Photos of the Week 3/30

During their time in Vienna, our blue and green cohorts got to share in learning about robotics. Their time together was a blast and we are excited for our groups to be combined again later in the Trimester. Green cohort is now in Venice where they are learning about mask-making and mosaics while Blue cohort has headed to Germany to test their skills behind the wheel at BMW Driving Experience.

Tell us which photos are your favorite in the comments below! Don’t forget, every Friday we post photos of the week. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Dini and Savannah in Italy. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Italy | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Italy | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Elaine in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Patrick in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Patrick in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Savannah and Elaine making masks in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Hayden in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Andrew and Alice in Italy
Andrew and Alice in Italy
Dini making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Learning about Robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Meagan in Italy
John making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Whitaker making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Learning about Robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Liam, Lex, and Andrew in Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Liam, Lex, and Andrew in Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Playing in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Learning robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Savannah making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Mosaic tiles in Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Mosaic tiles in Italy | Photo By: Alice Hart
Learning about Robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Elaine making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Blue cohort making masks in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Learning about Robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Italy | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Whitaker making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Whitaker, Lex, and Sam in Austria

Hope you enjoyed our photos of the week! Remember we post new photos every Friday. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Abby Dulin

The Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travels to 10 different countries over 9 months, where students learn 100 new life skills while traveling the world with their best friends.


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I first learned about a gap year in high school and it struck my interest. I did further research on it and found out that a gap year is exactly what I wanted to do. I never thought I would take one because I didn’t know there were programs that gave you the opportunity to travel and learn new skills.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I really have no idea what I want to do with my life. I am almost finished with a year of community college. I got most of my gen ed classes out of the way, but I don’t know what to do next. With everything Winterline has to offer, I know I will come out confident in what I want to do.

Abby Dulin Winterline Gap Year 2018-2019
Abby with family. 

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one because so many of them excite me, but if I had to narrow it down I’d say photography, videography, or scuba diving.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I’m really not sure what I want to do in the future, which is why I am taking this gap year.

Abby adventuring.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes, I mainly travel around the states and I started traveling alone when I was 15. I have been out of the country once to Costa Rica and that was my favorite trip. From snorkling to body surfing, Costa Rica just gave off a really good vibe that made it a fun time.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope to become more independent and overall a more well-rounded person. I am excited to see all of the different cultures and environments and learn from every experience.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am a little shy when I first meet people, but I really open up once I get to know them. Don’t be surprised if you see me laughing at absolutely nothing because my mind runs wild, you’ll get used to it. Oh yeah and don’t take anything I say seriously because I am very sarcastic.

Abby (right) smiling with a friend.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline offers everything that I’m looking for from the skills to the travel. I looked at other gap year programs, but nothing compared.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I’ve lived in 6 different states, which opened my eyes to traveling. I love photography and videography, so I will definitely be taking lots of photos and videos on this trip. One last thing, I can say the alphabet backwards and juggle, but not at the same time.

To learn more about our students be sure to check out our blog. We upload new posts three times a week!

 

Backcountry Medicine as a Life Skill: An Interview with Shantanu Pandit

Backcountry medicine is easily one of my favorite skills we’ve focused on during Winterline. One of our first skills during 1st trimester was with NOLS in Lander, Wyoming when we spent two days learning in our Wilderness First Aid course. And most recently, we completed a three-day Aerie course in the Mahindra United World College Institute, located in a rural part of Maharashtra, India. The course included both lecture-style and hands-on learning in the areas of disaster response and austere/backcountry medicine. I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our three instructors, Shantanu Pandit. He shared some of his personal experiences with backcountry medicine and his passion for working and living in the outdoors… Thank you, Shantanu!

Who are you? What motivates you?

