New Student Spotlight: Jack Li

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I have known the concept of gap year exists but didn’t really look into it before my senior year. I was first formally introduced the idea of taking a gap year during a conversation with my high school counselor in the early fall of my senior year.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I love to challenge myself and taking on new adventures. I was inspired one of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I want to take a gap year because I believe that it will provide me with non-linear experience that complements my future career and post-secondary education.winterline, gap year, jack li

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am looking for any skills that can contribute to my personal growth and my business skill to prepare me as an emerging adult and professional.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I will be studying material science and engineering at Cornell University and hopefully take the MBA at Harvard business school. I will continue to take on the responsibility for my presidency at a federal nonprofit organization and serve the communities. I am also excited to grow my new mobile app development company and expand my influence in the STEM field.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes, I do travel every year although less frequently for the past 2 years due to my schedule. My favorite trip was to Grand Canyon this past Christmas with my family. This trip was completely different than I expected since it was snowing during the winter season and the view is absolutely gorgeous.winterline, gap year, jack li

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

As an engineer, I want to see how other people in different parts of the world solve problems in a unique way. As a business leader, I want to understand the importance of localization to the globalization of business. As an emerging adult, I want to develop my personal growth and learn new perspectives from foreign environments.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am passionate about my work and will hold a high standard to others in my team.winterline, gap year, jack li

WHY WINTERLINE?

I believe that Winterline will serve as an unparalleled platform for me to develop insights about this beautiful world and gain more personal growth. I was attracted to the flexibility and balance the program offers that will allow me to travel to different communities while working on my independent project.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

My nickname is Mokin and you will see me using this name in some special cases.winterline, gap year, jack li

 

A Guide to Gaming by a NOLS Alumni

Before my wilderness trek with NOLS, my idea of gaming usually involved an evening spent on the couch with a PlayStation controller in one hand and potato chips in the other. In the backcountry though, gaming takes on a whole new meaning. While hiking through the Gila National Forest with fellow Winterliners in September 2018, the usual gaming options were out of the question; yet not having a computer or board game within a 50 mile radius gave us all the more motivation to be inventive. Deprived of computers, phones, and board games, the only gaming equipment we could find were our hands, words, and the occasional funky looking stick.

winterline, gap year, nols
Canyoneering in the Gila National Forest with NOLS | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

“Out there things can happen – and frequently do – to people as brainy and footsy as you” (Dr. Seuss)

At the start of every day-hike, I found myself paying particular attention to the landscape around me. I was awed by the stunning landscape that surrounded us, ranging from scorched hillsides to a raging river enclosed by canyon cliffs. After a while though, I found myself focusing on the ground before me. This was in part to keep my wobbly, heavy-laden self from stumbling, but also because I had become used to my surroundings. I began to notice how the backpack chafed my hips, how the dust of the trail stung my eyes, and how each step caused my feet to ache just a little bit more.

What kept me from focusing too much on my exhausted body were the intensely competitive and wacky games that we played. Some were closely related to nature, including things like identifying bird calls, plant types, and animals, while others were more abstract, involving words games and puzzles. Instead of being tired and grumpy, I found myself immersed in each game, eagerly clashing wits with my peers.

Many of the games we played were introduced to us by our NOLS instructors, who have amassed a collection of games over countless wilderness expeditions. Each of our instructors had their own favorites; some of which are simple and intuitive, while others are… well let’s just say: a little strange.

winterline, gap year, nols
What in the world has six letters and starts with ae??? | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

A voice crying out in the wild

One game called “Ichi-Mini-Hoy” – allegedly introduced by a Japanese NOLS instructor – was a particular highlight. Essentially, Ichi-Mini-Hoy consists of two teams walking around a self-designed baseball field. Each team sends out one player from their home base to circle the field from a direction opposite to the other team. Whenever two players meet, they face off in a fierce rock-paper-scissors duel, and whoever loses has to return to home base and start over. 1 point is scored whenever a team member makes it all the way around the field. Sounds pretty normal doesn’t it? Here’s the catch though: every player was required to keep their knees together and squawk like a wild bird.

Any onlooker would have doubtlessly questioned our sanity. Luckily for us, we were miles away from any sign of civilization, so the only confused onlookers may have been actual birds, squirrels, and the occasional deer.

Will you look at that… another tree

After spending days in the wild, I expected my standards for what qualifies as entertainment to change drastically. I thought that soon enough, I would be seeking out funny looking rocks or start poking cacti with sticks as a pastime.

Contrary to my gloomy expectations, the games I played with the Winterline crew only increased in complexity as the hike progressed. Within a few days we had mastered intricate word games and storytelling challenges – many of which could be played on the move.

How Spongebob died choking on a crouton in Hogwarts

The without a doubt favorite game of my hiking trek was a pantomiming challenge called “Murph”. The rules are deceptively simple: all you need is one volunteer to walk out of earshot until another group has decided on three things:

1)        a person

2)        a place, and

3)        a cause of death.

After this, a second volunteer who knows these three things must convey them to the first volunteer using only the word “Murph” and hand gestures. The wild pantomiming that follows produces some of the most hilarious misunderstandings I have ever seen.

In my very first game I had to try to understand the following from a person waving madly and hysterically crying “Murph!”.

1)        SpongeBob died in

2)        Hogwarts while

3)        choking on a crouton

Playing Murph around the flickering light of a campfire after a long day of hiking was a great way to ease tension and relax.

winterline, gap year, nols
Campfire shenanigans | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

The Murph Effect

The games we played had a more profound effect on group interactions during my hiking expedition than I initially realized. Not only did they lighten the mood, but they also helped us process the inconveniences and struggles of living in the wild. They offered us something to focus our attention on, keeping our minds off our unshowered selves and aching muscles. This, in turn, reduced group grumpiness and helped bring us closer to together. Instead of simply being a way to pass the time, the games and puzzles shaped my overall hiking experience and helped me bond with fellow hikers.

It is refreshing to realize that you really don’t need electronics, board games, or even cards to play a game. Even though we may not realize it today, the human mind is more than capable of finding entertainment without these things. In the backcountry, all you need is another person and a little bit of creativity – the rest creates itself. In the end, gaming is really about clashing wits with another person, and having fun along the way.

New Student Spotlight: Zarah Helms-Leslie

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Fairbanks, Alaska.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I was first introduced to the idea of a gap year from my parents. I knew early on in high school that I probably would not want to attend college the year after I graduated.  Luckily my parents were supportive and helped me come up with ideas of what I could do instead.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I know that I’m not ready to commit to going to college. I also want to travel and have new experiences.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn to scuba dive. I was on my school’s swim team for three years and I absolutely love being in and around water.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I have a very vague idea of what I want to do in the future, I know that I want to be able to travel, and that I definitely don’t want a desk job, I want to be physically active and work with my hands.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

If so, what has been your favorite trip and why? I have traveled before, mostly in the U.S. My favorite trip has been attending the music festival Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN. I spend most of my spare time listening to music and I absolutely love seeing my favorite bands play live. I enjoy going to music festivals because I get to see so many different bands play live in a single weekend.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I expect to gain confidence in my ability to travel around the world and navigate challenges such as cultural differences and language barriers.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

One thing I want my peers to know is that I love music, so they should talk to me about the music they like.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline is unique in what it offers. I am excited to travel to many different countries and try so many new things.  I can’t wait to drive a BMW, learn to cook Asian food, go for hikes in Central America, and more. Also, I know someone who is currently on a gap year with Winterline and has given the program really great reviews.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

One fun fact is that I have played ice hockey since I was four years old and I have a reputation for being small but scrappy.

winterline, gap year, zarah helms-leslie

Alumni Spotlight: Meagan Kindrat

What did you do when you returned from your Gap Year? Did you head straight to college? The workforce? Trade school? Something else?

After my gap year I chose to go to university. I am currently pursuing international relations and environmental studies at the University of Toronto. When I’m not at school I work for a local non-profit environmental organization called NEAT (Northern Environmental Action Team)

winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

How has your Winterline experience affected your post-gap year plan? Is it different than what you had planned out before the program?

I had always planned on going straight to university after my gap year, so in that sense my plan was the same. My gap year, however, did change some of the details. Since high school I had planned to go to university near my hometown with my friends. My gap year taught me to push myself to my full potential. Now instead of attending my local university, I am at the number one university in Canada. I chose the University of Toronto as I knew no one and would be faced with the challenge of being completely on my own. Winterline also helped me isolate what I wanted to study. Winterline helped me find my passion for environmental sustainability.

How have you changed since completing Winterline? Do you notice anything different about yourself since the program?

If someone would have told me how much I would change during Winterline I wouldn’t have believed them. Not only did I learn a series of skills like confidence and independence but I went from being a city princess to a nature enthusiast. The person I was before Winterline is so vastly different from the person I am today. Although I still have a lot of self work to do, I at least feel less lost when tackling who I am.winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

What was your favorite skill to learn and why?

Picking a favourite skill is really hard as there were so many that I loved. Rancho Mastatal was definitely a favourite as it opened my eyes to my passion for environmental sustainability and the community was so incredibly welcoming and sweet. BMW driving was also a favourite just because it was a blast getting to feel like a race car driver for a day. I also loved my trimester 1 ISP as I got to stay with the most amazing homestay family. I still message my family often and hope to return to visit them one day. The lady who I worked with to do my project was also incredible. I hold Monteverde very close to my heart because of the ISP.

What was your favorite trimester and why? Is there a specific location that you catch yourself thinking about from your program more than others?

Although I loved all the trimesters, Trimester 1 is my favourite. The locations in trimester 1 are amazing. I loved constantly being in nature and the partners for the programming were very knowledgeable and fun to work with. Trimester 1 is also such a fun time as you are just beginning to bond with your cohort. I loved getting to connect with my cohort and support one another through the constant adventures. The bond we made in trimester 1 was something that was unbreakable. Trimester 1 is also filled with excitement as you never know what to expect and you are always being pushed out of your comfort zone.

winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

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 ISP I interned in the Austrian Parliament. I spent the week working alongside Parliament member Dr. Lopatka. I got to shadow his daily tasks as well as aid his assistant and network with other members working in the parliament. Although it wasn’t really a set skill that I pursued, I have kept in touch with my connections as I hope to pursue a career in politics. I learned a lot about differing situations in Europe as well as the decision making process in a perspective of policy making.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give a future Winterliner?

Winterline is what you make it. Winterline is a constant challenge and it can be incredibly difficult. That being said, it is also very rewarding if you accept the challenge and push yourself. My advice to future students is to stay positive and open-minded. If you can go into every challenge as a learning opportunity, then Winterline will be the greatest decision of your life. Also make connections with everyone. Every partner has a different story and the more you engage, the more you will get out of the program.winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?

I keep in touch with half of my cohort. There are about 5 of us and our two field advisors who do monthly Skype calls. I will also be going to visit my best friend from Winterline this summer for the second time since the program ended. We hope to also make a few trips during our time together to meet a couple other of our Winterline cohort members. I also regularly talk to my field advisors for a variety of things. They are truly the best mentors I could have asked for and I am so incredibly grateful to continually have their guidance in my life. Even from across countries my cohort has kept in touch and supported one another through whatever current challenges we face.

What is one of your favorite memories from your program?

Picking a favourite memory is impossible because there are so many! Anytime spent with my girl squad is a favourite. We were never not laughing when together, no matter how frustrated or uncomfortable we were. One moment that sticks out to me was when we went for a hike to a national park in Mastatal. To get to the park was this huge trek up a hill that took nearly an hour. When we finally reached the park we realized that it was not prosthetic friendly and therefore a group of us decided to turn around and head back to the house. After another hour of walking and laughing the entire time about our frustrations, we got back to the ranch and had the WORLD’S BEST banana and cacao nib smoothie. As sucky as the situation was, it’s still one of my favourite days because of all the fun we had together on the way back down the “hill”.winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

Do you think the Winterline experience has benefited your life? If so, in what way?

Winterline is the best decision I have ever made. There is no way I could have gotten to where I am today without Winterline. The experiences I had, the connections I made, the person I am today is all thanks to Winterline. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think about all the amazing things that Winterline has done for me.winterline, gap year, meagan kindrat

To learn more about what some of our awesome Winterline alum are doing, check out the rest of our blog posts. 

Not Your Ordinary Circus

Throughout my time as a Winterline Field Advisor and living in Cambodia for a couple years, taking students to the Phare Circus was one of my favorite parts of any program I’ve ever led. The shows are exciting, funny, insightful, artistic, interactive, even stress-inducing with some of their tricks! Even if you’ve seen the same show multiple times (I’ve been there too many times to count!), it doesn’t get old.

winterline, gap year, cambodia, erica schultz

But there’s a little more to these performances and this skill set than what meets the eye. First of all, I’m sure when many of us read the word ‘circus’, we think of animals dressed up doing tricks through flaming rings, sequins and feather headdresses worn by women riding elephants, acrobats being whipped through the air at the top of a huge circular tent. Maybe we think of movies we’ve seen, like Dumbo, or The Greatest Showman, or even remember the Ringling Brothers. The smell and taste of peanuts and popcorn. The unease of clowns riding unicycles. A lead showman dressed to the nines.

At Phare Circus, there are no animals, only humans using their bodies to create incredible performances. There are costumes and props, but nothing like what you might imagine for a circus or something like Cirque du Soleil (but there is a tent and popcorn!).

winterline, gap year, cambodia, erica schultz
Circus tricks | Photo By: Abby Dulin

This isn’t your typical circus, with an even less than typical start. What you don’t see is that The Phare Circus supports at-risk Cambodian populations by training them for a specific skill, thus creating an avenue for a more successful future. Once someone has made it to the circus as a performer, musician, light production member, or artist, that’s the outcome. The last step. They’ve truly made it out of poverty and into a comfortable livelihood.

In the province of Battambang, Cambodia, you’ll find Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school for training in professional arts including illustration, painting, theater, music, animation, graphic design, dance, and circus. Founded in 1994, at risk youth are trained at this school entirely free of charge, as well as given free general education (K-12) and social support before moving on to the circus or creative studio. Currently, the school supports around 1,200 children, as well as their families.

winterline, gap year, cambodia, erica schultz
Winterline students at circus school | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Each performance at the circus is a story of Cambodian culture, having to do with myths, legends, actual historical events, or even modern-day society. You’ll see gripping nightmarish reenactments from a child’s mind during their traumatic experience living through the Khmer Rouge Era. You’ll see hilarious comparisons between Khmer culture and foreigners as tourism continues to grow and the cultural differences intermix.

And those are just the story lines.

Shows are filled with incredible stunts, tricks, art, dance, and interactive moments with the crowd. Before and after the show, the audience makes their way through a gift shop, filled with goods handcrafted by those that went the route of creative studio instead of circus performing. Each item sold in the gift shop or created during one of the performances raises profits to support the NGO school as well as the performers and artists.

winterline, gap year, cambodia, erica schultz
Circus tricks | Photo By: Will Vesey

The circus and skill training for our students is located in Siem Reap and is a favorite skill day. It’s a skill where students can let go and simply try everything that’s thrown at them. Learning to juggle, learning to flip properly, how to make standing human pyramids and balance other bodies with yours. It’s not so much a specific skill you learn so much as it is learning more about yourself; what you’re good at, what you’re willing to try, and how to trust your body to perform a certain way. It’s also a great opportunity for our students to get their bodies moving as our Asia trimester spends a considerable amount of time in big cities after an outdoors-filled first trimester!

To learn more about the Phare circus and their efforts, please visit https://pharecircus.org/ to check out their different shows and how to reserve your own tickets if you’re planning to visit Cambodia. For the Phare Ponleu Selpak school and social enterprise efforts, visit https://www.pharepse.org/ and consider supporting this fabulous NGO.

In Khmer language, the name Phare Ponleu Selpak means, “The Brightness of the Arts”.

New Student Spotlight: James Shervheim

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I’ve thought about taking a gap year for a few years but I didn’t know about all of the different options and programs until I went to a gap year fair. That’s where I first learned about winterline and they were immediately my first choice.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’ll love to learn through real world experiences and I felt like it was necessary for me personally to take a year off. Taking a year off to explore the world will open my eyes to new cultures, ideas, and maybe even show me a possible career path that I wouldn’t have considered before.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited for the safe driving in Germany because I have a passion for cars. I’m also excited to learn anything business related.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I’m not sure exactly what I want to do in the future but I really enjoy investing and anything business related. At some point I would love to start my own company.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I’ve been to the Caribbean and Costa Rica but I think that my favorite trip so far has been to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I really enjoyed it because I was able to do a lot of adventure activities such as fly fishing, downhill mountain biking, white water rafting, riding ATVs and hiking.

winterline, gap year, james shervheim
Downhill mountain biking in Colorado

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I expect to learn about different cultures and new skills. I expect to be out of my comfort zone a lot but I think that through my discomfort I will learn more about myself.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I’m pretty outgoing and laid back and I’m excited to meet everyone on the trip!

winterline, gap year, james shervheim
James and friends

WHY WINTERLINE?

