Meet the Staff: Erica Schultz

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Iowa, but I was raised for my entire life in Southern Oregon.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up being outside, whether it be for sports, hiking, rafting, fishing, camping. Anything! I was infected by the travel bug late in high school when I went to Europe for the first time and never turned back. The last couple years before working for Winterline, I lived over in Southeast Asia running programs for another travel company and eating all of the food!

erica schultz winterline global education gap year
Erica and her mom in Spain.

You were a field advisor with Winterline last year, what made you want to come back this year in a different job position?

I am very passionate about this line of work (being an FA), but within this past year I have become ready for something with a little more permanence where I could have a home base. Being the Director of Outreach and Recruitment still allows me to meet students, talk with them about a program that I am very passionate about, all while allowing me to have a balanced lifestyle.

Why do you love working for Winterline?

I LOVE travel. Winterline goes everywhere and does EVERYTHING. What else is there to say?! I was able to learn so much as a Field Advisor. Getting to spend time with students participating in the plethora of skills and activities offered was as much an experience of growth for me as it was for each student on the program. Winterline really allows students to learn exactly where they want to, what they want to, and to learn something new that they may never have the opportunity to try elsewhere.

erica schultz winterline global education gap year
Erica after celebrating Holi Fest in India.

Can you explain what you do for Winterline? How do you work with/for students?

As mentioned earlier, I am the Director of Outreach and Recruitment. This means that I’ll be the girl at your school talking with your classmates, teachers, study abroad counselors, and other departments about how awesome Winterline is! I’ll be traveling around the US speaking the good word of travel to anyone and everyone that is remotely interested in the coolest alternative to college. It’s a pretty hard job, but somebody has to do it 😉

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

I’m fresh off the program (May 2018!), so if parents or students have very specific questions about the program/just want to talk about the cool things students get to do, I have great insight on it all!

erica schultz winterline global education gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Since 2015, I’ve been outside of the country more than I’ve been home.

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Arielle Polites

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

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

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

 

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

Location Spotlight: Triangle Y Ranch Camp

We are so excited to kick off our gap year program at the Triangle Y Ranch Camp. During their stay in Arizona, our students will participate in group discussion, games, team building activities, and Winterline rules/guidelines to strengthen their bond before they embark on the rest of their 9-month journey.

This specific YMCA retreat center has a unique history. The site was formerly a mining community, for mostly gold and copper, and was right next-door to Buffalo Bill’s ranch. Mrs. Woods, a local children’s author, inherited the camp in 1949. Her sons were passionate about the outdoors, so she donated the site to the YMCA, and it quickly became an all-boys camp. The Triangle Y Ranch Camp is now co-ed and also offers opportunities for underprivileged kids in the area.

Triangle Y Ranch Camp
Photo From: Triangle Y Ranch Camp

The ranch camp sits on 200 acres of land at 4,600 feet of elevation in the high desert of Tucson. There are many natural wonders to discover there; many guests and staff have seen deer, coyotes, and bobcats on the property! Not to mention the beautiful views that come with the high desert scenery.

There are also plenty of fun activities for our Winterline students to take part in during their free time. Archery, riflery, zip lining, a climbing wall, high ropes course, and swimming pool are amongst some of the options.  Guided trips to local caves are also offered!

What an amazing place to meet and get to know our new students! We cannot wait! See you in September 🙂

Location Spotlight: NOLS Southwest

In the past, Winterline has done backpacking trips with NOLS in Colorado and Wyoming. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these areas, it gets cold in the fall. We are excited that our students will get the chance to hike in a warmer climate; the Southwest of the United States.

Our students will travel from the Sonoran desert in Tucson to the Gila National Forrest of New Mexico (approx. 5-hour drive), where they will begin their backpacking trip with their peers and NOLS instructors. This is a mountainous area with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet and plentiful with Ponderosa pine trees, beautiful plateaus and mesas, and 1,000-year old ruins.

During the trip, students and their leaders will hike on trail, but there will be some opportunities to walk off trail. One benefit of our Southwest NOLS trip is that the weather is more stable than other mountainous areas in the U.S.. This will allow more time for skill building, an emphasis on learning, and is also a great benefit to this shorter backpacking course. Of course, weather is unpredictable so we cannot promise that it’ll be great, but the weather should be better than years’ past.

Students will learn a variety of skills, such as camping, living in the backcountry, self-care in the outdoors, cooking, and navigation. NOLS also has a strong leadership curriculum, and this will be highly emphasized throughout the NOLS trip, as well as the duration of Winterline. As a former NOLS student, the leadership skills and learning opportunities were one of the highlights for me. NOLS really enables students to learn more about themselves and because it takes place in the beginning of the gap year, students are able to develop a sense of community together.

In the words of Ben Venter, Senior Field Instructor for NOLS, “the community that is developed on a NOLS course allows and encourages people to be better versions of themselves and that can then be applied to all realms of their lives… We are constantly thinking of how to make more positive experiences for our students.”

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

New Student Spotlight: Yeukai Jiri

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I’ve known about gap years for a long time, but I grew up with a stereotypical image of them involving backpacking through different countries and being something only wealthy families could afford. This realization that they can be so much more than that happened for me last year when I was researching the different options available, and I decided to take one with Winterline.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

The first reason I’m taking a gap year is that, like many others, I have spent most of my life living the world through textbooks and I now want to experience it for myself. Secondly, there are so many programs and initiatives that are created for young people, which I wanted to take advantage of before it was too late.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn permaculture design and natural building because I’m interested in learning more about the principles of sustainable design and how they are implemented in real life.

Yeukai (center) in her Chinese class!

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I don’t know what I want to do in the future but I know it’ll be related to sustainable development and my focus will be on Zimbabwe because that’s my country of origin.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I am finishing high school abroad at United World College in Changshu, China. My favorite trip has been our project week in Yangshuo, Guangxi province where my classmates and I experienced a different side of China. We had a 22-hour train ride there and back, which was an intense bonding experience. I loved this trip because we worked with an NGO that appreciated the community, and it was the first time that I had seen scenery similar to the English countryside in China.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I think I will learn a lot about other people’s lives, in the same way that I did at Yangshuo. It will be a chance to see the world in someone else’s eyes and to learn what they love about it, what makes life hard for them and most importantly, what they want to change about it. I also expect to gain a new family, and I can’t wait to meet my cohort!

Yeukai and a couple friends waiting at the airport to pick up summer camp participants!

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

If you guys can help me out with skills like mountain climbing and scuba diving, then I’ve got your back in things like dance and public speaking skills.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline is the perfect way for me to get the most out of my comfort zone, to make new connections with people, and to start engaging with different aspects of development work with the program’s partners.

Yeukai at her Acapella’s group performance.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I’m a Zimbabwean-British student in China, so I can speak conversational Mandarin Chinese and a little bit of my native language Shona. I also enjoy Afrobeat dance and I started an acapella group in my school because I love all things Pentatonix.

To learn more about our students be sure to check out other posts on our blog. We upload new posts three times a week! Also, be sure to catch up with us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

How to Overcome Homesickness

I’ve experienced homesickness in a variety of different contexts, especially since I started traveling independently during high school. I specifically had a difficult time with this during the second trimester of my gap year with Winterline, when we were in Southeast Asia. At that point during the trip, I got sick so many times. Because I was physically uncomfortable for a portion of those couple months, I missed the comforts of my home, my friends and family, and even just the grocery store in my neighborhood. I’ve come up with 10 things that helped me feel more at home, even when I was on the other side of the world.

  • Keep in touch with your friends and family (but not too much). I found that using FaceTime to talk to my parents and best friends from home was a great way to feel like I was still connected to home. But, I’d advise you to do this only about once a week. More than that, and you’re spending too much time in your room and dwelling on your own homesickness!
  • Take a hiatus from social media. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is too real, especially when you miss home. Try to limit your social media usage and be more present where you are. I personally turned off all social media notifications, so I only see posts when I open the apps.