Shantanu: “I [am] an outdoorsperson who is also interested in outdoor education. I have derived immense joy and happiness in the outdoors – hiking, climbing, a bit of rafting, ‘outdoor educating’ and …many a times just doing nothing! I know that each time I have been out I have benefited tremendously as a person. What motivates me today is to have people experience the outdoors in such a way that it is safe and enriching for not only us visitors but also our various environments (e.g., natural, socio-cultural, archaeological, etc.). I believe that it is essential for us to keep experiencing the natural environment and help sustain that environment.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What sparked your passion for being and working in the outdoors?

Shantanu: “I have always lived close to a mountainous area near Mumbai, India. This region is extremely rich in its cultural ethos. I started hiking when in school. Things that I had read in books started coming alive for me as I continued going outdoors… and this soon was a ‘more real’ reality for me than the urban setting that I was brought up in. Eventually, experiencing the Himalaya sealed it. If I have to name the most important aspect that provided the reason for working in the outdoors then it is the sheer sense of comfort that I felt being in the outdoors. This was home.”

 

What is the best outdoors trip you’ve ever done?

Shantanu: “How can one ever answer that question?! The most rewarding bird-watching trip I have had till now was in Sikkim… the most memorable rafting trip I had was not because of the rafting, but because of the riotous group that I was a part of… there have been several life-changing experiences (being a part of the team that attempted the third highest mountain in the world & the NOLS Instructor Course, to take but two examples)… I am afraid I cannot name one trip, sorry!”

 

Can you give the overview of Aerie Backcountry Medicine? What does it teach and what is its mission?

Shantanu: “Aerie Backcountry Medicine is a Montana based for-profit organization that teaches wilderness and rural first aid in the United States and other countries. I think Aerie is enriched because people from various walks of life work with its courses. I see Aerie as an agile organization that adapts to various geographies and cultures in order to effectively teach and spread safe practices. Despite its national and international presence, I have experienced Aerie as an organization that is kind of small enough to have an extremely warm and friendly organization culture… The stated mission of Aerie Backcountry Medicine is ‘Caring for injured or sick people is a privilege. Preparing people for this service is Aerie’s mission.’”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

 

When were you first introduced to backcountry medicine?

Shantanu: “I was introduced to backcountry medicine in 1987 when a friend who is a doctor-mountaineer started teaching us first aid in the context of outdoors. When I took my Wilderness First Responder course in 2000 (through WMI of NOLS), I got to know the richness of backcountry medicine in its formal and vibrant form. On a peak climbing expedition, while hiking up to the base camp, one of our porters got hit in the face by a falling rock that had bounced off the ground in front of him. This person was ‘responsive to verbal stimuli’ when I reached his camp in the night. After I gave first aid, I cautioned his brother to have the patient sleep in the ‘recovery position’ only and keep a tab on his breathing and explained the reasons behind this. I think that was a good call. The patient was successfully evacuated the next day (fortunately he was LOR x 4 by that time).”

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Shantanu: “Being a part of a community that teaches safe practices that influence safety of people in the outdoors and the environments that we derive so much pleasure and joy from. Teaching/instructing also keeps me on my toes in terms of updated knowledge and practices, skill-levels, etc.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu hiking on a NOLS course | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What advice do you have for people who haven’t taken any first-aid or medical training courses?

Shantanu: “Take any course that you can afford, ideally a ‘wilderness first aid course’ (‘wilderness’ is defined as being one hour away from definitive medical care – a definition that fits so many urban situations also). First aid skills are a ‘life skill’.”

 

What advice do you have for our own group of Green Cohort students moving into our last months of traveling together?

Shantanu: “Develop the skill and habit of ‘reflection’… make it a part of your daily life. Reflection on one’s experiences – be it a small incident, a day or a course/project – leads to tremendous learning and growth. Shared reflection and/or feedback from others is more powerful. All the Best!”

 

If you have any questions about taking a backcountry medicine course, please visit the NOLS and Aerie sites, or feel free to contact us!

