A Guide to Winterline’s “ISP”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winterline Graduation 2018 Highlights

At graduation this year, our students not only celebrated completing their program, but also presented “story slams” about their time abroad. Story slams are brief presentations highlighting students’ favorite moments during their gap year. These presentations were given in front of everyone at graduation as a final part of the program.


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We are so proud of our students for their ability to express themselves and command a room. The following photos and videos are highlights from the story slams and graduation ceremony. We hope you enjoy!

Blue Cohort Story Slams

winterline gap year graduation
Elaine presenting her story slam on bungee jumping.

The day kicked off with story slams from our Blue Cohort. Elaine was the first to present. She told us about her adventures bungee jumping on a rest day in Costa Rica. Her advice? “Don’t tell people your plans before you go bungee jumping. They will spend all of the time leading up to you going trying to scare you.” Despite her friends trying to scare her, we can tell she had a blast! In Samir’s clip above, he highlights the importance of experiential learning. We have to say, we are very impressed with our students polished public speaking skills. It’s clear that we have some great presenters, and possibly some future stand-up comedians, in our newly graduated class!

winterline gap year graduation
Cody presenting his story slam
winterline gap year graduation
Proud Field Advisors watching the Blue Cohort’s story slams.
winterline gap year graduation
Meagan presenting her story slam at graduation.

While some students chose to talk about activities and experiences, Meagan chose to talk about the relationships she made within her cohort. The blue squad’s “Girl Gang” was a tight knit group of all the girls from the Blue Cohort and the Blue Field Advisors Erica and Patrick. Meagan told us about how having such a solid support group changed her life. She also shared many funny stories about their time traveling abroad.

Fellow girl gang member, Savannah, honored those who had mentally and physically supported her during her gap year by naming the best piggy back ride providers. Winners included Erica, Patrick, Meagan and Whitaker who received the participation award. Dini spoke after Savannah, highlighting her time in Costa Rica at the environmentally conscious and sustainable community, Rancho Mastatal. She also shared her singing talents with us. Check out the video below!

winterline gap year graduation
Savannah sharing her story slam
winterline gap year graduation
Dini describing her time at Rancho Mastatal

Green Cohort Story Slams

Blue’s story slams were followed by the Green Cohort. Andrew was the first up for green. He kicked the group off on a fantastic note and was followed by Alice, who made everyone laugh while she recounted her story of falling off a bike in Cambodia. (She didn’t get hurt, we promise!)

winterline gap year graduation
Andrew presenting his story slam
winterline gap year graduation
Alice making light of a then scary moment, falling off a bike in Cambodia.

Patrick shared how sports allowed him to connect across cultures while traveling the world. Through watching and playing sports with the people he met abroad, Patrick was able to form new relationships. Following Patrick, Hayden shared with us what she would tell her past self about taking a gap year. At the start of the program she wrote herself a letter which she shared with us. Now at the end of the program she wrote her past self a reply.

winterline gap year graduation
Patrick sharing his thoughts on sports and travel.
winterline gap year graduation
Hayden reading her letter to herself.

Graduation Ceremony

For the graduation ceremony itself, students were called up individually and presented with a khata. A khata is a traditional Tibetan scarf that is symbolic of purity and compassion. It is common for these to be worn at major life events, like graduations. After receiving their khata, our students were given their diplomas and were honored by their Field Advisors and other Winterline staff.

winterline gap year graduation
Elaine being presented with her khata.
winterline gap year graduation
Dini after receiving her diploma.
winterline gap year graduation
Patrick congratulating Sophia on graduating and her completion of the Winterline Program.
winterline gap year graduation
Nick congratulating Alex on her graduation.
winterline gap year graduation
Green Cohort boys, post Graduation.
winterline gap year graduation
Silly Grads! Our Blue and Green Cohorts together.
winterline gap year graduation
Our Blue Cohort
Winterline gap year graduation
Our Green Cohort

After the ceremony, we took group photos of our students and celebrated with a reception. For more graduation photos be sure to check out our Facebook album here.

Want to hear first hand from a Winterline alum? We’re always happy to set up prospective students with alumni for them to get a better understanding of our program. If you have any questions about the Winterline program or would like to be connected with an alumni, reach out to us at admissions@winterline.com! Applications are open for our Fall 2018 Gap Year program. Now through May 25th we are offering $1000 off in honor of gap year decision day.

