Making the Most of a Gap Year Fair

We know that walking into a gap year fair can be really overwhelming. There are dozens of companies lined up, showcasing enormous banners full of colorful photos and invitations to have the best gap year ever. It can be nerve-wracking even for the exhibitors. We understand that students and families may not know how to make the most of their gap year fair. But we want you to use these fairs to your advantage. So when you attend a gap year fair near you, use these tips to ensure that you walk away with a better understanding of which programs are a good fit for you.

Adventurers Wanted.

Before the Fair

Do some research beforehand. You don’t need to know the complete details of every single gap year program in existence, but it helps to have an idea of what makes programs different. The USA Gap Year Fair website has a comprehensive list of programs, though there may not be representatives attending from each one. Scroll through and see which ones stand out to you. Are there certain things about them that excite you and you want to learn more about? Are there questions you want to ask a representative? When you arrive at the fair, even just recognizing the program names can help you feel more comfortable. Having specific talking points will also give you a deeper understanding of the program.

When you’re doing research, remember that substance and curriculum are the most important parts! It’s easy to get drawn in by bold colors, fun photos, and compelling taglines, but every program has those to some extent. Use your preparation time to start thinking about aspects that are most important to you. For example, do you want a program that focuses heavily on volunteering or internships? Do you want to spend your gap year fully immersed in one location, or do you want to travel to multiple places? If you want to travel, would you prefer spending time in multiple cities in one country or region, or would you prefer a program that takes you around the world? Are you interested in a specific focus or do you want to learn a broad range of skills?

By considering this information, you’ll narrow down what type of programs interest you. Then you can match up those topics with specific organizations. That way, when you get to the fair, you have a better idea of what you want and which people to talk to make the most of your time.

usa gap year fair winterline
Winterline’s table at the Dedham Gap Year Fair.

At the Fair

Visit the booths of the organizations you picked out before the fair! Tell them what intrigued you most about their program and ask them any questions you had. That said, don’t immediately count out every other booth and leave as soon as you’ve finished with the ones on your list. Talking in person gives you a much better understanding than a website will. You may fall in love with a program that you overlooked during your research.

winterline usa gap year fair
Ask our fair reps to take a peek into a yearbook from previous years! You’ll be able to imagien what it looks like to be in the field as a Winterline student.

The main point of these gap year fairs is to help you figure out what makes each program different. Again, each one will take you on a really cool gap year – that’s not breaking news. But these fairs allow us as organizations to emphasize to you what makes our program unique. For example, here at Winterline, what makes us stand out is our emphasis on skills-based learning. On a Winterline gap year, you learn 100 new skills in different countries all around the world. No other gap year can say that.

It can be really helpful to take notes during your conversation or immediately after it, even if it’s just jotting down some key points on your phone. You’ll likely talk to a lot of people, so it helps to have information to look back on. If you’re going with a family member or friend, ask them to take notes, too.  Then, you can compare later. Most booths also offer pamphlets and brochures, so don’t hesitate to take papers to refer to later. Finally, each fair gives registered guests a unique QR code with your contact information. If you’re interested, allow representatives to scan your QR code so they can reach out to you later.

winterline usa gap year fairs
Programs have tables with information about their programs, scholarships, and fun swag!

After the Fair

Take a deep breath and relax: you did it!

You don’t need to take action right away, but in the next few days, make it a point to look over your notes. Which programs stand out to you, even now? Which ones can you not stop thinking about? Which ones make you truly excited to think about?

Hopefully, now you can narrow down which programs you really want to focus on, and begin the process of applying and preparing for your gap year. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out using the contact information on the website. Here at Winterline, we love to hear from and talk to students, and we know that other gap years feel the same.

If we haven’t met you at a gap year fair already, we hope to soon! Check out the schedule on the USA Gap Year Fair website.



Meet the Field Advisors: James Townsend

Ready to start your adventure?


Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Baltimore, Maryland.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

Being a Field Advisor with Winterline is such a special position and the choice was easy to make. I’ve often asked, and have been asked by coworkers while working in similar jobs: if I could create my own program, what would it look like? When I first discovered Winterline’s Gap Year program, my mind was blown by how similar it felt to what I had been imagining all along. Strong emphasis on a global education, with practical skills learning, an introduction not only to the world but in a way to one’s self, and in a time frame in which participants can really make the most impact on their life, that’s the kind of program I have always wanted to be a part of!

