3 Skills You Have to Learn on Your Gap Year

But where these articles fall short is in describing how one actually learns these skills. Where in our modern testing culture do you learn the ability to learn? Where do you learn collaboration and critical thinking?

The gap year  is the perfect opportunity to define your own education, and create the kind of learning you know should be a part of your pedagogical repertoire. It’s your opportunity to zoom out, and figure out, “What are the kinds of things that I want to learn?” rather than the things that are mandated to you.

The short-list below is about inspiring you to be active about your own learning, and to use the gap year as an important opportunity to explore a number of different lifestyles, experiences, careers, and fields of study.

Which skills do you need to be prepared for life?


1. Collaboration

No matter what your job or lifestyle in the future requires, the ability to collaborate effectively will be an invaluable skill. Increased automation and artificial intelligence will probably be taking over all of the tasks that don’t require an innate understanding of human nature. Anything rote is likely to be replaced too.

The one thing robots can’t do is think like a human. They’re not inherently team players. So those jobs are here to stay. Working on a design team, negotiating a deal, doing scientific research, developing new energy policy and technology — these are just a few examples of careers that depend structurally on effective collaboration.

Semester abroad, gap year, and summer programs don’t always support collaboration. Many programs will send you to a far-off place on your own, with no team to bounce ideas off of, no peers to challenge your thinking or push you to understand how another team mate is feeling. Living in community is harder.

All of our programs focus on cohort models specifically for this reason. But that’s not to say there’s no alone time.

Hiking Wyoming NOLS Winterline
Group backpacking with NOLS
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.

2. Independence & self-sufficiency

We’ve all heard the stories. A student leaves home to go visit a far-off country. Runs out of money, gets robbed, gets stuck at an airport with the wrong visa and can’t come home, or worse.

Learning independence and self-sufficiency is a matter of degree. You don’t give yourself something too easy, nor too hard. You don’t drop yourself in the middle of a Mumbai slum on your first time away from home. And you don’t want to spend all your time abroad on the Thames, sipping lattes. You want to find the place where you’ll grow the most, the fastest.

Winterline’s approach is to sequence independence, building up to the Independent Study Project, where our students propose budgets, planning itineraries, and their own learning schedule, and, for the 9-month program, are given free reign to pursue them anywhere in Western Europe on a given stipend. In advance of that, students learn how to survive in the wilderness, how to deal with solitude with meditation, how to negotiate and manage a budget.

You learn independence by taking out more and more sizeable chunks of it. The key is balancing safety with challenge, knowing your limits, and knowing when you’re ready for the next big bite.

Learning to take public transportation abroad alone is a skill.
Paper-making ISP in Costa Rica

3. Cross-cultural understanding

The world is becoming smaller. Interactions that weren’t possible a decade ago occur on the regular. Flying around the world for business used to be the sole definition of globalization, but now these things can occur instantaneously across the web. You can FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Uber Conference, Facebook Live and so on. You can probably even Twitch your meetings.

But what all this means is that any international understanding you possess is inherently magnified. You may be running a startup in Boston, but your interactions with people from different countries, of different faiths, time zones, values, priorities will be extremely regular.

Having spent time in a certain country is one thing. But having interacted with people from those places in a deep, sincere, and meaningful way, beyond “Do No Harm” and toward actually contributing to those communities as they’ve defined it, is of far more value. You can speak to their work styles, their deference to elders, their ways of expressing respect because you’ve taken the time to understand them. But also, you can know your own limits, the limits of your own culture, perspective, and sense of what’s possible in the world.

Culture is a powerful force, and it shapes what we believe we can do with our lives. The more cultures you are familiar with, the more of an impact you will be able to have in your life.

Winterline students learned from locals in India | Photo By: Daniela Mallarino
Winterline students with local children in Thailand.

Ultimately, the value of a gap year is not just about making you more prepared for a career, but making you more prepared for all of what life has to offer. The more you see, the more you experience and interact with regarding collaboration, independence, and cross-cultural understanding, the more you will be prepared for life.

A Lesson from My Gap Year: Relax, You’re Awesome.

High school students receive drastically different messaging than I do as someone in the field of experiential education. They’re asked every day what they want to be when they grow up, where they are going two months after they graduate from high school, what they want to study, and what they want to accomplish. Most of the adults who ask that probably don’t even know what they want to be, do, or accomplish, so they’re asking pretty unfair questions.

My favorite thing about getting out of high school and college is that I now hear a completely different philosophy. My colleagues consistently say that there’s no way a high school student should be expected to know what they want to study, let alone what they want to do with their life. My life goal is to make sure high school students receive similar, more supportive messaging.

If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, you’re probably feeling pretty vulnerable. People probably ask you “why?” Because you have guts, that’s why. If something doesn’t quite feel right about going straight to college, listen to your gut, and figure out a responsible plan of action. People will understand – even if it’s after the fact.

ben welbourn

Senior year, students at my high school consistently asked me why I wasn’t going straight to college, and they asked the question with both curiosity and a palpable tone of confusion. A few weeks into my gap year, I was a couple hundred miles into the Appalachian Trail when a Facebook group popped up: “I wish I was Ben Welbourn.” Front and center: a photo of me conquering another mountain. It was created by our class president/football captain/lacrosse captain/resident stud. That was my first positive reinforcement from a peer, and it happened over a year after my decision to defer from college. After that, I got more and more support from high school friends and complete strangers from the college I was yet to attend. Be patient!

A week before graduation, my high school Spanish teacher asked me what my plans were post-high school. When I told her I was about to start a gap year, she told me “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” Initially, I took that as an insult, as if she was telling me, “Yeah, you’re a mess, so you’re probably not ready for college.” I’ve kept in touch with her long enough to know now that she just saw a gap year as a great opportunity for me to find focus.

Stick to your guns, but put in the leg work to make sure that once you do take your gap year, you’ll come out with new skills and experiences that everyone will appreciate.

5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Journal on Your Gap Year

You’ll say to yourself, that was so amazing, there’s no way I’ll forget it. And then..

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

While there are many good reasons to bring a journal with you on your gap year travels. There are even more reasons to keep a journal. Here’s five!

1. Change

You’ll be changing so much during your gap year. That was the whole reason you’re doing it. Documenting your observations, your reactions, your perspectives as you move through the world will create enormous value for you in terms of presenting what it was you did, who it was you met, and what you visibly learned and engaged with.

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

2. Reflect

Writing is a powerful tool. Not just for spreading the word about what you’ve been up to, but for processing what it is you’re seeing. Whether you’re writing in a journal or writing on a blog, documenting your journey helps you grow when you slow down and take stock of what’s happening to you. If you’re doing it right, every day of your gap year will be a completely new adventure.

3. Bring your friends along for the ride

While not everything you’ll write down in your journal is or should be public knowledge, you’ll want to have something to share with your friends and family back home. Keeping that journal updated daily will ensure that those crazy quotes that blew your mind open about how that sailor in Greece or that tea-stand owner in India sees the world don’t get forgotten.

Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

4. Practice

Your gap year should be as much about exposing you to new experiences, new cultures, and ways of seeing, as it should be about acquiring new skills and abilities. You have a whole year to get better at something. Why not make it something that is useful in just about every profession, career, and life setting? Writing is an invaluable tool for communicating at scale.

5. Remember

And of course, you’ll want to revisit those memories that you’ve made. You’ll want to hit ‘save’ on life while you’re living it up or stuck at some bus stop somewhere. Because all of the ups and downs are what make your gap year beautiful (though hopefully you’ll have more ups). Looking back on how you were thinking about a predicament, perhaps thinking about it too hard, or not enough, you’ll realize how much fun you were having on the road, figuring everything out for the first time. You may even get a few laughs out of your old self.


Many of our students love to share their experiences with others through journaling. Be sure to check out the “Student Voices” section of our blog. Additionally, two of our current gap year students have travel blogs themselves check out Anna and Meagan’s adventures by reading their blogs!


How to Save for a Gap Year

Planning that once-in-a-lifetime gap year experience? Looking for ideas on how to raise funds for your adventure?  Thought we’d share a few ideas to get you started.

Here are just a few examples of how you can work to make your gap year adventure happen. Remember, it’s never too early to get started.

Get creative

  • Jump on your laptop or phone and reach out to your community. This can include a calling or letter writing campaign to family, your church, local businesses or your regional Chamber of Commerce.
  • Set up a crowdsourcing page and share it with everyone you know. Make sure that you clearly explain your goal, state how you’ll use the money, and why you need it. Ask everyone to share it with their friends and colleagues.

Go with the “tried and true.”

  • Think about organizing a car wash, hosting a garage sale, or holding a series of bake sales. These events and tasks can be fun and help you save up for your next big adventure!
  • Do you have a birthday coming up? Ask for donations toward your gap year fund instead of another video game, book or pair of jeans.

Use your gifts

  • Have a special talent or hobby? If you love to draw or knit, why not hop on a website like Etsy to sell some of your handmade drawings or scarves?
  • Work! Why not get a part-time job, babysit or walk dogs for your neighbors, or offer tutoring services? There’s even apps to help set you up with jobs like these

Hopefully this list will jump start other ideas and inspire you.

Remember to stay positive and don’t give up! Winterline also offers scholarships and the ability to pay with 529 College Savings Plan or AmeriCorps Education Award. Also, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with our special discounts. For more ideas and for a list of scholarships and grants, visit the resources section of the American Gap Association site.

Disconnect on Your Gap Year

I’ll admit it: I’m a technology addicted millennial. I have my phone on all the time. I can’t go five minutes without checking my phone. It’s a problem, but if you’re like me, you’ve got a thousand excuses to justify it: I get anxious when I don’t know what time it is. It’s a digital age, I need to stay connected. I can see and do things on my phone that I can’t in real life. Simply, I like my phone! This is all true. But there’s a difference between enjoying the use of your phone and being unhealthily dependent on it. And many of us – including myself – are.

