Photos of the Week 10/26

This week, our students bid farewell to Panama and headed to Costa Rica, where the first item on the agenda is learning to scuba dive! Take a look at the last of the Panama photos and get ready to see Costa Rica through the students’ eyes.

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Parrot in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Friends enjoying the Panama City skyline | Photo By: Emma Mays
Katie and the empanadas she made | Photo From: Katie Mitchell
Katie and the empanadas she made | Photo From: Katie Mitchell
Our students helped reclaim a pedestrian walkway in Panama to help make sidewalks safer for everyone! | Photo By: Caedon Ott
Our students worked with our partners at ThinkImpact to help reclaim a pedestrian walkway in Panama to help make sidewalks safer for everyone! | Photo By: Caedon Ott
The group after their sidewalk project | Photo From: Caedon Ott
The group after their sidewalk project | Photo From: Caedon Ott
Locks on the bridge | Photo By: Emma Mays
Stained glass in a Panama church | Photo By: Nora Turner
Josie enjoying coffee in Panama City | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
Josie enjoying coffee in Panama City | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
Panamanian Church | Photo By: Will Vesey
Panamanian Church | Photo By: Will Vesey
Good vibes, great views | Photo By: Nora Turner
New friends in Panama | Photo By: Will Vesey
New friends in Panama | Photo By: Will Vesey
Abby learning to dive
Abby learning to dive
Luc learning to dive
Luc learning to dive
Panamanian Gothic | Photo From: Christian Roch
Mountains and friends | Photo By: Stella Rose Johnson
Jason learning to dive
Jason learning to dive
Panama City skyline | Photo By: Emma Mays
Spencer, Billy, and Josie in Panama City | Photo From: Josie Edmiston
Spencer, Billy, and Josie in Panama City | Photo From: Josie Edmiston
Squad 1's first day of SCUBA in Costa Rica
Squad 1’s first day of SCUBA in Costa Rica
Celebrating a successful firsts country visit | Photo By: Emma Mays

Still haven’t seen enough of Panama yet? Apply today to visit for yourself on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

How to Blog Safely During Your Gap Year

Here are some rules of thumb for staying safe while sharing about all the awesome things you’re experiencing.

Callie_Video2.png

1. Know where you are

Each country varies greatly in the amount of freedom granted to its internet users. Even within regions, there can be great differences in freedom of speech.

Consult resources like this Reporters Without Borders map, that outline levels of freedom along a number of different measures, in order to know your risks. Notice, for example, how greatly freedom of speech varies in the Caribbean, or Southeast Asia.

2. Talk to locals about your blog ideas

Depending on the kinds of things you see or experience, you may want to write a celebration of cultural diversity, or a scathing diatribe of a city policy.

Pitch your ideas to locals before you publish them, people you can trust. If you’re in Vietnam, for example, and you want to write about resource distribution, talk to locals about it. If they give you a lukewarm response, it probably means you shouldn’t publish it until you leave. And that brings us to our next piece of advice.

3. Use a tor hidden service

Anonymizing your internet presence can make a big impact on other people’s ability to track you down. This may not sound very sexy at first, but if there’s something so serious that you absolutely have to write about it, it might be worthwhile to mask your identity. Even when you’re doing the right thing, you can still be punished or used as a scape-goat.

Tor services, developed by the US Navy, are one of the best ways to anonymize yourself. Read up on how to do it right, and remember to log out of whatever account you’re posting with. Just because you’re on Tor doesn’t mean your Facebook post will not have your profile photo attached to it!

4. Sometimes you just have to wait

You may have a great idea, or a great article, or expose, but if publishing it would put your life or safety in great jeopardy, it’s probably not worth it to publish immediately. As a foreigner, you don’t have the same rights as you would back at home, and you may even have less protection than the locals themselves, certainly not the same depth of personal connections.

Publish your articles, pieces, works of art, when you know you will be safe. Don’t even publish it on your way to the airport if it’s probably sensitive. Wait until your flight touches down at your next destination.

