Meet The Field Advisors: Arielle Polites

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

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

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

 

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

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, and I wanted to know if she and her gap year 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!


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

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

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.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year momMindy: 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 Student - winterline gap year mom

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.

Sydney Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

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 Gap Year Student - winterline gap year mom

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 Student - winterline gap year mom

Which skills are you using the most?

Sydney: Definitely the skills I learned at the 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.


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This post was originally published Apr 14, 2017 by Julian Goetz

Meet The Field Advisors: Jeremy Cronon

 

 

Where are you from originally?

Growing up, I lived a double life. During the school year, I called Madison, WI home. During the summer months, my family packed up and headed north to Bayfield, WI, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior. Whether meandering State Street or sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands, both places fundamentally shaped me.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

Place-based learning has been a focus of mine for years. When I was teaching high school, I always wondered what it would be like if my students could engage with people in the place they were learning about and could utilize all of their senses to more fully inform their sense of that place. Winterline offers that opportunity without holding back, pushing students (and staff) to fully immerse themselves in a place and to learn from it… together. Being along for that ride feels like the opportunity of a lifetime.

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

The ocean is one of the most wild and powerful forces on the planet and scuba diving is about as close to off-world travel as I think I will ever get. I’m two parts excited and one part terrified for the scuba certification!

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

For me, traveling is the lived expression of curiosity. Every interaction has the potential to flip your world upside-down, forever impacting the way that you live your life.

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

I believe in the power of storytelling. Each experience we have adds a layer of depth to the stories that we tell about our lives, even if we don’t realize it. As a teacher, stories are my way to make history and the world come alive. Travel is how I add complexity to the stories I tell.

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

In New Zealand, I cooked a massive pile of veggies using the Māori method called hāngī, which utilizes geothermal heat and steam to cook food. The result was delicious and I got to hang out in a hot spring while the meal cooked!

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

One of my passions is peeling back the layers of our reality to understand the systems at work, whether digging into the cultural history of a region or searching for the true meaning of language. I don’t just want a surface-level understanding of the world around me, I want more. I hope to be able to share that curiousity while I am working with Winterline.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

In 2017, I spent 24-hours upside down.

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

Family Visits

Gap years, no matter how long or where they take you, are undoubtedly an investment. Investment of time, investment of money, investment in education. Similar to the process of researching colleges, it’s important to research your gap year to find the right fit.

I remember looking into colleges and having a hard time deciphering differences between what they stood for. Looking at website after website made my head spin as they all seemed to bleed together in their overlapping similarities. I was only able to really feel committed to a college after visiting the campus and meeting the student body. I felt a deeper connection of belonging after seeing firsthand the happiness of the real students and faculty.

Winterline family visits
Erica’s Winterline Cohort in Belize

Similarly, it can feel like all gap years say the same things about how life-changing the experience will be or the growth you’ll endure through the program. Here at Winterline, we want to ensure that you, and whoever may be supporting you in this process, feel fully comfortable and connected to us as real individuals who make up these programs. The difference between coming along on our incredible journey or not could simply be the human connection; being able to move the computer screen aside and converse with a real person who has experienced this program firsthand.

That’s where I come in!

I’m Erica. I was a Field Advisor during the 2017-18 gap year program. Just like students, Field Advisors endure the highs and lows of the program: the excitement of new skills and the onset of homesickness, the moments of alone time and the feelings of togetherness, the elated feeling of scuba diving and the unfortunate feeling of eating a food that you probably shouldn’t have bought from a street vendor. We experience it all while making sure that students get the most out of their program by supporting them, having fun with them, and ensuring their safety.
Erica  sharing in student skills while a Field Advisor for Winterline.

I’m Erica. I was a Field Advisor during the 2017-18 gap year program. Just like students, Field Advisors endure the highs and lows of the program: the excitement of new skills and the onset of homesickness, the moments of alone time and the feelings of togetherness, the elated feeling of scuba diving and the unfortunate feeling of eating a food that you probably shouldn’t have bought from a street vendor. We experience it all while making sure that students get the most out of their program by supporting them, having fun with them, and ensuring their safety.

Winterline Family Visits
Erica when she was a Field Advisor in Belize

Travel is an inherent risk that I love to constantly take. If we stay in our comfort zones, we can never grow to our full potential. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always going to be rainbows and butterflies. I’m here to tell you that when those dissipate, and the going gets tough, you will grow tremendously, and no doubt become a more confident, competent, and independent individual.

Erica with a student in Cambodia.

Right now, I’m just another article floating in the gap year realm telling you how awesome we are! What I want to be is a real person with real experiences from your potential gap year investment. So we’re offering family visits to your home. This will allow us to discuss the ins and outs of this program face-to-face with you and your parents/guardians. I’ve found that parents feel much more at ease with the idea of sending their child off to a 9-month program once they know the people behind the company. We understand the importance of connection, safety, and trust, so the least we can do is introduce ourselves!

If you are interested in having me visit, please email me at erica@winterline.com or contact anyone at Winterline and I’ll be in touch to figure out a date that works for all involved.

Meet The Field Advisors: Patrick Galvin

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

What sparked your interest and passion in teaching/mentoring?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

 

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

Talking to Your Parents About Taking a Gap Year

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

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

parents gap year winterline
Anna and her dad, Tom, at the Winterline graduation ceremony in Boston.

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

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

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

 

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Hillevi Johnson

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi  

What sparked your passion for traveling?

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

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

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

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

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

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

 

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

Alum Q&A

Overall, what was your Winterline Global Gap year like?

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

What was the best thing about your experience?

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

What was the hardest thing about your experience?

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

Winterline Alum
These (crazy) people!

What surprised you the most?

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

What scared you the most?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you wish you had known before you started?

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

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

What does Trimester 1 feel like?

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

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

What do Tri 2 & 3 feel like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was your favorite partner? Least favorite?

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

What was your favorite location? Least favorite?

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

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

How much spending money did you need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Parent Spotlight: Cory Nickerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you both choose Winterline over another program?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to share?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

My Freshman Year was a Gap Year

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

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

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

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

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

How to Pack for Your Gap Year Abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gap Year Decision Day!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Student Spotlight: Maria O’Neal

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

The idea of taking a gap year came up when I told my parents I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study in college, they suggested a gap year to learn more about myself and what I like to do. I have since kinda figured out what I would like to study but would still want to learn more about the world and myself.

maria o'neal winterline gap year student

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I love to travel and want to see a bit of the world and have an adventure before I go back to school.  It could also help me figure out what I want to study.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

All of the skills look super fun and interesting though I am looking forward to learning to cook in Thailand; I would love to be able to have some culinary skill besides just pasta, pancakes, and quesadillas.

maria o'neal winterline gap year student

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

I will be going to Colorado State University (GO Rams!) and the current plan is to get my Master’s in physical therapy with a minor in sports psychology, but I am still open to a lot of different career paths.

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

I don’t know if this counts as traveling but I was born in Spain and lived there until I was seven. During that time we traveled a lot throughout Europe. Since moving to the states I have been back to Europe a couple of times and have also been to San Carlos, Mexico. My favorite trip was back to Spain when my family and I spent a week sailing around Mallorca and had an amazing time.

maria o'neal winterline gap year student

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

I hope to learn about the amazing different cultures around the world and I hope to find more activities that I enjoy and could use the rest of my life.

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

I am always looking forward to new adventures, I consider myself pretty optimistic, I am hardworking and looking forward to the challenges this trip presents. I love to laugh and make cheesy jokes, and I can’t wait to meet new people.

maria o'neal winterline gap year student

WHY WINTERLINE?

