What did you do when you returned from your Gap Year? Did you head straight to college? The workforce? Trade school? Something else?
After graduating from Winterline, I headed to Maine with two girls from my cohort. We hung out for a little over one week. It was like a mini extension to the program. It sure took the edge off having to say goodbye to the amazing people I just spent nine months with. After that, I experienced a brick wall where my life should start and I’m still kind of building the latter to climb over it.
How has your Winterline experience affected your post-gap year plan? Is it different than what you had planned out before the program?
Before Winterline, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Now, I still have absolutely no clue of what my life will look like, but I have a better relationship with uncertainty after my Winterline gap year. I have a better outlook on life in general, but I’m definitely going to need more experience, adventure, and challenges in order to grasp who I am and what to do about that. I’m experiencing that shift from teenage years to adulthood on my own terms by moving far, far away— something I wouldn’t have had the courage or self-understanding to do had I not gone on Winterline. With that uncertainty and wanderlust, I’m hoping to gravitate to what’s right for me.
How have you changed since completing Winterline? Do you notice anything different about yourself since the program?
I certainly changed a lot during and after Winterline. Winterline showed me so many different versions of life and in turn, helped me discover all of the different versions of me. I feel like everyone has unlocked potential or desires to try more, to do more, and to say more— and WGSP certainly helped me find those parts of me. With that, I think Winterline gave me so much experience that confidence naturally grew within me. I’m not saying I’m 100% more confident now, but with the challenges faced and hard work put in, I’ve become much more aware of my capabilities and strengths. Self-awareness is where confidence grows. I can connect with people a lot better as well. I used to have a hard time getting to know people and conversing, but being around people all of the time conditioned me to hold my own socially. I’m more driven to be social now, too. It also showed me a lot of the things within myself that I need to work on, and why change is so important. It’s given me the tools I need for self growth.
What was your favorite skill to learn and why?
My favorite skill to learn, out of the entire program, was scuba. I’ve taken into account the test taking portion, as well. Funny story: I failed the first time. I’m a good learner and very capable and smart, but I’m still terrible at taking tests. The next day, I passed at a 98% and went on to scuba for the next three days. It was incredibly challenging for me and also super scary; both part of why it was so special. I faced a fear and overcame difficulty, and during the dives, I discovered a whole new world. At first I felt extremely restricted, then completely free. I learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought just by being underwater, seeing sharks and barracuda and not having a panic attack, and working well with my dive buddy and communicating properly. I also navigated with a compass using only one arm to swim (which is more impressive when you have the prior knowledge that I don’t have legs).
What was your favorite trimester and why? Is there a specific location that you catch yourself thinking about from your program more than others?
My favorite trimester was trimester 1. Meeting everyone for the first time, way back in the Denver airport, is such a good memory, especially seeing how different we were and how different reality was vs. our expectations of the way things were going to go. This trimester was physically challenging for me, on levels I didn’t even consider going into the program. There was a lot of slipping and sliding on farms in the rainforest, heavy lifting, and hikes. However, it’s still my favorite because I have great memories of living in houses with my cohort. My favorite by far is a house in Monteverde, Costa Rica, overlooking layers and layers of mountains, cloud forest, and trees (which makes for the best sunset you’ll ever see). It was a super nice time. Overall, this is in my memory as my favorite trimester. There are just so many moments of bonding, growing, and learning so much by doing. Plus, I got some piggybacks throughout the jungle, which is awesome.
What did you do for your Independent Study Project? Have you continued using that skill/have you used that skill since the project occurred?
For my independent student project, I went to Seville, Spain to learn flamenco cantes— a style of singing that falls under the Flamenco umbrella. Flamenco is traditional, Spanish folk dance and music. It’s rich and bold and I don’t remember why I was so drawn to it, but after going there and experiencing it, I have absolutely no regrets. I stayed with a pair of sisters who run a group Spanish learning class. I connected with them a lot. They showed me around Sevilla, taking me to Real Alcázar, which is where the Water Gardens are filmed in Game of Thrones. During my actual singing lessons, my instructor didn’t speak English. This made it both interesting and challenging, and another great memory. I’ve been singing my whole life, knowingly untrained, but technically proficient enough to hold my own. This style of singing, however, takes way more guts than what I had or have to offer. I no longer sing flamenco, but I won’t write it off. It’s beautiful and challenging and I love it.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give a future Winterliner?
One piece of advice I would give a future student of the gap year program is to embrace every situation, good or bad. Give as much energy to the things you don’t enjoy as you do to the activities you love— maybe even more. At the end of the day, you get from this program what you give. If you put forth your best effort, you’ll grow tenfold in return. You’ll be more confident and proud and energized. You’ll have more to say and more to learn from by graduation.
Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?
I still keep in touch with the majority of my cohort. I talk to both of my FA’s quite often and I just visited with one more recently with another member of my cohort down in Rhode Island. I’ve visited Maine often to see that same friend. My best friend from the program visited me in my home on the North Shore back in November and plans to come again in June. On top of that, a group of us do a Skype chat once per month. Last time we accomplished a 6 person Skype call and it was amazing. It’s so cool to see how much people change and grow and where they can end up within the year— yet you can still talk like you were just traveling the world together. We plan on having a blue cohort reunion in the near future (probably in Oregon… we’ll call it Reunigon).
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
I think some of my favorite memories are not of places or activities, but of people. Another value I came to realize over the span of those nine months was how important human connection is. Whether it’s three of us laying on the floor in the dark sharing stories and laughing, or one on one venting over coffee, or a group of us out for dinner where there’s 10 conversations going at once— the memories that you can’t google or look up on Instagram or Facebook, and the moments that I somehow didn’t capture for yet another hilarious Snapchat story— those are the ones that matter most to me.
Do you think the Winterline experience has benefited your life? If so, in what way?
The Winterline experience has benefited my life in so many ways. Going in, I assumed Winterline was going to solve all of my shortcomings and issues, but what I really got was a million little lessons that helped me in finding reasons for why I have certain issues or shortcomings and a little bit of how to combat those problems. Travel teaches you way more about yourself than it does about the world, mostly because the world is much bigger than you. You come out of it with both a better understanding of yourself AND the world— and in turn you’re way better than you were before. Travel helps you find your place in the world by showing you what you’re capable of, where you fall short, and what you can do about it. Winterline helped me put a lot of the pieces together.
To learn more about what some of our awesome Winterline alum are doing, check out the rest of our blog posts.