How to Survive a Long Flight

If there’s anything that I dislike about travel, which is verylittle, it’s the long flights. And I mean long flights. When I flew to Cambodia with Winterline, we took a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles and a 4-hour flight from Taipei. We completely skipped January 21stbecause of the International Date Line! Here’s 19 tips (hopefully not the same number of hours as your flight) to help you survive all that air time:

  1. Melatonin/eye mask/earplugs:If your flight is a redeye, and even if it’s not, it’s a good idea to bring a sleep aid and things to make you more comfortable. I have a hard time falling asleep on planes, so I like melatonin because it’s natural and doesn’t leave me feeling groggy when I wake up. I also like to bring an eye mask (or a big hoodie) and earplugs to help me forget I’m on a plane.
  2. Work/be productive:There’s not many opportunities to work on things without the distraction of emails, your phone buzzing, or social media notifications. I find that I get a lot of productive work done (writing/editing blogs, video edits, drafting emails) when I’m 30,000 feet in the air.
  3. Read: I tend to get distracted with life and forget to catch up on my reading. I love bringing a kindle or paperback book on long flights. Again, a nice advantage of the distraction free environment!
  4. TV/Movies:Hopefully your airline has movie players attached to the back of each seat, but it’s always a good idea to check before your flight. If they don’t, download some movies on iTunes and have a good ole movie marathon.
  5. Music: I love to download new music before a long plane ride and listen to it throughout the flight. It’s a great time to sit down and just explore some new songs and artists, especially if you have a habit of listening to the same playlists for months!

    Long Flight
    View from the plane as we landed in Delhi, India. You can see the pollution in the sky!
  6. Portable charger:Definitely a must for long flights! If you plan on using your phone throughout the flight, have a charged portable charger on hand. I like this one from Amazon.
  7. Neck pillow:This is so essential, whether you want to sleep during the flight or not. If you get one that inflates (like this one), you can save room in your carry-on!
  8. Stretch and walk around: This is a tip for true survival. Some people suffer from blood clots on long flights if they don’t get up and move around. Every hour or so, I like to get up and walk around to prevent this. Bonus:if you make friends with the flight attendants, you can walk to the back and get free snacks!
  9. Change of clothes, deodorant, toothbrush: You change your clothes after a 12-hour day, right? So why not change them in the middle of the flight? I like to pack a pair of comfy pants and a loose t-shirt to change into midway on a long flight (12-18 hours). It’s also really refreshing to put on some deodorant and brush your teeth!
  10. Journal: If you like to keep a notebook/diary/journal, long flights are a great way to write your heart out! I love to journal and I’ve found this to be a great way at both killing time and reconnecting with myself.
  11. Podcasts: I don’t regularly listen to podcasts, but I have friends who have told me they lovepodcasts, especially on long flights. Just make sure to download episodes before the flight.
  12. Look out the window: Something so simple, yet often forgotten. I tend to get distracted by looking out the window and listening to music. Some of my favorite views have been from an airplane!

    Long Flight
    Beautiful view out the window on my way home from Dominican Republic!
  13. Call ahead to order special meals. Most international airlines will provide meals throughout the flight, but it’s always good to call ahead and check. If you are vegetarian, gluten free, or have another dietary restriction, you can call ahead and order a special meal for no extra cost (usually up to 24 hours before the flight).
  14. Play a game:My brother and I play tic-tac-toe, my dad and I play hangman, and I’ve even played Uno with some people on flights. Bring a mini chess board, a deck of cards, or even a multiplayer game on your phone!
  15. Coloring book:I love filling in coloring books, especially mandalas, but I never have any time. Long airplane rides are the exception! It’s a lot of fun and can be a great way to pass time and spark your creativity.
  16. Learn the local language: If you happen to buy Wi-Fi on the plane, you can practice the language on Duolingo or watching basic language videos on YouTube. It’s always good to know some basics of the local language. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, bring some downloaded YouTube lessons, or old-fashioned flash cards!
  17. Have a conversation: I’ve met quite a few really interesting people on planes. Sometimes, people don’t want to be bothered with annoying conversation on the plane, so don’t force it. But, if you do start chatting, you can kill a lot of time getting to know your fellow passengers!

    Long Flight
    Patrick and I enjoyed talking with each other and our other Winterline friends during flights!
  18. Crossword/Sudoku in the airline magazine: Honestly, the airline magazines can be pretty interesting. I’ve read some cool articles, and I alwaysdo the crosswords and Sudoku! It’s also fun to play with a travel buddy.
  19. Take your shoes off:Last, but certainly not least, and my personal favorite! As long as your feet don’t smell bad, take you shoes off and relax!

Bon Appetite: An Interview with Cyril Denis

When I went to Paris for my ISP, I took cooking and baking classes at La Cuisine, a cooking school in the heart of Paris. I took a variety of classes and learned how to make classic French sauces, macarons, eclairs, and I even learned how to de-bone a chicken. Cooking is something I’ve only recently become interested in, and my independent week was the best way for me to dive into the topic and learn about French cuisine, which I absolutely love. I had a great time with my chef for the French sauces course, Cyril Denis. I had the opportunity to interview him, while enjoying wine and cheese of course, and I was so intrigued by his background and story. I appreciated his candidness and generosity in answering my questions so openly…

How would you describe your job title?