I loved that Winterline focuses on exposing its participants to more careers, teaches new skills, and offers a chance to meet fellow adventurers.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I am a mountain girl at heart. As mentioned above I was born in Spain but now reside in a small mountain town where I enjoy skiing, trail running, and many different types of adventuring. I dabble in photography and weird dancing.

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

New Student Spotlight: Tyler Trout

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

I first heard of people taking gap years when I was in middle school. I thought it was a really cool idea and I kept it in the back of my head through high school. When I started applying to various colleges, I wasn’t feeling very excited about it and knew I didn’t want to go straight to four more years of school. I decided that I wanted to take a gap year and through some research on the topic I discovered the Winterline Global Skills Program.  

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I wanted to travel to new places and have new experiences. I have always loved traveling. I also love learning, but sitting in a classroom isn’t my idea of fun. Learning skills without having to be in class sounds like a fantastic opportunity.

Tyler trout winterline

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn how to cook with ingredients in different countries! I love to cook at home and I make various meals for my friends and family, so learning to expand that talent is something I really look forward to.

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

I’m not entirely sure what I want to do in the future. I have always liked the idea of being a veterinarian because I know I would be happy helping animals. Overall I just want to have fun and do what I feel passionate about.

Tyler trout winterline

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

I have traveled to various places with family and friends, but my favorite trip was when I visited my uncle in Colombia, South America. It was a really cool experience to be fully immersed in a foreign country. I went to three cities: Medellín, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. Each city had a completely different feel. I saw one of Pablo Escobar’s hideouts in Medellín, hiked to a remote jungle beach in Santa Marta and conversed with Argentine cowboys in Cartagena. It was a really cool adventure with my uncle and, while traveling, I was able to practice my Spanish speaking skills.

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

I would like to make lifelong friends, get a better understanding of the world, and make great memories. Going to ten different countries and seeing so much of the world is an amazing opportunity that not many people will ever get so I really want to make the most of it.

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

I’m a fun and outgoing person who tries to see the best in everything! I love meeting new people and making friends! I enjoy trying novel things and am open to unique opportunities!

WHY WINTERLINE?

No other program gives you the chance to see so many different places and learn so many new skills and talents. I looked at a few other gap year programs and they were all only one semester or only went to one location. Winterline is a one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t find anywhere else.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I love dogs and a good game of pick up football!

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

5 Steps to Defer College

What to Know

Choosing to defer before you apply:

If you have yet to apply to college, be sure to note on your application that you’re considering a gap year. You can do this by explaining why you want to take a gap year and how you plan to spend your time off. Write this in the essay or personal statement part of your application.

Choosing to defer after being offered admission:

If you decide to defer after being admitted, you will need to contact the university and inquire about their deferment practices. At some universities, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Others may grant deferral upon request without need for additional information. Prepare to provide detailed information about your gap year if the college requires it. If you’re considering a gap year that has some relevant bearing on your intended course of study, be sure to indicate that when you make your request.

Things to consider when deferring admission:

Deferring admission may mean several things at different universities. You will lose your housing, you could lose your scholarships if they cannot be deferred too, and you may have to reapply for admission again after your gap year. Talk to the college and ask them about their deferral policies. The American Gap Year Association surveyed some colleges about their policies and their responses will help you see how different colleges handle deferrals.

What if the university denies your request?

If the college denies your request to defer, you have two options. You can enter college in the fall and opt to study abroad during your four-year college experience. Or you can take the year off to travel with a program and reapply the following year. Again, always remember to consider the opportunity and benefits a gap year presents.

If you request a deferment, you will lose your spot in the upcoming class.

Once you request the deferment, and the college approves your request, you cannot change your mind. Colleges release your spot to wait-listed students. Your decision will be final, so act confidently!

What to Do

Follow these 5 steps when requesting to take a gap year:

1: Do your research and determine which gap year is best for you.

2: Contact the admissions department and tell them that you are interested in taking a gap year.

3: Explain your reasons for taking a gap year, including any relevant information that might coincide with future study.

4Contact the financial aid office to determine whether or not your scholarships and merit aid will still be available when you enter college the next year.

5: Secure approval from the college before beginning your gap year.

It’s relieving to know that college will still be an option when you return from a gap year. So if that was a fear holding you back, what else are you waiting for?

New Student Spotlight: Emma Mays

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

I was only really introduced to the idea of taking a gap year a few months ago. I’d heard of them in the past but they seemed to be a thing mostly in europe and I’d never personally known anyone who decided to take one. A few months back my Mom actually mentioned the idea to me and we just went from there.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’ve been burnt out on the education system for a very long time now and I think my family and I realized that I just needed some time away from a traditional classroom setting to regain my passion for learning.

Emma-Mays-gap year student
Emma

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m really excited about everything to be honest. That being said I’m weirdly excited about glass blowing, I’m not particularly sure why it just seems so interesting and something no one I’ve ever met has done.

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

I’m not sure what exactly I’d like to do in the future but I’d definitely love to work in a creative field. Right now I’m considering majoring in film production but I’m interested in seeing what direction the next year pushes me in.

Emma-Mays-gap year student
Legend Titan Front Ensemble at Grand Nationals 2017

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

I haven’t traveled extensively, mostly just to visit family, but when I was 15 my school’s marching band went to London. It was the first time I had traveled without my family and it was a really great experience. My friends and I got lost in the city and we had to find our way back. It was a really fun experience and it changed my perspective on a lot of stuff.

Emma-Mays-Winterline-gap year student
Emma (far right) with friends.

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

I think if I knew what exactly I expected to get out this experience it almost wouldn’t be worth going, but I do hope to get a bit more adaptability out of the adventure.

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

I’m pretty quiet at first but as I get more comfortable I’ll start making a bunch of jokes and you’ll probably want to punch me in the face but that’s alright because I made a really good friend that way.

Emma-Mays-Winterline-gap year student
Emma (middle) with friends.

WHY WINTERLINE?

I don’t think I could articulate it if I tried, when I found Winterline’s site I just had a feeling in my gut that this is where I should be.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I’m a ridiculous person, I do goofy stuff all the time. For example last october I had a half day of school and I dressed up the plastic skeleton we had for halloween and put him in my passenger seat and drove around. His name is Franklin.

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

What to Expect from Trimester 2: An Interview with Alice Hart & Sophia Mizrahi

From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia
From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia

As our group finishes our second trimester, we’ve been doing some reflection about the last few months in Southeast Asia. I interviewed two of my best friends on the trip, Alice and Sophia. They each reflected on their own experiences in Cambodia, Thailand, and India, which was a lot of fun to see…

Why did you join Winterline this year?

 Alice: “I had known I was going to take a gap year and once I saw Winterline’s skills and the variety that they offered, I decided that I wanted to use this year to figure out what I want to do in the future. I wanted to use the skills to put me on track for my future career.”

Sophia: “I wanted to go to college immediately, but my mom was very open to the idea of a gap year and encouraged me to look into it. I was looking at gap year options, and I knew that I didn’t want to stay at home and work before college. At first, I was scared of being away from home for 9 months, but once I looked into the program I knew that it would provide me time to mature before college and allow me to grow, which it’s done.”

Alice cooking at Paul De Brule
Alice cooking at Paul de Brule

What has been your favorite place we have traveled to in the second trimester and why?