Winterline Global Skills Paris Geolas

5. Don’t be discouraged!

It may sound like a lot of work to keep up a blog during your gap year, but the rewards can be immense.

Blogs can be an incredible reflection point for you, pushing your thinking and helping you digest all the crazy different things you’re seeing day-to-day. They’re an awesome exercise in public dialogue and written presentation. They may even offer something of value to the local communities in which you find yourself.

And of course, they can pull your friends and family along with you for the ride, helping them share in the same insights you’re having, as they’re happening.

Whatever your reasons, stay safe out there, and keep your head about you when publishing content in another country.

9 Tips to Successfully Experience a Homestay

Some of these tips may seem self-explanatory, but it’s easy to forget and be thrown off guard when you’re in a new surrounding. Remember that your host family signed up to host you, so they’re excited to have you and help you familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Be appreciative of this!

Panama homestays | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

1. Don’t forget your manners: Remember to always say please and thank you just like your parents taught you.

2. Speak their language: You are spending time in a homestay to get more acquainted with not only your host family’s culture, but also their language. It’s the perfect place to practice. Don’t worry about making mistakes or sounding silly!

3. Food for thought: Always, always, always eat the food your homestay offers, or at least take a small portion to try it. If you have dietary constrictions be sure to relay that up front.

Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay
Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay

4. Be outgoing: It will probably be somewhat out of your comfort zone, but don’t retreat. Ask questions and share your experiences; now is not the time to be shy.

5. Dress as they dress:  Be mindful of your family’s customary dress and customs. Showing too much skin for women in some countries, for example, is frowned upon.

6. Lean on your host family: It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick while away. Remember your host family is their to help.

One of our Africa Homestay Families with our Partners, ThinkImpact.
One of our Africa Homestay Families set up through our Partners, ThinkImpact.

7. Unplug: Be respectful. No phones, iPads or laptops while enjoying time with your host family. I repeat..put the phones away!

8. Help out: While you are living there, chip in as much as possible with household chores and upkeep.

9. Give them a gift: It’s a nice gesture to leave a parting gift. And keep in touch, too. I am sure they will love to hear from you time to time.

Living in a homestay can be one of the most rewarding experiences your will have while traveling and studying abroad. Refer to these easy tips to make your time there carefree.

Photos of the Week 10/19

Our students are keeping busy down in Panama! This week they managed to fit in an assortment of kayaking, building, hiking and exploring, visiting the Panama Canal, and getting closer to nature. Their activities would take a long time to list, so why not see for yourself?

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Learning to kayak | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Maria Hanging out in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Maria Hanging out in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Wading through the mud with friends | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Putting muscles to work building | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Taking a siesta | Photo By: Emma Mays
Taking a siesta | Photo By: Emma Mays
Nature’s beautiful creations | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Spencer and Billy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
Breathtaking landscapes | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Reaching out to new friends | Photo By: Emma Mays
Scenery of Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Peaceful Panama | Photo From: Brittany Lane
Peaceful Panama | Photo From: Brittany Lane
All smiles in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Working hard | Photo By: Emma Mays
Learning to cut wood | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Just some of the girls | Photo By: Emma Mays
Just some of the girls | Photo By: Emma Mays
Visiting the Panama Canal | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn
Can you say paradise? | Photo By: Jeremy Cronon, Field Advisor
Can you say paradise? | Photo By: Jeremy Cronon, Field Advisor
Abby Kayaking | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos
Abby Kayaking | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos
Benji in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Benji in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays

And, finally, a bonus because we can’t forget about our precious four-legged friends!

Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Photo By: Emma Mays
Photo By: Emma Mays

To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

5 Ways to Practice Self-Care While Traveling

Traveling can be exciting, life changing, and thrilling, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating at times. It’s important to be able to balance your aspirations and your needs to ensure that you don’t burn yourself out and you can make the very most of your travels.

Here are some of my favorite ways to rest and recharge anywhere from in your accommodations, to a plane or car, to a hike or beach.

