Meet the Staff: Ashley Delehunt

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in a quiet community of Long Valley New Jersey, which is in the country side with rolling hills and beautiful lakes.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was seeking more adventure in my young adult life. I had a strong desire to move out West in hopes of forming a community of adventure-spirited people.

I moved to Durango, Colorado to study Adventure Education at Fort Lewis College. I gained experience in outdoor leadership, group facilitation and in connecting outdoor pursuits to deeper personal growth. I worked in wilderness therapy for 7 years, guiding students in their path of personal growth through integrating with nature, backpacking, and mindfulness skills.

Ashley in the Grand Canyon.

Why do you love working for Winterline?

I love the community of Winterline. I love the being a part of the growth that our students experience throughout the year. I love working for a company that is always striving to improve and deliver the best experience to our students.

Can you explain your position in Winterline? How do you work with students?

As the Director of Student Services, I work closely with students and parents to support their experience throughout the program. I see myself as a mentor from afar, providing support and encouragement, and establishing boundaries for our students to explore and feel safe within.

What is something you want students and parents to know about you?

Durango Colorado is now my home, I’ve lived here since 2005. I’m recently married and am enjoying having a built in adventure partner as well as someone to share in life’s biggest moments with.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I live for adventure. This past Spring of 2018 I rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for 21 days. It was the adventure of a lifetime holding on with all my might going through the biggest rapids I’ve ever experienced.

I have explored a vast amount of the mountains and desert canyons of the Southwest hiking, biking, and rafting. In 2013 I traveled to Baja Mexico to study yoga and meditation.

Ashley posing in front of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

To find out more about Ashley and the rest of our amazing staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

Instagram Live This Week!

Want an inside scoop for what’s happening on the IG live this week? Keep reading!

Anna will be answering the following questions:

  1. What do you wish you had known before you started?
  2. What is the independence level like?
  3. What was the best thing about the trip?
  4. What advice do you have for future Winterline students?

In addition to these questions, she will also try her best to answer all your questions that you ask in the IG Live chat box! Some topics for you to think about asking include (but aren’t limited to): skills you’ll learn on the trip, countries you’ll travel to, what to pack for your gap year and what it’s like to live out of a backpack for 9 months!

Want to learn more about our program before the IG live, so you can ask awesome questions? Check out the rest of our blog posts, as well as Anna’s personal blog!

How Gap Years Help Build Relationships

The bond created amongst students who are traveling on a gap year together will foster lifelong friendships. Author and President of the Board of the American Gap Association, Joseph O’Shea’s book: Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, outlines ways a gap year can impact relationships otherwise:

Engaging with other age groups. 

Most students admittedly spend a majority of their time at home with peers. During a gap year, students meet and interact with people of all ages from very young children to seniors. Generations of people become their network, and they’re more likely to want to continue to engage with older/younger people after their years abroad.

Reflection on strangers. 

Students react differently and change their attitude towards strangers. For many, there is a distrust of strangers; many are “positively disposed” to people they do not know. While traveling, almost everyone is a stranger. After taking a gap year, students report having more faith in people and understand that for the most part, people are genuine and friendly. Approaching and interacting with strangers becomes second nature and a must, especially when traveling independently.

Gender roles.

Many countries have differing viewpoints on men’s and women’s roles, especially in regards to their household responsibilities. Acute awareness of these differences helps students appreciate the challenges of family and gender equality overall, and influences how they will develop their own family dynamics back at home.

Changing ideas on family and their relationships back home. 

In many developing countries, extended family often plays a larger emotional role (living together, caring for each other, etc.) than in the United States. Many students recognize the need to reconnect or make more effort to spend time with their own relatives. And if they didn’t have a close family growing up, it may also become a bigger priority for them when they return home.

In these communities, students see the importance of strong parenting in a child’s life. This encourages students to be an influential role model for their own future children. Many young adults say they dislike children until they actually spend time with children from all of the world and in different cultures. It helps broaden their perspectives, as well as connect with people in a different way.

Students took a closer look at how marriages work and what makes them work beyond living with their own parents.

Parent/child connection. 

Students often feel that their parent-child relationship becomes one of mutual respect as adults. And after a year abroad, they tend to be more grateful for their parents, especially if they helped to fund their gap year.

