Meet the Staff: Erica Schultz

Where are you from originally?

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

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

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

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

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

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

Why do you love working for Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

erica schultz winterline global education gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

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

Meet the Staff: Ashley Delehunt

Where are you from originally?

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

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

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

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

Ashley in the Grand Canyon.

Why do you love working for Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

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

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

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

Alumni Spotlight: Oliver Sandreuter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver at a waterfall in California.

What was your favorite skill you learned?

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

What was your favorite place you visited?

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

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

Where have you traveled since Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver skydiving in Boston!

Tell us a little more about what you do now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice do you have for future Winterline students?

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

Oliver skiing in Utah.

 

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

Bon Appetite: An Interview with Cyril Denis

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

How would you describe your job title?

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

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

What or who inspires you?

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

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

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

 What is your fondest memory of cooking?

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

Do you like to cook cuisine other than French foods?

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

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

What is your favorite food to serve?

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

 

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!

 

Backcountry Medicine as a Life Skill: An Interview with Shantanu Pandit

Backcountry medicine is easily one of my favorite skills we’ve focused on during Winterline. One of our first skills during 1st trimester was with NOLS in Lander, Wyoming when we spent two days learning in our Wilderness First Aid course. And most recently, we completed a three-day Aerie course in the Mahindra United World College Institute, located in a rural part of Maharashtra, India. The course included both lecture-style and hands-on learning in the areas of disaster response and austere/backcountry medicine. I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our three instructors, Shantanu Pandit. He shared some of his personal experiences with backcountry medicine and his passion for working and living in the outdoors… Thank you, Shantanu!

Who are you? What motivates you?

Shantanu: “I [am] an outdoorsperson who is also interested in outdoor education. I have derived immense joy and happiness in the outdoors – hiking, climbing, a bit of rafting, ‘outdoor educating’ and …many a times just doing nothing! I know that each time I have been out I have benefited tremendously as a person. What motivates me today is to have people experience the outdoors in such a way that it is safe and enriching for not only us visitors but also our various environments (e.g., natural, socio-cultural, archaeological, etc.). I believe that it is essential for us to keep experiencing the natural environment and help sustain that environment.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What sparked your passion for being and working in the outdoors?

Shantanu: “I have always lived close to a mountainous area near Mumbai, India. This region is extremely rich in its cultural ethos. I started hiking when in school. Things that I had read in books started coming alive for me as I continued going outdoors… and this soon was a ‘more real’ reality for me than the urban setting that I was brought up in. Eventually, experiencing the Himalaya sealed it. If I have to name the most important aspect that provided the reason for working in the outdoors then it is the sheer sense of comfort that I felt being in the outdoors. This was home.”

 

What is the best outdoors trip you’ve ever done?

Shantanu: “How can one ever answer that question?! The most rewarding bird-watching trip I have had till now was in Sikkim… the most memorable rafting trip I had was not because of the rafting, but because of the riotous group that I was a part of… there have been several life-changing experiences (being a part of the team that attempted the third highest mountain in the world & the NOLS Instructor Course, to take but two examples)… I am afraid I cannot name one trip, sorry!”

 

Can you give the overview of Aerie Backcountry Medicine? What does it teach and what is its mission?

Shantanu: “Aerie Backcountry Medicine is a Montana based for-profit organization that teaches wilderness and rural first aid in the United States and other countries. I think Aerie is enriched because people from various walks of life work with its courses. I see Aerie as an agile organization that adapts to various geographies and cultures in order to effectively teach and spread safe practices. Despite its national and international presence, I have experienced Aerie as an organization that is kind of small enough to have an extremely warm and friendly organization culture… The stated mission of Aerie Backcountry Medicine is ‘Caring for injured or sick people is a privilege. Preparing people for this service is Aerie’s mission.’”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

 

When were you first introduced to backcountry medicine?

Shantanu: “I was introduced to backcountry medicine in 1987 when a friend who is a doctor-mountaineer started teaching us first aid in the context of outdoors. When I took my Wilderness First Responder course in 2000 (through WMI of NOLS), I got to know the richness of backcountry medicine in its formal and vibrant form. On a peak climbing expedition, while hiking up to the base camp, one of our porters got hit in the face by a falling rock that had bounced off the ground in front of him. This person was ‘responsive to verbal stimuli’ when I reached his camp in the night. After I gave first aid, I cautioned his brother to have the patient sleep in the ‘recovery position’ only and keep a tab on his breathing and explained the reasons behind this. I think that was a good call. The patient was successfully evacuated the next day (fortunately he was LOR x 4 by that time).”

