Everyone wants to know…
College Study Abroad Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE ON A COLLEGE STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM?
SEMESTER: As with Dragons programs in general, our College Study Abroad programs are dynamic. During our time in a program base, you can expect to live in an extended homestay, have regular intensive language classes, and be engaging in one other course on an intensive basis such as the Intercultural Development and Global Citizenship course. During the more travel-intensive periods of the program, you can expect formal lectures or workshops for the Regional Seminar course, and time to formulate your plan for an Independent Study Project (ISP). Towards the end of the program, students engage in independent travel, designed to facilitate their investigation of their own ISP. Throughout the program, students spend several hours a day with readings to help understand the context of the region and conducting their independent inquiry and writing.
SUMMER: On summer programs, students study language intensively. Outside of the classroom, students refine their language skills through engaging in homestays in a variety of communities and participating in experiential learning activities. Summer students also look at regional issues and cultural practices as we travel to both urban and rural parts of the host country. During broader explorations of the country, each day looks slightly different but includes continued language and cultural learning.
HOW DOES DRAGONS SUPPORT PARTICIPANTS THROUGH THEIR EXPERIENCE?
We have developed advanced systems of group management and accountability. We call this, the “Dragons Container.” Our container is built through tone-setting, team-building, itinerary design, daily rituals, reflective exercises, briefing and debriefing, expectation-setting, accountability guidelines, and 24/7 student access to our on-site staff. The container’s boundaries provide a sense of safety and security so that students can engage more fully and mindfully in their experiences. We know how to help build investment in a shared process that minimizes risk and sets the conditions for optimal learning, skill-building, and personal growth.
WHY DOES DRAGONS STRUCTURE PROGRAMS WITH DYNAMIC, FLEXIBLE ITINERARIES?
Dragons never runs a cookie-cutter program. Each experience is organic and new, with administrative members, field staff, and students working together to craft a unique focus and direction for the program. Most importantly, a dynamic 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.
WHO PROVIDES TRANSCRIPTS FOR STUDENTS WHO TAKE COURSES FOR-CREDIT?
Academic curricula for the for-credit college level courses are developed in partnership with Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Naropa University serves as Dragons School of Record and for-credit students receive a transcript from Naropa University at the end of the term. Naropa University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a liberal arts university that offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Each Dragons for-credit course is vetted through the standard Naropa University approval process. For more information, see the Academics section on each program page.
WHAT STEPS DO I TAKE TO TRANSFER CREDITS TO MY HOME INSTITUTION?
The first step is to meet with your home institution’s study abroad or academic advisor to understand your school’s process for transferring credit. Colleges 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. After successful completion of the program, you can request an official transcript from Dragons School of Record: Naropa University in Boulder, CO.
HOW DOES GRADING WORK?
Dragons evaluation of student performance places primacy in the process of student growth and learning. Performance in each of the college-level courses is evaluated by the level of engagement demonstrated by the students as well as by performance on clearly defined assignments and evaluations. At the end of each program Dragons faculty assign a letter grade for each for-credit 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 entered into the Naropa system. Assuming students have completed all coursework and fulfilled all financial obligations, students can then request an official transcript soon after the end of the term.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF INSTRUCTORS AND FACULTY?
College Study Abroad Programs are staffed by both instructors and faculty. Outside of their work with Dragons, our field staff have extensive experience. 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. Instructors are hired for their in-depth knowledge of a country’s customs and traditions. We strive to have a 4 to 1 student to field staff 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 experiences that enliven and inform academic pursuits.
College Study Abroad Programs are also staffed with faculty who teach for-credit college courses. These faculty are either Dragons instructors who are present throughout the term or a visiting faculty member who teaches courses intensively. Dragons faculty possess a rich blend of academic training, instructional experience, and field-based skills. Our faculty possess either a MA combined with extensive experience (both practical and instructional) or a PhD. In addition to faculty, we also work with local experts such as experienced language teachers, Independent Study Project mentors, and local guest lecturers.
CAN I CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN A COLLEGE STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM AS A NON-CREDIT STUDENT?
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 a full course-load and to 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.
HOW IS A COLLEGE STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM DIFFERENT THAN A DRAGONS GAP SEMESTER PROGRAM?
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 a for-credit course if they wish, but this is not required. Students on these programs tend to be 17-19 years old and, generally, have not yet started college. For more information on receiving college credit for Gap Semesters, visit our Optional College Credit page. On the College Study Abroad Programs, students typically enroll in 4 courses (16 semester credits) during a semester or 1 course (4 semester credits) during a summer program.
In order to be eligible for College Study Abroad 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. Semester college programs also 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. Visit our College Study Abroad Program Listing page for program details, dates and availability.
DOES DRAGONS OFFER SCHOLARSHIPS?
Yes! Dragons offers need-based scholarships to many students each year. Over the years we have done our best to increase our ability to offer financial support and make our programs available to any student who is appropriate, regardless of tuition costs. For more information, please visit our College Scholarships page.
WILL MY FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID APPLY TO DRAGONS PROGRAMS?
If you would like to use federal, state, or institutional financial aid for your College Study Abroad program, you should contact your home institution’s financial aid office to understand options 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 for these types of agreements.
CAN MY FAMILY USE 529 (EDUCATION SAVINGS) FUNDS TO PAY FOR THE PROGRAM?
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. Note that many 529 plans will only distribute funds for institutions with a US Department of Education school code, for which Dragons, as an education abroad program provider, is not eligible to apply for. If you are being billed for the program by your home institution, it is more likely that you will be able to use 529 plan funds. Again, because each agency has different requirements/processes, families should contact their plan administrator directly to understand what may be possible.