Students benefit in so many social and emotional ways while traveling on a gap year and then once home. Gap years encourage students to engage with their world in ways they never had before. And we think that’s pretty cool.

Alumni Spotlight: Oliver Sandreuter

Where are you originally from, and where do you live now?

I’m from Roswell, Georgia a small suburb north of Atlanta. I currently spend a large chunk of my time living up in Nashville, Tennessee, where I attend Vanderbilt University.

Oliver (#7) playing Lacrosse for Vanderbilt, where he is currently a Junior.

Why did you choose to take a gap year, specifically with Winterline?

As I came to the end of my time in high school, I was spending a ton of time focusing on applying to colleges and worrying about whether I would be accepted to the schools I wanted to go to. I remember sitting in my driveway and opening an acceptance email to my dream school. I was happy, but didn’t feel all that fulfilled. I had spent so much time in high school doing things geared toward this one big moment and I realized it was just another step in my life.

I began thinking I wanted to do something different. Something I chose for my own reasons and not to meet any external expectations. The concept of a gap year wasn’t very popular in my hometown, but I began looking around online. I wanted a year that would push me and let me explore as much as possible in the world. When I stumbled across Winterline, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. The program was an opportunity that would give me space to develop in all the different ways I wanted, and facilitate my growth all across the world. It was the perfect option for me.

Oliver at a waterfall in California.

What was your favorite skill you learned?

Has to be mindfulness and meditation, which I learned in an ashram in India. I was always an extremely extroverted person and spent most of my time talking with other people and filling my schedule. Learning to dive inward, slow down,  spend time with my thoughts and understand them a bit more has been invaluable.

What was your favorite place you visited?

My homestay in Costa Rica. I was able to spend time living with a local family and working on a coffee plantation in Monteverde. The place was serene and the people were so warm and welcoming. Plus, I learned a ton about coffee!

From left to right: Alex Pliskin, Oliver Sandreuter, and Jamie Fortoul. The boys met up in Paris this past winter break!

Where have you traveled since Winterline?

Winterline has given me so much more confidence and know-how to travel more. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around in Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland. I also took a road trip across the U.S. to visit a ton of amazing spots right in my backyard!

Cinque Terre Italy, where Oliver visited and hiked this summer.

How has what you learned on your gap year helped you in college, and your life beyond that?

Perspective is the one word I feel like has been the biggest takeaway from my gap year. It may sound cliché, but I’ve learned how many different ways of life and different types of people there are, and how to apply that to the ways I engage with my own life.

In university, it’s helped give me the confidence to pursue passions that really speak to me. I know there are people out there who share those same passions and I know I can find them amidst the sea of possibilities in college.

Oliver skydiving in Boston!

Tell us a little more about what you do now.

I just got back from Spain where I spent my summer working with an ecotourism business outside of Valencia while continuing work on my book. It was an awesome experience and I look forward to heading back sometime soon.

Can you tell us about the book you’re writing?

Definitely! The book is titled Bridging the Gap: An Investigation into Global Experience. It looks at how travel- be it gap years, study abroad, or travel throughout professional life, is essential to finding meaning in education and work. The book essentially gets at how travel is a key component to driving a fulfilling life.

I started the project about a year ago and have had an incredible time researching and writing about global experience. Travel has had a huge impact on my life and through the book I hope to give others the confidence to go experience travel as well. I’m excited to finish my final manuscript here soon and am aiming to publish this coming Fall!

Oliver and fellow WL alum, Molly Shunney, in Joshua Tree.

What is something you’re curious about, and want to learn more about?

I’ve always wanted to become fluent in Spanish. Next year, I’ll be living and studying in Peru and Chile in hopes of learning more of the language and culture there!

What advice do you have for future Winterline students?

Just to head in to the year with an open-mind. It’s impossible to predict all the adventures and experiences you’ll have or what they’ll look like. Everyone will have their ups and downs, but the more you can keep yourself open to whatever comes your way, the more you’ll get out of the year. Don’t stress! You’ve already made the best choice possible if you’re planning on hitting the road for the year!

Oliver skiing in Utah.

 

To learn more about what some of our awesome Winterline alum are doing, check out the rest of our blog posts. 

