Introspective Reflection in India

The Creator, The Sustainer, and The Transformer. These three deities make up “Trimurti,” the trinity of supreme divinity in the religion of Hinduism. When they come together like this, they form one singular being that Hindu followers, and followers of other Indian religions, worship and highly revere. Despite the fact that I am not a follower of Hinduism, I find personal value in each of these three deities. The ideas behind Trimurti continue to teach me about myself and the roles I play in others’ lives as well as my own.  

I learned about Trimurti when I stayed at Atmasantulana, an Ayruvedic health center and ashram, during my independent study project in Lonavala, India. Ayurveda is an ancient practice of medicine that began in India. One of its main principles is to treat and cure the body holistically, as opposed to simply treating symptoms and ignoring root causes. They attempt to do so through diet, meditation, yoga, exercise and various Ayurvedic treatments. Over my five-day stay, I learned more about myself than I have in any other singular week on Winterline, which is saying a lot. I didn’t expect to have such an intense week of introspective reflection, especially given that the environment was so unorthodox by my standards.

Anna expressing herself with color in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Anna expressing herself with color in India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Sunil, one of our clinic program directors, told us about Ayurveda on our first day. He taught us about the elements of the body, which are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. He explained that when all of our elements are in perfect symbiosis and alignment, the body will have no problems, but when one or more of the elements is misaligned, ailments and symptoms of the body will occur. The goal of Ayurveda, he explained, is to use natural methods to bring these elements back into alignment, therefore healing the body directly. As I went on the next few days, I kept what Sunil said in mind and stayed open to the idea that yoga, meditation, and following basic Ayurvedic principles could heal some of my body’s ailments. I quickly realized that my mindset was preventing me from healing, and I needed to change that.  

I had an appointment with an Ayurvedic physician during the middle of the week to discuss my chronic joint pain, digestive issues, and recurring acne, which have all plagued me for years. She went through my medical history with me, asked me questions about my lifestyle, and then “felt my pulses.” As silly as it may sound, she was feeling the pulse in my wrist for my “energy.” Within 30 seconds of this, she looked at me and said, “You get angry soon.” She meant that I have a quick temperament, and get upset with very little reaction time, which is true to an extent. I asked her to tell me more about this and how she felt it in my energy. She told me that I have too much “Vata,” which is responsible for the elements of air and space, and determine overall movement in the body. She prescribed me all-natural ayruvedic medicine and told me to meditate and practice yoga every day. I proceeded to go to the yoga sessions each morning and meditation each evening. After each session, I felt lighter and more comfortable within my own body. I didn’t feel any desire to worry or to stress, and I just felt good. When I thought about the stuff that had bothered me the previous week, it all seemed more trivial to me. And I seriously wondered if my temperament was really preventing me from healing and being a more productive person. I wanted to keep this feeling of calmness and stability, which was so new to me. 

anna kayaking
Anna kaying in India. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

I have attained, and am still attaining, more calmness and less temperament in my daily life. I have a deeper understanding of what I need to keep myself grounded, and I am more comfortable being “selfish” when it is necessary for me to take care of myself, especially while living with a large group of people. Meditation is now a part of my routine, and yoga is something I sometimes incorporate when I have enough floor space in my hostel room.

The thing I often come back to is the idea behind Trimurti, which has deeply resonated with me since I first learned about it. We all have aspects of the creator, the sustainer, and the transformer within us. I’ve found that it’s by looking at those aspects of ourselves that we are able to identify what we do well, and what could be improved. I am a great creator and sustainer within most realms of my life, but when it comes to “transforming,” I have a difficult time. By actively recognizing that, and framing it in an intuitive way that works for me, I am able to work on myself and let go of so much.

India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
India | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

I am my own creator and my own sustainer and my own transformer. The biggest lesson for me in the last few weeks has been this idea, but applied to my mindset and attitude about my life. I create my mindset. I am the creator of my own environment and my own reactions to what happens in my life. I sustain my mindset. I am able to look at the grand scheme of things, believe that what I am doing in this moment is helping me now and in the future, and actively sustain my progress. And I can transform my mindset.  I hold the power to transform my own life. And it’s liberating.