I think that Winterline is pretty unique because of all the skills we will learn.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I enjoy playing tennis and golf.  Another interesting fact about me is that I am adopted.

winterline, gap year, james shervheim
James and his dad at the Chicago Auto Show First Look for Charity

 

Virginia Tech is Giving Scholarship Money to Gap Year Students

Imagine this: you got admitted to your top choice school, eagerly accepted, and then been told that too many others have enrolled. However, you can defer your acceptance for a year in exchange for compensation. This is the case for many hopeful incoming freshman at Virginia Tech: so many students accepted an offer of admission that there are $1,000 more students than actual spots in the freshman class. In an attempt to solve this issue, Virginia Tech is offering three options for students to reduce the freshman class size: take free summer classes, take classes at community college for a year and receive a guaranteed transfer, or take a gap year with guaranteed admission upon return.

winterline, gap year, virginia tech

If students choose to take advantage of Virginia Tech’s offer, there is no shortage of programs like our own. In exchange, students will receive an additional $1,000 scholarship and priority for housing on-campus. The school also noted that students will “now have the opportunity to travel, work, engage in a service project, or any other endeavor that is important to you.”

This news may certainly catch students and families off guard and change plans. However, it’s not the end of the world. After all, no students are having their acceptances revoked, but rather reorganized into different semesters. While it may not have been students’ first choice, this incident actually offers students the ability to expand their horizons and experiences before settling into college life.

Why should students consider this option?

A common worry is that students will take this gap year and consequently lose interest in, or focus on, schoolwork. However, research shows that the opposite is actually true, and students can be reinvigorated by taking time off from a traditional classroom learning environment. There are a variety of proven gap year benefits. If students are unsure about their major, a gap year is a great time to try new skills, learn what you’re good at, what you like, and what you dislike. If students know exactly what they want to study, a gap year offers the opportunity to learn outside of that major without taking up space in a busy schedule.

winterline, gap year, virginia tech
Learning robotics in Austria | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

For students realizing they want a longer a break, structured programs can range in length from weeks to months. For students who are itching to start their higher education, the Winterline program offers college credits, and other programs cater more directly toward educational experiences.

winterline, gap year, virginia tech
Traveling in Thailand | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

Students accepted to Virginia Tech who are trying to figure out their next step and students who have begun to think more about the future following this news, let us remind you: there is no right or wrong next step. Any path you choose will lead you toward your future and teach you important lessons along the way. This incident teaches us how plans can change at any moment. So why not embrace the unexpected and consider exploring the world on a gap year?

New Student Spotlight: Casey Goldstein

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

My parents approached me with the idea of taking a gap year about a half a year ago. They had been researching more and more, and were set on the goal of having at least one of their children take on.Casey Goldstein, winterline, gap year

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I mainly chose to take a gap year knowing that no one ever regrets taking one. Every single person I’ve talked to that’s taken a year off comes back with such a radically new sense of the world, and has stories that leave me in awe. I am in no rush to go to college, and figured that this is the perfect time to travel.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Scuba Diving. I’ve been terrified of the deep ocean for some time now, and plan on changing that.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I plan on majoring in computer science in college, and working at some tech start up.Casey Goldstein, winterline, gap year

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I traveled with my family to Croatia three years ago. It remains the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. The food was delicious, and the weather was perfect. The water was so unforgettably clear.Casey Goldstein, winterline, gap year

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope to meet some incredible people, explore foreign cultures, expand my social and entrepreneurial skills, and come back with an overall heightened sense of the world.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am so ridiculously excited for our gap year. It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I know I will never forget these experiences, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

WHY WINTERLINE?

I chose Winterline because it had everything I was interested in: travel, cultural immersion, service, and entrepreneurship.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

Over the past year I’ve been getting super into music production, specifically hip hop and trap. I have no idea why I’m so passionate… it’s just crazy fun.Casey Goldstein, winterline, gap year

 

New Student Spotlight: Sherly Budiman

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

I am from Indonesia, racially Chinese but don’t speak good Mandarin, and currently studying at United World College in Armenia.

winterline, gap year, sherly budiman
View in Sevan Lake, Armenia

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

Back in Indonesia, the idea of a gap year is not very popular among students because most of us continued directly to university after high school. I was introduced to the idea of a gap year when I came to United World College in Armenia. At first, this idea is quite strange for me but now that I think of it, it is actually very useful for me personally to take time to think what do I really want to do in life and it seems very interesting.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I think going directly to university without knowing what I wanted to do will end up wasting my time and energy. So, I believe gap year is a perfect time to learn and experience thousands of different stuff and decide for the future.

winterline, gap year, sherly budiman
From Sherly’s hometown in Indonesia

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

To be honest, I’m not a very sporty person. That’s why I think doing outdoor activities such as hiking or camping would be the most exciting skills for me yet might also be the most challenging one.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

Yes… and no…. I have too much idea of what I want to do. Sometimes I want to be a diplomat, a writer, a film-maker, a graphic designer, a pastry chef, a calligraphy artist, or a YouTuber. These uncertainties are the main reason why I chose Winterline as my gap year program.

winterline, gap year, sherly budiman
Always holding the camera for vlogging!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes! My travelling trip has always been either a family vacation or an educational trip. I love Chinese food in Beijing. The beautiful lakes in Croatia were amazing. Armenian hospitality is something that I would never forget. I would say each of the places that I went to have a special room in my heart that I will remember for the rest of my life.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

Best friends for life, a deeper understanding of what makes us human, and on top of it, GOOD FOOD!

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Food is life!

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I will do a weekly vlog once Winterline starts! My passion is food and sleep. I love K-Pop! And, let’s have a conversation about life and philosophy under the starry night while holding a cup of tea in front of the bonfire.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Why not Winterline? It’s a 9-months experience of self-discovery, international networking, gaining skills, and endless travelling. It’s an experience that you would not get anywhere else.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

Despite coming from Indonesia where it is summer all year long, winter is still my favorite season!

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Sherly in Armenia

Alumni Spotlight: Savannah Palazolla

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.winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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.winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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.winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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).winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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. winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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. winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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.winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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).winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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. winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

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.winterline, gap year, Savannah Palazolla

To learn more about what some of our awesome Winterline alum are doing, check out the rest of our blog posts. 

New Student Spotlight: Lauren Allen

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

After spending 21 days backpacking in Wyoming as a sophomore with a group of my peers, I started to explore the opportunities available during a Gap Year.  The idea of learning about myself and the world around me with my peers in an organized manner was compelling.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I am struggling to choose a career direction and feel that a year experiencing the world will help me make the decision.  I also feel that I will benefit from a break from school before going back to college and straight to a career.

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WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Adventure and eco-tourism in Costa Rica.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I am struggling between two careers that I am passionate about, Sustainable Architecture and Outdoor Education. I am hoping my Gap Year will help choose me a path, even if it is in an entirely different direction.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes, but it is difficult to pick a favorite.  Climbing Huayna Picchu and looking through the clouds at the Machu Picchu ruins is the most vivid memory.  It brought all of the stories to life and allowed me to see how the culture is reflected in the architecture.

winterline, gap year, lauren allen

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I want to have fun while exploring the world.  I hope to gain confidence and feel comfortable traveling.  I hope to make new friends and discover new cultures.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I can be shy when I first meet new people, but my crazy and fun personality will come out as you get to know me.

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WHY WINTERLINE?

I am very interested in the wide variety of skills I will learn in a structured environment.  The program will allow me to feed my sense of adventure and gain a better direction for my future studies.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I have completed 4 Ultra Marathons.

winterline, gap year, lauren allen

Photos of the Week: Winterline Graduation 2019

On Saturday, May 4th, Squads 1 and 2 each came together with family, friends, and staff to celebrate the conclusion of their 9 month journey. The ceremony was hosted at More Than Words, a non-profit bookstore in Boston with an online store that’s worth scrolling through and supporting!

We’re sad to say goodbye to our students, but it was a wonderful day hearing the student’s favorite stories, memories, and skills. Some made presentations or videos to share, others simply spoke from the heart. To honor Winterline’s roots in South Asia, our graduation ceremony includes a Tibetan scarfing ceremony, so each student receives a scarf and a yearbook full of memories from the trip. Of course, we took a lot of pictures to commemorate the event. Take a look at some of our favorites, and check out the rest on our Facebook page!

Squad 1

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Group photo!
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Looking over the yearbooks
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Cristina and Luc
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Selfie time!
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Katie, Alex, Cristina and Luc
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Tyler, Abby, and Emily with FA Patrick
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Alex, Cristina, and Luc with Cristina’s parents
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Brittany, Jason, Abby and Cristina with their diplomas

Squad 2

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Caedon with his diploma
Ivan and FA Hillevie
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Ivan, Ben and Sam
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Squad 2 group photo
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Micah and FAs Nicole and James
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Sam getting his scarf
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Maria getting her scarf
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The ladies of Squad 2
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Christian, Paris, Nora and Stella

Congratulations again to all of our new alumni, and thank you to the students, staff, and families who make this program possible. We couldn’t do it without you!

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2019-2020 gap year. If you complete your application by May 22nd, you’ll automatically receive a $1,000 discount on your tuition!

A Tale of Two Farms: Volunteering in the Panamanian Jungle

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Exploring the farm | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

High in the mountains of Panama, shaded by dense tropical canopy, lies the sleepy town of Piedras Gordas. Most families of the town are subsistence farmers, patiently tending to the land that yields most of what they consume. Within this tranquil town – where time itself seems to slow to a shuffle – local farmer señor Onecimo is nurturing grander ambitions. He hopes that one day his secluded property will transform into an educational hub for tourists, volunteers, and students alike.

The Spark

Several years ago, señor Onecimo hosted a group of international volunteers from the American Peace Corps, a volunteer program dedicated to socio-economic development abroad. The thoughts and suggestions of these volunteers opened his eyes to opportunities for growth in his community, and their enthusiasm was infectious. For señor Onecimo, the experience marked the start of his vision: to offer educational tours that showcase the unique flora and fauna of his farm.

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The man, the myth, the visionary – señor Onecimo | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

Since hosting volunteers from the Peace Corps, he has invited many more individuals and groups from abroad. Just as the visitors learn about his way of life by living with his family, so does he gain an appreciation for new perspectives and other cultures. Often, these volunteers can provide the knowledge and manpower needed to implement important projects on señor Onecimo’s farm, and in the community at large.

In October 2018, our Winterline Squad 2 worked with local entrepreneurs in Piedras Gordas, Panama, under the guidance of ThinkImpact instructors. During our stay, I had the opportunity to work with señor Onecimo, who also happened to be a member of my host family.

While staying in his family home, I picked up on aspects of his vision. Despite my limited Spanish skills (see “When Language Fails: My Homestay in Panama” for details), I could understand certain chunks of conversation, and was able to grasp the gist of señor Onecimo’s ideas for the farm. The tough part was organizing these ideas, and developing a more concrete plan to turn his vision into reality.  

To start with, fellow Winterliners and I focused on expanding access to señor Onecimo’s farm for visitors by constructing handrails along the trails of his property. Our primary design used wooden stakes and recycled rubber wires – materials señor Onecimo already owned or could acquire easily. Afterwards, we set to work crafting signs that would label important plants, fruits and vegetables along the trail.

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Handrails for señor Onecimo’s patch of jungle | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

While my fellow Winterliners and I were not able to fully realize señor Onecimo’s dream of offering educational tours and attracting more visitors – a difficult feat given our less than 2-week time constraint – we were able to get him several steps closer to his vision.

The Blazing Startups of Piedras Gordas

I happened to work with señor Onecimo, but he wasn’t the only entrepreneur Winterline supported in Piedras Gordas. Another group working with Onecimo’s wife, señora Edithe, constructed and installed signs to direct people to señora Edithe’s artisanal weaving business. Using techniques handed down for generations, señora Edithe has been crafting traditional sombreros and intricate decorations by hand for decades. The skill of weaving a sombrero is recognized by UNESCO as part of Panamanian “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

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A sample of señora Edithe’s exquisite craftsmanship | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

The Neighborhood Zipliner

Just a short hike down the road, señor Ernesto is busy establishing a center for eco-tourism and ecological education on his farm and around the wilderness reserve which he manages. Eventually he hopes to offer everything from guided tours of his jungle reserve to a zipline spanning part of his property. He has already begun construction on a climbable rockface for visitors to enjoy as well as jungle cabins for visitors to stay in. The winterline group that worked with señor Ernesto expanded and improved the network of trails running through his property, constructing signs and planted over 100 coffee shrubs.

Building Relationships

Beyond our construction projects, what I have found most valuable about volunteering are the conversations and human connections I made with the people of Piedras Gordas, and especially señor Onecimo. Something a ThinkImpact instructor said to me captures it quite well:

“…when you’re here for a short amount of time, it can be hard to realize the specific impact you’ve made. However, – even if you didn’t create something tangible – by interacting and communicating with your hosts, you have built trust and intercultural empathy. When you consider a longer timespan like I’ve been able to, you realize how valuable these interactions are for everyone involved. The skills of open-mindedness and empathy you learn here are things you can take with you wherever you go.” – Gabriela Valencia, ThinkImpact Country Director for Panama (check out the full interview here.)

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Engraving signs with hammer and chisel | Video By: Benjamin Kilimnik

The Virtues of Listening

Perhaps the most important thing I learned during our community work was to avoid what I call “Helicoptering”, which involves assessing a community’s needs and how to address them based on your own worldview. It can be all too easy to make assumptions from an outsider’s perspective, but it is worth keeping an open mind and learning from the community. Before creating designs and prototypes I made sure to talk to señor Onecimo and others in Piedras Gordas to gather information about the situation. That’s how fellow Winterliners and I found out about locally available materials, and how we were able to design several prototypes of handrails and signs that met his specifications – designs that he can recreate fairly easily without us.

It is clear to me now that bringing about lasting change in a community through volunteering is no easy task. No project reliant on external help will last very long once that help evaporates. The projects that succeed have the interests of the community at heart, include participation from the community, and above all, provide locals with the means to continue long after you have left.winterline, gap year

New Student Spotlight: Lydia Miller

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

The idea of taking a gap year wasn’t super new to me because a lot of people take gap years where I’m from, but most of the time people just work.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because the idea of college didn’t seem right to me because I have no clue what I want to do with my life. I chose Winterline because I loved the idea of learning a little bit of everything and traveling all over.winterline, gap year, Lydia Miller

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn mixology and scuba diving.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I don’t know what I want to do in the future, but I know I want to help people and try and make the world a better place.

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HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have been to 15 different states and Jamaica. My favorite trip I have been on is every year a group of my friends and I drive up to Wisconsin for church camp.winterline, gap year, Lydia Miller

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope to get an idea of what I want to do with my life, and also not only get to learn new skills but to learn more about myself.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am really fun, outgoing and I love trying new things. I am super excited to meet everyone.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I have a twin sister.winterline, gap year, Lydia Miller

New Student Spotlight: Liam McIlwain

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I was first introduced to the idea of a gap year a couple years ago while talking to my mom about colleges. She used to be an English professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA so she knew a lot about the alternative options to explore after high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year because I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to go to college right after high school. Also, since I’m interested in film and photography, I decided that a gap year would be a good way to build up a portfolio for my applications to college and/or jobs in the future.

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Liam and his mom

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I love to travel so I’m most excited to learn all that I can about travelling independently and how travel works throughout the world.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I plan to have a career in photography and would love to be able to travel as much as possible in the future!

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Growing up, travel has always been important to me, so my family and I went on lots of day trips to local towns, historical sites, etc. My favorite trip would have to be to Montpelier, Vermont. I went hiking, downhill mountain biking, swimming in hidden swimming-holes and even got to tour the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory! (The ice cream was the highlight of the trip!) The landscape is beautiful and the state is filled with so many awesome things to do, so I’d definitely recommend a trip to Vermont!

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At sea

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope to gain experience of new cultures and many new friends from my gap year program and travels!