Cyril: “I have two jobs in my life. I am a journalist and a chef. When I was younger, I did 3 years of cooking school in Paris. I wanted to be a chef, but when I discovered their mentality, I said it’s not for me and I’m going to be unhappy in life. The mentality was that you got hit and punched in the kitchen… It’s an acting part of being a chef. And so, you had to hit. In life, some people are very into contact and conflict and I’ve never been like that. There’s also no respect for women. I just didn’t feel welcome in professional kitchens. So, I decided to do something else. After cooking school, I did 3 years of business school. After I discovered I didn’t want to be a chef, I needed to open my vision of life… And when I came out of school, my friend [gave me an opportunity] and I became a journalist! I worked 4 years for the best live show and I finished as a journalist in the news. I became what we call, “JRI” which means you’re a journalist and you know how to shoot images. 7 years later I left the show. Then I became a journalist for the only food channel we had in France, where I stayed almost 8 years. I was not on air, but I was behind the camera as the chief editor of two shows. Then I worked for some other channels, but 3 years ago fewer shows were interesting for me, so I had to ask myself what I wanted to do. I wanted more professional experience in cooking. I worked in a lab for 10 months to practice. The woman I worked for told me that she wanted her company to become bigger and asked me to become her chef. And I said no because it didn’t feel right for me. She said she needed to leave her work where she was a teacher. And that was La Cuisine. So, she introduced me to the two owners. I did a month of tests and I got the job! That was 2.5 years ago, and I’ve been teaching there ever since.”

Cyril demonstrating his piping skills in his “Elegant Entertaining / The Art of the Parisian Apéro class.”

What or who inspires you?

 Cyril: “People who have inspired me the most are women, not men. It’s funny because if we are talking about cooking in France, the people who have been important for the past century have been women. There’s a few men who were chefs for the kings, but in the everyday cooking, women were much more important than men.

So, who inspired me? My great grandmother who was Italian. She was a personal cook. She used to go to people’s homes and cook Italian. She moved from Italy to France when she was 12, in 1910, and at that time, she moved with her whole village. They moved all together, 2,000 of them, and it’s why she never spoke French in her life. She was an incredible woman. I loved her. She was a big inspiration for me. She had no money, but was happy every day. She was always happy with what she had, which is important in life. That’s my philosophy of life.

The second woman who inspired me a lot was my American teacher in New Jersey. I lived there when I was 6 until I was 10. When I arrived in New Jersey, my parents didn’t want me to go to a French School. They wanted me to go to an American school. So, I had 2 months to learn English. My school’s principal suggested that I meet with Margaret Lopez, one of the best teachers. So, for 2 months, I was with Margaret from Monday to Friday, learning English. After 2 months, we were best friends. Until she died in 1998, I’ve stayed very close to her. Every time I went back to the US, the first person I saw was Margaret. She was more than a grandmother for me. I am still friends with two of her children. They’re like family for me. So, the two inspirations in my life are women.”

 What is your fondest memory of cooking?

Cyril: “Of course, it has to be in the family, because this is what inspired me most. My grandmother used to make Brioche and I can remember the smell of the yeast and the dough and that has a very special scent to me.”

Do you like to cook cuisine other than French foods?

Cyril: “After French, it’s Italian. I am half French, half Italian. I think that today the best country in Europe is Italy, not France. For ingredients, France is half of what Italy is. In Italy, almost 90% of what you find is great because they have protected all of their products legally, which France has failed to do. So of course, I love to prepare Italian food and it also reminds me of my great grandmother. I also love Japanese. Since I was 6, one of my favorite books was about the everyday life of a little Japanese girl. My parents had no connections to it, I just chose the book all on my own and I was amazed by it. I made my mom buy me chopsticks so I could eat rice out of my bowl. It was totally free inspiration. For many years, I had forgotten about this but it came back to me more recently. It came back strongly. For the past 4 years now, I am organizing the largest sake fair in the world outside of Japan in Paris.”

Cyril demonstrating how to whisk properly during my sauce class with him!

What is your favorite food to serve?

Cyril: “I love family-type food, like stews. It is something very basic, but my favorite is a creamy sauce with veal, carrots, and onions. Not many French people know how to make it properly, because if you want to do it the right way, it takes a long time. It’s quite complicated, and this type of dish is my favorite to serve others.”

What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned after working in different aspects of the cooking scene?

 Cyril: “Once I did the portrait of a 3-star Michelin chef, the number one chef to cook vegetables in Paris today, and when I did his portrait he showed me something I’ve never seen before: how to cook a lobster properly. He just allowed the lobster to inspire him: he wanted to constantly make it better. Most chefs are into speed, but you have to be more than just working during the service and restaurant moment. Your mind is going in other places than a regular chef. Not just because he showed me that trick, because you need to think when you have an ingredient. He showed me with one example that with cooking it’s nice to think before you cook.”

What advice do you have to people who are interested in cooking, but aren’t lucky enough to come to Paris to take one of your classes?

Cyril: “Wherever you are in the world, there’s one thing that you have to do before knowing how to cook: how to buy. You’ll always do the best cooking, even if you’re not the best technician, if you have the best product. And the best product doesn’t mean the most expensive- the best carrot, the best salt, the best bread. I am talking about the love of cooking. You want to get the best when you love cooking. You start inspiring when you go to the best places to get your ingredients. Buy the best ingredients with the money you have. If one day, you only have a little then do the best grated carrots with mayonnaise- not the worst lobster.”