Alice: “It’s definitely between Cambodia and India. I loved Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was quiet, but at the same time there was a lot of access to different activities. I loved the different cultures and it was a great place to people watch, especially on Pub Street. I also loved learning to make different Cambodian dishes at Paul de Brule Cooking School and learning about hospitality.”

Sophia: “I loved Bangkok, Thailand. I spent a couple winters there as a child, so it was great to be back. Even though I was sick there with a sinus infection, I loved it so much. I really enjoyed the hustle-and-bustle of a really big city. I also enjoyed doing cooking school in Bangkok!”

Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.
Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.

What has been the greatest challenge during second trimester for you personally?

Alice: “I think living with other people is a challenge I’m still dealing with. It never becomes magically easy to do. I am also still figuring out how I can speak my truth to the group, but I also am learning to accept that people won’t always listen to me.”

Sophia: “Honestly, it’s been challenging to be sick a lot of this trimester. I really wanted to take time to appreciate where we have been, but I had a hard time doing that when I was constantly so physically sick.”

What has been the greatest reward during this trimester for you?

Alice: “I think still being able to learn new things about my peers even though we have all been together for so long. It’s been interesting to see new sides to these people, who I’ve lived with for so long, and I always learn something new from everyone.”

Sophia: “Even though it was a nightmare, my reward was getting through most of the bike ride in Siem Reap. I never thought I would be able to get through it, but it was really satisfying and a personal accomplishment for me.”

Taking a bike ride and making new friends| Photo By: Alice Hart
Southeast Asia Bike Ride| Photo By: Alice Hart

What advice/words of wisdom would you give someone who is contemplating taking a gap year with Winterline?

 Alice: “To have realistic expectations. A lot of people think that this program is a way to escape their own lives. And the truth is that your personal problems will follow you and you’re going to have to learn how to navigate these problems, especially with people you can’t walk away from. Learn to have the sympathy and empathy to manage your relationships within the group.”

Sophia: “You may want to go home. The whole year won’t be unicorns and rainbows. Your group is going to go through so much together as a family, but also remember to rely on people in your group for support. Also, keep your socks dry on NOLS and don’t get trench foot like I did!” 

Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.
Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.

Is there anything you wish you had known before going into this trimester?

Alice: “People will surprise you.”

Sophia: “I wish that I had packed a real jacket because it’s going to be so cold in Europe. Also, I wish I had known I would get more bug bites on my body and face in Southeast Asia than in Belize and Costa Rica. I was the only one!”

Alice and Sophia at the National Museum of Cambodia | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Last question… What experience or expedition has been the most fun for you, during second trimester?

 Alice: “Sophia, Anna, and I had a “tourist” day on one of our rest days in Phnom Penh. We went to the National Museum of Cambodia, got massages, had lunch at a local restaurant, and explored some of the temples. It’s one of those days that will always be one of my favorite memories and just picture-perfect. I love my two best friends.”

Sophia: “My favorite day was when we went to the Bai Pai Cooking School in Bangkok, and then explored the mall afterwards. I was very proud of my cooking capabilities and for also navigating the huge city using public transportation.”

 

To learn more about our students be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We upload new posts three times a week!

New Student Spotlight: Spencer Holtschult

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

I never thought taking a gap year was something I was ever gonna do, but as the school year went by and college decisions started coming out I decided taking a year to explore and find out what I wanted to do in life would be my best option.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I wanted to avoid another year of generic education and expand my horizons by learning skills and experiencing all kinds of new cultures.

Spencer and his sisters on a family vacation in the snow
Spencer and his sisters on a family vacation in the snow

WHAT skill are you most excited to learn?

I can’t pin-point an exact skill I’m most excited to learn because all of them seem so fun and interesting to me.

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

As I’m closing in on the end of my senior year, I’ve realized more than ever that I really have no clue what I want to do in the future and I believe through this program I will gain knowledge that will better prepare me for my future.

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

Yes, but never outside the country. My favorite trip would have to be our family vacation to Hawaii. We did a lot of fun things including snorkeling, surfing, and swimming with manta rays.

Spencer Holtschult Winterline Gap Year
Spencer walking on the beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

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

Something I expect to gain from my gap year is a new perspective on the world surrounding me. For my whole life I’ve grown up with the same friends, people, and always the same routine. I think finally breaking out of that bubble will give me a whole new perspective about the world and my place in it.

pencer with his twin sister and older sister
Spencer with his twin sister and older sister

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

I like to think I have a great sense of humor, I’m always down for an adventure and want have as much fun as possible even when in a bad situation!

Why WINTERLINE?

I felt that Winterline offered something that no other gap year program really offered…besides the amount of countries and skills you get to experience and learn, Winterline offers a sense of community and friendship within the group of kids that participate in this program and that was the one thing that really made this program stand out to me.

Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach
Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I love listening to music, and although my moves are pretty bad it doesn’t stop me from dancing and having a great time!

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

 

Healthy Travel Tips

I have an impressively weak immune system and a knack for getting bizarre diseases and sicknesses. I have gotten a number of eye and ear infections while in Hawaii and California, stomach bugs in the Dominican Republic and Canada, and I even discovered I had a MRSA staph infection on my leg two days before leaving for Tanzania. I take my own health precautions more seriously when I travel to foreign countries to avoid malaria, the dreaded “Montezuma’s revenge,” and other travel-provoking illnesses. But unfortunately, within the last two months of trimester 2, I have gotten sick in every city that we’ve been to. Along the way, I’ve learned some things about my own health habits that I’d love to share.

Whether you decide to take a gap year with Winterline, or a family vacation, these tips will help you stay healthier and happier abroad…

#1) Take Daily Probiotics

I always take daily probiotics, whether I am traveling or at home, but it can get easy to slack off on remembering to take these pills every morning. Set a reminder on your phone for the same time every day (and adjust it when you change time zones) so that you remember to take that probiotic every day. Your gut will thank you.

#2) Exercise Regularly

I find it extremely difficult to fit in time (or space) for exercise while traveling. Spending only 20 minutes a day to go on a long walk, roll out the yoga mat, or go for a swim will keep your body so much stronger and up for the toll that travel has on the body. I have found many simple exercises that you can do without any equipment online and recommend coming up with a plan that will keep yourself accountable to your physical wellbeing while traveling.

Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson
Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson

#3) Everything in Moderation (even moderation, sometimes)

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of people this trimester has been eating healthy. With all the amazing new food in different countries, there are plenty of healthy options to explore. But there are also Burger Kings on every corner of Phnom Penh and 7-11’s in Bangkok, which can be tempting, especially when you’re homesick. The way I have been able to avoid this issue is to allow myself “treats” such as an ice cream bar on a particularly hot day or a soda with dinner. It has helped me immensely to not be strict with my diet, but to keep in mind that almost everything I eat should be in moderation. Encourage yourself and your travel buddies to try the local street food and skip the McDonalds.

Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson
Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson

#4) Get Good Sleep!  

This is a huge one that I am convinced has caused a lot of my sicknesses this trimester. I have gotten into the pattern of staying up late to watch Netflix, talk to friends, or work on my writing, and then needing to get up early for program days. I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, program day or not, and reserve my late nights for the weekends. It’s easier said than done, but once you get into this habit, which can be aided by incorporating melatonin or meditation into your nightly routine, you will avoid getting sick.