Photos of the Week 3/23

Earlier this week our green cohort arrived in Munich, Germany while our blue cohort has settled into Venice, Italy. The past week has consisted of much excitement in regards to cooler weather, new skills, and of course amazing European food! Yesterday green cohort got into the driver’s seat with BMW where they learned defensive driving and spent most of the day behind the wheel of a beamer. Blue cohort has been focusing on the arts in Italy. Mask-making, photography, and glass blowing are just a few of the skills they will touch on while they’re there. In addition to getting the creative juices flowing, they got the chance to celebrate the birthday of our student, Savannah. Can you think of a better place to celebrate your birthday than Venice? We’re not sure if we can! Check out the photos below to get a look into the past week for yourself!

Don’t forget, every Friday we post photos of the week. Come back next week to see photos from our students time in Europe! To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Savannah in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah in Venice | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Green Cohort at BMW Driving Experience
Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Savannah celebrating her birthday in Venice
Savannah celebrating her birthday in Venice | Photo By: Erica Schultz
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Meagan gliding through Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Meagan gliding through Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Venice | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Natanielle behind the wheel at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Hayden and Alex at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Andrew at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Andrew at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Alice and Liam behind the wheel at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Alice and Liam behind the wheel at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Anna in Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart
Anna in Munich | Photo By: Alice Hart

Hope you enjoyed our photos of the week! Remember we post new photos every Friday. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

The Highs and Lows of Time Traveling

The following blog contains graphic descriptions of the Cambodian Killing Fields and strife Cambodian people experienced. Though I highly encourage you to read on, their stories can be extremely intense and might not be suited for all readers.

One month ago, our little Green Gang reunited in the Los Angeles airport to embark on the larger portion of our nine-month travel program. Next stop: Cambodia. 3 plane rides, 30 hours of travel, and the loss of January 21st (rest in peace). It was a draining day, but most of us were just happy to see each other again. There were so many questions to ask about our time spent apart; the air was buzzing with intrigue and excitement. For a lot of us it was our first time in Cambodia, or Southeast Asia itself, and no knew quite what to expect.

The first thing that hit me when we got off the plane was the familiar smell that is unique to the environment of Southeast Asia. I relaxed immediately as a combination of dust, fried foods, tropical plants, warmth, and faint hints of the sheer cloth of pollution that envelops the region filled my lungs. Contrary to what you might think, it’s inviting, and as someone who’s grown up travelling back and forth from India, it felt like home.

Photo By: Leela Ray
Photo By: Leela Ray

The air was thick with humidity and heat; sweat beaded on everyone’s temples as we clamoured to get on the large (air conditioned) charter bus sent to take us to our hostel. Finally, in a sleep-deprived stupor, we lugged our backpacks, duffle bags, daypacks, and spare miscellaneous objects into our respective rooms and, save for some 3am wake-up calls courtesy of jet-lag, we slept for the next twelve hours before diving into our second trimester.

To say I’m unaffected by most things would be an overstatement, however I can say that travelling for four months and constantly experiencing new things has created a me that is far less anxious or attached to trivial matters. I’m by no means enlightened, but I am far better at seeing the big picture, and I breathe easier knowing that this too, whatever it is, shall pass. All that being said, I was struck by the intensity and grief that presented itself to me at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre in Phnom Penh. We’d been in Cambodia all of three days and I already was seeing things I never expected, let alone was aware of.

I’m not necessarily well versed in world history, it’s a small stain on my otherwise acceptable school record, but it was astonishing to find that only a small handful of us knew about the Cambodian genocide that occurred from 1975-1978. Communism was on the rise, and with some of the US bombings of Vietnam spilling into Cambodia, there was a perfect opportunity for one Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge to quickly rise to power. With the intent of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, Pol Pot persecuted the educated intellectuals and those who rejected his ideals, along with the sick, old, young, and weak. Those persecuted were sent first to prisons, and then to killing fields, where a third of the Cambodian population perished.