 

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

 

New Student Spotlight: Emma Mays

Gap Year Students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travel to 10 different countries over 9 months, where they 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 was only really introduced to the idea of taking a gap year a few months ago. I’d heard of them in the past but they seemed to be a thing mostly in europe and I’d never personally known anyone who decided to take one. A few months back my Mom actually mentioned the idea to me and we just went from there.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’ve been burnt out on the education system for a very long time now and I think my family and I realized that I just needed some time away from a traditional classroom setting to regain my passion for learning.

Emma-Mays-gap year student
Emma

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m really excited about everything to be honest. That being said I’m weirdly excited about glass blowing, I’m not particularly sure why it just seems so interesting and something no one I’ve ever met has done.

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

I’m not sure what exactly I’d like to do in the future but I’d definitely love to work in a creative field. Right now I’m considering majoring in film production but I’m interested in seeing what direction the next year pushes me in.

Emma-Mays-gap year student
Legend Titan Front Ensemble at Grand Nationals 2017

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

I haven’t traveled extensively, mostly just to visit family, but when I was 15 my school’s marching band went to London. It was the first time I had traveled without my family and it was a really great experience. My friends and I got lost in the city and we had to find our way back. It was a really fun experience and it changed my perspective on a lot of stuff.

Emma-Mays-Winterline-gap year student
Emma (far right) with friends.

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

I think if I knew what exactly I expected to get out this experience it almost wouldn’t be worth going, but I do hope to get a bit more adaptability out of the adventure.

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

I’m pretty quiet at first but as I get more comfortable I’ll start making a bunch of jokes and you’ll probably want to punch me in the face but that’s alright because I made a really good friend that way.

Emma-Mays-Winterline-gap year student
Emma (middle) with friends.

WHY WINTERLINE?

I don’t think I could articulate it if I tried, when I found Winterline’s site I just had a feeling in my gut that this is where I should be.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I’m a ridiculous person, I do goofy stuff all the time. For example last october I had a half day of school and I dressed up the plastic skeleton we had for halloween and put him in my passenger seat and drove around. His name is Franklin.

To learn more about our students be sure to check out other posts on our blog. We upload new posts three times a week! Also, be sure to catch up with us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

Photos of the Week 4/20

What an adventure it has been! Our students are on their way back from Europe and will be landing in Boston this evening. They have spent their last week in Europe on Spring Break in Prague. Once they are back in the U.S. they will finish up Trimester 3 by giving presentations on their Europe Independent Study Projects, they will also do a Startup Bootcamp focusing on business skills, prep for life after Winterline, and of course celebrate their graduation! We are so excited to see our blue and green cohorts in person and can’t wait to celebrate their success at their graduation ceremony.

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.

Hayden in Italy | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Hayden in Italy | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Alex and Elaine at the John Lennon Wall | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Alex and Elaine at the John Lennon Wall | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Anna and Patrick during Trimester 3
Anna and Patrick during Trimester 3
Prague | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Prague | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Liam and Alice at the Spy Museum in Berlin
Liam and Alice at the Spy Museum in Berlin
Anna and our Field Advisor Nick at BMW Driving Experience
Anna and our Field Advisor, Nick, at BMW Driving Experience
Winterline tagged on the John Lennon Wall
Winterline tagged on the John Lennon Wall
Anna and Leela during Trimester 3
Anna and Leela during Trimester 3
Elaine, Savannah, and Alex at the John Lennon Wall.
Elaine, Savannah, and Alex at the John Lennon Wall.

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.

Social Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

The term, “social entrepreneurship” comes up almost every day as I travel through Southeast Asia. People interpret this term differently, which makes sense given that the buzzword combines two complex ideas; society/social causes and entrepreneurship. As someone who wants to become a social entrepreneur, I want to break down the meaning of this term and what I have gained by looking at it through a cross-cultural lense.

I personally define social entrepreneurship as a mindset, rather than a component of a business entity. I believe that all social enterprises must start as social enterprises. This mindset cannot be an afterthought, rather the foundational aspect of any successful social enterprise.

Anna cutting the ribbon at Clarity’s launch event last year!
Anna cutting the ribbon at Clarity’s launch event last year!

