7 Tips to Mastering a Foreign Language While Abroad

Most students have to learn (or try to learn) a foreign language in high school as part of their yearly curriculum. But as we all know, nothing beats taking your classroom studies on the road. Practicing a foreign language in its native country is the best way to become a linguistics master. Once abroad, however, you may find stumbling through words and sentences completely frustrating. Hopefully, this list of quick linguistic tips will help.winterline, gap year

1. Do your homework: Research the country you are planning to visit and learn some of the slang/basic phrases ahead of time.

2. Get study materials: Pick up an English translation dictionary for reference. You will need it!

3. Download a few language apps: Google Translate is just one of the many useful travel apps available for iPhone and Android. It can translate whole paragraphs of text or even just spoken words. Simply say a phrase in English and the app will repeat your words in the foreign language where traveling.5 Apps to Help You Learn a New Language

4. Go to school: You may find it helpful to take a few language classes while abroad. This is exactly what Winterline’s students will be doing while spending several weeks in Central America in Costa Rica.

5. Immerse yourself! Meet as many people as you can and talk to them without reverting to English (or your native language).

6. Practice the language: While abroad, speak the language every chance you get. Winterline’s students will also be living in a homestay for part of their experience; the perfect environment to practice, practice, practice.

7. Be patient; it will come.

You may find that navigating a foreign city, deciphering a menu, or simply attempting to barter in a bustling market challenging. Follow these simple steps, though, and you will soon find yourself communicating and interacting like a local. Well, hopefully close.

CPR and Wilderness First Aid at Outward Bound Costa Rica

Deep within a rainforest in Cartago, Costa Rica lies a boisterous school filled with tremendous opportunities. This is the rainforest base of Outward Bound, a company self described as “the leading provider of experiential and outdoor education programs for youth and adults.” The students of Winterline spent much time on one such program learning the ins and outs of both CPR and Wilderness First Aid. Every single one of us became certified in both, a valuable accomplishment for both the next eight months of our travel, as well as for further than the foreseeable future. The process was quite simple actually.

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Instructor Bailey(Source: Outward Bound Website)
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Instructor Carlos (Source: Outward Bound Website)

Amid some of the craziest travel opportunities of our lives, we began the process to receive our certifications with…school. Not the most exciting portion of the trip, but necessary and helpful nonetheless. Our two instructors, Carlos and Bailey, spent eight hours for three days in a row teaching us everything we needed to know in order to help one another in case of an emergency.

This consisted of typical textbook reading, practicing on dummies as well as each other, and watching videos of possible dangers we may face as well as how to deal with them. Using each other as pretend victims was exhilarating as many of the situations we were acting out required us to trust one another to practice certain skills and handle each other in the appropriate manner. Aside from that, while it wasn’t the most exciting three days of note taking and test stress, Carlos and Bailey worked to make it as interesting as possible to keep us engaged and prepared to earn our certifications.

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Students James and Darshil taking the wilderness first aid test to receive their certification (Credit: Lydia Miller)

Most of the focus with Outward Bound was on wilderness first aid (first aid in a situation where help is not readily available). However, we touched on workplace injuries as well during the CPR portion. This was actually an eye opening experience for many of us, because it really hammered home the point that accidents can happen anywhere at any time, and if nobody is prepared to deal with them, you may be out of luck.

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Certification cards (Credit: Sherly Budiman)

I’m very happy to have received my education in CPR and first aid because I won’t be the person panicking in the background; there’s so much more my peers and I can do to help now. What I’ve taken away from this experience is that everyone should receive an education similar to the one Outward Bound was able to provide, and I’m sure my peers can and will say the same.

I’m very proud of all the work we put in over the course of the week, and looking back I can say the time we spent together throughout this education was very valuable in terms of bonding and trust building within the group. Having to work together in “stressful” situations led us to rely on each other as well as ourselves, and I think that was important for us to go through so early on in the trip while we still don’t know each other too well. Overall, I can say I’m quite pleased with this segment of Winterline.

Photos of the Week 10/25

Our students have made progress in Panama! They’ve been hard at work with Giro Urbano Panama, tackling community issues for their urban innovation segment. During this time, the students worked to improve the quality of life for residents in the Miraflores neighborhood of Panama through innovation, tactical tools, and applied methodology.

One of these projects has been learning to design and build cities. To achieve this goal,they’ve worked on improving safety and promoting community-neighborhood interaction by highlighting crosswalks. Check out the finished results below, as well as some more photos from the visit to Parará Purú, an indigenous community outside of Panama City.