How a Gap Year Develops the 8 Characteristics of Leadership

Taking a gap year offers many unique benefits, including developing leadership. But what does that actually mean? How is leadership defined? How does it apply to a gap year? Frankly, there are so many ways to characterize leadership, but at the most elementary level, here are some of traits that they typically embody. And how they can be learned and applied to students traveling and exploring new cultures during their gap year.

1. Awareness: A keen sense of what’s going on around you. It goes without saying that by merely traveling alone, you can’t help but take in all the scenery, people, and cultural traditions in any given country. It’s a great opportunity for students to not only explore the world, but to also “be aware” of the world, and broaden their perspectives.

2. Decisiveness: Making a fast and firm choice. There are always going to be times during a gap year when students have to make a decision quickly, even it means going with their gut. You miss a flight, now jump on a bus. This is a skill that empowers students to become effective leaders in school and within the workplace!

3. Confidence: The mentality that “you can do it.” Challenging activities, such as mastering a high-ropes course or backpacking through tough terrain on an excursion-type gap year are just two examples of ways to build confidence. Confidence allows students the space to try more, during and after their gap year.

4. Empathy: Experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and mannerisms of the people around you. Exemplifying respect. In a recent post, I outlined the ways students can be respectful travelers, which is worth a read. But empathy probably goes far beyond that, especially in terms of experiencing life in developing countries; you come to appreciate what you have.

Alex and Alice
Alex and Alice | Photo From: Alex Messitidis

5. Individuality: You being you. Many students come from small towns or have grown up with the same people; standing out is sometimes tough. A gap year provides the perfect opportunity to showcase how students are unique; they get to meet a new group of peers, and start anew.  A gap year is also a great time for self-discovery; finding out other things about yourself that you did not realize before, but lends to your individuality.

6. Honesty: Telling the truth. Students will most likely be traveling in a small cohort. Being “straight-up” with peers and truthful with Field Advisors opens up strong communication and a positive dialogue across the board.

7. Focus and Accountability: Thinking through a situation and taking responsibility for your actions. I will relate this to post-gap year life. There is ample research to support that gap year students return to academics with a definitive course of study and career choice, which demonstrates focus. They don’t waste their time or their parents’ money, keeping themselves accountable.

Andrew learning archery | Photo By: Susie Childs
Andrew learning archery | Photo By: Susie Childs

8. Inspiration: Uplifting people. Students return home refreshed, with new life perspective. They feel optimistic about their future and it’s something they want to share. That’s also why they become a program’s best advocate. So many of our Winterline alum have shared their stories about what Winterline has done for them since the program. Check them out under “Alum Spotlights” on our blog. 

Taking a gap year is a journey. A learning experience. An evolution of character that can certainly develop into the strong attributes that define leadership.

Meet The Field Advisors: Patrick Galvin

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Santa Rosa, CA, but moved to Truckee, CA at age three.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

It combines so many of my passions into one awesome program.  I wouldn’t be back for a second year if I didn’t love it.

What are you most excited for when it comes to the Winterline itinerary?

I’m most excited to go back to Rancho Mastatal.  I love the remote location, farm to table food, beautiful hikes, waterfalls and it is run by a great group of people.

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

Everything!  Meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, trying new foods, seeing beautiful landscapes, and pushing my comfort zone.

What sparked your interest and passion in teaching/mentoring?

I first led programs in South East Asia with high school students and loved the role immediately.  Interacting and mentoring young adults at a pivotal point in their life is a lot of fun and inspiring.

What has been the most interesting food you’ve tasted while abroad?

I’ve tried lots of different insects, tarantulas, durian fruit, eyeballs, brain, intestines, main organs,  blood sausage, a century egg, etc.  I’ll try anything once 😉

What is something you want students and parents to know about you?

I love to spread positive vibes; it’s rare to see me without a smile on my face.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve traveled to 31 one countries so far and can’t wait to experience more.

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors, like Patrick, and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

Chef Up: Cooking with Winterline!

The American chef, David Chang, once said, “Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for.” I began to deeply understand his words after my year with Winterline, and especially while reflecting on one of my favorite skills on the program; cooking.