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Shantanu: “Being a part of a community that teaches safe practices that influence safety of people in the outdoors and the environments that we derive so much pleasure and joy from. Teaching/instructing also keeps me on my toes in terms of updated knowledge and practices, skill-levels, etc.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu hiking on a NOLS course | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What advice do you have for people who haven’t taken any first-aid or medical training courses?

Shantanu: “Take any course that you can afford, ideally a ‘wilderness first aid course’ (‘wilderness’ is defined as being one hour away from definitive medical care – a definition that fits so many urban situations also). First aid skills are a ‘life skill’.”

 

What advice do you have for our own group of Green Cohort students moving into our last months of traveling together?

Shantanu: “Develop the skill and habit of ‘reflection’… make it a part of your daily life. Reflection on one’s experiences – be it a small incident, a day or a course/project – leads to tremendous learning and growth. Shared reflection and/or feedback from others is more powerful. All the Best!”

 

If you have any questions about taking a backcountry medicine course, please visit the NOLS and Aerie sites, or feel free to contact us!

Living on Purpose: Interview with Matthew Fairfax

During our time in Phnom Penh, we had the privilege of meeting and learning from Matthew Fairfax, an inspiring entrepreneur and wonderful human being. We were first introduced to him in our mixology class and then took part in his 3-day course, “Living on Purpose.” We learned about a myriad of ideas that all built upon each other, leading us to consider how we can live our own lives with more purpose. During this interview, Matthew imparted wisdom and great insight with me… Thank you, Matthew!

How would you describe your job title/what you do for a living?

 Matthew: “This is a tough one.  I am a salon owner, Founder/Country Director of the Justice and Soul Foundation, and educator/trainer.  I also am a coach.  So, on any given day I may be wearing several hats.”

Why do you do this for a living? What drives and motivates you?

Matthew: “To get my intrinsic driving needs met! I love the variety I have, the feeling of giving back and helping people, the constant changing, and watching individuals discover new things about themselves.”

Matthew at a salon opening
Matthew at a salon opening

 When was the first time you were introduced to the idea of “Living with Purpose?”

 Matthew: “I think I’ve always operated on intuition, but when I took courses provided by Context International (now BeMoreU) my whole thought process shifted.  At that point, I started to redefine my life based on my driving needs. I created strategies that got these needs met constructively and started feeling very fulfilled. I moved from resent/revenge to creating a purpose-filled life.”

Since starting your own personal journey of learning to live on purpose, what are some of the most important lessons that you’d like to share with our audience?

 Matthew:

  1. Don’t run from the lesson or it will keep presenting itself to you – harder each time.
  2. Relationships are important and it is most important to embrace the reality of who that person is. Change your mind about them and watch great things happen.
  3. How I feel about me, determines how I feel about you. When I start to feel negative feelings about others, I stop and look at what might be lacking in me.
  4. Don’t let others make you wrong for how you create and find fulfillment. Not everyone needs “alone time” and not everyone wants to be around people and on the go all the time.  Find what works for you. I no longer listen when someone tells me to slow down.  I am living at the banquet table of life and there is no need to slow down for me.
  5. I determine what I am allowing to be most important to me based on my results. If I don’t have the results I want, I look at what I am giving my attention to.
  6. You can’t rush self-esteem.
  7. Listen twice as much as you speak. Ask good questions.
  8. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
  9. Listen to your intuition – it is usually right.

 Can you briefly explain communication styles and why they are so important to understand and utilize in any context (work, social, relationships, etc.)?

Matthew: “Communication styles are at the core of all my training.  It is learning the language by which we all communicate.  Most conflict has its roots in communication styles.  When we learn to recognize other styles, we can modify our style temporarily to create better results.  At work, I get better team experiences and more productivity.  In my relationships, I get deeper, more meaningful relationships.  I tend to have way less conflict when I take the time to understand the needs of the styles I am communicating with.  Of course, it all starts with my choice and I cannot rely on the other person to change to meet my needs.  If I want the results, I must make the choice to meet their needs.”

Matthew at his hair salon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with staff members
Matthew at his hair salon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with staff members

What advice do you have for young adults, like students on Winterline, as they learn to navigate their lives independently?