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I got my start working internationally with a company that runs trips out of Tanzania. I studied abroad in Tanzania for a semester and it was the regional focus of my degree in International Studies, so finding an opportunity to lead and teach in a country I am completely in love with and knew a lot about was something I had to do! Previously I had been leading outdoor adventure and leadership trips in the USA for several years, and to find an industry that combined my passions for experiential education as well as travel and culture was nothing short of a dream job.

james townsend winterline gap year

What are you most excited for about Winterline in Trimester 2?

This will be my second or third time to most of the countries on the itinerary. Part of what I love about my job is being able to introduce and share the things that made me fall in love with in these places in the first place! For example, I spent a month in Cambodia last year and one thing I was so struck by is how it really wears its history on its sleeve. From the ancient temples of the Angkor period 1,200 years ago to the abandoned structures from the Khmer Rogue era in the 70s found throughout the country, the more you see, the more you’re constantly inspired to learn more about its history and people. The more you learn, the more you can understand and contextualize every experience you have into a greater understanding of what Cambodia really is. Being a part of that learning journey is what I love not only about my job, but about traveling as well.

james townsend winterline gap year

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen while traveling?

Honestly, the most incredible thing I’ve seen is the amount of hospitality so much of the world gives freely to complete strangers visiting their country. Last year I bought a motorcycle in Vietnam and spent two months traveling up the country. The tough thing when traveling by bike is that between all the tourist sites and major cities, there tends to be up to three to four days of travel through rural villages, mountain passes, and dense jungles before you get to where you’re going, and not very many resources to know if there will be a place to stay or eat on the road ahead of you. The real surprise came in these moments, where I’d stop in a village and ask for a nearby hotel and people would insist I stay with them and their family for the night. Or I’d stop under a tree in the rain to take a break and someone would just appear with a hot cup of coffee and a towel, without a word of English. One memorable night involved an invitation to camp on the beach with a family who brought all the tents, a massive feast, and a giant portable karaoke machine. The amount of meals offered to me by complete strangers who refused any money in exchange was incredible, and has really taught me the value in trusting others.

james townsend winterline gap year

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I was a student of experiential education. I grew up going to summer camps, doing multiple study abroad courses and semesters at university, and even now to a degree by being a part of programs like Winterline. By far those have been the most impactful and transformational experiences of my entire life. They’re exciting and rewarding, but can also be challenging and demanding at times. It’s often those challenging moments that are the most defining in our personal growth. I believe having someone who understands those challenges, and the rewards that come with surmounting them there to mentor you is one of the unsung benefits of a gap year program, and it is a part of my position that I take most seriously.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

The Maasai tribe of East Africa takes the honor of who they offer the first drink of the meal to quite seriously. In my constant effort to not offend my hosts’ culture, customs, or hospitality, I am pleased to report on behalf of anyone curious, that raw goat’s blood tastes exactly as you’d probably imagine raw goat’s blood to taste.

james townsend winterline gap year


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.

Keeping your 2019 Travel Resolutions

It’s almost February, have you been able to stick to your resolutions? If your resolution for 2019 is travel related, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re interested in going somewhere you’ve never been, immersing yourself in a culture for longer, learning a foreign language, or getting skilled in cooking a new cuisine. No matter what it is, we all know that New Year’s resolutions can be hard to set and even harder to stick to as the year goes on. So here are 3 tips worth keeping in mind to make your 2019 travel resolutions come true so that you can have the most adventurous year yet.

Make 2019 the year you see the world.

Start Planning

According to, the best time to buy flight tickets for the lowest price is 70 days in advance. Want to make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal? Download apps like Hopper, which analyze flight prices and keep you updated on the cost and best time to buy based on their predictions for fluctuation. Not only will planning in advance help you maintain your budget, but it’ll allow you to make an itinerary. You can schedule as loosely or as thoroughly as you please, but it helps to have an idea of what you want to see and do so that you can get the most out of your trip.