I’ve always loved to bake and cook at home for myself and my family, but I had never taken any professional cooking classes. Throughout my year with Winterline, I was exposed to an array of culturally diverse cuisine with the opportunity to learn how to make some incredible dishes. We had some amazing partner organizations, but I was most impressed with the cooking schools we worked with while I was on Winterline. I further discovered my love and passion for cooking this year, and found the beauty in creating and sharing meals with my closest friends.

The first partner that introduced our group to cooking was actually not a cooking school. NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) was our first official partner with Winterline. We did an 8-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and learned a lot about a lot, specifically in the outdoors. We each were split up into small cook groups and had to ration our food before the expedition. By the end of our trip, I was amazed by how delicious our meals were each day, especially considering we only used dry ingredients and a small, propane-powered stove. For breakfast, we had eggs and sausage, chocolate chip and cranberry pancakes, and even brownies one morning! And for dinner, we made quesadillas, pasta, pizza, and even a quinoa-based dish with Salmon! We ate like kings during NOLS, to say the least. After my positive experience with cooking in the backcountry, I was hooked. I wanted to cook as much as possible throughout the rest of Winterline, and I did.

My cook group, Leela and Patrick, “cheffing up” some dinner… I believe this was Pasta night!

Although our first “official” cooking partner wasn’t until second trimester, I had plenty of opportunities to cook in Central America. Most of our accommodations in Belize and Costa Rica had kitchens. When we stayed at Rancho Mastatal, I assisted in the kitchen and even helped cook dinner with my homestay family there. And during my ISP in Costa Rica, I learned how to make corn tortillas from scratch, all in Spanish! If it’s something you’re interested in learning more about, I’d encourage you to find out-of-the-box ways to cook during the first trimester.

Winterline_Anna Nickerson
Learning to make home-made/hand-made corn tortillas in cooking class! (It’s much harder than it looks)

When we were in Cambodia, we spent a couple days at École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule, a hospitality and culinary school located in Siem Reap. We went through a series of learning about techniques and various meals. We then made our own savory dishes, desserts, and baked goods. By the end of each day, we had lots of amazing food to try. I particularly liked that there were full-time students on the campus, so we had the chance to ask them questions about their experience. After we learned our skills at Paul Dubrule, we took it upon ourselves to create and serve a 3-course meal, plus cocktails and dessert, at our hotel. Winterline rented the hotel kitchen and bar for us that night and we put on quite a show for our guests, the other Winterline cohort. We made Asian-inspired courses, and I had the enjoyment of being a chef that night! It was a great (and tasty) way to celebrate our successful week.

From left to right: Alice Hart, Anna Nickerson, Alex Messitidis, at the Paul Debrule school in Cambodia.

When we were in Bangkok, Thailand, we also took cooking classes at Bai Pai Thai Cooking School. This was one of my favorite partner organizations all year! The class was really hands-on and we made a 4-course meal (including a delicious dessert). The courses were all traditional Thai food, and creative dishes. They even gave us individual recipe books to take home, and I’ve put it to good use already!

Our amazing instructors at BaiPai!
The Pad Thai I made! This was difficult to pull off…

For my Independent Study Project, I went to Paris to take French cooking classes. Although none of the other Winterline students did this with me, it’s something I felt worth including in this post. It was a significant and meaningful way to come to an end of my year with Winterline. I built upon cooking skills that I had acquired earlier in the year, and I shared my meals with total strangers who I grew to become friends with.

Putting my piping skills to the test with this white chocolate mousse in my French cooking class.

I discovered the beauty in creating and sharing a meal with someone, or many people, this year. I found my passion and interest for cooking, and I was able to share my passion with so many of my close friends during the year. We coined the term, “chef up” as slang for “cooking.” Some of my fondest memories from Winterline involve creating and or sharing a meal with the group. It’s a very special part of the Winterline experience, and I hope some of you reading this can find your own ways to “chef up” during your gap year.

Talking to Your Parents About Taking a Gap Year

When I first brought up the idea of a gap year to my mom, she wasn’t completely on board. To her defense, her doubt had merit. I originally suggested a trip backpacking across Europe all yearAlone. In hindsight, I’m not sure what I was thinking… She wasn’t thrilled by that idea, but both my parents were still very open to the concept of me taking a “gap year.” I was burnt out from high school, and I needed a change in perspective. As I continued to research gap year ideas and programs, I came across Winterline. When I discussed the program with both my parents, they were thrilled for me and encouraged me to apply and enroll.

