FAQs


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Question

How is Dragons different from other programs?

Answer

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.

Question

What is a typical day like?

Answer

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.

Question

How do I know which Dragons program is right for me?

Answer

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.

Question

What are the instructor’s qualifications?

Answer

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.

Question

What is the Admissions screening process; do you turn down students?

Answer

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.

Question

Dragons advertises a program-specific age demographic. Is this set in stone, or do you make special exceptions?

Answer

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. And while Dragons semester abroad programs have been primarily designed with gap year students in mind, we often accept college level freshmen and sophomores. 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.

Question

Does Dragons have specific rules or guidelines for students on course?

Answer

Dragons has five Red Rules that we ask all students to abide by for the duration of the course.

Our Red Rules are:

No use of recreational drugs or alcohol
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.

Question

What happens if a student gets sick or injured?

Answer

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.

Question

How do you assess the political safety of a country in which you plan to travel, and what if there is an incident that could compromise the ability of the students to travel safely?

Answer

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.

Question

What kinds of cultural/safety training do you offer, and how do you address the safety of girls?

Answer

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.

Question

How long has Dragons been running programs, what is your safety record and what are your biggest safety concerns?

Answer

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.

Question

What is your cancellation policy?

Answer

Once a student has submitted the application and deposit, the student has twenty-one days to complete the application process (submitting to a phone interview, following up with teacher reference, etc,) after which time the 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.

Question

What does my tuition cover?

Answer

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.

Question

Are there scholarships?

Answer

Dragons offers need-based partial scholarships to many students each year. Over the years we have done our best to increase our ability to offer scholarships and make our programs available to any student who is appropriate, regardless of tuition costs. To receive a scholarship application, please write to the Dragons office: info@wheretherebedragons.com.

Question

How can a participant and a parent connect if there is an emergency during the course?

Answer

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.

Question

What are the student/instructor ratio and male/female ratio on a typical Dragons program?

Answer

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.

Question

Can you accommodate students who are vegetarian?

Answer

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.

Question

Where do Dragons students come from?

Answer

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.

Question

Can I contact past students and parents?

Answer

Please do! For a full list of past participants, please contact the Dragons office: info@wheretherebedragons.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.

Question

When and how do I apply?

Answer

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, or by faxing/sending us the hard-copy application found in our course catalog. 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.

Question

Why does Dragons structure programs with dynamic, flexible itineraries?

Answer

Dragons never runs a cookie-cutter program. Each summer and semester experience is organic and new, with administrative members, instructor teams and students consistently creating a new focus and direction for the program. Most importantly, a flexible itinerary can effectively respond to specific concerns as they pertain to political safety, group health, and so on. Without being locked-in to a particular schedule, our groups are able to react to the realities of on-the-ground travel in the developing world. 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 opportunity that accompanies unexpected village-stays, methods of transport, service projects and guest lectures.

Question

Can I receive credit for my program?

Answer

Dragons’ Visions of India, Himalayan Studies, China: South of the Clouds, and Andes & Amazon semester abroad programs may be taken for college credit, accredited through Naropa University. We offer 4 courses, worth 4 credits each.  Please reference the program pages for more information on course specifics.

Question

Who accredits your study abroad programs?

Answer

Naropa University LogoAcademic curricula for each Dragons’ study abroad program is developed in partnership with Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Naropa is a fully accredited 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 approval process, including the Curriculum Committee. For more information about the courses, see Curriculum found on each program page.

Question

What steps do I take to get approval for transfer credits?

Answer

*Meet with your home institution’s study abroad or academic adviser to determine if the credits will transfer (see Curriculum found on each program page).

*Once the overall curriculum has been approved, decide how many courses you will take. Each course (4 credits each) costs $1,200 in addition to the Dragons’ program price.  Once you have been accepted into the program, you will register for your courses online with Naropa University.

*If you want to use federal financial aid for your Dragons’ program, contact your home institution’s federal financial aid office and complete your FAFSA form for the appropriate academic year.  Your school’s financial aid office will tell you if your federal, state and/or institutional aid package is transferable to a Dragons’ program.  Once you have been accepted into the program, you will need to initiate a consortium agreement between your home institution’s financial aid office and Naropa University.

Question

Which colleges and universities accept credits from Dragons Study Abroad?