So let’s go back to excuse number three: I can see and do things on my phone that I can’t in real life. When I’m sitting in bed, that’s true. But if you have the opportunity, why not actually go see and do those things? A gap year or studying abroad may be the perfect lesson in learning to live without relying on your phone.

I’m guilty of scrolling through my phone while having conversations with people. While I tell myself that I’m a great multitasker, I know deep down that it actually prevents me from fully listening and is incredibly rude. When you put your phone away, you can make deeper connections with the people in front of you, and hear things you might not have if you were trying to tweet and listen at the same time.

By doing so, you’ll learn so much about yourself, and who you are without the world influencing you 24/7. Without social media, you’ll have no pressure to impress anyone. You can focus on what you actually want to do, and not worry what anyone else will think of it. When you’re traveling the world, you want to be sure you’re having experiences that matter to you, not ones that you’re only having so you can post about it later. This in turn will teach you individuality and confidence in your own decisions, which will help you in both your school and career.

A gap year is all about new perspectives and stepping out of your comfort zone. For a technology addict, there’s no better way to achieve this than putting the phone away.

I’m not arguing you dump your phone for good (unless you want to! Power to you!). I’m sure we all have friends and family who we can’t often see in real life. You probably love keeping up with memes and trends. But remember to put real life first so that you’re in control of your technology instead of your phone having power over you.


Taking a Gap Year for Mental Health

The school system in America is so rigorous and stressful, it makes sense that high school students are burning out. In 2016, 62% of undergraduate students reported struggling with “overwhelming anxiety”. The same study found that specifically, 41% of incoming college freshmen were seriously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. So you’re not alone if you’re having difficulty finding the motivation to continue post-graduation. Allow yourself a break. A gap year may be just what you need to reinvigorate your curiosity. However, not every gap year will provide you with the same outcomes. An an ideal gap year should allow you to take on a fresh perspective. You should build relationships with new people, visit new places, and interact with new cultures.

A gap year will instill a new sense of purpose in you. Many of us live in one place for our entire youth, where all we do is go to school, maybe work, and participate in a few extracurriculars. This routine can get boring and you may start to wonder what the point of day-to-day routine is. Travel will give you the chance to see corners of the world where you’ll be reminded that life for others is so different.

Susie hanging out | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

You’ll understand that you don’t have to confine your life to your current routine. The possibilities for your life are endless. You may find a new passion or renew your love for an old hobby or interest. A program involving volunteering will remind you of the status you hold in the world. You may have a newfound gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had and dedicate yourself to helping others, or you may find resources that can help you in the future if you need them.

Gap years will also teach you the skills needed to cope with periods of anxiety or depression. Traveling in a structured program will give you room to develop individual skills and self-sufficiency while knowing that you have support to fall back on if needed. This allows for trial-and-error similar to college. You’ll be in new situations with new people, but you will not be alone. By having this practice, you’ll gain maturity along with confidence in yourself and your communication abilities, which will help you immensely in college.

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

Another difficult skill that you’ll pick up on is resilience. Many students go to college and perform differently than they expected, then have difficulty bouncing back. The same goes for people applying to jobs that don’t work out. On your gap year, you’ll work through trying times, physically and emotionally. You’ll probably fail at something, and you’ll deal with fear and stress at some point. Having field advisors and a group of students around you will help you figure out how to move forward and reflect on your experience to succeed the next time around, which is invaluable knowledge.

I’ve been a perfectionist, type-A student my entire life, and over time, that started to affect me negatively. By the time I got to college applications, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to go to college. I didn’t think I could take any more of the constant work, but the societal pressure for higher education influenced me to go directly to college after high school, anyway. My parents were very supportive of me taking a gap year if I decided, but it was my own anxiety that pushed me to go to college. My freshman year was full of excitement, and I was happy with my transition.

But sophomore year, everything fell apart. My fall semester, I was skipping almost every single class due to being overwhelmed and uninspired. I had no motivation to get out of bed in the morning, often sleeping all day and crying all night. I so desperately needed a break, but I had not allowed myself to take one. A gap year may not have prevented this, as mental health has many factors. However, I do know that I should have been kinder to myself and taken time to recuperate.

My advice to you is take the time you need to be in the best mindset for school, whether that be an entire gap year, a semester off, or some other option. If you’re struggling, reach out to a trusted adult or one of the many resources recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Here at Winterline, we think that studying abroad is one of the most important experiences a student can have. However, some students might be held back or hesitate because of invalid information they’ve heard. We’re going to bust some of the study abroad myths that you might have heard. We don’t want anything keeping you from a journey that will change your life for the better!

Myth: I can’t study abroad if I don’t know the native language.

One of the major points of studying abroad is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. As long as the program has no language requirements, don’t let this keep you from traveling. You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you pick up on common phrases. There are also a plethora of books, websites, and apps to help you learn the language either over time or help you communicate in a certain moment. Going to a country with a language you don’t know only guarantees that you’ll become more confident putting yourself out there. It even allows the possibility of learning yet another new skill while abroad: a new language!

Myth: I won’t know anyone, so it won’t be fun.

Again, studying abroad is about challenging yourself. It’s like going to kindergarten – or college! Everyone else will be in the same boat as you, and because you’re in a similar situation, it’ll be easy to bond. That said, study abroad is a great time to learn to become comfortable being alone. Independence and self-sufficiency may be hard to learn, but they’re important skills to have.

Myth: Studying abroad is too expensive.

As much as it sucks, sometimes money does hold us back from things. Luckily, most academic programs want you to study abroad, so they’re willing to help you do what it takes to achieve this. Talk to your advisor and see what financial aid and scholarships your school applies. You can also find scholarships through websites like Mach25, FastWeb, and the Gilman International Scholarship program. There’s plenty more; all it takes is setting aside some time to Google. Some countries even offer scholarships as incentive for students to study there, so be sure to explore that option, too. For our programs we offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid. Additionally, since our Gap Year Program is worth college credit, we can accept 529 funds.

Myth: It isn’t safe to study abroad.

Be assured that your program was carefully vetted before being opening up to students. Every program wants to keep you safe, both for your benefit and for their own reputation! You should use a certain amount of caution, but that’s standard even in your home town. Pay attention to government and program warnings and use common sense, and you’ll be just fine.

Going along with this, many female students, students of color, or students with disabilities may feel that certain countries aren’t safe for them. Of course, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, but studying abroad is a worthwhile experience that you can, and deserve the opportunity to, do. If you need more support, check out Diversity Abroad, Mobility International USA, or the NAFSA Member Interest Group websites.

Winterline students learning Wilderness First Aid at NOLS

Myth: They don’t offer my major, so I shouldn’t go.

Say it with me this time: study abroad is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone! Even if you can’t study your major, you can get credit for required core courses or even for a minor. You could also discover a passion or hobby you love unrelated to your major! If your worry is that taking a semester off your major will prevent you from graduating on time, check in with your advisor to make it work. Or, you could consider a summer abroad. Research actually shows that four-year graduation rates for students who studied abroad is 17.8% higher than it is for those who didn’t go abroad. If you’re worried about study abroad impacting your employability after college, we have a whole blog on that.

Myth: I’ll miss out on things.

Ah, yes, FOMO: the fear of missing out. I get it. I’ll be studying abroad this spring, and I’m jealous of my friends who get to stay together, hang out, make new jokes and have new experiences. But they’re probably thinking the same thing about me getting to go somewhere new! Your friends will still be there when you get back, and you may miss something going on at home, but you’ll be back. You’re just temporarily trading a familiar setting for the opportunity of a lifetime to experience something new somewhere different.

Myth: I can just travel on my own after college, and it’ll be the same.

Sure, study abroad is a great opportunity to travel and explore the community. But it is also about learning – learning about your major, the country or city you’re in, and yourself. Study abroad challenges you both personally and academically. It allows you to build new skills while exploring the world. You still have to go to class, which gives you a structured model for experiencing the culture around you.

The whole world is at your fingertips with study abroad, and you have the opportunity to experience an adventure that so many people don’t get. No matter where you choose to go or what you choose to study, you’ll learn more than you ever thought you could, and that’s reason enough to pack your bag.


12 Books About Travel You Have to Read

You may already be familiar with some of the classic travel stories. Eat, Pray, Love; The Alchemist; On the Road; Into the Wild are just a few (and if you haven’t read them, you should). But if you’re on the hunt for more pages to turn, here are a few books to get your mind – then hopefully, your body – wandering.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bryson was born in America, and upon returning after 20 years in England, decided to walk the Appalachian trail. The 2,100 mile trail is no easy feat, stretching all the way from Georgia to Maine! Bryson’s style is both witty and aware; he manages to find awe in even the most mundane sights. A Walk in the Woods is not only an intriguing read, but a much-needed reminder that sometimes, it is about how you get there. The journey itself can be the adventure.



In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Following the success of A Walk in the Woods, Bryson took his travels to the opposite side of the world: Australia. Bryson explores the history of the continent, interacts with its unique species and people, and poking fun at just a few of the town names. Bryson is adamant that Australia is the most dangerous place in the world, but it’s obvious he loves it immensely. By the end of this book, you will too, whether you’ve been there or not.



The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Weiner sets out to answer a philosophical question in this travel memoir. A self-proclaimed grump, Weiner wants to know where the happiest people in the world live. He travels to dozens of countries, each which have their fair share of problems. While he may deem one country the “happiest”, Weiner’s book reminds us that nowhere is perfect, and happiness is subjective.




The Places in Between by Roy Stewart

Not only did Roy Stewart decide to visit a place not many of us are familiar with, he decided to walk across the country of Afghanistan. In his book, Stewart recounts this two-year adventure, which took place in 2002 shortly after the Taliban were deposed. His writing is objective and clear, offering unprecedented insight to the country and its people. If you’re looking to learn more about an unexpected place, this is the book for you.




