How is Dragons different from other programs?
Dragons programs differ in the depth of experience we provide. 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.
What is a typical day like?
Every Dragons day offers authentic engagement in the culture and landscape of the country in which we travel. Days vary to accommodate a range of experiences, from intimate cultural exchange to home-stays and volunteer work, to challenging wilderness exploration, to meetings with community leaders, to inspection of a country’s religious traditions or minority cultures.
How do I know which Dragons program is right for me?
Dragons structures all of our programs so that they offer a universal core of program components. That means that no matter where you’re traveling with Dragons – whether it be in Morocco, Cambodia, or Bolivia – you can expect that nine common themes will thread your course with others. Mostly, this ensures that each course offers a consistency in the wholeness of the experience; but as some programs emphasize one component over another, this also allows prospective students the opportunity to choose a program that is closely tailored to their personal goals and interests. To make sure that a program is right for you, we ask you to pay special attention to the rating system that accompanies each program’s component listing. As you’ll see, some courses emphasize extended home-stay over trekking, and others prioritize language immersion or volunteering. In the end, you’re always welcome to give us a call and speak through the subtleties of each program with a member of our administrative staff!
What are the instructor’s qualifications?
To be a Dragons instructor, an individual must demonstrate a commitment to putting the safety and well-being 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. 90% of Dragons instructors are referred by past instructors. Dragons instructors average 29 years in age, and they most often have a minimum of two plus years of in-country experience – as development professionals, returned Peace Corps volunteers, graduate students or professional guides. 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. To ensure the physical and emotional safety of the group, all instructors must exhibit an ability to develop a healthy rapport with their students. We solicit instructors with extensive wilderness first aid training and provide medical trainings and workshops for all other instructors.
What is the screening process; do you turn down students?
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 advertises a program-specific age demographic. Is this set in stone, or do you make special exceptions?
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.
What is the student/instructor and male/female ratio typically featured on a Dragons program?
Dragons runs programs with a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio. 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 thoroughly 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.
Why does Dragons structure programs with dynamic, flexible itineraries?
Dragons never runs a cookie-cutter program. Each summer and semester experience is organic and new, with administrative members, instructor teams and students consistently informing new foci and directions for the program. Most importantly, a flexible itinerary can effectively respond to safety 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.
What happens if a student gets sick or injured?
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, and when and if a student becomes ill, we respond effectively and immediately, working with our medical advisor 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.
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?
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.
What kinds of cultural/safety training do you offer, and how do you address the safety of girls?
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.
How long has Dragons been running programs, what is your safety record and what are your biggest safety concerns?
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.
How can a participant and a parent connect if there is an emergency during the course?
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.
What is your cancellation policy?
Once a student is accepted, there is no 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.
What does my tuition cover?
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.
Are there scholarships?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I receive credit for my program?
Dragons India, Himalaya, China, and Andes & Amazon semester abroad programs may be taken for college credit, which is provided through Naropa University. We offer 4 courses, worth 4 credits each. Please reference the program pages for more information on the course specifics.
Can you accommodate students who are vegetarian?
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.
Where do Dragons students come from?
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.
Can I contact past students and parents?
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.
When and how do I apply?
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 check of $850.