What made them love Winterline so much? Well, my mom actually just did an interview, which you can find here. She was encouraged by a parent of a former Winterline student because of her amazing testimonial. As for my dad? He was on board the minute I mentioned that NOLS was a partner organization with Winterline. When he was my age, he did a NOLS course in Alaska and loved it. Both my parents also spent a lot of time traveling when they were younger. My mom spent a year in Germany for college, and was an au pair in France for a summer. My dad went to the American College in Paris for a semester, which also enabled him to travel across Europe on a Eurail pass. He also spent some time in Central America for a mountaineering trip. So, the next step for us? Discussing the cost of the program.

parents gap year winterline
Anna and her dad, Tom, at the Winterline graduation ceremony in Boston.

Winterline is not an inexpensive program… and it shouldn’t be for what it offers! Given the incredible partner organizations, number of countries in the itinerary, and length of the trip, the cost makes sense. I compare it to the cost of two semesters at a private college in the US. However, it is a lot for most families. My parents were very generous in paying for my gap year with Winterline. They saw it as an investment in my future, and I’m very grateful for that. But, I still contributed financially throughout the year. I was awarded a $5,000 journalism work-study scholarship, which enabled me to reduce the costs a bit for my parents. I also agreed that I would use my own money for non-Winterline related things (souvenirs, clothing, drinks/snacks, etc.). In hindsight, I think our agreement was great, and very reasonable. I worked throughout the year by writing blog posts and creating video edits, which I was happy to do, especially considering it lowered the cost for my parents.

parents gap year winterline
Anna and her mom, Cory, in Prague during Anna’s gap year!

Talking to your parents (or the people you’re financially dependent upon) about taking a gap year shouldn’t be scary. Approach it conversationally, and be sure to explain why you want to take a gap year, what you want to get out of that year, and how you expect to pay for it. Be prepared to make compromises with them, financially and otherwise, and remember that there are plenty of options aside from your parents to fund your year abroad. And just don’t expect them to say yes to your dream solo trip in Europe!

 

To hear more from Anna, check out her personal blog here.

Meet The Field Advisors: Hillevi Johnson

Where are you from originally?

My dad was in the Navy when I was little, so I was born in Illinois and also lived in Southern California and Wisconsin before moving to southern Oregon in 4th grade. I went to college in Oregon and moved to Portland directly after. After four years, Portland really feels like home (for now at least!). 

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

Becoming a field advisor seemed like the most incredible mix between being able to travel to new countries and experience new things while also mentoring emerging adults at such a crucial and exciting time in their lives. Leading high school students abroad is something I’ve done previously, but the trips were much shorter. I was really drawn to the idea of getting to form solid relationships with students over several months!

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

What are you most excited for when it comes to the Winterline itinerary?

How to choose?! I’m really looking forward to everything, but Panama will be a new country for me to visit and I’m really excited about spending time in Panama City. 

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

Food! That’s absolutely up at the top of my list. Different cultures have the most wonderful, delicious diversity of food and I want to try it all. I also love hearing other languages around me and learning etiquette of new cultures. The list of things I love is very long, but those things are some of the best.

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi  

What sparked your passion for traveling?

I was hooked on travel from my very first experience out of the country, which was to Costa Rica when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I fell in love with everything about it and have been trying to figure out cost-friendly ways to travel (or combine travel and work) ever since. 

What has been the most interesting food you’ve tasted while abroad?

In Thailand I tried fried mealworms and crickets, and in Peru I tried Cuy (guinea pig)! 

What is something you want students and parents to know about you?

I’m ready to be 100% in this experience with these students. Being mindful and present is something that I am always working on and improving, and I am committed to bringing my best self and I expect others to bring their best selves as often as they can, too. I also recognize that such a huge adventure can be scary, and I empathize and want to provide as much support and guidance as I can while students have the experience of their lives.

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Aside from travel, another passion of mine is animals. I love (*LOVE*) animals, and recently had begun learning how to train guide dog puppies. Someday I hope to raise one!