Answer

Academic credit for Dragons’ study abroad programs is granted through Naropa University and is widely transferable to colleges and universities across the country, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, many Ivy League schools, and others. Because many schools require prior approval to transfer credits earned through study abroad, it is important that students meet with their international programs office and/or academic adviser prior to enrollment to ensure that Naropa credits will transfer to their home institution.

Question

Will my federal financial aid apply to Dragons Study Abroad?

Answer

If you are currently using federal financial aid, your federal financial aid package generally applies to fully accredited study abroad programs, including Dragons. Check with your home institution’s federal financial aid officer and/or study abroad office to determine your particular eligibility.  By June 15th, you will need to have completed for your federal financial aid forms at your home institution. By July 1st, your home institution will need to send Naropa University a signed consortium agreement.

There are also outside sources for scholarships. Please note that most college scholarships are only applicable if you are participating in the program as a full-time student (12-16 credits).

Question

How much additional work will an accredited Study Abroad course require?

Answer

Our accredited study abroad courses are an extension of our Core Curriculum and 9 Program Components, so the majority of the work required of accredited students will also be required of non-accredited students. For example, all students will study language, participate in an Independent Study Project, and learn about the themes of the Regional Seminar. However, accredited students will be held to a higher level of academic rigor, have additional readings and other assignments and the addition of comprehensive final projects for each accredited course. Some times this can seem like quite a bit of additional work and this will likely pull students away from other course and group activities at various times. For exact hours of each accredited course, please see the curriculum link for that respective semester.

Question

What is a typical accredited course-day?

Answer

As with all Dragons courses, our study abroad accredited courses are dynamic. They vary depending on the time in the courses and specific topics covered. During extended home-stays you can expect daily language classes of between 2 and 4 hours, at least two formal lectures or workshops per week for the Regional Seminar and at least 2-3 hours 3 days a week for the Independent Study Project.  Additionally, hours will be spent doing homework assignments. While trekking, or in travel-intensive periods of the course, the workload will become more self-directed and dynamic, including journal assignments, readings, or possibly building a portfolio. At each period of the course, you can expect the learning to deepen the course activities and be relevant to that time and place and build upon other course activities.

Question

What is your refund policy for accredited courses?

Answer

Students may receive a full refund if they choose to drop a course before August 15th for the fall semester and before January 15th for the spring semester.  After these dates, there is no refund.

Question

What are the Study Abroad instructors’ qualifications?

Answer

All Dragons instructors must demonstrate a commitment to putting the safety and wellbeing of the student above all other concerns. Staff hired by Dragons must exhibit a high level of conscientiousness and a commitment to the establishment of a positive social environment; they must exhibit good personal life-choices; they must be open-minded; they must be capable of juggling a lot of issues at once; they must exhibit an uncompromising commitment to the safety of others; they must be committed to working in cooperation with others; they must exhibit 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 they are fluent in the language of the country. In addition to these qualifications of all Dragons instructors, each accredited semester will be staffed with at least one instructor with a Masters degree or higher. We also work with local experts in the field of study, from seasoned language instructors for the Language Study course to local academics for the Regional Seminar.

Question

How long has Dragons been running accredited programs?

Answer

Dragons has been running courses exclusively in the developing world since 1993. We have run college accredited study abroad semester programs since 2001.

Question

What does my accredited course tuition cover?

Answer

You accredited course tuition largely covers the administrative processing tasks and back-end overhead of running accredited courses. In addition, it will cover 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, and rely on your tuition covering the salaries of local mentors and teachers.

Question

How do I know whether I should take courses for credit?

Answer

While our accredited courses are dynamic, spontaneous, and experiential in line with Dragons pedagogy, they are also rigorous and demanding educational experiences. Our accredited courses are not for everyone. Some students come on our courses 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 accredited courses are most fitting for students that have already demonstrated an ability to study independently and are academically curious about their place of travel.

Question

How does grading work?

Answer

Dragons’ evaluation of student performance, both for accredited and non-accredited students, places primacy in the process of student growth and learning. Because of this, performance in each of the accredited courses is largely evaluated by the level of participation, enthusiasm, and engagement demonstrated and assessed by the student, the instructor 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 and grades are entered into the Naropa system.  Assuming students have completed all coursework and financial obligations, students can then request an official transcript (for $5) from www.studentclearinghouse.org.