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.
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.
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!
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.