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I want my future Winterline peers to know that I’m extremely excited to meet them and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us! This is going to be fun! 🙂

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Liam and family

WHY WINTERLINE?

I chose Winterline because it is exactly the kind of experience I wanted to have in a gap year when I envisioned it.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

The day of my 11th birthday party, I was bitten on the hand by a chipmunk and spent the first hour of my party in the emergency room to make sure I didn’t get rabies.

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Thrill seeker!

Discovering the World – and Yourself

Recently, we came across an article that emphasized a very important point: “gap years are really useful for two purposes: finding yourself and optimizing yourself. But both of these things take some intentional work – they don’t just happen automatically.”

We can wax poetic about how a gap year is a great way to find yourself, and it’s true! But it’s also very true that things won’t just fall perfectly into place without any effort on your own part. You have to be mindful about how your gap year is influencing you, and how you want it to influence you. One way to do this is to set goals, and keep track of their progress in a journal.

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

It’s ok if your goals aren’t super specific; it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll learn or like. So build that in when you’re forming them! You can set skills-based goals like: learn 10 words in a new language, and keep track of the ones you learned and how you used them, or find an outrageous skill that you’re really good at (maybe you’ll surprise yourself with bicycle maintenance or at clown school). You can set cultural goals: try 10 new foods and write about what they were, how they’re made, and whether you liked them; talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to and write down their life stories; do a deep dive into the history behind 5 cities or locations that you felt a particular connection to.

Winterline Global Skills Paris Geolas

This approach has two purposes. First, by setting goals, you’re setting a base expectation of what your gap year will entail. Use your itinerary to form these, and you can always reach out to a staff member of your program if you’re unsure whether your goals are accurate or attainable. Setting goals will also give you direction and ambition: when a plate of food is set in front of you that isn’t what you consider appetizing, remember you made a promise to yourself to try it. When you have a free day and the options are to hang out around the house or explore the local scene, challenge yourself to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Second, by journaling about your experiences (can you tell this is something I’m passionate about?) you’ll be able to reduce the clutter in your head while preserving your thoughts, experiences, and memories as they are right now. By thinking of the future and reflecting on your experiences as they happen, you’ll be able to reconsider your expectations, your interests, your likes and dislikes – which will lead you down the path of self-discovery.

And of course, along with discovering your true self comes the opportunity to become your best self. Whether you’re headed to college or work after your gap year, there will be some unexpected challenges. But you can use your newly learned skills to help smooth the transition. When you’re quite literally traveling across the world, you’ll develop task and time management skills that will allow you to juggle a workload. You can cultivate these skills intentionally by familiarizing yourself with a planner or calendar – paper or digital, your choice! Scheduling will teach you to make time for what’s most important to you, therefore giving you the chance to reflect on your own passions and priorities.

Your gap year shouldn’t be all fun or all work, but instead a healthy mix of both. And don’t forget, they can (and will!) overlap! So don’t worry, because things will work out, but don’t let your trip pass you by without making the most of it, either.

Photo Timeline: Winterline 18-19

Our students are busy at bootcamp here in Boston, so with graduation quickly approaching, we thought now was the perfect time to look back on just how far our students have come. See it all from the beginning to now, 9 months, 10 countries, 100 skills, and countless memories and friends later.

There are so many good pictures from this year, and it was hard to narrow down which to include! Look back on all of our favorite photos and travel highlights to see the Photos of the Week from the past few months.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


Orientation and NOLS

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Becky, Katie, and Cristina at NOLS | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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On the trails | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Christian, Maria, and Ben at orientation | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Orientation | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Costa Rica

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Scuba diving | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Going surfing | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Maria and Luc painting crosswalks | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Building at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Panama

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Getting dirty | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Working on woodcutting skills | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Ivan at the Panama Canal | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Group photo | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Thailand

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At the Elephant Sanctuary | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Enjoying the meal cooked at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Micah found a crab | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Squad 2 | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Cambodia

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Circus school | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Taking in the waterfall | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Caedon and Yeukai at a temple | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Caedon at Phare Circus School | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

India

Making pottery | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Silhouettes | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Christian and Nora doing yoga | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Ivan checking out the view | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Italy

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Tile mosaics | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Stella and her mask | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Friends in Venice | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Germany

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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Girls in Germany | Photo By: Emma Mays
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Austria

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Austria | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Posing in Austria | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Scooters in Austria | Photo By: Nora Turner

Czech Republic

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Prague | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Linnea, Yeukai, and Emma in Prague | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Ivan and Emma hanging around | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Also, be sure to check out the videos that Abby made! You can get an inside look at Trimester 1:

and Trimesters 2 and 3:

Interested in having these experiences for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

When Language Fails: My Homestay in Panama

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A tap of the toes; a spin of the heel; a whirl of red satin.

We arrived in the small mountain town of Piedras Gordas to the sound of traditional Panamanian music and the sight of dancers in traditional dress. Gathered in the community center, several locals had interrupted their daily routines to celebrate our arrival with song and dance. The festive welcome was as unexpected as it was heartwarming. Following their performance, we had our first interactions with the people that welcomed us – sixteen young adults from all over the world – into their very own homes.

Although the mountain scenery of the town was gorgeous, our intentions were far from touristic.  As part of an 8-day homestay program, our goal was to immerse ourselves in the culture of our hosts while working with local entrepreneurs to improve the community. We spent most mornings and evenings with our host families while taking part in workshops led by ThinkImpact during the day. Topics of instruction ranged from design-thinking and asset analysis to rapid prototyping and hands-on work with local entrepreneurs.

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Exploring the Mountains of Piedras Gordas | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

Behold Its Feathers

When a community is not used to receiving foreigners, interacting with locals can be a challenging ordeal. At times, while exploring the town of Piedras Gordas, I felt treated somewhat like an exotic bird: observed with curiosity by everyone I passed, but always kept at a distance. For someone with very basic Spanish skills like mine, it felt very intimidating to start conversations with strangers in a community I barely knew – especially with all eyes focused on me.

Only gradually did I realize that the key to breaking the communication barrier was to stop acting the part of the bird. Instead of staying undercover, I swallowed my shyness and tried to be as open and obvious as possible, starting conversations or non-verbal interactions whenever possible. By actively going against their expectations I normalized my presence. Over time – i.e. many clunky interactions later – I stopped being viewed as this mysterious person and became more approachable for some members of the community.

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My Host Family’s Pet Turkey | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

This same tactic also applied to interactions with my host family, whom I spent the majority of my time with. For the entire 8 days, I had the opportunity to stay in the cosy home of Señor Onecimo and his wife Señora Edith, together with 3 fellow Winterliners: Micah, Shayan and Noah. Despite our vastly different backgrounds and cultures, our host familia welcomed our mix-match group of two Americans, one Italian and one German with open arms. On the day we arrived, Onecimo, Edith and their eldest son Victor stayed up long into the night to talk with us – offering us fruits all the while – despite having to get up early the next morning. In my eyes, these gestures conveyed a curiosity and openness that really set the tone for my homestay experience.

How to Talk without Speaking

It was through interactions with my host family that I came to another realization. Although I expanded my knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and Panamanian slang immensely, I came to realize that – beyond some key vocabulary – communication took on another dimension. More often than not, I found that my actions did most of the talking. Be it while grinding coffee, playing card games, working on the farm or preparing dinner, each activity and interaction left me knowing a bit more about Panamanian customs and the lives of my hosts.

The most important phrase I learned did not involve the bathroom, food or any basic necessities; it was something far more general: “cómo puedo ayudar?“ or “how can I help?“. This simple phrase made it so much easier for me to take part in their daily routine. Instead of watching from a distance, I became personally involved in everything from cooking to woodworking, absorbing Panamanian customs along the way. Within days, my host family treated me less like a hotel guest from abroad, and more like a long-lost, inarticulate cousin. The more time I spent participating and being curious, the easier it was to connect with the family.

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Shayan, Micah and I decided to celebrate Edith’s birthday by baking homemade banana bread. (Or, as Edith’s 6-year-old grandson affectionately called it: “la torta gringo“) | Video By: Benjamin Kilimnik

The perhaps most challenging aspect of my homestay was overcoming the feeling of shyness that kept me from taking risks in social situations. Only by accepting the misunderstandings and awkward moments that inevitably arose when I tried to communicate was I able to truly rise out of my comfort zone and learn from my mistakes. A prime example: A few days into my homestay, I realized that instead of responding to explanations with “I understand“ in Spanish, I had been saying “me entiendo“ or “I understand me“ the entire time. If I hadn’t sought out those explanations and more opportunities to speak Spanish in the first place, that realization may never have come…

It is still mind-blowing to me that even though my Spanish skills were basic at best, I was able to interact with and learn so much from mi familia. Even weeks after the experience, I still feel indebted to these incredible people who welcomed me into their home while treating me with such kindness and curiosity.

Lessons from Roadtrip Nation: Skills Powered

In this hour-long documentary “Skills Powered” from Roadtrip Nation, three young adults explore the idea of using their skill sets on a 21 day, 3200 mile cross-country trip. In some ways, the road trip that Alex, Ryan, and Shyane set out upon is like a condensed version of a Winterline gap year, though they focus solely upon tradework.

Who are the travelers?

The documentary begins with a quick introduction to the three young adults and their reasoning for joining this trip.

23 year old Alex went to college on a soccer scholarship. However, after an injury he’s unsure what to do with his life. “I want to try everything,” he boasts. “I’m going to be a sponge for this trip.”

Ryan is 24, working in a job he doesn’t love. Ryan brings up a point that many people struggle with: “for a lot of us, a four year degree just isn’t feasible.” And as he’s going to learn, while college can be a fantastic investment, it isn’t necessary for every person in every job. “A cubicle seems like a jail cell to me,” Ryan tells the camera, and “I think it’s kinda ridiculous that we expect an 18 year old kid to go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt without them having any idea of what it is that they want to do.” So desk job and college aside, Ryan is eager to find out what else is out there, especially the things beyond his imagination.

“There’s stuff out there that I’m sure I don’t even know exists, and it might be what I love to do but I have no idea that it’s even out there.” We agree with Ryan, and that’s exactly why skills are such an integral part of a Winterline gap year.

Finally, there’s 19 year old Shyane, who’s lost about what to do for a living. Shyane didn’t have a great family life growing up, is lost about what to do for a living, and is afraid to go back home and feel stuck again. So she turns her gaze outwards to explore the possibilities.

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First skill: welding

What lessons did they learn?

Along this trip, the three get to learn from individuals in a variety of trades: welding, woodshop, cooking and buffet management, solar energy and sustainable housing, animal behavior consultants at the Oklahoma City Zoo, engineers at the GE Aviation plant, scuba divers, small business owners, makeup and wardrobe consultants, musical technicians, and audio engineers. Some of the professionals loved the skill their whole life. Some didn’t even know it existed or give it a try until they were older. Some went to college, some didn’t.

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Lesson in woodworking

Each tradesperson had fantastic advice to give to Alex, Ryan, and Shyane. Though much of it follows the same vein, it can be hard to internalize this type of advice when you’ve grown up in a society that teaches the typical “high school, college, work” path is the right one. So we’re going to let each tradesperson tell you that this isn’t the one and only path you can take to success.

  • “You don’t have to feel like a failure if you don’t go to a four year university.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
  • “You have to explore in order to find out what you really like, but don’t let opportunities pass you by. They’re not always going to come and knock, you have to go find them.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
  • “You have to be in love with what you’re doing because life has many ups and downs but it’s that love that keeps you going everyday.” – Leticia Nunez, Chef

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    Leticia Nunez
  • “There’s a huge on-the-job training aspect that you can’t get in a book. You have to go out and start doing it and learning and making mistakes and building upon it.” – Kimberly Leser, Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare
  • “If you think that you like something and you want to pursue it, pursue it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a career for 20, 30 years and hate it and by the time you realize that, you’re ready to retire and you don’t have any other options. Now’s the time to explore that.” – Bill Lamp’l, Small Business Owner
  • “You have to look for your own opportunity. No one is going to hand it to you.” – Nancy Feldman, Blue Man Group Makeup Artist and Wardrobe Supervisor

And by the end of their trip, the young adults had taken this to heart. “I feel like I’m more awake,” Alex says about returning from this experience. Shyane felt as though she experienced an “aha” moment working with the seals at the zoo. After, she admits that there are way more options for work than she ever would have assumed. “I’ve always had a fear of just jumping into something. But worst case scenario, you just jump into something else.” She concludes. Finally, Ryan “didn’t even know that a lot of these careers existed. All I knew was to go to a four year university. [But] you can do trades and be successful and love what you do.”

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Hanging out with the seals

We highly recommend that you watch the documentary to see this growth for yourself, but if you don’t, take away a lesson from Alex, Shyane, and Ryan’s journey: there’s a whole world of possibilities out there, and you won’t know until you try them.

 

Photos of the Week 4/19

Welcome back to America, Winterliners! Our students are officially back, exploring our headquarters city of Boston. This week, they rounded off their experience in Europe by spending time in Prague. Check out the final images from their adventures across the pond.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Pink pigeons in Prague! | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Abby and Tyler in Prague | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Last day in Prague | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Making friends in Prague | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Not ready to leave Europe | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Linnea and Nora in Prague | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Stella and Nora in Prague | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Linnea and Paris in Prague | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Girl gang in Prague | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Fooling around | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Last day of spring break | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Pretty in Prague | Photo By: Stella Johnson

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Veronica Allmon

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

 I first heard about it on social media. Someone I followed was doing this crazy 11 month gap year instead of college and I had to look into it from there. I searched and learned about so many options I had no idea about after high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I wasn’t sure about what I wanted my future career to be or what to study in college. After I learned how beneficial this program could be for me my mind was set. The opportunity to travel to so many places also drew me in.

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WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m excited about the photography and the culinary skills. I love to cook and am very interested in learning more about a potential career path for myself.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

After the program I plan to attend college, but I really have my options open right now as to anything else.

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HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes, my favorite trip I literally just got back two days ago from. My family went to Costa Rica for spring break. We stayed in a treehouse in the jungle and saw so much wildlife everywhere it was breathtaking. We met so many wonderful people and grew closer as a family. We have done mission work there before and visited old friends which made the trip that much better.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope I gain a lot of helpful skills and knowledge for my future. I am also really hoping to make some friends I will cherish forever with all the memories we will have shared together.

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WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I would want them to know that I can not wait to meet them all! Also that I love adventure so if there’s anyone else out there find me and we can try new things together.

WHY WINTERLINE?

It was so unique compared to all the other programs. It had traveling, but what set it apart was the skills they are all so appealing some of the things on the list I might not ever get the chance to experience them if it wasn’t for this program.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

Weird but, one of my ears is different than the other.

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Photos of the Week 4/12

Our students are enjoying their spring break before reuniting to continue Trimester 3. Solo, in pairs, or with family, each student is off exploring the countries of Europe. From the United Kingdom to Greece and everywhere in between, these adventures are certainly worth sharing. See for yourself!

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Exploring Ireland | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Irish architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Abby and Tyler in London | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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London Bridge | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Crossing London Bridge | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Leaning Tower of Pisa | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Views in Italy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Exploring Greece | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Taking in Italy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Brittany and Jason surfing in Portugal | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Surfing in Portugal | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Portuguese sunset | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Scuba diving in Portugal | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Ivan and Paris in France | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Eiffel Tower, all lit up | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn
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Exploring Italy | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Making friends | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Traveling in the UK | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Paris in Paris! | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Colorful Italy | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Leaning Tower of Pisa | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Phone eats first | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Architecture in Prague | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Practicing photography skills | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views of the Blue Hole | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Soaking in the beauty | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Posing in Prague | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Looking out on the ocean | Photo By: Tyler Trout

 

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Alyssa Copham

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


winterline, gap year, alyssa copham
Meet Alyssa!

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

Gap year programs were a new concept to me, a friend of mine who graduated a year prior and left on a four month trip to Australia, Fiji, and a few other places, she told me it was the trip of a lifetime. It inspired me to research programs, and take a year off to travel!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year for the possibility of growth, to find my passion and drive, and learn more about myself and what I want out of life!

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Taking in new sights!

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn how to properly scuba, and to explore new cultures.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

One of the biggest reasons for my choice of a gap year was to figure out my future, the idea of jumping into school and a career seemed unrealistic to me right now, and I’m hopeful at the end of my nine month journey I will have a better idea.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have a lot of travel experience, one of my favorite trips was a two week vacation to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. I loved seeing all the culture and wildlife, and the warm weather away from Minnesota’s freezing cold is always a plus.  

