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A student practices working the fields with a water buffalo. Photo by Ming-Jiu-Li, China Summer Program.

Instructor Introduction

Hello Yangtze River Dragons students,

My name is Zack Siddall and it is my distinct pleasure to be one of your 3 instructors in China this summer. I, along with my amazing co-instructors Tingting and Jonas are working hard to fine tune our itinerary to fill it full of rich and rewarding educational opportunities. We will be presenting our itinerary shortly but first let’s get to know each other a bit.

This will be my second time running the Yangtze River course but my history with Dragons started many years ago on a completely different continent. It all began in the tiny East African nation of Rwanda. While serving in the US Peace Corps in the remote Rwandan village of Kanyanza in the Muhanga district I was introduced to the Where There Be Dragons Rwanda summer program. I spent two fateful days with that group back in 2012 and that’s all it took for me to be hooked. After I finished my time with Peace Corps I applied to Dragons and was hired on for the 2013 summer in Rwanda.

Since that summer I have worked pretty much full time for Dragons, mostly in the field but also in the United States in the marketing department. My journey with Dragons has taken me back to Rwanda summer after summer, and has me bouncing between the Central America and Andes & Amazon semester programs, I actually just finished up the spring semester in Bolivia and Peru. This past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to lead my first course in China after having spent 4 months studying Mandarin and martial arts. The Yangtze River program is so unique and gives a great overview of modern day China. Starting in Shanghai and then ending in Xining allows one to see so many exciting and diverse sides of this complex country.

In these weeks leading up to when we meet you in Los Angeles know that we are here for you, ready to answer any questions you may have. Please check this Yak Board regularly for important course related updates. Whenever you have a question or concern please don’t hesitant to send me a note at or post said question(s) here on our Yak Board. Shortly one of the 3 of us will be reaching out to you to arrange a precourse phone/skype call. In this chat we’ll answer any questions you may have and help you get ready for this exciting, transformative adventure.

One final note: A program like this takes courage. You’re throwing yourself into another culture, perhaps with a language you do not speak (yet). My team and I (along with our friends in China, local guides/teachers/mentors, homestay families, etc) will do everything in our power to make this a transformative, educational, fun and safe adventure for you. However, we need your help. In these next couple of weeks begin to prepare yourself for this trip. Start reading the materials and recommended books/articles provided to you by Dragons. Read news about what’s happening in China. Practice your Mandarin. This is your trip, own it! We’re so excited to meet you in just a few short weeks!