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Program Director Intro

Cara Lane-Toomey

Dear Madagascar Students,

Congratulations on joining an inspiring and diverse community of travelers, educators, students, and cultural ambassadors! Though the semester course is still a little over a month away, we are excited to initiate our relationship with you and your family to help you ease into the BIG experience that is Dragons. With the help of your families, friends, and local communities, this semester in Madagascar promises to be an unforgettable experience.

My name is Cara and I am the Program Director for Africa and Middle East Programs for Dragons, which means that I will be helping to support your program from the U.S. while you are abroad in Madagascar. The “Yak Board,” that you see here, is our community forum where all Dragons courses share thoughts and reflections from the field. During your course, you will be posting here on the Yak Board so that all of us back home can see what you are up to and what you are learning. Before the course begins, you will also be able to check this board to find important information and introductions. Make sure to check this page frequently for updates and news. Our hope in facilitating this early connection is to help with all of your pre-course concerns and to collaboratively foster a supportive relationship that allows us to work together throughout the semester.

In the coming weeks, your remarkable Madagascar instructors will be posting their introductions and will also use this board to provide updated information about an updated packing list, share the rough itinerary for this semester, outline ideas to get you thinking about your independent study project, and answer you questions. If you have a question, most likely, other people are wondering the same thing – so I encourage you to post here so other students can see questions and read answers about the course. I am here to support your course as well, so please feel free to reach out to me directly.

Your Homework: Please write a post to introduce yourself to your fellow students and, if you like, talk a bit about what your intentions are for your Dragons’ course this semester.

A little about me; travel has been the cornerstone of my education. After graduating from high school in South Dakota, I took a big step out of my comfort zone by setting off for a gap year abroad program in southeast Asia. That first experience of traveling and learning about diverse cultures altered the path of my life dramatically.  Since that initial program, my desire to explore my place in this world has continuously grown. In university, I studied Political Science, Peace Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies and traveled whenever I could. As an undergraduate, I took advantage of as many study abroad opportunities as possible; participating in programs in Egypt, Northern Ireland, Ecuador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

While many places have intrigued me, it is the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region where I have focused my work and study. In addition to studying abroad in Egypt, I also served for two years as a U.S. Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer in southern Morocco. In the years that followed, I was employed by a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Congresswoman, and also worked as a Morocco Instructor and Course Director for Dragons for several summers. In 2009, I set out to live in Egypt again, where I completed my Masters in Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo and conducted research around the region. Following graduate school, I continued to explore new parts of the world in my free time- travelling in South America and East Africa. I also worked for a D.C. based non-profit for six years on the design and implementation of study abroad programs for American students in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and the UAE.

In my role as Program Director, I am excited to work with you and your instructors during the coming semester. As we are in touch in the time leading up to your course, I hope that you will continue to see that Dragons programs are designed with intention, heart, and exceptional care. Moreover, I am eager to hear about how the coming semester impacts you and your desire to continuously explore our complicated and beautiful world.

Once again, the Yak Board is the most appropriate forum to address all pre-course needs and concerns. Please take advantage of this chance to pose questions, connect, and foster a sense of community.

Here’s looking ahead to a phenomenal semester in Madagascar!


Cara Lane-Toomey


[email protected]