Program Components

We adventure, we explore, we learn…

A Dragons course is designed to be a full immersion experience. We employ nine program components to ensure that every course hits the mark.

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Rugged Travel

Dragons students are travelers not tourists. We believe in low-impact travel, and that means minimizing both our environmental and cultural impact at every possible juncture. On course, we respect cultural norms by staying in family-owned accommodations and taking local transportation, piling into tuk-tuks, train cars and camionetas, along with everyone else. The most profound learning moments often arise in the spaces in between, and traveling like locals creates space for un-orchestrated moments of engagement and epiphany. Rugged Travel Video

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In a Tajik yurt, in a Bedouin tent, in an apartment in Kunming… Every Dragons student is matched with a local family. Students live in nearby neighborhoods, allowing them to build meaningful connections within the host community and group. Students often tell us that their homestay was the most transformative portion of their Dragons program, offering intimate insights into an alternative way of life. All families are selected based on the safety of their home environments and genuine enthusiasm for cross-cultural engagement. Homestays Video

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Language Study

Mandarin, Arabic, or Spanish… All Dragons courses include language instruction. We do not expect students to arrive with any level of understanding. We do expect students to interact with locals, and build a collection of vocabulary words that enables them to deftly navigate a new cultural context. On our language intensive courses, students can expect 3-4 hours of daily instruction in small groups. Few skills do more to empower students to be independent global citizens than learning a foreign language. Language Study Video

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From strolls to the strenuous, some Dragons students hike over 16,000ft passes in the Andes; others walk to waterfalls outside of a homestay village. Wherever you choose to trek, you can be assured that Dragons Instructors will guide you into the wilderness, exposing you to the beauty of nature, mingled with the unique cultural context. Treks provide opportunities for students to assume leadership roles and build personal backcountry skills, like learning to pitch a tent or navigate changing weather conditions. Trekking Video

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Learning Service

We take pride in learning first and helping second. Students rarely arrive in-country with the tools to genuinely ‘help’ another community, and we work hard to dispel such expectations. Students use a four-step process to listen, assess, act and then evaluate; a framework that can be applied to future learning service ventures. We don’t measure our success by the number of ‘service hours’ logged, but rather by the number of critical conversations that such an engagement provokes. Learning Service Video

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Development Studies

What variables contribute to a good quality of life? How does privilege shape our sense of global responsibility? These questions are central to the conversation about human development in the 21st century. Instructors introduce students to local activists who’ve taken a vocal stance on the topic of ‘human development,’ while using local examples to prompt discussion. Students are encouraged to challenge their assumptions and expand their understanding of what it means to be “developed” as a nation and individual. Development Studies Video

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Independent Study Projects (ISPs)

Dragons students are often paired with local mentors to study a particular question, craft, or cultural tradition in greater depth. Anything is possible, and as a student, the ISP is a great way to tailor the course to meet your specific interests. We’ve had students study everything from kathak dance to the impacts of exploratory drilling in the Amazon. ISPs are a great way to develop place-based expertise, learn hands-on skills from local mentors, and actively engage living cultural traditions. ISPs Video

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Comparative Religion & Philosophy

In each place we visit, we consider how local religious beliefs and spiritual traditions influence daily reality. Dragons Instructors help students explore the belief systems underlying the host culture while living with homestay families, visiting religious monuments, observing local rituals, and reading relevant texts. Such an examination generally sparks an internal reflection, and instructors are trained to guide students through important conversations as they juxtapose local traditions with their personal belief systems and values.  Comparative Religion Video

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Focus of Inquiry (FOI)

Dragons courses are built around particular academic themes. This allows students to delve into a specific line of questioning, exploring the impacts of climate change, the local religious traditions, or the realities of cultural extinction, for example. We explore the focus of inquiry by hosting guest speakers, reading local news, and engaging in group discussions. Please reference Dragons individual program descriptions to learn more about the FOI on your course of interest.

Optional College Credit