 

Social Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

The term, “social entrepreneurship” comes up almost every day as I travel through Southeast Asia. People interpret this term differently, which makes sense given that the buzzword combines two complex ideas; society/social causes and entrepreneurship. As someone who wants to become a social entrepreneur, I want to break down the meaning of this term and what I have gained by looking at it through a cross-cultural lense.

I personally define social entrepreneurship as a mindset, rather than a component of a business entity. I believe that all social enterprises must start as social enterprises. This mindset cannot be an afterthought, rather the foundational aspect of any successful social enterprise.

Anna cutting the ribbon at Clarity’s launch event last year!
Anna cutting the ribbon at Clarity’s launch event last year!

During my senior year of high school, I was the CEO of a social enterprise, called “Clarity.” My peers and I started the business to bring awareness to teenage suicide within our school district. Our mission was to decrease factors in our school and district that played a role in teen suicide by promoting positive future-seeking visions in every student. We achieved this by selling unique water bottles and stickers that acted as conversations starters within our school. From my own personal experience of having friends and family members suffer from suicidal thoughts, I feel strongly about the issue and I wanted to make a change, even if it was on a small scale within in my high school. The name “Clarity” was inspired by the lack of clarity that many teenagers face in their lives, and that they struggle to find. Our slogan “See Your Future” encouraged students to look past these clouding visions and see their own unique futures.

Our enterprise was successful, both socially and fiscally. We nearly quadrupled our initial investment, which we then donated to a local mental health center and our high school’s business department. We also had better results from students, regarding mental health and conversations about suicide, in our post-business survey. We only attained success because we were passionate about our mission, and we were involved primarily for the social outcome. We succeeded because of our entrepreneurial spirit and passion for achieving our mission.

Clarity goes international
Clarity goes international

I recently interviewed Max Simpson, a social entrepreneur and SEN (special educational needs) teacher who co-founded “Steps with Theera.” This restaurant/café is located in Bangkok, Thailand and is on a mission to create a place where everyone is accepted for who they are, which they attain by supporting special-needs people through sustainable employment and other measures. Max didn’t move to Bangkok in search of business opportunities nor did she have any idea that she’d ever become an entrepreneur. She was an SEN teacher in Bangkok for 4 years until she discovered the lack of social and educational support for adults with SEN. She then decided to leave her job as a teacher and collaborated with her co-founder, Theera, to build the social enterprise they have today.

Theera and Max
Theera and Max

Max defines the term “social enterprise” as, “Helping a social cause whilst developing sustainable business opportunities – which in turn creates wider awareness and acceptance.” Max’s answer varies from my own personal definition of social entrepreneurship, and probably varies from your very own definition. But that’s okay. What I’ve learned while traveling in Southeast Asia, and working with many social enterprises, is that we all define this term differently.

Steps with Theera
Steps with Theera

Despite the disparity amongst definitions, there is a common theme amongst the international definitions of social entrepreneurship. And I believe that it is finding the symbiotic relationship between one’s chosen social cause and their means of entrepreneurship. It’s all in the balance between the two, which can vary from business to business. Social enterprises that you’ve most likely heard of such as Seventh Generation, Newman’s Own, and even Teach for America, all have different missions and their own unique ways of defining “social entrepreneurship” for themselves, but they all have mastered the balance between their social and fiscal goals.

All successful social enterprises, corporate or small-scale, have an unbreakable passion for their chosen social cause and a foundational mindset of what social entrepreneurship means to them. Throughout this trimester I have learned more about what social entrepreneurship means to me personally and to others that I’ve met in different countries. And after what I’ve seen in, I know that the entrepreneurial spirit is something that no one can take away from me, or anyone else who has it.

To learn more about Winterline’s relationship with social enterprises, please contact us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catch us on the road!

If you’ve been following us on Facebook and Twitter then you know we’ve been on the road with USA Gap Year Fairs since the beginning of January. For the next couple months our team will be traveling across the country to over 40 gap year fairs to meet students, parents, and counselors like you. And when we say across the country we mean everywhere. We will be hitting up Boston, Northern and Southern California, Vermont, Colorado, Texas and even Canada. With a gap year fair almost every day it’ll be hard to miss us! We would love to meet you this season so stop by our table at the event to say hello! Also, be sure to check out the USA Gap Year Fairs schedule to find an event near you.