 Matthew: “Be willing to risk, always stay open and ask questions EVEN IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ALREADY KNOW.  Remember, our filter is filled with input from others and we cling to those attitudes, opinions, and beliefs so we can be right.  I have seen too many people be right all the way to the wrong results.”

Do you have any specific advice for our green cohort of Winterline?

Matthew: “I LOVE YOUR ENERGY.  I love that you don’t always live in the boundaries.  Continue to be loud, ask good questions, challenge the status quo, but be respectful and law abiding in the process.  Learn to listen, drop your image, let people get to know the authentic you – that is where rich fulfilling life begins!”

 

—If you have any questions about this interview or Matthew’s philosophies, please contact us in the comments and we will be happy to provide resources and answers!—

 

 

Language Immersion in a Foreign Country: An Interview with Jessie Zúñiga Bustamante from the Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica

As one of our final skills in Costa Rica, our group had the opportunity to do 5-day “Independent Study Projects” of our choice. I chose an intensive Spanish course and absolutely loved it. I have taken Spanish in school for a total of six years, so I wanted to take advantage of this week because I want to become more fluent in the language. For five days, I met with two different professors, Evelyn and Jessie. We conversed entirely in Spanish for hours on end, focused on the verb tenses I struggle with, and even did cooking and dancing classes. I enjoyed my time with both my professors immensely and cannot express my gratitude for the two of them enough. Jessie kindly answered some of my questions about her position as a Spanish teacher and shared her take on education and language immersion.

How long have you been a Spanish teacher?

 Jessie: “I started teaching SSL (Spanish Second Language) in 2005 when I was a Spanish & Latin American Literature student in college, so I have 12 years of teaching now. Wow! I’m old, haha!”

Why are you a Spanish teacher? What inspired you to become a Spanish teacher?

Jessie: “[It’s] funny because I would not have thought about it, but one day, one of my professors at University of Costa Rica told me about a Spanish Academy that needed teachers during my college summer break, so I went there and got a job for that summer. I had a group of 4 students: Joe from the United States, Martina from Austria, and Damian and Anna from Germany. We were together for a month and it was awesome! We had so much fun and we learned so much [about] each other from cultures to languages, food, [and] personal space! At that moment, I learned that I love teaching. I love the chance of getting to know people from all over the world. So far, I have had students from the US, Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, India, Israel, Jordan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, France, Italy, some African countries, Romania, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan…and so on. This is amazing because, through our conversations, I could learn a lot about their cultures…it’s like being in those countries somehow. These experiences made me a better person, more open and aware that differences are a good thing for humanity… So, I have been doing it since then! [I feel] so lucky!”

Winterline_Spanish_Immersion
Learning verb conjugations on day two! | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

How long have you been working at the Monteverde Institute?

Jessie: “I first came in January 2015 for a 4-month college course (I did the same in San José), then back to San José, and returned to Monteverde in December 2015 for a permanent position in the Spanish Department as a teacher and coordinator. Although I never thought I wanted to live outside San José, I decided to leave my comfort zone and try a different place and job position. It was a wise decision because I have learned a lot about my job, nature and conservation, grassroots projects, sustainability, etc. It is a pleasure to live and work in such a special and beautiful community like Monteverde.”

 What is your favorite part about working at the Monteverde Institute?

Jessie: “My favorite part is working with students in projects. I totally love the fact that MVI is a non-profit organization, so we do a lot for the community. Many courses have projects for building, interacting with elders or children, giving lectures on climate, conservation, etc., for the people here…It makes me feel proud to be part of an institution that cares so much and is involved with the people.”

What is something you find rewarding about your job?

Jessie: “I strongly believe in education. Education is the key for a better future. Not only for our country, but for our world. There are so much things we need to learn in this life, beginning with ourselves. So, being part of it somehow makes me feel happy and rewarded. If my work contributes to make someone connect with others through language or better culture understanding and respect, I’m more than happy. And since education is a two-way street, I also learn a lot from my students… this is where my satisfaction [in teaching] comes from.”

What advice do you have someone who is trying to learn a new language?

Jessie: “First, do not be afraid of an immersion program. This is the best way ever to learn anything…but also, it takes a lot of practice and studying. Like any other thing in life, if you want to learn a language, desire is a must. If you really want something, you must go for it. Be in a country that speaks the language, live with a family, and make friends. A language is [a part of] culture too.  The most important thing is to enjoy [learning] while doing it!

What advice do you have for our Winterline cohort going into the next two trimesters of traveling?