Curiosity as a Skill

Most people know the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” But fewer people have heard the rest of that sentence, which ends, “but satisfaction brought it back.” I have always considered myself a curious person, but my personal approach to curiosity changed throughout the course of my gap year with Winterline. I discovered new ways to satisfy my curiosity by seeing new places, trying new things, and saying, “yes” to new opportunities.

When I first enrolled in Winterline, I was focused on the skills and travel aspect of the program. I only envisioned myself learning and discovering new countries, but I failed to remember that there would be a significant amount of free time during the program. As a result, I found myself just hanging out and watching Netflix on our rest days. I wasn’t really doing anything with that valuable time.  When I got home for winter break, I did some reflecting and realized that I hadn’t been satiating my desire for adventure outsideof the Winterline program.

So, I made a goal for myself going into Southeast Asia and Europe. My goal was to do something with my rest days, whether it was visiting a new temple in Bangkok, seeing a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, or visiting a beautiful cathedral in Vienna. I made a list of all the locations on our itinerary for second and third trimester, did some research on each city/town, and came up with a list of things I wanted to do and see on my rest days in these specific locations.

As I moved into second trimester, my goal evolved into “saying yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me throughout my travels. And I had some incredible experiences as a result.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I woke up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat with Nick, my field advisor, and one of my best friends, Alice. I visited a floating city in Siem Reap with Alice, to see the sunset. I went to China town in Bangkok to celebrate Chinese New Year, and we all stumbled upon a famous Thai rock star’s concert. I celebrated Holi at an Ashram with Nonny, Pablo, Alice, an old Austrian couple and an Ayurvedic doctor and his kids. I went to Dachau concentration camp by myself and had a humbling and moving experience. I went to Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice with Patrick. I modeled for an artist in front of Notre Dame. I even saw Waka Flocka perform in Munich. I had all of these experiences during free time and on rest days.

Celebrating Holi in Lonavla, India with an assortment of friends.

I did so much and all because I began to say yes, to everything, within reason of course.

Attending Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica with Patrick.

There was one specific time, though, that sticks out to me. On my first full day in Pune, India, I went out to lunch with Sophia and Alice. I remember we all had an incredible lunch and then decided to explore. I looked at my list from winter break and saw “Aga Khan Palace,” which I knew nothing about. When we got there, we began to explore and wander the grounds. I learned that the palace had been turned into a museum and that it was where Gandhi, his wife, and assistant were imprisoned. We continued to wander around aimlessly. I was in awe of the beauty of the palace and its dark history. We saw a little pathway with a sign in Marathi, the local language in Pune. We decided to just follow it, even though we had no idea what it meant or where it led. We entered an enclosed garden and I saw a tombstone. As I walked closer to it, I made out the words, “Here rest the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.”

We stumbled upon the ashes of Gandhi.

It was in that moment when I realized how powerful my curiosity is and how far saying, “yes” can get me. I’ve learned to look at my own curiosity as an evolving skill- something that grows and develops as I do. I want to continue to say yes to new opportunities as I go to college, further immerse myself while traveling, and continue to lead a meaningful life.

So, how will you satisfy your curiosity on your gap year?

1 Second Everyday: The Best Way to Capture Your Gap Year

If you followed along with my Winterline gap year, you know that I love to create video edits of my time while traveling. As much as I love to create a final product that shows a bit of my experience in any given place, it is hard work. A video edit can take me anywhere between two and six hours, just to create a three-minute video! For those of you who want to document your gap year in a video, but don’t want to spend hours creating it, I have a solution for you!

I used “1SE,” or 1 Second Everyday (available on the App Store and Google Play), while I was traveling on Winterline and I’m so happy with the outcome! It’s as simple as taking a one-second long video clip every day in the app, and then once you compile enough clips to make your video, the app will do the rest for you. It’s helpful to set a daily reminder in your phone, so you never forget to take your clips.

Please watch my 1SE video below and see for yourself how great their app is at helping create a beautiful final product:

 

Parent Spotlight: Cory Nickerson

What were you looking for in a program and why did you and Anna choose Winterline?

A couple of reasons actually. I called a parent whose daughter had been through the first year, and this parent had personal connections with the founder and was so impressed with him as a person and a professional. She convinced me with her own testimonial that he would never create a program half-way and that he would do it really well. And I thought that was a great reference point. The program structure of 9 months, 10 countries, and learning 100 life skills was also a really unique selling proposition!

Do you think Winterline was a good investment in your daughter to prepare her for the future?

Yes. It was a very good investment for our family, and it fulfilled just about everything my daughter was looking for. It’s a bit expensive, but I think if a family can make it work with either work-study scholarships, or having their student to contribute to the experience, it is a worthwhile investment. We’re fortunate that Anna received a work-study scholarship that helped with those costs. And once on the program, there weren’t many costs because food and laundry, etc. are covered.

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory and Anna enjoying vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico last year!

 What is your advice to a parent looking for a gap year experience for their son or daughter?

Trust the process. Winterline has a really good handle on what works and doesn’t work. Really let them explore all these programs and encourage them to try different things. Even if you think your child might be good at one thing, they may discover that they have an interest in something completely new and different.

Here’s some other helpful/random tips for parents:

  • Visit your student on spring break, it’s a great opportunity and really fun to see up close what your child’s experiences have been.
  • Make sure that they have a credit/debit card with reduced or zero international fees.
  • Make sure your child also holds onto their boarding passes throughout the year so that you can request mileage credit for various frequent flier miles.
  • When they go to Asia, make sure they have really good access to probiotics, emergency antibiotics, malaria medication etc. Asia was tough on Anna’s immune system. It’s the place where the kids are more likely to get sick, so it’s good to be prepared.
  • Be sure to research what your cell phone provider requires in order to unlock your child’s phone, in order to use their phone with different sim cards in each foreign country. And do that as soon as possible.