  • Practicing mindfulness. Whether you’re a meditation pro or you’ve never tried it before, there’s countless guided apps, websites, and books that will help you disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world. Take a step back with a session that fits into your schedule, even if it’s just ten minutes. I always find that I’m able to appreciate what’s going on around me more when I’ve had a moment to truly tune in to my surroundings and my own energy. You don’t have to be a yogi or a hippie to enjoy this exercise, I promise! You just have to be willing to give it a fair try. However, if you find that sitting in silence just isn’t for you, there’s other options. Personally, I love using coloring books to channel my attention!

    Winterline Students practicing mindfulness on their gap year.
  • Stretching. I’m not a yogi, in fact. I’ve never particularly found yoga very interesting, so I completely applaud any of you who can do it! But I can’t deny that simply stretching for a few minutes in the day can make a big difference in my overall attitude. It’s easy to find yourself tense in a normal day, and that may be exacerbated by long days, cramped travel positions, and confusing new places. Loosening up your body will help loosen up your mind, and not only will you find yourself more comfortable and adaptable, but I’m always able to sleep better when I stretch before bed!
  • Pamper yourself. Guys, this goes for you, too! When your body feels good, your mind feels good. There’s nothing better than putting on lotion or a face mask after a dry flight or a sweaty hike. Even just allowing yourself a few extra minutes to soak in the shower or brush your hair can have the soothing effect you need. Try finding some travel toiletries with familiar or calming scents that ground you and remind you of home.
  • Journal! When you’re traveling, your mind is constantly working. You’re trying to remember everything you did that day, every fun anecdote and fact, every flight or bus or train schedule. You’re calculating money, languages, time zones, itineraries, and even if you’re a world class planner, this is tiring. So get it all out! Decrease the clutter and write it down. You can bullet, or write longform; whatever helps lift some of the weight off your shoulders. Free up the headspace for the new adventures tomorrow will bring!

    This is the journal I used every day while I was abroad.
  • Eat or drink something really good. It’s ok if it’s not super healthy. This is about letting yourself enjoy a food as well as the experience of eating or drinking it. Stick with something safe, like ice cream or chocolate, or try something new and unique to the area you’re in. Don’t eat it all at once, savor it and really taste the flavor, feel the texture. Food’s a great way to connect to a culture and tune in to your body.

One of the most important things to remember is that self-care doesn’t have to be luxe or extravagant. Practicing self-care shouldn’t stress you out more; it should be relaxing and comfortable. Everyone likes and appreciates different things, so don’t worry if your idea of self-care is different than someone else’s. All that matters is that you know yourself and what you need, and that you allow yourself to have those pleasures – especially during times that can be stressful, like travel.

What’s your tried-and-true way to practice self-care? Share your ideas with us and your peers!

Photos of the Week 10/12

Greetings from El Cocal!

Our students are keeping us envious with their beautiful photos from Central America. In Panama, they’ll be working with our partners at ThinkImpact at local micro-businesses, practicing research and leadership skills, and learning to kayak. In the meantime, they’re settling in and showing off their excitement alongside the gorgeous backdrops!

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Relaxing in the hammock | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Greetings from the children of El Cocal | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Hello to El Cocal! | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Views | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Beautiful Panama | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Up close and personal | Photo By: Micah Romaner
Best hiking buddy | Photo By: Micah Romaner
Furry friends | Photo By: Micah Romaner
Loving the Panama life | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Making new friends | Photo By: Will Vesey

To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Photos of the Week 10/5

Hello October & Hello Panama!

Last week our Global Skills Gap Year finished up their expedition with NOLS Southwest, and we have some amazing photos from their adventures. Earlier this week our students arrived in Panama where they will be working with our partners at ThinkImpact. Here our students will be doing homestays and brushing up on their social entrepreneurship skills. Wifi is limited, but we will be keeping you up to date on their adventures as best as we can!