Photo By: Leela Ray
Photo By: Leela Ray
Photo By: Leela Ray
Photo By: Leela Ray

We witnessed one of these mass graves. I still don’t have all the words to describe it. I will forever struggle to fathom the scale on which so many people were not just murdered, but tortured and maimed. Though I’ve seen memorials like this, in Israel and India, they never fail to stop me in my tracks. The tyranny and sadistic acts of Pol Pot the Khmer Rouge rivaled those of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime, and yet rarely anyone in westernized nations knows what happened.

Victims of Choeung Ek were men, women, children, and infants; they were mostly from Sector 21, a Khmer Rouge operated prison. Kept in the dark, both literally and figuratively, these tortured and starved individuals were shuttled to the repurposed orchard in the middle of the night under the guise of being brought to another prison. Upon arrival, they were immediately sent to a violent death. Because bullets and gunpowder were deemed too expensive, officers of the Khmer Rouge made use of the farming tools that previous inhabitants had left behind. Everyday items such as backhoes and shovels became weapons of mass murder, and chemicals were sprayed upon the dying to seal their fate. Pop music blared on loudspeakers that hung from a large tree in the centre of the camp to drown out the screaming. It was this and the ominous hum of a large diesel generator that serenaded these souls to their death. Corpses were packed tightly into pits not much larger than king sized beds, with bones upon bones upon bones, their graves just as ghastly as their living conditions. Despite being excavated a few decades ago, heavy rains still drag bones up through the soil, and scrapes of clothing protrude from the dusty earth.

It was difficult to start out our trip with such a harrowing experience, but ultimately it made me look at each Cambodian person with an elevated sense of respect. After all, you could look around and it was apparent that an entire generation was missing from the streets. Every face you saw knew someone who either perished or was still lost to them, yet somehow the Cambodian people still found a way to smile and live life to its fullest.

Leela's mixology instructor in Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray
Leela’s mixology instructor in Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray
Alice in Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray
Alice in Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray

Following our history lesson, we spent the next two weeks learning how to draw, use animation software, sharpen our bargaining skills, mix the perfect drink, explore and navigate different communication styles, and live purposefully. Though I wish I could write a little about everything, that many words would keep even me struggling to stay attentive. So here is where I leave you, at the end of Phnom Penh and the beginning a five hour bus ride to the Siem Reap. I’ve made new friends, strengthened relationships with old ones, gained more insight and respect for different cultures, and finally begun to settle into the routine of once again living my life from seventy litres of canvas. At the end of it all this much is certain: even being 8000 miles away from everything I know, I feel more at home than I ever have, and I can’t wait to see what antics we get up to next.

T0 hear more from our Leela and our other students check out our student voices page.

3 Skills You Have to Learn on Your Gap Year

But where these articles fall short is in describing how one actually learns these skills. Where in our modern testing culture do you learn the ability to learn? Where do you learn collaboration and critical thinking?

The gap year  is the perfect opportunity to define your own education, and create the kind of learning you know should be a part of your pedagogical repertoire. It’s your opportunity to zoom out, and figure out, “What are the kinds of things that I want to learn?” rather than the things that are mandated to you.

The short-list below is about inspiring you to be active about your own learning, and to use the gap year as an important opportunity to explore a number of different lifestyles, experiences, careers, and fields of study.

Which skills do you need to be prepared for life?

Central_Square_Theater_Performance.jpg

1. Collaboration

No matter what your job or lifestyle in the future requires, the ability to collaborate effectively will be an invaluable skill. Increased automation and artificial intelligence will probably be taking over all of the tasks that don’t require an innate understanding of human nature. Anything rote is likely to be replaced too.

The one thing robots can’t do is think like a human. They’re not inherently team players. So those jobs are here to stay. Working on a design team, negotiating a deal, doing scientific research, developing new energy policy and technology — these are just a few examples of careers that depend structurally on effective collaboration.

Semester abroad, gap year, and summer programs don’t always support collaboration. Many programs will send you to a far-off place on your own, with no team to bounce ideas off of, no peers to challenge your thinking or push you to understand how another team mate is feeling. Living in community is harder.