#5) Drink CLEAN Water

I may or may not have gotten sick in Phnom Penh because I wasn’t careful about where my drinking water/ice was coming from in restaurants. It’s obviously important to drink water, whether you’re traveling or not. For me, this looks like carrying around a Nalgene and filling it up with bottled or filtered water in the hotels and hostels. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter if their water is filtered or bottled, and even ask them to see their water filter. It’s your health, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are consuming clean water and ice. I learned that the hard way, so don’t make that mistake!

Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

#6) Go to the Hospital (if necessary)

My automatic assumption was that healthcare in Southeast Asia was bad. I had to put this stereotype to the test when I went to an international hospital in Bangkok due to my incessant cough attacks and fatigue. It was the most beautiful hospital I had ever been to and the staff was amazing. I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, got my medication, and was on my way. Obviously not all hospital experiences around the world will be like this, but don’t push the idea of going to a hospital aside, especially when you really need it. Do your research before going to the hospital, and have a friend evaluate you to see if you really even need to go.

This brings me right to my most important tip…

#7) DO YOUR RESEARCH

Before I left for Southeast Asia, I had a check-up with my physician. I showed her the list of the countries and cities I’d be visiting and she showed me how to look up medical facts about each place that are vital to know if you want to be an informed traveler. All of this information is available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov). If you want to stay healthy, you absolutely have to do your research well before traveling to a new country.

Anna researching the next steps of her adventure while abroad.

I will be the first person to say that being sick while traveling is not fun. The physical toll it has taken on my body also infringes on my ability to be present on Winterline somedays, and I wish I had taken even more precautions before entering Southeast Asia. Make your health a priority, and I promise your experience anywhere in the world will be so much more worthwhile!

New Student Spotlight: Abby Dulin

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

I first learned about a gap year in high school and it struck my interest. I did further research on it and found out that a gap year is exactly what I wanted to do. I never thought I would take one because I didn’t know there were programs that gave you the opportunity to travel and learn new skills.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I really have no idea what I want to do with my life. I am almost finished with a year of community college. I got most of my gen ed classes out of the way, but I don’t know what to do next. With everything Winterline has to offer, I know I will come out confident in what I want to do.

Abby Dulin Winterline Gap Year 2018-2019
Abby with family. 

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one because so many of them excite me, but if I had to narrow it down I’d say photography, videography, or scuba diving.

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

I’m really not sure what I want to do in the future, which is why I am taking this gap year.

Abby adventuring.

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

Yes, I mainly travel around the states and I started traveling alone when I was 15. I have been out of the country once to Costa Rica and that was my favorite trip. From snorkling to body surfing, Costa Rica just gave off a really good vibe that made it a fun time.

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

I hope to become more independent and overall a more well-rounded person. I am excited to see all of the different cultures and environments and learn from every experience.

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

I am a little shy when I first meet people, but I really open up once I get to know them. Don’t be surprised if you see me laughing at absolutely nothing because my mind runs wild, you’ll get used to it. Oh yeah and don’t take anything I say seriously because I am very sarcastic.

Abby (right) smiling with a friend.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline offers everything that I’m looking for from the skills to the travel. I looked at other gap year programs, but nothing compared.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I’ve lived in 6 different states, which opened my eyes to traveling. I love photography and videography, so I will definitely be taking lots of photos and videos on this trip. One last thing, I can say the alphabet backwards and juggle, but not at the same time.

To learn more about our students be sure to check out our blog. We upload new posts three times a week!

 

How to Save for a Gap Year

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

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

Get creative

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

Go with the “tried and true.”

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

Use your gifts

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

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

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

Disconnect on Your Gap Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Taking a Gap Year for Mental Health

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

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

Susie
Susie hanging out | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

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

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

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

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

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

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

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

Study Abroad Myths Busted

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

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

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

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

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

Myth: Studying abroad is too expensive.

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

Myth: It isn’t safe to study abroad.

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

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

Winterline students learning Wilderness First Aid at NOLS

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

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

Myth: I’ll miss out on things.

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

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

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

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

 

How a Gap Year Can Add Value to Your Career

While taking a gap year has become an increasingly popular trend among high school seniors for various reasons, there are many benefits to doing so for those who are in the workforce, too. Whether you’re about to don your cap and gown — or already among the employed — taking a gap year offers specific advantages that can positively affect your career.

 

What a Gap Year Is All About

In a recent post by Counseling@NYU, which offers an online masters in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt, titled “Gap Year Basics: How Taking a Year Off Increases the Ceiling for Students,” looks at the dynamics of a gap year. Although some may view such a choice as a luxury, individuals take gap years for various reasons — such as saving for college, working, traveling or for religious purposes. In an interview for the article, Ethan Knight, executive director of the American Gap Association (AGA), noted that serious gappers dig deep to learn more about themselves. He says they: “… confront limits they didn’t know they had, succeed more frequently than they would have thought before, and are exposed to new and different ways to lead this thing called life.”

5 Ways a Gap Year Can Benefit Your Career

There are many advantages to taking a gap year. In addition to the positive results of its own 2015 National Alumni Survey, the AGA highlights data across a variety of studies that show what benefits can result from making this choice. This and other resources demonstrate the advantages that are possible, including the following five:

 

  1. A better sense of self and deeper multicultural understanding — which helps individuals learn how to cope with new challenges in a creative manner.
  2. The acquisition of new skills and knowledge for career enhancement — many of the attributes that employers look for can be gained during gap year activities. Many take a gapyear to learn a new trade, or do a short course that enhances their skills.
  3. Increased job satisfaction and employability — studying abroad during a gap year has been shown to have a big impact on getting both jobs and promotions.
  4. Expanded networking potential — made possible both by extensive travel and the ability to shed the pressures felt back home.

When Your Gap Year Is Over

Although it may seem daunting to re-enter the workforce or school after the gap year is through, there are specific things you can do to ease your transition. If you’re headed to school and your admission has been deferred, be sure to contact the institution involved and let them know you’re ready to hit the books. When it comes to getting back into the workforce, it’s important to let your current employer know you’re back — and to rework your resume if you’re looking for something knew. The AGA offers the following tips for doing so:

  • Communicate the value of your experience clearly.
  • Focus on the skills you acquired, rather than the experiences you enjoyed most.
  • Structure your resume correctly, with gap experience under the right section, like ‘Volunteer Experience’
  • Know your audience and what role you want, and align your resume accordingly.
  • Use specific metrics to be concise and communicate the value of your experiences.
  • Remember that a gap year is seen by many as a choice made by the privileged, which is not always the case. Clearly articulate why you took the gap year and emphasize the well-rounded experience.

Knight expounded further in a recent interview for Fast Company, offering the following recommendations:

  • Treat your experience like a job and include it in your application materials.
  • Be clear about why you took a gap year.
  • Know what the employer is looking for and show how the gap year has helped.

If you plan your gap year strategically, embrace the experience fully, and communicate its benefits clearly — you can enhance your self-growth while adding value to your career.

 

Colleen O’Day is a Digital Marketing Manager at 2U, based out of the Washington DC area. Colleen supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health, and K-12 education programs

 

History of the Gap Year

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

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

Winterline Gap Year Program Robotics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Free Resources for Learning a Language

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

DuoLingo

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

Winterline Learning Language Duolingo
Busuu

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

Winterline Learning Language Busuu


Memrise

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

Winterline Learning Language Memrise


AccelaStudy

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

Winterline Learning Language Accela


Rosetta Stone Travel App

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

Winterline Learning Language Rosetta Stone

 

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

 

 

Awesome Trips at Awesome Prices this Cyber Monday!

