How to Handle Reverse Culture Shock

This weekend, our students were welcomed home by their friends and families for winter break. Two months away from home may not sound like a very long time, but our students kept pretty busy during their first trimester, adjusting to new countries, forming bonds with each other, and immersing in new cultures. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the lifestyle of traveling, meaning even when you miss home, returning can actually be quite difficult. So how do you handle reverse culture shock?winterline, gap year

Talk it Out

If you already feel truly changed by your gap year, you might be frustrated that your peers at home are still the same. You might find yourself suddenly unsure of established friendships, but you can’t expect them to understand your transformation unless you talk to them about it. If people are interested in hearing your stories, tell them! That said, you can’t force people to understand how you’re different, and you can’t force them to change alongside you. You have to accept that certain interests or perspectives you once shared with friends may no longer be relevant – it’s just part of life.

Keep it Up

Another challenge can be coming back from freedom and adventure to a home where you have to answer to your parents again. It can be easy to slip back into old patterns and behaviors, even if you don’t intend to. Part of combating this means continuing to experience new things! Going from learning new skills in new countries everyday to following a strict routine is a big change. So work in new experiences where you can. Whether this means continuing to travel, picking up a class outside of your major or career, or starting a new hobby, feeding your need for adventure will help you adapt to your next chapter of life.

View from the plane as we landed in Delhi, India. You can see the pollution!

Stay in Touch

The only people who truly understand exactly what you went through on your gap year are the ones you traveled with! Make the effort to stay in touch with your peers, whether it be through social media, texting and calling, or in-person visits if you’re located closely enough. You can also stay connected with people you met around the world to stay updated on what’s going on in different countries. And if you go to college after your gap year, seek out others with study-abroad or gap year experience to make friends who you can relate to.

Be Patient

The fact is, there are some things that only time can heal. Your first few days, weeks, or even months back home may feel strange and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change that except wait it out. Cherish your memories and time traveling, of course, but don’t dwell on the past too much. You’ll get through this and be on to the next adventure, whatever that may be.

Taking a siesta | Photo By: Emma Mays
Taking a siesta | Photo By: Emma Mays

 

Photos of the Week 11/22

We’re very sad to say that Trimester 1 is just about over! Tomorrow, November 23rd, our students will travel back to their homes for winter break to recharge for the next two trimesters. Students who came in as strangers are now family, and it’ll be hard to say goodbye for the next few weeks. But they’ve certainly had an incredible time in Costa Rica and Panama for the past few months, and it won’t be long until they’re reuniting to jet off to Asia!

Take a look at the last photos from Trimester 1 and try not to miss us too much while our students are at home. Don’t worry: you can always look back at our past Photos of the Week to get your fix, and we might even have a special Trimester 1 recap blog coming up soon…

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Alyssa and Veronica used some free time to go bungee jumping!
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Lydia, Spencer, and Darshil take a selfie before scuba diving
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James and Josh ready to hit the ocean
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The boys of Squad 1
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A fishing-day selfie
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Squad 1: scuba certified!
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Darshil and Field Advisor Felipe are all thumbs-up
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Squad 1 enjoying the beach
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Silhouettes in the Costa Rican sunset | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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These sunsets never get old | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Squad 1 had the rare opportunity to see sea turtles hatch! | Photo By: Felipe Buitrago
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Tiny turtles | Photo By: Felipe Buitrago
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Off to the water they go | Photo By: Felipe Buitrago
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Emmie at La Iguana Chocolate Factory | Photo By: Alexandra Johansson
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Frijoles Locos’ surf van embodies the Costa Rica vibe | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Caught monkeyin’ around | Photo By: Pablo Gonzalez-Pacheco
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Handmade pizza | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Important Costa Rica language lesson | Photo By: Micah Zimmerman
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Handmade soap from Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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Under the sea | Photo By: Jack Li
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Squad 1 hanging out | Photo By: Jack Li
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Squad 1 spent their week on the water
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Squad 1 getting ready for ocean safety lessons
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Diving practice in the pool | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Squad 1 in the pool | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Field Advisors get scuba certified, too! | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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Just chillin’ underwater
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Baby turtles huddled together | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Squad 1 grabbing their boards | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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Veronica rolling her pizza dough

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. And if you apply between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll automatically save $1,000 on your tuition!

