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.”


Awesome Trips at Awesome Prices this Cyber Monday!

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

Winterline Programs

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



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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

Photos of the Week 11/24

As November wraps up so does our first trimester for our blue cohort. As of today our blue students are headed home for their break, when they return after the holidays they will be headed to Southeast Asia. Our green cohort is finishing up their independent studies in Monteverde and they will be headed home soon as well. Check out the photos below showing what our students have been up to in Costa Rica as they learn new skills like baking, up-cycling, public-speaking and much more!

Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!

Costa Rica Rainbow
Costa Rica Rainbow | Photo By: Our Field Advisor, Sarah
Blue cohort enjoying coffee together | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Alex and Alice
Alex and Alice | Photo From: Alex Messitidis
Cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls made by our students Leela and Alex at their independent study | Photo By: Alex Messitidis 
Sav and Charlie
Savannah and Charlie taking in the view | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Students baking for their independent study project | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Leela Baking
Leela baking at her independent study | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Blue Cohort
Blue Cohort ready to welcome our Dean of Students, Susie! | Photo By: Susie Childs
Beautiful Monteverde | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Blue Cohort
Last night for the Blue Squad in Monteverde, Costa Rica!
Views | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Final Presentations
Final Presentations | Photo By: Susie Childs
Elaine and Whitaker
Whitaker and Elaine at their independent study final presentations | Photo By: Susie Childs
Samir at his final presentation about his ISP | Photo By: Susie Childs
Charlie at his final presentation | Photo By: Susie Childs
Caroline at her final ISP presentation | Photo By: Susie Childs
Dini at her independent study final presentation | Photo By: Susie Childs
Sav snacking on a favorite, papaya! | Photo By: Susie Childs
Blue and Green
Blue and green enjoying dinner together!
Blue and Green
New friendships across cohorts | Photo By: Susie Childs
Saying goodbye for the Winter Break | Photo By: Charlie Dickey

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.

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 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.

Photos of the Week 11/17

Can you believe Trimester 1 of our 2017-2018 Gap Year is almost over? Our students are finishing up this portion of their program in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Here they have been enjoy the local vibes while also working on their independent studies (More about that to come later!) When it comes to Trimester 1, we think our student Anna puts it best,

“I am leaving for home in 2 weeks and I’m not ready to say goodbye to my Winterline family! It’s been a fantastic adventure so far that I am very grateful for.” -Anna Nickerson

Check out the photos below to better understand why our students don’t want this portion of their adventure to end! Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!

Alex and Susie
Alex and Susie | Photo From: Alex Messitidis
Charlie making a silk batik while at his independent study | Photo From: Charlie Dickey
Meagan in Monteverde | Photo From: Meagan Kindrat
New friends | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Monteverde skies | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Christian preparing food | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat 
Jaco Views | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Anna Nickerson
Peaceful Nature | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Alex Messitidis
Making new friends in Costa Rica | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Anna Nickerson
Anna enjoying nature | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Treehouse Restaurant, Monteverde | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Anna Nickerson
Hanging in Jaco | Photo By: Anna Nickerson 
Beautiful Monteverde | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Green Cohort | Photo From: Anna Nickerson 
Natanielle | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Anna Nickerson
One of many new puppy friends | Photo By: Anna Nickerson 
Susie hanging out | Photo By:Alex Messitidis
Whitaker helping out | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat 
Local color | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Susie Madden
Research with a view | Photo By: Susie Madden
Another beautiful Monteverde sunset | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

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.

International Education Week 2017

For our Global Gap Year students, pretty much every week is International Education Week – at least, for 9 months of the year. For the rest of the country, the spotlight is on now. In the United States, International Education Week (IEW) is November 13th to 17th.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education jointly sponsor IEW to promote global citizenship and prepare future leaders for worldwide experiences. The point of this week is simple: the U.S. wants you to travel, for any reason or in any capacity possible. In order to promote this goal, events are being held across various states and countries. These events range from education fairs, to forums and panel discussions, to scavenger hunts, badminton games, and musical presentations. Moreso, during November, local passport offices are hosting Passport to the World events. Attending these events will allow the public to learn about passports and apply right then and there. A special focus on college campuses aims to help students take steps toward studying abroad.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

We’ve written extensively about why students should travel, but we’ll tell you again. One important reason is for hands-on education; an experience that cannot be duplicated. Experiential learning teaches skills that are simply impossible to learn in a classroom. Reading a history book is great, but it doesn’t compare to visiting ancient ruins. Sitting through a lecture about modern agriculture may be a bore, but working on a rice paddy or coconut farm in Thailand could be the most unique time of your life.