All of our programs focus on cohort models specifically for this reason. But that’s not to say there’s no alone time.

Hiking Wyoming NOLS Winterline
Group backpacking with NOLS
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.

2. Independence & self-sufficiency

We’ve all heard the stories. A student leaves home to go visit a far-off country. Runs out of money, gets robbed, gets stuck at an airport with the wrong visa and can’t come home, or worse.

Learning independence and self-sufficiency is a matter of degree. You don’t give yourself something too easy, nor too hard. You don’t drop yourself in the middle of a Mumbai slum on your first time away from home. And you don’t want to spend all your time abroad on the Thames, sipping lattes. You want to find the place where you’ll grow the most, the fastest.

Winterline’s approach is to sequence independence, building up to the Independent Study Project, where our students propose budgets, planning itineraries, and their own learning schedule, and, for the 9-month program, are given free reign to pursue them anywhere in Western Europe on a given stipend. In advance of that, students learn how to survive in the wilderness, how to deal with solitude with meditation, how to negotiate and manage a budget.

You learn independence by taking out more and more sizeable chunks of it. The key is balancing safety with challenge, knowing your limits, and knowing when you’re ready for the next big bite.

Learning to take public transportation abroad alone is a skill.
Paper-making ISP in Costa Rica

3. Cross-cultural understanding

The world is becoming smaller. Interactions that weren’t possible a decade ago occur on the regular. Flying around the world for business used to be the sole definition of globalization, but now these things can occur instantaneously across the web. You can FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Uber Conference, Facebook Live and so on. You can probably even Twitch your meetings.

But what all this means is that any international understanding you possess is inherently magnified. You may be running a startup in Boston, but your interactions with people from different countries, of different faiths, time zones, values, priorities will be extremely regular.

Having spent time in a certain country is one thing. But having interacted with people from those places in a deep, sincere, and meaningful way, beyond “Do No Harm” and toward actually contributing to those communities as they’ve defined it, is of far more value. You can speak to their work styles, their deference to elders, their ways of expressing respect because you’ve taken the time to understand them. But also, you can know your own limits, the limits of your own culture, perspective, and sense of what’s possible in the world.

Culture is a powerful force, and it shapes what we believe we can do with our lives. The more cultures you are familiar with, the more of an impact you will be able to have in your life.

Winterline students learned from locals in India | Photo By: Daniela Mallarino
Winterline students with local children in Thailand.

Ultimately, the value of a gap year is not just about making you more prepared for a career, but making you more prepared for all of what life has to offer. The more you see, the more you experience and interact with regarding collaboration, independence, and cross-cultural understanding, the more you will be prepared for life.

Photos of the Week 3/16

Seems like just yesterday our students were arriving for orientation in Colorado, and now they’re wrapping up Trimester 2! At the beginning of next week our students will be off to Europe to take on the adventure that is Trimester 3. There time in Southeast Asia the past couple months has been eye-opening, life-changing, and quite frankly..FUN! To hear more about their adventures be sure to check out the student voices page on our blog. To see their travels for yourself, take a look at these photos from their last couple days in India. In this post you’ll also find some photos we just received from other places they visited in Southeast Asia. We can’t wait to see what these groups do next!