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Brogan on his NOLS expedition | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Brogan on his NOLS expedition | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Will hanging in his eno | Photo By: Emma Mays
Will hanging in his eno | Photo By: Emma Mays
Hiking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Hiking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Linnea with a new friend | Photo By: Emma Mays
Linnea with a new friend | Photo By: Emma Mays
The girls hugging on their expedition | Photo From: Abby Dulin
Brittany, Cristina, and Abby hugging on their expedition | Photo From: Abby Dulin
Tyler and Jason while hiking with NOLS | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Tyler and Jason while hiking with NOLS | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Hiking and smiling | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Hiking and smiling | Photo By: Emma Mays
Paris | Photo By: Maria O'Neal
Paris | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
Cooking at NOLS | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Cooking at NOLS | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Ben cooking | Photo By: Emma Mays
Ben cooking | Photo By: Emma Mays
Micah and Ben | Photo By: Emma Mays
Micah and Ben | Photo By: Emma Mays
Becky and Katie on their NOLS expedition. | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Becky and Katie on their NOLS expedition. | Photo By: Abby Dulin
The group cooking while on their NOLS expedition | Photo By: Abby Duling
The group cooking while on their NOLS expedition | Photo By: Abby Dulin
The boys posing on their hike | Photo By: Abby Dulin
The boys posing on their hike | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Benji smiling | Photo By: Emma Mays
Benji smiling | Photo By: Emma Mays
Tyler and Cristina cooking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Tyler and Cristina cooking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Spencer Hiking | Photo By" Abby Dulin
Spencer Hiking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Becky, Alex, and Katie | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Becky, Alex, and Katie | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Ivan with an impressive lego octopus | Photo By: Emma Mays
Ivan with an impressive lego octopus | Photo By: Emma Mays
Jason reading the map | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Jason reading the map | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Yeukai and Cristina smiling in Arizona | Photo By: Emma Mays
Yeukai and Cristina smiling in Arizona | Photo By: Emma Mays
Will helping pitch the tent | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Will helping pitch the tent | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Reading and Resting | Photo By: Emma Mays
Reading and Resting | Photo By: Emma Mays
Brogan hiking | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Brogan hiking | Photo By: Abby Dulin

To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Meet The Field Advisors: Arielle Polites

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. As a teenager, I was eager to see the world and live in a big city; this inspired my decision to move to New York City for college. Now that I am older, I am drawn back to the woods, the sprawling hills of New England, and being surrounded by nature. I thank my mom for my love of nature. She always took us for hikes in the fall to see the changing leaves. She also fostered a passion for culture in me, hence my love for exploring cities, too.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

I love being a mentor to others and facilitating learning in non-traditional classroom settings. Winterline has such a unique program model and it mirrors many of my personal ideologies and outlooks. I had to try a lot of different jobs and experience many different ways of life in order to find what makes me truly happy. I am honored to be a part of the Winterline student journey as they learn more about themselves and the world.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

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

I am excited about everything! I am, however, thrilled to practice my Spanish and be in nature. I can’t wait to experience the beauty of Costa Rica and Panama with our students and partners while my friends and family are shivering in the cold fall weather back in New England!

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

My favorite thing about traveling is connecting with locals and learning their food traditions. I love to cook, and sharing a good meal (preferably outside!) is my favorite way to connect with others. Food brings people together despite language or cultural barriers.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites
Arielle with her co-facilitator, Jeff.

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

I went through a number of challenging experiences when I was a teenager and I longed for a mentor that could support my growth and remind me to believe in myself. As the quote by Ghandi goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I have striven to become the person I needed when I was younger.

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

I did pass on the opportunity to eat fried insects in Thailand, which is perhaps the most exotic food option I’ve had abroad. I have tried so many fantastic and interesting foods abroad though. My favorite food memory comes from when my time teaching English in Italy. I went out to a meal with my host family and what I thought was my entree was simply an appetizer…I ended up eating a seven course meal, with foot-stomped homemade wine, and squid ink pasta…..all just a block from the ocean and without understanding more than a few words in Italian.