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

Winterline Programs

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

Flights

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

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

Hotels

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

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

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

 

 Cruises

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

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

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

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

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


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

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

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

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

What activity or learning experience captivates you most about Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Winterline?

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

Tell us something fun about you!

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

Backpacking on a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Field Advisors: Sarah & Ed

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

 

Sarah Rasmussen field advisorSarah Rasmussen field advisor

Meet Sarah Rasmussen

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

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

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

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

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

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

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

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

 

ed thompson field advisored thompson field advisor

Meet Ed Thompson

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

Q: What are you most excited for?

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

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

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

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

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

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ET: I attended kindergarten twice!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Erica & Patrick

We are gearing up for our Gap Year orientation and we’re so excited to introduce you to two of our four field advisors. Erica and Patrick will be heading to Colorado to meet with one of our two groups of gap year students.We are so proud to have such strong leaders and experienced travelers as field advisors for the upcoming Gap Year program. For the next nine months Patrick and Erica will be leading our students around the globe for the adventure of a lifetime.

erica schultz winterline field advisorerica schultz winterline field advisor

Meet Erica Schultz

Since 2013, Erica has dedicated her time and talents to leading experiential education student groups through travel across the globe. She has worked with programs in Costa Rica, Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Through her work in the Peace Corps and her degree in Spanish writing and literature, she has found her passion of creating strong connections with other cultures through their languages. With over four years of leading programs and about 50 student trips under her belt she’s beyond excited for the next nine months with Winterline.

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

ES: I’m excited to share my stoke of visiting each country as we move through the trimesters! We are LITERALLY going around the world on this program! That’s a traveler’s dream.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

ES: For the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time working with high school students in different countries. Being a Field Advisor for Winterline, I’m given the opportunity to work and create impactful relationships with students that are a little older and have more independence. This program allows them to better control what they want to get out of the program and how it will shape their future. I’ve always been passionate about experiential education and learning outside of the classroom. As an FA I get to fulfill that passion by seeing students thrive through real life situations, through gaining skills that will potentially help shape their decisions later in life, and by gaining a well-rounded global perspective.

Q: What is your favorite thing about traveling?

ES: The feeling of stepping foot in a new and unknown country. It’s so exhilarating to know almost nothing about the place you’ve landed in and not knowing anyone there. Also, FOOD. Always! Trying everything and anything!

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ES: I haven’t had a home since 2013 (my mom might argue with this since my stuff is in my childhood room of my parents’ house!) I have been working for travel companies, had a small stint in Peace Corps, and pieced together road trips in between to keep the travel ball rolling. Since then, I’ve hit 16 countries (including new states in America) and I am excited to add two new ones to the list from this program.

 

patrick galvin winterline field advisorpatrick galvin winterline field advisor

Meet Patrick Galvin

A natural born leader, Patrick is happiest when his backpack is on and he’s out exploring new places. He is excited excited to join the Winterline family to combine his passions of travel, mentorship, and the love of life through the gap year program. Patrick found his passion for working with young adults during his travels leading programs in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. With about a dozen student trips under his belt, Patrick is excited about taking his leadership to new heights and places with Winterline.

Q: What are you most excited for?

PG: Anytime I pack my backpack to go on an adventure I get excited! I have a long list (the countries we’re going to, the skills we will learn, etc.) but I’m currently most excited to meet everyone in the group and get to know everyone. Each group is unique and every individual brings something special to the table. I can’t wait to find out what those unique qualities are 😉

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

PG: This job is one of a kind. It is the most rewarding and inspiring job that I have ever come across. Travel has always been an obsession of mine and I love to work with young adults in a mentorship role.

Q: What’s a place that you’ve never been but really want to visit?

PG: I can’t wait to get to India!!! It’s been #1 on my list to get to for the past two years 🙂

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

PG: The highest elevation I’ve ever hiked to is 5645 meters (18,519 feet).

 

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

 

My Dream Gap Year

Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard. Decision Day had arrived and while all my friends were announcing their acceptances into elite colleges, I was buying what my sister calls “grandma sandals” and a 70-litre backpack for what was, and is, supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. I sat there, observing the stream of committed students and proud mothers, attempting to quell my frustrations. Their senior years had been a breeze as soon as winter holidays hit. Applications were done, and their fun could finally begin, but I was in a different boat.

With the decision of taking a gap year comes a few complications, the first being that most all of the colleges I want to apply to don’t accept deferments. Unlike everyone else, whose grades past their application date are to some extent irrelevant, all my grades are taken into account. However, I didn’t have grades until I started taking classes at my local community college. “Why Leela,” you might ask, “What do you mean you didn’t have grades until community college?” Well, my high school is what I lovingly refer to as a “crunchy granola private school,” and I was legally registered as a homeschooler because my three day a week “learning community” didn’t meet the hour requirements for a legitimate school. For someone who wants to go to Stanford, waiting a year has its pros and cons. On one hand I get more of a chance to prove my worth. The extra time means they have more grades to look at when I apply. On the other hand, I have to take summer classes while everyone else is on vacation because I want the best chance of acceptance possible. Admittedly I’m not looking forward to it, but my saving grace is my gap year. Although, it wasn’t always so easy to say that.

It was the end of junior year, and my school had it’s annual college prep class: five days of exploring secondary education and—more pertinently, alternative options to attending university. My dream gap year was exactly that: a dream. Murky and unknown, with only a few concrete details. I wanted to travel, I wanted to learn about the world beyond my front door, and I wanted to come back with a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life so I wasn’t attending college just to say I was. I had minimal resources and poor planning skills. In addition, traversing the globe alone sounded mildly terrifying for the moment, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d learn if I just did the whole “I’m going to Europe!” thing, so I used that five-day course to explore my options. There was a semester at sea, a year in Ireland, and a handful of other eye-catching options, but none of them quite struck me as fulfilling. In fact, by the time that course was done, I wasn’t quite sure I even wanted to take a gap year anymore. I have a habit of giving up when the going gets hard, and boy was it getting hard. But I kept searching, and one day there it was, a small advertisement sitting in the middle of my facebook feed at two o’clock in the morning: Winterline (cue the commercial music).

My parents were more than skeptical when I told them the next morning. They didn’t really believe that I’d go back to school if I stopped, and to be honest, I felt it too. But I stood there in my fleecy plaid pajamas and I told them my truth: I felt silly applying for esteemed colleges that cost immense sums of money without a plan in mind. Yes, straying from the path is scary, but where I was, and where I am currently, with no clue what I’d even want to study, is scarier. I mean, most everyone has at least an idea of what they wanted from life, and me? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. As I am now, I know who I am, I know my flaws and my strengths, and I’ve finally become very confident in myself and my personality. But ask me what I want to do in college or what I like to do in general, and I’ll probably change the subject.

So yes, this gap year idea is strange, and mildly terrifying. In fact, it was so scary I didn’t even send out grad announcements. I didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to ask me what I’m doing this year, because as excited as I am, there’s still so many questions that I have. And of course there’s the ever looming thought of not getting into my dream school afterwards, that all this work will be for naught. Even since beginning to write this, I’ve had a few panic attacks.

Yet, for all the hard work I’ve been sloughing through; for every party I missed because I had an 8AM class in the middle of July the next morning, for every invite to the lake I declined to work on my SAT studies, and for every late night where I was lost in the plethora of existential crises that plagues my brain; for every one of those moments, there is a moment where I picture myself. Past this summer, past the gap year even, right after the most wonderful adventure in the world. When I think about the end of this, I hold one very specific image in my head: I am settled down one evening, a September sunset streaming through my dorm room window, thinking about my road so far; remembering every obstacle I encountered, and how euphoric it felt to overcome each one. And then future me looks up and smiles, she looks me straight in the eyes and says, “It was all worth it, and Paolo Alto is beautiful.”