Jessie: “Attitude is everything. No matter if something bad happens, what matters the most is what you do with it…cheesy, I know, but true. Your attitude could make people open their hearts, or close them forever. Take advantage of every single thing you will find in this journey, and as we talked in class, be a beautiful bridge between your country and culture and the rest of the world. Do not let language or any other cultural issue be an obstacle for your learning. Be open minded. Be grateful for what you receive from people everywhere, and for    all the things you have back home. Give love. Smile. Offer your help. Communicate! Sometimes a smile says more and is better than words.”

Winterline_Anna Nickerson
Anna with the “Tarzan rope” at the suspended bridges tour. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

Thank you so much for your time with my ISP and for teaching me so much. I had so much fun with you on the bridges and in the classroom. I hope we can stay in touch and I promise to practice my Spanish in the future!

Jessie: “Thanks to you too! I enjoy our time together a lot, and I really hope you learned many things for your life and future! You are good in Spanish, I hope you really continue with it! Have a wonderful trip around the world, chica. Learn as much as you can. You have a once in lifetime opportunity. Treasure it!”

 

To hear more from our Gap Year students be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook. We’re also on Snapchat (@Winterliner).

Our Experience with TIDE in Belize: An Interview with Martin Ack

While we were in Belize, we had the opportunity to work with the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), an internationally recognized organization. During our time there, we learned how to plan a kayaking expedition, surveyed locals to conduct research regarding the invasive lionfish, and earned our open-water SCUBA certification. We had the pleasure of learning about Belize from our tour guide, Martin Ack. After spending three weeks with him, we sat down to talk about his experience working with TIDE. He shared interesting insights with us and gave us both a greater respect and understand for not only his job, but for the work TIDE does as a whole.

How long have you been working for TIDE and how did you come about working for TIDE?

Martin: “I have been working with TIDE for 4 years as a full-time tour guide, but I used to work as a part-time tour guide when I started in 1997. The founder of TIDE is a friend of mine so he comes to my village a lot. He reached out to my community in the same way that TIDE does now. I was working at the shrimp farm at that time until I got tired and bored of it, so I switched to part-time tour guiding. It’s something that I always wanted, but the tour guide course was never available when I was working at the shrimp farm. As soon as that TIDE course came to my community, I resigned from my job and took the course, got my license and submitted at a time when TIDE was hiring. Thankfully, I was the one who they picked and I’m now their main guide.”

Can you explain what TIDE does or what they aim to do as an organization?

Martin: “TIDE stands for Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, so it is aimed at conservation, developing local communities, and working with locals within the boundaries of the conservation and protected areas in Toledo. Initially when TIDE started, many of the locals were using resources such as the marine reserve for fishing. That used to be an area open for anyone to use. TIDE claimed that as a protected area, which ultimately had a positive effect on the livelihood of these fishermen. They didn’t really like the idea at first, but now they are really happy because they are catching fish about a mile away from town. Before, they had to go four miles away and would come back with very small fish. So, TIDE is here to help the locals.

Photo Contest, Skills, Anna Nickerson
Winterline Students with TIDE in Belize | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

In your opinion, what is the best thing that TIDE has done?

Martin: “I think TIDE has created a lot of opportunities for locals, and has also caused local businesses to experience an influx of commerce, especially in regards to tourism. TIDE is the mother organization of TIDE Tours. Though I am the main guide, we also contract other guides to help us out. So, TIDE provides jobs for many locals through creating alternative livelihoods, specifically for fishermen and fisherwomen so they can stop relying on fish and natural resources. Instead, they can rely on alternatives like food drying, craft making, bartending, tourism, hospitality, and landscaping. TIDE helps to provide all of these trade opportunities through funding from its subsidiary bodies.”

Personally, what is your favorite thing about working for TIDE?

Martin: “I love what I’m doing right now as a guide. I love green. I love the natural resources. And without these resources, I wouldn’t be able to talk about birds and animals. A lot of people come to Belize and TIDE is really helping to protect the natural resources, and when they do that it makes me very happy to work for them. They have what I can use to teach people. I love meeting people, great people like you all, so it has really been fun. I do student groups, private tours… all different ages. It’s not just being a tour guide. I do reception work, I run errands, I do diving, community research, and I also get the opportunity to develop myself with different trainings that TIDE offers. I am very happy that TIDE has been so good to me and given me so many opportunities. I have to make good use of them.

Anna Diving | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

Is there anything you would want to change about TIDE?