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

I would like the students to know that though I am a silly and fun-loving person, and my first priority is student well-being. I live my life and do my work with compassion.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I can do a few crazy yoga poses (I am a yoga instructor) but the coolest thing I can do is 20 non-stop cartwheels. It’s been a few years since I have had to prove this skill…so you may have to trust me on this one.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

 

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.

Mom & Daughter: What was the best part of your gap year program?

In gearing up for graduation for the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program, I wanted to hear how our alumna, Sydney, was doing in college, and I wanted to know if she and her gap year mom, Mindy, had any news, regrets, recent accomplishments, or reservations about having taken a gap year, and if they still felt it was the best idea to go on a gap year program.

In the end, they both strongly agreed that the variety and breadth of global exposure provided by the Winterline gap year program was very valuable. Coming to college, it was easy for Sydney to get along with any type of roommate, and her experiences abroad have been extremely relevant to her life at college. Both Mindy and Sydney would recommend others to seriously consider taking a gap year.

Read on to see what they have to say to students and parents thinking about a gap year before college!


Wondering what it takes to go on a gap year?

GET INFO


What was the best part of the program, in your opinion?

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

Sydney: I think the first thing that stood out about Winterline was the wide variety of opportunities. I was able to travel, meet new people, be immersed in different cultures, and discover different interests.

When I was looking for a gap year, most programs only offered semester programs, or only offered travel to one or two countries. When my mom discovered Winterline, one of the first things I remember doing was looking on a map with my dad, counting all the places I could travel to if doing Winterline. Because it was a full school year, I’d get to travel to ten countries and learn a variety of skills while being away at the same time as my friends. The experience definitely tested limits and expanded my perspectives and views on numerous topics.

One of my favorite things offered was the Independent Study Project. I was able to travel to London on my own. I definitely experienced complete independence, grew confidence, and learned how to trust myself.

That particular week gave me a chance to explore a skill which I believed would serve me long term. It showed me what life would be like if I were to pursue being a CEO. I was able to peek into the business life, giving me new perspective on what it takes to build a business from the ground up. After this experience I realized that going after what you want can be a lot of hard work! As young people we hear, “Oh, you can do this job or that job,” but we don’t really understand what goes into it. It definitely opened my eyes and gave me great insight into reality.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year momMindy: All of this is in my opinion, only because I obviously was not on the gap year; Darn! First of all, having the gap year organized around the same calendar dates as college was a big attraction for us. For students who felt awkward about not going to college immediately after high school (like their friends), keeping a similar calendar as colleges takes one hurdle off the list.

Brian, Sydney and I appreciated Winterline’s focus on life skills over additional academics. It gave Sydney a break from more of the same. Getting away from what they’ve been doing basically all their life, and instead learning more about life and people and themselves made this program attractive.

The experiences Winterline provided invited students to explore their fears, as well as recognize their talents. The 9 months of travel, all the challenging environments, the different cultures, jobs and responsibilities was a great learning platform for increased growth and self confidence. In addition, living with others taught them priceless skills about conflict resolution, how to be vulnerable and trust others, while also providing the opportunity to learn about yourself.

We are grateful Sydney was exposed to a global world, as opposed to just the United States. She then could create her own opinions. We see things on TV, and they’re often presented one way so often we believe what we hear is true. Alternatively, when you travel somewhere, meet the people, you can have your own unique experiences and are better equipped to form your own objective views. I feel Sydney sees all people very similarly at the heart because she sees the world more globally.

I don’t know if you know this about me yet, but I am the poster adult for gap years! Philosophically, I believe in Gap years for many students. Sydney proved my theory correct. The pause or the dash or in this case the Gap year is merely an opportunity to provide students a better lens into their future and themselves. Not to mention, entering college a little older gives them greater maturity.

What most changed about you, what was the most noticeable outcome?