Winterline Gap Fair
Remember to stop by our booth for information, smiles, and swag!

What to know before you go

  • The gap year fairs Winterline will be attending are part of an annual circuit hosted by the organization, USA Gap Year Fairs.
  • Students who attend will get a broad exposure to Gap Year Programs and the opportunity for face-to-face conversations with professionals in the field.
  • Students, Parents, and Counselors are all welcome to attend
  • At every USA Gap Year Fair there is a speaker presentation (30-60min) to give a unique perspective on Gap Year and to answer any questions students and parents might have.
  • You’ll be able to meet alumni from past programs and ask them questions at some fairs.

2018 Quick Schedule

For more information be sure to check out the USA Gap Year Fairs Website and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We can’t wait to meet you!

Photos of the Week 1/26

Blue cohort has settled into Bangkok, Thailand and has been having a blast with our partner organization, Bangkok Vanguards. Meanwhile, green cohort has been learning skills like animation and mixology during their time in Cambodia. Check out these photos taken by our students during their most recent adventures. We will be back again with more of our favorite photos next Friday!

Let us know your favorite photos in the comments below! To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Patrick and Andrew in LA before heading to Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Patrick and Andrew in LA before heading to Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Thailand
Dini, Savannah, and Whitaker enjoying Bangkok | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Elaine at Wat Arun
Elaine at Wat Arun
Elaine at Wat Arun
Elaine at Wat Arun
Welcome to Cambodia! | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Welcome to Cambodia! | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Pablo and Andrew | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Pablo and Andrew | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Alice, Sophia, and Hayden | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Alice, Sophia, and Hayden | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Green Cohort taking in the view in Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Green Cohort taking in the view in Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Liam in Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Liam in Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Charlie, Savannah, and Meagan
Charlie, Savannah, and Meagan
Aquarius Hotel & Urban Resort Alex Messitidis
Aquarius Hotel & Urban Resort | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Winterline Global Education
Killing Fields | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Winterline Cambodia
Green cohort experienced a humbling tour of the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and awe inspiring to witness the perseverance of both the Cambodian people and their culture. | Photo and Caption By: Susie Madden
Savannah and Samir
Savannah and Samir | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Thailand
Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Green Cohort enjoying Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray
Green Cohort enjoying Cambodia | Photo By: Leela Ray
Leela and Hayden | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Leela and Hayden | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Andrew enjoying Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Andrew enjoying Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Dini Thailand
Dini enjoying Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah Thailand
Savannah | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Mixology Partner Photo By Alex Messitidis
Mixology Partner in Cambodia | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Alice and Sophia practicing mixology | Photo By: Alex Messitdis
Alice and Sophia practicing mixology | Photo By: Lex Messitdis
Andrew and Anna at mixology | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Andrew and Anna with the results of their mixology course | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Meagan Kindrat
Beautiful Shot of Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah and John
Savannah and John | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Thailand
Caroline in Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Blue Cohort playing in the mud during their time learning about mangroves | Photo By: Bangkok Vanguards
Thailand blooms | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Savannah and Dini
Savannah and Dini enjoying delicious Thai noodles | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Andrew, Natanielle and Susie | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Thailand
Blue Cohort traveling in Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Winterline Thailand
Charlie and Savannah at a Thailand flower market | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

Hope you enjoyed our photos of the week! Remember we post new photos every Friday. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

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*

 

 

 

4 Reasons to Head to India This Spring

This spring we are heading to Mumbai, India for a 9 day Global Entrepreneurship Intensive Program. Will you be joining us? We have four reasons that this is a program you will NOT want to miss. You and your resume will thank us later. The application deadline for this program is January 26. So, don’t wait apply now!