During my senior year of high school, I was the CEO of a social enterprise, called “Clarity.” My peers and I started the business to bring awareness to teenage suicide within our school district. Our mission was to decrease factors in our school and district that played a role in teen suicide by promoting positive future-seeking visions in every student. We achieved this by selling unique water bottles and stickers that acted as conversations starters within our school. From my own personal experience of having friends and family members suffer from suicidal thoughts, I feel strongly about the issue and I wanted to make a change, even if it was on a small scale within in my high school. The name “Clarity” was inspired by the lack of clarity that many teenagers face in their lives, and that they struggle to find. Our slogan “See Your Future” encouraged students to look past these clouding visions and see their own unique futures.

Our enterprise was successful, both socially and fiscally. We nearly quadrupled our initial investment, which we then donated to a local mental health center and our high school’s business department. We also had better results from students, regarding mental health and conversations about suicide, in our post-business survey. We only attained success because we were passionate about our mission, and we were involved primarily for the social outcome. We succeeded because of our entrepreneurial spirit and passion for achieving our mission.

Clarity goes international
Clarity goes international

I recently interviewed Max Simpson, a social entrepreneur and SEN (special educational needs) teacher who co-founded “Steps with Theera.” This restaurant/café is located in Bangkok, Thailand and is on a mission to create a place where everyone is accepted for who they are, which they attain by supporting special-needs people through sustainable employment and other measures. Max didn’t move to Bangkok in search of business opportunities nor did she have any idea that she’d ever become an entrepreneur. She was an SEN teacher in Bangkok for 4 years until she discovered the lack of social and educational support for adults with SEN. She then decided to leave her job as a teacher and collaborated with her co-founder, Theera, to build the social enterprise they have today.

Theera and Max
Theera and Max

Max defines the term “social enterprise” as, “Helping a social cause whilst developing sustainable business opportunities – which in turn creates wider awareness and acceptance.” Max’s answer varies from my own personal definition of social entrepreneurship, and probably varies from your very own definition. But that’s okay. What I’ve learned while traveling in Southeast Asia, and working with many social enterprises, is that we all define this term differently.

Steps with Theera
Steps with Theera

Despite the disparity amongst definitions, there is a common theme amongst the international definitions of social entrepreneurship. And I believe that it is finding the symbiotic relationship between one’s chosen social cause and their means of entrepreneurship. It’s all in the balance between the two, which can vary from business to business. Social enterprises that you’ve most likely heard of such as Seventh Generation, Newman’s Own, and even Teach for America, all have different missions and their own unique ways of defining “social entrepreneurship” for themselves, but they all have mastered the balance between their social and fiscal goals.

All successful social enterprises, corporate or small-scale, have an unbreakable passion for their chosen social cause and a foundational mindset of what social entrepreneurship means to them. Throughout this trimester I have learned more about what social entrepreneurship means to me personally and to others that I’ve met in different countries. And after what I’ve seen in, I know that the entrepreneurial spirit is something that no one can take away from me, or anyone else who has it.

To learn more about Winterline’s relationship with social enterprises, please contact us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos of the Week 4/13

We cannot believe that the past Trimester is coming to an end! Our students have spent the last week working on their Independent Study Projects (ISPs) across Europe. Now they are headed to Prague to meet for their Spring Break, and before we know it they’ll be back in Boston with us at HQ! Check out the photos below from our students time in Europe. ISP photos are still rolling in so be sure to keep an eye out for a blog dedicated specifically to our students projects!

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.

Alex showing some shoe at Castel dell'Ovo | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alex showing some shoe at Castel dell’Ovo | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Erica making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Erica making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Alice hanging out with some swans at Leeds Castle
Alice hanging out with some swans at Leeds Castle
Anna in Italy
Anna in Italy
Meagan partnered with the Austrian National Council for her Independent Study Project (ISP)
Meagan partnered with the Austrian National Council for her Independent Study Project (ISP)
Caroline making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Caroline making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Alice in London's China Town
Alice in London’s China Town
Alex in Naples
Alex in Naples
Savannah checking out some mosaic tiles | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah checking out some mosaic tiles | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Leeds Castle | Photo By: Alice Hart
Leeds Castle | Photo By: Alice Hart
Anna enjoying some escargot while on her ISP in France!
Anna enjoying some escargot while on her ISP in France!
Erica checking out some mosaic tiles | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Erica checking out some mosaic tiles | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Alice at Leeds Castle
Alice at Leeds Castle
Savannah making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Covent Garden London | Photo By: Alice Hart
Covent Garden London | Photo By: Alice Hart
Patrick making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Patrick making mosaic | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

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.

