FAQs


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Question

How does Dragons define Learning Service?

Answer

At Dragons, we focus on Learning Service, which we describe as a holistic experience that combines the study of effective development, a contribution to an established community-driven project, and a focus on long term positive impact. Learning Service also involves the soft skills of active listening, humble observation, and expert mentorship. Underlying our approach, is the acknowledgment that often it is the volunteer who stands to gain as much (or more) from the collaboration. Over the evolution of our Learning Service programming, Dragons has recognized the essential role of identifying and collaborating with a local mentor at each NGO or host organization. This work requires a great deal of relationship building between the NGO mentor and Dragons staff. But we recognize it as key to the participant learning curve. It should also be mentioned that we don’t shy away from—but actively engage with—the complex themes of neocolonialism and global citizenship that arise in a group dynamic that encourages critical self-reflection. For more of our thoughts on Learning Service and the ethics of Responsible Travel, please reference our position papers on Learning Service and Responsible Travel

Question

How does Dragons support participants through their experience?

Answer

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.

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 (1:4 instructor-to-student ratio), we maintain a level of mentorship, risk awareness, 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 scalable, pre-packaged tours. 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 participants and place, as well as the strengths of the instructor team. We also design and operate programs for Princeton University, Milton Academy, Tufts University, Phillips Exeter Academy, and dozens of other college preparatory schools. To see a list of the 50+ schools and universities that have partnered with Dragons, as well as read testimonials, you can visit the Partners section of our website.

Question

What are the values and goals of Where There Be Dragons?

Answer

At Dragons, we believe future leaders will need to think beyond borders to cultivate a more inclusive, collaborative, and just future. We also believe in the natural outcomes of connecting participants with different and shared realities through firsthand engagement. Our goal: to build empathy and foster a feeling of shared responsibility for our collective future. We employ our program components as the tools to break this mission down into actionable pieces. In particular, we value the program components of language study and homestays for their essential roles in opening doors to experiences in which students can connect, listen, and understand. From program start to end date, we employ leadership models that empower student voices and self-directed learning. We also believe it’s harmful to neglect the ethics of travel. We see responsible travel as environmentally conscientious, culturally self-aware, and focused on developing mutually meaningful connections with local communities. We ask our participants to adapt to the places we travel, rather than asking those places to adapt to our expectations. We believe this approach generates reciprocal relationships, full of respect and appreciation. We also aim to cultivate lasting skills sets in foreign language and intercultural communication. We hope to see participants foster relationships with people and places that last beyond the course conclusion. Finally, our courses aim to help participants clarify their own values, and address the individualized question of how to embody those values in the world.

Question

What is a typical day like?

Answer

Every day is designed to strike a balance between structured programming and unscripted opportunities for cultural engagement. On a typical day during homestays, students may gather at the central Program House for language study or a guest speaker in the morning and then fan out into the local community to join a learning service project or apprentice with a local mentor. A typical travel day may find students in a train car or a local bus, traveling until they reach a family-owned guesthouse or community center. On trek, students can expect to wake up early, hike through the morning light and settle in for family-style meals each night at camp. 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. 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

In addition to standard expectations for participation, Dragons has five Red Rules that we ask 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

Our instructors are trained in many of the common local ailments and medical concerns. Most instructors are additionally trained in Wilderness First Aid, First Responder, or as Emergency Medical Technician. By building strong relationships with students, instructors are tuned in to any illnesses or injuries that may occur on course 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, consulting with 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.

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

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 instructors with whom we work, and the 400+ past instructors who now work in foreign governments, for the UN, as university professors, as NGO managers, and 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.

Question

What Kinds Of Cultural/Safety Training Do You Offer, And How Do You Address Gender Safety?

Answer

Gender issues are first discussed in a mandatory safety briefing, within the first few hours of a course’s start. These guidelines are re-addressed continually during the course, 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-course, during course-start, and then throughout the course as well.

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 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.

Question

What is your cancellation policy?

Answer

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.

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

Is there financial aid available?

Answer

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.

 

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 not allowed on course.

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

Does Dragons arrange for my travel visa?

Answer

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.