  1. Your Personal Brand. In today’s world everything is digital and everything is on the internet. Don’t fight your presence on social media, brand it! Understanding your personal brand can help you land a top internship and position yourself for success during and after college. During this intensive program you’ll explore your personal brand and gain an important business perspective. 
  2. Learn from the Best. What makes a compelling marketing video? Learn to create one. Learn what clients are looking for. While in Mumbai you’ll take a deep dive into marketing and branding with one of India’s top ad agencies. Not only will this be a fun learning experience for you, but it will look stellar on your resume and set you apart from everyone else.Winterline Global Business
  3. Gain a new perspective. See first hand what it’s like to live and learn in the world’s fastest growing economy. Throughout the program, the focus will be on hands-on skill development and an introduction to the real world of businesses from the dabbawalla lunch delivery service to a behind the scenes day at a world-class hotel.business_cambodia_impact_hub-1-5
  4. Real skills. Real Life. You’ll gain invaluable interpersonal, negotiation, and communication skills. Because many of these skills extend beyond business, this program will help you succeed in school, in any job, and even in your personal life. Why not invest in yourself? cambodia-business-program-gap-year-students

For more about this trip and other trips abroad be sure to check out our programs page. Ready to apply? We’d love to have you! The application deadline for this trip in January 26.

7 Reasons to Go to Thailand

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

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

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

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.”

 

7 Reasons to Travel to Venice, Italy

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

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

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

Location Spotlight: Rancho Mastatal

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

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

Rancho Mastatal
Sam and Savannah | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

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

Rancho Mastatal Living
Rancho Mastatal Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy World Kindness Day!

What’s World Kindness Day?

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

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

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

Winterline & Global Citizens

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

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

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

Our students practicing mindfulness

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

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

Making Everyday World Kindness Day

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

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

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

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

Location Spotlight: Ridge to Reef Expeditions, Belize

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

Photo By: Christian Lillie
Photo By: Christian Lillie

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

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

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

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

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

Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

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

What is a Winterline?

People often ask me about our name. Why do we call ourselves the Winterline Global Skills Program? What is a winterline and why did we choose this name for our company?

A winterline is an atmospheric phenomenon.  It is a second horizon that develops under special conditions during an inversion when warm air is trapped beneath cold air.

winterline global skills
Photo By: Dinkrit Sethi

Winterlines don’t occur very often or in very many places in the world. But, in the lower ranges of the Himalayas in northern India – where several of our staff (including myself) attended an international boarding school – winterlines occurred almost daily during the months from mid-October to mid-February.

During these months, warm smoky air from all the cooking fires down below us would mix with the dust of the Indian plains and rise up into the air. But instead of dissipating, it would be met with a mass of cold air coming down from the snow-capped peaks of the high Himalayas.  And there it would be trapped.

winterline global skills
Photo By: Paul Hami

If you were looking up at the winterline from down below on the plains, you wouldn’t see anything except warm smoky air.   However, if you lived where we did at 7,000 ft, you were up above this mass of warm air, and could look down into it.

In and of itself, there was nothing special to see. But if you looked out toward the horizon, particularly as the sun was setting in the evening, you would see a line, a new horizon. The rays of the setting sun would bounce off this dense air mass creating beautiful and colorful displays of light. Much like how clouds in the sky make a sunset more beautiful by reflecting the changing light as the sun drops behind the horizon, a winterline has a similar effect. Reflecting and catching the sun’s light as it drops behind the horizon, a winterline creates a band of light across the sky!  A land horizon is static, but a winterline, because it is up in the air, allows the light to play across it.

winterline global skills
Photo By: BetterPhotography.in

So what does all of this have to do with us?  Well, we named our program the Winterline Global Skills Program because it gives our participants a new perspective, new tools and skills to experience their lives in a new way.  Our program takes students up and out of their day-to-day lives, and puts them in a new place with a new vantage point from where they can see things differently.  And from this place, just like being up in the mountains at 7,000 ft, they can look beyond the horizon that they are used to seeing and see a new horizon that is just as real. A new horizon that is beautiful, that reflects and refracts light in new and different ways – just like the winterline we named our program after.

We want our students to embrace their experience, push past their fears and insecurities, and allow themselves to travel to that place where they can see beyond the horizon to a new and more beautiful line in the sky.  To look for and follow the Winterline.