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Alyssa having artwork done by a member of the Parara Puru community | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Cruising down the river | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Docking at the Parara Puru village | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Eli and Micah hanging at the rooftop pool
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Eli getting tribal artwork done | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Nothing like a good meal | Photo By: Alyssa Copham
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Community development done by our students with Giro Urbano Panama!
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Jackson painting the streets | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Jason, Emmie, Alyssa,and Eli making friends with the children of the Parara Puru community | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Peace and love in Panama | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Liam painting the streets with Giro Urbano | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Waterfall adventures | Photo By: Emmie Daswani
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Emmie and her new friend!
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The boys in Panama City | Photo By: Jacob Rona
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Time to get caffeinated | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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The Panama City skyline at night | Photo By: Emmie Daswani
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The skyline in daylight | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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At work with Giro Urbano | Photo By: Liam McIlwain

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future!

The End of an Adventure

As hard as it is to admit, every trip has to come to an end. Whether you’ve been gone for a week or a year, it can be hard to say goodbye to a place you’ve fallen in love with, to the friends you’ve made, to the excitement of traveling overall. So how can you prepare yourself for the inevitable journey home?

Get your souvenirs

Don’t feel like you have to get gifts for everyone you know, but if you see something that you just know your family member or friend would love, why not bring it home to let them you know you were thinking of them on your trip? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a meaningful gift. Even a postcard with a nice note will make your loved ones feel included in your adventures. And of course, get something for yourself to remember your trip by! Whether you want a small token from each city you visit or one larger reminder of your journey overall, each time you look at your souvenirs you’ll be transported back to your trip.winterline, gap year, souvenir

Exchange contact info with your friends

Whether they’re your Winterline peers or people you met along the way, you’ll make friends that you want to keep in touch with. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their WhatsApp numbers, email addresses, or social media information. The last thing you want is to get home, miss them, and be left wondering about their life when you realize you have no way to reach them. Even if you know you won’t be or remain best friends, it’ll be nice to scroll through Instagram and see what new adventures they’re having.winterline, gap year, friends

Visit your favorite place one last time

Could you spend hours in a specific museum? Does a landmark or monument take your breath away every time you see it? Is there a specific cafe or restaurant where you want to try everything on the menu? Give yourself time to visit this place once more before you leave. Bring your friends if you want to share its magic or go alone for some intentional reflection. Maybe this is the best place to get your souvenir, but at least take plenty of pictures to remember it by! You can even do some journaling here: make note of how the place makes you feel, your favorite thing about it, and what you’ll miss the most.winterline, gap year, temple

Update your resume

If you’re coming home from a Winterline gap year, you have a slew of new skills under your belt. Add them to your resume! Whether you’re going to college or looking for a job or internship, you’ll want people to know where you’ve been and what you’ve learned. This is especially true if your gap year helped you discover the subject you want to study or the skill you want to pursue as a career. winterline, gap year, study

Reflect, reflect, reflect

What did you learn from your travels? Is there anything you would do differently? Are there skills you learned that you want to practice when you get home? Asking yourself questions like these will help you process your experience. This will make it easier for you to share the details with friends and family, and it’ll help you prepare for any future travel experience! You can think about what was successful about your journey to do again and what you’ll change next time you go somewhere. Of course, there are aspects of travel that you’ll miss, but get yourself in the right mindspace for returning home by thinking about who you’re excited to see and what you’re eager to do upon your return.winterline, gap year, journal

What’s the hardest part for you about going home at the end of a trip? How do you prepare yourself to say goodbye?

What’s New: Our 2020 Gap Year

The Winterline program is constantly evolving so that we can continue to offer you the best gap year possible. This means that each year, there are some changes: some small, some big. Each change we make comes from student and Field Advisor feedback: what you loved, what could use improvement, what you’d add to the program that doesn’t exist. For example, last year we announced our second itinerary traveling to Rwanda and South Africa. Now, we have some really cool announcements about our 2020-2021 gap year! Here’s what will be new for next year’s students. Get excited!

New Countries

Guatemala

Finish off your Trimester 1 experience in Guatemala, the Land of Eternal Spring! You’ll still visit Costa Rica and Panama for skills like scuba, business bootcamp, surfing, and more. But students on both itineraries will also get nearly two weeks in this new country to learn skills such as weaving, ceramics, cooking, and candle making (more details below)! Your visit will also include an excursion to the deepest lake – and one of the most beautiful – in Central America: Lake Atitlán! In the lake community of Santiago Atitlán, you’ll get to explore the town and visit a handicraft market.

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Lake Atitlan in Guatemala | Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Croatia

Sadly, our 2019-2020 gap year will be the last group of students visiting Austria on the Winterline gap year. But in its place, 2020-2021 students will visit a new travel destination: Split, Croatia’s second-largest city! Located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, this city is the perfect place to introduce a new skill, as well: sailing! You can find out more about this specific skill below. Croatia will also be where students learn robotics with STEMI, getting lessons in robot assembly and mechanics, creating a mobile app, 3D modeling, and Arduino programming. Remember that students have the choice to either visit Croatia or South Africa, so think hard about which path you’ll take!