Don’t forget, every Friday we post photos of the week. Come back next week to see photos from our students time in Europe! To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Our students are always learning new skills! | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Our students are always learning new skills! | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
One of the best things about visiting a new place is learning from the people who live there. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
One of the best things about visiting a new place is learning from the people who live there. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Learning new skills together. | Photo from: Meagan Kindrat
Learning new skills together. | Photo from: Meagan Kindrat
Dini learning new skills | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini learning new skills | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Cody enjoying India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Cody enjoying India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
How beautiful is this photo of Dini in India? | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
How beautiful is this photo of Dini in India? | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini enjoying the view | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini enjoying the view | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
A new little friend is watching | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
A new little friend is watching | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Elaine and Cody doing some food prep. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Elaine and Cody doing some food prep. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Elaine in India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Elaine in India | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Liam in Thailand | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Liam in Thailand | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Patrick and Anna at a soccer game back in Thailand | Photo from: Anna Nickerson
Patrick and Anna at a soccer game back in Thailand | Photo from: Anna Nickerson
Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Blue Cohort Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Elaine Kayaking at Mahindra United World College | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Anna working on a bike in Cambodia | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna working on a bike in Cambodia | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Liam, Anna, and Patrick serving up some world class hospitality in Cambodia. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Liam, Anna, and Patrick serving up some world class hospitality in Cambodia. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Glitter Latte in Mumbai | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Glitter Latte in Mumbai | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Learning new skills in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Learning new skills in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Farming and cooking at Santulana | Photo By: Alice Hart
Farming and cooking at Santulana | Photo By: Alice Hart
Hayden in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Hayden in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Natanielle making a new friend in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Natanielle making a new friend in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Cow Kisses | Photo By: Alice Hart
Cow Kisses | Photo By: Alice Hart
Blue cohort having fun at laser tag! | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Blue cohort having fun at laser tag! | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Laser tag! | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Laser tag! | Photo By: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Blue cohort ready for some laser tag! | Photo From: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)
Blue cohort ready for some laser tag! | Photo From: Erica Schultz (Field Advisor)

Hope you enjoyed our photos of the week! Remember we post new photos every Friday. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Thank you, Cambodia.

I had just finished my delicious seafood fried rice and dragon fruit smoothie at a local Khmer restaurant down the street from my hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I started heading back to the hostel to fill up my water before going back to the yoga studio where programming was that day. As I made it into my room, I quickly realized that I had misplaced my sunglasses (an absolute necessity under the scorching southeast Asian sun). I tore my room apart trying to find them, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I half-heartedly accepted the loss, but as I walked back I stopped at the restaurant anyways. I asked the hostess if I had left my sunglasses at my lunch table, but she told me the staff hadn’t seen any. I thanked her and walked away from the restaurant. I crossed a couple busy streets with tuk-tuks, motorcycles, taxis, and people on bicycles weaving in and out of the traffic, and I eventually made it to a sidewalk when I heard someone behind me yelling. Assuming it was a street vendor or tuk-tuk driver trying to get my attention, I ignored it. But after a few seconds, I turned around curiously. A man on a motorcycle stopped next to me and waved. I recognized him from the restaurant as he handed me my sunglasses. He smiled as I thanked him repeatedly, and then we both carried on in our opposite directions.

This all took place on my first full day in Cambodia, and I feel that this little anecdote fully encapsulates my 3-week experience in Cambodia. Earlier that same morning, we had been with our regional director who was giving us an orientation of the country. He told us the precautions we needed to take in order to prevent theft and assault, and how to maximize our personal safety. Given that it was my first day in a new city, country, and continent, I had my guard up, especially with my newfound knowledge of Phnom Penh’s dangers. My experience with the man and my sunglasses completely altered my view of the Cambodian people, and shifted my perception of where I was.

Phnom Penh | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Phnom Penh | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

As most of my friends and family know, I hate big cities. They tend to be overcrowded, loud, dirty, and congested, all of which are things that stress me out. I hardly find myself going out of my way to get into a city; typically, I do just the opposite. Being from both Washington State and Colorado, I have become accustomed to living in more rural and natural environments with easy access to the ocean and rivers and forests and mountains. First trimester’s somewhat rural settings of Wyoming, Belize, and Costa Rica were right up my alley. But upon arriving to Phnom Penh, I knew it would be a challenge for me to assimilate to “big city living.” After my encounter with the man from the restaurant, I found myself looking for more positive aspects of being in a big city rather than dwelling on the things I hated about it. No longer afraid or extremely weary of my environment, I naturally became more accustomed to Phnom Penh, and genuinely appreciated what it had to offer, even though it wasn’t where I was actively choosing to live.