Why did you both choose Winterline over another program?

We didn’t look at any other programs once we found Winterline.

What is your advice to parents who want to keep in touch while their son/daughter is on the program?

Facebook, WhatsApp, Facetime, and occasional emails are helpful for communication.

Resist the urge to pepper your kids with questions every day. It actually can really distract them from what they’re trying to accomplish and you will learn that with your patience, you’ll enjoy the Friday updates and social media posts from Winterline. You’ll enjoy that a little more because it will come in larger quantities. It can be exhausting for the kids to get through the day sometimes, so reducing the number of questions you ask can help them get their rest and focus on the next day.

Be prepared to hear about various group dynamics that may be both positive and somewhat challenging for your child. Be prepared to listen, and don’t try to solve any problems. Part of their learning experience is how to get along in groups with different people in very close quarters. They may be communicating with you or venting to you, but it’s not your role to help them solve a problem, unless it is a true safety issue, in which case there are appropriate channels to help with that.

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory loving the traditional Czech beer in Prague!

What was the process for Anna to defer from school for a year in order to go on Winterline? Was it worth it?

Oh yes, definitely worth it! Every college will have its own process, but for Anna’s school, which is Babson College, it was a matter of her writing a letter to the dean explaining her request for deferment, putting down a $500 deposit, and securing her spot for the following year. I was particularly interested in staying in touch with Babson, so over the course of the next few months I called and asked about deadlines for paperwork, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

 What has changed most about Anna since her gap year, and what has been the most noticeable outcome?

She’s much more mellow. She is much more flexible and tolerant. And she is wildly in control of her own scheduling, and her own ability to navigate in a foreign country. I visited her in Prague and it was clear that she wasn’t intimidated or worried by foreign currency, trying to speak small parts of a foreign language, or use public transportation!

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory and Anna together in Prague, while Anna was on spring break with Winterline.

Would you recommend Winterline to a friend? And if so, what would you say to them?

We have already recommended Winterline to a few people that have expressed interest! I tell them that if you feel like you’re not quite ready to go to college, it’s a really great opportunity to pause, but keep your mind active and keep your motivation and accountability very high, while meeting lifelong friends and having experiences that are more unique than even a freshman year or a semester abroad. In fact, someone who graduated from Anna’s high school, whose parents I know fairly well, has decided to go on Winterline!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Winterline is an evolving program. It’s less than 5 years old, but it’s remarkable how much they’ve done in such a short period of time. I think the most important thing is if you want your child to attend a program like Winterline, your child has to want to go, not just you. Your role is subordinate and a support role, and it’s not about you projecting your own travel desires onto your child, but that they really need to be genuinely and authentically on board.

What It’s Like to be a Work-Study Student

A Winterline work-study is a scholarship opportunity to publish your work (photos, videos, and/or writing) on various platforms, while reducing the overall cost of the Winterline Program, typically by $5,000. As a former student on the journalism scholarship with Winterline, I want to share my experience with work-study and offer advice if this is something you’re interested in adding to your gap year experience.

There are four different types of Winterline work-study scholarships: photography, videography, social media, and journalism. Each scholarship has different requirements, but the general idea is the same for each; Students send their work to Jess, our Marketing Manager, and she then posts it on the blog and Winterline’s various social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.).

The ideal person for the work-study is someone who is driven, self-motivated, organized, and passionate about either writing, photography, videography or social media, to suit their respective scholarship work. I worked with some students who were great photographers, but couldn’t follow through on actually sending their photos to Winterline, which was frustrating. If you see yourself potentially doing the same thing, it may be a good idea to re-evaluate if you are able to make a commitment throughout the entirety of the Winterline program. But also remember that it’s not like a full-time job. I typically spent a few hours every week on my work-study, and never felt super overwhelmed. It’s just all about time management.

 

winterline work study student
Anna during the “photography day” in Burano, Italy. She created a photo essay on her blog from that day!

Another important thing to mention about the work-study is when you’re assigned to one type of media, that doesn’t mean you have to only do that! I was on the journalism scholarship, so I did quite a bit of writing for the blog as my main work. I am also passionate about photography and videography, so I posted my pictures on Winterline’s social media and even created video edits throughout the year. Jess was very encouraging of me to explore different types of media, which definitely created an environment where I learned even more on Winterline because of my work-study, which was such a plus!

 

winterline work study student
Anna writing in her journal, perhaps to give her some blog inspiration!

Overall, I am so glad that I decided to do the journalism scholarship with Winterline. Not only did I reduce the cost of the program, but I improved so many of my already-existing skills. My writing became much stronger and more fluid, simply as a result of the amount of blog posts I wrote throughout the year (more than 20). My people skills improved because I interviewed people for the blog, so I learned how to ask good questions and be an engaging interviewer. I also became better at managing and prioritizing my time, and became even more organized. And one of the coolest things for all of work-study students is that by the end of the year, we all had created “portfolios” of our work. I posted all my Winterline blog posts to my personal blog, which is a great way for me to access a lot of my work from my gap year. This is something I will be able to send to potential employers, which is really helpful (and makes you look even more impressive).

If you’re planning to take a Winterline gap year, and you’re interested in a work-study scholarship, I strongly encourage it! Feel free to read our FAQ page if you have any questions, or visit my personal blog to see some posts from my work-study.