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.

Considering a Gap Year? Tips from a Harvard Student


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

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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 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?

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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!


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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.


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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.

Whatever.

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).


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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.

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1. Harvard

Harvard_University_Widener_Library.jpg

“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

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“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

University_of_Richmond_gap_year.jpg

“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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.”

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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“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.”

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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?

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“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 A Gap Year Like Malia

Many were still unfamiliar with the concept of a gap year and were curious to see what she had in store. Thanks to the help of a number of new sources, we were able to piece together a timeline of Malia’s gap year so far.

If you are a student, currently in the process of gap year planning, I hope this example will inspire you to venture further outside of your comfort zone.

Summer 2016

Malia started off her gap year by following in the political footsteps of her father with a summer internship at the U.S. Embassy in Spain. Normally, the Embassy only accepts upperclassmen and recent college graduates for their coveted internships but in this case, they made an exception. Barack Obama has said in the past that Malia’s Spanish is quite impressive so it stands to reason that she would want to spend her summer embracing a foreign culture on the beautiful streets of Madrid.

Malia and Barack Obama

Photo Credits: Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Although Malia is familiar with the political world, an internship at the U.S. Embassy allowed her to approach foreign politics from an outsider’s perspective. What are Spain’s concerns when it comes to U.S. politics? How do diplomats work to communicate between these two countries? Nothing can stand in the place of real world experience when it comes to politics. For those interested in pursuing a career in international relations, that global perspective may be just what you need to test the waters and get your foot in the door.

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Fall 2016

In the fall, Malia traveled to South America in pursuit of another side of Spanish-speaking culture. She joined Where There Be Dragons on their 3-Month Gap Semester program in Bolivia and Peru. Malia spent three months trekking through the mountains, camping in the Amazon and exploring topics such as environmental conservation and social reform — all while improving her Spanish language skills.

Malia Obama Bolivia

Photo Credits: (NYTimes)

A rural, international experience is perfect for those looking to get away from urban life. Maybe you are tired of your hometown and are looking to explore a new place or you want to become fluent in a new language. Immersing yourself in a foreign environment can be humbling and telling for those feeling lost in a bustling city.

Spring & Summer 2017

But the year isn’t over yet! Sources have confirmed that Malia will spend the remainder of her gap year interning at the entertainment industry at an independent production company.

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Photo Credits: Hollywood Life

This isn’t Malia’s first time working in the entertainment industry. In the summer of 2015, she spent time interning for HBO’s Girls and inspired the show’s writer and star, Lena Dunham, with her can-do attitude. “She wanted to do all the jobs. That was the cool thing. She was totally enthusiastic,” Dunham said to Howard Stern on The Howard Stern Show. Although an intro-level position in the entertainment industry is often monotonous, being where the action is and absorbing what you see happening around you can be invaluable at a young age.

What this means for you: Tips

If Malia’s gap year can teach us anything, it’s that the best gap year is made of a variety of experiences. If you’re a high school student going through the process of gap year planning, consider approaching the task in this way.

Rather than finding one activity to consume all your time, break your year into chunks and dedicate a few months at a time to each of your interests. Give yourself a chance to test out a handful of options and you may be surprised by what activities resonate with you the most. A bevy of unique and challenging experiences will prepare you for the adversity you may face in college and beyond.

While traveling the world, our students try out a hundred different skills over the course of our 9-Month Program; some more and less appealing to some than others. At Winterline, that pedagogy of exposure and experience drives our Global Skills Gap Year Program.

By the end of the year, students have a strong understanding of their likes and dislikes and what areas of study they would like to pursue further. They come home having learned something about themselves and the world — and that’s the most valuable gift you can give yourself from a year off from school.

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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.

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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.

Reflection:

  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

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

Jacksgap

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

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

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

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

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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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Tips for choosing a multi-destination gap year program

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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This Gap Year Dad Reflects on How to Send Your Daughters Away

Jofi writes in this recent blog post, as he deals with the reality of sending both of his daughters away.

Instead of the common description of loneliness which we’ve come to associate with ’empty nest syndrome’, Jofi writes about gratitude and the incredible opportunity his daughters have, one of them heading to college, the other back out on our Winterline gap year program.

“We as parents,” he writes, “and I am including myself, a lot of the time do not realize the opportunities our daughters and/or sons are receiving and experiencing when they study or travel abroad. It is so much more than studying or traveling that they are doing, but we tend to focus on how much we will miss them. You know what? I miss them a bunch too, but I would not trade all that they are doing so they can stay home with me.”

The clarity with which he writes is something we see in a lot of our gap year parents. They know that a year straight from high school to college isn’t for everyone. If you had the opportunity to send your student child abroad, would you? (We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.)

The opportunity to study abroad, experience the world, isn’t just about collecting another experience to put on a resume or in a cocktail story. It’s much more than that.

As Jofi puts it into context, “My “job” as a parent is to prepare them for life. Through all these experiences they are living, they are preparing themselves for what life has ahead of them. Will all the experiences be happy ones? Of course not, but life is not like that either.”

It’s Official! We’ve Been Accredited by the Gap Year Association.

After many long months of document submissions, risk management guidelines, transparency protocol updates and more, we’ve been officially accredited by the Gap Year Association!

You may ask:

What does it mean to be accredited?

We’ll let the Gap Year Association speak for itself.

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Currently Accredited Member

The accreditation process involves both the Gap Year Association staff and Board of Advisors to ensure the best in Gap Year education and the highest consistency in programming.

Accreditation by the Gap Year Association represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity. Accredited Programs have agreed to consistently abide by the Standards of the Gap Year Association, which 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.

How to Travel on a Gap Year to Los Angeles and Bangkok

Another reason to bring a solid camera with you on your gap year program. On their way to Thailand, Maddie, Leo, and Michael stopped over at the beach for a while before heading out to the airport and their long haul to Bangkok. We love seeing their excitement as they step up for another incredible semester abroad learning crazy new skills.

Thinking about doing a gap year with us?

Don’t wait! Our programs sell out quickly. This year we had to turn people away at the door and it did not feel good. We don’t want you to miss out on one of the most pivotal moments in your life. A gap year is an incredibly rare opportunity, but it takes planning, and that’s what we’re here for.

Our gap year programs, semester abroad programs, and summer abroad programs are about preparing you for your whole life. Not just one tiny piece of it.

It’s not just about becoming an amazing traveler, backpacker, adventurer, which of course you will. Or about finding the right, cool major, also probable. It’s about all of the opportunity that you unlock for yourself and for your entire life when you see the world and learn real skills to prepare you for who knows what will happen in your life.

You’ll learn life skills, adulting, as they say. How to sew, how to fish, how to cook and make a beautiful hotel bed. How to be a self-sufficient person, and carry what you need on your back.

You’ll learn real leadership skills. What’s your leadership style? How do you respond to criticism and negative feedback — positive feedback? How do you encourage others to live up to a higher standard?

You’ll learn how to survive in the wild, get certified in scuba diving and thai massage, lead a dance team, travel solo, drink wine and know if it’s even any good.