    5 Apps to Help You Learn a New Language
    Get off that phone!
  • Create routine in your life. When you’re traveling, especially with Winterline, you’re constantly moving from point A to point B. I found that by sticking with a routine when I woke up and before I went to bed, I was happier and took better care of myself.
  • Watch your favorite show on Netflix. Okay, I only recommend this if you’re sick in bed and seriously need to just chill out. When I was cooped up in bed, I watched Friends (my favorite show) and it definitely made me feel more comfortable and at-home.
  • Get outside! If you’re missing home, get outside and breathe in the fresh air. Whether it’s taking a hike, renting a kayak, or even just sitting outside, you’ll feel better after you spend some quality time outside. This one always helps me.Winterline Reading
  • Talk to the people you’re with about how you’re feeling. On Winterline, the people you travel with are your family. Take advantage of that! Talk to them about how you’re feeling, and maybe someone else feels the same way and you can help each other get through it. Use the support system you have! The Field Advisors are also trained to help students in a variety of scenarios, so you can always go to them.
  • Exercise. Simple enough, but admittedly hard to maintain while you’re traveling. Yoga, running, and even finding a local workout class or gym are great options. Get your blood pumping and those endorphins will help you feel better and forget about home.

    Hiking on NOLS, Photo by Leela Ray.
  • Overexpose yourself to your surroundings. If you’re really uncomfortable in crowded areas, then spend more time in those settings until you actually feel better about it. You’ll be proud of yourself for overcoming your anxiety and fears associated with whatever is making you uncomfortable. Where you are will start to feel more like your new (temporary) home.
  • Write! Write! Write! This comes up in a lot of my blog posts, but it’s because it works so well and is such a great outlet! I love to keep a journal and write about how I’m feeling, what I experience on a day-to-day basis, etc. It’s a nice way to express what you’re going through if you don’t want to talk to someone about it.

    Journaling is a great outlet, especially while traveling.
  • Put your *positive* energy towards something productive. It’s easy to bog yourself down with negative thoughts and feel sorry for yourself when you’re experiencing homesickness. I found that by focusing on productive things (writing for my blog, learning more about photography, focusing on skills, etc.) while traveling, I became more positive and excited for each new day.

Unfortunately, homesickness is sometimes inevitable, especially when you are thousands of miles away from wherever you call “home.” I hope these tips help, and just remember: you are not alone! You always have a support system during Winterline, and you’ll learn to believe that “home is where the heart is.”

New Student Spotlight: Cristina Hoyos

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?

LEARN MORE


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?

My life is a bit monotonous. It has to do with going to school and then heading back home to work on my duties. The academic burden is so high that there is hardly any free time to do what I really enjoy. I used to think that I would have more free time once I entered the University to do what I really want to do and to go out and explore the world. I was of course mistaken, since everyone agrees that academic burden will be much worse than in high school. And what comes after University is the life of grownups, the life of working for a living.  So, I thought that my only chance for total freedom could only come right after finishing high school; time to fly around the world, to know every corner, and to do everything within my reach to understand what I really want to do in life. Leaving to a country and learning their language seemed interesting, but I just did not want to spend more time in classrooms for a while. I wanted to change my routine but keep on learning through life experiences.  This would really be something entirely different and fulfilling. It was at this point that I asked myself: Why not a gap year? Why not take a long enough gap to really live and to take full advantage of my youth and my energy before I start new chapters?

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year for all the reasons I mentioned before and because it is the only thing for which I think it is worth leaving home for a whole year. To get to know the world, to open my mind, to change my routines, to meet new cultures, to leave the perfect bubble where I grew up. The only way to mature and to grow as a person is by leaving home and understanding that the world is much bigger than the very small one where you have spent your entire life as a child. I have always thought that life is made of experiences and memories which cannot possibly be acquired in a classroom, and I want to pursue my belief that one’s problems will always seem smaller if looked at from above.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am very excited about everything related to social work. Also, I want to learn to work as a team, with others and for others, and to develop my skills for problem solving. I want to find out how to become a leader in a small group of people who are to live together for a long period of time, all of us going through the same situations.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

In the future I want to dedicate myself to change. I want to create a movement, small at first, which can be copied or replicated in other environments until it becomes a revolution. This change is mostly related to education, especially in Colombia, where there is a huge imbalance between public and private education. I want to devote my efforts to changing the educational system which exists currently, and for this purpose I feel that I should have from now on a type of education different from traditional education.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have traveled quite a bit during my life, maybe 3 or 4 times every year. It would be very difficult to pick just one trip, as each one has been unique in its own way. In my country, Colombia, my favorite trip was to Choco, where I not only saw beautiful natural settings but also native communities that keep their town in perfect condition without help from the State, and live very proudly of the work they have done together.

Outside Colombia my favorite trip was a student exchange program in 2015, when I was in Europe for a period of five months, first in Switzerland with my friends from school and then by myself with a German family. It was an unforgettable experience that helped me realize the enormous diversity in the world which is impossible to see from one’s birth place, and also made me appreciate my home values while living far away.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I expect to gain independence, self assurance, and confidence in my own decisions. I hope to be able to manage problems and conflicts under circumstances other than I am accustomed.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am really looking forward to living this experience with them; I don’t know them yet, but I know that in the future we will all be like a family. I am an open minded person and I love to engage in all kinds of different activities and to say yes to all opportunities that turn up. I don’t like to keep still and I make friends easily, which is typical of Colombians.

WHY WINTERLINE?

A friend of mine, Daniela Mallarino, went with Winterline two years ago, and from that moment I knew that’s what I wanted to do as well. I think it is a very complete and varied program, which is exactly what I am looking for. The program offers many options and its philosophy fully fits my life style: to learn through experience, to meet new environments, to do things that I never expected I would be doing. The organization seems very reliable and has been very helpful from the start. Every person I have talked to has told me that the Winterline program was the best decision they could have made and their best choice in every aspect.

Travel Bloggers to Follow on Instagram

Jackson Harries

@jackharries

This photographer actually took a gap year in Thailand, and after that year he has focused his efforts towards film and environmentalism.

Brian Kelly

@thepointsguy

I personally follow Brian, and his page is awesome! He is constantly sharing new travel tips, and amazing photos and videos from his trips.

Love Letter to Europe

@lovelettertoeurope

Another one of my personal favorite travel accounts. Every post is what their name describes… A love letter to Europe. They post incredible photos, and definitely inspire my next Europe trip.

Stephanie Be

@stephbetravel

Stephanie took a gap year to travel early on in her career, and she never stopped! Her gap year is her career now. Follow her for beautiful destinations photos, and motivation to travel no matter where you are in life!

Dame Traveler

@dametraveler

This blog is incredible. Not only does it share breathtaking photos, but its goal is to inspire and empower womento “travel more, do more & be more.” It’s my personal favorite!

 

Winterline Global Skills!

@winterline_global_skills

Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion! We post pictures and videos every day. Most of our content is curated by our talented students, so definitely hit us with that follow.

 

Meet the Staff: Ashley Delehunt

Where are you from originally?

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

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

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

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

Ashley in the Grand Canyon.

Why do you love working for Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

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

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

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

Instagram Live This Week!

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

Anna will be answering the following questions:

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

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

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

Alumni Spotlight: Oliver Sandreuter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver at a waterfall in California.

What was your favorite skill you learned?

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

What was your favorite place you visited?

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

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

Where have you traveled since Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver skydiving in Boston!

Tell us a little more about what you do now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice do you have for future Winterline students?

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

Oliver skiing in Utah.

 

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Patrick Galvin

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

What sparked your interest and passion in teaching/mentoring?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

 

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

Chef Up: Cooking with Winterline!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to Your Parents About Taking a Gap Year

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

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

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Anna and her dad, Tom, at the Winterline graduation ceremony in Boston.

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

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

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

 

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Hillevi Johnson

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi  

What sparked your passion for traveling?

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

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

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

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

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

 

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

Best Travel Reads: Winterline Edition

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

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

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

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

USA:

Panama:

Costa Rica:

Cambodia:

Thailand:

India:

Germany:

Austria:

Italy:

Czech Republic:

Alum Q&A

Overall, what was your Winterline Global Gap year like?

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

What was the best thing about your experience?

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

What was the hardest thing about your experience?

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

Winterline Alum
These (crazy) people!

What surprised you the most?

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

What scared you the most?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you wish you had known before you started?

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

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

What does Trimester 1 feel like?

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

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

What do Tri 2 & 3 feel like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was your favorite partner? Least favorite?

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

What was your favorite location? Least favorite?

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

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

How much spending money did you need?

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram Live This Week!