Top 4 Resources for Planning Your Gap Year

So you’re thinking about taking a gap year – now what? A Google search just isn’t enough to answer all of your questions: Should I actually take a gap year? Should I build my own schedule? Should I join a program? But there’s so many – which one is right for me? Can I get college credit? Can I afford a gap year? How do I attend college after my gap year? And the list goes on.

There’s plenty of resources dedicated specifically to answering these questions and making the experience as smooth as possible for students like you. Here are the best places for you to focus your research on for maximum understanding of the entire gap year process.

The Complete Guide to the Gap Year: The Best Things to Do Between High School and College by Kristin White

Kristin White knows a lot about education. As a consultant who helps families find schools, colleges, and special programs, she’s spent a lot of time visiting campuses and working with students. So you can rest assured that White knows what she’s talking about in her book, now in its second edition! Whether you’re in the first stage of considering a gap year or you already know you want one but don’t know how to spend it, White’s The Complete Guide to the Gap Year is the place to start your research.gap year book

Learn what college admissions deans think about gap years. Why gap years are growing in popularity. How you can afford the program of your choice. What the program of your choice is! With a directory including 200 of the world’s best gap year programs (including internship, career development, and college transition programs), you’ll find a path to your future in the pages of this guide.

Gap Year Association

The Gap Year Association (GYA) should be your go-to for research, advice, and information about gap years in general. Since 2012, GYA has been leading the gap year movement. Not only do they work to accredit programs like our own based on safety, quality, and integrity, but they work with colleges to build more opportunities for students to receive college credit and aid through FAFSA. Additionally, GYA conducts ongoing research to determine the benefits of a gap year.  Visit the GYA website to learn what a gap year is and why it matters, locate a gap year counselor, or find advice on transitioning from a gap year to college. If you’re looking for a program, they have an entire directory and list of possible scholarships! Guided gap year or self-created, college deferrence or transition, counselors or financial aid, GYA has it all.

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Squad 2 on their gap year

Listing Sites

Using program websites and social media is a great way to learn about the mission and purpose of the program. But the best way to see what a gap year will really be like is to hear from people who have done it themselves! Listing sites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas host unedited reviews from real alumni of each program. You can browse through the programs offered, or if you have a specific one in mind, search for it and check out what other students have to say. Both sites even allow you to create an account so that you can bookmark programs you’re interested in for further research and comparison!

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Our alumni write reviews for us on these sites

In-Person Discussions

The internet is a great research tool, but there’s only so much you can learn from looking at a screen. Sometimes, you just need to talk to a person to fully understand what you’re signing up for. Luckily, the USA Gap Year Fairs are the perfect opportunity for this! Every year, GoOverseas hosts 40+ fairs around the country, meaning there’s bound to be one to visit near you. The newest fair dates have yet to be announced, but they’ll take place between January and March of 2020. Countless gap year programs will be in attendance, giving you the chance to discover programs you haven’t heard of, learn more from trips you’re interested in, compare them side-by-side, and walk away with contact information and resources for more knowledge. As exciting as these fairs are, they can also be overwhelming, so take a look at our tips for making the most of these fairs to prepare.

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Our table at a past Gap Year Fair

If you already know that Winterline could be the program for you, we also offer special home visits! Our Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Erica, is located in the Pacific Northwest. If you call this region home, she’s always happy to meet with you and your family to give you more details on Winterline and answer any questions you have. Located elsewhere? No worries: you can jump on a video call with Erica for the same experience.

Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
Erica was a Field Advisor first, so she knows the program inside and out

 

Outward Bound Costa Rica: A Family

Outward Bound Costa Rica was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Spending ten days living in the middle of the rainforest with no signal or TV, with only my peers and a remarkable staff, truly made for an excellent start to my gap year. All of the activities were absolutely incredible, from the waterfall hikes to climbing to the top of ancient trees, to completely immersing ourselves in the culture of Costa Rica. Beyond our activities, the time spent at base also gave us the opportunity to create relationships that will never be forgotten both within and between the different squads, along with Field Advisors and especially the Outward Bound family.

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My squad learning how to technical climb trees in the rainforest

Outward Bound as an organization is all about making a positive impact on everything around them. Two of their main focuses are the environment, not only exploring it but also caring for it, and the community that surrounds them, which includes the city of San Jose. An example of their effort to make a positive impact is that Outward Bound doesn’t use any beef products because the cattle industry is one of the leading causes of deforestation. The products they do use are almost entirely from local sources and thoroughly checked for ethical practices.

For the community they do many things such as teaching children about protecting the forests and oceans, and also how to make a difference at home with practices like composting. All members of the community are welcome at Outward Bound so they can connect with nature and form a greater appreciation for it, this in turn builds a connection with the people of the local community. It has taken time but this process has built not an organization, but one humongous family.

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The view from atop the hill at Outward Bound on a misty day

A family is the only way to describe the people at Outward Bound, everyone there is more than happy to be apart of their community and sharing it with us. Several of the employees credit Outward Bound with changing their lives in incredible ways, either through paying for their education or saving them from a bad situation. Each of them is a member of the surrounding community that Outward Bound works with and cares for. I believe this is where their overwhelming kindness comes from. Whether it was the cooks, Karina and Oscar, or Josh, the guide who has the Outward Bound compass tattooed on his forearm, they all truly connected with our group of young adults.

Among the staff was also Grace, who worked with my squad in facilitating almost all of our activities and is personally one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. She shared with me and a few other students her story of overcoming incredible adversity through her love of dance and animals, which ultimately lead her to Outward Bound. Her openness, along with her kindness and passion, made an impact on everyone around her. When it was time for us to move on, it felt as if we had all joined their wonderful family. During that final meeting there were many bittersweet tears both from our own Winterline family and those at Outward Bound.

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My squad with Grace, Oscar, Kevin, and Karina

Photos of the Week 11/15

We’re back with your weekly fix of our student photos, and some added critters and creatures in the mix! There’s still plenty to see from our students in Costa Rica: more photos from Monteverde ISPs, more sustainable fishing with ConnectOcean, and more sustainability education at Rancho Mastatal. Even though all three squads work with the same partners and learn the same skills, their experiences are entirely individual.

You know what that means: you can’t really understand the Winterline experience until you have it yourself!

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Alexandra sewing for her Monteverde ISP
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Alexandra measuring out fabric to sew
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Homestay mother/sewing teacher following a pattern | Photo By: Alexandra Johansson
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Alexandra cutting her fabric
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Alexandra with her homestay parents
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Making ceviche with freshly caught fish! | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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The finished ceviche dish | Photo By: Jamie Hackbarth
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A lizard lit up! | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Animals don’t have to have fur to be cute | Photo By: Lydia Miller
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A beautiful Monteverde landscape | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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The Monteverde landscape never gets old | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Alyssa taking in the beauty of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
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Alyssa’s ready to hit the waves
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A sloth just hanging around | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Squad 1 at Rancho Mastatal
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Cooking at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Darshil Dholakia
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Felipe at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Darshil Dholakia
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Jack at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Darshil Dholakia
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Squad 1 selfie!
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Waterfall hikes with Squad 1
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The beauty of Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Darshil Dholakia
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Squad 1 getting dirty | Photo By: partner organization Rancho Mastatal
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Squad 2 group photo

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!

