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 impact and our cultural impact at every possible juncture. On course, we respect cultural norms by staying in family-owned accommodations and riding local transportation, piling into tuk-tuks, train cars and Tata buses along with everyone else. The most profound learning moments often arise in the spaces in between, and traveling with locals creates space for un-orchestrated moments of engagement and epiphany.

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In a Tajik yurt, in a Bedouin tent, in an apartment in Kunming… Every Dragons student is matched 1:1 with a local family. Students live in the same neighborhood, allowing them to build meaningful connections both within the host community and within the group. Most students tell us that participating in a home-stay 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.

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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 an arsenal 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 with a 2:1 student-to-instructor ratio. Few skills do more to empower students to be independent global citizens.

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Some Dragons students hike over 16,000ft passes in the Andes; others leap through waterfalls in the jungles of Laos. Wherever you chose to trek, you can be assured that Dragons Instructors will guide you into the wilderness, exposing you to the pristine beauty of nature, undisturbed by the advances of modern development. Treks provide a unique opportunity for students to assume leadership roles and build personal survival skills, like learning to pitch a tent or navigate above tree-line.

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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.

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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.”

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Independent Study Projects (ISPs)

Every Dragons student is paired with a local mentor and asked to study a particular intellectual question or artisanal craft 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. If you take the opportunity seriously, this is a great way to develop place-based expertise and hone your ethnographic research skills.

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Comparative Religion & Philosophy

In many parts of the world, humans rely on a set of spiritual beliefs to interpret their daily reality. Dragons Instructors help students explore the belief systems of their host culture by living with home-stay families, visiting religious monuments, observing local rituals and reading relevant texts. Such an examination generally sparks an internal conversation, and instructors are available to guide students through important conversations, asking, who am I, and why do I matter?

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Focus of Inquiry (FOI)

Every Dragons course has an academic focus of inquiry. This allows students to delve into a specific line of questioning, exploring the impacts of climate change, the core tenets of Buddhism or the idea of cultural survival. 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.

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