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Program Director Introduction

Congratulations on joining an inspiring and diverse community of travelers, educators, students, and cultural ambassadors! Though the fall 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 fall in Senegal promises to be an unforgettable experience.

We are posting today to introduce ourselves as the Program Directors for your semester course. Your course has the lucky situation of having two Program Directors this fall who will work together during the pre-course and on-course process to oversee your program.  Cara will be the main point of contact through the end August and then, while she is on leave, Jody will be the contact through the remainder of the program. The two of us will be helping to support your program from the United States.

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 in the weeks leading up to the course. 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 course.

In the near future, your remarkable Senegal  instructors will be posting their introductions. In the coming weeks, they will also use this board to provide updated information about an updated packing list, share the rough itinerary for this summer, outline ideas to get you thinking about your independent study project, and answer your questions. If you have a question, most likely, other people are wondering the same thing – so we encourage you to post your questions here on the Yak board 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.

To begin, 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 summer. Please try to post your introduction before August 25. Also, a note not to include any social media or email addresses in your post.

A little about us:

Cara: 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.  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.

Jody: Since I first visited China as a student of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College in 1996, I’ve spent a total of about 11 years studying, living and working, and doing research all over China. My experiences traveling in China led me to travel throughout Asia and the rest of the world, and the time I’ve spent immersed other cultures and places have been the most formative part of my education and my understanding of what it means to be human. My experiences in China have varied widely. I’ve found myself involved in all kinds of interesting things, from being a guide on a boat in the Yangtze River Three Gorges, to performing as a member of Chinese rock bands, to hosting a Chinese television show, to interviewing people working on the street as a doctoral student in Anthropology at Stanford University. Before beginning my work as China Program Director at Dragons in 2014, I ran a program focused on the Silk Road for American college students, based in Xi’an, Shaanxi. In my work with Dragons, I focus on China, but I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in supporting our programs in Africa as well and am looking forward to collaborating with Cara and our instructors in Senegal and Morocco this fall.

In our role as Program Directors, we are excited to work with you and your instructors during the coming months. As we are in touch in the time leading up to your course,  we hope that you will continue to see that Dragons programs are designed with intention, heart, and exceptional care. Moreover, we are eager 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 fall semester!

Cara Lane-Toomey, Program Director, [email protected]


Jody Segar, Program Director, [email protected]