 

This Too Shall Pass

NOLS Wind River Range Expedition: “This Too Shall Pass”

I once saw a woman with the words, “This Too Shall Pass” tattooed in huge cursive letters across her chest and collarbone. At the time, I was struck with utter disbelief that someone would mark their body with this quote.  It was ironic to me that she had permanently marked her body with a statement claiming that all things are temporary. I hadn’t thought of this phrase until my experience last week in the Wind River Range of Wyoming in which I was forced to remind myself constantly that “this too shall pass” more so than I hoped. Looking back on my time in the mountains, there is one day in particular that stands out to me as most significant with this quote in mind.

Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Photo By: Anna Nickerson

The infamous “Monday” of my NOLS trip has been quite the conversation piece in my Winterline cohort. Whenever someone mentions this day, there is an audible groan followed by sighs of relief that we are forever done with the misery and pain that ensued that day.  For me, the morning and the afternoon of that day completely juxtapose each other. In hindsight, the stark contrast between various events that day is beautiful, but at the time I failed to appreciate the value of this experience.  

We woke up that Monday morning to copious amounts of snow dumping from the sky in addition to below-freezing conditions. Despite the extreme discomfort that came with dragging my body out of my warm sleeping bag, layering up with every article of clothing I packed, and forcing myself to brush my teeth with snowballs outside, I managed to make it to the “kitchen.” Patrick, Leela, and I huddled underneath our kitchen fly, which was caving from the snow. We boiled some water in hopes of warming ourselves up with “cowboy coffee” and hot cocoa. I decided that to raise the morale of my cooking group, I would make Mickey Mouse pancakes with cranberries and chocolate chips, which were a big success and had us all feeling optimistic about the day to come.

Anna and Alice
Anna and Alice

By the time we were packed up and ready to go, thick snowflakes covered our bags and paved the trail for our hike. We divided ourselves up into small hiking groups and set out through the freshly made winter wonderland, making the hike markedly more tedious than it had been in prior days. While many people have told me since NOLS that this was their least favorite hiking day, I had the complete opposite reaction. Walking alongside the thick trees and frozen rivers that were each buried in light, sparkling snow was a euphoric experience. My hiking group was completely silent during the majority of our walking, which gave me an opportunity to just focus on myself and my thoughts. I found myself being completely present in the moment, something I often struggle to emulate in my day-to-day life. I felt at peace. We all continued to trek through the dense powder until we reached the apex of the hike: the river.

Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Photo By: Anna Nickerson

The river. The merciless river. The monster of a river that we reached when we were almost completely finished with our four-mile hike. As opposed to previous water hazards we had encountered in prior days, this river did not have an obvious trail of rocks to use as a bridge. We spent about twenty minutes scouting up and down the riverbank, trying to find the path of least resistance, but we were unable to do so. We hesitantly accepted our fate, but trusted that our NOLS instructors knew what they were doing. While everyone decided to roll up their pants, I decided that my high-quality boots and gaiters were adequate to protect me from the frigid water. Not a good idea. As I waded through the river, the water reached to just above my knees and I was drenched and felt slightly hypothermic upon reaching the other side. By this point, group morale was at an all-time low. As I heard people complaining and groaning and even crying, I stripped off my soaking wet boots, socks, and one of my layers of pants.  I changed into my “camp shoes,” which were running shoes that did not provide any protection from the frigid cold. I decided to break a rule of fashion in order to warm up and, as much as I hate to admit this, I put plastic bags on my feet as a layer between my socks and my camp shoes. Yes, plastic bags. It was quite the look. After getting somewhat more comfortable, my cooking group and I set up our kitchen flies and hunkered down to drink tea and soup.

Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Although the rest of the evening was freezing cold, ridiculously uncomfortable, and provided us with frozen boots and socks for the next morning, I somewhat tentatively will admit that this day was my favorite day- only in hindsight. When I look back on the morning hike I can only be content with the way in which I lived so effortlessly in the moment. When I look back on the river and the events that followed, I am proud of myself for how I tolerated the adversity. I think that because those two drastically different experiences ensued in the same day, let alone just a few hours, I can appreciate the day for what it is: a day of personal growth. And when I look back on the entire day as a whole I find myself going back to the phrase, “this too shall pass.” Everything is temporary, but what we take from each experience is permanent. I went through various trials and tribulations throughout my 8-day NOLS course, but I will forever have the appreciation and gratitude for that cold Monday ingrained in my mind, whether I like it or not. -AN

Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Photo By: Anna Nickerson

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

 

Stories from the Field: Leela Ray & NOLS

“My bruises have bruises,” Alice says, but it’s with a smile, because it’s Thursday morning and we’ve just plodded onto the recommissioned school bus that is set to return us to the real world. Where were we? The Wind River range in Wyoming, United States.