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

Anna will be answering the following questions:

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

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

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

How to Survive a Long Flight

If there’s anything that I dislike about travel, which is verylittle, it’s the long flights. And I mean long flights. When I flew to Cambodia with Winterline, we took a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles and a 4-hour flight from Taipei. We completely skipped January 21stbecause of the International Date Line! Here’s 19 tips (hopefully not the same number of hours as your flight) to help you survive all that air time:

  1. Melatonin/eye mask/earplugs:If your flight is a redeye, and even if it’s not, it’s a good idea to bring a sleep aid and things to make you more comfortable. I have a hard time falling asleep on planes, so I like melatonin because it’s natural and doesn’t leave me feeling groggy when I wake up. I also like to bring an eye mask (or a big hoodie) and earplugs to help me forget I’m on a plane.
  2. Work/be productive:There’s not many opportunities to work on things without the distraction of emails, your phone buzzing, or social media notifications. I find that I get a lot of productive work done (writing/editing blogs, video edits, drafting emails) when I’m 30,000 feet in the air.
  3. Read: I tend to get distracted with life and forget to catch up on my reading. I love bringing a kindle or paperback book on long flights. Again, a nice advantage of the distraction free environment!
  4. TV/Movies:Hopefully your airline has movie players attached to the back of each seat, but it’s always a good idea to check before your flight. If they don’t, download some movies on iTunes and have a good ole movie marathon.
  5. Music: I love to download new music before a long plane ride and listen to it throughout the flight. It’s a great time to sit down and just explore some new songs and artists, especially if you have a habit of listening to the same playlists for months!

    Long Flight
    View from the plane as we landed in Delhi, India. You can see the pollution in the sky!
  6. Portable charger:Definitely a must for long flights! If you plan on using your phone throughout the flight, have a charged portable charger on hand. I like this one from Amazon.
  7. Neck pillow:This is so essential, whether you want to sleep during the flight or not. If you get one that inflates (like this one), you can save room in your carry-on!
  8. Stretch and walk around: This is a tip for true survival. Some people suffer from blood clots on long flights if they don’t get up and move around. Every hour or so, I like to get up and walk around to prevent this. Bonus:if you make friends with the flight attendants, you can walk to the back and get free snacks!
  9. Change of clothes, deodorant, toothbrush: You change your clothes after a 12-hour day, right? So why not change them in the middle of the flight? I like to pack a pair of comfy pants and a loose t-shirt to change into midway on a long flight (12-18 hours). It’s also really refreshing to put on some deodorant and brush your teeth!
  10. Journal: If you like to keep a notebook/diary/journal, long flights are a great way to write your heart out! I love to journal and I’ve found this to be a great way at both killing time and reconnecting with myself.
  11. Podcasts: I don’t regularly listen to podcasts, but I have friends who have told me they lovepodcasts, especially on long flights. Just make sure to download episodes before the flight.
  12. Look out the window: Something so simple, yet often forgotten. I tend to get distracted by looking out the window and listening to music. Some of my favorite views have been from an airplane!

    Long Flight
    Beautiful view out the window on my way home from Dominican Republic!
  13. Call ahead to order special meals. Most international airlines will provide meals throughout the flight, but it’s always good to call ahead and check. If you are vegetarian, gluten free, or have another dietary restriction, you can call ahead and order a special meal for no extra cost (usually up to 24 hours before the flight).
  14. Play a game:My brother and I play tic-tac-toe, my dad and I play hangman, and I’ve even played Uno with some people on flights. Bring a mini chess board, a deck of cards, or even a multiplayer game on your phone!
  15. Coloring book:I love filling in coloring books, especially mandalas, but I never have any time. Long airplane rides are the exception! It’s a lot of fun and can be a great way to pass time and spark your creativity.
  16. Learn the local language: If you happen to buy Wi-Fi on the plane, you can practice the language on Duolingo or watching basic language videos on YouTube. It’s always good to know some basics of the local language. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, bring some downloaded YouTube lessons, or old-fashioned flash cards!
  17. Have a conversation: I’ve met quite a few really interesting people on planes. Sometimes, people don’t want to be bothered with annoying conversation on the plane, so don’t force it. But, if you do start chatting, you can kill a lot of time getting to know your fellow passengers!

    Long Flight
    Patrick and I enjoyed talking with each other and our other Winterline friends during flights!
  18. Crossword/Sudoku in the airline magazine: Honestly, the airline magazines can be pretty interesting. I’ve read some cool articles, and I alwaysdo the crosswords and Sudoku! It’s also fun to play with a travel buddy.
  19. Take your shoes off:Last, but certainly not least, and my personal favorite! As long as your feet don’t smell bad, take you shoes off and relax!

Bon Appetite: An Interview with Cyril Denis

When I went to Paris for my ISP, I took cooking and baking classes at La Cuisine, a cooking school in the heart of Paris. I took a variety of classes and learned how to make classic French sauces, macarons, eclairs, and I even learned how to de-bone a chicken. Cooking is something I’ve only recently become interested in, and my independent week was the best way for me to dive into the topic and learn about French cuisine, which I absolutely love. I had a great time with my chef for the French sauces course, Cyril Denis. I had the opportunity to interview him, while enjoying wine and cheese of course, and I was so intrigued by his background and story. I appreciated his candidness and generosity in answering my questions so openly…

How would you describe your job title?

Cyril: “I have two jobs in my life. I am a journalist and a chef. When I was younger, I did 3 years of cooking school in Paris. I wanted to be a chef, but when I discovered their mentality, I said it’s not for me and I’m going to be unhappy in life. The mentality was that you got hit and punched in the kitchen… It’s an acting part of being a chef. And so, you had to hit. In life, some people are very into contact and conflict and I’ve never been like that. There’s also no respect for women. I just didn’t feel welcome in professional kitchens. So, I decided to do something else. After cooking school, I did 3 years of business school. After I discovered I didn’t want to be a chef, I needed to open my vision of life… And when I came out of school, my friend [gave me an opportunity] and I became a journalist! I worked 4 years for the best live show and I finished as a journalist in the news. I became what we call, “JRI” which means you’re a journalist and you know how to shoot images. 7 years later I left the show. Then I became a journalist for the only food channel we had in France, where I stayed almost 8 years. I was not on air, but I was behind the camera as the chief editor of two shows. Then I worked for some other channels, but 3 years ago fewer shows were interesting for me, so I had to ask myself what I wanted to do. I wanted more professional experience in cooking. I worked in a lab for 10 months to practice. The woman I worked for told me that she wanted her company to become bigger and asked me to become her chef. And I said no because it didn’t feel right for me. She said she needed to leave her work where she was a teacher. And that was La Cuisine. So, she introduced me to the two owners. I did a month of tests and I got the job! That was 2.5 years ago, and I’ve been teaching there ever since.”

Cyril demonstrating his piping skills in his “Elegant Entertaining / The Art of the Parisian Apéro class.”

What or who inspires you?

 Cyril: “People who have inspired me the most are women, not men. It’s funny because if we are talking about cooking in France, the people who have been important for the past century have been women. There’s a few men who were chefs for the kings, but in the everyday cooking, women were much more important than men.

So, who inspired me? My great grandmother who was Italian. She was a personal cook. She used to go to people’s homes and cook Italian. She moved from Italy to France when she was 12, in 1910, and at that time, she moved with her whole village. They moved all together, 2,000 of them, and it’s why she never spoke French in her life. She was an incredible woman. I loved her. She was a big inspiration for me. She had no money, but was happy every day. She was always happy with what she had, which is important in life. That’s my philosophy of life.

The second woman who inspired me a lot was my American teacher in New Jersey. I lived there when I was 6 until I was 10. When I arrived in New Jersey, my parents didn’t want me to go to a French School. They wanted me to go to an American school. So, I had 2 months to learn English. My school’s principal suggested that I meet with Margaret Lopez, one of the best teachers. So, for 2 months, I was with Margaret from Monday to Friday, learning English. After 2 months, we were best friends. Until she died in 1998, I’ve stayed very close to her. Every time I went back to the US, the first person I saw was Margaret. She was more than a grandmother for me. I am still friends with two of her children. They’re like family for me. So, the two inspirations in my life are women.”

 What is your fondest memory of cooking?

Cyril: “Of course, it has to be in the family, because this is what inspired me most. My grandmother used to make Brioche and I can remember the smell of the yeast and the dough and that has a very special scent to me.”

Do you like to cook cuisine other than French foods?

Cyril: “After French, it’s Italian. I am half French, half Italian. I think that today the best country in Europe is Italy, not France. For ingredients, France is half of what Italy is. In Italy, almost 90% of what you find is great because they have protected all of their products legally, which France has failed to do. So of course, I love to prepare Italian food and it also reminds me of my great grandmother. I also love Japanese. Since I was 6, one of my favorite books was about the everyday life of a little Japanese girl. My parents had no connections to it, I just chose the book all on my own and I was amazed by it. I made my mom buy me chopsticks so I could eat rice out of my bowl. It was totally free inspiration. For many years, I had forgotten about this but it came back to me more recently. It came back strongly. For the past 4 years now, I am organizing the largest sake fair in the world outside of Japan in Paris.”