If this is starting to sound like the best gap year ever, then yes, you should apply right away. The application is easy, and you don’t have to finish it all at once. We can get all the passport stuff later. We’ll go through every detail of what you need to prepare for your gap year as part of our enrollment and onboarding process for our gap year, semester, and summer programs. Anything that needs working on we’ll make sure you know about as soon as possible.

Travel visas for your gap year, risk management training for your independent study projects, packing lists for backpacking in Europe, Asia, and the American wilderness. We help you do all of these things, so you’re not out in the middle of some foreign country, flailing.

Our Field Advisors will be your mentors. They’ve been through this before. A lot of us think we’re pretty good at communicating. The truth is we’re not. We have to learn. We all need practice listening, leading, persuading, consolidating, compromising.

Our gap year programs are all built on cohort models. You need to learn to live in community in order to know how leadership works, how being a follower of a good idea can be incredibly powerful, and take your peers to the next level. How to help.

But you’re not together all the time. Each trimester, you’ll do an independent study project on your gap year. For the first two, we give you a bunch of choices. After that, we set you up with support and months of planning to make your totally solo time an amazing and valuable experience.

You’ll come back with a totally different perspective on the world. You may be the same you, but you’ll be way more excited, motivated, and ready to jump into using the skills you’ll need for the rest of your life!

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Live Infosession coming up

We’re hosting a live info-session featuring the Winterline Dean of Students this month! Come get your questions answered about admissions strategies, application info, and what you’ll learn on a gap year with Winterline. (Hint: we’re all about skills.)

The info-session will feature a run-through of our current programs, why you should take a gap year, why skills education is awesome, and why traveling with your friends makes for a better gap year and study abroad experience. We’ll also talk about our newer semester and summer abroad programs, if you’re looking to get a taste of the Winterline experience.

Our gap year programs are inclusive and we welcome students to apply from a wide variety of backgrounds. If traveling the world with an amazing group of friends and learning a new skill in a new place almost every week sounds like the program for you, then RSVP immediately.





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Time and date: January 24th @8pm EST. (If this isn’t a good time, please fill out this super-short survey and let us know when works for you.

Your host: Susie Childs, Dean of Admissions at Winterline Global Education

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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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Student Video: My Gap Year With Winterline

Nothing warms our hearts more than knowing that our students have made lifelong friendships, grown in their personal lives, and learned skills to prepare them for the real world.

One of our alumna, Sydney, put this video together, demonstrating proficiency in all of these critical life areas.

The opening shots are an actual “Winterline” in the Himalayas. The phenomenon where the sun’s light is dispersed horizontally by a massive compression of warm, sub-continental air by the cold mountain air. The Winterline represents a false horizon, whereby, when you are able to ascend above it, you can see a new truth, a new vision of beauty and reality.

They travel to Bangkok, where they learn to meditate and participate in the annual water festival.

In Phnom Penh, the great buddhist architectural heritage site, they visit the many spaces by bicycle, learning of the rich history of intellectualism and religion there.

They ride tuktuks in India, learn etiquette and wine tasting in Europe. They visit castles, eat plenty, play in the snow in Vermont, fly around the world, learn Thai massage, ride trains in Spain and the Netherlands. Learn business in Boston. Ride in boats in Panama and Costa Rica, Venice, and even get a time to play in the pool and run a few charity races.

At the end is the Winterline ceremony of completion, where we bring the families together for a big party and graduation.

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Callie’s BMW Driving School Experience

This is what it’s like to do the Winterline program.

In the third trimester of our gap year program, our students travel to Europe and the United States, where they learn about systems theory and societies from a wider perspective. But they also get a chance to learn how to race BMWs on a closed track.

Defensive driving is as much about anticipating occurrences in your environment as it is about being able to out-maneuver your obstacles.

Many people learn defensive driving at some point in there lives. But Callie learned this skill from a German driving coach at the BMW Driving School outside Frankfurt.

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Why Winterline is Awesome: Skills-Based Gap Year Programs

In this info-video, Susie and Ben from HQ go in-depth into how our programs work, where our students travel, and answer questions about preparation, applications, and scholarships.

The Winterline gap year is about giving students ownership over their education, giving them control of what they’re learning, enabling them to be excited about what they’re learning for the rest of their lives.

“Every day is extraordinary. Every day I’m doing something I’ve never done before. And that’s how I hope to live the rest of my life.” – Student, Molly, Boston, MA.

We’ve created a skills-based gap year program, giving students a chance to sample of a lot of different areas, figure out what their interests are, and become confident and competent in what they’re learning. You travel to 10 different countries over 9 months. The gap year program is a great chance to try a lot of different things. You can check things off and say, ‘Ok I tried that,’ and know whether something is what you want to pursue in college or in a career.

“I am blown away again and again by the Winterline program. Seeing the photos and reading the blogs makes me feel joy.” – Parent, Kate, Cambridge, MA.

We are looking for students who are eager and willing to try new things. Our gap year program is not in a classroom. After 13 years in a classroom, you won’t be at a desk. You’ll be learning in the field, getting certifications that may be applicable for jobs and school, as well as meditation, scuba diving, building a house. You’ll be traveling the world on your gap year. You’ll learn everything from personal finance to how to look a person in the eye when you’re talking to them. You’re going to come away with a lot of different skills that you might not even realize until after the fact.

We deliver our skills by partnering with top-notch organizations around the world, cherry-picked for quality and delivering the kind of experiential education we value. You’re not sitting in a classroom with someone telling you what to do. You’re out there, learning and trying different things, sweating, laughing, backpacking.

The skills we teach are practical, real-world skills. They are the focus of all Winterline programs. We want students to come out of the program with deliverable skills and be able to contribute to the world. Our focus is to make students both confident and competent, and those are two very different things. We want our students to be competent in a number of different areas. If you’re just coming out of high school, by the time you finish the program you’ll be entering college at a completely different level than your peers. You’ll have a better sense of what you want to study, as well as be on your way toward doing and being able to do those things.

Not all the skills are equally loved by every student. Sometimes a student will say, “Oh I tried that and I didn’t like it at all. And that’s just as valuable.” You might learn early on that perhaps you don’t like engineering, and that can save you years on the other end.

“I am going to be the best husband possible. I can do Thai massage, make beds, know how to be a butler, sew a button on an ironed shirt.” Student, Cole, Millwood, NY

In the end, you may even find that these competencies make you well-loved by many different people because of your new skills.

Ready to apply for our gap year program?

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Don’t Send Your Kids Off To College. At Least Not Yet.

In this article posted by Nicholas Kristof to his New York Times blog, On The Ground, Abigail Falk looks at the statistics and trends on the pros and cons of the gap year.

Is the education system failing our students? Is the conveyor belt to college even worth it? Are there solutions?

Falk examines the missed opportunity of branding the ‘gap year’ as a ‘gap’. We need to “rebrand the “gap year” as anything but a “gap.”’

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“When used intentionally, the year before college can be a bridge, a launch pad and a new rite of passage. It’s the students who find the courage to step off the treadmill – replacing textbooks with experience and achievement with exploration – who are best prepared for life after high school. And a growing number of colleges are taking notice.”

The truth is, the value of a gap year is becoming ever increasingly prominent in American life. Global perspective, a sense of one’s own strengths and weakness, the ability to lead, persuade, and listen deeply to peers. These are all skills that sit on the sidelines of traditional education, but can be taken up as a focal point during one’s gap year. Indeed, it may be the best opportunity to learn them.

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Best-selling Author, Michael Thompson, PhD Believes in a Gap Year

Of course, taking a gap year helps teens better prepare for college both personally and academically in more ways than one—Michael Thompson, PhD strongly agrees.