My Freshman Year was a Gap Year

As a serious and involved student in my high school, I was pretty burnt out by my senior year. I showed up to school every day at 7:00 am for club meetings, went to five AP classes, had golf practice after school, and then studied for hours on end after dinner, until I finally went to bed around midnight. It was exhausting, to say the least. I loved school and learning, but wanted a break from my routine life. I applied to colleges, like most high school seniors, but still found myself feeling restless. I did a little bit of research on gap years, and all of a sudden I found my answer. A Facebook Ad for Winterline popped up, and as soon as I  read about the program, I was hooked.

Winterline offered everything that I was looking for. I was burnt out from high school and I needed a change of pace. I saw an opportunity with Winterline to challenge myself by learning outside of the classroom, broaden my perspective of the world, and most importantly, reconnect with myself and who I am.

As I sit here now, looking back on the last year of my life, I know that I made the best possible decision. I have changed and grown from the person I was when I started Winterline. I am more confident, I have more of a voice, and I know myself better. These are all things I wouldn’t have achieved going straight to college. I learned important lessons during my year abroad that will make me readier to take on my actual freshman year of college this fall. Here are 5 lessons that made my year so transformative, and that I’m excited to apply to my first year in college.

  • The power of saying yes. I challenged myself in the second portion of my trip to take “no” out of my vocabulary, within reason of course. I had some amazing experiences because I said yes, and was open to new things while traveling. When I get to campus, I don’t want to overwhelm myself by saying, “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, but I am excited to have that choice!
  •  How to adapt to new places and changes quickly. During Winterline, I didn’t live in the same place for more than 2 weeks at a time. I learned how to adapt to new places and changes of scenery very quickly. In college, everyone lives in a dorm for the entire first year. If I had gone straight off to college, I would have missed the exciting opportunity to live, well, everywhere!
  • Learning doesn’t have to have a letter grade attached to it. I’ve always been extremely focused on grades and my academics. In high school, nothing was more important than maintaining straight A’s. My year with Winterline showed me that learning is more important, and more fun, than a letter grade. I can’t avoid the stress of wanting to get an A when I’m in college, but I feel more prepared to learn than focus on my grade.
  • Everyone has universal commonalities, no matter how different we are. During my year with Winterline, I lived with people who I wouldn’t typically have been friends with in high school. But I learned throughout the course of the year, that we all had commonalities, no matter how different we were. I’m excited to go out of my way at college to make friends with people who are very different from me, because we will be able to find our own similarities.
  • It’s important to be kind to yourself. I learned a lot about self-care this year. Our saying was, “Self-care is group care.” For me, self-care looked like writing in my journal, practicing yoga, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and spending quality time with my friends. It looks different for everyone, but it’s important to figure out how to best take care of yourself. I think I’ll be able to prevent some stress next year because I now know so much more about myself and what I need.

If you’re contemplating taking a gap year, my advice is to do it. It was the most rewarding year of my life, and as the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article outlines, it has some incredible benefits for students who then choose to go to college. I wish I could do it again, but I’m excited for my next steps as I venture to Babson College.

How to Pack for Your Gap Year Abroad

When I first received the Winterline packing list, I was relieved to see what I needed to bring, but I was also overwhelmed by the idea that all of my belongings would be in a backpack for a year. I’ve learned a lot about how to pack efficiently since then and I’m excited to share my tips! You can also watch our new packing video about how to pack for a your Winterline gap year.

gap year winterline packing
Anna’s bags ready for 1st trimester!

1) Pack light.This is something that sounds easy, but is actually really difficult to execute. It’s going to take some practice. Once you have everything you need for the trip, pack it up into your backpack. If there’s too much stuff, then take it all out and find a few things you can live without. I know this sounds time consuming, but if you’re committed to packing light, it’s worth it!

2) Bring only a week’s worth of clothes. Laundry is available during the Winterline program. I typically did laundry at the end of each week, or every 2 weeks if I could manage it. I would recommend bringing enough clothes and underwear to get you through 5-7 days without laundry. This will also help you to pack light!

3) Be smart about clothing. Pack clothes that can be layered and that are multi-functional. Don’t assume that because you’re going to Central America, you can only bring shorts and t-shirts! It gets cold in some areas, so just be smart about what you’re bringing. Check the weather and think before picking out clothes.

4) Do not bring a roller bag! Don’t do it! There’s a reason why people are known to “backpack across Europe.” They don’t roll their suitcases across Europe! Having everything in a big, travel backpack and your daypack will make life easier and even more organized!

5) Make a personal first aid kit, and keep it in your carry-on/daypack. About a week before I left for Winterline, I went to Walgreens and bought everything for my own first aid kit that I could think of. Band-Aids, anti-itch cream, Emergen-C packets, etc. When you’re away from home, it’s so nice to have a little bag to keep you comfortable. Also, definitely add probiotics to that list!

6) Bring Gallon-sized Ziploc bags. I only brought 2-3 and I regretted it. These bags come in handy for anything you can think of; toiletries, wet swimsuits, dirty laundry, etc. It can also be hard to find similar plastic bags abroad, so I would bring 5-10 (but maybe even more than you think).

7) Pack comfortable shoes. All your shoes should be comfortable, even your flip-flops/sandals. I had one pair of running shoes, one pair of Birkenstocks, and one pair of Chacos in Central America. It was perfect because I could walk long distances in each of those pairs of shoes!