If you find yourself with an unexpected break and don’t have the luxury of planning in advance, cross-reference flights on multiple websites to make sure you get a fair price – and do it in a private browser!winterline work study student

Join a Travel Rewards Program

If you’re able to use a credit card, find one that has travel rewards best suited for you. Forbes declared that the best card for 2019 is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has a current sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months. This is equivalent to at least $625 in redemptions, and the card has great flexibility among travel partners. If the Chase card doesn’t work for you, Forbes outlines other cards with great travel benefits that might be a better fit.

If you aren’t looking for a new credit card, there are plenty of travel brand loyalty programs that you can join. According to U.S. News, the best hotel reward program is Marriott Rewards, and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan offers the best airline rewards. If you’re loyal to another brand, check out the rest of the rankings from U.S. News or search to see if your preferred hotel or airline has a program.winterline_airplane_budget

Be More Flexible

This may sound like it contradicts tip #1, but they actually go hand-in-hand. Planning ahead of time allows you more flexibility with travel dates; if your schedule isn’t jam-packed yet, you can choose dates based on their price instead of your own limited availability. And of course, flexibility doesn’t just apply to booking flights and accommodations. Traveling should be fun and enlightening, not stressful. In 2019, don’t worry about planning your trip down to the very last second. Allow yourself time to explore, to get lost – both physically and emotionally. Let yourself discover things you might not have otherwise about both your travel location and yourself! Let plans and activities and preconceived notions change. You might be surprised at just how much you gain when you let go.

blue cohort Belize
Blue Cohort walking in Belize | Photo By: Dini Vermaat

What’s your 2019 travel resolution, and how are you planning to achieve it?

Ready to Explore the World in 2019?


Catch us on the road at the 2018 USA Gap Year Fairs!

With a new year comes new adventures – not just for you, but for us, too! From January to March, we’re on the road for the USA Gap Year Fairs. From coast to coast, we’ll be visiting different fairs to meet students, parents, and counselors. Will you be one of them? We sure hope so! There’s no better way to find out about our program than talking with us face-to-face, and with a fair almost every day, there’s plenty of opportunities to drop by and get to know the people behind Winterline. Check out the fair schedule to find an event near you, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with us as we attend!

What to Know

  • This is the 12th year that the USA Gap Year Fairs organization is holding this circuit
  • Students, parents, and educational professionals are all welcome to attend
  • New York to California, Illinois to Texas, and more – there are more than 40 fairs and we’ll be at all of them alongside other gap year programs
  • At each fair, there are speaker presentations and Q&A’s about gap years (this year, two of our own will be panelists – catch them in Brookline, MA and Boulder, CO)
  • You can meet both alumni and professionals to get a holistic view of the gap year experience

When and Where to Go

Find your nearest event on the calendar, then scroll below for more details! And remember, dates and times are subject to change, so be sure to check the USA Gap Year Fairs site for updates.

January 2019 Fairs

West Hartford, CT

Date: January 10, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationConard High School

Address: 110 Beechwood Rd West Hartford, CT 06107


Boston, MA

Date: January 12, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationNoble and Greenough School

Address: 10 Campus Dr Dedham, MA 02026


Andover, MA

Date: January 13, 2019

Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm

LocationAndover High School

Address: 80 Shawsheen Rd., Andover, MA 01810


Brookline, MA

Date: January 14, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationBrookline High School

Address: 115 Greenough St, Brookline, MA, 02445


Scarborough, ME

Date: January 15, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Location: Scarborough High School

Address: 11 Municipal Drive, Scarborough, ME 04074


Lebanon, NH

Date: January 16, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationLebanon High School

Address: 195 Hanover Street, Lebanon, NH 03766


Burlington, VT

Date: January 17, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationBurlington High School

Address: 52 Institute Rd, Burlington, VT 05408


Kansas City, MO

Date: January 22, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationPembroke Hill School

Address: 5121 State Line Rd., Kansas City, MO 64112


Minneapolis, MN

Date: January 23, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationSouthwest Hhigh School

Address: 3414 W 47th Street Minneapolis, MN 55410


Oak Park, IL

Date: January 25, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationOak Park and River Forest High School

Address: 201 Scoville Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302


Chicago, IL

Date: January 26, 2019

Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm

LocationNew Trier High School

Address: 385 Winnetka Ave, Winnetka, IL 60093


Cleveland, OH

Date: January 27, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationLawrence School