At Winterline, we support the notion that capable and competent young people, in order to be effective in their lives, ought to be able to do a wide variety things: build a house, cook a meal, manage their finances, sail a boat, speak in public, care for the young and the elderly, start a business, serve a customer, negotiate a deal, drive a car safely and change its tires. To learn these things we believe our students need to be educated globally. Students on our programs gain their skills in multiple countries on several continents, understanding through it all that leadership, critical thinking, cultural awareness, and communication are first and foremost global skills, required of all young people today who are going to be successful in our ever more globalized world.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Another reason to travel is to truly understand the world beyond yourself and your surroundings. Immersing yourself in a new place with new people teaches you not only about others, but about yourself and how you fit into the world. Additionally, cultural understanding and cultural assimilation are important aspects of being a global citizen. Garnering respect for, and knowledge of, foreign places is integral to being a member of the international community.

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Whether it be before, during, in lieu of, or after college, try to travel as much as you can. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning hands-on, and experiencing new things are unparalleled and worthwhile adventures.

Check out the website for IEW, your local government, or your university to discover events that you can attend.


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

Photos of the Week 11/10

For the past week our students have been living in the land of Pura Vida. Our cohorts have been staying in Rancho Mastatal, a community rooted in environmental sustainability, and Monteverde, a town located in the cloud forest of Costa Rica. At these locations our students have been able to practice new skills, meet amazing people, and enjoy the natural wonders of Costa Rica.

Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!

Savannah Monteverde
Savannah in Monteverde, Costa Rica | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Rancho Mastatal
Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Monteverde Waterfall
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Charlie Rancho Mastatal
Charlie in Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Savannah in Monteverde
Savannah in Monteverde | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Monteverde Skies
Monteverde Skies | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Hanging out at Rancho Mastata
Hanging out at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Blue Cohort sharing a meal in Costa Rica
Blue Cohort sharing a meal in Costa Rica | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Meagan Monteverde
Meagan in Monteverde | Photo By: Savannah Pallazola
Rancho Mastatal
Mornings at Rancho | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Whitaker and Sam
Whitaker and Sam | Photo From: Sam Syfuy

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 Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook.

What I Learned from NOLS

Finally, I could breathe a sigh of relief. Drop my pack knowing it was the last time I’d have to heave it around for more than a quick second. And look back – the trail we’d just traversed faintly visible in the distance. The sun completely risen now, I slumped into a seat of a recommissioned school bus exchanging tired but triumphant smiles with the rest of the group. What would I take away from these 9 days? That was the question that continually ran through my mind as we prepared our return to the frontcountry.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

Long after my NOLS expedition through the Wind River Range concluded, I’m still processing what it’s imparted on me. There was no doubt that this was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding experience of my life. But having given it time to digest, I’ve realized that much of what I’d expected to learn differed from the lessons I actually internalized. These were some of my takeaways:

1) Make it about the work.

The first day of the course, our instructors led us on a six-mile hike to our campsite. A heavy backpack coupled with the fact that it was mostly uphill left me completely drained. That night, I wondered how I would get through another week of this. It was the first leg of Winterline and I already felt stuck.

But the next day, these thoughts were swept aside by tasks in need of completion then and there – cooking breakfast, packing the tent, boiling water. The immediacy of the situation left me with little time to be frustrated or concerned for the future. The end of the day came and went and I felt accomplished. Everything I did – whether it be drinking water or scouting for an area to set up camp – became another step in the right direction. I felt like I was getting somewhere.

The day after, I adopted a similar mindset, reminding myself to focus on what needed to be done just as I began feeling demoralized. This repeated the next day and the day after that until finally the week had come and gone. I realized that thinking about the future can be a useful tool but it can also be incredibly daunting. It’s necessary to allow yourself to lose sight of it and remain present from time to time. If you can keep it about the work, you’ll find that there is always something to be done and a path forward.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

2) Type II fun

Type II fun is an apt description of the moments that are uncomfortable at the given time but are appreciated in retrospect. This was an idea introduced to me by Jerrick, one of our instructors. Throughout the hike, we had plenty of these – twelve-hour trekking days, long stretches spent bushwhacking through the forest, and crossing frigid rivers all come to mind. Just as it can be beneficial to stay in the present when you feel anxious, imagining your future self having moved past your current situation can also be crucial. This was a great coping mechanism when I ran out of dry socks late at night – imagining my future self reflecting fondly on the memory. And sure enough, that’s how I look back on it today.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

3) Trusting yourself and failing publicly

I’ve never been an outdoorsy person. I wasn’t great at any of the skills that the course seemed to require to be successful (navigation, cooking, heavy-lifting, etc.) and I didn’t trust myself to try them. I was afraid of holding my peers back. Inevitably, I had to put myself out there to do quite the opposite and propel my group forward. I realized that much of what I had been scared to foray into was easier than I had imagined. Nothing was perfect or ever handed to me – setting up our tent was regularly a process of trial and error and the meals I cooked were often crude at best, but it was refreshing to be reminded that if I took a risk, more often than not I could exceed my own expectations.