8) Don’t bring too much makeup! I own a lot of makeup at home, but I ended up only bringing one bottle of foundation, one concealer stick, mascara, and a mini bronzer and blush. I found that I rarely even wore makeup because I was outdoors so much! I would recommend bringing some, if you wear it at home, but try to minimize how much of it you pack.

9) Pack a folder for important documents and paperwork. I didn’t bring a folder during the 1st trimester of Winterline and I really wish I did. I had a lot of papers and certificates I had gotten along the trip, and I ended up just stuffing it in my daypack. Try to be more organized than I was!

10) Leave room for souvenirs! Everyone in my group bought at least a few things that they brought home. Make sure you have enough room for a few trinkets, some shirts, and maybe even some gifts for your family! I brought home more than I expected.

Happy Packing! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

Alumni Spotlight: Ana Paulina

WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?

I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico and I now live in Denver, Colorado.

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 think my dad first told me about gap years when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started researching colleges and realized I wanted to take one.

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana, and her friend Daniela, enjoying some hiking in Estes Park!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I took a gap year because I felt like I needed to experience something different in my life before going to college. Where I live, I think people follow the status quo of going to college after high school and then leaving home and getting a job, but I didn’t feel like doing that. I had a very big urge to travel and since I had this opportunity, I knew I had to take it. I’ve been in school all my life, so diving into another four more years of school didn’t seem appealing. I wanted to experience what it was like to learn practical skills without being in a classroom. I knew there was so much more than going to college right away, so I decided to go on a gap year to learn about the world and to learn about myself. I had always lived in the same place with the same people, so I wanted to get out. I wanted to be in different places with different people. I think that is the best way to learn new things. I could’ve gone to college right away, but my experience at college would have been incredibly different if I hadn’t taken a gap year.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SKILL YOU LEARNED?

My favorite skill to learn during Winterline was planning. I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life with my family, but my dad has been the one that has planned all those trips. During my ISP, I got the opportunity to plan and book everything that I was going to do in that week and it felt amazing. It was very rewarding to know that I planned and did that whole week by myself in a foreign country. I learned very practical skills like researching travel destinations, booking travel and accommodations, and budgeting my spendings.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED?

Thailand, for sure. Even though we were there for just one week, I fell in love with the country. I loved walking through the city and the temples, eating the street food, and navigating the street market.

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana enjoying her time in Thailand!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED SINCE WINTERLINE?

Yes! After the gap year I did a bike tour with my sister through the Northern Coast of Spain and I also went to the Greek Islands with my family.

HOW HAS WHAT YOU LEARNED ON YOUR GAP YEAR HELPED YOU IN REAL LIFE?

The experience in general helped me get out of my own comfort zone and be more independent. We were traveling for 9 months in different countries with people we had just met, so for me it felt very natural that I had to make myself comfortable with who I am and trust that I could do whatever I wanted.

The skills that I learned also helped me plan trips better, it helped me be more confident navigating airports and cities in foreign countries. It also helped me communicate better with different people. The skills also helped me figure out what I do want to study, and what I don’t want to study.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOW.

Right now, I’m in college. I go to the University of Denver and I am planning on majoring in International Studies and French. I am also playing rugby and enjoying the mountains for skiing.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE PROVEN THE MOST HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE?

I think budgeting and planning are the skills that have been more helpful in my life, and also being more independent. I am in college now so being able to manage my money well is a very important skill to have. Also, being more confident with myself in problem-solving has been useful because I am not afraid to ask for help or interact with people I don’t know.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WINTERLINE MEMORY?

Halloween night in Bocas Del Toro, Panama was a great night for everyone in the group. We all dressed up as zombies and went on a zombie bar crawl that was happening in the town. We all made our costumes and went out to celebrate as a group. It was very fun because we were not worried about anything and we were just there to have fun!

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana and Prathana laughing together in Bangkok.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CURRENT OR FUTURE WINTERLINE STUDENTS?

Advice that I wish someone would’ve given me is to make sure what your goals are and work hard to accomplish them. I had some goals I wanted to achieve but then forgot about them and was really sad when at the end of the trip I remembered all the things that I wanted to do. Also try all the food, it’s amazing.

And for current students, you probably hear this a lot but cherish every moment and every place you’re at. The trip goes by extremely fast and the only things you have to remember them by are your memories, so if you don’t have a good memory, like me, make sure to write them down or take a bunch of pictures and videos. Trust me, you’re going to wish you had them when you’re done.

A Guide to Winterline’s “ISP”

Overall, the idea of an ISP is simple: to provide students an opportunity to have freedom in what, with whom, and where they study. This week encourages all students to take a bigger step towards more independence. ISP weeks occur once in every trimester of the Winterline program, so a total of three times. The first two ISPs lead up to one of the best aspects of everyone’s time during Winterline: the Europe ISP. It’s during that week where students get to finally do what they’ve been planning all year, with full independence. To give prospective students and parents a better idea of what an ISP week is like, I’ll jump into my experience with ISPs as a former Winterline student.