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What a view.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

In all honesty, I don’t think my expectations are what I will receive, truly, I don’t think you can even predict the growth and experiences you will have. My biggest hope is to have fun, learn, grow, and have the trip I’ll remember always.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I want my future peers to know I am outgoing, funny, and some say I have good advice. I believe in promises, laughter, and supporting and loving the people around me.

winterline, gap year, alyssa copham
Enjoying New York City.

WHY WINTERLINE?

One of the biggest impacts on my decision was the duration and the amount of places you go, I wanted the best experience I could have. When I decided a gap year, I decided a gap YEAR, I went all in and decided on a highly rated, highly recommended program. I also enjoyed the idea of the main focus of Winterline, mainly on growth and learning, and most importantly traveling, I chose it was right for what I wanted.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

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A modeling shot of Alyssa.

A fun fact about me is I love taking pictures, and exploring new places. I’m the type of person who wants to wake up at 6AM on vacation and just go for walks to see a new place, and get the most out of traveling I can.

What Not to Do on a Gap Year

For starters — Don’t pass up fried roadside spiders.

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And don’t take pictures like this…

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Okay, now we have our vitals covered, let’s get to some trivial topics…

Don’t try and save the world

Once in Cambodia, I remember getting off a bus, and heading to an orphanage for a day with some fellow backpackers.  We had a blast playing with the kids, singing songs, throwing them around like rag-dolls; Disney stuff, really.  Only later did I find out that those children weren’t even orphans — they were simply sent from the next village over, and essentially pimped out by their parents, in order to make money for their families. GULP.

You’re not going to be able to save the world.  And quite honestly, that’s not the point. It’s not even worth learning the hard way on this one, so trust me — no matter how many orphans you hug, you’re not going to fundamentally change the structural and systemic power dynamics that created the conditions that created that child’s life experience. That might sound harsh, I know; does that mean not to spread your love with everyone and all that you meet? NOOOOO!!!! Simply put — there are larger factors at play than you realize, and it’s a more valuable investment of time and energy, and considerably less ethically problematic when you decide to learn with the people you are serving rather than looking down on other folk and saying, “wow, these people really need help!” Sadly, that’s a lot of what today’s voluntourism culture proffers.

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On the flip side, nothing feels worse than getting to a place and realizing that they just wanted your money — people are exploiting this western notion of ‘community service’ in leaps and bounds, and ethical volunteering can be hard to come by unless you know what to look for. Now, that being said, I volunteered with such an organization, and still had an amazing experience, complete with everything that could have gone wrong (fights at the orphanage?  Ex-street kids dealing drugs?  You name it…). Many American students try to hammer out a certain number of service hours in order to pad their college resumes. If your heart isn’t in this, then you’re better off simply backpacking, taking language courses, or doing nature conservation work.

If you do want to volunteer, I would highly recommend teaching. Teaching will give you an appreciation for your own education that you’ll carry to the grave, and will place you in a position of authority; how you react in that position will teach you a great deal about yourself.

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Don’t just do the things that you’re already good at

Gap Years provide the perfect opportunity to stretch yourself a bit, in all directions — both horizontally and externally (out, and into the world), as well as ‘vertically,’ and internally (getting to know your depths). To grow the most, try picking up a new skill — maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar, or to how garden, or to how build a house, or you wanted sing in a choir; pick something that lights you up, and commit to pursuing it on your gap year (shameless plug: Winterline is THE MacDaddy at this!). This is your time to explore and challenge yourself — a time to really test your human potential. If you fail — great learning experience. Most likely though, you’ll discover parts of yourself that will amaze you 🙂

Don’t NOT play with every baby that you see

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So cute! Until they….

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Commit for an extended period of time

Moving quickly from one place to another is important, and fun, and wildly stimulating, and will teach you some critical life lessons, but really digging into a culture, place, and people requires a longer commitment. That’s why Peace Corps does two years. Think long-term relationship vs. one-night stand — which is more fulfilling? Which matters? Which truly has an impact? Exactly. So try to stay in one place for half a year — you’ll come to understand the people and develop deep relationships, while also coming up against the inevitable conflicts that occur while living in a community (and have to face them without having the option to just book it the next day).

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[caption: How are monks and waterfalls different? One rushes, the other doesn’t HAHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAH ]

Don’t run when things become difficult

Working in an all boys orphanage in Nepal, there were times when it seemed like everything was falling apart. My roommate, a Dutch fellow, who — atypically for Dutch folk, in my experience — was more interested in complaining and whining about everything than actually getting on with what we were there to do (work with the children), and it was a testosterone hive — the boys were between 8-14, and mass fights were constantly breaking out. They were largely unsupervised, and had no real role models or structures, other than school (which was laughable when I visited). It was complete chaos.

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[caption: okay, okay — complete chaos, and wicked fun]

I became a bit more in touch as a human being — these were kids, after all! Most interesting was to watch my reaction to want to leave the situation as soon as it became difficult. I highly recommend that when the going gets rough, you ask yourself whether you feel unsafe, or whether you just feel uncomfortable. More often, it’s the latter. And if you lean into that discomfort, you’ll grow in leaps and bounds — which is kinda what the whole gap year thing is about.

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Stay off the internet

Your favorite shows will all be there when you get back; Kathmandu will not. Similarly, save the google search → buzzfeed articles → pictures of cute kittens progression for a rainy day at home. Unplug from your electronic devices in general — constantly toting your smartphone so that you can ‘take pictures’ is an excuse; if you want to really take pictures, invest in a DSLR. The point isn’t punishment, it’s if you’re constantly sharing pictures of the delicious tapas that you’re eating in Spain, you’re not going to be savoring the taste, which is what you’ll ultimately remember the most — not the stylish photo.

Don’t just let your journey fade into the ether upon return…

During your Gap Year, you’re going to be transitioning from home to independence, high school to college, and adolescence into adulthood — –undergoing all three massive and pivotal transformations at the same time.  It’s unlike any other period of your life, offering the unique potential for a true rite of passage (hate to break it to you, but that’s something that college generally doesn’t offer you). Traveling will stretch your comfort zone and sense of the world and yourself like a hot air balloon, and coming back home can be a rather deflating experience (Really? Lame dad pun? #sorrynotsorry).

But don’t just let your experiences fade after sharing with friends and family — set up a talk at your school to share what you learned about other cultures, the world, and yourself. Share stories that will help people detect their own biases and the stereotypes that they are prone to making about the other parts of the world. Helpful would be to have a specific theme to your presentation — say you’re into archaeology and want to share a comparison between the bones in Mongolia, Africa, and Germany, and how that relates to mankind’s history, etc. Get creative! Apply to do a TEDx talk in your town! This will not only show college’s & /future employers that you take initiative and are a go-getter, but in working to articulate your experiences, you’re going to process your journey in a way that simply isn’t possible by writing about it or chatting with friends.

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[caption: I solemnly swear, to share my story upon return.]

 

Most importantly though…

Don’t let naysayers talk you out of going

I remember when I told most people what I was doing, hearing things like, “Oh, you’ll never go to college — that’s a terrible choice.” Hmm. Well… maybe I’ll just do it anyway, I thought. GOOD BOY — 90% of students who take a Gap Year return to college within a year. That’s almost 30 percentage points higher than the national average. The Gap Year has attracted a mythological skepticism bred from irrational fear. Don’t let other people get in the way of you making a decision to radically alter the quality of your life — let the haters hate, and go for it. Because if you don’t, chances are you’ll never look like this…

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Which is clearly what we all want out of life, am I right, or am I right?

Okay, MOST most importantly — this has been a lot of “don’ts.” What about the “Do’s”? Well there’s only one on that list..

DO let any and all monkey’s into your pants

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Have a wonderful journey 🙂

You can track Kevin’s footsteps on Instagram @voiceinsight, and on his blog–polychromasoul.blogspot.com.

Photos of the Week 4/5

Students from both of our cohorts are off on their Independent Study Projects (ISPs), which are like 8 day apprenticeships across Europe. This year, our student’s activities are ranging from scuba diving, photography, sailing, and surfing to restaurant management, butchery workshop, music recording, and swordsmanship! They’re honing these skills everywhere in Europe from the Spanish Canary Islands, to Greece, to Northern Ireland, and everywhere in between.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Barcelona beaches | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Spanish architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Exploring the market | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Crème brûlée | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Graffiti art | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Hungary at night | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Katie and Billy recreating art | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Austrian architecture | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Nora, Christian, and Stella having fun | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Paris’s ISP is snowboarding in the Alps | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Snowboarding views | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Making time for four-legged friends | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Exploring Hungary | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Greek sunset | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Fresh catch | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Meal time | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views of Amsterdam | Photo By: Stella Johnson
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Tyler and Abby checking out graffiti | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Tyler got to make a surfboard for his ISP | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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The finished surfboard | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Tyler with his finished board | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Fine dining | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Ready to eat | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Views from the Alps | Photo By: Paris Geolas

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Alexandra Johansson

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

I grew up in our capital city Oslo, south in Norway. Some years ago, my mum and dad decided to move to Lofoten so they could get closer to our family (and the nature!). Lofoten is basically a group of islands in the north part of Norway. It really has incredible nature, but also stormy weather.

Sometimes we get weather like this, then people are outside all day long:

But mostly, living by the northern sea, means:

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I got introduced to the idea of a gap year a few years ago, and thanks to that, I have been able to motivate myself through high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

After 13 years in the classroom I think its time to take a break and do something different.

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Alexandra at the beach

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

In the beginning, I was most excited about learning more within my fields of interest for film, photography, architecture and creative development. But I must admit that Winterline’s vision has changed my mind. Among many other “skills” I am so excited to overcome my fear of heights and take the SCUBA certificate; something I would never do if I did not participate in the program.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

No specific idea. In my dream job, no days will be equal. There I will have the opportunity to make a difference by creating something using creativity and innovative solutions.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have been traveling in Europe with my family, friends and classmates. Last summer I traveled to the US for the first time. My American friend took me to big cities and small communities. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with the country, the friendly people and the beautiful nature. The relaxed and welcoming culture influenced me and is a major reason why it was the best tour I’ve been on.

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Visiting New York City

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope I get a lot of good experience and memories that I can bring with me for the rest of my life. I look forward to getting to know people from all over the world and seeing places I have only seen in pictures. Also, I hope I will be fluent in English.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am always ready for an adventure!

WHY WINTERLINE?

That’s not even a question. Winterline offers the most exciting, educational, fun, adventurous, efficient, unique, innovative, well-executed global gap year program in the world. During high school, I spent countless hours searching for things to do and places to visit on my gap year. I wanted to get as much out of the year as possible. When I discovered Winterline, I thought it was too good to be true. All I dream of experiencing, seeing and learning (and so much more) are combined in one program. I can’t wait for this to start.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I am straight as a flagpole, thanks to the metal rail that goes through my spine. It’s going to be fun to go through all the security controls.

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Exploring!

Every Type of Student

When I meet students and parents at gap year fairs, I get asked this question a lot. “What kind of student joins a Winterline program?” Having been a Field Advisor for the 2017-18 programming year, I have first hand knowledge as to what kind of students we have join us for such a journey. The answer is very simple.

Every type of student.

Whether you’ve had an opportunity to travel extensively or have only experienced your hometown, Winterline will show you how to be a traveler. If you’re right on track with college, but are just dog tired of school and lack excitement for learning, Winterline will give you experiences to learn from, not books and classrooms. If the thought of going off to college alone scares you, believe me, Winterline will prepare you for that too. No matter the reason, Winterline attracts students due to the vast array of skills taught by reputable partner organizations, the countries they visit and immerse themselves into, and the people and cultures they meet along the way. It’s hard to narrow down a specific type of student, because there really isn’t one for Winterline! Below I’ve done my best to highlight some of the most common students we get on our program! If any of these sound like you, you’ve definitely come to the right place!

  1. You want to understand other people, cultures, and places. You’ll visit 10+ countries on our 9-month Global Skills program. It may seem like we jump around from country to country, but our program stays in Costa Rica and India for close to a month. I found that my students grew tremendously in our first trimester, specifically because of the allotted time in Costa Rica, between scuba certification, living in dorm-style housing for 10 days in the rainforest, staying in homestays for a week while working alongside local community members, the list really does go on! You’ll live in homestays while learning a skill of your choice in Monteverde. Maybe you’ll harness up and build bridges up in the treelines to support sloth migration to neighboring trees. Maybe your homestay family will invite you to their wedding anniversary. What’s guaranteed is a true experience with real people doing real-life activities.

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    Exploring the temples in Thailand
  2. You want an academic component. We offer 9 optional college credits through Western Colorado University that allow students to stay on track for college. Credits correlate with a few specific skills on our program. Once that associated skill is completed, the student writes an essay about the learning experience. Along with credit, students also get certified in scuba, Wilderness First Aid, and receive certificates of completion from a few other skills. Examples of these include safe driving at the BMW Driving Experience in Munich and cooking and etiquette at the Paul Debrule French Cooking School in Cambodia. Lastly, all of the skills are experiential learning, so as long as you are engaged throughout the program, you’ll leave Winterline with a much stronger understanding of careers, the world, and yourself!

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    Business students working on a gap year
  3. You want an internship of sorts. Our Independent Study Projects (click this link and scroll to the bottom to find the interactive map!) are great opportunities to try something before really pursuing it full on. Each one is designed to give you more options and to hone in on a skill of your choosing, either with a small group of students from your cohort, or by yourself. For the third trimester independent project, students plan out a travel itinerary, learn how to budget, create emergency action plans, and vet partners and accommodations. This process takes part throughout the program in order to prepare them for their one week solo travel in a European country of their choice to learn a skill of their choosing. By the time the third trimester comes around, our students are expert travelers, so it’s your final hurrah to showcase what you’ve learned from your time with us! Plus, you will have countless opportunities to network with the organizations and companies that teach you these 100+ skills. A lot of them offer internships of their own!

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    Meagan partnered with the Austrian National Council for her Independent Study Project (ISP)
  4. You want to grow personally. Don’t feel ready for college? Have zero clue what you want to major in? Not even planning to go to college? Haven’t had an opportunity to explore much outside of your hometown or country? You’ll literally see the world on Winterline by visiting at least 10 countries. While you explore other cultures, cuisines, and terrain, you’ll be taught skills by reputable companies and organizations, such as Earthenable, ThinkImpact, and Rancho Mastatal.
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    New friends hanging out in Panama

    You won’t be nervous getting a random roommate in the dorms at college after living and traveling with 12-16 students throughout the program! Everything from tents to hotels, hostels to guest houses, even homestays; you will learn to live with others in every travel environment. Sometimes you’ll be in charge of cleanup after dinner. Sometimes you’ll have to go find a local laundromat in order to have a fresh bag of clothes again. By the time the 9 months are over, you’ll have gained confidence and independence in a multitude of ways.

  5. You’re burnt out. We get it. You’ve made it through a lot of schooling at this point and the last thing you want to do is sit in another uncomfortable classroom desk. School doesn’t leave much room for self-exploration and self-guided learning. On a Winterline program, you’ll have very minimal time in the classroom and way more experience out in the field getting hands-on with your skills. Trekking in the Himalayas while learning about disaster medicine, cooking classes in Thailand, finding out how mosaic tiles are really made and trying your hand at your very own in the heart of Venice. Winterline allows students to try new skills that they may have never had the opportunity to take part in prior to a gap year – or maybe ever again in their life!

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    Learning in nature’s classroom
  6. You want to make a difference. Though Winterline does not offer volunteer projects, our students are supporting communities they visit through cultural immersion and understanding, as well as taking part in social innovation skills with one of our partners, ThinkImpact. These skills are learned during their time in Panama, South Africa, and Rwanda, covering social innovation topics ranging from clean energy and health care to urban agriculture and wildlife conservation. Plus, my favorite part of South Africa is the opportunity our students have to really connect with the culture through students their age! All of the skills our students learn will be side by side with local South African students to gain a better cultural understanding of what it’s like living and growing up in South Africa. In Rwanda, students take part in their 2nd trimester independent study project, collaborating with the community that their homestay resides in.

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    Learning sustainability at Rancho Mastatal

Winterline really caters to a well rounded experience so that students not only dive deeper into something they’re specifically passionate about, but equally as important, they experience a variety of other topics to broaden their perspectives and passions in life. It’s impossible for a student to go through our program without having gained any skills or growth from their time exploring the globe. What I witnessed by the end of my cohort’s gap year was that many students started the program in one of the categories above, but graduated with a new sense of what they want from life, from their education, and from themselves. So, what kind of student are you? And what are you waiting for?