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

Best Travel Reads: Winterline Edition

During my gap year with Winterline, I made an effort to read about the countries I’d be visiting. In hindsight, I wish I had read even more. Before embarking on my trip, I read Eat, Pray, Love, simply because the book takes place in two out of three countries on the Winterline itinerary; Italy and India. The book inspired me, and encouraged me to seek moreout of my year with Winterline, especially on an introspective and personal level. It’s not for everyone, but I would encourage it for anyone interested in traveling, or if you’re planning to take a gap year with Winterline.

I also downloaded Lonely Planet guide books for each country on my Amazon Kindle app, and read about each country right before we got there! This was a great way for me to grasp a better understanding of each country or city’s history and culture. I hate the feeling of knowing nothingabout where I am, so I’d recommend that as well.

If you don’t like to read (or don’t have a ton of time to), you can find a lot of great YouTube videos as well as Netflix documentaries/foreign films. For example, First They Killed My Father, is now on Netflix. I watched that (which I highly recommend) before I went to Cambodia, but haven’t read the book yet!

Below you’ll find books I recommend reading before visiting each country during Winterline:

USA:

Panama:

Costa Rica:

Cambodia:

Thailand:

India:

Germany:

Austria:

Italy:

Czech Republic:

Alum Q&A

Overall, what was your Winterline Global Gap year like?

The year was an adventure. In all senses of the word. In general, when I look back on Winterline, it was so much fun. But, it was also one of the most challenging years of my life, in a very positive way. I have never been so stimulated by so many things in my life (culture, food, activities/skills, people, etc.)! It was a year where I experienced some of the most personal growth of my life and it was also a much more introspective journey than I expected. I learned much more about myself than I had anticipated, and I made some lifelong relationships with amazing people. It was a total rollercoaster of a year. There were a lot of amazing moments, as well as a number of challenging moments. But I really wouldn’t change my experience on Winterline for anything.

What was the best thing about your experience?

The best thing about my experience was the people. Both the people I traveled with in my squad, and the people I met along the way. I was a media work-study student on the journalism scholarship, so I interviewed a lot of people from partner organizations in different countries for the Winterline blog. This was a great way for me to connect with people outside of my group and learn even more outside of the Winterline curriculum. The people I lived with became my family, and I miss them so much. I still stay in touch with all of them every day!

What was the hardest thing about your experience?

Also, the people! More specifically, it was difficult for me to learn how to live with a group of other teenagers and two field advisors. I had a difficult time adjusting to constantly being around other people, especially because I personally really need alone time. It was a challenge for me to always have a roommate, always share a bathroom, etc.  But, I found different ways to get alone time like journaling or watching Netflix, and sometimes even eating a meal by myself. That personal challenge really taught me the importance of self-care.

Winterline Alum
These (crazy) people!

What surprised you the most?

I honestly was surprised by how much fun I had! When I signed up for the program, I was really focused on the skills and learning. I didn’t really think about much else. I lived with some of the funniest and most unique people I’ve ever met, and I just had an absolute blast this year. Most of the skills were interesting, and a lot of the things that I did outside of program days were a lot of fun. I learned to take myself a little less seriously on the trip, which was an important lesson for me specifically.

What scared you the most?

I tend to be a pretty anxious person because I overthink things, but overall there wasn’t a lot about Winterline that “scared” me. I went into the year ready to be challenged. So, I guess what scared me the most is one very specific example. On a rest day in Monteverde, some of us chose to try repelling down waterfalls with our two Field Advisors. And it was a challenging experience for me. The water kept hitting my face and my contact lenses fell out multiple times, which I had to put back in. I took double the amount of time to repel down the waterfalls as my friends did. And there were many tears I shed to myself while repelling down these walls. But, I survived and even though I did not have a very enjoyable time, I showed myself that I can be tough and that it’s okay to not like everything I try.

I also think another thing that can be scary to some students (and parents) is how you have to be accountable for your own personal safety. There’s a lot in place to help students stay safe and manage risks on the trip, but at the end of the day it’s up to each individual to be accountable for their own personal safety. I never jeopardized my personal safety, and as a result I had a really positive experience with Winterline and the risk management aspect.

How much time do you spend alone versus with the group?