My first ISP was in Monteverde, Costa Rica during the first trimester. I chose the “Spanish Language Intensive” course for five days, but the other choices ranged drastically. Some of my friends worked in an in-home bakery for the week, learning how to bake all sorts of delicious treats. One friend learned about foot reflexology and practiced on real patients. Two students even spent their time tree climbing and building a “sloth bridge.” In total, there were about 14 different things to choose from. During the week, I continued to learn Spanish with two amazing professors and I made huge strides towards becoming fluent! We all stayed with different homestay families during this week, which contributed towards our independence. I was with a young couple, and I had a great time getting to know them and speaking Spanish with them. At the end of the week, we all presented to our friends and homestay families, which allowed us all to learn a bit about what our peers had been doing in their ISP week.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson
Anna with the “Tarzan rope” at the suspended bridges tour in Monteverde

My second ISP was in India, and the theme of all the Indian ISPs was “self-care.” Options ranged from practicing yoga in an ashram, learning about Ayurvedic principles, practicing art and dance therapy, and spending time doing a variety of these things on a remote farm. I chose to learn about Ayurvedic principles and I learned much more than just that. I spent my week at Atmasantulana Village, one of India’s first and largest Ayurveda centers. I practiced yoga and meditation, listened to lectures about Ayurveda, took cooking and nutrition lessons, and discovered my interest in health and holistic care. I spent my time there with four other students on the program, which was a great way for us all to get closer with one another and take a break from being with the whole group.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson Alice and Anna post Holi | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Alice and Anna celebrating Holi during their ISP in India.

My third and final ISP was my favorite. We all began planning our ISPs in the first trimester of the program, and this week was a culmination of all our hard work. I went to Paris to take cooking classes with a company called La Cuisine. It was one of my favorite weeks out of all of my Winterline experience, and the independence had a lot to do with that. I planned my days around cooking classes and was able to do and see so much in the city, despite having a busy schedule. Because I was alone, I was able to do everything I wanted. My friends did some amazing things too, like fashion design and film/photography classes in London, learning at a spa in Italy, cooking classes in Spain, cultural tours in Scotland, and even working on a farm in Slovenia. The Europe ISP week is a highlight for every student, and it’s actually one of the reasons I was originally so excited about Winterline when I enrolled.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson
Anna holding up her eclairs that she made at La Cuisine.

ISPs are an experience that follow each student throughout their time on Winterline. I personally learned the value of independence and being invested in topics and skills that I had an interest in, which ignited my own interest in doing things outside of program or ISP days. When I look back on my time as a Winterline student, the ISP weeks helped me grow and come out of my comfort zone more than any other times. If anything, I hope that sharing my experience with ISPs will help you decide to take a gap year with Winterline, or maybe even just find something that you want to learn about independently.

3 Things You Need to Do After You Return From Your Gap Year.

1. Manage Any Reverse Culture Shock.

Most people are familiar with regular culture shock, the feeling that you get during your travels where you realize you’ve truly left home. I’m sure you probably felt this while traveling on your gap year. You’re experiencing foreign and new things which sometimes are a blast and sometimes aren’t as fun (hence the word shock). But reverse culture shock isn’t talked about as much. It can be disorienting and uncomfortable when you come back from your time abroad and realize your idea of home isn’t quite the same anymore. As our Field Advisor, Mischa, outlined in his blog on reverse culture shock,

“After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.”

So how do you deal with it?

Accept and understand that you’ve grown as a person. This isn’t always a quick process, but understanding how you’ve changed will help you adjust your “new” self in your “old” surroundings. Additionally, it’s important to connect with others who have shared your experience. Know that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling reverse culture shock. If you find that a text or a snapchat doesn’t meet your need for connection…reach out to your travel friends! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to your friends you spent time traveling with. After all, on a program like ours, you just spent 9 months seeing each other, every. single. day.

You may also find that journaling, blogging, or vlogging helps you keep your experiences alive and eases your transition into coming home. These activities can help you integrate your travels into your daily lives. And don’t forget, if you really love travel you can always work in the industry. Just because you spent the last 9 months traveling doesn’t mean you can’t make it your lifestyle or go abroad for an extended period of time again!

winterline global skills reverse culture shock

2. Tell Your Story!

As we mentioned above, journaling and blogging can help you with your transition from travels to coming home. As many of you may be discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience abroad. As Mischa mentioned in his blog,

“Go easy on these people. You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.” 

A great way to find the “sweet spot” in your storytelling is to be intentional. Ask people to come over and watch your GoPro videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so they know that it’s your time and it’s important to you. Another great way is to share your experiences on social media or with other students who plan on going abroad. Do you remember your own uncertainty, anxiety, and excitement as you researched the perfect gap year program for you? Wouldn’t it have been great to have a review from someone like you, who’s been in the exact same situation, had a great experience traveling, and come home to share their story.

By leaving a review on websites like Go Overseas or Go Abroad, you’ll give back to the global travel community. You’ll help future students like you feel more confident making their travel decisions and you’ll be encouraging more people to go abroad and share in experiences like you had.  Seriously, it’ll give you warm fuzzies and make you fall in love with your gap year all over again.

Not to mention sites like these will reward you for your reviews with contests where you can win travel abroad again. Check out this one that Go Overseas is hosting now. 

3. Travel the World, AGAIN.

Once you’re home and adjusted, you may notice this itching feeling in your stomach. It’s the travel bug! Now that you’ve experienced such amazing adventures abroad, you know what to expect when you travel the world again. Right? It’s time to start planning your next trip. Maybe you’ll head back to that amazing town in Costa Rica, or use your new certification to go SCUBA Diving near the Great Barrier reef–whatever the case is, we’re sure you have a head full of ideas, and we can’t wait to see where you wanderlust takes you.

Need help going abroad again? Check out that Go Overseas contest we mentioned above. This contest runs from literally right NOW through June 15th, and there are prizes available every week — including the grand prize, which is $1000 toward your next trip overseas.