Photos of the Week 3/29

Italy, Germany, and Austria, oh my! Among these European countries, Winterline students have been practicing skills like defensive driving, molding and painting masks, making tile mosaics, and learning robotics. Talk about a busy week! Take a look at some of the creations Winterliners have made and adventures they’ve had since last week.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Becoming one with the views | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Enjoying German beers | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Reflection time | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Munich architecture | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Friends at the ballet | Photo By: Yeukai Jiri
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Life is better at the ballet | Photo By: Yeukai Jiri
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Linnea in Germany | Photo By: Emma Mays
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At the BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Hanging out at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Italian architecture | Photo By: Stella Rose Johnson
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Pasta straight from the source | Photo By: Stella Rose Johnson
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Driving a BMW | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Christian and Stella in Venice | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Golden hour in Venice | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Austrian architecture | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Scooters in Austria | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Vienna from above | Photo By: Nora Rich, Winterline Admissions Advisor
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Robotics time | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Drink up | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Paris at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Paris and Christian in Germany | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Stella in Germany | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Masks in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Glass blowing in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making tile mosaics in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Sunset silhouettes | Photo By: Abby Dulin

 

Interested in visiting Italy and Germany for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

The Precarious Art of Singing An Eleven Part Harmony

In music theory there is a term called a polyrhythm: when one hand uses a two count and the other hand counts in three. They are independent beats that carry well on their own, but when intertwined, they mix the way chilies and chocolate do.

In my head, I can draw a line between polyrhythms and love. I’ve been of the belief for a long time that love is not two puzzle pieces of a whole, rather, it is two hearts that beat in time with each other.

I fondly refer to my arrival in Estes Park as a crash landing. The girl who showed up there was desperate for friendship, and trying to speak the languages of twelve other people all at once with no prior learning experience. Smoke and ash filled the air as I smothered people with my presence, and I emerged from the wreck to find myself alone in a crowded room.

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Students at NOLS | Photo By: Leela Ray

I felt that way for quite a while. I missed my home, I missed my friends, I missed my ex. Every once in a while I would dip a toe into the waters of our group, only to recoil as I was scalded by my own mistakes. I stopped dipping my toes in.

I was lonely. My postured state left me unapproachable and callous, which only made me posture more. I had little to lean on save for an electric fence of a person whose touch made my chest numb and brought the taste of metal into my mouth. When I finally pushed him away, the lack of feeling still persisted. It spread into my arms, my head, my legs, my heart… I became a rippled reflection of myself, an unclear image of insecurities and doubt.

I’m what I refer to as a “stress-baker,” the graph that compares anxiety to amount of cupcakes produced is a line with a slope of one. In Costa Rica, at the end of our first trimester, I was assigned to work in a bakery for a week. It became my refuge. My jaw began to unclench, and my shell started to crack. That was the first time I saw Her.

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Leela in Belize

It was early one morning, I rolled over and sat up to see Her walk in on the sunlight that shone through my bedroom window and perch at my feet. She was a mirror image of myself, but something was off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was as if She was formed from the dough I’d been rolling, or the dense clouds that fed the forest of Monteverde. It might’ve been the way She stood tall, Her spine straight and strong next to my crippled one. I could feel Her heartbeat as She stood in front of me: jauntily skipping triplets dancing around the dull defeated thud my own two count had taken on in the past months. She reached out, and I felt my own hand raise to meet Her’s. She stood, and I did too. She smiled, and I felt the near forgotten tug at the corners of my chapped lips. Then like a puppet master, She slipped into my shadow, and I watched as my shoulders relaxed and my chin lifted. I didn’t feel so alone.

The last two weeks of that trimester passed in a blur. I was at peace in the company of Her, and for some reason, that brought me closer to the people in our cohort. I went home no longer dreading my return to Winterline, but longing for it. Yet as the winter holidays passed, the proverbial “cuffing season” seemed to be ending. I saw less and less of Her, and more and more of someone not quite who I was, but not quite whom I wanted to be either. I felt abandoned by Her. I knew better than when I started this whole thing, but I also had a long ways to go, so I arrived in Cambodia with a new idea: stop thinking, start doing.

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Cambodian temple | Photo By: Leela Ray

Tired of constantly being stuck inside my own head, I set out to really immerse myself in the countries we visited, and consequently I fell in love. It was painful at first, being alone. My heart was heavy with it’s hollow pulse. But as with every breakup, the more time that passed, the less I thought of Her.

I fell in love so many times I’ve lost count. I basked in the embrace of the Thai sun, Cambodia’s history stole my breath, India whispered secrets in my ear late at night and Venice made my knees weak with its beauty. Germany was a tease, its cold touch sending shivers down my spine, and Austria showed me that a second chance over good drinks can change your perspective. I became un-numb. With every new experience I grew, and with every day I woke up feeling a little fuller, and little more independent, a little less lonely for Her.

Every country gave me a piece of it, but Hungary was a place that made me want to give a piece of myself back. Something about the way the wind pulled at my hair by the river, and how the people spoke to my soul made me want to stay forever. Budapest grabbed my hand and dragged me to places I never expected to see; it held me up when I felt like I couldn’t stand, challenged me to see in new lights and brought me soup when I had a fever of 102 degrees. Hungary ripped off my blinders and helped me see beyond myself, I was alive. 

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Leela and friends celebrating Holi

On my last morning there, I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom. Blinking in the harsh light, I kept my head down to brush my teeth and wash my face. I was resistant to leave, to pack my things and return to the noise of my group, but I knew my time in Budapest had taught me all it could. I paused for a moment, feeling the water drip off my chin, and reflected on the person I’d become. I felt stronger and more competent than I ever had before, and despite my want to stay, I knew I was ready to step out into the world. With a new resolve, I grabbed my towel to dry my face, and when I finally looked in the mirror, I felt my breath hitch in my throat. Someone else was looking back at me. Graceful and confident, eyes ablaze with passion and courage, slender yet strong fingers holding the same towel I felt in my own grasp. I raised my hand to touch my face, and so did She.

 

New Student Spotlight: Emmie Daswani

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


 

WHAT’S YOUR FULL NAME?

Maya Emily Daswani but everyone calls me Emmie, long story as to why. I’m from a small coastal town in New Hampshire called North Hampton!

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Emmie is a model!

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I was first introduced to the idea in the spring of last year when one of my good friends decided to do a gap year program similar to Winterline.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I still am unsure of what exactly I want to do and where I want to go, I think that a year to grow and explore would be very beneficial and could help me figure out what direction I want to go in in terms of a career path.

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Emmie and her friends at the Patriots Parade in Boston.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m really excited about safe driving in Germany. I am really into cars and I think that being able to drive BMWs in Germany is going to be an unforgettable experience.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

I thought that I wanted to go into hospitality but as time goes on I’m not sure, I might want to do something in marketing or communications. Honestly, I have no real idea, I’m hoping over the next year I’ll have a better idea of what I want to do.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I’ve done a good amount of traveling throughout my life tagging along on my moms business trips, and have been lucky enough to visit 6/7 continents. I also briefly lived in Tokyo for my Dad’s job when I was little. My favorite trip had to have been to India; my dad was from India so it was interesting to discover that side of myself and see how different my life could have been. It really put things into perspective for me and made me more appreciative of what I have.

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Emmie and her mom in Geneva.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I’m hoping to continue to deepen my perspective on the world and figure out what skills I enjoy doing. As I said before I have no idea what direction I want to go in and I’m hoping that this year will help push me in the direction of the path I want to go down.

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Celebrating the 4th of July at Ossipee Lake.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I’m very outgoing, laidback and like to stretch out of my comfort zone. I’m also a pretty sarcastic person so I shouldn’t be taken very seriously at all. I’m so excited to meet everyone I’ll be traveling with and can’t wait to get to know them over the 9 months we’ll spend together!

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I never know what to say to these questions. I love music and play a few instruments. I’m a huge New England sports fan, my high school superlatives were “Worst Case of Senioritis” and “Class Clown” and a normal person’s internal temperature is 98.6 degrees. Mine is 98.5, I’m just a little cooler than everyone else.

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A marsh near Emmie’s house.

Photos of the Week 3/22

Now that our students are in Europe with speedy internet, we have a whole lot of pictures to show: this is a long one! This week, Squad 1 began in Italy, where they enjoyed plenty of pizza and gelato, had a photography contest, created tile mosaics, and got to handmake and paint their own Venetian masks. Busy week! Squad 2, meanwhile, started off in Germany, where they got a lesson in safe driving at the BMW Driving Experience. Now our squads have swapped locations, and are off to practice the next skills on the list.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Italy at sunset | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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The canals of Venice | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Abby taking a quick break from all the sightseeing in Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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The canals are full of life | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Gelato time! | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Cristina and Abby enjoying Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Colorful houses in Burano | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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One of our Italy photo contest winners | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Nothing like pizza in Italy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Nothing like traveling with friends | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Squad 2 at BMW Headquarters in Germany
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Capturing the culture of Italy | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Cristina enjoying the views in Italy | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos
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Cristina enjoying the local cuisine | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos
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Graffiti on the streets of Munich | Photo By: Emma Mays
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More graffiti! | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Katie having a glass of wine | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Paris and Micah hanging out in Germany | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Paris driving at BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Paris and Micah celebrating St. Patrick’s Day | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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German architecture | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Christian and Paris with a BMW | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Welcome to Germany | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Paris looking out at the view | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Beautiful buildings in Italy | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Becky exploring Italy | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Venetian masks | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Becky and Spencer in Italy | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Becky and Spencer in front of the canals | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views on views | Photo By: Tyler Trout

 

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Gelato never looked so good | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Italian architecture | Photo By: Lydia Summermater
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Abby and Tyler posing in Italy | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Squad 1 in Italy
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Hanging out at the BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Reflection in the canal | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Views through the gates | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Italian architecture | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Linnea at the National Theater in Munich | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Views in Germany | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Sights from up above | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Nora modeling in Italy | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Taking in the beauty of Italy | Photo By: Nora Turner

 

Interested in visiting Italy and Germany for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Hear Me Roar: ThinkImpact Director Gabriela Valencia

In October 2018, fellow Winterliners and I volunteered in the small town of Piedras Gordas, nestled in the mountains of Panama. Under the guidance of ThinkImpact instructors, each of us chose to work with one local entrepreneur: Señor Onecimo, Señora Edithe, or Señor Ernesto. During our stay, we embarked on projects ranging from constructing trails through the jungle to planting one hundred coffee shrubs. To gain a better understanding of the goals of the ThinkImpact program, I spoke with Gabriela Valencia, ThinkImpact Country Director for Panama.

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Gabriela Valencia

Could you tell me about yourself? What motivates you?

Gabriela: I was born and raised in Panama, specifically in Panama City. Like many Panamanians I am the product of a mixture of cultures. My mom grew up in Argentina and my dad is Panamanian. But I was born here, so I’ve known Panama my whole life. At the same time, I grew up in a household where influences from Argentina played an important role in my life.

I studied in Panama and attended architecture school. When I finished studying, I started working for different architecture firms. In 2007, I received a Fulbright scholarship and got my masters degree in architecture from Ball State University, Indiana. My studies really emphasized human-centered-design and more of a social approach to architecture.

When I came back to Panama it was hard to find social development projects that were very connected to architecture. So I started looking for other opportunities and ended up working for an NGO called Global Brigades. It’s a large organization that uses a holistic development model to improve quality of life for people around the world. They start with public health and then they move into things like economic empowerment, human rights, and environmental conservation. Global Brigades supports and focuses on university students. The idea is that you meet the interests of students and connect them with communities that have certain needs, but that can also teach them things. It’s a really unique chance for both the students and the community to learn from each other.”

Could you give me an overview of ThinkImpact and its mission? How is it different from Global Brigades?

Gabriela: Sure. ThinkImpact is centered more around social innovation, while Global Brigades is development. ThinkImpact focuses on shorter skill-building projects while Global Brigades focuses on more long-term goals.

ThinkImpact connects students with communities to develop solutions to local issues and improve the quality of life within the community. At the same time, ThinkImpact teaches students how to work with local entrepreneurs and utilize their assets to create lasting change. ThinkImpact provides an environment for students to learn outside of the classroom and apply their knowledge through tangible social interactions and hands-on projects.”

ThinkImpact in Rwanda

What is your role in the organization?

Gabriela: My role is to identify potential entrepreneurs and partners that match the skills that the students can bring to make it a positive experience for everyone involved.

How do you choose a community to work with?

Gabriela: Sure. ThinkImpact is centered more around social innovation, while Global Brigades is development. ThinkImpact focuses on shorter skill-building projects while Global Brigades focuses on more long-term goals.

ThinkImpact connects students with communities to develop solutions to local issues and improve the quality of life within the community. At the same time, ThinkImpact teaches students how to work with local entrepreneurs and utilize their assets to create lasting change. ThinkImpact provides an environment for students to learn outside of the classroom and apply their knowledge through tangible social interactions and hands-on projects.”

How was Piedras Gordas chosen?

Gabriela: Piedras Gordas was a community that was recommended to us by organizations that had worked there previously. We chose it because it met all of our criteria regarding the needs of the community and learning opportunities for students. Personally, I have experience working in Piedras Gordas with Global Brigades, so I knew the community quite well. I knew a lot of the overall needs of the community and could match them to learning opportunities for students. Piedras Gordas has a lot of experience from various partnerships in the past years and that knowledge is one of their greatest assets.”

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What do you hope we take away from our homestay experience in Piedras Gordas, Panama?

Gabriela: To me, human interaction is the most important aspect of the program. By coming to a place like Piedras Gordas, students move out of their comfort zone in a lot of ways. Students leave home and come to a place where they don’t speak the language; where they have to get used to new environment and a different culture. One of the most valuable take-aways is to always maintain an open mind to human interactions. Approaching homestays knowing that you’re going to be uncomfortable, but that taking chances while trying to communicate with people is a valuable learning experience. This openness is an important skill and mindset not only for homestays, but for life in general.

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Renovation in Piedras Gordas | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

Something that I explain to students is that when you’re here for a short amount of time, it can be hard to realize the specific impact you’ve made. However, – even if you didn’t create something tangible – by interacting and communicating with your hosts, you have built trust and intercultural empathy. When you consider a longer timespan like I’ve been able to, you realize how valuable these interactions are for everyone involved. The skills of open-mindedness and empathy you learn here are things you can take with you wherever you go.

What do you find most rewarding about your job at ThinkImpact?

Gabriela: My role is all about connecting students with members of the community. I try to make sure that the community’s needs are met while providing opportunities for students to expand their worldview. For me there’s nothing more satisfying than when an experience is meaningful and enjoyable for both the student and a community member. Moments like that are by far the best thing about my job.

Kids Who Travel More Perform Better in School

Can traveling more actually lead to better grades? A survey conducted by the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) suggests that this is true. So if you’re trying to convince your parents to take you on vacation, or better yet, are searching to validate your dream of a gap year, look no further.

The SYTA surveyed approximately 1,500 U.S.-based teachers to examine the social impact that international travel has on students. The survey found that 74% of teachers believe travel has a very positive impact on students’ personal development. 56% believe it has a very positive impact on students’ education and career as well.

In fact, teachers believe that travel has an educational benefit in the same way that Winterline does. We like to focus on learning skills hands-on, outside the classroom. Almost 80% of teachers agreed that travel is extremely effective as a teaching resource compared to computer-based learning. 45% of teachers also agree that travel is extremely effective compared to classroom instruction alone. There truly is no better way for students to learn something than by trying it themselves! 

The positive impact on students themselves is noteworthy, too: the effects of travel include an increased willingness to know, learn and explore; better adaptability and sensitivity; increased tolerance and respectfulness across culture and ethnicity; increased independence and confidence; better self-expression; and more. You can find the entire list of results on the SYTA website.

And finally, 76% of teachers said that they observed students wanting to travel even more after participating in international travel. So why not apply for a program that brings you on not just one, or two, or three destinations, but ten? Check out a Winterline gap year for all of these benefits and more! However, if you or your parents worry that all this travel will make you want to forfeit higher education and career entirely, don’t fret. The survey also found that students who travel have an increased desire to attend college. So what are you waiting for?

 

Photos of the Week 3/15

Throughout their time in India, Winterline students have worked with a variety of partners such as UWC Mahindra College and Aerie Medicine to practice skills like hiking, self-care, and cooking. This is our last batch of India photos to highlight, so be sure to take a good look and get an idea of what time abroad in this incredible country is like. And, of course, stay tuned for the upcoming photos from Europe!

