Alumni Spotlight: Ana Paulina

By: Ana Paulina | June 10, 2018
Topics: About Us, Alum Spotlight, Student Voices
Our former student, Ana Paulina, took a gap year with Winterline and loved it. She's originally from Puerto Rico, but now lives in Colorado, where she majors in International Studies and French at the University of Denver. Check out what she has to say about her trip with Winterline. Thanks, Ana!

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.

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