The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

Newly graduated, title good girl Rachel makes a life-changing decision when she buys a plane ticket to Ireland. While abroad for the first time, Rachel meets a friend with whom she travels to three different continents, learning to live in the moment. This coming-of-age story is filled with fun and personal anecdotes, as well as lessons about life after school. Anyone considering a gap year is sure to find answers in this book.



Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Like your adventure with a side of romance? In this story, DeRoche recounts an age-old story of meeting a man in a bar. However, this man is about to sail around the world, and he wants her to join. Despite a phobia of deep water, DeRoche throws caution to the wind and decides to go. This book is as much about self-discovery as it is about relationships, as DeRoche learns and sees more of the world around her. The combination of travel and love is tied together by DeRoche’s conversational writing style for a fun and easy read.



Paris Was Ours by Penelope Rowlands


This book consists of short stories from 32 different writers explaining what life in Paris is to them. Some moments are exciting and new, some depressing and mundane. Each one draws light to the dream of living in Paris, which often seems to be a love/hate relationship. Every city has its ups and downs, and this collection explores a variety of both for an in-depth, honest narrative.



Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Adams had never done so much as sleep in a tent when he decided to journey through Machu Picchu. Adams is eager to uncover mysteries about the Incas and the fortress of Machu Picchu itself. His ability to describe the amazing sights he encounters both there and along the way is impressive and captivating. Not only is the book entertaining, readers really do discover Peru through Adams’ eyes. Adams’ tale serves as a note that anyone can begin to adventure at any time, and doing so will change your life.



Worldwalk by Steven Newman

At 28, Newman set off from his home in Ohio to backpack around the world. This four year journey took him across 21 countries on five continents. Newman’s background in journalism gave him the perfect platform to write about the unbelievable experiences he had and the unique individuals he met along the way. He may be an adult, but Newman’s journey is a compelling coming-of-age story sure to warm your heart and motivate your travels.


The Palace of the Snow Queen by Barbara Sjoholm

Sjoholm begins the recount of her travels in Sweden, and continues to travel throughout Scandinavia. She returns to the area for three winters, during which she learns about the area’s little known history and people. The far north may not be an area many choose to visit for vacation, but Sjoholm explores the tension between tourism and local Sami work and culture. The memoir is an intriguing and fascinating look into the famous Swedish Icehotel and the area surrounding it. Her tales won’t melt any ice, but they will fire up your desire to see this region of the north.


The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack

When you think of America, you probably think of the 50 states. But what about the other territories we occupy? Upon realizing how little he knew about these areas, Mack set off with a goal to learn more about them. From Puerto Rico and Guam, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Polynesia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, Mack reminds us how crucial the territories are to the history of America. Both a fascinating, culture-rich memoir and a political, informative travelogue, this book should be read by every American.



The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah

Motivated by childhood vacations in Morocco, Shah moves his family from London to Casablanca. The move into a run-down house is followed by the process of restoring its glory, with the help of three residents whose lives are run by the jinn. His account is both funny at times and deeply thoughtful at others. The cultural insight makes readers feel connected to the people despite geographic or spiritual difference, which is a hard feat to accomplish.




This is by no means an exhaustive list. Keep reading! Once you find an author you like, check to see if they have other works. Ask for recommendations. Peruse the travel section of your library or bookstore. And if you find any great reads that we should know about, be sure to let us know.

7 Reasons to Go to Thailand

Thailand is quickly rising on the list of popular travel destinations. Don’t waste any time in getting there for yourself. It can be difficult to choose where to go in another country: do you stay in its biggest city or one of its small, hidden gem towns? We won’t make you choose on our nine day trip. If the promise of authentic pad thai isn’t enough to convince you to apply, maybe these reasons will. The Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, what’s holding you back?

  1. It doesn’t matter if you’re a city or a country person; you’ll get to experience both! Spend part of your adventure exploring an area you’re comfortable with. The rest of the time, you’ll get to push your boundaries in a new setting.
  2. Travel off the beaten path in both urban and rural areas for a unique trip. You’ll visit non-tourist destinations for an exciting and one-of-a-kind journey. Winterline Student at Temple Bangkok Thailand
  3. Learn directly from Thai chefs how to create a traditional three-course meal. If you love cooking, then you’ll learn to put a twist on your daily meals. Don’t know how to hold a knife? This is a great way to learn. And, of course, you’ll get to eat what you make. Is there any better way to connect with a culture than to eat their cuisine?
  4. Pick up a skill that you would never have thought to learn otherwise. Maybe you already know how to fish, but have you ever been a rice or coconut farmer? Now’s your chance to see how agriculture works on the other side of the world.
  5. Protect the earth, or more specifically, mangrove forests. You’ll be taught coastline protection techniques to help keep these important ecosystems intact. It’s important to take any and every chance to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to save precious biodiversity.
  6. Thailand is brimming with culture, especially in its temples. Learn about religion, spirituality, and history in a country that your classes might not focus on. The predominant Buddhist heritage is apparent in everything from the architecture to the interpersonal interactions.mike_temple_wat_pho_thailand_bangkok-gap-year-program
  7. Nicknamed “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand has notably friendly people. Get to know them and their stories through conversation while you’re traveling. The country welcomes tourism, so really, you’d be doing them a disservice by staying home!

What’s holding you back? Apply now to experience Thailand for yourself; you won’t regret it. Don’t forget, our Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, sign up while spots are still available!

Why I’m Going Abroad

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and almost 21 years later, here I am…still in Boston. I love this city and my school, so I have no regrets about choosing to stay local for college. My only trips have been fairly short, meaning I was unable to truly immerse myself in a new culture. I’ve always been fascinated by travel, and I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. However, once it hit me that I would be continuing my education so close to home, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere completely foreign to me.

I visited Israel and floated in the Dead Sea between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

I did, in fact, base a lot of my college decision around schools that offered study abroad. My college has a fantastic study abroad program, offering the chance to study on all seven continents. That’s right, our students even go to Antarctica!

I decided to stick with one of the programs specifically for my major of Advertising, meaning I would either be going to London or Sydney. For me, this was actually a really easy choice. While London is a great city, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe before. Also, Europe is pretty accessible from the East Coast, and I’m confident that I’ll get to go back later in life. So choosing Australia was obvious.Sydney is literally the farthest I can get away from Boston, on the complete other side of the world. It’s a city that not a lot of people from my area get to go to, and logistically, I might not ever be able to go in my life without a program like this. I know how lucky I am to have the chance to go anywhere in the world to study, and I wanted to take advantage of that.

Climbing Masada, an ancient Israeli fortress, at sunrise in 2015.

All of my friends who have studied abroad tell me that this experience is going to change me, that I’m going to learn so much about myself. I don’t doubt that for a minute. For the first time in my life, I’m going to be truly independent. Sure, I have friends going, and there’s program managers and professors. But for three months, I’ll be living much more than 45 minute drive away from my parents.

For a self-proclaimed child like myself, this is really scary. I’m admittedly not always the best at taking care of myself. There’s no meal plan in Sydney, and I don’t know how to cook. My mom still has to remind me to make doctor’s appointments. I don’t do laundry or wash my dishes enough, and now I actually have to listen to my dad when he explains finances and budgeting to me. I understand how privileged I am that, at almost 21, I haven’t had to completely take care of myself yet. But I’m ready to learn.

My best friend and roommate, Marissa, is coming to Sydney with me!

Study abroad will teach me these basics of how to be an adult. It will also teach me how to appreciate the world and people around me. It’s easy, especially as a student, to get caught up in the little things. I need to see the bigger picture. I need a reminder that living isn’t just about school or work. I’m going to get to explore the natural beauty of Australia and reflect on just how amazing this life is. I’ll meet new people and get new perspectives on everything I thought I knew. I’ll experience a whole new culture: food, art, politics, communication.

I leave in a little less than two months, and that’s simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Part of me still wants to back out. I’ll miss my family, and my friends, and my dog. But the rest of me knows that this is the most important thing I can do for myself. Studying abroad is about allowing yourself to be scared, and pushing your limits. Finding out what you can and can’t do, what you like and hate, what the world looks like to you and what you look like to the world. So, Sydney, I’m coming for you, ready or not.


History of the Gap Year

Do you have a soon-to-be high school graduate who is researching colleges, visiting campuses and getting ready to complete the Common App? Then it is probably an exciting time, but possibly also a stressful one for your family due to the fact that there are so many important decisions to be made.

Perhaps your son or daughter is also starting to explore the idea of taking a gap year, defined by the American Gap Association as “an experiential semester or year “on,” typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

Winterline Gap Year Program Robotics

Hmm. A gap year sounds interesting you say… tell me more.

You may have heard about a student from your son’s high school who traveled for six months after graduating last year. Or you remember that a few years ago your neighbor’s daughter interned for a year to explore career options before starting university. These are two common gap year experiences.

If you’d like to learn more, a reliable resource about gap years is the American Gap Association. They share the following history of gap years on their site:

“Gap Years originally started in the United Kingdom in the 1970’s as a way to fill the 7-or 8-month gap between final exams and the beginning of university. The intention in the UK for that time was to contribute to the development of the student usually through an extended international experience.

Gap Years came to the United States in the early 1980’s through the work of Cornelius H. Bull, founder of Center for Interim Programs. Since its transition to the United States, Gap Years have taken on a life of their own – now embodying every manner of program and opportunity imaginable, both domestically and internationally, all with the shared purpose of increasing self-awareness, learning about different cultural perspectives, and experimenting with future possible careers. Since their broader acceptance into the American system of education, they have served the added benefit of ameliorating a sense of academic burnout. In fact, in a recent study, one of the two biggest reasons Gap Year students chose to take a Gap Year was precisely to address academic burnout.”

This all sounds good you may say, but what do colleges think about gap years?