 

What to Expect from Trimester 2: An Interview with Alice Hart & Sophia Mizrahi

From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia
From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia

As our group finishes our second trimester, we’ve been doing some reflection about the last few months in Southeast Asia. I interviewed two of my best friends on the trip, Alice and Sophia. They each reflected on their own experiences in Cambodia, Thailand, and India, which was a lot of fun to see…

Why did you join Winterline this year?

 Alice: “I had known I was going to take a gap year and once I saw Winterline’s skills and the variety that they offered, I decided that I wanted to use this year to figure out what I want to do in the future. I wanted to use the skills to put me on track for my future career.”

Sophia: “I wanted to go to college immediately, but my mom was very open to the idea of a gap year and encouraged me to look into it. I was looking at gap year options, and I knew that I didn’t want to stay at home and work before college. At first, I was scared of being away from home for 9 months, but once I looked into the program I knew that it would provide me time to mature before college and allow me to grow, which it’s done.”

Alice cooking at Paul De Brule
Alice cooking at Paul de Brule

What has been your favorite place we have traveled to in the second trimester and why?

Alice: “It’s definitely between Cambodia and India. I loved Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was quiet, but at the same time there was a lot of access to different activities. I loved the different cultures and it was a great place to people watch, especially on Pub Street. I also loved learning to make different Cambodian dishes at Paul de Brule Cooking School and learning about hospitality.”

Sophia: “I loved Bangkok, Thailand. I spent a couple winters there as a child, so it was great to be back. Even though I was sick there with a sinus infection, I loved it so much. I really enjoyed the hustle-and-bustle of a really big city. I also enjoyed doing cooking school in Bangkok!”

Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.
Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.

What has been the greatest challenge during second trimester for you personally?

Alice: “I think living with other people is a challenge I’m still dealing with. It never becomes magically easy to do. I am also still figuring out how I can speak my truth to the group, but I also am learning to accept that people won’t always listen to me.”

Sophia: “Honestly, it’s been challenging to be sick a lot of this trimester. I really wanted to take time to appreciate where we have been, but I had a hard time doing that when I was constantly so physically sick.”

What has been the greatest reward during this trimester for you?

Alice: “I think still being able to learn new things about my peers even though we have all been together for so long. It’s been interesting to see new sides to these people, who I’ve lived with for so long, and I always learn something new from everyone.”

Sophia: “Even though it was a nightmare, my reward was getting through most of the bike ride in Siem Reap. I never thought I would be able to get through it, but it was really satisfying and a personal accomplishment for me.”

Taking a bike ride and making new friends| Photo By: Alice Hart
Southeast Asia Bike Ride| Photo By: Alice Hart

What advice/words of wisdom would you give someone who is contemplating taking a gap year with Winterline?

 Alice: “To have realistic expectations. A lot of people think that this program is a way to escape their own lives. And the truth is that your personal problems will follow you and you’re going to have to learn how to navigate these problems, especially with people you can’t walk away from. Learn to have the sympathy and empathy to manage your relationships within the group.”

Sophia: “You may want to go home. The whole year won’t be unicorns and rainbows. Your group is going to go through so much together as a family, but also remember to rely on people in your group for support. Also, keep your socks dry on NOLS and don’t get trench foot like I did!” 

Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.
Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.

Is there anything you wish you had known before going into this trimester?

Alice: “People will surprise you.”

Sophia: “I wish that I had packed a real jacket because it’s going to be so cold in Europe. Also, I wish I had known I would get more bug bites on my body and face in Southeast Asia than in Belize and Costa Rica. I was the only one!”