Reflecting on Trimester 1: A Squad 1 Quotebook

Traveling alone is certainly a nerve-wracking thing to experience for the first time. For many of the Winterline students, this was our first time leaving home in such a major way. I know for me personally, I was very unsure of what to expect going in to this program, despite all the helpful information the company provided. Of course I was excited, and having been a part of this program for about a month now experiencing living with a new group of people, seeing the beautiful mountains of Colorado, and traveling to Costa Rica for the first time, I can safely say I have enjoyed nearly every second of it. Curious to find out the opinions of my peers, I asked some of my group the following questions:

  1. What were your biggest challenges during the first week in Winterline, and what did you have to do to overcome them?
  2. What were your expectations for the program, and how were they met or subverted?
  3. After a successful beginning to your journey, what are you most looking forward to?

Spencer Turner:

  1. My biggest challenge was probably being shy and putting myself out there. I overcame it by going out and leaving my comfort zone, and going to all of the scheduled events/ talking to as many people as possible.
  2. I thought the people here were going to be very different from me. I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and warm everyone was. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make friends with everyone, but after a month now I can say there isn’t a single person I don’t get along with.
  3. I’m most looking forward to seeing my group mate Darshil’s family in India. I’ve always wanted to see India, but never had the guts or opportunity to go. Now I have a friend from there to show me around and finally fulfill that dream.
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Spencer (left) and Darshil (right) traveling to visit an indigenous group in Panama (Credit: Darshil Dholakia)

Lydia Miller:

    1. Leaving all my friends behind was very tough, and being put into a situation where I was forced to make new ones was not something I was used to, coming from a small town. I was very fortunate to have been placed in a squad where I feel I mesh well with everyone.
    2. I had 0 expectations going into Winterline, and that in and of itself was a terrifying feeling. It made me feel like I wasn’t prepared at all because I didn’t know what it was going to be like.
    3. I’ve enjoyed mostly every aspect of this journey up until now. Winterline certainly keeps you busy, in a good way, of course. I feel as though I have experienced something new and fun every single day, but I miss my friends and family so it will be nice to see them and relax during our winter break.
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Lydia enjoying an afternoon at Outward Bound Costa Rica

Darshil Dholakia:

  1. For me the biggest challenge was to be away from my family and friends, and being away from my home country of India. I miss being able to speak my native language, but I already knew English so it wasn’t impossible to transition.
  2. I didn’t really expect much, I just hoped that the food and accommodations would be good. The food at the YMCA was average, but I won’t complain. The living accomodations were different than I am used to for sure, but were sufficient for the week that we stayed, and were valuable to experience for someone like me who has never had to have roommates or lived with a group of ten people.
  3. I’m very excited for driving at the BMW dealership in Germany, and seeing the Panama Canal which is coming up soon in the trip.
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Squad 1 having a fun night out in Monteverde (Credit: Darshil Dholakia)

Are you thinking about taking a gap year? If so, what are you most nervous and excited about? We’re always happy to answer your questions and help you prepare for the journey!

Photos of the Week 11/8

Our three squads are back in Costa Rica, and if you can believe it, there’s only two weeks left of Trimester 1! We’re happy to say that our students are still having an amazing time in Central America. This week, Squad 3 is off on their Monteverde ISPs, learning skills like recycled paper-making and neotropical bird monitoring. Squad 2 has been in the water, learning ocean safety with ConnectOcean and getting scuba certified with Pacific Coast Dive Center. Finally, Squad 1 is enjoying some time off the grid at Rancho Mastatal, so stay tuned for their photos when they resurface on WiFi next week!

Which Costa Rican partner would you most like to work with and learn from on a Winterline gap year? It’s hard to choose: as you can tell from the photos below, they’re all an amazing experience!