Winterline_Samir Kumar

 4) Recognize, plan, and act

In the wilderness, you run into problems – the kind you can’t ignore. For example, we once failed to anticipate running into another hiking group camping in our planned resting point. There wasn’t time to worry about deviating from our initial plan or where we’d be spending the night. We simply picked up a map, plotted a new route, and were off within minutes.

Before NOLS, I often accepted the discomfort of having problems or fretted about how they had arisen. Now I’m trying to be more solution-oriented and adaptable – devising an alternative and wholeheartedly committing to the decisions I make in the face of an obstacle.

You can’t bring the mountains with you when you leave the wilderness. The snow covered trees. The wildlife. But if you play your cards right, you just might return with a little more perspective and a bit more self-assured. -SK

Winterline_Samir Kumar
All Photos Courtesy of Samir Kumar

To hear from more students in the field,  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.

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

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

Thinking about taking a gap year too?


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

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

Why did you choose to take a gap year?

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

What activity or learning experience captivates you most about Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Winterline?

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

Tell us something fun about you!

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

Photos of the Week 11/3

Happy November! Both of our cohorts are currently enjoying the rich culture of Costa Rica. Our Green Cohort has spent the past week enjoying a few rest days in San José in addition getting to know the students at UWC Costa Rica. Meanwhile, our blue cohort is learning about permaculture and sustainability at Rancho Mastatal. Having limited wifi, we hope to have more photos from Blue next week.

Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!

Andrew and Patrick in Punta Gorda, Belize |Photo By: Leela Ray Barlow 
WinterlineGSP Alex Messitidis
Alex, Natanielle, and Hayden in Costa Rica | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Rancho Mastatal
Blue Cohort at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Rancho Mastatal
Costa Rican Sunset | Photo By: Jack Fenker
Costa Rican Sunset | Photo By: Jack Fenker
Jacó, Costa Rica | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Jacó, Costa Rica | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Winterline Rancho Mastatal
Dini and Samir getting their hands dirty at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Rancho Mastatal
Lex and Susie UWC
Susie hanging out at UWC Costa Rica |Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Jacó Photo of the Week
Palms in Jacó Costa Rica |Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Alex Messitidis Photo
Some of Green Cohort hanging out in Jacó, Costa Rica | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Catedral Metropolitana San José | Photo By: Alex Messitidis
Catedral Metropolitana San José |Photo By: Alex Messitidis

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

Will Studying Abroad Get You a Job?

If you need a reason aside from wanderlust to take your studies international, look no further. A recent study found that studying abroad positively impacts the development of job skills, thereby widening career options and presenting the opportunity for long-term growth and promotion. Here at Winterline, WE LOVE SKILLS, so we knew these resulted needed to be shared.

The PIE (Professionals in International Education) News summed up the results of the study to spread the word about the positive effects of learning abroad. More than 4,500 people were surveyed, and 30 were chosen for more in-depth interviews. Over half of all respondents said that their study abroad experience actually helped them to get a job.

Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs
Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs

Even those who didn’t attribute their employment to study abroad acknowledged its use. Many specifically cited study abroad with helping them stand out and get promotions. Study abroad teaches people interpersonal skills, communication, and the ability to understand and work through differences. These are critical values in the workplace, specifically for establishing leadership. Studying abroad helps you figure out your strengths and how to handle your weaknesses. 

“I am a learner, a problem solver, an adventurer, and a creator. Winterline will allow me to explore every tiny facet of my identity, to discover more about who I really am.”
–Benji M (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

The study includes a list of the top five skills rated as most desired by employers: intercultural skills, curiosity, flexibility/adaptability, confidence, and self-awareness. 70% of the survey’s respondents said that their study abroad experience helped shape these values in them. More than 50% also named interpersonal and problem-solving skills as areas in which they grew while abroad.

“I gained an intense understanding of different cultures and managing myself in different situation as well as working with many different types of people. It was an intense maturing experience.”  –Alex (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program Robotics
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Some students worry that going on a program seemingly irrelevant to their major could be harmful, but these results tell a different story: “Among science majors that went on a program outside of the sciences, 47% reported their study abroad contributed to a job offer, whereas among those who went on a science focused experience, only 28% reported it did so”. Our students have experienced the success first hand crediting Winterline for their stellar grades which will help them get a job in the future.

“I just finished my first year of college with a 4.0 and I owe a lot of that to Winterline. Even a year later, I am still benefiting from Winterline.  It has truly been life-changing.”
–Jamie F. (Winterline GSP)

Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program
Winterline 9 Month Gap Year Program

Maybe there’s isn’t a program specifically for your major, or perhaps you have more interest in going to a different region. Don’t let that prevent you from traveling if there’s somewhere you want to go or something you want to explore! Go where you want for yourself, and take comfort in the knowledge that your experience will benefit you in both your personal life and your career field.

Has your study abroad experience helped you with your job? We’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments!