10 Things You Should Do on your Gap Year–Or Why You Should Learn to Sleep on the Ground

For some, gap years are about taking a year off to travel and “experience life.” For others they are a chance to pursue an interest or dream before diving into the commitment of college. For still others, they are a chance to hit the ‘re-set’ button because of poor grades in high school, not getting into a student’s top choice college, or stepping out of patterns of behavior that have not really served a person. Everyone taking a gap year has (or should have) their own reasons for taking that year away.

But what impact do these reasons have and how can you ensure that your gap year is going to make a difference?  Sure, you can use your gap year just to ‘take some time off,’ but it is what you DO with the experience that is going to make the difference in your life.

In my many years of experience working with students taking a gap year I have heard an incredibly wide range of reasons for students wanting to take a gap year, but in terms of how that year actually gets spent, there are far fewer things that I believe will actually make a difference and have a lasting impact 10 years later.So what should you be sure to include during your gap year?  Here is the list of 10 things that I would want every gap year student to experience, regardless of how they choose to spend their year:

So what should you be sure to include during your gap year?  Here is the list of 10 things that I would want every gap year student to experience, regardless of how they choose to spend their year:

  1. Leave home. This may mean leaving your home country and traveling internationally (which is a great idea if you can do it), or it may simply mean leaving the town or city you are currently living in.  But whatever it means for you, leave home for somewhere else; make a change, because without it, you will never gain that new perspective on the world – or on your home – that you really need.
  2. Stretch (yourself). No, I don’t mean exercise, though there is nothing wrong with that.  Stretch yourself mentally and emotionally.  Do something you have not done before, and do something you would not normally do.  This could mean anything from trying new foods (fried crickets anyone?) to trying out a new skill (scuba diving? Zip lining?).  If you don’t stretch yourself, you will never learn what your own limits are.
  3. Sleep on the ground. Yes, you heard me. Not on a couch, not in a youth hostel bunk bed, but on the ground.  Learning to sleep on the ground will teach you that you can indeed be comfortable anywhere.  And sleeping on the ground gets you back to the basics, puts you in touch with the earth, and gives you the knowledge and confidence that you can go anywhere, and you will still be fine.
  4. Learn a new skill. Or many skills. It could be a language, or how to juggle, or how to pitch a new business idea.  It doesn’t matter what the skill is; what matters is that you are learning something new that can and will serve you in the future.  To be impactful, your gap year needs to be a time of learning, not doing things you already know how to do.
  5. Make a friend. Your networks of peers, colleagues and friends are what are going to sustain you in life and through difficult times. Making a friend is about reaching out beyond yourself, learning that life is about give and take, learning that it takes empathy to be a true friend to someone else.  If you don’t make at least one new friend on your gap year, you haven’t made the most of your time.
  6. Turn off your cell phone. You don’t need to get rid of it, but you do need to learn how to turn it off.  Not for the whole year, but for enough time to learn that you can survive without it.  Whether that is for a day, or a week, or a month, (or one day a week, or one week a month), turning off your phone will show you that you can be happy without being plugged in. I know that is hard to believe, but young people survived – and even thrived – before the days of cell phones.  Turning off your cell phone will teach you to be more self-reliant, more independent, and more in control of your own happiness.
  7. Write a poem. Or a song. Or choreograph a dance for yourself. Learn to express yourself in a new and different way. We communicate with others every day of our lives, and yet we tend to always use the same tired ways.  Writing a poem forces you express yourself in a new way, widening your ability to communicate, to connect.  It makes you think about the words you use, and how you put them together.  Writing poetry on your gap year (or about your gap year?) will give you a new and fresh perspective during your year.
  8. Slow down. Take it easy. Breathe. Look around you. So often we are judged or measured by what we do and what we have accomplished, rather than what who we are.  By slowing down and paying attention to where you are, you will be practicing what the Buddhists call ‘mindfulness.’  Being mindful of yourself, your surroundings, those with you, in the moment.  This is a practice which will benefit you for the rest of your life.
  9. Do something for someone else. Your gap year can’t and shouldn’t just be about you. Because you don’t exist in a bubble, and you are here because of other people.  So think about others: go visit your grandmother whom you have not seen and spend some time helping her out in her garden; go volunteer in a home for troubled youth; go donate some of your time – you have a whole year – to making someone else’s life just a little bit easier.  You will be glad that you did.
  10. Do something for the planet. This beautiful earth is the only home we have. And I hate to say it, but it is under threat. Climate change and a whole set of related issues are threatening us.  Not just our ‘way of life,’ but the very survival of many of the world’s people, cultures, environments, ecosystems.  During your gap year, take some time to think about what you want to do to address this issue – and then go do it.

If you can do these ten things during your gap year, I can guarantee that you will have an incredibly impactful time.  It doesn’t matter what else you do; this is the foundation, the building blocks, of a life changing experience.

Meet Meagan Kindrat who’ll be dancing her way around the world!


Thinking about taking a gap year too?


Megan Kindrat, dancer and gap year student

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I always knew I wanted to go to university, but I don’t know what I want to do. I decided to wait to go to school when I have a clear final goal in mind. So, I’m taking a gap year to help me figure out what I really enjoy and what I don’t enjoy doing! Then I’ll be ready to go to university.

How did you learn about the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program?

Well, my original plan was to live in Austria with a host family that I know. I have a good friend from kindergarten who lives there now. We’ve stayed in close touch! Every year I visit her or she comes to visit me. I spent a month there last summer and was planning to go back next year. One day I was Googling group travel ideas for when I was there and I came across the Winterline program. It sounded great!

Why did you choose Winterline? What about the program appeals to you the most?

What I like best about Winterline is that I’ll get to travel to so many different places. What my dad likes best is that I’ll still be learning throughout the year so it is not just a long “vacation” trip.  As for the skills, I am interested in the coding and robotics part of the trip. My dad says that it’s the way the world is going, so I’d really like to see what it’s all about. What I’m most excited about is probably the scuba diving. I’ve never done it before and want to learn!

What country on the itinerary are you most excited to visit?

I think India will be really cool. It is somewhere I’ve never been and had never planned to go. I’ve traveled to tropical places and to Europe with my family but never to anywhere like India. It is so different culturally. I can’t wait.

Meagan taking gap year

What do you expect to gain from taking a gap year and while traveling abroad?

I hope to find out more about myself. All I’ve done my entire life is go to school and dance. I want to try new things find out what else is out there!

I’ve been a competitive dancer for 6 years and taught dance for 4 years. I train 7 days a week! I’ve entered dances in every genre from tap, to ballet and hip hop, both solo and in a group.

I thought about pursuing it professionally but it’s pretty strict and very competitive. Even if I don’t pursue it professionally, I know I’ll never stop dancing… Even when I’m at the supermarket when a great song comes on I start dancing!  Dance will stick with me for sure.

What are your plans for after your gap year?

I want to go to university for sure. I haven’t applied yet. I have good grades and have done a lot of volunteer work so I’ll be ready when the time comes to apply.

Gap year student
Meagan Kindrat, Winterline student

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

I want to them to know that I believe that a sense of humor is important to bring with me everywhere. I think I’m really funny and my family thinks I am too. I hope my Winterline peers will as well!

Tell us something fun about you! What is your favorite TV show?

Well, my favorite TV show is Dancing with the Stars because I love dance and Witney Carson is my primary role model.

Lastly, Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. I’d have to say water!

Considering a Gap Year? Tips from a Harvard Student

Travel to 10 countries, over 9 months, and learn 100 skills?


Are you thinking of taking a gap year? Perhaps you want to learn new skills, explore a passion, and make new friends. Or maybe you simply need a break from the rigors of school and yearn to explore the world.

But how do you know if a gap year is the right decision? What happens when you leave the comfort of the familiar? It is important to do the research and consider the implications. We suggest that you talk about it with your family, friends, and counselors or advisors. And if you are considering deferring from college for a year, be sure to check in with your admissions office!

Lastly, it may also be helpful to hear from someone who has taken a gap year, so we thought we’d share some advice from Rhea Bennett, a rising sophomore at Harvard College student who took a gap year. Check it out here.



6 tips to make the most of your gap year

Travel to 10 countries, over 9 months, and learn 100 skills?


1. Have a specific learning objective (or two)

Every year is an opportunity to learn something new. Your gap year is no different. Take the attitude of heading out for your gap year with the possibility of learning 1-3 new life skills. Make them as measurable as possible. The less vague, the better. For example, don’t just say you want to become good at traveling. You’ll never really know if you’ve succeeded unless you can boil it down to something more specific.

Your goal could be,”I want to become certified in scuba diving.” Boom. Extremely specific and clear. You’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved this goal, and who knows, you might even become a professional diving instructor like one of our students!

You could also choose something like, “I want to be able to arrive at a strange, new place, and feel comfortable starting up a conversation with the first person I meet.” This is a social skill, but an invaluable life skill. You’ll be able to use it at work, in college, wherever you find yourself. These are the kinds of skills that matter most for the rest of your life.

2. Don’t stop at one location

Why confine yourself to a single place? You’ve probably already been doing that for years!

Your gap year is an opportunity to roam, to ramble, to wander the great unknown of our planet and of your own experience. If you’ve lived your whole life in a city, why not visit a few remote villages or explore a foreign ecosystem. If you’ve already traveled around Europe with your family, why not go to the places you weren’t able to see?

A multitude of locations will give you perspective far faster than any semester in college will. Not just on the differences between train stations and hostels, but also the differences in human societies, values, visions of the good life, and of course, your own fallibility.

And of course, if you want to visit 10 different countries in wildly different climates and regions, you could always do Winterline 😉

3. Have a detailed plan, but be ready to throw it out the window

Life demands flexibility. Your gap year is no different. If you’re doing it right, you won’t be in your hometown doing the same old same old.

So, get out into the world with enough to do that you won’t get bored and start doing reckless things to pass the time. But then be ready to throw that plan away if it no longer fits the situation. You may have drafted up the perfect travel itinerary back at home, and now that you’re in Costa Rica or Belize you realize that almost every single bus in your town runs once a week and you’ll have to set up camp for a while. There’s always a blessing disguised in curses like these. Take it as an opportunity to meet someone new, to develop a new plan, to explore the area, or to slow down and try to live like the locals!

4. Try something new

This goes without saying, but there are already too many people who take gap years to just travel from one beach to the next. It surely gets old after a while, but the problem is, if you do it for long enough, you run out of time to be doing the things that could have life-changing value for you. Life is better with a few challenges.

As Jeff Selingo, education writer for the Washington Post, put it:

For a gap year to have a significant impact on success in college, and later in the working world, it needs to be a transformative event, quite distinct from anything a student has experienced before — a meaningful work experience, academic preparation for college or travel that opens up the horizon to the rest of the world. It should also be designed to help students acquire the skills and attributes that colleges and employers are looking for: maturity, confidence, problem-solving, communication skills and independence.

Take the time to figure out what kinds of new things would be fun, valuable, and doable for you. Try to have a balance in your gap year. You want to make it worth it, so don’t tire yourself out with only terrifying things, or only easy things. Find the balance between the two, and then keep pushing yourself further.

5. Focus on relationships

This can’t be overstated. The people you meet on your gap year could verily change your life. You might study world history in Europe and have an amazing time like one of our students did on her Independent Study Project. Inevitably, you will learn the most about your strengths and weaknesses and what you can give to the world with the help of others around you.

“I am the people I meet, the videos I take, the coffee I drink with a dash of milk and two packets of Splenda. I am my dog’s best friend, and it’s my bed she runs to when she hears fireworks in the summer.” — Callie

The quality and quantity of friends and mentors you make during your gap year will all depend on you and what you give to those relationships.

6. Be safe

Last but certainly not least. Your gap year will be full of adventure. And adventure always comes with a dash of risk. Make sure you’re being calculated with the risks you take. If it’s a small risk and high reward, then great! If it’s a small reward and high risk then maybe you want to think of ten other amazing things you could do. You can still have plenty of fun while being safe. The key is finding the right mix of fun, safety, and learning.

So do your homework about visiting a place before you get there. Every society has their own written and unwritten rules. For your safety and for the peace of mind of your friends and family, know where you’re going, and be prepared for both the best of times and the worst. Do you know CPR? First Aid? Can you build an ad-hoc shelter if needed? Do you have a communication plan? Emergency evacuation insurance? If you’ve thought through these and more, you’re on your way toward a safe and happy return from an amazing gap year adventure.

If you’d like more resources on having a safe and successful gap year, feel free to reach out to us at admissions@winterline.com.

What It Feels Like to Get Ready for a Gap Year: Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

9 months. 10 countries. 100 skills. The best gap year ever.


The phrase, “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” has shaped my actions since I was a little girl. My father has constantly instilled this idea and way of life into me through both repeating the phrase and implementing it through his active parenting style.

I’ll never forget that for three consecutive summers in a row, he told me, “This is the summer you get tough.” Looking back on it, we laugh at his endless hope that I would “get tough” each summer. But, in hindsight I think his advice has encouraged me to become the adventurous person I am today: getting ready to take a gap year with Winterline. I challenge myself each year more so than the last to take a step even further beyond my comfort zone. My gap year is naturally that next step.

So, why am I even taking a gap year?

To take a step away from school

I have been on such an academically-motivated path for most of my life that I feel as if I’m going to burn out if I don’t take a break. I think I will be more confident going into college with the experience that Winterline will provide me during my gap year.

To learn more about myself and discover who I am

Although many people tell me that I have a clear vision of my identity, I tend to constantly ask myself, “Who am I?” as I’m sure most 17-year-olds do. I want to be able to learn more about my passions, what makes me tick, what I love to do, and who I truly am at my core.

To learn skills

The main reason I chose Winterline is because of the amount of countries we will visit and the amount of skills I’ll learn. I’m hoping to not only learn skills, but to become a more marketable and independent person as a result. I don’t want these skills to just last for the trip, but for my lifetime.

To have fun

This slightly goes back to my first reason, but I need to have some fun. I have stressed myself out way too much with school, golf, work, etc. due to my self-imposed “perfectionism.” I need to take a break from those day-to-day stressors and allow myself to let loose and have more fun in new and exciting environments.

To challenge myself to become comfortable being uncomfortable

This is the year I am going to “toughen up” and challenge myself in more exhilarating ways. Each year I make progress on learning to love being out of my comfort zone, so naturally I think Winterline is my perfect next step.

anna get ready for gap year

Compared to my friends who will all be attending college in the fall, I am definitely in the minority of what I am doing to prepare for my upcoming year. There are so many differences in how we are all getting ready for our years away from home:

Dorm shopping versus gap-year shopping

While all my friends are already Snapchatting pictures of red Target carts full of bedding, appliances and new clothes, I have just received my Winterline packing list and am currently deciding which travel backpack I should purchase for all my belongings. I am definitely already a bit envious that my friends don’t have to endure the anxiety and stress that comes with bringing less than 50 lbs of stuff for an entire trimester abroad.

Searching for a roommate versus preparing to be nomadic

Aside from a few friends who have decided to go “random” with their roommate, most rising freshmen have already found their perfect match and know what to expect with the person they’ll be living with. I, on the other hand, don’t even know how to start mentally preparing to have no stable roommate. Instead, I will be living nomadically with a large group of people for one year.

Picking out college courses versus having a trip itinerary

While my friends are trying to avoid taking Microeconomics at 8 AM, I have a specific trip itinerary that will not be changing based on whether or not I want to get up early. But I definitely can say I have a better pick of classes than most of my friends, like “SCUBA 101” and “Principles of BMW Driving.”

Keeping in touch with family and friends versus trying really hard to keep in touch

Although my friends and I will both be away from home, I think we will face some different obstacles in terms of trying to stay in touch with family. While the Wi-Fi on campus may be acting up and not letting students FaceTime their parents, I’m afraid that being completely off the grid at any given time may challenge me to think of new ways to keep in touch with my family… Pigeon messengers may be making a comeback for me. 🕊

Snapchats about school versus Instagram-filled travel posts

My Instagram will be filled with exotic pictures around the world while my friends’ feeds will be pictures at parties and football games. I will be trying to live vicariously through them in some ways (except when I see them post about midterms on Snapchat), but I know they will also be jealously drooling over my feed.

In spite of some of the amusing aspects that make up the differences between my preparations for a gap year and those of my friends getting ready for college, we are all feeling pretty nervous. We all will need to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” regardless of whether we are taking a gap year or going to college in the upcoming fall.

I am confident that I will be able to not only achieve what I have set out to do with this year, but that I will also be able to make new goals for myself that will encourage me to continue to step beyond my comfort zone in the future. Life is about getting comfortable being uncomfortable and I am ecstatic to start this journey in September.



Should international students take a gap year?

Maria, an alum from the 2015-2016 cohort, is now at university in the Netherlands. Originally from Colombia, Maria submitted this interview for US News & World Report on the growing trend of international students taking gap years.

9 months. 10 countries. 100 skills. The best gap year ever.


Why did you decide to do a gap year before attending university?

I was lucky enough to attend an international school in the middle of rural India from 2013 to 2015 when I graduated. My classmates came from more than sixty different countries and all of them had a repertoire of diverse adventures and stories to tell.

Sometimes we would all sit down sipping some chai, telling anecdotes of our motherlands with pride in our hearts and tears in our faces. These evenings could go on until two or three in the morning but they taught me the lessons of a lifetime.

It was like this that I discovered that sometimes I would learn more about the world and life in those sessions than what I had learned in school for a whole semester. This is when I realized that there were other ways of learning, there were stories to discover and people to meet.

University sounded like an amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge on something that I am going to spend my whole life doing, but there was something else calling me. There was a desire of seeing those places that my peers were talking about, of experiencing those landscapes and feeling the people.

I was tired of sitting in a classroom while the world had so much more to offer. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to do it on their terms.

group photo gap year cohort alpha smile angkor wat cambodia-4062

Where did you go and what did you do for your gap year?

In September 2015, I found myself traveling to ten different countries, with seventeen strangers, learning 100 different skills.

I started in Central America and moved to South East Asia and lastly, Europe. I am now a certified SCUBA diver, a certified Thai Masseuse, semi fluent in French and fluent in permaculture; passionate about Ballet, Bollywood, Flamenco, and my list could go on and on.

In each country, we learned a skill that was relevant to the location that we were at. In this way, we were not only tourists but we were travelers, tasting each country as we flew in and out.

How did it help you prepare for university?

My gap year taught me how to be comfortable while feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Changing not only countries but cultures from one day to the next can be extremely exhausting for the mind. Being away from home means that the comforts that you once experienced are no longer there and not having a permanent home teaches you how to make of yourself the home you deserve.

And to be honest, isn’t that exactly what we need for university? Don’t we need to feel comfortable in a foreign place surrounded by strangers that will soon become your friends?

If you ask me, after traveling the world for nine months, university sounded like a piece of cake… and it kind of was.

Benefits of a gap year

“I believe that Winterline helped to make that possible. Even a year later, I am still benefiting from Winterline and I want to thank you for creating such an incredible opportunity. It has truly been life-changing.” — Jamie F.

Wonder why gap years are the fastest growing option after high school? Look no further. The benefits of a gap year are almost universal. With more and more students taking 5-6 years to graduate from college, taking a year between high school and college to learn more about the world, work, and yourself not only makes financial sense, but is just way more fun.

9 months. 10 countries. 100 skills. The best gap year ever.


Check out this gap year infographic below to learn more about the benefits of a gap year. You can also download it here.

Benefits of a gap year

Meet Alice: Hamilton Fan and Dog Lover Taking A Gap Year

Alice will be traveling to 10 different countries and learning 100 new skills as part of the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year program. Read on to learn why she considered taking a gap year, and the things that excite her the most about traveling the world.

Thinking about taking a gap year too?



I remember sophomore year, hearing of a student at my high school doing a gap year and it piqued my interest. For a long time I was set on being in the graduating class of ’21 and in a weird way I felt like this college graduation year defined me. Then, I realized it was more important to actually accomplish something and experience the world than it was to graduate college the same year as my high school peers.


My mom was in the foreign service as a diplomat, and has been really supportive and encouraged me.


I think one of the first questions a child is asked from an early age is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I’ve always had a vague answer or said something I was somewhat confident I could be decent at. But I’ve never had an answer to that question that I felt any confidence about. Winterline provides an opportunity for me to try so many different skills and provide me insight on my strengths.


It’s pretty hard to choose, each country sounds amazing. I’m pretty excited about Thailand, I really love food and it’s pretty different from the Asian countries I’ve been too.


I’m pretty excited to scuba dive, I’ve always been interested in the underwater ecosystem. I always am interested in the problem solving and negotiation learning experience. I think I’m pretty good at that and I’m a quick thinker.

Alice taking a gap year


Unrealistically, I’d live in California in a mansion with 100 dogs. But realistically maybe something in psychology or publishing. I’m not really sure though.


I’ve traveled to Beijing and Hong Kong. I was adopted from Beijing when I was four months old, and I went back when I was five when we adopted my sister. Two years ago I traveled to Hong Kong with a friend because my dad was the consul general and the government paid for my flight which was a perk. I then flew to Beijing to visit a friend who had moved there and I climbed the Great Wall of China in Birkenstocks.


I think there’s going to be a lot of self-growth and I’m interested in comparing myself from the beginning to the end of the trip.


I am extremely extroverted, but when I first meet people I’m kinda quiet. Not to toot my own horn but I think I’m pretty funny, and go with the flow. I don’t really get mad for longer than an hour and then I move on. I also managed to forget how to ride a bike.


I really like musicals, I can’t sing but I can appreciate and envy those who can. Since New York is four hours away by bus I’ve been able to go to a couple broadway shows, Ameliè and Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. I also know Hamilton by heart.



Ready to take a gap year too?


Meet Leela: Shaolin Practitioner and Eyeliner Wizard Taking A Gap Year

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

Thinking about taking a gap year too?


The concept of a gap year program is still new for many students. When were you first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year before college?

I was first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year by an elder student who attended my school. He took a gap year and when he returned there was a panel to discuss his adventures and how they helped him decide what he truly wanted to do. I was in middle school when all this happened, but it sounded like fun so I kept it in mind.

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I knew I had a plethora of activities that I participated in, and I had no idea how to decipher what was a passion, what was a hobby, and what was still out there. As I moved up into high school, I continued to love learning for the sake of learning. I wanted to be good at everything. When the time came to start attending college fairs and figuring out my plan, I was petrified.

What if I picked the wrong path as my “favorite one”? What if I hadn’t actually discovered what I liked to do yet? I live in the middle of the forest, and the nearest grocery store is 11 miles from my house. I’ve been trapped in this bubble for far too long. All I could do was hope that getting out of this small town might expose me to things I truly loved to do, and teach me new things along the way.

Leela - gap year program

What country on our itinerary are you most excited to visit?

Okay, so, I’ve got this crazy story (it’s not that crazy I’m just good at exaggerating), are you ready? I’m Indian. If you ask me “dot or feather?” I’ll cry.

I’m from India. The country. The subcontinent of Asia. Look at my skin. You never would’ve guessed right? One person in all my eighteen years has actually figured it out without me telling them. Something about my cheekbones being “too high for a white girl,” whatever that means.

Anyways, that’s beside the point, because I’m actually most excited for India. I’ve had the privilege to go there before to visit my (very) extensive family, but I was in Kolkata. If you want to know where not to go to see the sights, it’s Kolkata. I want to see the rest of my country, or at least more of it.

And please, please, don’t get me wrong. I love Kolkata, it’s my home. But I want to know more than just the place the was once the British’s home base in India, and if I can pick up new skills on the way, why wouldn’t I?

What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?

Responsible Alcohol Management. I’m kidding (although I think that’s actually extremely important). Just from reading the skills list self-defense sounds super interesting.

I did Northern Style Shaolin Kung Fu for about eight years, but because of injury and school I had to quit. I think it’d be fun to brush up or learn entirely new skills.

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

I’m going on this gap year because I have no idea what I want to do in the future. Help people? Work in international relations? Study the arts? Be on broadway? Become a polyglot and teach in schools in the Himalayas? I have no clue.

leela gap year program

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

Oh wow. Yes. I’ve traveled. But because my parents are such gems (they really are). They decided to do a solid 85% of our traveling before I could remember anything. So! My favorite trip I remember was actually taken last December for Christmas. We decided to fly half way across the world and found ourselves in a place we’d never been before. The Middle East. To be specific: Israel.

When my mum first suggested the place, I wasn’t so sure. As an avid Model UN kid, I was all too aware of Israel’s neighboring countries and their current states, but I was so curious to explore somewhere beyond Western culture, so I gritted my teeth, packed my most modest clothing, and said yes.

Boy was it worth it. The history, the culture, the chocolate. Every memorial was a work of art, every museum far more interesting than anything you’ll find in Seattle, but what I loved most was the melting pot of religions. I’m not religious, mostly because I get kind of freaked out trying to figure out how we got here, but wow is religion fascinating. I got to walk the Via Dolorosa, pray at the Weeping Wall, and visit the Dome of the Rock, all in the same city. It was truly beautiful to see such harmony between people, even if it is a rocky harmony at times.

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

I suppose I expect to gain a better understanding of what I like to do, I want to explore my passions. Like I said before: small town equals not a lot of opportunity for growth.

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

Remind me to shut up every once in a while and I SWEAR I’m a good listener. Also, I’m super pumped to meet people that actually like adventures and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Tell us something fun about you!

I lived in London for 3 1/2 years, so I say and spell words funny. Also my friend says I’m a wizard because I switch hands when I switch eyes while doing eyeliner. I think girls who torque their arm all funny to get their opposite eye and succeed are the real magic ones.

And finally, Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi? Pepsi products? I like Dr. Pepper.

Thinking about taking a gap year too?


Meet Anna: Young Entrepreneur and Avid Punster Taking A Gap Year

As she gears up for her 9-month gap year with Winterline, traveling to 10 different countries and learning 100 new skills, Anna shares her thoughts on why she decided to take a gap year in the first place, and why traveling is so important to her.

Thinking about taking a gap year too?


The concept of a gap year program is still new for many students. When were you first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year before college?

So, I have always been a year young for my grade. Ever since Freshman year I’ve aspired to do a gap year. But never really knew exactly what I wanted to do. This year when I was applying to all my colleges, I started thinking about it more seriously. And that’s when I started seeing online advertisements from Winterline and other gap year programs, getting serious about the idea, and talking to my parents about it.

But it’s kind of been something I’ve wanted to do all throughout high school.

At what point did your parents get on board?

Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot of convincing I had to do. Both my parents are avid travelers, especially my dad. So they both understood the concept of it and were encouraging about it. Any time I told an adult that I’m taking a gap year or considering it, they’d say, “I wish I had done that when I was a kid.”

So, most of the time my parents were very encouraging about it. The main thing was figuring out how to pay for it. But other than that, they were very encouraging. There wasn’t much convincing to do, which was nice.

anna with family taking a gap year

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I’ve always been the youngest kid in my class, which has never really been an issue, but something that I wanted to take advantage of it, having that extra year and not being put behind. And I just really love traveling.

I went on a service trip to the Dominican Republic for just 10 days. That was when I was applying to colleges, and when I started considering a gap year more seriously. It really solidified the reasons why I wanted to do it: you know, meet some amazing people, make great connection, travel to parts of the world independently, beyond just being on vacation with my parents.

What really attracted me about Winterline is the skills-based program.

Whenever I mention that I’m going on a gap year, people sometimes automatically assume it’s either a service trip or a vacation. And obviously I am taking a year off, that can be perceived as a vacation. But the way Winterline does it by teaching real life skills, that’s something important to me that I’m really interested in doing before going off to school next year.

anna taking a gap year winterline

What country on our itinerary are you most excited to visit?

Honestly, I’m excited for all of them! I think I’m most excited for Costa Rica. I’ve been speaking Spanish since 7th grade and it’s been one of my favorite classes every year. Going to the Dominican Republic, I got to practice my Spanish and see a different Latin culture. That’s probably what I’m most excited for.

What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?

Just looking at the list of all the skills, and everything really, there hasn’t been just one thing that I’m super excited for.

One thing I’m excited for is all the people I’m going to be meeting. In the Dominican Republic, that was the main thing. It really didn’t matter what we were doing, but having those connections — these are friends that I still talk to. That’s one of the things I’m most excited for.

Another thing I’m looking forward to is the independent study week in Europe. I watched some Youtube videos of people that went on the Winterline gap year last year, like Jonathon’s and Molly’s videos. I really liked watching those.

It was cool to see how they viewed their time and what they did. There’s so much I could do, and especially independently. That would be such a great way to end the trip. So I’m definitely excited for that.

Anna taking a gap year winterline

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

Yeah! I’ve actually deferred my admission to Babson College. I’m definitely on more on a business track. In my high school, we had this program called High School of Business. Since then I’ve been taking 1-3 business classes each year, and I’ve been involved in business clubs, and both my parents are in business.

I was the CEO of a social enterprise this year for our school. It was a really great experience to see how I could apply all my business knowledge the past four years to an applicable, real-life business. I’m definitely more on the entrepreneurship track. But I don’t know what I’d do with it. I am really interested in social enterprise and marketing, not so much finance.

But I do really like combining my passion for business with a social cause. I think that’s really cool.

You’ve traveled before. Which trip was your favorite and why?

The Dominican Republic was the first trip where I was out of the country by myself — definitely one of my favorite trips. I went with one of my best friends. I’d even say that was my favorite trip ever. I’ve been with family to England and Wales, six years ago, with my dad and brother. We have family there. It was really beautiful.

We also went to Costa Rica a few years ago. One of my favorite parts was seeing Mt Arenal and going to the hotsprings there.

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

One of the things I hope to gain with my gap year — I’ve been on such an academically focused track. I’m top of my class. And focusing entirely on school is one of the main things that causes stress in my life. That’s been very difficult to balance. And I’m definitely not burned out. But I think taking this gap year will be a great refresher for me, to realize some of the things I’m passionate about that I’ve almost forgotten about.

I think it would be really awesome to step away from school for a bit. Obviously I’m going to go back to school and be career-oriented. I’m not trying to just take a gap year and have no idea what I’m doing with my life. But it will provide me with clarity on things that I’m interested in, and help me step away from being so academically focused for a bit. That’s one of the main things I’m looking forward to.

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

I’d say, in terms of my personality, at first I come across as very introverted — just because I’m going to be put into new and uncomfortable situations and I’m going to be shy at first. But with my friends and when I open up to people, I’m a genuinely outgoing and extroverted person. A lot of people think I’m really shy at first, but I’m just trying to get to know you and be observational.

I want to make lifelong connections on this trip. I’m definitely open to hearing from other people, hearing their stories. And I’d encourage my Winterline peers to be very open with telling me about themselves. I’m a trustworthy person.

Tell us something fun about you!

I am surprisingly quite a jokester. I don’t think a lot of people know that. But I have a weird obsession with puns, and I’m constantly making up my own jokes and puns. That’s something my friends give me a lot of crap for, but I know that they actually like it.

So that’s something interesting with my personality, I guess.

And finally, Coke or Pepsi?

Coke. But I’m actually not a big soda person. So, I’d honestly say neither.

Don’t want to be left behind?


How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock After Your Gap Year

After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.

Our Field Advisors travel the entire duration of the gap year with our students, serving as mentors, leaders, supporters, and sometimes just a good shoulder to lean on. Always in a student to advisor ratio of 8:1 or less, our Field Advisors get to know our students extremely well, and are an integral part of the cohort family, as well as of the Winterline program.

Are you ready to start your gap year adventure?


Hello Beautiful Winterliners!

I hope that you are all doing well and enjoying your reunification with your family and friends.

Some of you might be on cloud nine in that “honeymoon” phase… Some of you may have skipped that entirely and gone straight into crisis. Remember that reverse culture shock is a normal experience. You are returning from a crazy whirlwind of a year and it takes time for you and those around you to adjust to the new you. Go easy on yourself through the process… you will adjust!

Inline image 1

Here’s some tips for dealing with reverse culture shock:

1) Connect with people that shared your experience.

There are 19 people that understand what you went through this past year in a way that nobody at home will ever be able to.

However you stay connected, be sure that you do. Reach out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email. But don’t forget about the power of a conversation too. We spent the last 245 days (except winter break) seeing each other’s faces every. single. day. If you find that a text or a snapchat just doesn’t meet your need for connection… Reach out! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to the folks you spent the last year with.

I hope you all know that the three of us field advisors are always open to chat and curious to hear about your transition back home.

2) Reflect on the year

Journal, Blog, Vlog, edit your thousands of hours of gopro footage or create your own Winterline slideshow of your pictures. Create a wall or a shrine of all the things you collected from around the world.

Spend time to write down quotes and stories. The act of putting pen to paper solidifies those experiences in your mind so you remember them years from now.

Seek out solitude. Go for a hike or even just a walk around town by yourself. Leave your phone at home! Maybe you find a a nice tree to talk to… They’re pretty good listeners.

However you choose to reflect, make sure you make space for it. Some of the greatest learnings from an experience like Winterline happen after the program is over. Be sure you continue looking for them!

3) Share with others

As many of you are discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience. Maybe your family got a whole different perception of your experience through photos and phone calls and you just can’t make them understand what it was really like. Maybe your friends are just more interested in who’s dating who now than hearing about the struggle for democracy in Cambodia.

Go easy on these people.

You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.

Be intentional about your story telling. Ask people to come over and watch your videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so you and they know that it’s your time and it’s important.

Prathana and Leo ran into a prospective student at the Cambridge office and got the opportunity to pass their stoke on to someone who may be nervous about taking the leap. What better way to share your stories than you help someone else make a decision that could change their life too? You can talk to Cambridge about being an alumni connection or sharing your experience at your high school. This can be a great way for you to reflect too!

4) Incorporate your experience into home

Keep pursing the things that excited you. Find time to continue exploring the things you found joy in… Cooking, Rock Climbing, Parkour, Sewing, Harp Therapy, French, Biking, Baking, Scuba, Photography, etc. etc. I know I plan to make my own fermented sodas at home… maybe I’ll even take up Bollywood dancing.

Don’t fall back into your old habits (at least the ones that you don’t want to). Look for ways to bring your experience home. Maybe you want to say Buen Provecho before every meal, maybe you want to tell people what you appreciate about them more, or maybe you want to take more time to educate yourself about what’s going on in the world.

Let me know if you want the recipes to make some dope Thai food for your family!

5) Give yourself permission to relax

In the marathon to reconnect, make sure that you also take time to chill.

If you love to sleep… then take some time to sleep! Play some video games, watch netflix, lounge on the couch. You’ve been going, going, going for nine months straight. We pretty much didn’t have a weekend for the past 9 months, so I think we can take at least one to do nothing at all… maybe two.

Be patient with yourself as you go through the different emotions and changes that go along with reverse culture shock. Remember that it’s normal, natural and that it will pass! Most importantly, remember that your peers are probably going through the same thing. It’s ok to lean on each other.

6) Check out DropBox!

Here is the link (private) to a dropbox account that has some wonderful reminders of your year with Winterline. These are great things to share with your friends and family as a way to start telling your story!

In it, you’ll find the following things:

  • The Slideshow
  • The Grad Performance
  • Europe Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Startup Business Pitches
  • Monteverde Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Whistling Woods Film and Documentary Videos

You’ll want to download these things to store personally as you wont have access to this folder forever. We’ll let you know when the startup pitches or anything else gets uploaded.

I miss you all!

Are you ready for the best gap year ever?


Savannah Pallazola: Swimmer And Rock Climber Taking A Gap Year

Ready for the best gap year ever?


The concept of a gap year program is still new for many students. When were you first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year before college?

I was introduced to it when I was younger, because my sister didn’t go straight to college after high school, so I thought that was cool. It’s sort of unconventional for our family, but my mother’s spawns are a little unconventional. Tiff took a gap year to work and she’s been continuing to do that for a while now. My plan is to attend college, I just need to find myself a little first. To take a gap year would be really helpful for me, so it’s been interesting to learn more about it.

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I just really don’t know what I want to do in college, and then I found out about Winterline, and I’ve always wanted to travel so it was kind of perfect. It just clicked for me and I realized that it’s something more beneficial than anything else I could be doing. I really liked the concept of doing all these things I’ve never done before with people I’ve just met, and figuring out what I like. Also, I live in a small town in Massachusetts, so I have got to get out there.

savannah p taking a gap year abroad

What country on our itinerary are you most excited to visit?

I think I’m most excited about Thailand, to be honest. Though I’ve always wanted to visit places in Europe, and that’s wicked exciting, Thailand is an awesome destination that I’ve heard so many great things about. There’s a lot of tourism there, a lot of people — and the food!

What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?

I think the hiking is going to be a wicked cool challenge for me, though I don’t have pervious hiking experience. I really like being outdoors, but I’ve never truly immersed myself in nature, and the challenges it can bring to someone like me. I do a lot of indoor sports, like swimming and rock climbing. I feel like sport is a lot more exhilarating when you’re outside.

My number one concern about the hiking is the fact that we’ll be without power, and my knees are computerized. I charge them every night and the charge will last about a day and a half. It’s a little concerning, but I know people. We’re discussing solar-powered options, or even new attachments specifically for the hiking aspect of the trip.

Overall, the hiking trip is the most captivating to me because it’s in the beginning of it all. It’ll be the first time I get to meet all of these new people, and I just think it’s going to really kick off this journey right.

savannah gloucester taking a gap year

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

I really like the Spanish language. I’ve been taking it for 2 years now, but I’m not fluent. I would like study more Spanish in college; that’s a big interest of mine. Maybe one day I can teach English in Spain, like my current Spanish teacher did for eleven years.

I’d also love to study music. I sing, and I also bought a ukulele that I haven’t learned how to play yet. I really like singing songs from musicals, like Rent. I’m a fan of R&B, older music, and some alternative stuff from today. I love to sing in Spanish, as well. Learning songs from Spanish-speaking artists has been beneficial to my pronunciation and coherence.

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

I’ve traveled inside the country, a bit. When I was nine years old, I went to Disneyworld in Florida with my family. That was awesome, but I didn’t go on any rides. I was too dramatically scared to back then. Though, my favourite park was Jurassic Park.

I’m from Massachusetts, so driving to Maine and New Hampshire is a breeze. With my school, I’ve visited Culinary Institutes in both Vermont and New York.

I did, also, learn to ski in Colorado, which was probably my favorite trip. I mountain skied for two years in a row. I haven’t been in a while, but it’s something I’m sure to pick up again when I come back.

What do you expect to gain from taking a gap year and while traveling abroad?

I expect to be scared, seeing as I don’t have much travel experience. But I also expect to be grateful for the chances I’ll get to be a better version of myself. I guess I just want to gain more worldly knowledge, and to also to be enlightened as to what I’m capable of. I generally like to seek new challenges and be self aware, but I need some more experience.

savannah taking a gap year abroad

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

I want them to know that I’m an open book.

Tell us something fun about you!

I can beatbox a little! Just little things, not too complex. I beatbox with my brother. We have a very compatible sense of humor and we do a lot of riffing off of whatever song is in our heads.

I am looking for that compatible sense of humor in a Winterline friend! I’m excited about making new friends, and singing and beatboxing with them, if they so wish to as well.

And finally, Coke or Pepsi?

Neither! I don’t really like Coke or Pepsi! I’m a Ginger Ale type of person. Schweppes Ginger Ale. It’s gotta be Schweppes.

Ready to begin your adventure?


Packing List for a Gap Year Abroad

When my daughter left for Paris her sophomore year of college she had no idea what to expect, so she planned for every reasonable scenario, and created a packing least for her year abroad. Her bags were loaded with clothes, dozens of shoes, and other items that she would never use, but would surely take up much-needed space in her tiny apartment.

She spent six months abroad (with a home base in France) and traveled to every nook and cranny of Europe. By the time she returned home, she had definitely learned how to pack efficiently, and more specifically, how to pack practically.

1. Be wise about the basics

Don’t take large quantities of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can easily purchase what you need. Until then, pack travel-sized items, especially in your carry-on, in case your luggage gets lost along the way. It happens, many times.

2. Lay out all your clothing and items before you pack

This works great when you are trying to pack minimally. Determine how many outfits you will need and mix and match tops and bottoms. Do the same with shoes, sweaters, and jackets. Once you have all your clothing laid out, it will be easier to pack effectively.

3. Be logical about clothing

Don’t fill your suitcase with season-specific clothing. Pack clothing that can be layered: tanks under long sleeve shirts, sweaters on top of t-shirts, and a few seasonal items like swimsuits and one good jacket or “hoodie”. Weather typically varies from country to country and you want to be fully prepared for every climate change.

4. Pack comfortable shoes

It goes without saying that you will be doing a good deal of walking—that’s what travelers do. Again, my daughter learned the hard way. It’s simply not wise to fill your suitcase with high heels when you need a good pair of walking shoes that will last.

5. Pack your carry-on for emergencies

Have an extra set of clothes, along with whatever you wear to bed in your carry-on. Airlines are notorious for losing luggage, especially on International trips. Take the Boy Scout motto to heart—be prepared.

6. Make your carry-on a backpack

Backpacks are vital and indispensible when traveling abroad. A good backpack can hold more than you think and it’s so much easier to maneuver around than a carry-on that’s a suitcase. And don’t skimp on the cost! This backpack needs to last your entire trip. Sturdy stitching, front and side pouches, padded shoulder straps, and a low-profile color are all virtues. Many travelers agree that a body-hugging, internal frame backpack is worth the extra money and increases durability.

7. Protect important documents

Keep essential travel documents with you at all times. These include your passport, your plane ticket, your credit card and debit card, cash, and any other pertinent information you might need upon arrival. There are also numerous, well-respected travel wallets on the market for purchase. Most importantly, don’t ever let your purse or wallet out of sight when traveling abroad. Keep them zipped up in a pocket and attached to you at all times. Being stranded in a foreign country without identification or money is not anyone’s idea of a positive gap year experience. Another quick tip: if you’re traveling with a passport, it’s never a bad idea to email yourself a photocopy of the front photo and its signature pages in case you need to get it replaced.

8. Learn how to pack

Don’t just throw your clothes in your suitcase. There are videos that will teach you how to pack properly. This is a how to step-by-step blog post with visuals: How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Boss. And here’s a video I like from YouTube on How to NOT Overpack Your Suitcase.

9. Don’t overpack reminders of home

Of course you’ll want to travel with a few reminders and mementos from home, especially on an extended gap year trip. A few pictures, a favorite blanket, or some of your favorite movies are fine. But cramming your suitcase with all your favorites is not advisable. Suitcase real estate is a necessity. Save that room for essentials like clothing and comfortable shoes.

10. Save room for souvenirs

Keep in mind that you are going to want to collect keepsakes along the way to bring home from each of your travel destinations. Always, save a little extra space for these items in your suitcase.

If you need a list of essential items to pack when traveling abroad? Read this: Pack Light and Travel Happy. It’s also worth noting that most structured gap year programs provide a “must-follow” checklist of what to bring specific to their program.

How to pay for a gap year: scholarships, FundMyTravel, and more!

Gap years have incredible benefits for students, and you probably should do a gap year. It’s not just Malia Obama taking one. Gap years have been increasing in popularity in the United States for years.

But you still have to think about how to afford a gap year. If you want to travel the world and do amazing things, you’ll probably need some money for it. And even if you go with a gap year program, often you’ll have to save a little more for hidden costs. (By the way, Winterline’s programs contain no hidden costs, and pricing for all programs is all inclusive.)

Here’s some advice for how to pay for a gap year.

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?


1. Scholarships

There are a number of gap year organizations that offer scholarships listed on the Gap Year Assocation website, including our own! Gap year scholarships are great way to pay for a gap year because they’re basically free money — all you have to do is apply and the institution or its partners will offer the scholarship depending on the strength of your application. The cons are that there’s no guarantee you’ll earn the scholarship when you apply, and the time you’ll have to wait to find out depends on the organization.

Scholarships can be earned for anything from merit to need to work-study. Winterline offers early application discounts, merit-based gap year scholarships, as well as work-study scholarships for photography, journalism, or videography. The scholarship application includes a portfolio of student work, with details given at the end of the main application.

We offered $225,000 in scholarships this year.

2. Crowdfunding

Also known as asking everyone for money at the same time, crowdfunding your gap year can be an effective way of making up the difference between what you have and what you need in order to afford the gap year of your dreams. It’s a great way to pool money from family, friends, guidance counselors, anyone who believes in what you’re doing and what you hope to learn or accomplish during your gap year.

fundmytravel logo gap year scholarshipsFundMyTravel has an easy platform for raising funds for your gap year. The site is designed specifically for travelers, so you won’t have to worry about competing with robots or artwork or the next wearable gadget. You can upload your story via videos and photos, and make a case for why someone should fund your adventure. Their payment processor makes sharing finances easy and their social media and email integrations are a no-brainer and a great way to get your tribe on board. Get everyone as excited as you are!

kickstarter-logo-gap year scholarshipsKickstarter is a great resource if you have a threshold amount that you need to get to in order to set sail. If you don’t hit that amount the money is returned to the funders. This is great if say, you want to do a gap year program but won’t be able to if your crowdfunding turns up short. Kickstarter’s edge is that people will usually fund more if they know it’s a go or no-go kind of opportunity. They’ll get their money back if you don’t do it.

indiegogo logo gap year scholarshipsIndiegogo is perfect if you’ve already committed to doing your gap year and you just need more cushion to get it done right. Funds raised on Indiegogo will automatically be transferred to your account at the end of your campaign even if you don’t hit your goal! You’ll get whatever money goes into your campaign, so don’t use this platform if you’re still on the fence about doing a gap year, or you might have to go and return everyone’s money. As with Kickstarter and FundMyTravel, you’ll want to build a strong case for why someone should support you in doing your gap year. What will you learn, what will you be able to contribute, and why should you do it now?

3. Mom & Dad

Let’s face it, the best support almost always comes from family. Whether they can support you financially or help you build a case for a gap year scholarship or a crowdfunding campaign, the best gap year ever might start with help from mom and dad.

If you’re asking your family for financial support for a gap year, remember to bring them into the fold of why this is important to you, and why you think this will help prepare you for college and life! Your parents and grandparents want to know that you’re being supported toward your life goals, or at least on your way toward figuring out what those are! Travel can be the basis for a strong case; so can learning new skills and learning about yourself!

Speak to what they value most and want most for you. Be prepared for that conversation with evidence on the value and benefits of a gap year. Sometimes all it takes is reminding them that you do in fact want to finish college, you just need a break!

4. Save Up

There’s no substitute for earning money yourself and saving it up for your gap year to show that you really care. Working after school and on weekends can be a very effective way to save up toward a gap year, as well as to demonstrate to others that this is something really important to you.

Combining work experience and money saved with crowdfunding or asking your parents can be a very effective way to raise money for a gap year.

5. 529 Funds

Some families may have started saving up for college long in advance with 529 funds. In some cases, families choose to use these tax-advantaged education investment funds toward a gap year program, but it’s important to read the fine print. Some gap year organizations may support it, but it may require credit which can conflict with the deferral policy of your school.

6. Stipends

Some gap year programs offer living stipends along with enrollment into the program. These are often service-based programs (which we find problematic). As mentioned earlier, make sure you understand the full range of costs associated with your gap year. If you’re planning your own, check everything. If you’re going with a gap year program, know what costs are covered by the program, and what you’ll need to dig up once you’ve submitted your tuition.

7. Matching

If you’ve been able to gain traction on any of these funding sources, consider setting up a matching fund. Often, funders will want to know that you’ll actually follow through and not give up half-way through funding.

Getting a commitment to match funds with another source can be a powerful way of demonstrating how badly you want to do this. For example, you can ask grandparents to put in a dollar for every dollar you save toward your gap year from working. Or you can ask your parents to match whatever you’ve raised via crowdfunding! You’ll be able to work twice as fast toward your savings goal! Then, you just need to make sure that everyone knows about the matching commitment.

Any combination of these matching commitments creates a strong statement that you’re going to figure out how to do this no matter what. That kind of attitude goes a long way toward getting the right combination of gap year scholarships, crowdfunding, and friends and family support.

Good luck! And have a happy gap year!

Ready to take a gap year with us?


Winterline Gap Year Program: Photo Contest II

In this most recent gap year program photo contest, students competed for prizes in five different categories.

A number of the students are photographers on our Media Team, a group of students composed of recipients of our work-study gap year scholarships. To account for any bias, all photographs were stripped of their photographers’ names.

The five categories were People, Places, Culture, Skills, and of course, Winterline. Here are the winners!

Interested in taking a gap year with us?


People: Runner Up

  1. Captures kinetic energy, frozen in time
  2. Honesty of emotion
  3. Close up
  4. Shallow depth of field, bokeh, brings intimacy with subject

gap year photo contest runner up

People: Winner

  1. Powerful symmetry broken by the human form
  2. Formal narrative is asymmetric with half-nudity
  3. The expression captures curiosity, joy, even mischief

gap year photo contest winner people

Places: Runner Up

  1. Quality use of depth of field
  2. Subjects are perfectly crisp at the edge of an unknown height
  3. Captures a candid repose into human history, mixed with the challenge toward digital modernity

Places runner up gap year scholarships

Places: Winner

  1. Powerful sense of place
  2. Intimacy with an unknown owner, their belongings and their colorful attention to detail
  3. Architecture merges the old with the new, disarray with uniformity, roughness and tenderness

Culture: Runner Up

  1. Unique, close crop framing
  2. Colors of subject and sky contrast to reveal relationship between subject and others
  3. Decorations brought out in bite size via proximity to subject

photo contest gap year scholarship

Culture: Winner

  1. Abundant detail and humanity shines through in this image
  2. Universality and homogeny meet in the faces of the subjects
  3. Use of bokeh and focus pulls back the curtain between observer and observed
  4. Striking minimalism in the framing of the subjects

gap year photo contest scholarship

Skills: Runner Up

  1. Care and attention to detail from the subject brings out tenderness in this moment captured
  2. Eye-level humility meets the narrative of the subject’s focus
  3. Soft lighting from natural source adds to the emotional experience

gap year scholarship photo contest
Skills: Winner

  1. Close crop creates tension between subjects and what lies outside the frame
  2. Emotional tension & curiosity captured perfectly in the seen subjects’ eyes and the presence of an unseen subject.
  3. Lettering on main subject’s T-Shirt brings out further, unscripted meaning

gap year study abroad scholarship

Winterline: Runner Up

  1. The unknown background contrasts with the familiarity of the foreground, creating tension between the direction of the subject and the weighted centrality of the written logo
  2. Adventure and exploration captured perfectly with matched anonymity

gap year photo contest scholarship runner up

Winterline: Winner

  1. Dominant narrative of friendship and togetherness
  2. Adventure and respite brought to mind by the outfits and heavy lean of the subjects
  3. Symmetric framing and individuality despite matching outfits

gap year scholarship photo contest 2

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?


How to Travel Alone On A Gap Year

You start finding opportunities everywhere and in everything. You open up to things. You program yourself to find awesome experiences. You seek for more. You need more in order to feel fulfilled.

Throughout this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe that’s one of the reasons why we love to travel so much. Because you push yourself, you surpass your limits and you don’t judge yourself. Instead, you just laugh and move on. You live everyday to the fullest waiting for something crazy to happen, it’s almost as if you went for it.

Ready to learn 100 skills and visit 10 different countries?


I could relate that to how you should change the way you live day-to-day and make life an experience that you want to share and remember. But, that’s extremely cheesy, so instead I’m just gonna write about my process of deciding what I wanted to do for my Winterline Independent Study Project (ISP).

The way Winterline does it, they give you the budget and you can do whatever you want.


Go learn Flamenco in Sevilla, work at a cockroach farm in Greece, hike El Camino de Santiago, or go to Switzerland and learn the art of chocolate-making. There are almost no limits. You just have to go get the experience, because in the end, that’s what it is. It’s the perfect opportunity to do something completely new, that you might end up loving, or practice something you already love.

Daniela Gap Year Programs

So, when I was thinking about what I wanted to do during this week, many ideas came to my mind. (Learning Flamenco was actually one of them, believe it or not). I could go work with refugees in Hamburg, do an internship in an environmental organization (maybe?), start learning a new language or practice German while doing engaging and fun activities. All of them seemed nice and enjoyable, but none of them really, truly, excited me. I wasn’t thrilled by any of them.

I started making up “excuses.” (I can work with people in my country. I already dance a lot and no one would dance Flamenco with me anyways. I want to be outdoors not at an office!).

And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I had an idea. Biking. In high school, a friend and I tried to promote their use, we created a logo and did research on it, and I love bikes — yes!

They’re a beautiful human-propelled machine. But, I’d never done a biking trip before. The closest experience to a “bike trip” I’ve had was this one time when I was in France with my homestay mom.

It was Sunday. Sunday morning. I was having breakfast at around eight, still trying to wake up, my eyes half open, my brain trying to understand why I was awake.

She invited me biking and I said yes. I almost died. She was going so fast, her legs were so strong and she still managed to have this BIG smile on her face. I was in the back, far away, almost crying and cursing, thinking that I could be in my bed reading and drinking tea or sleeping. She kept on motivating me and pushing me to finish and make it to the house. We finally arrived. I was sweating, my legs were hurting and my butt… I couldn’t feel it.

And yet, somehow, I felt good. I felt accomplished and happy. I even said I was glad I went instead of being in my bed “doing nothing”. We did twenty kilometers and I had survived. This was four years ago, and I can still remember that one time I went biking in France.

So, somehow, this idea of biking for my ISP made me feel happy and motivated. There were endless possibilities! I could go to a big city and study urban biking and how it looks to have biking as one of the main ways of transportation. I could compare a bike friendly city to Bogotá. Or even better — I could go from one place to another on a bike.

That last idea got stuck in my head. I wanted to bike. I wanted to travel even more. And, I wanted to do something crazy and difficult. I had made my decision.

Now of course, I had to choose a location. I had all of Europe to choose from. Copenhagen? Amsterdam? Spain? Portugal? France?

Winterline Gap Year Programs

I finally decided to go to Italy. I was really open to any location, but one thing I was sure of. I didn’t want to go on a tour. Tours are boring, and I’d have to follow people and maybe even a guide that will talk and talk… Maybe even keep on talking…

I wanted to be by myself, alone. I wanted Freedom.

I did extensive and exquisite research until I found this thing called “a self-guided tour”. The bike company stated: “we will provide you with accommodations, breakfast included and a perfectly detailed route, many maps, a bike AND luggage transfer” (What type of magical sorcery is this? Could it get any better?).

It sounded perfect, except that I have to confess I’m terrible when it comes to reading maps. Pieces of paper full of lines and names and sometimes even numbers. I’ve been lucky to have always been surrounded by friends that know exactly where they are by literally looking at the sun and the tree next to them.

But, as long as I could be alone on my tour I didn’t really care. I was willing to pay the price of getting lost once in awhile, asking for directions with my poorly poor Italian and even probably riding the bike with the Google maps lady loudly embarrassing me by saying: “Wrong way. Turn left and go the complete opposite direction you useless human being”.

Bike companies offered many tour options, so I ranked them and analyzed the situation for a couple of months, until I decided to go with the one that offered a “free pistachio gelato” (that was the main reason why I chose it, of course).

I emailed them and told them what I wanted — my budget, my dates, and they made it happen. We did the business and I was ready for my ISP. They gave me my hotel list (I thought I was going to sleep at hostels or a “biker’s bed and breakfast” full of smelly shoes in the entrance and a bathroom or two for everyone; instead, I was offered four star hotels everywhere I went. Single room, king size bed).

Now we’re in Frankfurt and I leave to Italy tonight, at midnight. I have a six-hour train to München and then another five-hour train to Bolzano. This is where my tour starts.

I’m clearly nervous. But the idea of traveling alone and being by myself makes me extremely happy. I feel confident transporting myself from one place to another and blending in multitudes (unless I was in India, that’s another story), but biking with paper maps and no one around me? That’s new.

I kept doubting and asking myself questions like, “Daniela, will this be too hard for you? Maybe you should’ve chosen something less complicated. Are you really prepared?”

But then I got tired and realized it was too late to ask myself those types of questions. I was wasting my time. There was nothing I could do at this point. I decided to change the questions for statements instead and make myself believe that I was ready for it. (I had to be ready).

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?


Help us Win the GoAbroad Innovation Awards!

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards are the premier source of recognition for innovation in the study abroad and gap year space. Molly’s video series culminated this month in two hyper-condensed visual narratives on the lasting value of a gap year, and more precisely, the value of the relationships acquired while taking a gap year.


Her 9-months in five minutes video, “Around the World,” was selected as an Innovation Awards Video Finalist for illuminating the courageous fine line between learning and fear, comfort and growth. Molly’s entire video series on her time spent in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Europe, as well as her 5-part vlog series on independent travel in Croatia, highlights the powerful dynamism of a gap year abroad, as well as the nuance of personal growth in this unique moment in life.

According to the GoAbroad contest moderators, the winner of the award will be determined by popular vote, so please share widely! It is a one person one vote system, so remember to fill out the form. The winners will be announced at the GoAbroad Reception during the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, on Thursday, June 1, at 5:30PM.

Please take a second to upvote Molly’s video series by visiting the voting page here and filling out the form!

Interested in taking a gap year with us?


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

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

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

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

Wondering what it takes to go on a gap year?


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

Sydney Gap Year Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney gap year program scuba diving

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

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

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

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

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

robotics_competition_group_photo copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

sydney and friends painting house on gap year

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

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

sydney gap year sugar cane

Which skills are you using the most?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


20 Colleges That Encourage A Gap Year

The benefits of doing so have been highlighted by numerous studies as well.

“For a gap year to have a significant impact on success in college, and later in the working world, it needs to be a transformative event, quite distinct from anything a student has experienced before. It should be designed to help students acquire the skills and attributes that colleges and employers are looking for… maturity, confidence, problem-solving, communication skills and independence.” Jeff Selingo, author of There Is Life After College.

Many universities and colleges support gap years and semesters with varying deferral policies, often allowing a student to keep their accepted status and return a year, or sometimes two years, later. This list of twenty US colleges and universities highlights some of the many ways in which universities support deferrals for college gap years.

If you are interested in doing a college gap year, we advise you to speak to an admissions officer at the school you’re applying or have been accepted to.

Interested in learning more about our skills-based gap year programs?


1. Harvard


“Harvard College encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way—provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college. Deferrals for two-year obligatory military service are also granted. Each year, between 80 and 110 students defer their matriculation to the College.”

2. Yale


“Request for deferral must be submitted in writing to the respective associate dean who will communicate with the Graduate School’s department or program. An admissions deferral may be requested for either one term or one academic year.”

3. University of Richmond


“Students must send their postponement requests in writing to Gil J. Villanueva, dean of admission. Gil, in conjunction with the Admission Committee, will review the requests on a case by case basis. If approved, students have exactly one year to postpone their enrollments, provided of course that they do not enroll in post-secondary coursework elsewhere. Normally, the non-refundable enrollment deposit is $600. Postponed students must pay an additional non-refundable deposit of $1,900 (total of $2,500) to secure their space in the following year’s class. If students were awarded merit-based scholarships, current policy states those monies would carry forward to the following year upon enrollment. However, postponed students would have to reapply for need-based financial since aid analysis is contingent upon an updated aid application.”

4. Washington and Lee


“Students should write to the Admissions Committee to request a deferral after paying the required reservation deposit to secure a place in the first-year class. Requests should include detailed information about how the year will be spent. All requests are reviewed individually on their merits, though typically, deferrals will not be granted to students who propose a year of full-time college or post-graduate secondary school study.” Need-based awards must be re-applied for. Merit-based do not require reapplication.

5. New York University, New York. ” If you’ve been offered admission as a freshman to NYU, you may request to defer your enrollment for up to one year. If your request is approved and you meet the requirements listed below, you do not have to file a new application and are guaranteed readmission for the next fall semester.”

6. Middlebury College


“Middlebury has long been at the forefront in endorsing the concept of taking time off between high school and college through our February admissions program. The students who enroll here in February typically bring more to their college experience and, as a result, derive more from it. They also hold a disproportionately high number of leadership positions on campus and, on average, perform better academically. Every year some students who are admitted for September choose to defer their enrollment for an entire year and step off the academic treadmill. Many benefit greatly from the opportunity to travel, work, or pursue other interests, and all of those options can help contribute to an even more enriching college experience, much as happens for our ‘Febs.’ Students admitted for the September class (we also have a class that enters in February, and they have a built in gap-semester) need to deposit at Middlebury, and then need to submit a proposal to our office requesting a gap year. The gap year plans should be communicated in writing to our office by no later than June 1st. Students can submit gap year proposals to deanofadmissions@middlebury.edu. We do not have scholarships. All financial aid is need-based. Students will most likely need to reapply for financial aid at Middlebury, but unless there are significant changes to the financial circumstances, most often the aid award will be similar to the original aid award.”

7. Texas Christian University


“For deferrals, all that needs to be done is to submit a request in writing, then to pay the $500 Tuition Deposit. No need to re-apply for scholarships. All students everywhere in the US, though, would have to re-apply for financial aid. That’s done on an annual basis everywhere. We are VERY supportive of gap years.”

8. University of Pennsylvania


“You can apply to Penn after a gap year. You would apply as a freshman with all the same requirements, including test results, transcripts, etc. In addition, you would need to submit a supplemental essay to your application explaining why you needed to take a gap year and what you did during that year.”

9. Carnegie Mellon


“Students must first and foremost submit a deposit after being admitted and send us a letter requesting to defer for a year. Students will have to reapply for financial aid. We do not offer merit-based scholarships. Students who are deferring for a year are not allowed to enroll in a degree-granting program at another institution.”

10. Florida State University


“FSU is proud to be one of the few universities in the country (and the second public university) to offer financial assistance to students taking a gap year. Students applying for a gap year deferment will automatically be considered for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to support their gap year. FSU is committed to helping make the transformative opportunities afforded by a gap year accessible to students regardless of their family’s income. … Students admitted for Fall semester who are approved to take a gap year would defer until the following Fall; Summer semester admits would defer until the following Summer semester. High school seniors offered admission to start at FSU in the Spring semester are not eligible for a gap year deferment. Students undertaking a gap year will be invited to participate in structured group activities and reflection upon returning. Once matriculated at FSU, gap year students will be encouraged to build on their gap year experience and connect with the vast curricular and co-curricular programs of FSU, with assistance from offices such as the FSU Center for Leadership and Social Change and the Center for Undergraduate Research & Academic Engagement. Other requirements for students granted a deferment of matriculation can be found online.”

11. Lewis and Clark College


“Students offered admission off of the waitlist are not allowed to defer their enrollment. The deferral option is not intended to allow students to begin or continue their college career elsewhere. A student may not attend another institution on a full-time basis during the time of deferral. Full-time status is considered to be enrollment in 12 or more credits per term. It is assumed that any academic work pursued during the time of deferral will be at a level consistent with or above the student’s record with which she/he gained acceptance to Lewis & Clark College. The College reserves the right to reverse a prior admissions decision based on poor results of academic work completed during the time of deferral. Any student deferring enrollment to the fall semester of the next academic year, who has applied for need-based financial aid, will need to file the necessary forms for the new academic year sometime after January 1 and before our priority filing deadline of February 15. Any student deferring enrollment to the next academic year remains eligible for merit-based scholarships, assuming satisfactory performance in any subsequent academic work. Neely Scholarship recipients must compete with candidates for the new academic year and are guaranteed at least a Trustee Scholarship. Music and Forensics scholarships cannot be deferred; recipients of those talent-based awards must compete with candidates for the new academic year, as well.”

12. Vassar College


“Vassar College welcomes students who wish to do a gap year between high school and college. Here is the wording from our FAQ for prospective students on this topic: Admitted freshman students may, with the permission of the Office of Admission, defer entry to Vassar for one year. Students must first confirm their intent to enroll at Vassar by submitting the Candidate’s Reply Form and the required enrollment deposit by May 1. A written request outlining specific plans for the gap year should also be submitted, preferably along with the enrollment deposit, but by no later than June 1. If deferral status is approved, a formal letter stating the conditions under which the deferral has been granted will be sent to the student. However, students who may be offered admission to Vassar from the waiting list after May 1 are not eligible to request a deferral of admission. In virtually every case, the gap year is approved and the students are told that (1) they may not enroll at another institution as a full-time student during the year, and (2) they must write to us by the end of February of the gap year to re-confirm their intention to enroll the following fall. About 10-12 students defer their admission and do a gap year each year.”

13. Colgate University


“While most students apply for admission with the intention of entering college the fall after graduation, some accepted students may wish to postpone entrance to Colgate for a year. Accepted students who do not matriculate at another institution may request to postpone their enrollment for one year. Students must pay a non-refundable $500 deposit and submit a signed enrollment certificate by May 1. A request to postpone enrollment should be made in writing to the Office of Admission by June 1 of the year admission was offered. Upon approval to postpone enrollment, an additional $500 deposit and a signed deferred enrollment contract are required within ten days to hold the student’s place in the class. Students applying for financial assistance must file the Financial Aid PROFILE with the College Scholarship Service (CSS) and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with the federal processor by Feb. 1 of the year of intended fall enrollment. Candidates may expect notification of financial aid awards by early April of the spring before entrance.”

14. Columbia University


“Yes. A candidate who has been offered first-year admission may ask to defer enrollment for a year to work, travel, complete mandatory military service or pursue a special opportunity. A student may not defer admission in order to enroll full-time at another college or university. A second year of deferral may be granted upon request. Students must request a deferral in writing by May 15 after submitting their first-year response form and deposit. Transfer students are not permitted to defer their admission.”

15. Wesleyan University


“Deferred enrollment requests must be submitted in writing (letter or email) and approved by June 1st. Upon approval, Wesleyan will grant deferred admission for one year. Typically, 20 to 25 students are granted deferred matriculation in each class. In order to obtain approval, applicants must submit a plan for their gap year. Students granted a deferral cannot make any further admission applications to other institutions or enroll full time in any other institution of higher education. Interested students must also submit their admission deposit by May 1st. Once the student’s request for deferment is received and, if approved, a formal letter acknowledging their deferred status will be sent. An essay, briefly describing deferral activities and reaffirming intention to enroll at Wesleyan is required by March 1st of the deferral year.”

16. Harvey Mudd College


“After admission, the student can fill out the commitment form to indicate plans to enroll in the immediate next term (fall) or to take a gap year. There are also students who indicate they will enter in the fall when they make the commitment to attend in May, but later in the summer determine that a gap year is in the plans. This is also acceptable. Typically the student must meet certain enrollment obligations, must pay the commitment deposit, and must write a short explanation of what is planned for the gap year. Students must reapply for any need-based aid awards, but any merit awards can be deferred for the year.”

17. Colorado College


“Each year, approximately 30 admitted students elect to delay the start of their Colorado College education by designing and pursuing a year-long adventure of their own making. An additional 40 students admitted to our Winter Start program will embark on a personalized semester-long gap experience in the fall before reuniting with their classmates in January to enroll in their first block. If you’re considering a year-long or semester-long gap experience, whether your gap plan is built on US soil or abroad, or both, we are likely to support your gap request because we believe that making a difference in the lives of others will make a difference in your own personal and intellectual growth.”

18. Illinois Institute of Technology


“Students have up to two semesters to defer an offer of admission. There are some specific requirements the student has to follow for the deferral. Here is the link to our forms page which includes deferment forms for the fall and spring semester: http://www.iit.edu/undergrad-admission/apply/forms.shtml. Students are asked not to attend other universities for academic program (language or cultural enrichment classes are not included), they are asked to submit an enrollment deposit, and an explanation of what they plan to do in their gap year. Scholarships offered to the student are not lost, however financial aid may be re-evaluated.”

19. University of Alabama


“As long as you do not receive any academic credit from another institution and meet the December 1 admission deadline for the year you are applying you will be considered. You must notify the Scholarships department in writing of your year off from school. As with any entering freshman, your GPA through your junior year in high school and your test scores from your senior year in high school will be considered. Don’t forget that the October ACT and November SAT during your senior year will be the last test scores considered for scholarships.”

20. Johns Hopkins University


“In some cases, students are permitted to defer their enrollment for up to two years to pursue a travel, work, or family experience that does not include study at another academic institution for credit. Deferrals are considered on an individual basis and must be requested in writing from the Director of Undergraduate Admissions. To request a deferral, you must submit your Reply Form, enrollment deposit, and a letter detailing your plans by the enrollment deposit deadline.”

Ready for your gap year?


Alex Messitidis: Traveler, Athlete, Gap Year Student

Get to know a our newest member of the Winterline family, Alex Messitidis!

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 was first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year from my friend Madison, who is currently on the 9-month program with Winterline. Last year she had talked to me about how excited she was about this experience and the exposure she was going to get, and I knew it was the path I wanted to be on as well.

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

I chose to take a gap year because I wanted a new opportunity, a different opportunity. Though the traditional four years of college sounded great, thinking about how I could be traveling and learning (my two favorite things) with other kids who share the same interests as I do, there was no better fit than this.

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Alex - gap year winterline

What country on our itinerary are you most excited to visit?

I believe I am most excited to visit Thailand. This is a place I have wanted to visit my whole life, and never thought I’d actually make it out there till now! Between the culture, food, environment, and history, it has always had my heart.

What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?

To choose just one would be impossible, the whole program amazes me. The amount of self-determination and soul-searching we do, I have no doubt in my mind that every experience will mold and shape us into better, more well-rounded human beings. The culture and diversity we are going to be immersed in is going to truly help us in our growth process.

gap year winterline

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

In the future, I hope to become an environmental lawyer. My family has always been very environmentally-focused, and from a young age I was taught about all the things going wrong in our world. Our earth is so under-appreciated and poorly taken care of, I’d like to be able to dedicate my life to bettering this place we call home.

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

My family has the travel-bug FEVER! We’ve been all around the USA, Europe, islands in between. We try our best to get as exposed as possible. My parents always told me that the more knowledge I had, the more power I held. So they always tried to bring my sister and I anywhere they could so we could expand our minds a bit. If I had to choose a favorite trip, it would have to be either Hawaii or Greece. The weather was gorgeous and people were unbelievably kind and welcoming, I couldn’t have asked for much more!

Alex - gap year programs winterline

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

During this gap year program, I hope to become more aware, more open-minded, and all-around a better human being. I think traveling to other countries is going to give us such different perspectives on living, culture, people, and it really is going to help us have a better understanding of what goes on all around us. Most people tend to only focus on themselves and their lives, but to understand people as a whole, and how different things could be halfway across the world — that is a beautiful thing. It will teach us appreciation for what we have, and the lives we live, and compassion for those who are not as fortunate.

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

One thing I want my future Winterline peers to know about me is that I will always look at the positive in every situation we are put in. The experiences we share are only as amazing as the attitude we have going into them, and I am a firm believer that positivity is always key.

alex - gap year abroad

Tell us something fun about you!

My parents migrated from Greece to Montreal when they were young, and then had me and my sister Kate. We came to the U.S when I was about four, and started our life in Chester, New Hampshire! My family is sprouted throughout Greece and a bit in Montreal, so I’m lucky enough to be able to travel a good amount and learn so many new things about my culture and family.

And finally, Coke or Pepsi?

Neither, I’m a water type of girl 🙂

Ready to get out of your comfort zone?

Why you should choose an Accredited Gap Year Program

And while serendipity is a blessing, getting home safe and sound, having grown and achieved more than you set out to is probably the reason you decided to take a gap year in the first place.

There are many organizations out there that offer gap year programming. But the truth is, many of them haven’t been vetted by an unbiased third party. The Gap Year Association has been recognized by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the standards-setting organization of the gap year industry. They set the standards for not only risk management and safety but also the quality of the experiential education programming, as well as a range of other variables, including how these organizations treat their field staff. It’s a holistic auditing of the entire organization.

“The highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, and the highest standards of safety.”

And this matters a lot. Think about it, in your lifetime, you’ll probably only have a few opportunities to take a gap year. Why waste it on an experience with a lower probability of success in any given area?

Currently, there are only a few organizations accredited by the GYA, with a growing number of accreditations in progress. That is, they have met “a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity. They have agreed to consistently abide by the standards of the Gap Year Association, which typically means that a student can count on an experience with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, and the highest standards of safety.”

I sat down with several members of the team at Winterline and NOLS to understand exactly what went into the GYA accreditation process. What makes it such a rigorous process? What is the value from an organizational perspective and from a student’s perspective?


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“At the highest level of the organization,” says Nathan Scott, President and Executive Director of Winterline, “the most valuable thing about going through the GYA process was the thorough vetting of our own processes.” The GYA wasn’t just concerned about any single area of expertise, preparation, and response. It was everything, “from how we post job notices, hire employees, treat parents and students, and communicate internally and across continents. This has been a comprehensive review.”

At NOLS, the decision to go for accreditation was worth special consideration. “It took us several months to decide if we wanted to go this route, so there was much vetting of Ethan and the GYA in the first place,” says Kary Sommers, Associate Director of Admission & Marketing at NOLS. “We ultimately decided that it was worth it and it was the route we wanted to take because we believe this ‘stamp of approval’ from the GYA will instill confidence in students and their families seeking adventure, education, and leadership in their gap year.”

For both NOLS and Winterline, the process took more than 9 months from initial conversation, through two waves of document submissions and rigorous analysis before full accreditation. There were 111 standards to be met. “Our job was to provide the GYA with evidence that we were meeting those standards,” said Sharon Seto, Curriculum Advisor at Winterline.

There are four types of feedback from the GYA on whether you’ve met the highest standards of the industry:

  1. Pass
  2. Pass with suggestions
  3. Pass with accolades
  4. Investigate

A “Pass” meant that you’d met the standards. “Pass with suggestions” meant it was up to you to follow through on improving that area. A “Pass with accolades” was the most highly coveted response, meaning that you’d gone above and beyond the standards of the industry. And “Investigate” meant you still had work to do to prove that you’re meeting the standards.

“Who keeps the med kits, who keeps the emergency cash, and how much, who has the emergency phone lines on which days?”

“The hardest part was that these standards might be slightly different for each program,” Sharon explained, having been through different kinds of accreditation four times before. “In our case, we go to so many countries on our gap year program, and are in so many different kinds of work and study environments, we had to meet individual standards with multiple responses.”

Each country needed its own attention, and every protocol needed to be written down. “Who keeps the med kits, who keeps the emergency cash, and how much, who has the emergency phone lines on which days?” she continued.


“What are our students themselves trained to do? You have to have all these medications on hand, but you have to make sure the students don’t have access to it. We had to write enrollment criteria, saying what you needed to be able to do in order to be eligible for our programs: scuba diving, mountain climbing, working with machines, driving, etc. It’s not as simple as say, ‘backpacking.’ It was complicated.”

The point is that an accredited gap year organization was tackling these questions very far in advance, so that students could, with confidence, focus on other elements of the experience. As Nathan put it, “Many of the things were details that hopefully our students and their families will never have to worry about. Things like, ‘What are our insurance limits should anything go very wrong?’ How much cash do we have on hand in these currencies when we’re in X country?”

“A good metaphor is choosing an airline to fly with.”

In Kary’s words, “I was most surprised and impressed by the in-depth nature of the standards, most of which NOLS was able to easily satisfy. However, there were some categories that we did not fit neatly into. The high-level standards, however, make the time and energy invested feel worth it as the first wilderness-focused accredited member of the GYA.”

When you’re planning your own gap year there are many, many things to think about. Gap year programs take some of this weight off the individual as well as offer additional expertise and security.

“A good metaphor is choosing an airline to fly with,” Nathan continued, “something everyone can understand. There’s a level of assurance that no matter what airline you fly with, they’re going to get you from Point A to Point B. And if that’s all you care about, then you can absolutely go with the cheapest, rock bottom provider. But there’s usually more factors than that. Comfort, safety, how the company treats their employees, and so on.”


He continued with the metaphor. “Fundamentally, what happens if my luggage gets lost? Am I with an organization that is able to track my luggage, get it back to me, and get me some restitution in the meantime? Are they insured should they lose my luggage? An accredited organization can give you satisfactory answers to all of these questions. But a non-accredited organization? Maybe they can get your luggage there — but if they don’t, you’re screwed.

“What it means is that we, an accredited organization, not only have a higher chance of a smooth flight, but the question is, what if X happens or Y happens?” An accredited organization has been vetted to have thought through even the most extreme possibilities, so that when something happens, the right people are there at the right time, with the right resources, and the right plan.

“Can you trust an organization that doesn’t go for accreditation?”

To Nathan, one of the most valuable parts of successfully becoming accredited meant joining a standards-based community, one that includes sharing information, holding each other accountable, and supporting each other. “As an accredited member of the GYA, we now have to submit all of our incident reports. This helps the entire industry a lot. For example, it’s good to know that pot pizza is now widely available in Cambodia,” despite being illegal and carrying potentially significant penalties. A gap year program can plan for that when it has the knowledge, and mitigate a wide variety of risks and unfavorable outcomes.

For Kary, the long-term benefit of becoming accredited was acknowledging the importance of an organization like the GYA, as well as “the recognition that NOLS provides high-quality gap and life experiences, and staying relevant in a changing world.”

To Kevin Brennan, Vice President of Finance & Planning, the big question was, can you trust an organization that doesn’t go for accreditation?


“What organizations that don’t seek this kind of approval end up being open to is the charge that they’re not open to the thoughts and ideas of others. An organization that wants to say it’s offering gap year programs but hasn’t sought the imprimatur of the GYA is open to the perception that they don’t want to be looked at too closely. If an organization doesn’t go after the GYA certification, that’s much more likely to put the thought in my head that they don’t want to be reviewed, that they don’t want a critical eye to be brought to their work. And that’s not the most positive stance.”

Kevin remembers a time in the early 1990s when he was a manager for a study abroad program in Kenya, at a time of great political upheaval. By reorganizing the sequence of the program design, he and his team were able to avoid the political violence in that part of the country at the times it was set to occur. Being able to build a plan around ground-level knowledge and expertise creates a bedrock of safety that an outsider can only scrape the surface of. That expertise is exactly what the Gap Year Association seal of approval represents.

As Kevin put it, “In a way, we knew how to ‘read the tea leaves’ because of our experience on the ground, and having done this for years — as staff persons, directors, and employees of organizations. Our experience is itself experiential education. It’s part of what allows me to say that after 25 years in this business, the GYA accreditation process is a good structure, and it’s going to keep growing into itself and improving over the years.”

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How to plan solo travel on your gap year

What do you want to do? For some, the answer is easy. There’s a country they’ve always wanted to go to, or some sight they’ve always wanted to see.

For others it’s about the activity: where can I best learn cooking, rock climbing, French as a foreign language, or photography.

Feel free to explore this interactive map of our students’ locations, partners, learning objectives, and photos!

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So, if you’re ready to start planning your own solo travel or independent travel project, here are four pieces of advice that we give to our students so they’re set up for success.

1. Make sure it’s awesome.

You only have so many opportunities in your life to plan something as free ranging as your time on a gap year, semester, or summer abroad. You’ll want to make sure that whatever you do, it’s better than most, if not all of the other things you could be doing. The economic concept of the opportunity cost is useful here. Do something awesome.

2. Think about what you want to learn.

Ask yourself, what are you interested in? What makes you weird? What is really cool that you’ve always thought about exploring? Or what is something you know almost nothing about?

Solo travel or independent study project should push you far enough out of your comfort zone that you’ll be sure to learn something new and crazy. It could be a life skill, a career skill, or maybe just something strange that you’re curious about.

3. Decide on a place

Once you have a sense of what you want to learn, think about the best places in the world to learn that. If it’s learning how to survive in the wild, you maybe wouldn’t want to go to Paris. If you want to learn urban photography, what about Dublin or Milan?

Choose a place that has either a top notch instruction partner, or a rich culture around that particular skill.

4. Make a plan

Our gap year students design their own independent travel and study projects months in advance. They design their own budgets, safety plans, learning objectives, and partners all on their own.

We’re always inspired by their creativity and personal ambition. But in fact, we hold them very closely accountable to a $1000 budget. They are expected to book their own flights, plan their own meals, find a partner or organization that will teach them what they want to learn and explore, and make all the arrangements necessary for a safe and happy return.

Further, they’re expected to give us a run-down on the safety precautions they’ve taken for making sure they’re safe; and also if the unexpected happens, they’ll be prepared and ready to respond.

Getting organized about your adventure is really important for making sure you have the best time ever. You don’t have to stick rigidly to a plan. In fact, serendipity can create some of the best learning experiences.

If you want to learn more about Winterline’s premium education travel programs, click this box.

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Gap year safety: How to travel in India

You get off the train in Mumbai, headed to Bollywood to learn filmmaking and maybe become a star, and you pull our your printed hotel receipt for $75 for the week at ‘Lucky Hotel.’ It has an address, but the tuktuk driver pulls away before you can even say the rest. The afternoon sun is beautiful and warms you from the cold train.

It’s going to be a great week. You’ll probably meet Salman Khan. On the train you overheard that the federal government just issued an order restricting paper bills, cash in roughly $7 and $15 US dollar equivalents. A kind old woman next to you advises you in perfect English to exchange all the bills you have in these amounts to the bank, they’ll give you your money back with the approved bills, “theek theek,” she says as she wags her head.

You check your pockets in the tuktuk as it veers around another glimmering corner of tight alleyways and a few holy cows. Petty cash. You should be fine, enough to pay the hotel. Worst case scenario, you have to use your credit card and make a call back home.

He comes to a stop in front of a stately hotel, helps you with your suitcase, and pulls away after a short bargain about the rate. By now you’re pretty good at guessing the right rate. You enter the building, see the giant chandelier by the concierge, and immediately realize it’s a mistake. You ask if this isn’t Lucky Hotel. The young concierge tells you there’s another Lucky Hotel in town, “Not far,” and in kindness calls another tuktuk for you.

By the time you arrive at the right Lucky Hotel, you’re short on the $75 you need to pay the hotel bill. They don’t accept credit. With the sun going down, finding another place is not an option, so you manage to convince them to let you stay there with only the first few days paid, and you’ll head to the ATM early in the morning, and have the rest of the day to explore those film sets you’d mapped out back in Paris.

You set your bags down beside the bunk bed and go to sleep. Turns out Lucky Hotel is a hostel.

The next morning you head out to look for an ATM and discover the streets are filled with people. The commotion happens to be the ATMs. People can’t get their money out. You wait in line for half a day, only to be told to go home around lunch time because the machine has reached its daily limit. With no other option, you do the same thing the next day, hoping for a different result, as your low funds are permitting you only to eat at either expensive restaurants that take credit, or at plastic table corner stores where the chefs don’t wash their hands.

While waiting for the ATM, you’re getting good at mastering the squat, but you keep your eyes out for Salman Khan. It might be a while before you actually get to start your film career.


  1. What happened here?
  2. In the comments section below, name 3 things you could have done differently to avoid this unfortunate outcome.
  3. How might you stay abreast of similar unexpected dilemmas as you move onto your next gap year destination?

100 Celebrities Who Took Time Off for a Gap Year or Study Abroad

At some point in your life, you’re probably going to want to wander, to see as much as can be seen, to learn as much as can be learned, to travel as far as can be traveled. And we highly recommend it!

The benefits of a gap year, of studying abroad, of and traveling include everything from newfound perspective, personal ambition, and even skills.

Take it from these famous individuals — getting out of your regular mold can be hugely influential on the many ways you define success in your life.

1. Steve Jobs

He famously started Apple, with all its iconic imagery and minimalist aesthetic. But what’s less well known is that he spent months living in India, meditating in the mountains and learning how to tap into what was important to him. He contracted lice, dysentery, and eventually scabies before running out of money and returning home to start a new project, the original Mac.

2. J.K. Rowling

jk rowling

J.K. Rowling spent three years teaching english as a foreign language in Portugal. During this time, Harry Potter went from being an idea on a piece of paper to the first three chapters of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone. Her time spent in a new country allowed her to craft her vision of the young wizarding world and a yearning for the British landscape.

3. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

Well before shooting The Hangover, Bradley Cooper spent 6 months in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, studying French. He is supposedly fluent. “When I was a kid, I remember watching Chariots of Fire. And French is the official language of the Olympics. So there’s a scene where a guy was speaking French and I thought, ‘Man, that sounds so cool. I want to learn French.'”

4. Emma Watson

Emma Watson

A gap year doesn’t always have to be a break from the intellect. In fact, Emma Watson decided to take a break from her acting career to study feminism and gender studies, committing herself to reading a new book every week as personal study.

5. Vera Wang

Vera Wang

Vera Wang, the iconic designer, spent a semester studying abroad in France at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. According to her biographer, Katherine Krohn, it was in Paris that “the architecture, fashion, and design of Paris inspired her, and reawakened her lifelong love of art”.

6. Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

This A-lister spent a gap year in Warnervale, New South Wales, Australia, where he apparently never picked up the accent. “I always had a wanderlust for travelling and I wanted to take a year off to go take an adventure, and it was.”

7. Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor famously studied abroad at Cambridge University, eventually getting a doctoral degree in English literature.

8. Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Angela Davis came up in the 1960s as a powerful political activist and academic scholar. Before that, she spent her junior year of college studying abroad at the Sorbonne in France and went on to do graduate study in Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany.

9. Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a well known entrepreneur who co-founded Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX. He was born and raised in South Africa but studied at Queen’s University in Canada, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.

10. Nigella Lawson

Now a famous British Chef, Nigella Lawson took a gap year to study Italian cooking, working as a maid to pay the bills. She found inspiration for her first cookbook there. “You forget how brave you are when you are young. My school friend and I went everywhere asking for work, and we ended up [as chambermaids] in this little place on a road that leads from the Duomo to the Piazza della Signoria. We shared the job and a room that was so small you had to climb over the bed to get to the loo.”

11. Prince Harry

When he was 19, he traveled to Australia to learn how to be a cattle-hand, and Lesotho where he helped build local infrastructure including a health clinic and a road bridge. He has since spent time studying in Nepal as well.

12. Hugh Jackman

Before X-Men’s Wolverine took to the big screen, he spent a gap year working as a teaching assistant at Uppingham School in the United Kingdom.

13. Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert

Her famous book, Eat, Pray, Love came from a long personal adventure through Italy, Indonesia, and India. It has sold over 10 million copies.

14. Kobe Bryant

Before becoming an 18-time NBA All Star, he lived 6 years of his life in Italy. He speaks both Spanish and Italian fluently.

15. Prince William

The Duke of Cambridge took a gap year in Belize, training with the Welsh Guards, teaching English in Chile, traveling in Africa, and working on a dairy farm in the United Kingdom.

16. Malia Obama

Malia Obama

Malia Obama took a gap year after graduating from her high school and her White House life before attending Harvard. In the fall, Malia traveled to Bolivia and Peru for extensive homestays and spanish language immersion. Multiple news sources say that she spent rest of her gap year interning with Harry Weinstein of Weinstein Company. Malia has shown her interest in film before while interning on the set of HBO’s Girls and TNT’s Extant starring Halle Berry. Although Malia has already been admitted to Harvard University, the year off will likely give her a myriad of experiences that will make her transition into college life easier and more fulfilling.

17. Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky

Katie deferred enrollment to Stanford University to go full time on swimming for the 2016 Olympics Games. She has broken thirteen records over her career and currently holds the world records for the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She was the most decorated female athlete in the Rio Olympics.

18. Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch

When he was 19, he traveled throughout the Himalayas, living with a Nepali family outside Darjeeling, and teaching English to Tibetan monks and nuns. “They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous people. Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no other previous teachers seem to have done. With 12 monks in a room with an age-range of about 8 to 40, that’s quite important – and the reward-punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could possibly ever teach them. They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humor you need to live a full spiritual life.”

19. Mike Myers

Mike Myers

After finishing high school and despite landing a gig at Second City, the prestigious Chicago-based comedy hall, Mike Myers flew to England for a gap year, where he became a founding member of the London Comedy Tour Players, starred in a British children’s TV program, and traveled all around the British Isles.

20. Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

A Burmese native, Aung San Suu Kyi studied in New Delhi, India, at the prestigious, Lady Shri Ram College. She then continued onto the United Kingdom, completing her undergraduate degree at Oxford in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

21. Pres. Barack Obama

Barack Obama

As a child, the former POTUS lived for 3 years in Jakarta, Indonesia. During college, he traveled to Hyderabad, India, and later Kenya, and Bali, where he completed his book Dreams from My Father.

22. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

When he was 22, Darwin got an invitation from his friend and mentor, John Stevens Henslow, asking him to join him on a trip to the Galapagos. Although Darwin’s plan was to become a clergyman and his father objected to the trip, Darwin decided to go anyway. His theory of natural selection, which came out of observations he made on that trip, has become the dominant force in the biological sciences. It not only defines how we understand species, ecosystems, and what he called “evolution,” it has shaped food sciences, the medical sciences, and more. He describes that trip as “by far the most important event in my life. It determined my whole career.”

23. Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Now the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton spent her gap year in Florence, Italy with the British Institute, studying art and literature, hanging out with friends, and spending time at the Uffizi Gallery.

24. Mahatma Gandhi


Gandhi first left home to study in the United Kingdom at age 18. He studied to become a barrister, a high court lawyer, before returning home in India to fight for his nation’s independence.

25. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

As a 19-year old Mormon, Mitt Romney spent two years doing missionary work in France after his first year at Stanford University. He learned French and European literature, and his time there helped shape his political views that he then brought home with him for completing his undergraduate studies and moving onto Harvard for a joint JD/MBA program.

26. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was born and raised in Macedonia and Albania and went on to complete her schooling at Loreto Abbey in Ireland. Her missionary work took her to Darjeeling, India at the age of eighteen where her experiences led her to pursue a life of service and charity work — and global renown.

27. Karlie Kloss

Karlie Kloss

This famous model took time off between high school and college to pursue her career. She returned to her studies, like most gap year students, and graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

28. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

In the early days of Facebook, Mark famously dropped out of school to work on his new project full time. What is less well known, is that while the company was going through a rough patch, at the advice of his friend and mentor, Steve Jobs, Mark traveled to India to spend time in an Ashram founded by the sadhu, Neem Karoli Baba. The aim was to connect with the deeper mission of his company, and see a way through the difficult times. “[Steve] told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed as the mission of the company, I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India, early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be. It reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing.”

29. Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings

If you’re spending yet another night curled up watching Netflix movies, you’ve got one man to thank for that: CEO Reed Hastings. After completing his undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Hastings joined the Peace Corps for two years before eventually going to graduate school at Stanford University. During his time with the Peace Corps, he taught high school math in Swaziland, an adventure that widened his understanding of the world. In an interview, Hasting said of that time in his life, “It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying.”

30. Bill O’Reilly

Bill O'Reilly

The provocative TV anchor and author, Bill O’Reilly, spent his junior year studying in London at Queen Mary College, taking time off from his studies at Marist College.

31. Bob Vila

Bob Vila

Bob Vila is the host of the popular television show This Old House. Vila took time off to work with the Peace Corps in Panama. He constructed houses and worked toward building up communities. This ultimately led him to pursue a master’s degree in architecture. His love of construction never waned and he went on to work in home-renovation and television for the majority of his career.

32. Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the celebrated news commentator at NBC and MSNBC actually spent two years in his youth, living and volunteering in Swaziland, with the Peace Corps.

33. The Beatles

The Bleates

After graduating from high school, The Beatles moved to Hamburg, Germany as music apprentices, learning how to take their music to the next level. As John Lennon put it, “I was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg.”

34. Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran

About a year ago, Ed Sheeran decided to leave his celebrity lifestyle and take a gap year to travel. Sheeran burned his foot in a geyser in Iceland, traveled through Japan, and went white water rafting in Fiji. His most impactful experience, however, seems to have been on the beautiful island of New Zealand. He fell in love with the country while bungee jumping and hanging out with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson that he is now hoping to move there completely. As he told one UK newspaper, “I did ask for citizenship and I think we got an email from someone involved with that. So maybe that’s going to happen. I could be a citizen.” By stepping outside of his life, Sheeran was able to discover something new which may just be the next best thing.

35. Marco Polo

Marco Polo Mosaic

At the ripe age of 17, Marco Polo began the journey that would mold him as one of the greatest travel writers of his time. His accounts of East Asia were some of the first ever recorded for Europeans and led many to become more interested in travel including the well-known, Christopher Columbus.

36. Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Although many know Lin-Manuel Miranda for his latest victory, Hamilton, his earlier musical In The Heights was also a Tony-winning masterpiece. After work on In The Heights was completed, Miranda found himself in need of a vacation from the theatrical world. It was on a beach trip with his current wife that he first read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the book that would inspire the musical we all know and love. If Miranda hadn’t taken this break from his day to day life, he may never have found this piece of inspiration — which goes to show that time off can be exactly what one needs to get those creative juices flowing.

37. Mark Twain

Mark Twain Portrait by Abdullah Freres

Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” is one of the best-selling travel books of all time. While still a young man, he boarded the USS Quaker City headed for distant shores in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It was on this trip that he honed his infamous wit and comedic bite, as well as his own ironic self-deprecation.

38. William James “Bill” Murray

Bill Murray

The Ghostbuster, Groundhog Day, and Golden Globe cult star actually took four years off of acting to study philosophy and history at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

39. Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan was born in Ghana and served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations for nearly ten years. When he was younger, he attended school in Switzerland and the US, earning advanced degrees in International Relations and Management.

40. Mark Hammill

Mark Hammill

Also known as Luke Skywalker, Mark Hammill actually began studying drama in Japan, in his junior year of high school when his father was stationed there. A few years later, he applied those skills to The Force, “the energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

41. Paul Theroux

Novelist Paul Edward Theroux spent time volunteering in Malawi with the Peace Corps in one of its original volunteer cohorts. While in Malawi, he worked as a teacher and began writing. This experience developed his interest in travel and would lead him to travel by train through Eurasia, Central America, Africa and Europe. Each of these experiences led to a detailed travel writing book that included descriptions of the people and places Theroux encountered during his travels. He is now a famous writer.

42. Mildred D. Taylor

Mildred D. Taylor

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, the multiple recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Jane Addams Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Christopher Award spent two years serving in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, teaching English and History before returning home to the United States.

43. Alice Malsenior Walker

Author of The Color Purple, poet, and activist, Alice studied abroad in Kenya and Uganda with the Experiment in International Living.

44. Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

Before becoming Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder graduated from the University of Iowa, then studied abroad at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England, and was in fact a champion fencer.

45. Sec. Donna Shalala

Former U.S Secretary of Health, Donna Shalala, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Iran from 1962-1964. In an interview, Shalala stated, “I was tired of school and I wanted adventure.” She worked in a remote Iranian village and helped build an agricultural college during her time with the Peace Corps. Shalala still considers herself a Peace Corps volunteer and that mindset impacts how she approaches her day-to-day life. “My service in Iran was one of the most important experiences of my youth.”

46. Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm

The first African American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm first left the United States at the age of two for Barbados, beginning a long career of advocacy for people of differing backgrounds and opinions.

47. Jack Harries & Finn Harries


Jack & Finn Harries, the talent duo behind the hit Youtube Channel, Jacksgap, spent their gap year developing a huge internet following by creating fun and entertaining videos and travel blogs. Profits raised through their Youtube endeavors allowed the twins to travel to many countries such as Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. What started off as a year of fun became a career in the field of video production and Jack Harries decided to ditch college altogether to work on the channel full time. Finn did go to college, but the year off made him decide to go to school in the United States and pursue architecture, a major he had not considered before. In regards to his gap year, Jack Harries said, “In our parents’ day, kids used to listen to rock-and-roll music in their bedrooms as a form of rebellion…this is our little rebellion. YouTube is our world. Whatever happens next, it’s been a great gap year.”

48. Chyna

Bodybuilder, wrestler, and Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, where she taught literacy for two years, from 1993-1995.

49. Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is currently planning to move her family back to England in the hopes that a gap year will allow her kids to experience the same sort of childhood she was exposed to. “It’s mostly about the family,” a source told Heat Magazine. “Emily is a little homesick, and she doesn’t want her kids to grow up not knowing their English family or roots. She wants them to experience the same things she did as a child: bangers and mash suppers and cold winters.”

50. Sen. Chris Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd

Senator from Connecticut for 30 years, from 1981-2011, Chris spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer, where he became fluent in Spanish. He has spent time serving as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America.

51. Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison started out as a club promoter in New York City. After a missionary trip to West Africa with Mercy Ships, he came face to face with extreme poverty and decided to spend the rest of his life working to eradicate it. He founded Charity Water, an organization that works to provide clean water to people in developing countries.

52. Julian Casablancas

The Strokes

The lead vocalist of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, spent half a year studying in Switzerland when he was a teenager. It was at this school that he met Albert Hammond Junior who would later help him form their successful rock band.

53. Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS, a retail company that began with a promise to donate a pair of shoes for every pair of shoes purchased. Before the company was born, Mycoskie was a contestant on CBS’s The Amazing Race where he traveled across the globe competing against other American participants. When he went to Argentina for the show, he saw that many of the children walking around Buenos Aires were barefoot and those who were playing sports wore canvas shoes. After this experience, Mycoskie decided he wanted to find a way to help and founded TOMS. TOMS has since expanded into selling other products such as glasses, bags and fair trade coffee. In an interview, Mycoskie said “I wish people would take more adventures to some of these countries and stimulate their economies and learn about what’s going on and do that for vacations.”

54. Kristi Yamaguchi

American Olympic Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguchi spent time studying Psychology abroad in Canada at the University of Edmonton where she also trained for her high-profile international competitions.

55. Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

In addition to her well-known films, Gwyneth spends time returning to the place she studied abroad in high school in Talavera de la Reina, Spain. “I never looked back, and I did not want to go home. The next time I went I was nineteen, and I have gone basically once a year at least ever since.”

56. Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The New Yorker writer, journalist, and surgeon, was born in the United States, but studied abroad, getting a degree as a Rhodes Scholar from Balliol College at the University of Oxford in 1989.

57. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton won the esteemed Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Although he didn’t graduate there, he gained perspective on the Vietnam War from an outsider’s perspective while in Oxford and began protesting vehemently against the war.

58. Gael Garcia Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal

Star of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and The Motorcycle Diaries, Gael Garcia Bernal was born and raised in Mexico and traveled to the United Kingdom in the hopes of getting proper acting training. His time in London helped him develop his craft as a performer and has led to his success in movies and television.

59. Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu earned both his Master’s and his Bachelor’s degree in the United Kingdom. When asked about his time in England, he said “I have wonderful, happy memories of my time at King’s. My experience was one of great encouragement and support in my academic studies and an acceptance and warmth from my fellow students.”

60. Dan Brown

Dan Brown November 2015

The author of the Da Vinci Code spent a year in Seville, Spain studying art history, the very subject that features so heavily in his famous book. It has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.

61. Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan

The Fourth Female Supreme Court Justice of the United States famously studied abroad in the United Kingdom on a scholarship after finishing her degree at Princeton University. She was also the first female dean of Harvard Law School.

62. George Harrison

George Harrison

The influence of sitar, tanpura, tabla, sarod, pakhavaj, sarangi, and the dholak are not by accident in many famous Beatles songs. George Harrison’s trip to India dramatically changed the direction, both musically and politically, of him and his fellow bandmates. He started the first “goodwill concert”, raising funds for UNICEF with his Concert for Bangladesh. As he said, “I remember thinking I just want more. This isn’t it. Fame is not the goal. Money is not the goal. To be able to know how to get peace of mind, how to be happy, is something you don’t just stumble across. You’ve got to search for it.”

63. Ben Fogle

Ben Fogle

The adventurer, Ben Fogle, studied abroad in Costa Rica, where he went through a program on Latin American studies, inevitably paving the way for his later accomplishments.

64. Tim Rice

Tim Rice

The famous lyricist of The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Lion King, studied abroad in France, at the Sorbonne in Paris.

65. Kristin Scott Thomas

Kristin Scott Thomas

British actress Kristin Scott Thomas traveled to Paris, France when she was still a teenager to work as an au pair. She fell in love with the country and went on to study and pursue an acting career in Paris.

66. Sec. John Kerry

John Kerry

The American diplomat, politician, and Secretary of State spent years living in France and Norway, and attributes his “self-confidence, survival skills, language abilities and interest in public life” to those years.

67. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

Jeb Bush

At age 17, Jeb Bush, the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, traveled on a high school exchange program to Leon, Guanajuato, Guatemala, where he eventually met his future wife, Columba Garnica Gallo.

68. Joely Richardson

Joely Richardson

Originally from London, Joely went to school in the United States from the age of 12 up on a tennis scholarship.

69. Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

Well-known feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem is also known for having spent time abroad. After college, Steinem lived in India for two years to help young women organize against injustice. This experience sparked her interest in working in women’s rights and she continued to fight against these injustices throughout her career.

70. Sen. John McCain

John McCain

Born on a military base in Panama, McCain grew up at 20 different schools and military bases around the Pacific and in the US, certainly playing a role in his monumental commitment to his country.

71. Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury New Haven Connecticut

The lead singer of Queen, famous for so many great rock epics, including We Are The Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Another One Bites The Dust, was actually born in Zanzibar (present day Tanzania), raised in India, and went to school in London. His global perspective clearly played a role in his songwriting and performance style.

72. Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Originally from India, this famous science writer studied abroad at Stanford University, and later Harvard Medical School.

73. Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz traveled from Spain to New York to spend several years studying at Cristina Rota’s drama school.

74. Harper Lee

Harper Lee

Famous for publishing her canonical, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Harper Lee left home in her junior year at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, to be an exchange student at the University of Oxford, in England.

75. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

His theory of relativity has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation.” But it’s not clear he ever would have accomplished his many great feats of mathematics and physics had it not been for the amount of traveling and exchanging ideas with other giants in the field and in other fields. Through his life he lived in seven different countries, evolving strong views on not only physics, political structures, and music. In addition, the cross-over synesthesia between Mozart and theoretical physics could have played a substantial role in his greatest work. As he said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music.”

76. Ang Lee

Ang Lee is an award winning director known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain. Born and raised in Taiwan, he chose to study abroad in the United States, completing both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Illinois and New York respectively.

77. Colin Firth

Colin Firth

Colin Firth was born in England. His parents were both in academic fields and because of this, he spent much of his childhood abroad in Nigeria and St. Louis, Missouri.

78. Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage was a well known African-American sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1929, she was able to travel to Paris, France to study sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

79. James Baldwin

James Baldwin

James Baldwin, a well known writer during the civil rights movement, took time away from the United States while producing a work of nonfiction on his experience growing up in Harlem. He moved to France because he believed it would help him write more honestly about his home. He spent many other years traveling in Istanbul, Switzerland, and France, but his writing always acted as a reflection on his home in America, and as a provocation for change.

80. Isla Fisher

Isla Fisher

Australian actress, Isla Fisher, spent a semester studying theater at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. It was after this experience that she began pursuing acting as a career.

81. Paul Rudd

Paul Rudd Actor

The American actor and comedian put his academic career on hold to travel to the United Kingdom to study Jacobean theater at the British American Drama Academy.

82. J.M. Coetzee


The Nobel Laureate in Literature was born in South Africa, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing a PhD in Linguistics as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Texas at Austin.

83. Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd 2014

To deepen her understanding of French, her major, Ashley Judd flew to Paris to live and immerse herself in the language.

84. Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer

The CNN anchor and reporter was actually born in Germany, raised in the United States, and studied abroad, completing a master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Johns Hopkins University.

85. Cole Porter

Cole Porter

The famous jazz composer and songwriter, born in the United States, studied orchestration and counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, France. He’s a notable character in the contemporary Owen Wilson film, Midnight In Paris.

86. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The famous author, speaker, and visionary was born and bred in Nigeria, but did her studies at Eastern Connecticut University, Johns Hopkins University, and later, Yale University. Her stories of getting through oversimplified narratives and toward a more realistic understanding of our differences are a well-known viral phenomenon.

87. Henry James

Henry James

The “literary giant” was famous for his writings on Americans living abroad. He moved to England in 1876, where he composed many influential novels, including Daisy Miller, and The Portrait of a Lady.

88. Lewis and Clark


Lewis and Clark went off to find a clear water route throughout North America and to bring information about plants animals and the land’s inhabitants back to Thomas Jefferson. Their journey led them to the pacific northwest and Lewis kept a detailed log of their journey and their interactions with the Native American people. Their expedition opened America’s eyes to the possibility that lay in this uncharted land and inspired many others to journey in search of all the potential the American West had to offer.

89. Chris Pine

Chris Pine

Chris Pine took a year off from his studies at UC Berkeley to study at Leeds University in England.

90. Jeremy Piven

Before becoming one of the main actors on the show Entourage. He fell in love with acting while studying Shakespeare at the National Theater in London.

91. Ursula K. Le Guin

The famous novelist and short story author was a Fulbright scholar, studying in France the year after college.

92. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal decided to travel abroad to the United Kingdom to study theater at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts in London.

93. Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde studied abroad in Ireland where she focused on the performance arts at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.

94. Tia Mowry

Tia Mowry

Credits: IMDb

Tia Mowry studied at Pepperdine University and spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy where she studied Italian and the humanities.

95. Amartya Sen

This Nobel Laureate and renowned development economist was born and raised in Calcutta, but went to college at Trinity College in the United Kingdom before returning home to conduct some of his most influential and groundbreaking research.

96. Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

The idea of a gap year in North America as a form of self discovery may be attributable to Jack Kerouac’s great work, On The Road, a novel that catalogs Jack’s travels with his friends across the United States. After dropping out of Columbia University, Kerouac spent time working on a number of sailing vessels before going on the journey that inspired the novel. The characters in On The Road are vivid and complex and the novel soon became a testament to youth culture in the late 40s – early 50s. Without having traveled, Kerouac may have never made the observations that inspired these characters or developed the characteristic voice that made the novel so epic.

97. Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a bestselling author who has written on everything from travel to science to Britain’s history and identity. While in the United States, Bill Bryson took time off to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend. This walk inspired his book, A Walk in the Woods, which was adapted as a movie in 2015.

98. Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta Oil Painting

Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar who traveled extensively through North Africa and the Middle East, accounted his findings in a book called Travels. He is one of the most famous travelers in the history of the world.

99. T.S. Eliot


T.S. Eliot moved to the United Kingdom in his late 20s to attend Merton College, Oxford. His poetry and playwriting brought him so much fame in the UK that in 1927 he relinquished his US citizenship to become a British subject.

100. Sir Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton

The famous English explorer and linguist spoke 29 different languages, was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and awarded a knighthood, and yet never completed a college degree, having been expelled from Trinity College in Oxford. His work in defying the ethnocentrism of the day was groundbreaking in many respects.

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How to Keep In Touch While Traveling Abroad

Your gap year program sent you packing lists, visa and immunization requirements, invitations to connect with other students on the trip, required pre-trip reading and more. Maybe there is even an orientation or meet up for families.

But is there a prescription for staying in touch with your family and friends when you’re abroad?

Here’s a quick checklist with a few tips for keeping those relationships alive for when you come back:

1. Think about the important people in your life

Gabi and Noah hiking through Wyoming NOLS

Maybe it’s just your parents. Maybe you want to stay in touch with your siblings, or your grandparents, your high school friends, the kids you worked with at your after school program.

Whatever the case, you may be looking at different expectations from each of them. Think about what it would mean to lose contact with them and try your best to rank them by priority, as strange as that might sound. Who must you absolutely not lose contact with?

2. Consider their lifestyles and flexibility

Gap Year Skills Benefits

While you’re abroad, your friends’ and families’ lives will go on. They’ll be working, taking classes, going about their lives in very different ways. Your friends might be sleeping in, but busy all night. Your parents might be free in the evenings, but busy in the early mornings getting ready to start their day.

You’ll most likely be operating in different time zones, with great distances between you. The digital age has made communication immediate, but that doesn’t mean your family might not be sleeping when you send that emergency text to re-activate that frozen credit card account.

3. Decide on a communication platform


Snapchat. Your grandparents might be very important to you, but if your plan was to Snap the whole adventure, you might have to convince them to get on Snapchat, or come up with another plan. On the other hand, Snapchat offers an incredibly easy sharing experience in a kind of gritty, home-made format. It can make your friends and family feel like they’re here for the ride.

Email is great because it can be opened at one’s own convenience. You just send it out to everyone on an email list you’ve built, and they read it whenever they like. You can attach files of course, and write stories. People like stories.

Video chat. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Facetime — these are all great ways to call people and video chat across the world. However, they each have their own country rules. If you choose one in particular, remember to look at which countries they are not available. China, for example, blocks Facebook. And many countries in the Middle East block Facebook.

Instagram is a great platform for sharing images and bite-size stories. It’s also great because it focuses so heavily on higher quality images, and everything you do can be sent out to many people at once. Do you want to have a private account or a public one? Advantages of a private account are obviously that no one weird is following you without your consent. Public accounts you have a chance to grow a following, perhaps win some photo contests, and speak to people you don’t necessarily know in person. You could also just create two accounts.

SMS. If you’re looking for something more intimate, one-on-one conversations, consider how the other person prefers to be contacted. In some places, you might not have Wifi or data access, but might be able to send SMS text messages. In other cases it might be the total opposite. Consider both the other person’s familiarities as well as the kind of digital access you’ll have. Texts are the easiest mode of communication in many situations, and they are still a highly preferred method of communication among our students.

Youtube. Perhaps you want to send home a richer experience of everything you’re learning and going through. Video can be extremely vivid. Vlogs are a relatively easy way to bring people into your experience, and you’ll get a chance to work on your editing and video skills. Many of our students make music videos like this one.

4. Determine a communication schedule before departure

Talk with your parents and guardians especially about this one. They will probably worry if you disappear off the face of the Earth without telling them, and with good reason. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re invincible, and mistakes happen all the time.

If you decide that once a week is manageable, then stick to it. Commitment is a virtue, and you’ll learn a lot from trying to get to a phone booth in the middle of a crazy religious festival, or whatever it is, because you said you’d do it. If calling via phone is too much, perhaps consider adjusting the communication plan by adding a mix of platforms.

You can text your friends and family every few days, and video call every couple weeks. The key is consistency and predictability. In many cases, your home base can be an incredible resource for safety and support while you’re on the road. If you need to, just remember ask for help.

The key in making sure that you have the right balance of support and freedom to explore and do your thing, and that all your friends and family are happy too, is having a plan, and sticking to it. If you need to change the plan, give them a heads up.

5. Remember FOMO

Boat Ride Bangkok Thailand Bangkok Vanguards

Your friends and family back at home might be having a great time. Their photos might be incredible. All the friends they’re making, that ice cream place you used to always go to. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re having the best time ever, and they’re bored out of their minds sitting in a giant lecture hall, missing you.

The point is, the images we send home and receive don’t always tell the full picture, so don’t get too carried away by the fear of missing out, and remember why you decided to do a gap year in the first place. The challenge is completely part of it. And just the same, just because you’re having the best time ever doesn’t mean everyone wants to know every detail. Be careful not to alienate those you love because they didn’t make the same awesome decision as you to take a gap year and learn something new about the world.

Staying in touch is about keeping those relationships healthy during your time abroad and so they’re there for you when you come back, as healthy and happy as ever.

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4 Free Tools and Tips for Teens with Money

At times, money management seems like the best kept secret in the world, and long term investing can feel like a tool closed off for the fiercest wolves of Wall Street.

One of the many skills Winterline teaches during the 9-month and 12-week Global Skills Program is financial literacy. Financial literacy can be summed up as the ability to understand the way finances work in the world as well as understanding the short-term and long-term implications of each financial choice.

Winterline believes these are important skills to develop, especially before college – a time when student loans and debt accumulation are major concerns for many. It’s never too early to start getting familiar with financial literacy and the internet is a great place to start! As an intern at Winterline, I spent a number of days researching financial literacy resources for our International Business & Entrepreneurship Program. While scouring these different sites, I was able to pick up on major trends in financial literacy resources as well as find the ones that appeared to be most effective. Here are a few great financial education resources that stood out as most valuable during my search. Enjoy!

Financial Avenue Blog


Financial Avenue was made specifically for college students and teenagers. The language is stripped down in a way that makes each article and video easy to digest in a short amount of time. Financial Avenue also includes a blog that produces articles on everything from tax filing options to demystifying the credit score.

If you have questions about the FAFSA, student loans and how to begin building your credit, this website works. They even have a page of resources dedicated to loan repayment which includes a repayment calculator that factors in interest levels.

CNN Money Essentials


For those who are just beginning to address the concept of long term financial decisions, this resource is the one for you.

The CNN Money Essentials website is split into seven different categories that are meant to span a lifetime of spending: Getting a Job, Buying a Car, Starting to Invest, Buying a Home, Starting a Family, and Retirement Planning. Each category is then split into several articles that explore all aspects of the topic from taxes, to explanations of the stock market, to investment options and more.

By reviewing all the topics or just choosing to focus on a few, you can get a basic introduction to the world of finance and the pros and cons of each financial decision. The website doesn’t address student loans directly but it does discuss what credit and loans are in a more holistic manner.

The Mint App & Life Blog


Do you ever find yourself wondering about a specific financial question? Maybe you’re curious what the difference between a debit and a credit card is or you just want a few tips on how to save up for that cool new camera.

The Mint Life Blog came about soon after the Mint app was made available to smartphone users. Mint is a budgeting app that tracks your spending patterns and gives financial advice based on the way you spend money on food, entertainment, living expenses, etc. This app is a great tool for those who want to start analyzing their spending but are not quite sure where to start.

The Mint Life Blog publishes weekly articles that address every financial question you could possibly think of. In addition, you can send in your unanswered questions to be discussed online by financial specialists. It’s a great resource for learning quick small facts but does not offer the same format as some of the other platforms.

Wells Fargo Financial Education


Wells Fargo created an online financial education platform like CNN Money Essentials in which financial topics are split into categories and each category includes several articles that delve deeper into the subject. Wells Fargo beats CNN’s option when it comes to educational financing information. Their money habits advice takes into consideration the limits of work during college and the expectations of the job hunt post-graduation. If you want to teach your child how to make a budget, save for college, and understand loan services, this is the website for you.

In Boston this summer?


Now perhaps your concern is that your teen is not going to enjoy looking through all these websites, or at best won’t follow through. Although the information is all there, these platforms are not the most entertaining.

Winterline is premiering a brand new program, How Money Works, this summer in Cambridge, MA. The week-long, non-residential intensive focuses on developing these financial literacy muscles in a fun and modern way.

Using a hyper-modern curriculum, combining app-based learning, graphic novels, and multiple site visits, the program aligns with our hands-on, experiential approach to learning that takes the hypothetical out of financial literacy and applies these ideas to real world scenarios.

Interested in learning more?

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Tips for choosing a multi-destination gap year program


Winterline vs. Semester at Sea

They are of the few programs that allow students to visit a large number of countries over the course of their gap years. But which one’s right for you?

As a current intern at Winterline Global Education and a former gap year student on the study abroad program, Semester at Sea, I often find myself comparing the two programs and the ways which they approach alternative education. Although both programs similarly offer an amazing opportunity to visit several countries, their differences are what make each program a unique option for participants.

For those of you deciding between these programs, here are the three major differences prospective students should consider before deciding which will best fit their gap year experience.


1. Styles of Learning: Academic vs. Skills-Based

When choosing what you hope to do during your gap year, it is important to consider what kind of environment you want to learn in. While Semester at Sea’s unique twist may be better for those looking for an enriching classroom experience, some of you may be itching to get out of your seats with the more physically active experience that Winterline can offer.

Semester at Sea (SAS) was initially structured to be a college program. Although some students do join the program as part of their gap years, many of them choose to take a semester of their sophomore and junior year to explore this study abroad option. The expectation is that a full semester of college level courses be taken while on the voyage. Class is held each day on the boat (that’s right, no weekends) and off days are limited to time spent in port and special events such as the SAS Sea Olympics and the end of term Annual Ball.

The thing that differentiates the onboard experience from one spent on a college campus, is the dedication to learning about the voyages’ multiple destinations. Each class finds a way to incorporate a dense history and discussion around the voyage. Lecture events are held before each port in which we learn about the country’s history and current landscape. All the classes tend to revolve around the countries which makes for riveting and relevant discussion and an enriching academic experience. For those wanting to explore a more rewarding classroom experience, this may be the option for you. But, if you find yourself wanting to escape school entirely, it may not be the best fit.

Winterline takes a different approach to learning. Winterline students participate in hands-on activities such as glass blowing, scuba diving and cooking to attain skills-based knowledge that will be valuable for a lifetime. Rather than picking from a catalog of classes, all students are expected to participate in every event and each student can dip their toes in several different ponds. What this means is that students are able to try a lot of different skills but may not delve as deep into a certain topic as a college-level class on Semester at Sea would.


2. Travel: Visitation vs. Immersion

Winterline and Semester at Sea also approach the act of travel in very different ways. While Winterline’s intent is to immerse their students in each new destination, Semester at Sea’s immersion exists primarily in ship life, and due to limited time spent in port, the in-country travel ends up being more of a visitation experience.

On Semester at Sea, time spent in port is divided into week long stints. Semester at Sea offers pre-planned in-port adventures such as snorkeling, sailing, hiking trips, volunteer projects and so much more. Students are not bound to these programs, however, and are free to travel as they please in port.

This is a great exercise in independence travel because it means planning housing and food arrangements as well as an itinerary of events to fill your time. Students who choose to spend their time independently, travel in smaller groups and are free to go anywhere within the country that the ship ports in. In my experience, it is best to choose some ports to travel independently and other ports to travel with Semester at Sea programs.

Winterline programs tend to spend more time overall in each country. All housing, travel and food is organized by Winterline as a part of the all-inclusive packaging, and this immersive style of living encourages students to delve deep into each city’s local culture. The cohort travels to all countries together and all program events are planned by Winterline.

That being said, students are encouraged to spend their rest days traveling independently, and in Europe each student embarks on a week-long Independent Student Project within the Schengen Area that they are expected to plan extensively prior to departure.

Tiny House building gap year group photo

3. Community: College vs Cohort

The last major different that is worth noting between programs like Semester at Sea and programs like Winterline are the community aspects.

The MV World Odyssey, Semester at Sea’s vessel, is not a small ship. It hosts around 600 students in addition to the program’s teachers, their families, lifelong learners and the ship’s crew. What’s great about this is that there is a niche for everyone. People are friendly and happy to strike up conversation throughout the voyage and it becomes very easy to find close friends right off the bat. Unfortunately, you can’t get to know everyone well. In this way, it ends up being much more like a college campus in which you find a smaller world within it that feels right and venture out of it occasionally to get to know new people and engage in riveting conversation.

Winterline’s cohorts travel in a much smaller group. The gap year program has a maximum of 16 students. These 16 students become your family for the year and the teamwork within the group becomes one of the most important aspects of the trip. If the group gets along, it makes for an amazing year. If there are conflicts, it can change the experience for everyone. Because of this, Winterline works very hard to develop this sense of community early in the program, and teaching students not to run away from conflict or differences, but to meet them head on, with curiosity and trust.

By beginning the gap year with partners like NOLS and Outward Bound, Winterline immediately introduces the cohort to physically and mentally strenuous situations so that the group can get used to working together and supporting each other.


Is it more important for you to travel to more countries or spend more time in each country?

So, ask yourself: where do you fit? Do you want to see the world come alive in the classroom or are you more interested in getting your hands a little dirty? Is it more important for you to travel to more countries or spend more time in each country? Are you hoping to bond with everyone you travel with or hoping for a bigger community?

Neither of these options are right or wrong and your success on each of these programs really comes down to what you personally are hoping to get out of them.

There are many things these programs do have in common. They both introduce students to the global world in a way that is both humbling and awe-inspiring. Both Semester at Sea and Winterline equip their students with knowledge that serves them for many years after.

Finally, and most importantly, both programs produce students that insist their lives were forever changed, from the moment their journeys began. So, you’re bound to make a good choice whichever direction you choose. But make sure it’s the one that’s best for you!

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Winterline Gap Year Photo Contest

At the end of each trimester, we like to host a photo contest among our students. It’s a fun way for friends and family back home to see how far we’ve come and what we’ve been up to.

This fall, we had five prize-winners for our photo contest:

  1. Landscape
  2. Skills
  3. Wildlife
  4. People
  5. Winterline

The last one is meant to be defined in the eyes of the photographer-students themselves, and a few of them got pretty creative! The photos were judged anonymously by a Winterline staff committee. Submissions were cleared of original titles and sources. Merits were determined by image alone. Runner ups received prizes of local Costa Rican coffee mugs, winners received a range of prizes from Winterline Nalgenes up to an REI day pack.

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All in all, it was an incredibly difficult selection process, with many quality submissions across the board. Above all else, we at Winterline want to give our congratulations to all the winners and wish them the best in the rest of their gap years.

The first runner up for “Landscape” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative.
  2. Playful light and dark shadows with silhouette foreground
  3. Landscape includes a sense of the immediate experience
  4. Strong colors despite bleak expanse


The winner for “Landscape” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong use of shadows and multiple landscape dimensions (water, rock, mountain)
  2. Self-portrait-esque
  3. The Golden Hour


The runner up for “Skills” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong tension between strength of the measurement tool and the fragility of the living organism
  2. Vivid use of macro detail
  3. Cute
  4. Immediately understandable narrative

gap year photo contest wildlife photography

The winner for “Skills” was considered on these points:

  1. Clearly a new skill
  2. Strong use of eye-level perspective, brings audience down the level of the activity
  3. Strong use of depth of field & wide aperture: face is perfectly crisp, drawing attention to the subject immediately
  4. Emotional

gapyear program photo contest goat milking costa rica

The runner up for “Wildlife” was considered on these points:

  1. Beautifully photographed wildlife subject
  2. Colorful, in focus, context provided for size
  3. Intimate & casual


The winner for “Wildlife” was considered on these points:

  1. Perhaps not technically wildlife, subject is dramatically framed by its context, in situ
  2. Lighting well chosen
  3. Perspective — nearly eye-level


The runner up for “People” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative of ease and rest.
  2. Human and approachable.
  3. Composition is beautifully imbalanced.
  4. Strong perspective, captures the sense of ground & earth which draws out the emotion


The winner for “People” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narratives, easily understandable
  2. Eye-level perspective adds to the sense of dignity of the subject
  3. Framing with wall brings out the sense of intimacy with the subject
  4. Subject and objects hold each other in contrast with the uniformity of the background


The runner up for “Winterline” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative, well-aligned with Winterline brand of skills, friendship, and exposure to new experiences
  2. Use of Winterline logo
  3. Clear emotions of joy & spontaneity with new experience
  4. Strong use of non-candid subjects


The winner for “Winterline” was considered on these points:

  1. Visually impressive colors and use of light
  2. Strong 1st person perspective
  3. Strong narrative of personal reflection mixed with the reflection on the water
  4. Answers the questions: why a gap year and why winterline while also capturing the feeling of adventure and delight at the end of an eventful day.

gap year photo contest winner winterline

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Teenagers learn to manage social stress on a gap year

The beginning of the school year can be a terrifying time for the teenage mind. New expectations, new routines, and worst of all, new friends, all combine to create the perfect storm of social anxiety or social stress.

Going into college prepared means having learned these skills to a ‘T,’ and students who can effectively navigate social settings, as well as manage and reconcile conflicts are in the best position for success in the college years.

New research highlighted in the New York Times from David S. Yeager, ‘a leading voice in the growing effort to help college students stay in school,’ and Carol Dweck, famous for her work with growth and fixed mindsets, have pointed to teens ability to learn social anxiety coping strategies. These are skills that can be taught, not predilections permanent for life.

Critical to the research, teenage depression is at nearly 11 percent, and high stress is a daily reality for many teenagers. Despite that, rates of coping skills have been deemed “weak.”

At Winterline, we’ve structured all of our gap year programs to be heavily oriented toward these peer-related skills, skills that we see as essential for life, career, and work in the 21st century. From the very start or our program orientations, students become equipped with skills in team-building and leadership, non-violent communication, and conflict mediation. Throughout their months abroad, experienced Field Advisors act as teachers and mentors, leading by example on how to navigate conflict, how to negotiate, bargain, as well as empathetically listen to peers and colleagues.

Dr. Yeager’s suggestion that students learn ways to “hold onto a long view” is exactly what we teach during our Global Skills Programs. When you travel the world and learn skills in their appropriate context, you immediately begin to connect the dots between what you’re doing on a daily basis and the impacts you can have in the world.

The gap year is the perfect opportunity to distance yourself, recalibrate, and figure out what you’re good at and how you want to impact the world.

Deferring for a Gap Year to Get Into a Better College

This growing interest in the ‘gap year,’ often the year between high school and college, though not always, comes with a wide variety benefits in addition to doing something different from all your peers. Gap year benefits go far beyond college GPAs and a long ‘countries-visited’ list.

Gap years can help students gain admission into better schools. After an unsatisfying admissions cycle while still in high school, one of our recent graduates, Alex, managed to get into the program of his dreams at Columbia University, studying social sciences and international development in Paris and New York as part of a Dual BA program with SciencesPo.

“I knew straight out of the water. I was pretty unhappy with it.”

With mentoring, coaching, and advising from the Field Advisors during the application process, Alex was able to retake his ACTs and re-write his application essays within the new context of his travel experiences — all while maintaining the rigorous pace of the Winterline 9-month Global Skills Program.

Gap years help students figure out what they’re passionate about. They help develop career skills, discover purpose, increase maturity, focus, global awareness, and self awareness. Most students not only return to college, but return with greater zeal and ambition than before having a deeper appreciation for college and higher education within the greater context of society.

“I think Winterline gave me skills that are alternate, in a different world, to help me see my academics in a more worldly perspective.”

“The Winterline gap year offers a different practice of knowledge, not necessarily academia,” Alex said. “It’s helped me become more appreciative of the impacts of my academics, looking beyond shooting for a score, but instead looking at its impact on myself, on my knowledge, and what I can do with it.

When asked when he knew that going to the college he’d been accepted to was the wrong choice, Alex replied, “I knew straight out of the water. I was pretty unhappy with it. It was part of my motivation for the gap year, though not all of it. I had set expectations based on input from counselors and it didn’t end how people predicted, because of my boards. I wanted to change that. I wanted something that would fit me a little bit more, because I was unhappy with where I was set at that moment.

“I am more relaxed having had that year.”

“So I changed for something that was just more me, I guess, and I think I found the program that linked what I was doing before Winterline, with what I’m doing in college now.

“It was on me for wanting to change where I wanted to go, how I wanted to go about it and do it. With Winterline, I learned the value of focusing on my stress level, of becoming more appreciative of the impacts of my academics. It’s not about necessarily shooting for a score, but instead looking at its impact on myself, my knowledge, what I could do with it.

Alex continued, “Now I’m doing a Dual BA in social sciences. The first two years I get to do general study. The last two I’m at Columbia University in New York, where I’ll declare a major. Right now I’m taking courses like Constitutional Law, Econ, History, Social Studies, Political Theory. I’m taking classes with Piketti, the history lecturer (brother of the famous French economist).

“For me, the gap year was an essential element in which I approached everything about school. I’m more relaxed in my approach to papers, college essays, the tests themselves, interviews. I’m not phased by it. It’s a different way of connecting the academic stuff to the real world. I now know techniques that reduce stress, and I am more relaxed having had that year.”

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6 Reasons Why Traveling is Awesome

Traveling abroad is even better. Here’s why:

1. The grocery stores are more fun.

At home, going to the grocery store is a frustrating chore – especially on the weekends when hoards of people are out in full force. But when you’re in a new country, grocery shopping is an exotic adventure. Every aisle is full of items you’ve never seen before and tastes you’ve never experienced.

2. History lessons come alive with firsthand perspective.

Reading textbooks about the rich history of countries such as Thailand, Italy and Spain is one thing. Experiencing it in person against the backdrop of foreign tongues and centuries-old sites is something entirely different.

Travel is the best way to immerse yourself in learning without even fully realizing it.

3. Materialism melts away.

You know all that stuff we pile in our bedrooms at home – clothes, shoes, beauty products, CDs, video games, etc.? Once you start exploring marine ecology in Panama or learning high-end cooking skills in Southeast Asia, you quickly realize how little that stuff actually matters.

4. You become better at being alone and being in groups.

You won’t be able to hide behind your ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ label anymore. When traveling, many times you’ll be alone. Other times, you’ll have to be around lots of people. Both experiences are important and easier amid gorgeous scenery, fascinating cultures and good-natured people with interesting accents.

5. It does wonders for your photo collection.

Taking spontaneous photos and videos with your phone is fun, but how many selfies and food close-ups does one person really need? Time spent abroad gives you tons of photo opportunities, ranging from stunning scenery shots to one-of-a-kind cultural landmarks.

6. You might be happier.

Proof that travelers are happier than those who never venture far from home is purely anecdotal, but it’s still powerful. Have you ever had a long chat with someone who’s been all over the world – especially right after they return home? It’s like a dopamine fireworks show.

Travelers get a real buzz out of experiencing other cultures. While learning, reflecting and growing, they have loads of fun in the process.