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Taking in the view | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Playful pups | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Meal prep with Lydia and Alex | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Making friends in the hills | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Pretty kitty | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Brittany enjoying life by the water | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Brittany and Noah soaking up India | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Abby exploring the beach | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Nora getting her dose of puppy time | Photo By: Nora Turner
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City views are great in any weather | Photo By: Stella Johnson
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Stella and Christian make the view even more beautiful | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Christian and Paris spreading love in India | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Ivan preparing to battle Thanos | Photo By: Ivan Kahn
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Ivan taking Thanos down | Photo By: Ivan Kahn
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Between the houses | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Getting to know the culture through the food | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Checking out some homes | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Admiring the graffiti | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Ivan looking out at the landscape | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Micah and Paris: flower children | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Micah and Linnea make messy eating look fun | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Squad love | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Power posing | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Paris and Christian basking in the sunset | Photo By: Paris Geolas

Interested in visiting India for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Jacob Rona

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


 

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I was first introduced to the idea of a gap year during my sophomore year of high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

Something that was very important to me after high school was to take a break and not go directly to college.  I needed a gap year whether it was working in sports, law, or traveling.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m really excited to learn defensive driving in Germany.  German cars are some of the best out there so to be at BMW and do something like that is really a special experience.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

In the future, I really want to go into politics or some sort of sports management.  Whether it be representing players or teams, that is something I have a lot of passion towards.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have done a bunch of traveling domestically (US), and a little bit internationally.  Last summer I did a French language immersion trip in Paris where I met tons of new people and had more fun then I could’ve asked for.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I expect to gain a better sense of myself and the world around me.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I’m very outgoing.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline is the best program for me.  The mix of traveling and practical skills is something that I was looking for in a gap year program.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I have played guitar and bass since I was in second grade.

8 Ways to Have the Best Gap Year: Part II

Last week we posted part I of our tips for having a great gap year. Here’s the rest of our advice!

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5. Pursue one (or more than one) potential career.

One reason many people take gap years is because they don’t know exactly what they want to study. This doesn’t mean they don’t have interests, but they may not be able to decide on just one major.

If you are considering a few different areas of study, try them all during your gap year. You may find you hate engineering, are bad at coding, but really enjoy marine biology.

Pursuing your fields of interest may help focus you for college, so be sure to structure your gap year in a way that you can try multiple things, check some off your list, and enter college with a good idea of what you want to study.

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6. At least plan the first few months.

Starting a gap year is a stressful process. You are leaving your friends and family to do something that is not normal. This will be a lot less stressful if you at least know what you’re about to go do. After all, you have a limited time with just one year. You want to make it count. Still, you don’t want to over-plan your gap year to the point that you have no room for flexibility. Plan at least the first three months so that you have a reason to walk out the door and start your adventure.

Within the first month, you will get into a rhythm and have confidence in what you’re doing. Once you’re well into your gap year, you may be confronted with other exciting opportunities. You might meet someone who owns a ranch, and has invited you to come work with them. You might make some friends who want you to join them on their trek along the Inca Trail.

If you have committed to one twelve-month project, you have removed your ability to be flexible and say, “yes” to serendipity. A good way to solve this problem is to either commit yourself to a few months in the beginning, or to find a program that offers a full range of experiences.

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7. Stop worrying about your peers.

You are about to accomplish more than they will in their freshman year. If you think about them while on your gap year, you will slow yourself down.

You are taking a gap year because you want to take a leap and do something big. Do NOT spend this time looking to what everyone else is doing.

If you are looking for guidance before embarking on your gap year, talk to someone who has taken a gap year – not someone who has had the same experiences as you, and who is choosing to go straight to college. If it helps, please feel free to get in touch with me at ben@winterline.com. I love talking about this stuff.

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8. Be prepared to learn (don’t be prepared to teach).

Many people spend their gap years teaching at a school in another country (myself included), which is awesome, but you’ll likely learn at least as much from the experience as your students do.

Your students will teach you about life in their hometown and in their country. Be a sponge. This is your year to soak everything up that you can. You are not yet halfway to the average human life expectancy, which means the average person you’ll encounter on your gap year is older than you, and has more life experience than you.

You have more to absorb than you do to share. This is not meant as an insult, but as a motivator. This is exciting! You have so much unfinished business. So defer for a year, and go do it all.

Photos of the Week 3/8

India: full of sunrises and sunsets, self-care and self-expression, new skills and new photos! Next week, our students will be leaving for Europe, so be sure to soak in the glory of India through their eyes while you can. This week, Winterliners visited Red Stone Organic Farm, celebrated an early Holi, and practiced playing the berimbau, among other adventures!

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Busy in the streets | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Taking it all in | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Another Indian sunset | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Tree hugger | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Spices galore | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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At the farm | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Learning the berimbau | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Early Holi celebration with Brittany and Jason | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Jason and Brittany celebrating Holi | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Artwork with our partner organization | Photo By: Soulsphere Pune
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More art | Photo By: Soulsphere Pune
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Daily life in India | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Incredible views | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Lunch never looked so good | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Posing in front of the backdrop | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Puppy love | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Traffic patterns | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Not a bad view | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Up close and personal with Jason | Photo By: Will Vesey

 

Interested in visiting India for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Tuktuks and Tourists

A roundtrip tuk tuk ride to the Cambodian Landmine Museum for the seven of us, which will need to include two carts and takes about an hour each way, costs eighteen dollars total. The leather on the seat is cracking and worn, but comfortable. Our tuk tuk drivers speak enough English to negotiate prices, but not to answer any questions that we have about the ride there. We don’t even know enough Khmer to say “thank you” yet, so we resort to smiles and grip the hanging handrails as we begin the journey. My tuk tuk pulls ahead slightly when the second has to pull over to get gas, a process which involves pouring something close to gasoline out of an old Fanta litre bottle into the fuel tank. Gas pumps are few and far between outside the city.

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View of the road outside the Landmine Museum | Photo By: Paris Geolas

We weave through the streets of Siem Reap, and I can’t keep my eyes in one place. Half the drivers are on motorbikes, some with up to two other passengers casually perched on the back. Most of the motorbike drivers are Cambodian, ranging from kids on their way back from school in their white and navy uniform, to people in street clothes, which consists of solid colored pants and shirts. The only people in tank tops and shorts are tourists. They, like us, are lounging in the backs of tuk tuks, hiding behind pairs of Ray-Bans and shielded from the heat. Tuk tuks and motorbikes make up most of the vehicles on the road, but there are a few cars and buses in between.

The traffic patterns remind me of being a kid and dropping a chip on the ground and slowly watching ants engulf and extirpate it. It’s a system, but impossible to understand as an outsider. To my ignorant eyes, it seems like utter chaos. Lanes are nonexistent, everyone drives like they own the road. Even at a standstill, motorbikes swerve in between cars and tuk tuks to be the first to turn. I have yet to see a single traffic light. Yet there is a method, and they do own the road. The drivers look disinterested in what is just their daily commute, as I am completely engrossed.

As we head out of the center of Siem Reap the shops and buildings begin to thin out, and road stands take their place. They boast of discounted brand apparel, mostly knockoff Supreme and Adidas. Huge Chinese lantern stands gleam red and gold, almost spilling into the street. The dirt from the road turns from a gray brown to orange the further out we get. I initially try to move my hair out of my face, but eventually give up completely. The strands of dirty blonde flying in front of my eyes add to the experience. Nicole sits in front of me, her red backpack strap wrapped around her ankle. Motorbikes have been known to fly by tuk tuks and snatch bags. We yell to each other to be heard over the motor, but I don’t have much to say.

Now twenty minutes outside the city, road stands have snacks and piles of simple button down shirts and the infamous “elephant pants”, loose enough to fend off sweat stains, respectful enough to wear to temples, and trendy enough to pull off, all for only a couple dollars. These stands are made for tourists. There are also huge pots sitting low to the ground with billowing smoke. When we ask what they are, James buys us a sample of the contents, palm sugar drops. He tells us they also make palm wine, something that we shouldn’t try in our time here because there’s no way we have the alcohol tolerance. The palm sugar drops are smokey sweet with a grainy texture. I don’t want to eat any more but I can imagine that it would taste great wedged between the back of my cheek and my molars, laying underneath the sun in a hammock staring up at the leaves, as I see a lot of the people we pass are doing. We pass rice fields being burned to bring back the nutrients, one of the reasons that the sky is perpetually gray. It makes the palm trees look even more green. A shirtless teenage boy stands in a puddle a few feet deep with a fishing net. The kids on the side of the road smile and wave to us. We wave back.

When we reach the Landmine Museum, it’s tough to walk around. Founded by Aki Ra, a former child soldier during the Khmer Rouge, the museum doubles as a safehouse for children seeking an education. There are rooms full of the children’s paintings right next to the rooms full of thousands of disabled landmines. It makes you feel something you can’t quite describe, but it’s nothing different from what you felt on the tuk tuk drive over. After spending a few hours at the museum, we walk to the shake stand next door and drink out of coconuts. You can even get an Angkor (the local beer) if you want. I sit there watching, and something in the road catches my attention.

A motorbike rushing by hits one of the street dogs crossing the road. The dog starts howling and the bystanders stand up, some of them rushing to the side of the street. The driver falls, screaming, and the bike skids across the road. The woman who gave us our tickets rushes away from the scene with her now crying child. A couple people rush to help the man up, and he pushes them off and grabs his bike. The dog is nowhere to be seen. He wheels the bike over to the side of the road, dusts himself off, and doesn’t respond to the people shouting at him in Khmer. A couple minutes later, he gets on the bike and drives away. 

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View of truck on the drive | Photo By: Paris Geolas

I used to call myself a driver but now I no longer feel entitled to that name. The tuktuk drive to the Landmine Museum is beautiful, I never for a second wanted to close my eyes. But there is something else that eats away at you, something you do want to close off. It’s the feeling you don’t have a name for, not guilt, not empathy. It hollows you. It would be impossible to travel to a place like Cambodia and not check your privilege. You see it in your hotel mirror, in the thread count of your jeans, in the plastic cards filling up your wallet. The tuktuk drive has left me with orange dirt on my T shirt, a shirt which cost more than the entire drive. I am more thankful for the clothes I wear. I am thankful for the knots in my hair from the wind on the drive.

8 Ways to Have the Best Gap Year: Part I

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1. Defer for a year.

Before you graduate from high school, apply to college along with everyone else. You may be anxious about college, which is why you want to take a gap year. But if you don’t apply to college while you’re in high school, you will spend your entire gap year stressing out about what comes next. Even if you defer for a year, you can always change your mind and go somewhere else. But you will at least be set up to start your education.

From the college’s perspective: While colleges do encourage gap years, they want to see that you have a plan. Getting started early (or on time) shows that you are serious, and intend on having a constructive, productive gap year. This tip is huge. Nobody wants you to spend your gap year sitting at your parents’ kitchen table, stressing out about college applications.

Before applying to colleges, check in with each school’s admissions office to see how they treat deferrals. Asking will not hurt your chances of getting in, and it is crucial that you find schools that are encouraging of your decision to take a year, and will honor any scholarships you have been awarded. We live in a wonderful time, when most universities understand the value of a gap year, and will honor the scholarships you were offered during your time in high school.

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2. Confront your weaknesses.

This one’s exciting. This is a time in your life when you should acknowledge your weaknesses, and confront them head-on. Figure out what you are afraid of, and do specifically that.

Your gap year is a relatively risk-free time. You haven’t made a substantial multi-year investment; you likely don’t have a mortgage, kids, or accountability to other people. This is a rare chance to jump into the deep end and do what makes you nervous, without any serious repercussions or lost opportunities; college will still wait for you.

Are you bad at speaking French? Go to France. Have you always wanted to get SCUBA certified, but are nervous about deep water? Go to Cambodia and jump in the water with a dive instructor. Are you interested in business management, but are nervous about public speaking? Join a business program and enter a public speaking boot camp.

If there are real risks to any of your interests, just be sure to pursue them through a reputable program. Other than that, your gap year will be the perfect time to overcome any fears you have about pursuing your interests. You will become a stronger, more confident, more interesting person.

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3. Travel.

This may seem obvious, but there are countless benefits to traveling that go beyond seeing beautiful places and doing cool things. You are likely just graduating high school, and have spent your childhood at home with your family.

Families are more than a group of people with the same accent and nose. They are a group of people with similar values and experiences. When you travel, you meet countless people from different families – with different values, and different experiences. With this, come different opinions on politics, religion, the economy, and even on Justin Bieber (his “Purpose” album was actually pretty good).

Traveling will introduce you to totally different experiences and perspectives – some that you never thought of. You may try a food that is considered disgusting at home, but is actually pretty good. You may hear an opinion about your home country’s political leader, and you might find out how your government interacts with the rest of the world. In some cases, traveling may help you appreciate the way things are at home. Either way, it will give your thoughts more perspective, and your opinions more bases for legitimacy. Traveling creates well-rounded global citizens, and fosters empathy. Everyone should try it.

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4. Work.

You have a high school degree. Congratulations! You’ve worked and studied for most of your life, so your degree really is a huge accomplishment. A college degree may be your next goal, but do you know what that degree is worth? I don’t mean how much it costs, but rather what its value is.

Spend part of your gap year working at a job, and you will quickly discover the value of your high school degree. Most likely, you will be able to get entry-level jobs that require little skill. You may get a job in customer service, data entry, or manual labor, but it is extremely difficult to get a job in your field of interest right out of high school.

I myself spent part of my gap year doing data entry in a factory that makes fluorescent light fixtures, I worked as a telemarketer, and I worked in customer service. Working during your gap year will quickly show you the kinds of jobs you can get with your new high school diploma, and will be a huge motivator to go to college and get a higher level degree.

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Photos of the Week 3/1

Welcome to India! Last week, our students arrived in the city of Pune. So far, they’ve had some time to explore the city, visit the Mahindra United World College of India, and practice self-care at an ashram. They even found time to cuddle up with some puppies! This is just the beginning of Winterline’s adventure in India, so stay tuned to see more skills and more exciting photo ops.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


gap year, winterline, india
Welcome to India! | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Snuggly pups | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Days in the sun | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Taking in the views | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Puppy love | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Spices galore | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Sunsets with friends | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views from UWC Mahindra College | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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A visit to the ashram | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Making four-legged friends | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Enjoying India | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Unbeatable views | Photo By: Tyler Trout

Interested in visiting India for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Using Technology while Traveling

It can be hard to find the perfect balance of using technology and living unplugged while you’re traveling. All of these amazing gadgets exist that give you the power to capture every moment of your adventures, and you can find WiFi in almost any corner of the globe. However, do you know when to put the phone away and just live in the moment?

Winterline Blog Safely during gap year

Technology is great…

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for technology. It’s revolutionized the way that we travel. With a phone, camera, or other device of your choosing, you have endless abilities. You can take photos and videos that are so high-quality and immersive any viewer feels like they’re seeing the sights with you. You can maintain contact with anyone around the world, whether that be friends from home or others you’ve met on your journey. You can get directions and recommendations for what to see, what to do, where to go, at any time.

Even more so, technology allows us to be safe and responsible travelers even on our own. For those who travel solo, having a phone means you can contact people when in need, figure out what areas to avoid, or find your path if you’re lost. Along with all of this, technology allows you to cross a language barrier. Whether you need help contacting emergency services or reading a map or sign, translation is available at our fingertips.

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And of course, this feature doesn’t only help us in worrying or dangerous times. This ability to transcend language differences means that we can connect with any and everyone we meet along our journeys. You can have conversations, written or verbal, with someone of any tongue using apps even as basic as Google Translate. This is incredible progress and can truly help bring together different people, people who you may not have ever had the ability to understand before.

…But we don’t need it 24/7

All of that said, it’s good to take a break from your phone. Take out your headphones and listen to the local sounds of chit-chatter. Close the Yelp app and follow your nose to whatever restaurant smells the best. If it’s safe to do so, turn your GPS off and let yourself get lost. You might discover something unique that you would have overlooked otherwise. Don’t just focus on getting to your destination; make sure to take a look at everything you pass along the way.

And of course, the camera. I love to take pictures and videos of everything I do, because I always worry that one day I won’t remember it. It’s a valid fear, but I realize that it takes away from my experience at times. The way that I’m trying to remedy this is only allowing one picture at each experience. Sometimes I follow this rule and sometimes I can’t stop myself, but at the end of the day, I don’t need 80 pictures of every beach I go to. I’d rather take one, if any, and really use my other senses: smell the ocean air, feel the wind on my face, dig my toes in the sand.

Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach
Spencer enjoying the sunset at a local beach

Technology isn’t bad, and it’s ok to use it. Just make sure that looking through the camera doesn’t keep you from seeing the world head on.

 

Photos of the Week 2/22

Our students had a wonderful time exploring Thailand and Cambodia: seeing the attractions, tasting the food, immersing in the culture, and meeting the people. From circus school, to cooking classes, to hiking, biking, and seeing temples, Winterline offers a comprehensive journey through Southeast Asia. We’re so excited that our students can share their experiences with you through their compelling photos! Be sure to tune back in next week to get the first look into the new adventures that India brings.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


 

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Squad 1 at Phare Circus School in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Squad 1 at Phare Circus School in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Squad 1 at Phare Circus School in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Squad 1 at Phare Circus School in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Exploring the temples of Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Cooking in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Cooking in Cambodia | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Hanging out at the temples | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Jumping for joy in Thailand | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Soaking in Thailand | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Looking out over Thailand one last time | Photo By: Nora Turner

Interested in visiting Thailand and Cambodia for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Panama: The Bridge Between Two Continents (mostly) and the Connector of Oceans

It’s an extremely humbling thing to take control of your life by completely letting go of the details. We didn’t know each other three months ago. We didn’t have any idea how we would get from place to place. We didn’t know the foods we would put in our bodies or the people we would meet, but everyone in the Winterline program had at least one thing in common.

We want adventure. Actually, let’s rephrase that… we crave adventure. We need something in our lives that can completely change the direction of the paths we will take in our futures. Whether it was climbing a mountain in the tiniest community with no air conditioning, partying in Panama City for days on end, or just relaxing at the beach with a couple (but just a couple) margaritas on a rest day, we kept chasing after each day for new experiences. We valued our nights just as much as the days, either too excited for the next day to fall asleep or passing out, exhausted, in one of our many different beds. Sometimes it felt like we haven’t slept in years because of how hard we tried to learn about the new communities and cultures. After living in Panama for about a month with my best friends, I can confidently say that we found a consuming adventure, which marks the beginning of our expedition traveling the world with one another, through Winterline.  

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First, we traveled to the Panama Canal to learn the history of the beautiful country we were living in. We went through a museum of the canal’s building process and watched a documentary on its purpose.. After exploring the area for a bit, we were informed there was a ship passing through and had the opportunity to watch the locks in action as we enjoyed the wonderful weather and sipped on iced coffee. Pictured above is our field advisor, Jeff, watching how the water levels rose and fell while delivering the cargo ship on its way into the Pacific.

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El Cocal marks our first home. We were briefed shortly on the special drinking water and lack of service and air conditioning. After embarking on what felt like a lifetime of driving, we found our homes in this tiny, relatively unknown community. In pairs, we were welcomed into homes of community members for our home-stays and given a quick tour of the area. I walked 15 minutes every day to get to the meeting area for work and food. We interviewed locals, played futbol with the teenagers, and we even climbed a mountain. We spent nine days here and it was the best way to commence our travels of Panama. Pictured above are the children of El Cocal, who welcomed us into their homes with a traditional dance ceremony.

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At the end of our stay in El Cocal, we were reunited with Squad 2 for an educational experience at the farms outside the town. Here, we took a tour around the sugar cane farms, learned to squeeze juices with old fashioned machinery, and learned about natural building. The picture above shows us preparing the mud to build up the walls. To do so, we jumped around in the mud and slowly added straw to help strengthen the house. Everyone working with us was extremely excited to teach us very knowledgeable about their town’s history.

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Taking to the water, we jumped in some kayaks to paddle our way out to the Caribbean Sea. After a brief instruction, we made our way to the historic area of Portablo, Colon and learned about how pirates attacked the port during the Spanish Empire. When we were still, we could hear howling monkeys throughout the jungle and feel the sun shining down on us on from the clearest blue sky. We finished our journey on foot through the trees to the battle ground,where we could see the ocean go on forever into the horizon. Pictured above are Josie and Becky taking a little break on our very physically demanding, but rewarding, trip.

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Next, we headed inside to learn about creation with our hands and were introduced to the educational work of the FABLABS. They showed us how 3D printers worked, how to use heavy machinery, and told us to use our imaginations to build anything we could think of. Pictured above is our friend, Katie, learning how difficult it is to cut a straight line with a hand tool. This was a great way of being introduced to wood work and getting a taste of how hands-on we can be, whether we want to make a simple keychain or build furniture for our home.

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After our day in the FABLAB, we put our skills to the test as we built house 2.0 which is the idea of building houses with reused materials for a very low price. This project started in efforts to end homelessness around the world. We bolted together large pieces of wood that we had cut out in the labs and spend hours in the heat working on. Becky and Josie were nothing but smiles as they held up the large beams while others inserted g the foundation pieces to keep our house up! We learned so much about teamwork and communication as we put up this house.

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In the streets of Panama City (literally), we teamed up with an urban innovation team to try out an idea we had. After noticing how busy the streets were around a preschool, we realized there were no crosswalks, no signs, and no speed bumps. We wanted to improve the safety for children seeking an education, so we grabbed some paint brushes and tape to create a combination of the three missing features.. We themed four streets of the sea to remind drivers of the school across the street and to keep kids from wandering too far from the sidewalks. Above are the whales we designed being painted by our friends of Squad 2, while others worked on bubbles, starfish, and sharks. We wanted to bring attention and awareness to the fact that this was an area where young kids were learning and we did just that with the bright colored paints and designs of the cities newest crosswalks!

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Across the street from our crosswalks, we found ourselves in a small bakery known for their Venezuelan empanadas. We were taught how they were originally made, how they are made now, and how they are different from traditional Panamanian empanadas. We took turns making our own personal empanadas filled with our choice of beef, chicken, fish, and, in my case, cheese and beans (plenty of great vegetarian options in Central America). Pictured above is Jason demonstrating his new skill of shaping dough before it’s filled and fried to perfection. After trying all of their specialty condiments and eating way too many empanadas, we left the bakery feeling even more connected to the community of Panama City through food.

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After a long days work, we did one of our favorite things: pile into one of our tiny rooms and listen to the stories we all had to share. Coming from all different places, New York City to Colombia, California to Kansas, we loved hearing about where each other came from. After spending every day and night together for weeks, it truly felt like I had known my squad for years, yet I still am learning new things about everyone every day. Fitting so many people into our small but comfortable living spaces sometimes lead to us being way too loud for the hostel and having to hang out outside, but we all loved staying up all night just talking to each other. Hostel Amador was the perfect place for getting to know each other while watching movies, playing ping pong and playing with our pet goat, Luna. (Our friend, Brogan, really loved that goat).

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Another interesting workshop we did was stopping by a famous Panamanian rum distillery. Here, we sampled the beer and rum they made and walked through the ways different drinks were created. We toured the machinery, which had many different processes of creating various alcohol flavors. Pictured above is our field advisor, Jeff, explaining to Tyler how the rum is transported through pipes from machine to machine.

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Sneaking away to Casco Viejo, Lydia and I enjoyed one of the most amazing helpings of Carbonara we had ever had. The food culture of Panama was something we all enjoyed and deepened our appreciation for the new and inviting places we traveled to. Some of our favorites (besides the endless supply of carbonara) were rice and beans (of course), empanadas, the pizzas and (veggie) burgers delivered by Uber drivers at all hours of the night, the Colombian crepes, delicious coffee, gyros, and anything from Cafe Niko’s.

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We stayed in many places in our travels around Panama, from hotels and hostels, to home-stays, and even our transport bus with Eduardo, driving from city to city on the scariest roads with the most intense drivers I have ever experienced. We never stayed in the same place for more than two weeks but somehow we were accepted in every community with open arms. Everyone showed patience with our horrible (but improving) Spanish and our loud nights that kept everyone awake. We enjoyed time with the locals who made us way more food than we could eat and taught us about the most important values of their culture – family. That’s how Panama impacted me in ways I will never forget. My family. I started this 9-month long adventure as an individual with thirty-one other young travelers and five loving field advisors and somewhere along the way we went from strangers to family. We take care of each other, we have fun together, we sometimes cry and get upset but I know they always have my back. The fifteen amazing people in my squad showed me the importance of living fully and completely but will never let me forget where we all began.


Somewhere in Panama, we found a home. This home wasn’t just in the city or in El Cocal or any one specific place. It was carrying all of our stuff on our backs, in the rain and scorching heat, together, as a group. My family is my home and that is how Panama is still with us, forever.

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Halfway There: An Interview with Ivan Kuhn

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Wilderness rockstar Ivan hiking through the Gila National Forest, New Mexico | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

In a little under 2 months, we have trudged through the desert on a wilderness hiking expedition, lived with host families in the mountains of Panama, toured an MIT Fabrication Lab in Panama city, learned about permaculture in the jungles of Costa Rica, and became certified PADI divers off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica – just to name a few things. We have experienced so much in so little time, that it’s refreshing to take a step back and reflect on our experiences. As the first trimester drew to a close, I asked fellow squad member Ivan Kuhn to reflect on his experiences and to recall why he embarked on this journey in the first place.

Where are you from? Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Ivan: I’m from Petoskey, Michigan. It’s a small town in northern Michigan about an hour south of the Mackinac bridge. It’s very cold there – almost always. We have very mild summers; the high this year was eighty nine degrees. I like it there.

Why Winterline? Why get out of your cozy town?

Ivan: I am not what you would call ‘good at school’. I’m not stupid, I just don’t enjoy learning things that I don’t like. Math classes especially are really hard for me. I would just keep thinking: why am I doing this homework for 10 points when I really don’t see the point of what I’m learning. Soon enough I stopped acing tests and my grades started slipping… Eventually, my family got concerned about it and questioned whether I would do well in college.

My grandma was actually the one who suggested a gap year. In her own words: “yeah, you’re not going to do well in college next year with the grades you’re getting. You need to find something to do; maybe a gap year.” I do want to go to college eventually, but I figured taking time to explore and figure out what I want to do in life would be a better opportunity.

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Ivan diving off the coast of Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn

I am a total nerd when it comes to media. I’ve watched Lord Of The Rings, I’ve read the books, I’ve played the games – you name it and I’ve probably seen, played or read it…. Basically, I’ve been watching movies and thinking, “Wow, I wish I could do that. I wish I could go out and have my own adventure and make my own story.” When I got accepted to Winterline, it seemed like something out of fantasy. Honestly, I was kind of terrified at first. I have been playing all these games and pretending to be this character that goes on crazy adventures and now I’m actually doing it. This is my adventure. This is my chance to get out there and destroy my one ring.

What is your favorite skill so far?

Ivan: I really liked working in the Fab Lab (MIT Fabrication Laboratory) in the City of Knowledge, Panama. Getting to take a tour of the place was super cool, but going back in my own time to build something useful with the equipment there was even better. Especially because that is the kind of stuff that I have enjoyed doing back home – I mean, building things using 3D printers and all that jazz. Having access to great equipment and the unaided creative freedom to make whatever I wanted was really fun.

What is your takeaway from the past 2 months of traveling? Has it changed your perspective of yourself and others?

Ivan: At lunch the other day, we were looking at pictures from day one and it was hilarious. We look so freakin’ young. We look like children. We’ve just grown so much since then. As far as differences go, I feel way more independent, and more grown-up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a kid on the inside; I’ll still fight you for a bag of Goldfish crackers, but I also feel like I’m out exploring the world and living my own life. It feels foreign and a little bit lonely, but mostly it’s awesome.

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Ivan contemplating the big blue pond (of life) | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

Photos of the Week 2/15

From waterfalls to skywalks, our students are getting to see all that Cambodia and Thailand have to offer! This week brought a lot of exploring and sightseeing, with partners Bangkok Vanguards and BaiPai Thai Cooking School, to name a few. Soon, students will be heading to India, so prepare with them to say goodbye to Cambodia and Thailand and hello to another new country.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


 

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Yeukai and Linnea in Thailand | Photo By Emma Mays
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Caedon taking in the view | Photo By Emma Mays
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Checking out a Cambodian waterfall | Photo By Abby Dulin
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A delicious meal cooked at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By Ivan Kuhn
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Squad 2 hanging out in Cambodia | Photo By Maria O’Neal
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Monkeying around | Photo By Maria O’Neal
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Waterfall fun | Photo By Spencer Holtschult
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Taking in the views from Mahanakhon SkyWalk | Photo By Nora Turner
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Learning to read a Thai map | Photo By Michael Biedassek, tour guide for the Bangkok Vanguards
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Exploring Thailand | Photo By Bangkok Vanguards

Interested in visiting Thailand and Cambodia for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Señor Ernesto’s Farm

 

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The Gate which sits just outside the entrance to Señor Ernesto’s Farm | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Señor Ernesto’s farm sits at the top of a steep gravel road just outside of Piedras Gordas in rural Cocle. The walk up is nothing different from what we have seen so far, flanked by thick tropical forest, a few stout and brightly colored houses appearing every now and then. Most houses are one story, made of cement and plaster, and have a few hammocks and community members always decorating their porch.

Señor Ernesto is waiting for us at the end of a dirt path at the crest of the hill. He sits at just above five foot three but is undoubtedly stronger than all of us put together. Winterline has partnered with an organization called ThinkImpact to cultivate social innovation in the Piedras Gordas community. As we’re all unskilled workers with very limited Spanish, labor is our best method of communication. The farmer my group will be working with is Señor Ernesto. He leads us up without words, and he’s trailed by around twelve dogs all ranging in color and size, as well as a few kittens. He invites us to sit on his porch, and starts speaking. He’s quiet but holds a heavy wisdom is his words. Through our translator Felix, begins to explain the history of his farm.

It’s been a work in progress for the past five years, starting with a few plants and expanding into one of the largest and most impressive natural farms in this part of Panama. It serves three main purposes, one unspoken. It is most obviously a source of much community food production, and is one of the main sources of tourism for the rural and very out-of-the-way town. What became more clear to us in the week to follow was that the farm serves as a huge inspiration to other community members to work with permaculture and natural farming. Another farmer we spoke to, Señor Ornecimo, has worked on his own farm for seven years, and says that Ernesto’s farm still far surpasses him in size, production, and creativity.

After the introduction, Señor Ernesto takes us into the center of the lower half of his farm. It’s split into two main sectors, with his home and animals sitting in the center. In addition to the array of dogs and cats we saw, Señor Ernesto has chickens, pigs, and ducks. They are mostly free range, and occasionally pecked at our shoes as we headed down the hill into the farm. It’s about a ten minute walk along a windy and muddy path.

We finally reach a gated area which separates into two paths, one leading to a natural gazebo made of canopy and several handcrafted wooden benches, and another which snakes deeper into tropical forest. It’s clear immediately to my group that this is not like any farm we have seen before. The land is not flat, clear, or organized. It’s impossible to separate natural growth from crops except for what’s been designated with signs, clearly put in for tourists like us.

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Señor Ernesto showing us how to measure an appropriate distance between coffee plants | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Señor Ernesto takes us further into the dark while we take in as much as we can. Along the way he shouts out the names of plants as they appear. Banana trees, orange trees, coffee plants, cacao trees, and this is only a small section of his farm. As we walk, we begin to see how it works. New trees and plants have been integrated nearly seamlessly into existing forest, with a few sectors popping up here and there. Some open chicken coops, toolshed, and a fertilizer shack. After a brief tour of the farm, we’re instructed to come back the next day with questions and ideas.

We return the next day armed with curiosity. We’ve been sent to provide physical labor, but what we’ve truly come for is to learn. The farm is already incredibly impressive, but Señor Ernesto explains that he has far greater plans for it. We’ll be working on repairing trails and planting coffee sprouts, but he hopes that soon he’ll be building bunkhouses and bathrooms along the trails of the farm. When asked why, he describes his desire to make this a huge tourism hub in Piedras Gordas.

The farm will one day be able to house up to twenty people in the bunkhouses, enough for school and other groups to come stay for up to two weeks at a time. In addition to being able to explore and potentially work on the farm, Señor Ernesto wants to install a zipline on another sector of his land, and has a large boulder that he thinks tourists could use for climbing.