As a well-known clinical psychologist, New York Times Best-selling Author, and International speaker, you could say that he’s an expert on all subjects pertaining to children, schools, and parenting. He has written nine books, including Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow, which discusses how spending time away from parents is extremely beneficial. Matter of fact, Thompson has written extensively about the benefits of high school students taking a gap year before starting college on his own website.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Thompson, who champions taking a gap year before college and here’s what he had to say:

Q:  What is the main reason that you advocate teens taking a gap year between high school and college?

A:  Students, especially high-achieving ones, have been on a 13-year school treadmill and many are burnt out. Taking a gap year can be refreshing and help students return to school better focused. A gap year gives teens a chance to grow up and mature. It’s as simple as that.

Q:  Do you think classroom learning is sometimes overrated?

A: Yes! Somehow we got the idea that school is the best place to learn and that all of the important learning takes place in a school setting. But that has not been my life experience. Much of the important learning in my life has taken place outside of the classroom. There is this assumption that everyone has to go to college immediately after high school, but it is not necessarily the best thing to do.

Years ago, I met this very interesting father of a high school senior that had already been accepted to a very prestigious college. Other parents would not have questioned whether their teen should go straight to college, but he did. He explained to me, “Ages 18 to 25 are your highest energy years—the best years to test your entrepreneurial skills.” It turned out that at 18, this man had traveled abroad and then started his own business, which had become a very successful company. He didn’t want his son to miss out on life experiences by attending college, before he had seen the world. And that’s just one stand-out example.

Q:  You talk about “concerted cultivation”. What do you mean by that and how does a gap year address this?

A:  A gap year gives teens a chance to be independent from their parents. Time away from parents helps a child grow, especially in this day and age of “concerted cultivation” where parents are doing more for their children than ever before. Many parents are doing too much for their teens—in some cases almost everything—right down to arranging internships for them. It’s no surprise that teens learn self-sufficiency if they get a job on their own. I had a private school education and when I look back on my life, the biggest growth experience I had was working the night shift at Coney Island.

Away from their parents, young adults learn how to take care of themselves, how to live without certain comforts, such as cable television, and how to navigate situations on their own. On a gap year, teens face different daily challenges that they have to handle independently and personally. They have to make their own choices.

Q:  How can a gap year re-ignite a teen’s perspective on life and passion for learning?

A:  A gap year provides students with the chance to take a break from the daily grind of academics. Plus, they can see how the concepts they’ve learned in school translate into a real world environment. Most teens return from a gap year with better focus and a better sense of what they want to study and do in life. For example, studying a foreign language in school is great, but think about how much more fluent a student can become if they spend all day conversing and living amongst native speakers of that language.

For example, I know a young woman who was admitted to Harvard in January, so she chose to take a gap half-year. She decided to go to Paris for a change of pace and to practice her French. She sublet an apartment and earned money tutoring American high school students living in France, helping them prepare for the SAT’s. When she got to Harvard in late January, she told me that she felt much older than her classmates who simply had a jump-start on school. In France, she had lived independently from her family (even though they helped her with her airfare and some of her expenses) and admittedly had struggled to become fluent in a second language. She also had to deal with loneliness and all of the challenges of foreign culture. But she did it. She got a job and earned some money, traveled a bit, and experienced life in another country. Essentially, on her own. Again, mastering those challenges and learning some valuable life skills helped her flourish quicker than just more classroom work.

Q:  Some parents are concerned that if their teen takes a gap year, they might never go to college. Should they be worried?

A:  That is rarely an issue with motivated students. Furthermore, I would argue that it is risky to send unmotivated or immature students to college—especially boys who are more likely to flunk out of their freshman year. It’s a fact that college students in the United States are surrounded by the heaviest drinking segment of the American population. If a young man is not psychologically motivated for college, he can become depressed, go socially wild, or simply be an indifferent student. By seeing more of the world, students return to school more grown up. They think about their actions and approaches. And are definitely more prepared for college.

Dr. Thompson travels about eighty days a year making keynote presentations, running workshops for teachers, and consulting schools and parent groups. He has visited more than five hundred schools in the U.S., Europe, Central and South America, and Asia. He is certainly a knowledgeable resource and advocate of traveling abroad, especially for taking a gap year.

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Randi Mazzella is a mother of three children and freelance writer.  Her work has appeared in many online and in print publications including Teen Life, Your Teen, Raising Teens, NJ Family and Knowmoretv.com.

7 Quotes from College Administrators on the Benefits of a Gap Year

We’ve highlighted the steps students need to take a college deferment. More publications are picking up the story on the value of a gap year, from the New York Times, to the Boston Globe, and the benefits of a gap year are many. But what do colleges think about gap years?


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Here’s what college deans and administrators are saying about taking a gap year:

Florida State Gap YearFlorida State

Joe O’Shea as director of Florida State University’s Office of Undergraduate Research, head of the AGA board, and author of the Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in the Ways the World Needs has cited in gap year articles and in his book.

1. “One telling observation is that many students who take gap years end up changing their intended major after returning. During college, their gap year experiences enrich their courses, strengthen co-curricular endeavors, and animate undergraduate research and creative projects.”

2. “Going overseas helps to cultivate a type of independence and self-confidence that staying close to home in a familiar environment probably does not. Furthermore, taking the traditional kind of gap year after high school helps students to take full advantage of their time in college.

Middlebury College Gap YearMiddlebury College

Bob Clagett served as Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College. He also served as Director of College Counseling at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX, and as the Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard University for 21 years.

3. “Stepping off the educational treadmill for six months or a year between high school and college can be an important way to remind themselves of what their education should really be about. It can also lead to a much more productive experience once they are enrolled in college, since those students will frequently be more mature, more focused, and more aware of what they want to do with their college education.”

4. “The prevailing wisdom is that kids are going to lose their hard-earned study skills if they take a gap year. The opposite is true.”

Princeton Gap YearPrinceton

A poignant quote from Fred A. Hargadon, then Dean of Admissions at Princeton University.

5. “I am convinced that one’s college education is greatly enhanced by the maturity, experience, and perspective a student can bring post gap year.” Princeton’s Bridge Year is a tuition-free program that allows a select number of incoming freshmen to begin their Princeton experience by engaging in nine months of University-sponsored service at one of five international locations. In addition to supporting community-based initiatives at each program site, Bridge Year aims to provide participants with greater international perspective and intercultural skills, an opportunity for personal growth and reflection, and a deeper appreciation of service in both a local and international context.

Harvard Gap YearHarvard

William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University promotes gap years to his Ivy League students.

6. “The feedback from students almost all the time has been that this experience was transformative. The more life experience you bring, the better off you are in school.”

“Occasionally students are admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they accomplished something unusual during a year off. While no one should take a year off simply to gain admission to a particular college, time away almost never makes one a less desirable candidate or less well prepared for college.”

Connecticut College Gap YearConnecticut College

Martha Merrill, as dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College, encourages students to study abroad and take a gap year.

7. “It’s reached the point where a lot of us in admissions are talking about ways to get students to just kind of relax [between high school and college].

A detailed list of colleges in support of gap years and deferment:

Here’s a comprehensive list of colleges that are fully in support of taking a gap year you can view on the Gap Year Association’s (GYA) website.

There are so many reasons to pick the perfect program and embark on the journey of a lifetime before heading right to campus.

Sources: Gap Year Association, prestigious college websites, various blogs and articles about exploring the idea of a gap year.


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