Tuk Tuk | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Tuk Tuk | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

I went out of my way to break through my own discomforts about being in the city, which didn’t come as naturally to me as it did to most people in my group. I forced myself to cross the street without hesitation, holding my ground with the motorcycles and tuk-tuks zooming in and out around me (and not letting myself freak out). I stayed open-minded about eating the local cuisine by eating at different restaurants and cafes, night markets, and street vendors. I even made an effort to take Natanielle’s advice of “speaking smile” by smiling at the locals, even if I couldn’t speak with them in their native language.

The overarching lesson I learned from that occurrence on my first day in Phnom Penh is that both receiving and giving little acts of kindnesses, especially while traveling abroad, can become pivotal moments that alter your view of where you are, how you act, and the culture around you. I want to thank that man from the restaurant, wherever he is and whatever he is doing. His act of hospitality and kindness allowed me to see Cambodia for what it is: an amazing country that has gone through immense loss, yet is filled with some of the kindest and genuine people I’ve encountered.

Thank you to that man, and thank you to Cambodia.

To hear more from our Anna check out our student voices page, as well as her personal blog.

 

 

 

 

Photos of the Week 3/9

Can you believe Trimester 2 has almost come to an end? Over the past couple months our students have traveled across Southeast Asia where they’ve tried their hand at skills like animation, mixology, cooking, and navigation. They also had a great time celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and spring, with the students of UWC. For those who are unfamiliar, Holi marks the end of the winter season and the beginning of abundance that will come with the upcoming spring harvest. People celebrate Holi by smearing colored powder on each other’s faces, spraying colored water, and dancing. Sound like a blast? It looks even more fun than it sounds. Check out our students photos below from their celebration. We cannot wait to see what the last bit of Trimester 2 holds for our cohorts, and we’re even more excited to see the adventures they embark on during Trimester 3.

Additionally, to hear more from our students abroad, check out our student Anna’s blog! She has recently updated her site with a post about her time in Cambodia. Let us know your favorite photos of the week in the comments below! To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Andrew walking in Maharashtra | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Andrew walking in Maharashtra | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Sweet new friend abroad | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Sweet new friend abroad | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Elaine and Whitaker celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Elaine and Whitaker celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Happy Holi from Green Cohort and Friends! | Photo By: Leela Ray
Happy Holi from Green Cohort and Friends! | Photo By: Leela Ray
Natanielle and Alice covered in colors after Holi | Photo From: Alice Hart
Natanielle and Alice covered in colors after Holi | Photo From: Alice Hart
Meagan celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Meagan celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Patrick and Liam having a blast celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Patrick and Liam having a blast celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Savannah having fun at Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Savannah having fun at Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Alice and Anna enjoying Holi | Photo From: Alice Hart
Alice and Anna enjoying Holi | Photo From: Alice Hart
Alice and Anna post Holi | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Alice and Anna post Holi | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Patrick covered in paint while celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Patrick covered in paint while celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Blue cohort's girl squad having a blast at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Blue cohort’s girl squad having a blast at MUWCI for Holi| Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Blue Cohort celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Blue Cohort celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Liam and Patrick celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Liam and Patrick celebrating Holi | Photo By: Leela Ray
Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Patrick, Liam, and Leela at Holi | Selfie from: Leela Ray
Patrick, Liam, and Leela at Holi | Selfie From: Leela Ray
Natanielle and Anna rocking their Saris. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Natanielle and Anna rocking their saris. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna and Alice also not sorry* about sporting their beautiful saris. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna and Alice also not sorry* about sporting their beautiful saris. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

Hope you enjoyed our photos of the week! Remember we post new photos every Friday. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

A Lesson from My Gap Year: Relax, You’re Awesome.