More and more, colleges and universities understand the value of a gap year. Many notable schools, including HarvardMiddlebury, and Princeton to name a few, allow (and may even encourage) students to defer for one year to spend time in a “meaningful” way. The year may be structured or unstructured, support a student’s academic or service goals, or be a time for personal reflection, travel or skill building. Often students choose to intern for the year to gain valuable career experience.

There’s a growing body of research indicating that taking a some time between high school and college is the right step for many students.

So if your son or daughter is thinking of a gap year, keep an open mind, do your research and be sure to sit down with your child and clear identify goals for the year.

5 Free Resources for Learning a Language

Is your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language? If you checked out our recent blog by our Gap Year student Anna, then you know learning a language can help you truly connect with a country’s culture. You don’t need to be fluent in a country’s native language to visit, but it’s always cool to know another language. Whether you want to brush up on a language you’re no longer confident in, or learn a new one entirely, these 5 free resources will help you out.


This site and app work best for practicing as opposed to learning. DuoLingo familiarizes you with a language through reading, writing, listening, and speaking drills. The site gives daily reminders to study and allows you to track your progress. You can also share with friends, and even list your skills on LinkedIn! DuoLingo offers almost 30 languages, including High Valyrian – the language spoken in Game of Thrones.

Winterline Learning Language Duolingo

This site allows you to learn vocabulary, practice writing in the language, and chat with native speakers to perfect your speaking and listening skills. In order to keep you motivated, Busuu offers badges and in-site awards when you reach your goals. Busuu also offer specialty courses for necessary travel phrases, which is great if you’re just trying to get a basic grasp on a country’s language before you visit.

Winterline Learning Language Busuu


The unique feature of Memrise is the ability to learn new words and phrases by seeing them in sentences with similar sounding words and phrases from your native language. This helps build the correlation in your mind between the languages. The site also uses pictures in tandem with words for added visual association. Finally, Memrise also re-words translations to ensure that you’re actually learning the meaning instead of just memorizing the translation.

Winterline Learning Language Memrise


This source has a different app for each language you want to learn. The setup and features are the same; the only difference is the language itself. AccellaStudy offers flashcards, quizzes, and even a hands-free option so that you can practice a language while driving or otherwise occupied without even looking at your phone! You can also customize your study set if you find yourself having trouble with a particular word.

Winterline Learning Language Accela

Rosetta Stone Travel App

Though Rosetta Stone is a professional source that requires payment, they offer a free app specifically for on-the-go translations. The app combines pictures with common phrases so that travelers can learn basic sayings in the language of their choice. A unique and helpful feature is that you have to repeat phrases into your phone’s microphone to practice your pronunciation.

Winterline Learning Language Rosetta Stone


Be sure to keep in mind that sometimes, sites translate word-by-word without taking into account differences in sentence structure or grammar. This may lead to some faulty translations, but learning is a process! For even more resources, check out the page “Fluent in 3 Months”. For more travel skills be sure to check out our recent posts on our blog



Early Stage Careers

After your gap year, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of what you love and how you fit into the world. This knowledge will grow as you continue through college and into your post-graduate life. However, you may still need help finding the right job. That’s where Early Stage Careers comes into play.

Early Stage Careers does exactly what it sounds like: they work with college students and recent graduates to focus your interests, prepare you for a career, and empower you to take the necessary steps to launch forward. Your coaches will help you build skills that will propel you throughout the rest of your life. These tools, such as networking and personal branding, are integral in the job force!

Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs

You might be thinking, I can get a job on my own. And you certainly may be able to! But Early Stage Careers points out some relevant statistics that show how young graduates face a different entry field than older workers did. The following information is taken directly from their website:

  • Companies use technology to screen and eliminate up to 75% of resumes submitted
  • Number of career fields has increased nearly 300% in the past several decades
  • College graduates need technical skills and work experience to obtain an entry level job or internship. They no longer have the luxury of “learning on the job”.
  • Even for those with high GPAs at prestigious universities, a college degree is no guarantee of a good job. In fact, 44% are underemployed. On average, college graduates take 7.4 months of full-time job searching until they find a job. (Federal Reserve Bank, NACE)

Because ECS works exclusively with young individuals, they’re experts with the specific issues that you face. This makes them best suited to help you identify and achieve your career aspirations.


ECS helps you fix the most common mistakes college graduates make when applying to jobs. They help you apply early, remind you not to waste time on unrealistic positions, and prepare you for interviews and follow ups. Coaches aid you in honing your personal story, and teach you to maximize LinkedIn use and customize cover letters to the job. ECS covers every aspect of job application and preparation, meaning they can handle all of your questions and needs. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and it can even benefit you more than you might guess. They are experts, after all!

You can reach out for more information from Early Stage Careers, or read some of their articles and blogs for a more thorough understanding.

Location Spotlight: Monteverde, Costa Rica

Near the end of trimester one, our students spent an exciting two weeks in the beautiful town of Monteverde. To keep you engaged with our students’ journey, we’re giving you an in-depth look of the town.

Monteverde is known for its high altitude of 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level, which places it directly in the clouds. Thanks to these clouds and the moisture they provide, the town has an incredible amount of biodiversity. This variety of species makes the town a big spot for ecotourism, and a great place to visit or study.

The community of Monteverde itself began when four pacifist Quakers from Alabama sought to find a place to embrace peace and cultivate their dairy farms. In 1950, some of the Quaker families moved to Costa Rica. Then, they began to establish Monteverde with some of the area natives. Today, Monteverde has about 7,000 permanent residents. The town is also home to environmental organizations, the Monteverde Conservation League and the Monteverde Institute, where our students are lucky enough to study.

Costa Rica Rainbow
Costa Rica Rainbow | Photo By: Our Field Advisor, Sarah

The Monteverde Institute was founded with the vision to build “a sustainable community for a sustainable world”. The Institute brings attention to, and attempts to find solutions for, local issues affecting the community. All food comes from local sources, and the facilities are environmentally efficient. They achieve this status by collecting rainwater, using biodegradable cleaning supplies, recycling, and using passive solar energy and natural lighting.

In addition to giving back to the environment, the Institute gives back to the people of it’s community. Our students participate in homestays through the Monteverde Institute! Families who host don’t just receive compensation. They are also able to participate in programs and classes specifically geared toward them, such as a sustainability and energy audit.

Winterline Homestay
Natanielle coloring with the kids at her homestay | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alex Messitidis
Making new friends in Costa Rica at homestays. | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

During their homestays, our students complete an Independent Student Project (ISP). Each person gets to pick a study focus, and some of the options are truly unique. For example, some of our students get to process coffee, all the way from farming to brewing. Others paint their own batiks, creating a cloth that expresses their individuality. Others still participate in tree climbing, a home bakery business, or upcycle discarded materials like tires to create new products. Spanish conversation and foot reflexology are also two popular options.

Ingrid’s Bakery, one of our Independent Study Locations | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

The rest of the ISP programs include making handcrafted paper, woodworking, mapping, working in aqueducts, tropical farming, horsemanship, dairy farming, natural building, and bird tracking. With all these options, each student is sure to find something new that they love. In fact, it’s probab;y hard to pick just one!

Charlie making a silk batik while at his independent study | Photo From: Charlie Dickey
Students baking for their independent study project | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

Monteverde is full of incredible opportunities not just for our students, but for visitors of all kinds. Whether you’re after ecological learning or cultural immersion, this breathtaking town is sure to draw you in. 

Perfect Holiday Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

The holiday season is coming up quickly, and it’s never too early to start thinking about gifts! Whether you’re treating yourself or honoring a relative or friend this winter, we’ve compiled some gift ideas for the traveler in your life. For more gift inspiration beyond this post, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board

  1. Add a little flair and personality to boring travel pieces with a cute passport cover and luggage tags. This way, no one will take your luggage, but maybe they’ll wish they could. 
  2. Everyone wants great pictures to remember their trips by, but having a professional camera may be too expensive to buy or impractical to carry. Luckily, anyone can make their iPhone camera high-quality with the olloclip core lens set. The set attaches over the phone’s front and rear cameras with either a fisheye, super-wide, or macro 15x lens for just $99.99 on Amazon. 
  3. The last thing you want to realize when going overseas is that you can’t charge your devices because you don’t have an adapter. You’ll never be in that situation again with this 5-in-1 adapter from Nordstrom. The plugs work for over 150 countries, and are even color-coded for simple use. The best part? It’s only $35.                                                                
  4. Both chronic overpackers and forgetful travelers will appreciate this packing guide for any trip. Only $10 on Amazon, this book will ensure you bring exactly what you need – no more, no less – on any journey. You’ll never pay any overweight luggage fees or run to drugstores for left-behind items again.                                                                                                                   
  5. Hydration is key to staying healthy, especially when you’re spending long days walking, hiking, or doing similar activities. The Klean Kanteen is regarded as the best water bottle for travel due to its durability, insulation, and leak-proof cap. The brand claims that a 20oz bottle will keep drinks hot for 20 hours and iced for 50 hours, priced at $30.95 and available in a variety of colors. Another option is the Grayl, a bottle which purifies the water for you, removing pathogens, particulates, and chemicals. For $59.50, the bottle purifies water in 15 seconds, making it ideal for camping trips or visits to any countries where there are recommendations against drinking the tap water.
  6. Help your traveler stay organized and keep a record of their journey with a travel notebook. For the no-frills recipient, Moleskine makes a traveler’s notebook designed to store printed emails, itineraries and maps at $22.95. It is made to keep track of your observations and explorations on the road, featuring sections marked by colored tabs; paper that is ruled, dotted, and plain; suggestions about how to make it digital; and a sheet of stickers. If you’re looking for an artsier notebook, checkout I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded. Available on Amazon for around $15, this journal is filled with quirky doodles as well as space for “addresses, itineraries, reviews, and tips from locals; a reference section with time zones, measurements, and other relevant information; graphic pages for note taking; and a back pocket”.
  7. There’s no greater feeling than that of achievement when crossing a destination off your bucket list. Take it one step further with a scratch-off map, letting you visually mark off the places you’ve been in the world, and the ones you have left to go, for under $30. 
  8. Sleeping in noisy situations can be hard. Whether on a plane or train, or in a hostel or camping, give the gift of rest with this two-in-one eye mask and ear plug duo. The mask blocks out all light and an estimated 40% of noise. The Hibermate typically retails for $99.95, but as of November 3rd, the 2018 Generation 6 mask is on sale for $49.95.
  9. Buying for somebody else? You can’t go wrong with a gift card. Visa gift cards work anywhere credit cards are accepted, making them a great versatile option. AirBnB gift cards give travelers a homey place to stay. Many hotel and airline brands also offer gift cards, as do most outdoor apparel retailers!