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Alyssa on the water
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Alyssa practicing her photography skills | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Learning ocean safety with ConnectOcean
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Interacting with ocean species | Photo By: Lucas Massolo
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Ocean views | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Avian friends | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Beautiful birds | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Learning about neotropical bird species | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Making recycled paper for Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Making recycled paper for Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Making recycled paper for Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Squad 2 hit the seas | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Checking out the ocean view | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Creative expression | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Veronica with her catch
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Christian and Jackson suited up for ocean safety | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Winterline takes on Baywatch | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Hit the water! | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Taking ocean safety lessons seriously | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Lifeguarding skills under way | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Lydia, Peyton, and Andrea learning natural building | Photo By: partner organization Rancho Mastatal
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Darshil and Jack working with bamboo | Photo By: partner organization Rancho Mastatal
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Zarah and Andrea using natural building tools | Photo By: partner organization Rancho Mastatal
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Peyton and Lydia chop bamboo | Photo By: partner organization Rancho Mastatal
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Alyssa hanging out on the beach
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Rainbow + sunset = heavenly views | Photo By: Lauren Speroni
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Jason enjoying a boat ride
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Did someone say “Titanic”? | Photo By: Jason Thomas
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Prepping for the open water | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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Jason suited up for scuba
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Exploring underwater | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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All good underwater | Photo By: Nik Blushi
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Views above water aren’t bad, either | Photo By: Nik Blushi
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Getting certified | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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You don’t need words to communicate underwater | Photo By: partner organization Pacific Coast Dive Center
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An incredible sunset to finish off the day | Photo By: Jason Thomas

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!

Visiting Playa Potrero

Playa Potrero is in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, which has a rich history that includes actually belonging to Nicaragua until 1825, when the citizens voted to join Costa Rica. The area is known for its amazing beaches, surf sites, and biodiversity throughout the land and ocean. This makes it a tourism hotspot, and that is the major industry in the region. Staying in Playa Potrero outside of tourism season is definitely a strange feeling and standing out is unavoidable. Everyone was excited to see us wherever we went but we could assume it was because we were the only people there besides staff and a few locals.

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Our squad with the Hotel Isolina staff

While staying at the Hotel Isolina right up the street from the beach, we were lucky enough to catch some of the most beautiful sunsets this world has to offer. Along that same beach we found unbeatable seafood and enjoyed the company of friendly locals who were happy to spend time with us. One of my favourite aspects of this location was that everywhere we went we could find friendly animals that are used to tourists and look forward to the attention. It’s not necessarily advised to pet every dog and cat, but when an animal approached me with caution, I found myself pleasantly surprised every time.

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A friendly local dog our squad ran into outside the hot springs

Playa Potrero offers so much natural beauty around every corner and everywhere I looked, it felt like living in a postcard. While staying there, we were lucky enough to surf the beautiful beaches and then explore beneath the waves while scuba diving, all of which created an experience that I can safely say changed my entire view on the ocean for the rest of my life. Learning how fishing is done locally, then how to prepare that same fish is one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings. After Playa Potrero, I can’t imagine myself not living by the ocean for the rest of my days.

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Shirley, Alex, Carter, and Me 20 meters underwater

 

Photos of the Week 11/1

Sadly, the time has come for our students to say goodbye to Panama. After a busy few weeks of business bootcamp, urban innovation workshops, and city exploration, our students rounded off their trip by relaxing on the beaches of Panama’s San Blas Islands. From dipping into the crystal clear waters, to petting some friendly dogs, to savoring some local meals, the students put their last few days in this country to good use.

Check out the last of this year’s Panama photos and stay tuned for updates from the students as they return to Costa Rica!

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Ashley and Alexandra swimming | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Business bootcamp presentations | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Let’s get cooking | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Making new foods | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Learning from the instructor | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Phone eats first | Photo By: Alyssa Copham
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Lauren and James pose for a photo
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James, Leon, and the Panama City skyline
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Pablo showing off his creation | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Pablo on the beach!
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Alexandra, Ashley, and Emma laying on the beach | Photo By: Joselin Hernandez
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Field Advisors Jamie, Felipe, Joselin, and Sam getting together
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Lauren just hanging around on the beach
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Leon, Carter, and Lauren went tree climbing
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Lauren showing off her balance!
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Whit and Emma on the docks
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Beautiful beach views | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Emma, Whit, and Sherly are all smiles
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Ashley making a puppy friend
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Eli and Micah chilling in the pool
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Final dinner in Panama! | Photo By: Jared Franklin
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Dogs on the beach | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Whit taking in the views

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!