It honestly really depended on where we were in the world and how busy our program days were. I would usually start the day by having breakfast with only one or two other people, then I would get ready for the day with my one to three roommates. And then, we would spend the majority of days with the entire group for program/skill days. After those days, I would usually just hang out in my room listening to music, journaling, writing for the Winterline blog, or talking to my friends and family. On days that we didn’t have program days I would either just chill out by myself, or with a couple friends, and watch Netflix and hang out. But more often, I would go on mini-adventures by myself, in locations where we were allowed to explore alone, or with a couple friends. And I would usually have dinner with just one other person, unless we had a designated group dinner (which is a lot of fun). So overall, it really depends on how much youwant to be with the entire group, just a few of your close friends, or by yourself. It definitely took me a while to figure out the balance, but I got it down and found things to do to get alone time, which I learned is necessary for me.

Winterline Alum
Just one of our MANY adventures on a rest day!

What do you wish you had known before you started?

I wish I had more realistic expectations going into the program. When you sign up, you don’t have much context except for the fact that it’s “9 months, 10 countries, and 100 life skills.” One thing I want to note is that the program spans over 9 months (starting in September and ending in May, like a traditional school year) but it is not a full 9 months of traveling because of the Winter and Spring breaks. I learned more than 100 skills, but that’s not even what is most important to me. It’s the 5 or 6 really, really important skills that I’ve been able to use in my life that matter to me. I look back on my year and I think more about the quality of the skills I learned, as opposed to the quantity.

I think it’s important to remember that you will be living with other people and that you will have some disappointments in some aspects of the program. I went into the program somewhat naive and quickly realized that not everything is a perfect fantasy. I also wish I had known that I would have to get emotionally vulnerable with the group in order to get close and build trust with everyone, which is an important part of the program. For example, as a squad we did “circles,” usually about once a week. We would come together as a group and each go around in a circle and share how we felt emotionally and otherwise about the trip. It’s a place where you can really open up to your peers and feel like your voice is being heard, which is really necessary during such an intense and worldly experience. If students made poor decisions that affected the group, sometimes we would also have circles to address those problems. I just wish I was more prepared for that.

What does Trimester 1 feel like?

Trimester 1 is amazing. All of my memories from trimester 1 are in the outdoors, which I think it really cool. I really connected to nature on the NOLS trip, in Belize (this year’s group is traveling to Panama, but programming in Panama is very similar to what I did in Belize), and in Costa Rica. I loved how a lot of the skills in trimester 1 are physically demanding because it added an element to the program that made me feel so proud of myself, especially in an outdoor setting. A lot of my favorite memories from Winterline took place on NOLS and in Belize/Costa Rica.

Winterline Alum
Getting outside, and enjoying the beauty of nature, is such an essential part of tri 1!

What do Tri 2 & 3 feel like?

Trimester two and three are the opposite of each other. During trimester 2, I felt much more challenged, and to be honest I think it’s the most challenging portion of the trip. The cities we traveled to are very populated and can be stressful at times, so I had a hard time adjusting. The languages are very different from a lot of the languages that most Americans have studied, and overall there was more of a disconnect for me. I had a harder time transitioning to Southeast Asia than anywhere else. I do think it’s an important part of the trip and it is really rewarding to look back on. I felt like I tackled a challenge, and was thrown in a bunch of directions, but I survived, and even thrived, in some locations.

Winterline Alum
Anna and Andrew at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Trimester 3 felt like a breath of relief for me after Asia. Everything seemed to be easier once I was in Europe, and not in a bad way. I think it was well-deserved. I really enjoyed just exploring the streets of all sorts of European cities, and stumbling upon amazing buildings and churches. I felt like Europe was the “reward” after months of challenge and personal growth.

Winterline Alum BMW Driving Experience
The gang taking on BMW Driving Experience in Munich, Germany!

Tell us about your Independent Study Program (ISP) experiences.

I wrote a blog about ISPs, which you can find here! An ISP is an Independent Study Project. There’s three ISP weeks during Winterline: in Costa Rica, India, and Europe. These weeks encourage students to study/practice a skill of their choice and to live without the entire group, so students can be more independent. When I was in Costa Rica, I did a 5-day Spanish Immersion course and stayed with a homestay family. In India, I went to an Ayurvedic clinic and ashram to study and practice Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation. And those two ISPs prepared me for the final, and most independent, ISP in Europe. Students plan for their Europe ISP at the end of trimester 1, all the way through trimester 3. We were each given a budget, and a lot of flexibility about what we could do. I did cooking classes in Paris and I stayed in an Airbnb just outside the heart of the city. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

Who was your favorite partner? Least favorite?