This is only a sampling of all the incredible gifts a traveler could ask for, but they’re guaranteed to make any recipient grateful! Make sure to keep an eye out for those Holiday sales for an ever greater deal on some of these purchases. For more gift inspiration check out our Pinterest Board

Awesome Trips at Awesome Prices this Cyber Monday!

Time to act fast! It’s Cyber Monday, so today is the perfect day to book your future travels for cheap from the comfort of your own. We’ve compiled for you some of the best travel deals online right now. Don’t waste any time getting your deals!

Winterline Programs

  • Save $1,000 on tuition for our very own gap year if you submit your application by midnight tonight PST. That’s right, if you apply today you can travel with us to ten countries and learn 100 new skills for $1,000 less.
  • Don’t have time for a full gap year? Submit your application for one of our short programs today for $100 off tuition. Save today to spend part of your winter, spring, or summer break in Costa Rica, Italy, Thailand, Cambodia, or India.



  • StudentUniverse: This website is dedicated to helping students travel for an affordable price. Today, their deals are even more extreme. StudentUniverse is offering extra money off of flights: up to $100 to or from Europe, Asia, and South America; up to $200 to or from the South Pacific; up to $75 to or from India, the Middle East, and Africa; or up to $20 within the United States. These are great deals, so take advantage!
  • Southwest Airlines is offering a different daily special for the rest of the week! Today’s offer is up to 50% off a stay at the all-inclusive, 4.5 star resort Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun. Moreso, if you’re looking to travel between now and August of 2018, book a flight and hotel package through Southwest by December 4th. You can save $125 on U.S. destinations with promo code SAVE125, or get $250 off of international destinations with promo code SAVE250.
  • Alaska Air is offering discounted flights to select cities. Check out their site, figure out where you want to go, and enjoy a low-cost flight! Most offers end on Wednesday, November 29th, so act fast.
  • Norwegian Air will get you to Europe cheap if you book by midnight tonight in your time zone. Some flights from New York, Providence, and Miami will run you less than $100 dollars. Most others are still under $200. You won’t find a better deal than this!
  • United Airlines is giving you 20% off flights to Hawaii! Aloha, anybody?

  • If you’re flying from Orlando, VIA Air will give you 25% off all flights with the code CYBERMONVIA2017. A flight this cheap might be worth a layover in Orlando-Sanford International Airport first!
  • Say wow! WOW Air is flying you to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Dublin for just $99 if you travel before May 15, 2018. You can also use the code WOWCYBERMONDAY for 40% off select flights to Iceland.


  • Expedia is giving new deals every hour for the rest of the day. Right now you can get 50% off select hotels and an extra $50 off using the code HOLIDAY50.

  • Reveal your Hotels.com discount with their Cyber Monday coupon, offering 7 to 99% off up to $1,000. This discount can be used in conjunction with their cyber week deals, up to 60% off.

  • IHG is offering 15 to 30% off your stay in the U.S., Canada, or Latin America. To be eligible, you have to book by Wednesday, November 29th and travel by March 31, 2018.
  • Marriott has rooms starting at $89! Book by tonight and travel between December 7, 2017 and January 15, 2018 to get one of these unbeatable rates.



  • Sail the high seas with Royal Caribbean. When you book today, book a second guest for 50% off, and a third and fourth guest for 25% off. You can also get up to $400 in onboard credits.

  • Princess Cruises is giving all customers 50% off deposits today! Save now, enjoy your vacation later.

The only thing better than traveling is traveling at a low cost. Most of these deals won’t last beyond tonight, so be sure to take advantage of them while you can. You won’t regret getting your dream trip for a great price!

7 Reasons to Travel to Venice, Italy

Italy is widely known for being a center of art and culture, but you can’t fully experience the beauty just by looking at it. Imagine being able to hear directly from local artisans and try your own hand at producing certain art. This April, we’re giving you that opportunity. Read on for the top 7 reasons to join us!

  1. Sure, art is open to interpretation, but haven’t you ever wondered what the artist was thinking or intending? You’ll get face-to-face time with local artists to ask them all the questions you want about their work or art in general.
  2. Being an artist isn’t just about working with your medium of choice. There’s also a business side to it. These artisans will tell educate you about the intersection of being a creative mind and a salesperson. Sam-mask-making-venice
  3. Get inspiration! Venice is a city full of beauty, and you’ll be surrounded by similarly-minded original individuals. You’ll make friends whom you can work with, bounce ideas off of, and just have fun with. From the architecture, to the canals and bridges, to the vibrant colors, you’ll surely  see something that makes you itch to draw (or sculpt, or photograph). 
  4. Have hands-on experience with different art styles. You’ll make a mask, craft your own Italian glass, and explore the city through photography. Find which medium you’re most passionate about and push yourself to become familiar with new forms.
  5. You’ll visit some of the most famous attractions in Italy. If you’ve never visited before, let your inner tourist out and appreciate what makes these places so loved! If you’ve been before, try to find a new perspective on places such as St Mark’s Basilica and the Grand Canal.
  6. You’ll discover new things about yourself. Whether you develop your own unique perspective or fall in love with a new medium, grow independence or meet someone who changes your mind about something, you’ll be experiencing personal growth.
  7. Who doesn’t love Italian food? Get it directly from the source, but warning: you might never be able to eat takeout pizza again.

You don’t need artistic experience to come on this trip. All you need is an open mind, a creative spirit, and a longing to learn. Apply now to gain a new perspective on a classic city.

Location Spotlight: Rancho Mastatal

Both of our Gap Year cohorts are currently in Costa Rica, and they’ve just finished up their time at the one-of-a-kind farm within a rainforest, Rancho Mastatal. While there, our students worked with the community to learn how to live sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate change is real and it’s happening now. The way we live impacts the Earth, and that means we have the power to decide how much of an effect we have. We hope that the visit to Rancho Mastatal teaches our students not only to be kinder to the earth, but to each other as well.

Rancho Mastatal
Sam and Savannah | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

Rancho Mastatal cares a lot about the people around them. They source their food and building materials locally and “support regional efforts for clean water, healthy food, fertile agricultural land, and safe, naturally constructed buildings”, according to their mission. This focus on community resilience is a lesson students can apply to both home and wherever they travel. While there, the students bunk in communal living, teaching them patience, practice, and balance. Learning to live peacefully and share resources with others is a skill that will go far for students. It’ll come in handy when they get to college and have roommates!

Rancho Mastatal Living
Rancho Mastatal Living

Of course, our students learn a lot about the environment at Rancho Mastatal. A sustainability lesson shows how climate change affects the area of Mastatal. Individuals also learn how they can change their habits to prevent further damage. Students learn about permaculture, a way of agriculture that mimics the patterns and relationships found in nature. This method allows for the reuse of outputs as inputs, minimizes work, and restores environments. Learning permaculture gives students the tools to be ethical and responsible consumers. This means producing their own food when possible or choosing wisely when they shop.

Dini and Samir getting their hands dirty. | Photo By: Rancho Mastatal

To further protect the environment and its species, Rancho Mastatal created its own wildlife refuge, consisting of an amazing 200 acres of land. Rainforests contain an enormous variety of species, and this area is no exception. Refuge areas like this one are integral to preserving the livelihood of the plant and animal species who call the rainforest home.

Whitaker and Sam
Whitaker and Sam making juice. | Photo By: Patrick Galvin

Natural building is also a huge focus here. This means building with native and unprocessed materials: wood, earth, straw, natural grasses, bamboo, stone and rocks, and manure. Students learn the different techniques used to build with these materials, like timber frame construction or lime and earthen plasters. You can take a look at some of the infrastructure built with these methods and materials. Not only are building materials natural, but so is the energy use. Rancho Mastatal uses solar energy for power, hot water, and cooking. The ranch also uses biogas, rocket stoves, composting toilets, and wonderbags and hayboxes which minimize fuel use when cooking. Food is sourced locally and prepared by hand without the use of tools like microwaves. The goals at Rancho Mastatal are to make meals cost-efficient, nutritional, and sustainable.

Elaine learning woodworking by handcrafting a spoon | Photo By: Patrick Galvin

Our students learn a wealth of information about living green. Simultaneously, they get to help the the residents – human, plant, and animal – in Costa Rica. Every day is something different, and no experience here is replicable anywhere else. Rancho Mastatal is truly a one-of-a-kind adventure.

For more information about Rancho Mastatal, be sure to check out our Rainforest Living Short Program and Rancho’s Website.