Alice and Sophia at the National Museum of Cambodia | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Last question… What experience or expedition has been the most fun for you, during second trimester?

 Alice: “Sophia, Anna, and I had a “tourist” day on one of our rest days in Phnom Penh. We went to the National Museum of Cambodia, got massages, had lunch at a local restaurant, and explored some of the temples. It’s one of those days that will always be one of my favorite memories and just picture-perfect. I love my two best friends.”

Sophia: “My favorite day was when we went to the Bai Pai Cooking School in Bangkok, and then explored the mall afterwards. I was very proud of my cooking capabilities and for also navigating the huge city using public transportation.”

 

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

Photos of the Week 4/6

Can you believe another week has come and gone? As of today all of our students are traveling on their ISPs. This means our students are traveling independently across Europe as they focus on a specific skill or skill set that interests them personally. We’ll have more photos from those adventures next week, but this week we’re sharing our favorite photos from our students finishing up their time traveling as a group together in Europe. Check out blue cohort behind the wheel at BMW and green cohort brushing up on their creative side in Venice.

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.

Green Cohort all together | Photo By: Nick Manning
Green Cohort all together | Photo By: Nick Manning
Green Cohort all together | Photo By: Nick Manning
Green Cohort all together | Photo By: Nick Manning
Rebecca and Nick, Green Cohort FA's
Rebecca and Nick, Green Cohort FA’s
Andrew enjoying Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Andrew enjoying Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alice enjoying Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alice enjoying Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Meagan and Caroline at BMW Driving Experience
Meagan and Caroline at BMW Driving Experience
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Blue Cohort at BMW Driving Experience | Photo From: Patrick Galvin
Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
Climbing trees | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Climbing trees | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Authentic Italian Snacking | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Authentic Italian Snacking | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alice enjoying some authentic fish and chips
Alice enjoying some authentic fish and chips
Savannah, Meagan, and Dini with their Robot | Photo From: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah, Meagan, and Dini with their Robot | Photo From: Meagan Kindrat
Robotics | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah, Meagan and Dini’s Robot | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Having fun with masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Having fun with masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Andrew and Liam making masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Andrew and Liam making masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Masks in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Hayden painting a mask in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Liam making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Liam making a mask in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Mask making in Venice | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Hayden and Alex in Venice
Hayden and Alex in Venice

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: Spencer Holtschult

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 never thought taking a gap year was something I was ever gonna do, but as the school year went by and college decisions started coming out I decided taking a year to explore and find out what I wanted to do in life would be my best option.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I wanted to avoid another year of generic education and expand my horizons by learning skills and experiencing all kinds of new cultures.

Spencer and his sisters on a family vacation in the snow
Spencer and his sisters on a family vacation in the snow

WHAT skill are you most excited to learn?

I can’t pin-point an exact skill I’m most excited to learn because all of them seem so fun and interesting to me.

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

As I’m closing in on the end of my senior year, I’ve realized more than ever that I really have no clue what I want to do in the future and I believe through this program I will gain knowledge that will better prepare me for my future.

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

Yes, but never outside the country. My favorite trip would have to be our family vacation to Hawaii. We did a lot of fun things including snorkeling, surfing, and swimming with manta rays.

Spencer Holtschult Winterline Gap Year
Spencer walking on the beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

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

Something I expect to gain from my gap year is a new perspective on the world surrounding me. For my whole life I’ve grown up with the same friends, people, and always the same routine. I think finally breaking out of that bubble will give me a whole new perspective about the world and my place in it.

pencer with his twin sister and older sister
Spencer with his twin sister and older sister

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

I like to think I have a great sense of humor, I’m always down for an adventure and want have as much fun as possible even when in a bad situation!

Why WINTERLINE?

I felt that Winterline offered something that no other gap year program really offered…besides the amount of countries and skills you get to experience and learn, Winterline offers a sense of community and friendship within the group of kids that participate in this program and that was the one thing that really made this program stand out to me.

Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach
Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I love listening to music, and although my moves are pretty bad it doesn’t stop me from dancing and having a great time!

