Submitted by Kendall George - University of Colorado - Boulder | March 04, 2013
This course was the most amazing experience of my life.That may seem like an exaggeration, but it is actually true. Every day presented a new and exciting experience, and I was constantly learning something new. There were so many opportunities to challenge myself and expand my horizons, and it was important to make the trip what I wanted it to be. It was amazing to go into something without really knowing what to expect, and then having my mind blown with the beauty of it. I had never been trekking before and rarely slept in a tent, but I found myself so happy in the Andes mountains for days at a time. The instructors are such amazing people with so much experience. I came home with a much more widened perspective on life and a million more questions. Overall, I can't wait to go back to Bolivia and live the Bolivian way!
I learned so much more than I had expected coming onto this trip. Even though I did not take the course for credits, I feel as though I'm stepping away from it with more knowledge than if I had spent a semester in college. From instructor lessons to a conversations with a natural healer to challenging myself out of my comfort zone, not only did I learn a lot, but I'm also asking so many more questions. I can't wait to go to college and get back into the books (I know that sounds crazy) and start making the most of my college years.
The living situations were very rugged - sometimes in tents, hostels or with local families. But this was one of my favorite parts about the trip. These types of living situations allowed us to truly experience Bolivia and Peru, especially with home stays. The relationships we made with the locals were amazing and our understanding of their culture and lifestyle was complete. I always felt safe and became very comfortable with very little.
Dragons defines cultural immersion. These courses are not about being tourist, but rather it's about being a traveler. On my course, I felt as though I lived in Bolivia. I loved being able experience how the locals live, eat what they eat, travel how they travel, etc. Bolivia and Peru have so much culture, and I felt that I was coming home with part of that culture still inside of me and to stick with me for the rest of my life.
The instructors on my course were so amazing. Any instructor with Dragons has to be amazing, and they take so much care and effort in making the trip extremely meaningful for the students. I always felt really safe with them, and comfortable that they knew exactly what they were doing. They were always one step ahead of us in order to challenge us and help us grow from the experience. I feel like I was able to get really close with my instructors, and they presented themselves with a nice balance of friendship and guidance. One thing that surprised me the most was the relationships that they had from past courses with locals in the areas that we visited.
Health and Safety:
I always felt very safe on this course. The instructors do an amazing job to make sure that we are all healthy, happy and comfortable. They always have the medical kit, and if anyone gets sick, there is no hesitation to bring them to a clinic to get checked out. And even though we were in remote areas, there was always a clinic close enough in case we needed it. The host families were very safe as well, as they are families that Dragons uses year after year - they have a great relationship with them.
I loved my group so much. We were like one big family always having so much fun with each other. At the same time, it was so amazing to be able to make close relationships with host families and neighbors in villages. Pick-up soccer games with all the kids or seeing the same juice lady every day, there were always people willing to talk and share their stories.
Submitted by Captain Lightning Dave - | October 17, 2012
It was an incredible trip put together by incredible administration and instructors. They work everyday to get you around the most wonderful people and in the most wonderful locations that are totally different from anything you'll ever experience again. If you're on the fence about this trip, go for it! You won't regret it.
While the home-stay is in no way posh, it is real. You learn to appreciate what you have so quickly.
My home away from home.
Submitted by Alex Henderson - University of Puget Sound | October 04, 2012
I've spent my whole life trying to decode the mysterious idea of the rest of the world. I felt like I grew up in a bubble and all the injustice and poverty I saw on the news or learned about in class didn't make the impact on me that it should have. And then I found Dragons. After my freshman year of Highschool, I spent a month in India during the summer with the program and fell in love, with India, with travelling, and with Dragons. I considered travelling by myself the next time, but I knew I wouldn't have the same experience because Dragons has so many connections and experienced instructors that they have the ability to show you so much of the world in such a short time. So I decided to take a semester off and travel to Bolivia and Peru with Dragons. I knew going into the trip that it was going to be life changing but I had no idea that I would never look at the world the same way. I made so many friends, both in my group and in country, I grew stronger, not just physically but mentally, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and learned so much about myself as a person, and I felt at home. I was home because I was truly myself, I was 16 at the time and I don't know many 16 year olds that can say they truly knew who they were. However, I was so humbled by it all that I was able to understand Ill never stop growing and learning about myself. Home is where the heart is, and my heart will always be with the experience and friends I made with Dragons.
Dragons offers credit opportunities, although it can be difficult to do school work in such a cool part of the world, it allows you to take away a different scholarly perspective to the topics discussed in the classroom at home.
There was a great blend of rural living but times where a hot water in a hotel made you truly appreciate the privilege we have at home. I was always comfortable even when I wasn't comfortable because the homes you live in feel like a home. The beds could be too short or too rough but you live like the people in the community.
Even in just three months I feel like I took a piece of the culture home with me. My friends joke that I am from Bolivia because there is still a piece of Bolivia in me that is engrained in my soul. Living with families, walking through the streets, exploring markets, and trekking through the country side, offers such a unique perspective to the students that go on these trips. Everyone goes home changed because they lived in the country, they didn't just experience it.
I've had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer as an intern at the programs office in Boulder, Colorado. Students are chosen because they truly want to see the world in a different way then most programs. Everyone on my trip to South America and my trip to India, didn't want to be another tourist looking at the country from behind a protective screen, they wanted to be immersed in the culture and thats exactly the kind of student dragons looks for.
Can't Say Enough Good Things About This Trip
Submitted by ifoundthedragon - University of Denver | October 04, 2012
Five words: BEST TRIP OF MY LIFE. actually no... best three months of my life. With a combination of the location, the people, the locals, the treks, and country, there will never be anything in my life that can compare to that.
The six-week homestay in Bolivia was by far my favorite part of the entire 3 month trip.
The only way to really learn about a culture and learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture.
There and Back Again: A Dragon's Tale
Submitted by Michael Heffernan - | April 25, 2012
My semester abroad with the dragons program was the best decision I've made in my life thus far. The journey that I embarked on with my fellow group mates changed me forever. The andes and amazon semester is not only about cultural immersion, but also an epic backpacking journey, and a chance to meet some of the coolest people in the world. Maturity and the courage to travel independently come naturally along the duration of the course. I continued to travel south america on my own and don't think I would have been able to do it the way I did without the experience and knowledge gathered from dragons. The people I traveled with will always have a place in my heart and so will the amazing Andes.
We all participated in multiple home-stays, the longest of which was 5 weeks. Personally, the 5 week home-stay was my favorite aspect of the trip. I left behind a family that I truly love in Cochabamba, Bolivia and hope that I will see them again soon.
Submitted by Joseph R. - | April 22, 2013
I loved my time spent abroad with Where There Be Dragons (Bolivia and Peru) semester. For the most part everything was good. We were thought to understand the culture of where we were and were taught to be global citizens. My biggest complaint, however, is on the content of program rules. Specifically, the no tolerance of alcohol rule. THe drinking age in Bolivia and Peru is 18 yet the dragons program will kick you out if you drink. While everything is presented to you before you begin and you sign your name saying you will not break the rules, people fail to realize how drinking is embedded in the cultural times. For example, a tradition Bolivian alcoholic beverage, was offered to me on multiple occasions. I always felt rude turning it down. I'd suggest that Dragons change their rules a little bit, give the instructors some flexibility and let them decide what to let their students do, let them decide if it would place students in a precarious situation. While I don't advocate drinking for drunkenness while traveling in any way shape or form, I think the program administration need to see the difference between doing it for further culture immersion.