Alice, Patrick, Anna, Sophia, Susie, Andrew, Pablo, Liam, Alex, Jack, Natanielle, Hayden and I make up Winterline’s Green Cohort, or as we’ve fondly coined it: The Green Gang. We’ve been together for a little over two weeks, and after a lovely five days of orientation in Estes Park, Colorado, Winterline threw us right into the fire. Eight days, twenty miles, and our entire lives wrapped in eighty liters of water repellent canvas. In partnership with The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) we ventured out into the woods, and I think we all came back with a little more than we expected to find.

What was supposed to be a week of mid forties and minimal precipitation, as per usual late September in Lander, Wyoming, ended up being an average of thirty degrees and about two feet of snowfall throughout the week. In other words, it was cold. Snow and below freezing temperatures made even the most mundane tasks seem exasperating. I struggled to find the energy to brush my teeth in the morning, a task I’m usually hard pressed to accomplish regardless of circumstances. All of our energy was spent keeping warm, for every minute of the day, and doing so meant we ate a lot of food. Namely, cheese.

winterline nols Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow
Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow

I’m someone whose primary sources of food are plant-based and non-processed, but wow did those rules go out the window. When its below freezing the only thing you’re thinking about when looking at food is “how much fat will this have?” Not to avoid it, but to covet it, to shove it in your face. And in case you missed it, cheese is full of fat. So in addition to straight up spoonfuls of peanut butter (of which I had so very many of), we would eat copious amounts of the cultured dairy product just to stay warm at night.

Naturally, we carried every bite of food with us over the week, all dried or processed goods. Every morning and every evening we would get together with our cook groups, crowd around a faltering Whisperlight Stove, and do our very best to chef up something both edible and calorie dense enough to sustain us until our next meal. Every night after our evening meeting we’d sit for up to an hour waiting for the tiny fuel run burner to bring otherwise undrinkable water to a boil. Water that would then be bottled and put in our sleeping bag for temporary warmth. We rationed to ensure that we’d have food for every meal. We had to be creative, but also conservative. The good news? I was lucky to have some pretty proficient people cooking with me. I’d might even be inclined to say we were the best, but that’s besides the point.

Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow
Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow

During the day we’d hike. Though NOLS stands for the National Outdoor Leadership School, it might be more appropriate to call it by its name known by those who partake in the adventures: The No Official Lunch School. Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and (if you’re were lucky enough to have extra from breakfast) leftovers acted as our lunch as we hiked anywhere between two and five miles each day. Now I’m aware that not everything I’ve said thus far sounds less than appetising, and maybe this won’t change your mind, but the most amazing part of our trip were the hikes themselves. The lengths we traveled and the views we saw were like nothing I’d ever encountered. We made it above the tree line on our fourth day, our highest point being 10,600 feet about sea level. If the altitude didn’t make you swoon, the sight of the snow dusted Wind River Range would.

Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow
Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow

I’m not going to lie, it was excruciatingly difficult at times. We waded through frozen rivers, and pitched tents in the snow; honestly if I see another freeze dried carrot I might cry. But to leave behind the world you know for what some call the bare minimum? It’s an experience like no other.  There is something extremely empowering about knowing you are responsible for not just your survival, but for your ability to thrive out there.

Winterline NOLS Photo by Leela Ray Barlow
Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow

So here we are, the thirteen of us: a handful of musicians, a few sports fanatics, a Spaniard, and a couple of zealots. A motley crew of many beliefs, ideals, and cultures who, if anything else, can agree on the following:

  1. You are capable of far more than you know.
  2. “Ride That Pony” is the single most effective way to raise spirits, with the exception of a good hype circle.
  3. Tummy time (the act of warming your feet of someone’s bare stomach) creates a sacred bond that can never be broken.
  4. And finally, years from now, when this program has long been finished, we will all find solace in the little things: fresh fruits and vegetables, dinosaur oatmeal, and the promise of a warm shower.

 

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

10 Reasons to Get SCUBA Certified

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

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

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

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

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

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.