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. 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. For more information, visit our “How to Enroll” page.

Question

Why does Dragons structure programs with dynamic, flexible itineraries?

Answer

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 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.

Question

Can I receive credit for my program?

Answer

Yes, depending on the type of program you enroll in. On select Gap Semester students can take a language course for-credit (worth 4 credits). All students study language as part of the Gap Semester, but you can elect to receive college-credit for your participation in this learning process. In addition, on Gap Semesters, students can petition to take a second course for-credit. This option is for students who feel that it is essential that they take 2 for-credit courses/8 credits in order to be able to participate in the Gap Semester. Other for-credit courses which may be available upon petition, include Regional Seminar, Independent Study Project (ISP): Methods and Application, or Intercultural Development and Global Citizenship. Students interested in taking two courses on a Gap Semester must complete a petition form by June 1 (Fall Semesters) / November 1 (Spring Semesters). Additional course offerings on Gap Semester (beyond the language course) are contingent based on student interest and faculty availability. Please note that there are additional fees for taking 1 or 2 courses for credit on a Gap Semester. 

Gap Year Semester Programs which offer a for-credit option:

Contact us with questions about for-credit course options, to learn about registration deadlines, for information on a petition process for Gap Semesters, or for copies of sample syllabi.

Question

Who provides transcripts for students who take courses for-credit?

Answer

Naropa University Logo

Academic curricula for the for-credit college level courses 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 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.

Question

Can my family use 529 (education savings) funds to pay for the program?

Answer

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 possible to put funds towards for-credit courses specifically (these are offered on select Dragons gap semesters), but not necessarily larger tuition/fees.  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. Again, because each agency has different requirements/processes, families should contact their plan administrator directly to understand what may be possible.

Question

Can I receive a refund if I choose to drop one of the for-credit courses on my gap semester?

Answer

Maybe. Students on select gap semesters may choose to drop a for-credit course that they have previously registered for. 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.

 

Question

How do I know whether I should take a course for-credit on a Gap semester?

Answer

Students participating on select Gap semester may choose to take a college-level course for-credit. Students who choose to take a for-credit course will receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record after successful completion of the program.

While our for-credit courses are dynamic, spontaneous, and experiential (in-keeping with Dragons overall pedagogy), they are also rigorous and demanding educational experiences. All students, regardless of whether they are pursuing credit, participate in a similar educational experience. Those who take a course for-credit are given additional assignments, such as writing, readings, quizzes, or response papers and complete final presentations or exams. Only for-credit students are assessed with a final grade and receive a transcript from our School of Record.

Choosing to take courses for-credit can be an enriching experience and/or, at times, a burdensome experience.  For students who want to have a break from academic evaluation, they will likely have a better experience not taking a course for-credit. For those who are excited and motivated to spend extra time articulating their experience, receiving credit may be very enriching.

Please reach out to Dragons Administration with additional questions regarding taking a course for-credit on a Gap semester.

Question

How much additional work will be required for a for-credit course on a Gap Semester?

Answer

Our for-credit college courses, offered on a limited number of Gap semesters, are an extension of our Core Curriculum and 9 Program Components. While for-credit and non-credit students have similar experiences, for-credit students will be held to a higher level of academic rigor, have additional readings and other assignments. For-credit students will also be assessed on comprehensive final projects/exams for each for-credit course. Because of the additional work, students taking a for-credit course are sometimes pulled away from other group activities at various times throughout the semester. That being said, choosing to take a course for-credit can be a great way to deepen your learning and experience of the host country.

Question

Why do you offer Nepali language and instead of Hindi language on the India Gap semester?

Answer

India has 22 official languages (with more than 700 dialects spoken across the country), including language such as Hindi and Nepali. Nepali is the mother tongue of the majority of residents of the Himalayan foothills in northern Bengal and Sikkim, and this is an area that groups often spend a significant portion of the semester. Because our Gap semester groups tend to spend more time in Nepali speaking areas than Hindi speaking areas, this is the target language we focus on and the for-credit language course we offer. India Gap semester students wishing to study the Hindi language are welcome to choose this as their Independent Study Project.