International Education Week 2017

For our Global Gap Year students, pretty much every week is International Education Week – at least, for 9 months of the year. For the rest of the country, the spotlight is on now. In the United States, International Education Week (IEW) is November 13th to 17th.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education jointly sponsor IEW to promote global citizenship and prepare future leaders for worldwide experiences. The point of this week is simple: the U.S. wants you to travel, for any reason or in any capacity possible. In order to promote this goal, events are being held across various states and countries. These events range from education fairs, to forums and panel discussions, to scavenger hunts, badminton games, and musical presentations. Moreso, during November, local passport offices are hosting Passport to the World events. Attending these events will allow the public to learn about passports and apply right then and there. A special focus on college campuses aims to help students take steps toward studying abroad.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

We’ve written extensively about why students should travel, but we’ll tell you again. One important reason is for hands-on education; an experience that cannot be duplicated. Experiential learning teaches skills that are simply impossible to learn in a classroom. Reading a history book is great, but it doesn’t compare to visiting ancient ruins. Sitting through a lecture about modern agriculture may be a bore, but working on a rice paddy or coconut farm in Thailand could be the most unique time of your life.

At Winterline, we support the notion that capable and competent young people, in order to be effective in their lives, ought to be able to do a wide variety things: build a house, cook a meal, manage their finances, sail a boat, speak in public, care for the young and the elderly, start a business, serve a customer, negotiate a deal, drive a car safely and change its tires. To learn these things we believe our students need to be educated globally. Students on our programs gain their skills in multiple countries on several continents, understanding through it all that leadership, critical thinking, cultural awareness, and communication are first and foremost global skills, required of all young people today who are going to be successful in our ever more globalized world.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Another reason to travel is to truly understand the world beyond yourself and your surroundings. Immersing yourself in a new place with new people teaches you not only about others, but about yourself and how you fit into the world. Additionally, cultural understanding and cultural assimilation are important aspects of being a global citizen. Garnering respect for, and knowledge of, foreign places is integral to being a member of the international community.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Whether it be before, during, in lieu of, or after college, try to travel as much as you can. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning hands-on, and experiencing new things are unparalleled and worthwhile adventures.

Check out the website for IEW, your local government, or your university to discover events that you can attend.


Happy World Kindness Day!

What’s World Kindness Day?

Did you know that today, November 13th, is World Kindness Day!? World Kindness Day was founded by The World Kindness Movement, which is an international movement with no political or religious affiliations – it’s meant truly for everyone. Over 28 nations represent the movement, and you can see if your country participates here.

The concept of World Kindness Day was born on November 13th, 1997: 20 years ago today! On this day, Japan brought kindness organizations from around the world to Tokyo, creating the first body of this format. Their noble mission aims “to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world”.

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

Winterline & Global Citizens

Like the World Kindness Movement, we at Winterline encourage our students to practice kindness every day. Students on our programs seek to be kind to each other, those they meet while traveling, and themselves. Our global gap year program consists of three trimesters, with the second semester in Asia focusing on connecting individuals across cultures and building relationships.

People typically associate the word “kindness” with interpersonal relationships. At Winterline we feel that kindness in regards to communication is key, and therefore a skill. Our students spend time in Cambodia acquiring skills in conflict resolution and team dynamics. We hope that from this, students will learn how to avoid or peacefully navigate through issues with others, making them more humane global citizens. This part of our gap year program has been so popular, we now offer a short program that focuses specifically on communication and intentional living.

We believe that travelers should have respect for and genuine interest in the native cultures and people. Bringing together people from different backgrounds is one way of establishing a kinder world!

Our students practicing mindfulness

However, kindness to others isn’t the only type of kindness that matters. Once people learn to love and be kind to themselves, they can mirror that affection to others. To achieve this, students train in relationship building, empathy, and mental health support during their stay in India. Self-care is also a strong focus point as our students travel throughout Southeast Asia.

We need to internalize kindness before we can direct it at others. This is what differentiates being nice from being kind. Being kind comes from within; the desire to be a good person simply for the sake of being a good person as opposed to treating others well for recognition.

Making Everyday World Kindness Day

It’s easy to be caught up in the sad or scary things happening in the world around you, but life is so much more than that. It’s important to take time when you can to remember the good things. You can make a day brighter, whether it be someone else’s or your own. Spend a few minutes being kind to yourself: meditate, do yoga, or pray; eat your favorite snack; hug someone (human or animal!) you love. Be kind to others: help someone with a chore they can’t do themself; donate time, resources, or money to an organization that matters to you; smile or say hi to someone new on the street.

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

An act of kindness doesn’t have to be huge to matter, and today doesn’t have to be the only day you practice kindness. Try working it into your everyday life by focusing on doing one act of compassion each day. Being kind will become second nature, and not only will you make yourself happier, you’ll help to make the world a better place.

What does kindness mean to you? How are you celebrating World Kindness Day? Share with us in the comments or on twitter

What I Learned from NOLS

Finally, I could breathe a sigh of relief. Drop my pack knowing it was the last time I’d have to heave it around for more than a quick second. And look back – the trail we’d just traversed faintly visible in the distance. The sun completely risen now, I slumped into a seat of a recommissioned school bus exchanging tired but triumphant smiles with the rest of the group. What would I take away from these 9 days? That was the question that continually ran through my mind as we prepared our return to the frontcountry.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

Long after my NOLS expedition through the Wind River Range concluded, I’m still processing what it’s imparted on me. There was no doubt that this was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding experience of my life. But having given it time to digest, I’ve realized that much of what I’d expected to learn differed from the lessons I actually internalized. These were some of my takeaways:

1) Make it about the work.

The first day of the course, our instructors led us on a six-mile hike to our campsite. A heavy backpack coupled with the fact that it was mostly uphill left me completely drained. That night, I wondered how I would get through another week of this. It was the first leg of Winterline and I already felt stuck.

But the next day, these thoughts were swept aside by tasks in need of completion then and there – cooking breakfast, packing the tent, boiling water. The immediacy of the situation left me with little time to be frustrated or concerned for the future. The end of the day came and went and I felt accomplished. Everything I did – whether it be drinking water or scouting for an area to set up camp – became another step in the right direction. I felt like I was getting somewhere.

The day after, I adopted a similar mindset, reminding myself to focus on what needed to be done just as I began feeling demoralized. This repeated the next day and the day after that until finally the week had come and gone. I realized that thinking about the future can be a useful tool but it can also be incredibly daunting. It’s necessary to allow yourself to lose sight of it and remain present from time to time. If you can keep it about the work, you’ll find that there is always something to be done and a path forward.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

2) Type II fun

Type II fun is an apt description of the moments that are uncomfortable at the given time but are appreciated in retrospect. This was an idea introduced to me by Jerrick, one of our instructors. Throughout the hike, we had plenty of these – twelve-hour trekking days, long stretches spent bushwhacking through the forest, and crossing frigid rivers all come to mind. Just as it can be beneficial to stay in the present when you feel anxious, imagining your future self having moved past your current situation can also be crucial. This was a great coping mechanism when I ran out of dry socks late at night – imagining my future self reflecting fondly on the memory. And sure enough, that’s how I look back on it today.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

3) Trusting yourself and failing publicly

I’ve never been an outdoorsy person. I wasn’t great at any of the skills that the course seemed to require to be successful (navigation, cooking, heavy-lifting, etc.) and I didn’t trust myself to try them. I was afraid of holding my peers back. Inevitably, I had to put myself out there to do quite the opposite and propel my group forward. I realized that much of what I had been scared to foray into was easier than I had imagined. Nothing was perfect or ever handed to me – setting up our tent was regularly a process of trial and error and the meals I cooked were often crude at best, but it was refreshing to be reminded that if I took a risk, more often than not I could exceed my own expectations.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

 4) Recognize, plan, and act

In the wilderness, you run into problems – the kind you can’t ignore. For example, we once failed to anticipate running into another hiking group camping in our planned resting point. There wasn’t time to worry about deviating from our initial plan or where we’d be spending the night. We simply picked up a map, plotted a new route, and were off within minutes.

Before NOLS, I often accepted the discomfort of having problems or fretted about how they had arisen. Now I’m trying to be more solution-oriented and adaptable – devising an alternative and wholeheartedly committing to the decisions I make in the face of an obstacle.

You can’t bring the mountains with you when you leave the wilderness. The snow covered trees. The wildlife. But if you play your cards right, you just might return with a little more perspective and a bit more self-assured. -SK

Winterline_Samir Kumar
All Photos Courtesy of Samir Kumar

To hear from more students in the field,  be sure to check out other posts on our Blog, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we are on Snapchat (@winterliner) and we upload new photos to our Tumblr everyday.

Meet Cody: Lifelong Skier and Aspiring Pilot Taking a Gap Year

The Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travels to 10 different countries over 9 months, where students learn 100 new life skills while traveling the world with their best friends.

Thinking about taking a gap year too?


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 before college?

I was first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year a few years ago while I was in high school and I would over hear the seniors talking about them. After a while I understood what it all meant but never really thought that I would take one. at the time I was so focused on wanting to go straight to college that I did not want to stop and take an extra year. This was the case all the way through high school until I saw what Winterline was.

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

Like I mentioned in the previous question, I never really wanted to go on a gap year until I saw what Winterline was. I was just searching for something to pass the time while I waited for college and I came across Winterline. Winterline completely changed my entire view of what a gap year is and what it can do. It made me realize all the potential I have and the extreme benefits of traveling and learning new skills. This is why I chose to take a gap year.

What activity or learning experience captivates you most about Winterline?

I am super excited about the travel and the overall amount of skills that I will learn. I searched over a hundred other trips and programs and none of them even began to compare with winterline and what they have to offer. The skills that I will learn excite me beyond expression because I know that although they may be hard or difficult, it is an opportunity to grow and be a new person by the end of the trip.

Do you have an idea of what you would like to do in the future?

While attending college I want to join AFROTC and train to become an officer in the Air Force. I am not exactly sure on how long I will stay in the military, but my goal is to one day be a civilian pilot. Whether it be commercial or private, I am not sure, either.

Have you traveled before? If so, which trip has been your favorite, and why?