Address: 10036 Olde Eight Road Sagamore Hills, OH 44067


Ann Arbor, MI

Date: January 28, 2019

Time: 6:00 – 8:30pm

LocationSkyline High School

Address: 2552 N Maple Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103


Dallas, TX

Date: January 30, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationShelton School

Address: 15720 Hillcrest Road, Dallas, TX 75248


Houston, TX

Date: January 31, 2019

Time: 6:00 – 8:30pm

LocationStrake Jesuit College Preparatory

Address: 8900 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

February 2019 Fairs

Austin, TX

Date: February 2, 2019

Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm

LocationSt.Andrew’s Episcopal High School

Address: 5901 Southwest Parkway, Austin, TX, 78735


Rockville, MD

Date: February 4, 2019

Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm

LocationRichard Montgomery High School

Address: 250 Richard Montgomery Drive, Rockville, MD 20852


Ashburn, VA

Date: February 5, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationBroad Run High School

Address: 21670 Ashburn Road Ashburn, VA 20147


Fairfax, VA

Date: February 6, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationGeorge C. Marshall High School

Address: 7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA, 22043


Washington, DC

Date: February 7, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm

LocationWoodrow Wilson High School

Address: 3950 Chesapeake St NW, Washington, DC 20016


Chapel Hill, NC

Date: February 9, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationCarrboro High School

Address: 201 Rock Haven Rd, Carrboro, NC 27510


Charlotte, NC

Date: February 10, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationProvidence Day School

Address: 5800 Sardis Rd Charlotte, NC 28270, US


Atlanta, GA

Date: February 11, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationDruid Hills High School

Address:  1798 Haygood Dr NE Atlanta, GA 30307


Chattanooga, TN

Date: February 12, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationThe Baylor School

Address: 171 Baylor School Road Chattanooga, TN 37405


Seattle, WA

Date: February 13, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationRoosevelt High School

Address: 1410 NE 66th St., Seattle, WA 98115


Portland, OR

Date: February 14, 2018

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationCleveland High School

Address: 3400 SE 26th Avenue, Portland, OR, 97202


San Diego, CA

Date: February 19, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationLa Jolla High School

Address: 750 Nautilus St, La Jolla, CA 92037


El Segundo, CA

Date: February 20, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationVistamar School

Address: 737 Hawaii St El Segundo, CA 90245, US


Los Angeles, CA

Date: February 21, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationHarvard Westlake School

Address: 3700 Coldwater Canyon, Studio City, CA, 91604


Davis, CA

Date: February 23, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationDavis Senior High School

Address: 315 W 14th St., Davis, CA 95616


East Bay, CA

Date: February 24, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationThe Athenian School

Address: 2100 Mt Diablo Scenic Blvd Danville, CA 94506


San Anselmo, CA

Date: February 25, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationSir Francis Drake High School

Address: 1327 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960


Mountain View, CA

Date: February 26, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationMountain View High School

Address: 3535 Truman Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040


Berkeley, CA

Date: February 27, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Location: Maybeck High School

Address: 2727 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705


Boulder, CO

Date: February 28, 2019

Time: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

LocationNew Vista High School

Address: 700 20th St., Boulder, CO 80302

March 2019 Fairs

Denver, CO

Date: March 2, 2019

Time: 1:00pm – 4:00pm

LocationLittleton High School

Address: 199 E Littleton Blvd, Littleton, CO 80121

We hope to see you on the road this spring! If you’re unable to make it to any of these fairs, or if you’d like Winterline to visit your school, please reach out to

Meet the Field Advisors: Nicole Trecartin

Ready to start your adventure?


Where are you from originally?

Medford, MA

winterline global skills gap year

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

Sometimes I laugh at how long it took for me to realize that this is what I should be doing with my life. Being an FA combines all of my favorite things together. I get to travel the world, see new things, be outside, try new food, and, most importantly, have a positive impact on people’s lives. I love the community which is built through experiences such as these, and I’m honored to be able to be a part of it.

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

When I was in University, I spent a semester in New Zealand in an outdoor education facility learning about environmental sustainability. From that moment I discovered two passions of mine: travel and experiential  education. After that experience, I knew I needed to travel and discover more of the world, so I set off to teach English in Thailand for 2 years. My study abroad experience in NZ was really the lift-off point.

winterline global skills gap year

What are you most excited for about Winterline in Trimester 2?

I’m so excited to meet all of the students and get to know who they are and what they are passionate about. I’m also very excited to head back to Thailand and have the program end so close to my hometown!

winterline global skills gap year

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen while traveling?

On Sumatra Island in Indonesia, I got up close and personal with an orangutan, and on Bali I had an amazing view of Mount Agung as it went through one of its smaller eruptions. It was wild to see nature so raw and dramatic right in front of my eyes. 

What’s the most important thing students and parents should know about you?

I am in this line of work because I love it. I love to connect with young adults and help them discover something about themselves, help them uncover their potential. This kind of experience is one of a kind and I am so excited to help learn and grow from it. 

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve hiked 20 out of 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers and hope to complete the rest in 2019!

winterline global skills gap year

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.

Panama Quotebook: Homestay Bonanza

In early October, our squad spent over a week living with local families in the small mountain community of Piedras Gordas, Panama. With the guidance of a ThinkImpact instructor, we immersed ourselves in the language and culture of our host families, examined the needs of the community and worked together to support local entrepreneurs. Since each of us stayed with a different family and was involved with different projects, our experiences varied considerably. To showcase our varied perspectives, I asked my fellow squad members to reflect on their time spent in Piedras Gordas. The following collection of responses grants a glimpse into the thoughts of Squad 2 throughout our rural homestay experience.

global gap year winterline

What is your favorite memory from Piedras Gordas?

“Waking up every morning to a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee and piping hot fried plantains was very surreal. As I sat in silence reading, the world around me was already getting on with their day: roosters shrieking, kids complain about going to school, and our host family reporting on the wellbeing of their crops.” Micah

“One time, I heard this crazy, almost demonic-sounding cackling from behind the house. Concerned, I asked my host mom what was going on, but she just started laughing… Eventually she took me around the house to show me what was going on and it turns out she kept a pair of very talkative parrots as pets. Once I realized they were just harmless birds, we both burst out laughing. It was a great time.” – Sam

“On the last night, we had this lovely dinner with our host family and played games afterwards. At some point, we started playing Bingo where you had to pay 5 cents a card and the winner got all the money. Pretty soon into the game, we started running out of nickels, so all of us just kept giving the money back for everyone to play another round. That was super fun.” – Ivan

winterline global gap year
Micah Inspecting Freshly Harvested Coffee | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

“I went into Piedras Gordas with the goal of improving my Spanish skills. So, having a long conversation with my host family and actually understanding the majority of it was an awesome personal victory.” – Sam

“Working with local entrepreneur Señora Edith to expand her artisanal weaving business was really rewarding. One part of that project was constructing signs to direct people up to her house, so that she can sell more of her crafts there. Creating something physical and useful in just a few days was very satisfying.” – Ivan

“Before Ernesto’s farm I thought building stairs would require a degree in carpentry and a trip to Home Depot. Not anymore. Just on the short walk to the farm we found all of our supplies and materials lying on the side of the trail, and within a few hours we had transformed an uneven slope of mud into something that rivaled the marble stairways in ancient Roman temples. Take that Zeus.” – Micah

winterline global gap year
Beware! Carpentry Lies Ahead. | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

What was most challenging for you?

“Not knowing Spanish was heartbreaking at times. Although it was very fun learning from my family and teaching them some English along the way, I wish I had been able to really connect with them. As much as cooking and eating together bonds people, such lingual barriers are nearly impossible to overcome.” Micah

“I was surprised with how much I could communicate using broken Spanish and plenty of hand gestures, but the language barrier was definitely still a challenge to overcome. There were a lot of times where I felt like I was missing out on what my host mom was saying, so I wasn’t learning everything I could from them. Google translate only goes so far…” – Sam

“Being in a place where being able to shower and keep my hands clean wasn’t as available as I would have liked made me – just in my own head – feel a little uncomfortable.” – Ivan

If you were to sum up your experiences in Piedras Gordas with a single word or phrase, what would it be?

“Peaceful” Micah

“Excited for another homestay experience!” – Sam

“Simple and noble” – Ivan


Inspired by our students? We’d love to have you join us!


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