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.
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.
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.
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!