Yes, I have done a lot of traveling! I have been to 22 of the States, and I have been to Europe on 6 different occasions visiting the countries of Iceland, Germany, Luxembourg, France and Austria. I have also visited Canada on a few occasions. My favorite trip overall has been my last time going to Europe, when I visited Iceland and went to Normandy, France for the first time. This is my favorite trip because it was one of the first times I recognized the actual beauty and excitement in traveling and seeing new places. I also enjoyed this the most because the places we visited were overwhelmingly unique.

What do you expect to gain from your gap year program and while traveling abroad?

I expect that while on this gap year trip I will face challenges and obstacles that I have never faced before. Because of these challenges over the course of the nine-month trip I know that I will be a new person with a lifetime full of experience in over 100 new skills that I would not have without the overcoming of those hard tasks and challenges. While traveling I expect to meet tons of new people that come from all walks of life and learn how to perceive the world differently. The saying “it’s a small world” will have an entirely different meaning by the end of this trip.

What is one thing you want your future Winterline peers to know about you?

I am a very persistent and strong-willed person. I make goals and strive with everything I have to meet or exceed those goals.

Why Winterline?

I saw hundreds of opportunities in front of me, but when I saw Winterline I saw not just an opportunity, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will change everything I once understood about my life and the world I live in. I did not have a decision to make when I saw Winterline, I already knew that this was what I needed to do.

Tell us something fun about you!

Skiing is my favorite sport. I have done every version of it that I can come up with, and I started skiing when I was only three years old!

Will Studying Abroad Get You a Job?

If you need a reason aside from wanderlust to take your studies international, look no further. A recent study found that studying abroad positively impacts the development of job skills, thereby widening career options and presenting the opportunity for long-term growth and promotion. Here at Winterline, WE LOVE SKILLS, so we knew these resulted needed to be shared.

The PIE (Professionals in International Education) News summed up the results of the study to spread the word about the positive effects of learning abroad. More than 4,500 people were surveyed, and 30 were chosen for more in-depth interviews. Over half of all respondents said that their study abroad experience actually helped them to get a job.

Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs
Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs

Even those who didn’t attribute their employment to study abroad acknowledged its use. Many specifically cited study abroad with helping them stand out and get promotions. Study abroad teaches people interpersonal skills, communication, and the ability to understand and work through differences. These are critical values in the workplace, specifically for establishing leadership. Studying abroad helps you figure out your strengths and how to handle your weaknesses. 

“I am a learner, a problem solver, an adventurer, and a creator. Winterline will allow me to explore every tiny facet of my identity, to discover more about who I really am.”
–Benji M (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

The study includes a list of the top five skills rated as most desired by employers: intercultural skills, curiosity, flexibility/adaptability, confidence, and self-awareness. 70% of the survey’s respondents said that their study abroad experience helped shape these values in them. More than 50% also named interpersonal and problem-solving skills as areas in which they grew while abroad.

“I gained an intense understanding of different cultures and managing myself in different situation as well as working with many different types of people. It was an intense maturing experience.”  –Alex (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program Robotics
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Some students worry that going on a program seemingly irrelevant to their major could be harmful, but these results tell a different story: “Among science majors that went on a program outside of the sciences, 47% reported their study abroad contributed to a job offer, whereas among those who went on a science focused experience, only 28% reported it did so”. Our students have experienced the success first hand crediting Winterline for their stellar grades which will help them get a job in the future.

“I just finished my first year of college with a 4.0 and I owe a lot of that to Winterline. Even a year later, I am still benefiting from Winterline.  It has truly been life-changing.”
–Jamie F. (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Maybe there’s isn’t a program specifically for your major, or perhaps you have more interest in going to a different region. Don’t let that prevent you from traveling if there’s somewhere you want to go or something you want to explore! Go where you want for yourself, and take comfort in the knowledge that your experience will benefit you in both your personal life and your career field.

Has your study abroad experience helped you with your job? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments!

Location Spotlight: Ridge to Reef Expeditions, Belize

Both of our groups have been basking in the beauty of tropical Belize, where they’ve had the opportunity to work with our partner Ridge to Reef Expeditions. Ridge to Reef, or R2R, was founded in 2014 by the non-profit organization Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) to manage protected areas.

Photo By: Christian Lillie
Photo By: Christian Lillie

R2R focuses on environmental awareness, using natural resources, and sustainable economic development. These are three skills that our students comprehend and demonstrate everywhere they go. The program is structured specifically for volunteers, making it a great fit with Winterline.

One of the main concerns in Belize was the decline of manatee populations due to hunting and gill netting. R2R continues to work on protecting vulnerable and endangered species today. TIDE reported that a recent study showed 10% of manatee sightings were calves, meaning there’s strong reproductive activity. This shows how the hard work of researchers, scientists, and volunteers is paying off!

Photo By: Ridge to Reef
Photo By: Ridge to Reef

Our students work alongside these experts to learn about the interconnectedness of forests, rivers, and reefs in the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. This is where the name Ridge to Reef comes from – the holistic focus on protecting the entirety of the ecosystem.

As important as the conservation work is, volunteers also get the weekends to relax and explore. Students get to explore the temples, learn to make (and taste) chocolate, swim in waterfalls, and zipline through the jungle. There’s never a dull moment in Belize!

Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

Check out the R2R website to learn more, read testimonials, see beautiful pictures, and find a trip for yourself!

6 Reasons to Spend your Winter in the Rainforest

Looking for some color to brighten up your drab winter? Our January trip to the Costa Rican rainforest will help make your life green in more than one way. The luscious canopy of the rainforest is a sight to behold, and the lessons inside at Rancho Mastatal will educate you on how to live sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint to be kinder to the world wherever you go. Need a little convincing? Here’s a few reasons you should join us on our trip!

  1. Rancho Mastatal is focused on community resilience, aka, they care about the people around them. They source their food and building materials locally and “support regional efforts for clean water, healthy food, fertile agricultural land, and safe, naturally constructed buildings”, according to their mission. This will teach you the value of community focus, which you can apply to your home, wherever that may be.

    Lush and tropical Rancho Mastatal

    Walking together in Costa Rica
  2. You’ll get to make really good food. Like, really good food. Like, the best food you’ve ever had in your life food. These Healthy, fresh, delicious meals will bring you and your peers together after a day’s adventures.

    Cooking and preparing food at Rancho Mastatal

    Working as a team to prepare dinner.
  3. Through communal living, you’ll learn patience, practice, and balance. This experience will teach you how to live harmoniously with others, an important skill in an increasingly hostile world.

    Rancho Mastatal

    Hanging with Friends
  4. Climate change is real and it’s happening now. The way we live impacts the Earth, and that means we have the power to decide how much of an effect we have. A sustainability lesson will show you how the area of Mastatal has been affected by climate change, and how you can change your habits to prevent further damage.
    Workshop at Rancho Mastatal

    Harvesting bamboo
  5. Learn about permaculture, a way of agriculture that mimics the patterns and relationships found in nature. This will teach you to be a producer when possible, and at other times, an ethical and responsible consumer.

    Learning about permaculture

    Maria sawing bamboo
  6. Every day is something different. You’ll be helping with whatever the farm is working on that day, which means no experience can be replicated anywhere else.

    Having fun in the field together
    Having fun in the field together

    Building walls

You don’t need to love science or farming to join us on this trip. You just have to care about our planet and be adventurous, and you’ll have an amazing time in Costa Rica.

10 Reasons to Get SCUBA Certified

In case you haven’t heard, we’re offering a 9 day trip to Costa Rica this January where you can get SCUBA certified. We have partnered with PADI, the leading scuba training organization, to provide you with the adventure of a life time.  

To get you excited for this trip, we’ve gathered a list of 10 reasons you need to get SCUBA certified this Winter. 

  1. 71% of our world is ocean, so you can’t truly “see the world” if you don’t take a dive underwater! How else will you see the unique species like hammerhead sharks, turtles, and large schools of fish that live beneath the waves?
  2. You don’t need prior experience. All you need is to be able to swim and breathe. You don’t have to be expert swimmer; as long as you’re comfortable in the water and willing to learn, you can master this skill. 
  3. Experience a mindfulness like no other. There’s no technology to distract you underwater. Focus on your breathing, the natural beauty of the fish swimming and the sun filtering through the water around you. 
  4. See history up close. Not only are there amazing animals underwater, but there’s so much history. Learning to scuba dive gives you the opportunity to explore wrecks like sunken ships and planes.
  5. Learn to communicate better. Underwater, you can’t use your words, so you get better at using and reading body language and hand signals. This is a skill that will help you when you resurface, too.
  6. This skill travels with you. Anywhere there’s water, there’s an opportunity for you to scuba dive, unlike some other activities. Even though the activity is the same in any body of water, it’s never a boring experience. You’ll always be seeing new species and wrecks and experiencing a new area of the ocean. 
  7. Challenge yourself. Scuba diving requires patience and attention, which are skills we sometimes forget to use in such a busy world. It can also be scary relying on the tank and going down into a foreign depth. However, scuba diving is an experience like no other, and it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone to take the plunge. Don’t let your fear hold you back! 
  8. Be your own #TravelGoals. Make your friends (and Instagram followers) jealous. Take amazing pictures, get a tan on the beach, and learn an enviable new skill. When you show off what you learned in science class, all your classmates will wish they went, too.
  9. Become a part of a community. Meet people online and in-person to share your stories with. Get recommendations of the best places to dive, see pictures of the most beautiful places they’ve gone, and learn about the most stunning species they’ve seen. Scuba is a passion that’s easy to bond over anywhere you go.

Protect marine life. By scuba diving, you’ll see firsthand how humanity’s effect travels underwater and harms creatures that get no say. Once you scuba, you’ll help prevent marine animals from becoming captive, and once you see how incredible ocean life is, you’ll want to get more active in protecting our waters.

For more information about this trip, and our other Life Skills Programs, be sure to check out our program overview page.

What Do You Know About Credit?

More importantly, what should you know about credit?