Sydney: What Winterline helped me do is help me find my voice. Definitely, growing up I was a people pleaser. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I would just go with the flow. I think when you’re living with sixteen other people, sometimes you fall into a leadership role, sometimes into a follower role — everyone has their strengths, weaknesses and adopt certain roles. I was fortunately able to come out of my shell and the group always encouraged and supported me.

Coming into college, I’m definitely more confident, I definitely speak up, and I know what I want. Things are much more clear. Through Winterline I grew up and found myself. I’m not afraid to ask any question and I easily advocate for myself. Because I’ve traveled around the world and closely with other people, I knew I could live with any type of roommate. I do not sweat the small stuff.

I definitely feel like I’ve changed as a person and I’ve realized what skills I need. I know more about what I am capable of tackling and what I am not. I know my strengths and see my weaknesses as challenges I can choose to overcome.

For example, I thought I wanted to be a business major and eventually start my own business. Unfortunately, pursuing a business degree would swallow me up and stress me out with all the math required. Yet, I was convinced I needed a business major to start a business. I now know deep down that is not true. I recently decided to pursue something in education knowing that I can still create a business but in the meantime I will have a career I can count on and enjoy.

I just went through sorority recruitment, and I know this can be very challenging, emotional and often filled with drama. I think Winterline helped prepare me to talk to all kinds of people. People do not intimidate me and I realize I make people feel comfortable in just the ease of having a genuine conversation with them. I felt very confident going into recruitment, because conversation is fairly easy for me and I certainly had my share of gap year stories in case the conversation fell flat! At each sorority I could connect on a personal level with so many types of people regardless of social status, age, looks, culture. I attribute this heavily to my gap year experience.

At Winterline, I was with Paso, who was from Nepal, and Bamae, from India. Our time together along with the world travel gave me insight into how people think different culturally. Without that experience I may not know or understand different points of views. Also, now I might meet someone from Costa Rica and be able to say “I’ve been to Costa Rica,” and they say, “Oh I’m from Monteverde,” “Oh wow! I’ve been there!” I met one girl from Germany, and I was able to tell her about my BMW experience and she said she’s actually been there before. It’s a very small world. It is almost like we have an immediate connection because we have something familiar between us.

Going through recruitment, obviously the gap year came up a few times. I think I met at least two other girls who did one! We clicked immediately and we had so much to talk about. We all agreed that more people should take gap years!

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

Mindy: First of all, change is a pretty strong word — I don’t think Sydney’s soul changed. I think she just matured. I think she blossomed more than we really ever imagined. Her perspective was broadened. She was definitely more confident and she was much more worldly, self-sufficient, and independent. She grew a stronger voice, and is even more at ease with herself and others than she was before.

I used to tell her that the gap year was going to give her a lifelong toolkit in her pocket, and she would know it was there when she needed it. I think this has already proven itself over and over again in college. She is quite the “handy woman”!

For example, when we saw how easy her college transition was it was staggering. She wasn’t worried about her roommate because after living with eighteen people, she could live with almost anyone. Walking in the dorm for the first time not knowing a soul, Sydney was meeting people easily. There were no tearful goodbyes from her. I was another story! She has already attracted a wonderful, solid group of friends.

In addition she’s managing a heavy course-load with a fair amount of outside involvement. She’s handling stress pretty well! I think she no longer sees challenges as weaknesses and more as opportunities, she has faith that things are going to work out.

I know that her sense of self is noticeably stronger. She doesn’t ask me for my opinion as often. She just does not need much reassurance. She just handles making decisions without checking in. Sydney probably learned what she was made of in the hardest places on the trip. Being out in the wilderness in the freezing cold for a week during NOLS tested her resilience. I think she’d say she learned the most there and got closer with people because of the extreme elements. Sydney got sick in Panama and had sand-fly bites all over her, and getting through all of that by herself, and not easily being able to call us was life-changing. Getting through each hurdle grew her survival muscles.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

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

Sydney: Without a doubt, I’d recommend Winterline to a friend. I think every person transitioning into college, or out of college and into adulthood should learn about themselves and what they’re interested in before embarking into the future.