Cyril demonstrating how to whisk properly during my sauce class with him!

What is your favorite food to serve?

Cyril: “I love family-type food, like stews. It is something very basic, but my favorite is a creamy sauce with veal, carrots, and onions. Not many French people know how to make it properly, because if you want to do it the right way, it takes a long time. It’s quite complicated, and this type of dish is my favorite to serve others.”

What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned after working in different aspects of the cooking scene?

 Cyril: “Once I did the portrait of a 3-star Michelin chef, the number one chef to cook vegetables in Paris today, and when I did his portrait he showed me something I’ve never seen before: how to cook a lobster properly. He just allowed the lobster to inspire him: he wanted to constantly make it better. Most chefs are into speed, but you have to be more than just working during the service and restaurant moment. Your mind is going in other places than a regular chef. Not just because he showed me that trick, because you need to think when you have an ingredient. He showed me with one example that with cooking it’s nice to think before you cook.”

What advice do you have to people who are interested in cooking, but aren’t lucky enough to come to Paris to take one of your classes?

Cyril: “Wherever you are in the world, there’s one thing that you have to do before knowing how to cook: how to buy. You’ll always do the best cooking, even if you’re not the best technician, if you have the best product. And the best product doesn’t mean the most expensive- the best carrot, the best salt, the best bread. I am talking about the love of cooking. You want to get the best when you love cooking. You start inspiring when you go to the best places to get your ingredients. Buy the best ingredients with the money you have. If one day, you only have a little then do the best grated carrots with mayonnaise- not the worst lobster.”

Curiosity as a Skill

Most people know the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” But fewer people have heard the rest of that sentence, which ends, “but satisfaction brought it back.” I have always considered myself a curious person, but my personal approach to curiosity changed throughout the course of my gap year with Winterline. I discovered new ways to satisfy my curiosity by seeing new places, trying new things, and saying, “yes” to new opportunities.

When I first enrolled in Winterline, I was focused on the skills and travel aspect of the program. I only envisioned myself learning and discovering new countries, but I failed to remember that there would be a significant amount of free time during the program. As a result, I found myself just hanging out and watching Netflix on our rest days. I wasn’t really doing anything with that valuable time.  When I got home for winter break, I did some reflecting and realized that I hadn’t been satiating my desire for adventure outsideof the Winterline program.

So, I made a goal for myself going into Southeast Asia and Europe. My goal was to do something with my rest days, whether it was visiting a new temple in Bangkok, seeing a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, or visiting a beautiful cathedral in Vienna. I made a list of all the locations on our itinerary for second and third trimester, did some research on each city/town, and came up with a list of things I wanted to do and see on my rest days in these specific locations.

As I moved into second trimester, my goal evolved into “saying yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me throughout my travels. And I had some incredible experiences as a result.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I woke up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat with Nick, my field advisor, and one of my best friends, Alice. I visited a floating city in Siem Reap with Alice, to see the sunset. I went to China town in Bangkok to celebrate Chinese New Year, and we all stumbled upon a famous Thai rock star’s concert. I celebrated Holi at an Ashram with Nonny, Pablo, Alice, an old Austrian couple and an Ayurvedic doctor and his kids. I went to Dachau concentration camp by myself and had a humbling and moving experience. I went to Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice with Patrick. I modeled for an artist in front of Notre Dame. I even saw Waka Flocka perform in Munich. I had all of these experiences during free time and on rest days.

Celebrating Holi in Lonavla, India with an assortment of friends.

I did so much and all because I began to say yes, to everything, within reason of course.

Attending Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica with Patrick.

There was one specific time, though, that sticks out to me. On my first full day in Pune, India, I went out to lunch with Sophia and Alice. I remember we all had an incredible lunch and then decided to explore. I looked at my list from winter break and saw “Aga Khan Palace,” which I knew nothing about. When we got there, we began to explore and wander the grounds. I learned that the palace had been turned into a museum and that it was where Gandhi, his wife, and assistant were imprisoned. We continued to wander around aimlessly. I was in awe of the beauty of the palace and its dark history. We saw a little pathway with a sign in Marathi, the local language in Pune. We decided to just follow it, even though we had no idea what it meant or where it led. We entered an enclosed garden and I saw a tombstone. As I walked closer to it, I made out the words, “Here rest the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.”

We stumbled upon the ashes of Gandhi.

It was in that moment when I realized how powerful my curiosity is and how far saying, “yes” can get me. I’ve learned to look at my own curiosity as an evolving skill- something that grows and develops as I do. I want to continue to say yes to new opportunities as I go to college, further immerse myself while traveling, and continue to lead a meaningful life.

So, how will you satisfy your curiosity on your gap year?

1 Second Everyday: The Best Way to Capture Your Gap Year

If you followed along with my Winterline gap year, you know that I love to create video edits of my time while traveling. As much as I love to create a final product that shows a bit of my experience in any given place, it is hard work. A video edit can take me anywhere between two and six hours, just to create a three-minute video! For those of you who want to document your gap year in a video, but don’t want to spend hours creating it, I have a solution for you!

I used “1SE,” or 1 Second Everyday (available on the App Store and Google Play), while I was traveling on Winterline and I’m so happy with the outcome! It’s as simple as taking a one-second long video clip every day in the app, and then once you compile enough clips to make your video, the app will do the rest for you. It’s helpful to set a daily reminder in your phone, so you never forget to take your clips.

Please watch my 1SE video below and see for yourself how great their app is at helping create a beautiful final product:

 

Parent Spotlight: Cory Nickerson

What were you looking for in a program and why did you and Anna choose Winterline?

A couple of reasons actually. I called a parent whose daughter had been through the first year, and this parent had personal connections with the founder and was so impressed with him as a person and a professional. She convinced me with her own testimonial that he would never create a program half-way and that he would do it really well. And I thought that was a great reference point. The program structure of 9 months, 10 countries, and learning 100 life skills was also a really unique selling proposition!

Do you think Winterline was a good investment in your daughter to prepare her for the future?

Yes. It was a very good investment for our family, and it fulfilled just about everything my daughter was looking for. It’s a bit expensive, but I think if a family can make it work with either work-study scholarships, or having their student to contribute to the experience, it is a worthwhile investment. We’re fortunate that Anna received a work-study scholarship that helped with those costs. And once on the program, there weren’t many costs because food and laundry, etc. are covered.

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory and Anna enjoying vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico last year!

 What is your advice to a parent looking for a gap year experience for their son or daughter?

Trust the process. Winterline has a really good handle on what works and doesn’t work. Really let them explore all these programs and encourage them to try different things. Even if you think your child might be good at one thing, they may discover that they have an interest in something completely new and different.

Here’s some other helpful/random tips for parents:

  • Visit your student on spring break, it’s a great opportunity and really fun to see up close what your child’s experiences have been.
  • Make sure that they have a credit/debit card with reduced or zero international fees.
  • Make sure your child also holds onto their boarding passes throughout the year so that you can request mileage credit for various frequent flier miles.
  • When they go to Asia, make sure they have really good access to probiotics, emergency antibiotics, malaria medication etc. Asia was tough on Anna’s immune system. It’s the place where the kids are more likely to get sick, so it’s good to be prepared.
  • Be sure to research what your cell phone provider requires in order to unlock your child’s phone, in order to use their phone with different sim cards in each foreign country. And do that as soon as possible.

Why did you both choose Winterline over another program?

We didn’t look at any other programs once we found Winterline.

What is your advice to parents who want to keep in touch while their son/daughter is on the program?

Facebook, WhatsApp, Facetime, and occasional emails are helpful for communication.

Resist the urge to pepper your kids with questions every day. It actually can really distract them from what they’re trying to accomplish and you will learn that with your patience, you’ll enjoy the Friday updates and social media posts from Winterline. You’ll enjoy that a little more because it will come in larger quantities. It can be exhausting for the kids to get through the day sometimes, so reducing the number of questions you ask can help them get their rest and focus on the next day.

Be prepared to hear about various group dynamics that may be both positive and somewhat challenging for your child. Be prepared to listen, and don’t try to solve any problems. Part of their learning experience is how to get along in groups with different people in very close quarters. They may be communicating with you or venting to you, but it’s not your role to help them solve a problem, unless it is a true safety issue, in which case there are appropriate channels to help with that.

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory loving the traditional Czech beer in Prague!