CAN I RECEIVE A REFUND IF I CHOOSE TO DROP ONE OF THE COURSES?
Semester students may choose to change their credit load from 3-4 courses (either 12 or 16 credits). Note that College Study Abroad Summer students are required to enroll in the 4-credit language course. Students who change their for-credit course enrollment before course drop deadlines provided during the course registration process will receive a refund for those course costs. Based on altered registration, student’s tuition bill will be updated. After course drop dates, there is no refund should a student choose to withdraw from a course.
WHEN AND HOW DO I APPLY?
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with the following final application deadlines: Spring terms: October 15, Fall terms: May 15, and Summer terms: March 15. As with our other programs, there are limited spaces on our college programs so we recommend you apply early. For more information about our application process, visit our How To Apply page.
DOES DRAGONS ARRANGE FOR MY TRAVEL VISA?
For travel to countries where a travel visa is necessary, all participants are responsible for obtaining their own travel visas. Dragons provides detailed instructions for US passport holders and can advise participants on the visa process. For non-US passport holders, we can connect you with a visa service company with whom we work, but we cannot guarantee that participants will be granted visas. Please research the visa process and check in with Dragons Admissions as needed before finalizing travel plans for your program.
CAN YOU ACCOMMODATE STUDENTS WHO HAVE SPECIFIC DIETARY NEEDS?
There is seldom a lifestyle that we cannot work with, and all of our programs 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.
WHAT IS THE TECHNOLOGY POLICY ON COLLEGE PROGRAMS?
As with other Dragons programs, on College Study Abroad Programs we request that you leave your cell phone at home. At Dragons, we strongly believe in the need to unplug from our devices in order to be fully present in our surroundings and selves. If you do choose to bring your phone for travel before or after the program, our instructors will hold onto phone for the duration of the semester. Because instructors are not liable for any loss or damage to phones, we encourage you to leave your mobile device at home.You will have access to a telephone via the Instructor Team should an emergency occur. For non-urgent personal communication, you can use internet cafes and use Skype or other technology to make calls. In addition, depending on the circumstances, you may be provided with a simple local phone for use during specific parts of the program.
Because of the rigorous academic nature of our College Study Abroad Programs, students participating in the college-specific programs will be allowed to bring a laptop on the program in order to assist with academic work. Aside from the laptop, we ask that you not bring any other devices which can connect to wifi (e.g. iPods or iPads) in order to remain present during your semester abroad. In addition to our own motivations for unplugging, there is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of this philosophy. We encourage you to check out this blog post to get a better sense of why we ask you to leave your cell phone at home.
Health & Safety
WHAT HAPPENS IF A STUDENT GETS SICK OR INJURED?
Our field staff are trained in many of the common local ailments and medical concerns. Most field staff are additionally trained in Wilderness First Aid, First Responder, or as an Emergency Medical Technician. By building strong relationships with students, field staff are tuned in to any illnesses or injuries that may occur on program and can respond immediately. We work with International SOS as an emergency evacuation provider as well as for medical consultation and vetting of facilities. Additionally, we have carefully researched in-country medical facilities in the event of a clinic visit due to illness or injury. If a student becomes injured or ill, we first ensure appropriate first aid and tend to their immediate well-being. We will then move to more advanced medical care as needed, with guidance from our medical consultation and evacuation company (International SOS) to determine the appropriate level of care. Our administrative on-call staff is available 24/7 to support instructors during an emergency and can offer information to parents as necessary.
WHAT KINDS OF CULTURAL/SAFETY TRAINING DO YOU OFFER, AND HOW DO YOU ADDRESS GENDER SAFETY?
Gender issues are first discussed in a mandatory safety briefing, within the first few hours of a program’s start. These guidelines are re-addressed continually during the program, and particularly prior to homestays. We tailor workshops, checklists, and in-country assessments to ensure proper training among staff and careful attention to gender safety throughout the duration of the course. We train students to local culture in pre-program, during program-start, and then throughout the program as well.
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?
Dragons has built a foundation of exceptional in-country support in the countries where we operate. We hire instructional staff and regional Program Directors that know each country intimately and closely monitor security concerns through reports, media, and personal conversations within their networks. Primarily, we rely on our own in-country contacts: the people with whom we set up our program components, the current field staff with whom we work, and the 400+ past field staff who now work in foreign governments, for the UN, as university professors, as NGO managers, and as foreign consultants. Because we work with small groups and 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 contingency options. We also regularly receive reports from International SOS Control Risks, and consult with the U.S. Overseas Advisory Council.
HOW LONG HAS DRAGONS BEEN RUNNING PROGRAMS, WHAT IS YOUR SAFETY RECORD, AND WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST SAFETY CONCERNS?
Dragons has been running international programs since 1993. With more than 200,000 participant-days in the field, we have worked through a vast variety of unique challenges from gastrointestinal illness to earthquakes. In each instance, we’ve managed the issue with an uncompromising commitment to providing the best care available. While inherent risks exist in our programs, we have supported thousands of students in traveling safely through high mountain passes, busy cities, or homestays in remote villages. The greatest advantage of working with small groups and experienced instructors is that we can easily respond to changes in students’ health, local weather, local political realities, or other hazards. We have developed both solid strategies for preemptively dealing with medical issues, and tightly 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 gender safety issues; we are concerned with political safety; and we are concerned with students’ emotional safety. Through careful assessments of region, course planning, staffing, staff training, and student tone-setting, we minimize the potential for incidents issues to occur. When incidents do occur, our instructors work in consort with our Program Directors and Emergency Response team to respond. Dragons has an exceptional safety record, and we are candid with participants about potential risks and the history of our responses to in-field health and safety issues.