I hope this note finds you and your loved ones well, wherever you may be at the moment. I write to you from my parents’ home in Westchester, New York (about an hour north of NYC). Currently surrounded by the familiar, it’s hard to imagine that this time next month, we will be at orientation in Indonesia, preparing for an adventure-filled three months together.
My name is Hannah Joy Sachs and I will be one of your three instructors, along with the wonderful Rita and Colin. I’ve spent much time working, studying, and traversing Mainland Southeast Asia over the past several years. That said, this is only my second course with Dragons and it will be my first time working in Indonesia. As our departure date approaches, I’m filled with excitement, anticipation, gratitude, and nervousness. Just as I gather you may be feeling, too.
A bit about me: raised by a multiracial, multicultural family in a relatively homogenous suburb of New York City, I have grappled with my identity and sense of belonging for as long as I can remember. Beginning in high school, I actively sought out opportunities in which I could learn about new cultures, visit new countries, and meet new people with backgrounds dramatically different from my own. I found self-confidence yet humility, purpose yet endless questions, and a new critical understanding of the world and myself through travel—and it made me want to continue exploring the world and my purpose within it.
I earned my BA in sociology from Davidson College before pursuing an MSc in human migration studies from University of Oxford. My research has focused on identity and community building across borders, and has led me to study in China, Thailand, Laos, England, and Germany. I am particularly interested in marginalized and communities and their stories of resistance and resilience. Professionally, I’ve spent several seasons as a global program leader with Rustic Pathways; tried my hand as a remote worker doing administrative jobs while traveling in Asia and Africa; and served as one of Hillel’s inaugural social justice specialists—placed at Stony Brook University, I led interfaith, graduate student, and Jewish cultural programming for the campus community. This summer, I led my first course for Dragons in Myanmar. It was an incredible experience and inspired me to re-join Dragons for a fall semester. Indonesia is going to be a whole new experience to me, too. The beauty of this work is that I can be a teacher and a student simultaneously; I am eager to learn from you all and witness this diverse country and its rich cultures through your eyes.
As you prepare for your course, I encourage you all to start thinking of some goals you have for yourself. Start considering how you can make the most of this experience – this will probably look different for everyone. To me, travel is about embracing the unexpected and adapting accordingly. However, there are a few things you can expect. You should expect to leave your comfort zone—repeatedly. We will be a tight-knit community, often sharing close quarters and discussing intense subjects. You can expect to feel frustrated at times but, hopefully at the end of the day, inspired by meaningful conversation. You may feel unsettled and out of place. And, simultaneously, you may feel more “at home” than you ever have before in your life. And, if we as an instructor team do our jobs right, you will hopefully return from Indonesia with more questions than answers.
In the coming weeks, one of us instructors will touch base with you via phone. In the meantime, keep an eye on this Yak Board for important updates. Also, I encourage you all to introduce yourselves and use this space to ask questions. I can’t wait to meet y’all in person and embark on this journey together. Until then, enjoy the last weeks of summer!