What was the process for Anna to defer from school for a year in order to go on Winterline? Was it worth it?

Oh yes, definitely worth it! Every college will have its own process, but for Anna’s school, which is Babson College, it was a matter of her writing a letter to the dean explaining her request for deferment, putting down a $500 deposit, and securing her spot for the following year. I was particularly interested in staying in touch with Babson, so over the course of the next few months I called and asked about deadlines for paperwork, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

 What has changed most about Anna since her gap year, and what has been the most noticeable outcome?

She’s much more mellow. She is much more flexible and tolerant. And she is wildly in control of her own scheduling, and her own ability to navigate in a foreign country. I visited her in Prague and it was clear that she wasn’t intimidated or worried by foreign currency, trying to speak small parts of a foreign language, or use public transportation!

Winterline Gap Year Parent Cory Nickerson
Cory and Anna together in Prague, while Anna was on spring break with Winterline.

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

We have already recommended Winterline to a few people that have expressed interest! I tell them that if you feel like you’re not quite ready to go to college, it’s a really great opportunity to pause, but keep your mind active and keep your motivation and accountability very high, while meeting lifelong friends and having experiences that are more unique than even a freshman year or a semester abroad. In fact, someone who graduated from Anna’s high school, whose parents I know fairly well, has decided to go on Winterline!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Winterline is an evolving program. It’s less than 5 years old, but it’s remarkable how much they’ve done in such a short period of time. I think the most important thing is if you want your child to attend a program like Winterline, your child has to want to go, not just you. Your role is subordinate and a support role, and it’s not about you projecting your own travel desires onto your child, but that they really need to be genuinely and authentically on board.

What It’s Like to be a Work-Study Student

A Winterline work-study is a scholarship opportunity to publish your work (photos, videos, and/or writing) on various platforms, while reducing the overall cost of the Winterline Program, typically by $5,000. As a former student on the journalism scholarship with Winterline, I want to share my experience with work-study and offer advice if this is something you’re interested in adding to your gap year experience.

There are four different types of Winterline work-study scholarships: photography, videography, social media, and journalism. Each scholarship has different requirements, but the general idea is the same for each; Students send their work to Jess, our Marketing Manager, and she then posts it on the blog and Winterline’s various social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.).

The ideal person for the work-study is someone who is driven, self-motivated, organized, and passionate about either writing, photography, videography or social media, to suit their respective scholarship work. I worked with some students who were great photographers, but couldn’t follow through on actually sending their photos to Winterline, which was frustrating. If you see yourself potentially doing the same thing, it may be a good idea to re-evaluate if you are able to make a commitment throughout the entirety of the Winterline program. But also remember that it’s not like a full-time job. I typically spent a few hours every week on my work-study, and never felt super overwhelmed. It’s just all about time management.

 

winterline work study student
Anna during the “photography day” in Burano, Italy. She created a photo essay on her blog from that day!

Another important thing to mention about the work-study is when you’re assigned to one type of media, that doesn’t mean you have to only do that! I was on the journalism scholarship, so I did quite a bit of writing for the blog as my main work. I am also passionate about photography and videography, so I posted my pictures on Winterline’s social media and even created video edits throughout the year. Jess was very encouraging of me to explore different types of media, which definitely created an environment where I learned even more on Winterline because of my work-study, which was such a plus!

 

winterline work study student
Anna writing in her journal, perhaps to give her some blog inspiration!

Overall, I am so glad that I decided to do the journalism scholarship with Winterline. Not only did I reduce the cost of the program, but I improved so many of my already-existing skills. My writing became much stronger and more fluid, simply as a result of the amount of blog posts I wrote throughout the year (more than 20). My people skills improved because I interviewed people for the blog, so I learned how to ask good questions and be an engaging interviewer. I also became better at managing and prioritizing my time, and became even more organized. And one of the coolest things for all of work-study students is that by the end of the year, we all had created “portfolios” of our work. I posted all my Winterline blog posts to my personal blog, which is a great way for me to access a lot of my work from my gap year. This is something I will be able to send to potential employers, which is really helpful (and makes you look even more impressive).

If you’re planning to take a Winterline gap year, and you’re interested in a work-study scholarship, I strongly encourage it! Feel free to read our FAQ page if you have any questions, or visit my personal blog to see some posts from my work-study.

My Freshman Year was a Gap Year

As a serious and involved student in my high school, I was pretty burnt out by my senior year. I showed up to school every day at 7:00 am for club meetings, went to five AP classes, had golf practice after school, and then studied for hours on end after dinner, until I finally went to bed around midnight. It was exhausting, to say the least. I loved school and learning, but wanted a break from my routine life. I applied to colleges, like most high school seniors, but still found myself feeling restless. I did a little bit of research on gap years, and all of a sudden I found my answer. A Facebook Ad for Winterline popped up, and as soon as I  read about the program, I was hooked.

Winterline offered everything that I was looking for. I was burnt out from high school and I needed a change of pace. I saw an opportunity with Winterline to challenge myself by learning outside of the classroom, broaden my perspective of the world, and most importantly, reconnect with myself and who I am.

As I sit here now, looking back on the last year of my life, I know that I made the best possible decision. I have changed and grown from the person I was when I started Winterline. I am more confident, I have more of a voice, and I know myself better. These are all things I wouldn’t have achieved going straight to college. I learned important lessons during my year abroad that will make me readier to take on my actual freshman year of college this fall. Here are 5 lessons that made my year so transformative, and that I’m excited to apply to my first year in college.

  • The power of saying yes. I challenged myself in the second portion of my trip to take “no” out of my vocabulary, within reason of course. I had some amazing experiences because I said yes, and was open to new things while traveling. When I get to campus, I don’t want to overwhelm myself by saying, “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, but I am excited to have that choice!
  •  How to adapt to new places and changes quickly. During Winterline, I didn’t live in the same place for more than 2 weeks at a time. I learned how to adapt to new places and changes of scenery very quickly. In college, everyone lives in a dorm for the entire first year. If I had gone straight off to college, I would have missed the exciting opportunity to live, well, everywhere!
  • Learning doesn’t have to have a letter grade attached to it. I’ve always been extremely focused on grades and my academics. In high school, nothing was more important than maintaining straight A’s. My year with Winterline showed me that learning is more important, and more fun, than a letter grade. I can’t avoid the stress of wanting to get an A when I’m in college, but I feel more prepared to learn than focus on my grade.
  • Everyone has universal commonalities, no matter how different we are. During my year with Winterline, I lived with people who I wouldn’t typically have been friends with in high school. But I learned throughout the course of the year, that we all had commonalities, no matter how different we were. I’m excited to go out of my way at college to make friends with people who are very different from me, because we will be able to find our own similarities.
  • It’s important to be kind to yourself. I learned a lot about self-care this year. Our saying was, “Self-care is group care.” For me, self-care looked like writing in my journal, practicing yoga, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and spending quality time with my friends. It looks different for everyone, but it’s important to figure out how to best take care of yourself. I think I’ll be able to prevent some stress next year because I now know so much more about myself and what I need.

If you’re contemplating taking a gap year, my advice is to do it. It was the most rewarding year of my life, and as the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article outlines, it has some incredible benefits for students who then choose to go to college. I wish I could do it again, but I’m excited for my next steps as I venture to Babson College.

How to Pack for Your Gap Year Abroad

When I first received the Winterline packing list, I was relieved to see what I needed to bring, but I was also overwhelmed by the idea that all of my belongings would be in a backpack for a year. I’ve learned a lot about how to pack efficiently since then and I’m excited to share my tips! You can also watch our new packing video about how to pack for a your Winterline gap year.

gap year winterline packing
Anna’s bags ready for 1st trimester!

1) Pack light.This is something that sounds easy, but is actually really difficult to execute. It’s going to take some practice. Once you have everything you need for the trip, pack it up into your backpack. If there’s too much stuff, then take it all out and find a few things you can live without. I know this sounds time consuming, but if you’re committed to packing light, it’s worth it!

2) Bring only a week’s worth of clothes. Laundry is available during the Winterline program. I typically did laundry at the end of each week, or every 2 weeks if I could manage it. I would recommend bringing enough clothes and underwear to get you through 5-7 days without laundry. This will also help you to pack light!

3) Be smart about clothing. Pack clothes that can be layered and that are multi-functional. Don’t assume that because you’re going to Central America, you can only bring shorts and t-shirts! It gets cold in some areas, so just be smart about what you’re bringing. Check the weather and think before picking out clothes.