Alumni Spotlight: Daniela Mallarino

WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?

I’m originally from Bogota, Colombia, and right now I’m living in Toronto, Canada!

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?

Indeed, the idea of a gap year is still a new concept! I was mostly introduced to the idea of taking some time ‘off’ and doing something else before continuing institutionalized education. Two of my best friends and I were casually talking one day about what it meant to graduate and what we truly wanted to do with our lives and the idea of traveling together was something that really thrilled us. We all ended up taking some time before University! I chose Winterline, my other friend went to India for a year to teach English in an IB school and my other friend stayed in Bogota, Colombia. It was definitely the best idea we’ve ever had.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela exploring her photography with her Winterline friends.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’ve always been adventurous and have always loved to travel. I just really wanted to explore more and discover new things while also acquiring some perspective on the world and what my responsibility as a human is. I didn’t feel satisfied with my possible career choices and I knew I wanted to learn more about what it meant to pursue a degree. In the end, I did it for myself. People kept telling me that it might not be the right moment, that you’re too young, that university won’t be the same if you don’t go right away… All sorts of things, but I think there’s never a perfect moment to do things. You kind of just have to go for it, and make them perfect for the moment. That’s what I did with the idea of taking a gap year.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SKILL YOU LEARNED?

I think the best skill is learning to learn! We did so many diverse activities and were exposed to so many experiences, in the end we realized we had done things we never thought we would. It was a process, but it was very rewarding after all. If I had to narrow it down to one specific skill/moment I would say NOLS really left a mark on me. Learning to take situations equally seriously but in a more open and challenging setting was amazing and it inspired a lot of love and passion for nature and the connection we have with our environments. Other than that, learning about permaculture, natural building, and sustainability practices was extremely insightful and I find myself relating those experiences to my University knowledge really often.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela and Gabbi working with crops!

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED?

As cliche as it is, it’s not the places it’s the people. I think that quote truly applies to Winterline and what it means to travel for long periods of time and move constantly. We met amazing people that inspired us in several ways and made our experience a complete journey; full of love, enthusiasm, and identity. It also depends on when you ask me. During the gap year I think Thailand was definitely the highlight, but now that you catch me in University (and prolonged winter), those days when chilling in hammocks was my routine were my favorite!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED SINCE WINTERLINE?

Yes! Right after Winterline ended I did a roadtrip with two of my gap year buddies. We drove from Boston to Maine and stayed at an Alpaca Farm! It was very inspiring to see our friendship grow outside of Winterline. I also went to Guatemala, and went camping in Canada a couple of times. I just have a need to move around and keep exploring!

HOW HAS WHAT YOU LEARNED ON YOUR GAP YEAR HELPED YOU IN REAL LIFE?

So many ways I can’t even label it. We are made out of stories, experiences, and the people we meet. Part of who I am was built during Winterline. It has definitely helped me see the world from a more comprehensive and complete perspective and it has allowed me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and do things that challenge me but that allow me to grow and learn as a person.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela roller skating during Winterline’s orientation week in Estes Park, Colorado.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOW. 

Right now I’m pursuing my undergraduate degree in International Development Studies at the University of Toronto! It’s a complex and difficult degree, but everything I learn correlates with what I’ve done so far and what I want to do. It fuels my critical thinking and really confronts the conceived ideas we have about the world and the people around us. My degree is complemented with a one year placement in a country of my choice where I will have the opportunity to work with local organizations and communities to share experiences and knowledge. I’m really looking forward to it and what it can bring into my life, as well as what I can give during my placement. It adds more adventure and traveling to my life as well.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE PROVEN THE MOST HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE?

Soft skills! Adaptability and open-mindedness are always present. University can get crazy sometimes, especially if you say yes to every opportunity that enhances your learning. I found myself having a part time job, writing 5 essays without a computer, having weekly meetings, taking care of my friends, sleeping like 5-6 hours a night and other crazy things, and without patience and adaptability I wouldn’t have made it. Now it’s type 2 fun, I can laugh at it. The skills you develop during Winterline that allow you to find yourself are crucial.

I’d say the best thing about Winterline, and something that really makes it stand out, is that you develop your own way of living as you go. You don’t get attached to a place or a specific routine, you get attached to the energy you have all along the year. This energy can be easily found afterwards, and that’s what makes Winterline so unique! You don’t forget what you learn because you’re slowly implementing it into your life and your social circle.

 DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WINTERLINE MEMORY?

One of the memories I have is probably biking in Bangkok at night. It was absolutely amazing to shift lenses and appreciate the crowded streets with a drastic change in energy. It’s amazing how different a city looks when you experience it at different times of the day, and if you’re biking it gets even better. That was really fun and connecting. Other than that, I would say that the simple things, like having dinner as a group, exploring around with some friends, or doing planks in the middle of Prague are the memories that stay with me!

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CURRENT OR FUTURE WINTERLINE STUDENTS?

Take it as it comes! Be open minded and learn from every situation. Believe me, a couple of months after it’s over you’re gonna want to revive those memories. Live them as intensely as you can and reflect. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but when things are challenging we forget how important it is to reflect. I would say, JOURNAL! Writing was an extremely important part for me during Winterline. Once you write it you can’t rescind it, and this becomes crucial when you grow and find yourself indulging in memories. It’s fun to see how you shift as a person and who you were a month, or a year from now. Don’t forget your pen and paper!