or workshops per week for the Regional Seminar, and ample time to work on an Independent Study Project. Additionally, students spend several hours a day engaging with readings to help understand the context of the region and conducting their own research and writing. While trekking, or in travel-intensive periods of the program, the workload will become more self-directed and dynamic, including journal assignments, readings, and research.
College Study Abroad student can take 12-16 credits during the semester abroad. The total program cost varies based on the number of credits students choose to enroll in during the term. Each four-credit course incurs a cost of $1,200. For students taking 12 credits (3 courses) the additional tuition cost is $3,600. For students taking 16 credits (4 courses) the additional tuition cost is $4,800. These costs are in addition to the “Land Cost” listed on each program page.
This additional tuition costs largely covers the administrative processing tasks and back-end overhead of running for-credit courses. In addition, this tuition covers all literary resources and in-country lecturers and other resources. The Regional Seminar and Contemplative Intercultural Development and Leadership courses each have a course reader that will guide your experience. The Language and Independent Study Project also have a variety of resources in country.
For College Study Abroad Programs: Students may choose to change their credit load from 3-4 courses (either 12 or 16 credits).
For Gap Year Semester Programs which offer courses for-credit: Students may choose to change their registration from 0-2 courses (3-6 credits).
In both cases, students who change their for-credit course enrollment before August 15th for fall semester programs and before January 15th for the spring semester programs will receive a refund for those course costs. Based on altered registration, student’s tuition bill will be updated. After these dates, there is no refund should a student choose to drop a course.
Instructors: All Dragons instructors must demonstrate a commitment to putting the safety and well-being of the student first. Staff hired by Dragons must exhibit a high level of conscientiousness and a commitment to the establishment of a positive social environment; be open-minded; be capable of juggling a lot of roles and responsibilities at once; show an uncompromising commitment to the safety of others; be committed to working in cooperation with others; model that they can work with direction while also demonstrating an ability to innovate on the fly. Instructors are hired for their in-depth knowledge of a country’s customs and traditions and, in most cases, are fluent in the language of the country.
We strive to have a 4 to 1 student to instructor ratio. As a result, no other study abroad program approaches the level of personal attention and mentorship available on a Dragons program. Our instructors challenge students academically and physically, draw them into an unsurpassed community of curious peers, and carefully guide participants through transformative experiences that enliven and inform academic pursuits.
Faculty: In addition to the qualifications expected of all Dragons instructors, College Study Abroad Programs are staffed with faculty who teach for-credit college courses. These faculty are either Dragons instructors with a Master’s degree or PhD or local experts in the field of study, from seasoned language instructors for the Language Study course to local academics for the Regional Seminar. Dragons faculty possess a rich blend of extensive academic training, unique life experience, and field-based teaching skills. Whether working for local and transnational NGOs, conducting primary field research in remote communities, or founding their own organization abroad, all share one similar quality: the desire to provide students with the most complete and exceptional educational experience possible.
Dragons has been running courses exclusively in the developing world since 1993. We have run study abroad semester programs which offer college level for-credit courses since 2001.
Yes. While most students participate in the College Study Abroad programs for-credit and receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record (Naropa University) at the end of the semester, students may choose to participate in a College Study Abroad program as a non-credit student. In these cases, students are still expected to enroll in 3-4 courses and fully participate in the academics of the program including all assessment activities. These non-credit students will not receive a transcript at the end of the term.
Dragons evaluation of student performance places primacy in the process of student growth and learning. Because of this, performance in each of the courses is largely evaluated by the level of participation, enthusiasm, and engagement demonstrated and assessed by the student, the faculty, and often by peers. Additionally, assignments are evaluated based on a clearly defined rubric that includes both quantitative and qualitative evaluation.
At the end of each program Dragons faculty assign a letter grade for each course completed. Courses are graded on a 4.0 scale using the U.S. letter grade system. Students who complete a program/courses for-credit will have their grades are entered into the Naropa system. Assuming students have completed all coursework and fulfilled all financial obligations, students can then request an official transcript (for $5) from www.studentclearinghouse.org.
While it is possible to take courses for-credit on both Gap Semester and College Study Abroad programs, these are two distinct types of Dragons programming.
On select Gap Semester programs, students may take 1-2 courses for-credit if they wish, but they do not have to as all students receive the same exposure to material, regardless of taking courses for-credit. Students on these programs tend to be 17-19 years old and, generally, have not yet started college. The Gap semester programs for which students can take courses for-credit include: China Semester: South of the Clouds, India Semester: Himalayas to the Ganges River, Nepal Semester: Himalayan Studies, and South America Semester: Andes & Amazon.
On the College Study Abroad Programs, all students enroll in 3-4 semester courses (12-16 semester credits). In order to be eligible for these programs, students need to have completed one semester of university study, be 18 years or older, and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Our approach to College Study Abroad Programs, is to provide high-quality academic experiences in unconventional places. Unlike our Gap Semesters, the College Study Abroad Programs engage all students in academically rigorous courses, have visiting faculty members who bring their academic expertise to the experience, and provide a structure for participants to carry out individual research during a block of independent travel at the end of the program. Our College Study Abroad programs include: Study Abroad China: Mountains, Deserts & Megacities, Study Abroad India: Mosaic of Culture & Contrasts, Study Abroad Nepal: Passages and Peaks of the Himalaya, and Study Abroad South America: The Spirit of the Andes.