4) Do not bring a roller bag! Don’t do it! There’s a reason why people are known to “backpack across Europe.” They don’t roll their suitcases across Europe! Having everything in a big, travel backpack and your daypack will make life easier and even more organized!

5) Make a personal first aid kit, and keep it in your carry-on/daypack. About a week before I left for Winterline, I went to Walgreens and bought everything for my own first aid kit that I could think of. Band-Aids, anti-itch cream, Emergen-C packets, etc. When you’re away from home, it’s so nice to have a little bag to keep you comfortable. Also, definitely add probiotics to that list!

6) Bring Gallon-sized Ziploc bags. I only brought 2-3 and I regretted it. These bags come in handy for anything you can think of; toiletries, wet swimsuits, dirty laundry, etc. It can also be hard to find similar plastic bags abroad, so I would bring 5-10 (but maybe even more than you think).

7) Pack comfortable shoes. All your shoes should be comfortable, even your flip-flops/sandals. I had one pair of running shoes, one pair of Birkenstocks, and one pair of Chacos in Central America. It was perfect because I could walk long distances in each of those pairs of shoes!

8) Don’t bring too much makeup! I own a lot of makeup at home, but I ended up only bringing one bottle of foundation, one concealer stick, mascara, and a mini bronzer and blush. I found that I rarely even wore makeup because I was outdoors so much! I would recommend bringing some, if you wear it at home, but try to minimize how much of it you pack.

9) Pack a folder for important documents and paperwork. I didn’t bring a folder during the 1st trimester of Winterline and I really wish I did. I had a lot of papers and certificates I had gotten along the trip, and I ended up just stuffing it in my daypack. Try to be more organized than I was!

10) Leave room for souvenirs! Everyone in my group bought at least a few things that they brought home. Make sure you have enough room for a few trinkets, some shirts, and maybe even some gifts for your family! I brought home more than I expected.

Happy Packing! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

Alumni Spotlight: Ana Paulina

WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?

I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico and I now live in Denver, Colorado.

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I think my dad first told me about gap years when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started researching colleges and realized I wanted to take one.

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana, and her friend Daniela, enjoying some hiking in Estes Park!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I took a gap year because I felt like I needed to experience something different in my life before going to college. Where I live, I think people follow the status quo of going to college after high school and then leaving home and getting a job, but I didn’t feel like doing that. I had a very big urge to travel and since I had this opportunity, I knew I had to take it. I’ve been in school all my life, so diving into another four more years of school didn’t seem appealing. I wanted to experience what it was like to learn practical skills without being in a classroom. I knew there was so much more than going to college right away, so I decided to go on a gap year to learn about the world and to learn about myself. I had always lived in the same place with the same people, so I wanted to get out. I wanted to be in different places with different people. I think that is the best way to learn new things. I could’ve gone to college right away, but my experience at college would have been incredibly different if I hadn’t taken a gap year.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SKILL YOU LEARNED?

My favorite skill to learn during Winterline was planning. I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life with my family, but my dad has been the one that has planned all those trips. During my ISP, I got the opportunity to plan and book everything that I was going to do in that week and it felt amazing. It was very rewarding to know that I planned and did that whole week by myself in a foreign country. I learned very practical skills like researching travel destinations, booking travel and accommodations, and budgeting my spendings.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED?

Thailand, for sure. Even though we were there for just one week, I fell in love with the country. I loved walking through the city and the temples, eating the street food, and navigating the street market.

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana enjoying her time in Thailand!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED SINCE WINTERLINE?

Yes! After the gap year I did a bike tour with my sister through the Northern Coast of Spain and I also went to the Greek Islands with my family.

HOW HAS WHAT YOU LEARNED ON YOUR GAP YEAR HELPED YOU IN REAL LIFE?

The experience in general helped me get out of my own comfort zone and be more independent. We were traveling for 9 months in different countries with people we had just met, so for me it felt very natural that I had to make myself comfortable with who I am and trust that I could do whatever I wanted.

The skills that I learned also helped me plan trips better, it helped me be more confident navigating airports and cities in foreign countries. It also helped me communicate better with different people. The skills also helped me figure out what I do want to study, and what I don’t want to study.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOW.

Right now, I’m in college. I go to the University of Denver and I am planning on majoring in International Studies and French. I am also playing rugby and enjoying the mountains for skiing.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE PROVEN THE MOST HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE?

I think budgeting and planning are the skills that have been more helpful in my life, and also being more independent. I am in college now so being able to manage my money well is a very important skill to have. Also, being more confident with myself in problem-solving has been useful because I am not afraid to ask for help or interact with people I don’t know.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WINTERLINE MEMORY?

Halloween night in Bocas Del Toro, Panama was a great night for everyone in the group. We all dressed up as zombies and went on a zombie bar crawl that was happening in the town. We all made our costumes and went out to celebrate as a group. It was very fun because we were not worried about anything and we were just there to have fun!

Winterline Alumni Ana Paulina
Ana and Prathana laughing together in Bangkok.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CURRENT OR FUTURE WINTERLINE STUDENTS?

Advice that I wish someone would’ve given me is to make sure what your goals are and work hard to accomplish them. I had some goals I wanted to achieve but then forgot about them and was really sad when at the end of the trip I remembered all the things that I wanted to do. Also try all the food, it’s amazing.

And for current students, you probably hear this a lot but cherish every moment and every place you’re at. The trip goes by extremely fast and the only things you have to remember them by are your memories, so if you don’t have a good memory, like me, make sure to write them down or take a bunch of pictures and videos. Trust me, you’re going to wish you had them when you’re done.

A Guide to Winterline’s “ISP”

Overall, the idea of an ISP is simple: to provide students an opportunity to have freedom in what, with whom, and where they study. This week encourages all students to take a bigger step towards more independence. ISP weeks occur once in every trimester of the Winterline program, so a total of three times. The first two ISPs lead up to one of the best aspects of everyone’s time during Winterline: the Europe ISP. It’s during that week where students get to finally do what they’ve been planning all year, with full independence. To give prospective students and parents a better idea of what an ISP week is like, I’ll jump into my experience with ISPs as a former Winterline student.

My first ISP was in Monteverde, Costa Rica during the first trimester. I chose the “Spanish Language Intensive” course for five days, but the other choices ranged drastically. Some of my friends worked in an in-home bakery for the week, learning how to bake all sorts of delicious treats. One friend learned about foot reflexology and practiced on real patients. Two students even spent their time tree climbing and building a “sloth bridge.” In total, there were about 14 different things to choose from. During the week, I continued to learn Spanish with two amazing professors and I made huge strides towards becoming fluent! We all stayed with different homestay families during this week, which contributed towards our independence. I was with a young couple, and I had a great time getting to know them and speaking Spanish with them. At the end of the week, we all presented to our friends and homestay families, which allowed us all to learn a bit about what our peers had been doing in their ISP week.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson
Anna with the “Tarzan rope” at the suspended bridges tour in Monteverde

My second ISP was in India, and the theme of all the Indian ISPs was “self-care.” Options ranged from practicing yoga in an ashram, learning about Ayurvedic principles, practicing art and dance therapy, and spending time doing a variety of these things on a remote farm. I chose to learn about Ayurvedic principles and I learned much more than just that. I spent my week at Atmasantulana Village, one of India’s first and largest Ayurveda centers. I practiced yoga and meditation, listened to lectures about Ayurveda, took cooking and nutrition lessons, and discovered my interest in health and holistic care. I spent my time there with four other students on the program, which was a great way for us all to get closer with one another and take a break from being with the whole group.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson Alice and Anna post Holi | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Alice and Anna celebrating Holi during their ISP in India.

My third and final ISP was my favorite. We all began planning our ISPs in the first trimester of the program, and this week was a culmination of all our hard work. I went to Paris to take cooking classes with a company called La Cuisine. It was one of my favorite weeks out of all of my Winterline experience, and the independence had a lot to do with that. I planned my days around cooking classes and was able to do and see so much in the city, despite having a busy schedule. Because I was alone, I was able to do everything I wanted. My friends did some amazing things too, like fashion design and film/photography classes in London, learning at a spa in Italy, cooking classes in Spain, cultural tours in Scotland, and even working on a farm in Slovenia. The Europe ISP week is a highlight for every student, and it’s actually one of the reasons I was originally so excited about Winterline when I enrolled.

Winterline_ISP_Anna Nickerson
Anna holding up her eclairs that she made at La Cuisine.