High school students receive drastically different messaging than I do as someone in the field of experiential education. They’re asked every day what they want to be when they grow up, where they are going two months after they graduate from high school, what they want to study, and what they want to accomplish. Most of the adults who ask that probably don’t even know what they want to be, do, or accomplish, so they’re asking pretty unfair questions.

My favorite thing about getting out of high school and college is that I now hear a completely different philosophy. My colleagues consistently say that there’s no way a high school student should be expected to know what they want to study, let alone what they want to do with their life. My life goal is to make sure high school students receive similar, more supportive messaging.

If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, you’re probably feeling pretty vulnerable. People probably ask you “why?” Because you have guts, that’s why. If something doesn’t quite feel right about going straight to college, listen to your gut, and figure out a responsible plan of action. People will understand – even if it’s after the fact.

ben welbourn

Senior year, students at my high school consistently asked me why I wasn’t going straight to college, and they asked the question with both curiosity and a palpable tone of confusion. A few weeks into my gap year, I was a couple hundred miles into the Appalachian Trail when a Facebook group popped up: “I wish I was Ben Welbourn.” Front and center: a photo of me conquering another mountain. It was created by our class president/football captain/lacrosse captain/resident stud. That was my first positive reinforcement from a peer, and it happened over a year after my decision to defer from college. After that, I got more and more support from high school friends and complete strangers from the college I was yet to attend. Be patient!

A week before graduation, my high school Spanish teacher asked me what my plans were post-high school. When I told her I was about to start a gap year, she told me “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” Initially, I took that as an insult, as if she was telling me, “Yeah, you’re a mess, so you’re probably not ready for college.” I’ve kept in touch with her long enough to know now that she just saw a gap year as a great opportunity for me to find focus.

Stick to your guns, but put in the leg work to make sure that once you do take your gap year, you’ll come out with new skills and experiences that everyone will appreciate.

5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Journal on Your Gap Year

You’ll say to yourself, that was so amazing, there’s no way I’ll forget it. And then..

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

While there are many good reasons to bring a journal with you on your gap year travels. There are even more reasons to keep a journal. Here’s five!

1. Change

You’ll be changing so much during your gap year. That was the whole reason you’re doing it. Documenting your observations, your reactions, your perspectives as you move through the world will create enormous value for you in terms of presenting what it was you did, who it was you met, and what you visibly learned and engaged with.

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

2. Reflect

Writing is a powerful tool. Not just for spreading the word about what you’ve been up to, but for processing what it is you’re seeing. Whether you’re writing in a journal or writing on a blog, documenting your journey helps you grow when you slow down and take stock of what’s happening to you. If you’re doing it right, every day of your gap year will be a completely new adventure.

3. Bring your friends along for the ride

While not everything you’ll write down in your journal is or should be public knowledge, you’ll want to have something to share with your friends and family back home. Keeping that journal updated daily will ensure that those crazy quotes that blew your mind open about how that sailor in Greece or that tea-stand owner in India sees the world don’t get forgotten.

Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

4. Practice

Your gap year should be as much about exposing you to new experiences, new cultures, and ways of seeing, as it should be about acquiring new skills and abilities. You have a whole year to get better at something. Why not make it something that is useful in just about every profession, career, and life setting? Writing is an invaluable tool for communicating at scale.

5. Remember

And of course, you’ll want to revisit those memories that you’ve made. You’ll want to hit ‘save’ on life while you’re living it up or stuck at some bus stop somewhere. Because all of the ups and downs are what make your gap year beautiful (though hopefully you’ll have more ups). Looking back on how you were thinking about a predicament, perhaps thinking about it too hard, or not enough, you’ll realize how much fun you were having on the road, figuring everything out for the first time. You may even get a few laughs out of your old self.

 

Many of our students love to share their experiences with others through journaling. Be sure to check out the “Student Voices” section of our blog. Additionally, two of our current gap year students have travel blogs themselves check out Anna and Meagan’s adventures by reading their blogs!