Martin: “I think TIDE has been really accomplishing their mission, but what I would like to change would be the amount of funding for the organization. I want it to be bigger so we can accomplish more. Activities, training, and all that. I want us to reach as many parts of Belize as possible. TIDE is one of the biggest organizations for it [conservation efforts] so far, it could be the biggest in the country.”

We all really enjoyed coming to your house to learn about the Mayan chocolate making. We’re wondering if they are any other traditions you take part in?

Martin: “My culture is not always appreciated by many. I see it because many young people want to blend into other cultures, which is okay, but they forget their roots. But the Maya is one of the great civilization that many have questions about who we are because a lot of our information is not written in books, only passed down from generation to generation. So with us, we go with it and then we practice. We have celebrations like planting. That’s our way of living. We use incense, which my grandfather still uses. And he taught me about it. Because I work with TIDE I don’t have time.

There is a lot more in terms of food and also music. A lot of it is still practiced, we only focused on chocolate when you visited. It’s been around for thousands of years. You know, cacao is supposed to be spelled kakawa, [it means] our God.  But because the Spanish could not spell it the way it is pronounced by us, they just wrote, “cacao.”

leela cacao
Leela making chocolate.

Do you have any advice for our Winterline cohort moving forward or words of wisdom?

 Martin: “Make use of your opportunity. You never know where you will end up next, so make every day count. I’m sure you all have been enjoying it and I see the potential in all of you. I am so glad you made it down here because a lot of people do not get this kind of opportunity to see places like this or meet our people. You all get an authentic experience in that sense so keep on. Like my mom used to tell me, “Reach for the stars. You may not get there, but aim for them.”

 

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length*

 

 

 

What to Expect from First Trimester: An Interview with Patrick Neafsey

As we finish up our first trimester in Central America, all of our students in green cohort are starting to reflect on our last two and a half months together. We have gone through a lot as a group. From huddling over a pot of boiling water to warm our freezing bodies in the Wind River Range to doing a scavenger hunt while kayaking in Belize to learning about permaculture in Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica, we have learned a ton. As individuals, we have all grown and taken different things out of these experiences. As a group, we have all developed our skills and have grown very close. I decided to interview Patrick Neafsey about his first trimester and he had some interesting personal insights…

Patrick at NOLS
Patrick at NOLS | Photo By: Natanielle Huizenga

Why did you join Winterline this year?

Patrick: “I’ve been a part of the traditional education system for the last 16 years of my life, and after a year of college I decided that I wanted a break from the conventional classroom setting. I knew I wanted to travel, but I had no idea how I would be able to until I found Winterline. I knew it was the program I wanted to do as soon as I found their website.”

You’re unique in the fact that you have already been to a year of college and are now taking a year off before heading back. How does this trip compare to your freshman year of college in terms of your responsibilities and style of learning?

Patrick: “I think the most notable similarity between my college experience and Winterline so far has been the idea of freedom and personal responsibility. College kind of throws you into the fire in terms of making you do stuff on your own, which is a skill Winterline definitely tries to foster. I also value the experiential learning aspect of the program because I really wanted to get out of a classroom setting this year. I mean you can’t learn how to scuba dive in a classroom in Ithaca. It’s completely different in regard to responsibilities. In college, you have to make your own decisions and get all of your stuff done independently. Here, there’s different responsibilities like being able to interact in a small group and being responsible for your peers, which is present at college but not nearly as important on a campus of 14,000 people.”

What has been your favorite place we have traveled to and why? 

Patrick: “I think my favorite spot was Mastatal in Costa Rica. That was definitely the biggest culture shock of the trip so far, especially in terms of traveling to different corners of the world that we never would have seen otherwise. I had the unique opportunity to play in a couple soccer games with the locals against nearby towns, which was an incredible experience to really immerse myself in the culture and daily ritual of these people’s lives. I am very grateful for the fact that they welcomed me to their team with open arms and treated me as one of their own on the field.”

Patrick and Andrew playing soccer
Patrick and Andrew playing soccer | Photo From: Patrick Neafsey

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

 Patrick: “This is an opportunity that you won’t ever have for the rest of your life. Despite what popular opinion is regarding going from high school to four years of college, there is really no downside to taking a year off and seeing the world. If you’re like me and interested in seeing the parts of the world that you’ve only read about, you’ll regret not taking advantage of an opportunity like this with Winterline.”