Winterline is a group of people who become your family. If you’re a person who wants to challenge themselves by traveling and discovering new things about themselves and the world in which we live in, then don’t miss out. DO IT!

I think the desire to learn has to be part of the person. A person who’s willing to look for new opportunities, want to learn more about themselves, be innovative, and be a risk-taker is ideal for Winterline. A person that wants to question why we do certain things, and has the interest in making change and wants to know how to adapt is ideal for Winterline. I think like anything the program is also what you make of the experience.

I had a fabulous group which helped significantly. I believe if I wasn’t surrounded by such a great group who I knew loved me and I loved them, I wouldn’t have had the same experience. Each individual brought something valuable to the group. They were my rock, and now part of my soul. I could tell them anything. I was so fortunate to be able to travel the world and grow with such dynamic individuals. I couldn’t ask for anything else. It was an amazing experience.

I also think the team of Winterline was very on top of things. I am not just saying that. Whenever we would need something, or even asked for something or had a particular challenge, I felt we were heard and solutions were always found. I really appreciated all the things you did to make it a life changing, life-long unforgettable experience.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

Mindy: As I said before, I’m the poster mom of gap years. Personally, I wish gap years were mandatory before college and the government subsidized some of it. Many parents may worry their kids will not go to college if they take a gap year.

Obviously, I would recommend it, and if I were to say something to someone, I’d say, “If money was no object, and you could give your kid one year to grow and mature, and the potential to be more confident and prepared to make life choices, why would you think twice? It could be your best investment.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

Which skills are you using the most?

Sydney: Definitely the skills I learned at the business bootcamp. I was able to actually make my own business in my business class because of it. I kept the Powerpoints that Winterline gave us, and I was able to look back and show my group what I’ve already done. I was able to help the group in that way. Those skills helped me understand the system and what goes into starting my own business.

Another thing was learning about the different leadership styles, the communication styles. You definitely see that when you go into college. It helped me make connections with people. I now understand why some people may not be as talkative, or why I get along with one person over another. In Spanish class, I actually just read about Earth University! I said to my teacher, “Guess what, I went here!” Then she did a lesson on it, and it was surreal that I’ve actually been to this place she’s teaching the class about.

In a lot of our classes we talk about poverty, and what’s happening around the world. Having been in India, I had a lot to contribute to group conversations and class discussions solely because of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen through Winterline.

For example, in my sociology class, we were talking about women’s rights and female status in different countries like China and India. I brought up how I’ve been to India, how women in rural India don’t have as many rights as men. In Jamkhed, where we visited, women were trying to take on more leadership roles and have a voice in local decisions. I explained about the pre-school teacher who I made a documentary on, and how she teaches kids in the slums, making a difference and being a role model to these kids. I was able to use a real life example to support the class topics.

I also think the blogging, making videos with the GoPro, and keeping a journal definitely helped me with my writing and storytelling. I really enjoyed that because I feel like I have more experience and examples to use in my work, which my teachers love reading. It’s been really useful in my writing class, and my class, “Media & Violence.” We talked about how other cultures are portrayed as being very violent and harmful, and how Americans are led not to think of them as actual people, and treat them differently.

To actually be able to go to countries in SE Asia and Central America where there is some conflict, it’s cool to be able to speak up as a voice of those people — “Well, these people are actually just like us.” Everybody just wants someone to listen to them, someone to talk to. We all have the same goal, to be accepted, and be appreciated and heard. Those in poverty just want to live their life and have equal opportunity. I don’t think other countries are perceived as having equal opportunity, and they lack technology and good education.

Winterline made me realize how lucky and privileged I am. We have to do something about it because it’s not fair. Everybody should have the same opportunity to start their life how they desire. Winterline helped give me a broad perspective. I am less judgmental and pretty accepting of most. I am very grateful for my experience.


Think you have what it takes to go on a gap year?

GET INFO

 

This post was originally published Apr 14, 2017 by Julian Goetz