ISPs are an experience that follow each student throughout their time on Winterline. I personally learned the value of independence and being invested in topics and skills that I had an interest in, which ignited my own interest in doing things outside of program or ISP days. When I look back on my time as a Winterline student, the ISP weeks helped me grow and come out of my comfort zone more than any other times. If anything, I hope that sharing my experience with ISPs will help you decide to take a gap year with Winterline, or maybe even just find something that you want to learn about independently.

Alumni Spotlight: Daniela Mallarino

WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?

I’m originally from Bogota, Colombia, and right now I’m living in Toronto, Canada!

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

Indeed, the idea of a gap year is still a new concept! I was mostly introduced to the idea of taking some time ‘off’ and doing something else before continuing institutionalized education. Two of my best friends and I were casually talking one day about what it meant to graduate and what we truly wanted to do with our lives and the idea of traveling together was something that really thrilled us. We all ended up taking some time before University! I chose Winterline, my other friend went to India for a year to teach English in an IB school and my other friend stayed in Bogota, Colombia. It was definitely the best idea we’ve ever had.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela exploring her photography with her Winterline friends.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’ve always been adventurous and have always loved to travel. I just really wanted to explore more and discover new things while also acquiring some perspective on the world and what my responsibility as a human is. I didn’t feel satisfied with my possible career choices and I knew I wanted to learn more about what it meant to pursue a degree. In the end, I did it for myself. People kept telling me that it might not be the right moment, that you’re too young, that university won’t be the same if you don’t go right away… All sorts of things, but I think there’s never a perfect moment to do things. You kind of just have to go for it, and make them perfect for the moment. That’s what I did with the idea of taking a gap year.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SKILL YOU LEARNED?

I think the best skill is learning to learn! We did so many diverse activities and were exposed to so many experiences, in the end we realized we had done things we never thought we would. It was a process, but it was very rewarding after all. If I had to narrow it down to one specific skill/moment I would say NOLS really left a mark on me. Learning to take situations equally seriously but in a more open and challenging setting was amazing and it inspired a lot of love and passion for nature and the connection we have with our environments. Other than that, learning about permaculture, natural building, and sustainability practices was extremely insightful and I find myself relating those experiences to my University knowledge really often.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela and Gabbi working with crops!

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED?

As cliche as it is, it’s not the places it’s the people. I think that quote truly applies to Winterline and what it means to travel for long periods of time and move constantly. We met amazing people that inspired us in several ways and made our experience a complete journey; full of love, enthusiasm, and identity. It also depends on when you ask me. During the gap year I think Thailand was definitely the highlight, but now that you catch me in University (and prolonged winter), those days when chilling in hammocks was my routine were my favorite!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED SINCE WINTERLINE?

Yes! Right after Winterline ended I did a roadtrip with two of my gap year buddies. We drove from Boston to Maine and stayed at an Alpaca Farm! It was very inspiring to see our friendship grow outside of Winterline. I also went to Guatemala, and went camping in Canada a couple of times. I just have a need to move around and keep exploring!

HOW HAS WHAT YOU LEARNED ON YOUR GAP YEAR HELPED YOU IN REAL LIFE?

So many ways I can’t even label it. We are made out of stories, experiences, and the people we meet. Part of who I am was built during Winterline. It has definitely helped me see the world from a more comprehensive and complete perspective and it has allowed me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and do things that challenge me but that allow me to grow and learn as a person.

Daniela Winterline Alumni
Daniela roller skating during Winterline’s orientation week in Estes Park, Colorado.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOW. 

Right now I’m pursuing my undergraduate degree in International Development Studies at the University of Toronto! It’s a complex and difficult degree, but everything I learn correlates with what I’ve done so far and what I want to do. It fuels my critical thinking and really confronts the conceived ideas we have about the world and the people around us. My degree is complemented with a one year placement in a country of my choice where I will have the opportunity to work with local organizations and communities to share experiences and knowledge. I’m really looking forward to it and what it can bring into my life, as well as what I can give during my placement. It adds more adventure and traveling to my life as well.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE PROVEN THE MOST HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE?

Soft skills! Adaptability and open-mindedness are always present. University can get crazy sometimes, especially if you say yes to every opportunity that enhances your learning. I found myself having a part time job, writing 5 essays without a computer, having weekly meetings, taking care of my friends, sleeping like 5-6 hours a night and other crazy things, and without patience and adaptability I wouldn’t have made it. Now it’s type 2 fun, I can laugh at it. The skills you develop during Winterline that allow you to find yourself are crucial.

I’d say the best thing about Winterline, and something that really makes it stand out, is that you develop your own way of living as you go. You don’t get attached to a place or a specific routine, you get attached to the energy you have all along the year. This energy can be easily found afterwards, and that’s what makes Winterline so unique! You don’t forget what you learn because you’re slowly implementing it into your life and your social circle.

 DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WINTERLINE MEMORY?

One of the memories I have is probably biking in Bangkok at night. It was absolutely amazing to shift lenses and appreciate the crowded streets with a drastic change in energy. It’s amazing how different a city looks when you experience it at different times of the day, and if you’re biking it gets even better. That was really fun and connecting. Other than that, I would say that the simple things, like having dinner as a group, exploring around with some friends, or doing planks in the middle of Prague are the memories that stay with me!

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CURRENT OR FUTURE WINTERLINE STUDENTS?

Take it as it comes! Be open minded and learn from every situation. Believe me, a couple of months after it’s over you’re gonna want to revive those memories. Live them as intensely as you can and reflect. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but when things are challenging we forget how important it is to reflect. I would say, JOURNAL! Writing was an extremely important part for me during Winterline. Once you write it you can’t rescind it, and this becomes crucial when you grow and find yourself indulging in memories. It’s fun to see how you shift as a person and who you were a month, or a year from now. Don’t forget your pen and paper!

How to Travel Alone

Let’s face it. It can be scary to travel alone, either as a man or a woman, especially in a foreign country where you don’t have your friends or family to help you, or even explore with you. As someone who has traveled alone in different parts of the world, I have some “do’s” and “don’ts” for when it comes to traveling alone. And maybe I’ll even give you a few reasons to start solo traveling…

#1: DO learn a few basics of the language in that country. It could be as simple as learning a few greetings and how to order a coffee, but that goes a long way. Locals, no matter where you are, really appreciate if you put in some amount of effort to speak their language. And it can help you feel more confident when you’re by yourself in a new place.

#2: DON’T be scared to take public transportation. Specifically, in Europe, I was afraid that it would be dangerous to take the metro or tram alone, especially at night. However, I found that I had no problems, always felt safe, and I saved tons of money taking the metro as opposed to taking Uber or taxis!

#3: DO start up conversations with other people. You’d be surprised by how many locals are interested in getting to know you, and how many fellow travelers you’re surrounded by! I found that I actually connected better with people I met along the way when I was alone because I was more invested in finding friends and people to keep me company. I’m even friends on Facebook with a few of them now!

Anna and her friend she met in Paris!

#4: DON’T lock yourself away in your hotel room! It’s easy to put something off because you’d only do it or see it if you had someone with you, but don’t make that an excuse to do nothing! Come up with things you want to do, and then go out and do them!

 #5: DO ask other people to take photos of you. This is something I felt really awkward about at first. I wanted photos to document what I saw, and I wanted to be in at least some of them (and I am not a fan of public selfies). I was pleasantly surprised at how nice people were when I asked them to take a photo of just me. I got over my fear of being “awkward” very quickly, and now I have photos from my solo trips that I’ll have forever.

Anna in front of Notre Dame

 #6: DON’T always have your headphones on. This is something I’ve noticed that a lot of people do when they’re by themselves, traveling or not. I’m not telling you to stop entirely, but when you’re traveling, it is so amazing to observe and listen to things as you walk by. There are definitely some things you can miss when you’re “plugged in.”

#7: DO stay in hostels! Hostels can be a great way to meet other people from around the world who are either traveling alone or in a group. Either way, hanging out at the bar or in the common area of your hostel is a great way to meet other travelers and make friends!

#8: DON’T be afraid to eat alone. So many of my friends have told me that they’ve skipped meals in the past, just because they have no one to eat with. I understand this feeling of awkwardness, but the reality is that no one else besides you really cares. I tend to feel comfortable eating alone, but sometimes I will bring along a book to read, my journal to write in, or even my phone to watch a show on. Just, please, don’t skip a meal because you’re alone!

 

Solo traveling is an amazing thing, and I encourage everyone to do it at some point during their lives. So many of my positive experiences while traveling have been when I’m without anyone else. There’s something about traveling alone that changes my perspective and makes me more eager to connect with others, more observant, and more grateful for what I’m doing. DO travel alone!