My favorite partner was probably the cooking school in Paris, called La Cuisine, that I set up for my Independent Study Week. I learned about French cuisine, and I actually just made one of the traditional French sauces for my Dad’s 50th birthday party a few weeks ago! The chefs were amazing and the cooking classes were so hands on. My least favorite partner was the robotics school in Austria. I am not a fan of technology, robotics, and coding, so it wasn’t really against the partner, but more the skill.

What was your favorite location? Least favorite?

That is such a hard question! I constantly tell people that Costa Rica was one of my favorite countries, but I also just fell in love with Germany, Italy, and France. Such amazing places. But, my least favorite country was Thailand because that’s where I got sick!

Winterline Alum
One of my favorite views on the entire trip… Munich, Germany!

How much spending money did you need?

Again, it totally depended on where we were. In Central America, I spent $15 to $30 a week. In Asia, I spent about $20-30 a week. And in Europe, I splurged a bit and spent $40 to $50 a week. Throughout the entire year I used money I had saved up babysitting, tutoring, and working the previous summer and I kept myself pretty accountable. There was a pretty wide range in how much students spent throughout the year. If you are willing to budget and track your spending, and be frugal, you can get away with spending only $25/week. If you want to spend a lot and not track your money at all, you could potentially end up spending $100/week. I was somewhere in between this, and anywhere on the spectrum is fine. But I do think it’s an important conversation to have with your parents so you’re on the same page going into the program.

How much time do you spend on your own, with field staff, with partners – what is the independence level like?

Hmmm… It totally depended on the student. For me personally, I became really close with one of my field advisors and we hung out a few times a week outside of program days to get coffee, lunch, or just chat. Our group spent anywhere from 3 to 6 days a week with partners, and the field advisors were usually there, but not always. The independence level changes over the course of the trip. If you feel like you are being babied during first trimester, it’s kind of by design. The field advisors want to see what you can handle, and then will gradually give you more independence if your group earns it. By the time I was in Europe, I spent time with the entire group for program days and dinners, but I was much more independent and chose to do my own thing with just a few people more. I will say that your independence you’re given is a reflection of how responsible you’ve shown the FA’s you can be, especially with drinking, curfews, etc.

What are your top three pieces of advice for a new student starting this year?

  1. Keep a journal! I wrote in my journal almost every day, and now I have mini “books” of my adventures with Winterline. I also kept a personal blog, which my family was grateful for because they could stay updated on my trip. Writing also just helps you remember things that you would otherwise forget (and I have a bad memory, so it helped me).
  2. Go out of your way to become friends with people in your group who you wouldn’t be friends with at home. My group was a melting pot of people from all around the US, and from Europe. I definitely had a lot of preconceived notions about other students within the first week, but I made an effort to have conversations with everyone and I found some good friends in people I wouldn’t have expected on day one. You’d be surprised by how interesting everyone in your group will be!
  3. Don’t expect to be best friends with everyone. This is huge! I am very much a people-person, and love to connect with others. I went into the program assuming that everyone would like me and we would all get along, but as is normal in a group setting, I discovered that I didn’t want to be best friends with everyone. Make a conscious effort to remind yourself that there will be people who you may not want to be best friends with, or who don’t want to be best friends with you. That’s okay and it’s normal. The only thing to remember is to be respectful to everyone in the group, and to be kind!

Instagram Live This Week!

Want an inside scoop for what’s happening on the IG live this week? Keep reading!

Anna will be answering the following questions:

  1. What was the best thing about your experience?
  2. What does Trimester 1 feel like?
  3. What are Trimester 2 and 3 like?
  4. What advice do you have for future Winterline students?

In addition to these questions, she will also try her best to answer all your questions that you ask in the IG Live chat box! Some topics for you to think about asking include (but aren’t limited to): program costs/managing money, skills you’ll learn on the trip, countries you’ll travel to, and what it’s like to live out of a backpack for 9 months!

Want to learn more about our program before the IG live, so you can ask awesome questions? Check out the rest of our blog posts, as well as Anna’s personal blog!