To learn more about our students be sure to check out other posts on our blog. We upload new posts three times a week! Also, be sure to catch up with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

Healthy Travel Tips

I have an impressively weak immune system and a knack for getting bizarre diseases and sicknesses. I have gotten a number of eye and ear infections while in Hawaii and California, stomach bugs in the Dominican Republic and Canada, and I even discovered I had a MRSA staph infection on my leg two days before leaving for Tanzania. I take my own health precautions more seriously when I travel to foreign countries to avoid malaria, the dreaded “Montezuma’s revenge,” and other travel-provoking illnesses. But unfortunately, within the last two months of trimester 2, I have gotten sick in every city that we’ve been to. Along the way, I’ve learned some things about my own health habits that I’d love to share.

Whether you decide to take a gap year with Winterline, or a family vacation, these tips will help you stay healthier and happier abroad…

#1) Take Daily Probiotics

I always take daily probiotics, whether I am traveling or at home, but it can get easy to slack off on remembering to take these pills every morning. Set a reminder on your phone for the same time every day (and adjust it when you change time zones) so that you remember to take that probiotic every day. Your gut will thank you.

#2) Exercise Regularly

I find it extremely difficult to fit in time (or space) for exercise while traveling. Spending only 20 minutes a day to go on a long walk, roll out the yoga mat, or go for a swim will keep your body so much stronger and up for the toll that travel has on the body. I have found many simple exercises that you can do without any equipment online and recommend coming up with a plan that will keep yourself accountable to your physical wellbeing while traveling.

Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson
Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson

#3) Everything in Moderation (even moderation, sometimes)

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of people this trimester has been eating healthy. With all the amazing new food in different countries, there are plenty of healthy options to explore. But there are also Burger Kings on every corner of Phnom Penh and 7-11’s in Bangkok, which can be tempting, especially when you’re homesick. The way I have been able to avoid this issue is to allow myself “treats” such as an ice cream bar on a particularly hot day or a soda with dinner. It has helped me immensely to not be strict with my diet, but to keep in mind that almost everything I eat should be in moderation. Encourage yourself and your travel buddies to try the local street food and skip the McDonalds.

Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson
Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson

#4) Get Good Sleep!  

This is a huge one that I am convinced has caused a lot of my sicknesses this trimester. I have gotten into the pattern of staying up late to watch Netflix, talk to friends, or work on my writing, and then needing to get up early for program days. I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, program day or not, and reserve my late nights for the weekends. It’s easier said than done, but once you get into this habit, which can be aided by incorporating melatonin or meditation into your nightly routine, you will avoid getting sick.

#5) Drink CLEAN Water

I may or may not have gotten sick in Phnom Penh because I wasn’t careful about where my drinking water/ice was coming from in restaurants. It’s obviously important to drink water, whether you’re traveling or not. For me, this looks like carrying around a Nalgene and filling it up with bottled or filtered water in the hotels and hostels. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter if their water is filtered or bottled, and even ask them to see their water filter. It’s your health, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are consuming clean water and ice. I learned that the hard way, so don’t make that mistake!

Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

#6) Go to the Hospital (if necessary)

My automatic assumption was that healthcare in Southeast Asia was bad. I had to put this stereotype to the test when I went to an international hospital in Bangkok due to my incessant cough attacks and fatigue. It was the most beautiful hospital I had ever been to and the staff was amazing. I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, got my medication, and was on my way. Obviously not all hospital experiences around the world will be like this, but don’t push the idea of going to a hospital aside, especially when you really need it. Do your research before going to the hospital, and have a friend evaluate you to see if you really even need to go.

This brings me right to my most important tip…

#7) DO YOUR RESEARCH

Before I left for Southeast Asia, I had a check-up with my physician. I showed her the list of the countries and cities I’d be visiting and she showed me how to look up medical facts about each place that are vital to know if you want to be an informed traveler. All of this information is available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov). If you want to stay healthy, you absolutely have to do your research well before traveling to a new country.

Anna researching the next steps of her adventure while abroad.

I will be the first person to say that being sick while traveling is not fun. The physical toll it has taken on my body also infringes on my ability to be present on Winterline somedays, and I wish I had taken even more precautions before entering Southeast Asia. Make your health a priority, and I promise your experience anywhere in the world will be so much more worthwhile!