 

Feel free to check out Anna’s personal blog to read more about her Winterline experience!

Gap Year Decision Day!

You’ve heard of College Decision Day, so what’s the difference? Gap Year Decision Day, taking place on May 25th each year, is a day dedicated to celebrating students who have decided to take a gap year! We also want to increase social awareness that there are other options, like a gap year, for students and young people. Go ahead and check out the hashtag #GapYearDecisionDay on Instagram and Twitter to learn more about what other students are doing with their gap years.

I decided to take a gap year with Winterline right around this time last year, and I deferred my admission from Babson College, a private business school in Wellesley, MA. A lot of people ask me about the process of deferring, which is unique to every school. I thought in honor of this day I’d share my experience with you all!

I applied to colleges during the fall of my senior year of high school, just like any typical U.S. student. I applied to a total of eight schools, all regular decision, and was so excited when I was accepted to my first choice of Babson College in the spring. I decided to go to the campus for a second time to interview for a scholarship and attend “Launch Babson,” which is their version of Accepted Students Day.

 

Anna at Babson College, where she’ll be in the Class of 2022!

When I got back to my hotel room after a long day of tours, interviews, and talking to other students, I had an email in my inbox from Winterline. It was an acceptance letter. I was thrilled and felt as if everything had finally fallen into place, especially after a grueling year of college applications and five AP classes. It was in that moment that I decided I would be going to Babson College, but only after I did the Winterline Global Skills Program.

For me, deferring was easy. I emailed the dean of undergraduate admissions that night and then conveniently spoke with him the next day on campus! The admissions office sent me some paperwork, and once I signed it and sent in my deposit to secure my spot, I was ready to accept my enrollment with Winterline.

Ever since then, Babson has been very accommodating and answers all my questions when I call or email them. I got very lucky because Babson not only allowed me to defer, but was excited and encouraging of it! It just helped me solidify my decision to do Winterline, which has become the best decision I’ve ever made. I am more prepared for college, and I have rediscovered my curiosity outside of a classroom.

I recognize that not all colleges will be like this, especially bigger universities, but you’d be surprised at how many schools are now encouraging students to take a gap year. Winterline Staff recently posted a blog with tips for deferring from college, which is also super helpful if you’re looking to do that.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us or check out Anna’s personal blog.

My Gap Year Reflection

I could sit someone down for, well nine months, and go through the nitty, gritty details of my gap year trip with Winterline. Instead, I would like to share why I decided to do Winterline and how that morphed into what I’ve gotten out of the program.

In my first journal entry that I completed in my first week of the program, I claimed that the reason I was on Winterline was to “learn more about myself, bond with my peers and form lifelong relationships, and learn in an alternative way.” Sitting here, looking back on the past nine months of my life, I accomplished all of those goals that I set for myself.

winterline gap year trip
Anna enjoying a sunset in the Wind River Range with friends on NOLS.

One of the biggest surprises for me in terms of “learning about myself” was how much I learned about myself. I always envisioned that “discovering who I am” would miraculously just happen at one point in my life, and I would suddenly have this answer. But, I discovered that my journey with Winterline was primarily an introspective journey, which ended up being one of the most important skills for me. And I learned a lot about myself.

I learned about my love and connectedness to the outdoors. I learned that I can’t “sit still” for long and need to stay active and explore, wherever I am. I learned how much I value, and need, alone time. I learned how much of a hard time I have receiving feedback, and I learned how to navigate that weakness. I learned that it’s okay to be an emotional person. I learned that I need to dedicate myself to self-care. I learned that I am a powerful leader, something I already knew, but that I further discovered in this group. And I learned that I still have a lot more to learn about myself, and it is an ever-evolving journey.

winterline gap year trip
Alice and Anna enjoying the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

When I think about my desire to get close with my peers and “form lifelong relationships,” it’s funny to look back on how naïve I was. I had this plan to be best friends with everyone in my group and be a peace-maker. In reality, I formed three strong, unbreakable bonds with people in my group and I am confident that I will stay in touch with those three in the future. The biggest lesson I learned when navigating relationships in the group is that it is okay to not like some people, and it is a given in any big group. It’s not necessary to be best friends with everyone, and frankly that’s not realistic for anyone. I made incredible connections with my peers and field advisors, but I wasn’t everyone’s best friend. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn, especially because I am so people-oriented, but I am grateful for my group as a whole and for every individual in the group. Everyone taught me something different.

And lastly, I learned in many, many alternative ways. I am an academically-focused person, and it’s just a core part of who I am. I enjoy taking notes, asking questions, and completing projects. A big part of my reason to go on Winterline was to challenge this traditional way I learn, and to see how I respond to learning in an environment without grades. One of the biggest examples that stands out to me is when I did my independent study project in Costa Rica. I did a “Spanish Immersion” course for five days with two professors. Every day, I had conversations entirely in Spanish and learned through asking questions in Spanishand by being corrected by my professors. I also took a cooking class, dancing lesson, and tour of the suspended bridges in Monteverde, all in Spanish.I learned more Spanish in those 5 days that I did in probably a full semester in high school. That experience is a reflection of the countless other ways I learned skills, and I feel more confident to go into college with more learning strategies under my belt.

winterline gap year trip
Anna learning how to repair a flat tire.

Winterline is special. I miss the program and the people dearly, but I look back on my year with no regrets, knowing that I got everything out of the program that I sought out to. I learned the life skills, but I learned much more beyond those- a lot of intangible lessons.

If you have the opportunity to do Winterline, you owe it to yourself to do it. Coming from an academically-focused person, doing Winterline was the best decision I have ever made. I encourage you to take the first step out of your comfort zone and apply.

If you have any questions for Anna, please feel free to contact us at admissions@winterline.com, or check out her personal blog!

Independent Travel: My Empowering Europe ISP Experience

Before I was even enrolled in Winterline, I knew that I wanted to study cooking in France during my Europe ISP (Independent Study Project). I’ve always had a deep interest in baking and cooking, especially given that I grew up in a household where family meals were of high importance, and brought us all together. What I didn’t realize, however, was that spending a week alone in Paris, with my sole intent of learning a variety of traditional French cooking skills, would actually teach me the power of my own independence.  

Anna holding up her eclairs that she made at La Cuisine, her cooking school in Paris!

On my first full day in Paris, I had an entire day to spend doing nothing. I didn’t have cooking classes, nor did I have anything scheduled on my calendar (a rare occurrence for me). After sleeping in, going out to get some groceries, and having lunch at a local Pho restaurant, I got back to my Airbnb apartment and came up with a general itinerary for my week. I realized that there was so much I wanted to do in Paris- more than I could even fit in if I stayed for a month. And this was in addition to wanting to learn how to cook and bake, so I set out to do all those things. And I was able to do all of them, because I was alone.

Anna captured Monet’s Water Lillies at L’Orangerie.

I walked through the Tuileries and took a nap in a chair at a small fountain, like all the locals were doing. I visited Musee D’Orsay and fell in love with Van Gogh’s work. I visited the Eiffel Tower. I had the richest and most delicious hot chocolate, at Angelina. I had the best macaron of my life. I had the best ice cream of my life. I had the only, and best, escargot of my life. I had a personal style consultation. I saw the most beautiful view of Paris, on the roof of a mall. I walked everywhere. And I fearlessly navigated the metro every day and night. I ran across the Paris marathon. I went to L’Orangerie and wandered as I admired Monet’s Water Lilies. I interviewed a French chef. I modeled for a caricaturist in front of Notre Dame. And I learned how to make classic French sauces, pate a choux and eclairs, two types of macarons, debone a chicken and make a variety of meals with it, and how to select the proper ingredients at any market.

That encompasses a little more than half of what I did while I was in Paris for just over a week.

Anna’s delicious macarons that she made in class!

During this week, I discovered how competent and powerful I am, and that my interests range even more than I thought. The cooking classes were amazing, and I’ve already used some of my newfound skills at home. But most importantly, I discovered more for myself in Paris than I would have if I was with anyone else. Because I was alone, I only did the things that I wanted to do, and I never felt badly for dragging someone along with me because I wanted to see something.

Spending my week alone in Paris was empowering and thrilling. And it allowed me to see how much can do on my own.

If given the opportunity, I highly recommend that every traveler, spends a significant amount of time traveling alone. I promise you’ll see yourself, and wherever you are, in a different light.

 

To learn more about independent travel, feel free to contact us or read more on our blog!

Also, check out Anna’s personal blog!