Getting a credit card is really tempting. A lot of power and benefits are held in that shiny piece of plastic. However, it’s easy to fall into the the illusion of buying now and paying later with money you may not have yet. It’s essential to be aware of the responsibilities that come with credit cards.

In a past post, we outlined some great resources for helping you manage your finances. We’ve recently come across another platform: the U.S. News & World Report’s credit survey and guide. Here, you can find the knowledge necessary to be financially responsible. 

U.S. News & World Report published a study of 1,500 credit card users with credit scores below 640. One finding states 35% of those individuals conducted no research before applying for a credit card.

Additionally, 32% of respondents are taking no steps to improve their credit scores. 20% do not even know what steps to take. The study addresses these issues and more, ranging from: what to do before applying for a credit card, how to choose the best card for you, what to do if your application is denied, and how to rebuild credit.

To be completely honest, I don’t know how to calculate a credit score and I’ve had a credit card for two years. I don’t even know my own credit score. And that’s an issue. With all the technology available to us, checking your credit score is simple and inexpensive, so I have no excuse. Luckily, the “Before You Apply” outlines the determination of credit scores. There’s also discussion of which bureaus are reputable to request your score from. U.S. News & World Report also talks about recognizing identity errors, incorrect account details, fraudulent accounts.

The report includes an extensive amount of information, making it a simple guideline to follow for either basic knowledge or specific questions. Best of all, it’s located on one site, perfect for the typical, on-the-go, streamlined millennial.

If you’re interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and business be sure to check out our Business Skills Programs.

Keep Up with the Cohort | Meagan Kindrat

Want an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the daily happenings on Winterlife’s gap year program? Lucky for you, one of our own students is keeping a blog as she travels.

Meagan Kindrat
Meagan hiking in NOLS | Photo by: Dini Vermaat

We gave you a spotlight on Meagan already, but now we want to direct you to her blog! In her last post, Meagan gave us some words of wisdom and told us what she learned on their wilderness expedition in Wyoming. Here’s what she said:

  • Sacred socks are socks that never leave your sleeping bag and are possibly the best creation ever
  • Appreciate the little things like running water and having feeling in your toes
  • You don’t realize how strong you are until you get put somewhere completely out of your comfort zone

Meagan Kindrat

One of Meagan’s photos from NOLSThat last point is especially important. We think that the whole point of a gap year is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and experience new things. That way, you know what you like and what you’re good at when it comes time to move forward.

Meagan has other great words and photos to share with you, so head on over to her blog to read what else she has to say!

Location Spotlight: NOLS

Last week, we highlighted the YMCA of the Rockies for you. Now, our groups have moved on to Lander, Wyoming, where they spend 11 days with our partner NOLS: the National Outdoor Leadership School.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

Photos by: Meagan Kindrat

NOLS was founded in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming in 1965 by Paul Petzoldt, whose dream was to train leaders who could live sustainably in the wilderness and pass on their knowledge to others.

This leadership theme is still prominent. Today, NOLS prides itself on teaching the core curriculum of leadership, wilderness skills, risk management, and environmental studies. Just a few of the things our students learn include how to sleep outside and stay warm, cooking over a single burner stove, navigation, and bonding under adversity, all led by the highly qualified instructors.

Of course, another perk of NOLS is the breathtaking location. Wyoming is proof that beauty is everywhere in nature; you don’t need to be on a beach to get a great view.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

The beautiful mountains of the Northwest.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

Snow already? Not so unusual for Wyoming.

Blue Cohort goofing around in some free time.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

NOLS teaches our students how to stay safe in the woods when the sun goes down.


NOLS has plenty of opportunities for both teens and adults, including programs that offer college and continuing education credits. Check it out for yourself!



*all photos by Meagan Kindrat

Backpacking on a Budget


Cost can often be the most stressful part of traveling. Often bucket lists and bank accounts become worst enemies. However, credit cards can make travel more accessible with points and miles. Credit card points are earned when you spend money, and can be redeemed for items such as merchandise, cash back, or travel expenses.

One company has made their mission to help dreamers become actual travelers with these rewards. In March 2016, Alex Miller created Upgraded Points help people with low disposable income have the world experiences they might otherwise be unable to have. 

Upgraded Points offers guidelines and resources that help many people reach their dream destinations. The numbers don’t lie: in the months of 2016 after Upgraded Points’ launch, over one million people visited the site.

Recently, Miller shared a guide to maximizing student travel, and we’re highlighting some of his words of wisdom for you. 

  1. Know when to book a flight for the best price. Prices are likely to be highest around times of high travel concentration, like the holidays. Prices may be lowest on Tuesdays after airlines evaluate how well seats sold over the weekend.
  2. Have a specific goal in mind, and do your homework to reach that goal.
  3. Sign up for a student card to receive travel discounts, and visit sites for discount flights and housing. Miller outlines some great options in the guide.
  4. Know why going abroad matters. Whether you get college credits, learn a foreign language, or help someone who needs it, your travel has a bigger purpose. Take advantage of some of the student volunteer organizations that Miller mentions, like
  5. Build credit! This is a huge focus of Upgraded Points, and their website has an immense amount of helpful knowledge and information for both first-time and current credit card users.

Financial responsibility is always a good attribute to have, so we recommend checking out the rest of the Upgraded Points site to learn more about seeing the world without breaking the bank.

Meet the Field Advisors: Sarah & Ed

We introduced you to Erica and Patrick; now it’s time to meet our other pair of field advisors! Sarah and Ed will be working with our second group of gap year students (our green cohort), who start orientation tomorrow! Sarah and Ed are passionate about both travel and interpersonal development, and they’re excited to spend the next nine months leading students on an adventure around the world.


Sarah Rasmussen field advisorSarah Rasmussen field advisor

Meet Sarah Rasmussen

Sarah’s love for adventure has brought her all over the world: from California and Seattle to China, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and Kyrgyzstan! Her passion for working with and helping both people and animals is apparent: Sarah is an equestrian trainer and has worked as a dog handler. Additionally, she’s an advocate for victims of domestic and sexual assault, as well as homeless and runaway youth, not to mention she has spent time in the Peace Corps. Sarah can’t wait to bond with our gap year students and experience new countries and adventures with Winterline!

Q: What are you most excited for when it comes to this program?

SR: Typically I work climbing, backpacking, and kayaking trips in backcountry settings so I am excited to travel to new places and do new things. I am also keen to catch up with friends of long standing along the way.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

SR: I am an FA because I enjoy traveling and working witih young people. My favorite parts of these trips is watching students grow as they move down their own path of self-discovery.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten while travelling?

SR: I was backpacking in the Boundary Waters between the US and Canada and we had run out of food. So we mixed together some left over ingredients from previous meals. We made a stew of sorts from dehyrdated refried beans, mashed potato flakes, and Texture Vegetable Protein. It was about 3/4 bad.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

SR: For nearly two years I insisted that I be called Sassy and would not answer to the name Sarah.


ed thompson field advisored thompson field advisor

Meet Ed Thompson

Ed honed his skills as an outdoor educator, mentor, and manager during 15 years of service at a non-profit in New Hampshire before packing up to travel. Recently, Ed has set his focus on youth- and community-focused jobs in new lands: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Peru, Kuwait, and Haiti, to name a few! This background has brought Ed to us at Winterline and we couldn’t be more excited! Ed is eager to help young people experience the world and develop new skills along the way!

Q: What are you most excited for?

ET: On a professional level, I’m most excited to get to know the students and witness their personal growth over the course of the trip as they confront (and overcome!) the many diverse challenges they’re sure to encounter along the way.  Personally, I’m always excited for the opportunity to travel and to get to know new places/people/cultures around the world.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

ET: I became a field advisor because it combines my interest in working with young people, my love of travel, and my sincere belief in the value of the sorts of skills Winterline strives to teach.

Q: What is your favorite place you have travelled to & why?

ET: Guatemala was one of my first extended independent travel destinations and set the tone for all my future travel.  It was a nice blend of structured learning (I spent a couple of weeks studying Spanish) balanced with a period of unstructured free travel (I wandered around the country using the local “chicken buses”, trekking to waterfalls in the northern highlands, swimming in the rivers along the Caribbean coast, and relaxing by a lake in the central lowlands).

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ET: I attended kindergarten twice!

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.

I Didn’t Take a Gap Year – and I Regret It

Among students considering a gap year, there’s one common hesitation that stands out: students worry that by postponing college, they’ll fall behind their peers. For some teens, the thought of being older than the other students when they return and go to college is anxiety-causing. For others, there may be a more extreme fear; a concern that taking one year off will significantly prevent them from achieving success later in life. In my case, the latter was true.


I went straight to college after graduating high school, and while I’ve enjoyed it so far, I regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to spend time traveling before committing myself to university. I toyed with the idea of a gap year for a long time, but what it came down to was this: I didn’t want to go to college, but I felt as though that was just what I had to do. College to me is, essentially, just what people do.

I was terrified of being in a different spot than my friends from high school, and feared that taking a year off would reflect poorly on my work ethic, especially when I began applying to jobs. However, I know now that that concern was unwarranted. Many successful people take gap years, and a great amount of these people actually credit that year to their success. Taking a gap year is obviously not the norm in America, so taking a year off to explore both the world and yourself does not set you up for failure, but rather sets you apart from your peers in a positive way. It shows a commitment to learning about other cultures, religions, and people. It shows courage, and insight, and curiosity. No respectable college or job would turn you down because you took the time to discover the world and all that it has to offer.


Additionally, in taking a gap year, you get to experience more of the world than you might’ve thought possible. The skills you learn and experiences you have will be ones you can’t have at school, and not only will they help set you up to be an adult, but will help you discover your strengths and passions. It’s unfair to expect that an 18 year old will know what field they want to go into with little world experience, but a gap year means you might have a better idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life – or at least the foreseeable future.