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Split, Croatia

New Skills and Partners

Weaving

You’ll have the opportunity to learn how local Guatemalan women work with cotton: from planting their own seeds, to dyeing the cotton, to creating something beautiful out of it. Throughout a three-day homestay in the town where these women live, you’ll get to weave and dye your own scarf to take home as a reminder of your experience and testament of your skills!

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Photo by Kiara Coll from Pexels

Ceramics

Spend a day learning the antique skill of ceramics from a local expert. She processes the clay from the mountain, brings it home, grinds it with stone, and fires it in her own house. You’ll be able to watch her process and work alongside her to create a small piece to keep.

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Ceramics | Photo By: Lydia Miller

Candle Making

In some of the villages of Guatemala, there isn’t always electricity, so candles are necessities. The citizens of these communities will teach you how to get, boil, and dye wax, and how to put the wick in the candle. You’ll also learn about how different types of candles are used in this culture during this daylong workshop.winterline, gap year, candles

Sailing

With Croatia’s Ultra Sailing, you’ll take an ISPA Competent Crew Sail Certificate 4 Day Course! You don’t need to have any background in sailing for this skill, as the course will cover all the basics. After a safety briefing, you’ll start to learn about unberthing and setting sails. There will be plenty of rope work practice and individual feedback before you take your certification exam. Not only will this course help you get another certification under your belt, but you’ll get to take in the beauty and experience of life at sea.

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Maria sailing for her Europe ISP

Glassblowing

With the help of Abate Zanetti in Venice, students will learn more about the timeless art of glassblowing. Do you know what the processes of fusing or lampworking are? After working with this partner, you’ll know what each term means, how they differ, and what types of glass they produce. Turning raw materials into beautiful glass art will be an experience you’ll never forget.

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Blown glass | Photo By: Emma Mays

You can visit our Gap Year page to find out more about what this journey consists of. Once you’re ready, apply to secure a spot on next year’s program! However, keep in mind, details are subject to change.

Photos of the Week 10/18

Our students sure have been busy in Panama! They explored Panama City and learned how to take public transportation. They visited the Panama Canal to learn about its history and creation. They also visited the Embera village of Parará Purú, an indigenous community outside of Panama City. Throughout all of these experiences, the students have had the opportunity to interact with local citizens and have their worldviews broadened.

Alongside these experiences, our students have begun their urban innovation and business bootcamp workshops! This involves the students speaking to the people of Panama City about what areas in their community need improvement. The next step is for our students to collaborate and find sustainable solutions to some of these problems. Check out what this week has looked like, and stay tuned to see what results they come up with!

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Alexandra takes in the Panama City sunset
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Alyssa working on urban innovation | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Panama City ruins | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Darshil, Spencer, and James hanging out | Photo By: Jacob Rona
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Emma’s all smiles for Panama City | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Panama City graffiti | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Students with the Parara Puru community
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Who said work can’t be fun? | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Urban innovation with friends | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Lydia having a blast | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Panama City market stalls | Photo By: Alexandra Johansson
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Panama city market | Photo By: Peyton Farley
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Boat rides in Panama | Photo By: Eliza Valley

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Views at the Panama Canal | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Buildings covered with ivy | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Panama City street views | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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That skyline never gets old | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Busy city | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Leon and Lucas with members of the Parara Puru community
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Children of Parara Puru | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Foggy days in Panama | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Beach views | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Boat rides into the clouds | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Planning urban innovation work
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All squads in Panama!
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Showing off the Winterline logo | Photo By: Veronica Allmon

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future!

Photos of the Week 10/11

Can you believe our students are already on to the next country? That’s right: this week they arrived in Panama City, where lessons on the city and canal wait, as do a business bootcamp, visit to an indigenous community, and urban innovation workshop.

If you’re sad to say goodbye to Costa Rica, we have good news for you! After a few weeks in Panama, our students will be headed back to this country to finish off Trimester 1. But for the time being, enjoy these photos as the last highlights from Costa Rica.

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Alexandra and Aimee cheers | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Christian and Veronica working at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Lucas and Alyssa on the beach
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Monkeying around | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Soaking in the sunset | Photo By: Aimee Diderich
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Don’t forget to smile | Photo By: Micah Zimmerman
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Alexandra at the waterfall
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A friendly face | Photo By: Leon Louw
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Waterfall hikes | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Josh at his Monteverde ISP
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Josh cooking at his Monteverde ISP
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Lydia is all smiles
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FA Jamie in the Monteverde Cloud Forest
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Who’s ready for a nap? | Photo By: Lydia Miller
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Jacob recycling at his Monteverde ISP
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Making chocolate | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Pablo and Micah on the beach
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The beauty of the rainforest | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Working at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Scuba certified | Photo By: Alexandra Johansson
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Underwater adventures | Photo By: Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Scuba has its own language | Photo By: Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Sunset selfie | Photo By: Aimee Diderich
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The boys of Squad 3
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Costa Rican rainbows | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Cooling down in the waterfall | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Hello Panama City! | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Panama City views | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future!