Anna and Patrick Diving
Anna and Patrick diving | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Last question… What experience or expedition has been the most fun for you?

Patrick: “I think the scuba certification was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in my life. I have always been very comfortable in the water and scuba is something that literally unlocks another section of the globe that was previously inaccessible to me, which I think is really cool. And even diving in the small area off the coast of Belize compared to the expansive and available places to dive, I saw so much and it’s crazy to think how much more I can see in other parts of the world while scuba diving. I am excited to take advantage of this certification in the future.”

 

To hear more from our students be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook. We’re also on Snapchat (@Winterliner).

What to Expect from a Homestay: An Interview with Alex Messitidis

Pura Vida! Our green cohort just finished their first homestays, which took place in Mastatal, Costa Rica. Most of our cohort members had never experienced staying with host families before, so we were all anxious about the process beforehand. We spent 3 nights and 3 days with our families and had incredible experiences. I recently interviewed Alex Messitidis so that she could explain the concept of a homestay and how her experience went.

Some people are confused by the concept of a homestay. Could you explain what a homestay/host family is?

Alex: “This was my first homestay so I’ll explain to the best of my ability. A homestay is when you get put up with a family for however many days, for me it was three days, and you get the opportunity to get acclimated to their culture, their family, their ways, all that. You spend time with them all throughout the day. They cook for you, you go out with them, you learn about them, you get close with them. I think the whole point is to get you ‘culturally aware’ and to get you to understand the difference between living in a [city] versus living on a ranch in Costa Rica, like I did. So, for me, a homestay is living with a family in a foreign country and getting acclimated to their culture.”

What were some of your fears or anxieties going into your homestay? How did you get over those while with your host family?

Alex: “One of my biggest fears is change. I really don’t like moving around or getting close with new people. But, growing up my mom always told me that instead of fearing the change, I had to be the change. So, [going into my homestay], I just asked myself what my mom would do if she was there. She’d tell me to look down at my arm, look at my tattoo that says, “Be the Change” in big typewriter font and she would say, “Give it your best shot. Go headfirst and even if you fail, who cares?” So, I guess I just thought to myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn’t know when the next time I’d be able to do a homestay was. I challenged myself to make the most of it, practice my Spanish, get close with the kids, learn about their culture, eat their food even if I have no idea what’s in it. I think it’s about realizing and recognizing that this might be my only opportunity to get out of that comfort zone and if I don’t now, then I maybe never will. And I think this whole trip is based around getting out of your comfort zone, so why not go headfirst?”

Homestay Winterline
Alex’s host family’s cat that she met on her homestay. | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

 Can you tell me about your experience with your homestay? What were some personal challenges and what were some things that went well?

Alex: “My homestay was absolutely amazing. I already knew the dad, Junior, because I had played soccer with him a few days beforehand. He spoke fluent English, but I made him speak to me in Spanish because I wanted to practice. I was actually pretty surprised because my Spanish is not that bad. His wife was wonderful as well. I only saw her when she was doing laundry and cooking, which is the standard there. The wives do most of the work around the house and I give her a lot of credit for that because everything she did was amazing… They had 2 kids, [a 9-year old girl and a 3-year old boy]. There was a language barrier between me, the wife and the kids…, but it made me test my Spanish and I realized that I knew a lot more than I thought… Putting my Spanish to the test and being in the position where I didn’t have the option of speaking either language, I needed to figure it out and try or I would have starved for 3 days! The challenge was connecting with the family, especially with the language barrier, but it turns out that a smile goes a long way and even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, smile it off!”

Winterline Homestay
Natanielle coloring with the kids at her homestay | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

What advice would you give someone who is nervous about staying with a host family in a foreign country?

Alex: “It’s completely normal to be nervous, especially when you’re being thrown into a situation that you’re not comfortable with. Most people aren’t comfortable with the thought of change, but I think that’s the whole point of this experience. To do something you never have and cross that cultural barrier- understand the diversity between countries and recognize that even though you may not have a lot in common with these people, like language or cultural barriers, doesn’t matter as long as you’re ready to try. If you’re trying to meet them halfway, and they’re doing the same, and you’re both being patient with each other… it’s going to be fine… Honestly, I’d be shocked if you weren’t nervous! But, everything is an experience, whether it’s good or bad, and I think that everyone should do a homestay in a foreign country because it shows you a different side to family, work, everyday life and a lot of people don’t recognize that… Have an open mind, have an open heart, and a smile goes a long way.”