Certification Programs

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Winterline’s gap year and short programs give students opportunities to earn different certifications to prepare them for various careers. But what are the benefits of having these certifications?

Each year, high school seniors approaching graduation experience an unfamiliar combination of stress, anticipation, and anxiety. As students plan how they’ll spend the precious time between graduation and the start of college, many compare the benefits of a romantic quest for adventure and self discovery with the more pragmatic search for professional experience.

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Certifications like these may prove incredibly beneficial to students pursuing careers in everything from outdoor education, medicine, health care, environmental science, coaching, camp counseling, hospitality, tourism, and the like.

While general experience in these fields is useful, students’ individual experiences can often be abstract and “unofficial”, making it difficult for a future employer to feel confident about a potential hire. Inexperienced students seeking a job often face a frustrating catch-22 when they lack the experience needed to get a job they were planning to use for experience.

Certified students avoid this conundrum, bypassing the stress and disappointment. Our affiliated certification programs are internationally recognized. So by training for and receiving a certification from them, students have a chance to build connections with instructors and get their foot in the door – a major advantage in many competitive fields.

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Certifications provide undeniable proof of one’s burgeoning commitment and expertise within a particular field. Pursuing a certification may also be the solution for a more goal-oriented individual, or an answer to doubtful friends or family members who ask, “what will you get out of your gap semester?”.

For students planning to study at a liberal arts college, earning a certification can offer a refreshing dose of real world skill-building before entering a highly academic environment.

Not only do Winterline students leave the program with these valuable certifications on their resume, they also make lifelong friends, hone their skills, and develop their worldview while travelling through breathtaking environments.

Photos of the Week 10/4

Let the skills begin! This week, our three squads split up to head for different partners. Squad 1 is experiencing their Trimester 1 ISP in Monteverde, Squad 2 is off at Rancho Mastatal (with no WiFi, so stay tuned for their photos next week), and Squad 3 is exploring the seas with ConnectOcean and Pacific Coast Dive Center.

Each of our squads will visit all of these partners and learn the abundance of skills offered, which range from permaculture to scuba diving to cooking and everything in between. If this sounds interesting to you, just wait until you see these pictures – you’ll be filled with wanderlust!

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Exploring Costa Rica | Photo By: Carter Tobin
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Getting ready for scuba at Pacific Coast Dive Center | Photo By: Alexandra Johansson
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Josh cooking at his Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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Jacob recycling at his Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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La Iguana Chocolate Factory | Photo By: Nik Blushi
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Hanging in the hammock | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Making puppy friends | Photo By: Leon Louw
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Fresh ceviche | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Time for a cat nap | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Costa Rica | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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At the beach | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Photos from the farm | Photo By: Peyton Farley
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Cute and cozy | Photo By: Peyton Farley
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Beautiful views | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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A sight that never gets old | Photo By: Felipe Buitrago

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future!

Travel Blogging with Polarsteps

Keeping a travel blog or journal sounds like a fun idea in theory, and the end result is certainly worth it. But there’s a lot of logistics that go into it from creative energy, to supplies like pens, stickers, or WiFi, to the sheer amount of time necessary to devote. So it’s understandable if your goal to track your adventure falls behind.

Luckily, there’s a way to make this process a whole lot easier: Polarsteps. This app, available for free on both the Google Play and Apple stores, does all of the work for you. Reviews describe the setup as easy and intuitive: you simply click to create a new trip and designate a name, summary, dates, and audience. That’s all you have to do!winterline, gap year, polarsteps

As you travel, the app will automatically track your route and make note of the places you visit. As you add photographs and locations, a travel log will auto-populate. And best of all: you don’t need any data or cell coverage for the app to work! Polarsteps uses GPS, which works independently, and the app will sync it’s data when you reach reception or WiFi at the end of the day or week.

On the app’s homepage, you get a summary of your journey so far, complete with number of miles traveled, number of countries and continents visited, how much of the world you’ve seen, how many people you follow, and how many follow you. There are other statistics available as well.winterline, gap year, polarsteps

And of course, no app would be complete without the ability to share your finished product. You can easily share your trip to social media. If you’re looking for a physical representation, you can also order a custom travel book to look back on.winterline, gap year, polarsteps

Feeling inspired yet? You can check out some of the staff picks of trips on their website, like India by Train or World trip by bicycle. Polarsteps is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Have you used Polarsteps before? If so, share your experience and your trip with us! If not, are there other apps you like for journaling and blogging?