With so many things to do, Señor Ernesto will undoubtedly be bringing people into Piedras Gordas, but the dreams he has for the future of his farm all come back to one thing. Education. We ask why he wants so badly to bring new people in, and Señor Ernesto looks at us. He tells us that everything has has comes from the land, and because of that, everything he receives, he gives back. When he was first growing up in Piedras Gordas, he told us that all farmers cleared their land in order to farm. He felt the air become different from the lack of trees, and vowed never to cut down trees when he began to farm his own land. Now, he doesn’t cut down trees other than trimming branches, and he doesn’t import fertilizer. All fertilizer he makes himself using a composting toilet that a peace corps volunteer helped him install a few years back. In there, solid and liquid waste are separated, he mixes the solid waste with banana leaves and sawdust to make something better for the soil, and the urine becomes a natural pesticide.

He also shows us to his other source of fertilizer, his large compost bins. He recycles all of his food waste, paper, cardboard, and cartons back into the soil. While recycling is very difficult in this community, he fights back by reusing all plastic and glass containers. In a place where people have no choice but to burn their trash, these steps are monumental in building a more sustainable life. Señor Ernesto tells us that since he has made these practices public, community members are making their own composting bins, reusing their plastics, and clearing less land.

By bringing in tourists, Señor Ernesto believes that he will be able to not only show them the importance of natural building, permaculture, and sustainability, but prove that it is something anyone can do. Contrary to current belief, living an environmentally conscientious lifestyle does not have to be modern or expensive. Groups like us who come through his farm can see that it is achievable, and it is important.

Over the next two days, we will help build trails and plant crops, but we’ll take away new perspectives. It doesn’t seem like a fair trade for what we’ve learned and the generosity we’ve been shown. ThinkImpact sent us here to cultivate social innovation, but it feels more like this has something which has been cultivated within us.

Why You Should Sign Up for a Home Visit

We hope that to you, a gap year with Winterline sounds appealing. 9 months of traveling to 10 countries, learning new skills, meeting new people, seeing the world, re-energizing yourself for whatever waits upon your return? To many of you, it sounds like a dream come true, and it can be! But sometimes the hard part is getting your parents to see why it’s right for you. Our alum and former intern Anna wrote about how she got her parents on board. Luckily, Anna’s parents understood her reasoning, but it’s not always so easy. Which is why we want to help by talking to your parents ourselves.

Our Director of Outreach and Recruitment wrote about how excited she is to travel to some of your homes for a family visit, but we wanted to emphasize how uniquely beneficial these visits can be for you and your parents or guardians. We don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or unanswered questions about the Winterline gap year. And what better way to clear these up than to sit face-to-face with one of the staff who knows and embodies what our program stands for?

Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo by Dini Vermaat

Students, the first step is on you. Have a serious conversation with your parents about what taking a gap year means to you. Explain to them why you think this is the next right step for you, instead of college or work. Once you open this door, we can help you with the rest. Parents have their concerns about sending their children off around the world for 9 months; we understand that. So we want them to know that we’ve curated this program to be as safe, eye-opening, and fun as possible.

We can respond to the questions that you might not know the answers to: how our risk management and safety protocols work, what your tuition money goes to, or how we find our partners. We can tell them about the benefits of a gap year, in the educational, professional, and personal realms. We can show them the passionate faces behind the program and remind them that we truly care about making sure students and guardians alike benefit from a gap year. We can show them what makes Winterline special.

I’m Erica. I was a Field Advisor during the 2017-18 gap year program. Just like students, Field Advisors endure the highs and lows of the program: the excitement of new skills and the onset of homesickness, the moments of alone time and the feelings of togetherness, the elated feeling of scuba diving and the unfortunate feeling of eating a food that you probably shouldn’t have bought from a street vendor. We experience it all while making sure that students get the most out of their program by supporting them, having fun with them, and ensuring their safety.
Erica in Belize while a Field Advisor for Winterline.

The staff at Winterline are real people, just like you and your parents. We have a real interest in making sure that every single student ends up on their right track. So if for you, that track is a gap year, let’s make it happen. You can schedule a home visit with Erica by emailing erica@winterline.com and we’ll be in touch to figure out a date that works for all involved. Or if it’s better for you to do a video “home visit” we can do that too! Just let Erica know that is what you prefer.

Photos of the Week 2/8

Trimester 2 kicked off at the end of January as our Squad 1 arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, and Squad 2 arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia. As they jump back into their travels after Winter Break, students were introduced to their new set field advisors: Patrick and Kimiko in Squad 1,  and James and Nicole in Squad 2, who all have experience traveling in Asia. Throughout this trimester, all of our students in both squads will travel throughout Thailand, Cambodia, and India.

In these countries they’ll get to participate in plenty of unique activities through our incredible partners: Phare Circus School in Cambodia, Grasshopper Adventures bike tours in Cambodia, Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study in India, and more. Keep reading to see the first of many envy-inspiring pictures to come!

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Ben learning bike maintenance in Cambodia | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Caedon learning to juggle at Phare Circus School | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Becky hitting a gong in Thailand | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Squad 2 group photo in Cambodia | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Squad 2 at Phare Circus School | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Linnea practicing balancing at Phare Circus School: Photo By: Emma Mays
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All thumbs up from Sam at Circus School | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Yeukai and Linnea soaking in the sun on a break from juggling | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Yeukai and Caedon in Cambodia | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Sam hanging out in a Cambodian temple | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Ivan working on his photography skills | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Hanging around in Cambodia | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Caedon flipping out at Circus School | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Smiles from Linnea | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Nora posing at Circus School | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Sam, Stella, and Christian prove that bike maintenance can be fun | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Shayan learning bike maintenance | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Cristina, Katie, and Abby show us their “hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil” | Photo By: Abby Dulin
winterline gap year
Monkeys everywhere in Thailand | Photo By: Abby Dulin
winterline gap year
Becky at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
winterline gap year
Squad 1 enjoying the meal they cooked at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
winterline gap year
Katie, Abby, and Cristina enjoying Thailand | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Interested in visiting Thailand and Cambodia for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

It’s Gap Year Exploration Month!

February is Gap Year Exploration Month! It sounds exciting, but you’re probably wondering what exactly that means. After all, 2019 is the first year the gap year community is celebrating this month.

Gap Year Exploration Month is a time meant to provide information to students, families, and educators about the benefits of taking a gap year. This includes both former, current, and prospective students; we’ll be celebrating both alumni students and parents as well as those considering a gap year in the future. We want to help you do just what the name suggests: explore your gap year options. While we believe wholeheartedly in our program, Winterline is just one of the many gap year opportunities available. We want to ensure that every student ends up in the program that’s right for them.new years resolution travel

So what can you do to celebrate Gap Year Exploration Month?

If you’re an alum or current student, start sharing your experiences! The Gap Year Association recommends using the following approach: post, boast, and host. Use #explorethegapyear to share your stories, pictures, and videos on social media. Talk to your friends, your family, your classmates about why you decided to take a gap year and how it’s changed your life. Talk to younger students at the high school you attended to get them thinking about the possibility of a gap year. Finally, offer to host an information session for the gap year program that you participated in. These methods will allow you to spread the word about the gap year that changed your life for the better, and will help other students benefit, as well. Check out the student and alumni toolkit for more specific ideas you can use to talk about your gap year.

If you’re a prospective gap year student, start exploring! Search the hashtag #explorethegapyear to hear from people who have been through the gap year experience and learn from what they have to say. Try reaching out to someone to ask them whatever questions are on your mind; Winterline alumni are happy to talk about their gap years, and so are their parents. There’s no better way to gauge a program than to hear from someone who’s been on it! You can also reach out to us: contact us online or via phone, or meet up with us face-to-face at a gap year fair or a home visit.

winterline, gap year
Some of our alumni!

Let’s make this Gap Year Exploration Month a successful one, and find the program that’s right for you!

Meet the Field Advisors: Kimiko Strayer

Where are you from originally?

I’m from a city in the Bay Area , California called Fremont.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I’ve been searching for a position like this for a very long time. After researching and a whole lot of dreaming, Winterline was the opportunity that presented itself to me loud and clear. Traveling, exploring, learning, and my favorite age group-yes please!

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

Traveling has always played a huge role in my life. I was still in diapers when I first left the country. It’s a part of me. Teaching and mentoring came a little later. I was doing some soul searching in college and decided to apply for the freshman orientation leader position at school. This solidified my love for the 18-25 year old age group and I never stopped working with various students in this age group in roles such as teaching, mentoring, advising, and counseling.

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

Meeting and getting to know the students! I’m excited to watch them grow throughout our time together.
What’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen while traveling? The people! Traveling is not about the pretty buildings or beautiful sites for me. Seeing the sites and exploring are so much fun– don’t get me wrong. But my most incredible experiences abroad have been in meeting the people and understanding the culture of the various places I go. Some of the most impactful moments I’ve experienced were in visiting extremely impoverished communities and seeing how incredibly strong, humble and grateful they were for what they had. Specifically, there was a squatter town in Dominican Republic where the people had very few material things, but their love, gratitude, and generosity towards one another was the strongest I’ve ever witnessed.

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

That I’m a compassionate, fun-loving, and positive person. It’s important to me that my students know that they are cared for and that they can come to me about anything, without any hard-feelings. More than anything, I want us all to have a valuable (and fun!) experience. That’s my priority.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Despite my height, the only sport I’ve ever participated in (PE in school doesn’t count!) was Sports Aerobics. It incorporates strength elements and flexibility. At one point, I out pushup-ed the boys in my class. As for flexibility, I can still do the splits and put my feet behind my head 🙂

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.
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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?

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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.
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Start Planning

According to CheapAir.com, 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?

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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 Erica@winterline.com.

Meet the Field Advisors: Nicole Trecartin


Ready to start your adventure?

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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!

LEARN MORE


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!

Location Spotlight: Rancho Mastatal

Last year, we gave you a look into our Costa Rican partner Rancho Mastatal, but we thought it was time for an update! 

At Rancho Mastatal, our students learn about permaculture and immerse themselves in a community that cares deeply about environmental sustainability. By doing so, students learn how to live in balance with the environment, making the most of what nature provides us without causing harm to our ecosystem. This includes cultivating natural building and food production skills, as well as learning about soil ecology and fertility.

Rancho Mastatal takes pride in their focus on natural building, which emphasizes the use of local labor and resources. These materials include wood, sourced from the region and sometimes directly from their property, earth, straw and natural grasses, bamboo, stone and rock, and manure. All of these resources are found in abundance and are not just strong, but renewable and sustainable. Students also get to learn the proper techniques to use each of these materials, which they put to test by building on their own!

Working with wood | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
winterline, global skills, gap year
Working with wood | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
winterline, global skills, gap year
Building at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Another main focus at Rancho Mastatal is hand preparing meals from whole foods that are locally or regionally sourced. For many students, this is a far cry from the processed and prepackaged foods that are so prominent in America. At Rancho Mastatal, students develop an appreciation for every step of the food preparation process, from gathering ingredients all the way to eating the final product. For example, our students get to make and enjoy their very own chocolate!

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Yeukai showing off her handmade chocolate | Photo By: Emma Mays
winterline, global skills, gap year
Paris squeezing limes | Photo By: Emma Mays
winterline, global skills, gap year
Grinding beans | Photo By: Emma Mays
winterline, global skills, gap year
Starting the food prep | Photo By: Emma Mays
winterline, global skills, gap year
Chocolate time! | Photo By: Emma Mays

Finally, students get a lesson in permaculture, which is the practice of sustainable land use design. This involves planting in patterns that occur naturally to maximize efficiency and minimize labor and waste. Permaculture allows us to reach the desired level of harmony between man and nature, making it a win-win situation for all sides!

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Planting at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Emma Mays
Winterline, global skills, gap year
Planting at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
winterline, global skills, gap year
Planting at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Interested in learning more about Rancho Mastatal? Check out their website or join us when we head back next year for the 2019-2020 gap year!

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

The holidays season has fallen upon us once again, and that means finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones. To help you out, we’ve compiled 10 of the best gifts for travel fanatics – whether the person in your life with wanderlust is a friend, family member, or yourself!

Our recommendations from last year still stand, too, so be sure to check those out if you need even more inspiration!

    • Invest in a gift that keeps giving all year round by signing your recipient up for a travel-friendly subscription box. Travel + Leisure has a list of suggestions ranging in price from just $9 a month. Your giftee could receive new books every month to read on their flights or drives, a curated box of foods and drinks from a different country each month, a kit of useful outdoor tools and products, travel sized toiletries, and more. With so many options, you’re sure to find a subscription box that suits the individual needs of your on-the-go loved one.
    • Redefine the travel pillow by gifting a Trtl this holiday season. The Trtl pillow is lightweight and less bulky than the standard neck pillow, and offers plenty of support with its internal structure, despite its lackluster look. The Trtl pillow is scientifically proven to be better for your neck than a u-shaped pillow. Don’t believe us? Check out the rave reviews and try for yourself.
    • A Bluetooth-enabled speaker will let you personalize any space, from campground to beach to hotel room (just don’t rack up any noise complaints!) The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom weighs less than a pound, but delivers a big sound, whether you’re entertaining a crowd or just yourself. A 10 hour battery life and a waterproof, drop-resistant design means there’s no adventure this speaker won’t survive.
    • Not ready to give up your unlimited data and scour for free WiFi? With a Skyroam hotspot, you won’t have to. Whether your family wants you reachable 24/7, you’re working remotely, or you just can’t fathom a day without Instagram, the Skyroam has your back. You can connect up to five devices to your Skyroam for WiFi, which you buy in 24-hour day passes to get unlimited global internet in over 130 countries – starting at just $9 a day. And if you don’t travel enough to warrant buying the hotspot, you can rent them for your trip, too.
    • Every traveler needs a good pair of headphones, whether you prefer in-ear or over-ear, noise-cancelling or not, wireless or connected. Travel + Leisure has a comprehensive list of tried-and-true options, ranging in price point to suit your budget.
    • For the friend who’s more comfortable in the airport than at home, Airportag is the place to shop. Help them decorate their space with a cute throw pillow reminiscent of the airport where their favorite adventures begin or end.
    • One of the best ways to truly learn about a culture is by trying their cuisine. If the way to your friend’s heart is truly through their stomach, surprise them with a food map from their favorite country! Whether it was pho in Thailand or pizza in Italy that changed their life, they’re sure to drool over these gorgeous prints. There’s even a section specifically for the gluten-free traveler, as designer Jodi Ettenberg knows the struggle herself of traveling with Celiac disease.
    • You can never go wrong with wall art! These prints are customizable to include your favorite cities, and Etsy has an endless amount of similar travel-themed prints.
    • This Europe and Africa embroidery kit is easy enough for beginners to complete and cute enough to hang on any wall. It can keep them busy on a plane or train ride, or fill their time at home between trips.

What are you getting your favorite traveler (yes, that can include yourself!) for the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

Best Travel Podcasts

If you’re not familiar with podcasts, you’re missing out – they’re all the rage, and for good reason! You can find episodes about practically any topic of interest and plug in to be educated, entertained, or simply have background noise. There’s a host of podcasts for listeners with wanderlust, whether you’re simply curious, in the process of planning a trip, or already on the go. We’ve rounded up some of the best and broken them down, so scroll through to find your new addiction.

  1. Zero to Travel
    • Host: Jason Moore
    • What to Know: Travel expert Moore talks with adventurous people who live life on the road to offer listeners advice and resources about all things travel. Some  basic topics include starting and running an online business, travel and work opportunities, budget strategies, planning, backpacking, and more: like how the tiny house movement impacts travel or how to campervan in New Zealand. With over 15 years of experience, Moore knows what he’s talking about and wants to make sure that even the most inexperienced travelers get the same opportunities to see the world as he as.     
  2. Amateur Traveler
    • Host: Chris Christensen
    • What to Know: Each episode is a location guide to a new destination, featuring a guest host who has expertise on that area alongside Christensen. Whether you’ve already decided where you want to go next or you’re open to ideas; if you’re looking for exotic island running routes, the best beaches in Europe, or a particular city, Amateur Travel will help you learn how to best experience any location.
  3. National Geographic Weekend
    • Host: Boyd Matson
    • What to Know: This radio format podcast brings you amazing stories from exotic places around the globe. Each week Matson interviews new explorers and scientists who explore topics you’ve never even thought about: giving turtles CPR, horseback riding from Canada to Brazil, and going camel shopping are just a few of many. Though the show stopped producing new episodes, the archive is sure to keep you busy for a while and both entertain and educate you.
  4. Indie Travel Podcast
    • Hosts: Craig and Linda
    • What to Know: Indie Travel Podcast episodes cover pretty much everything you could think of: history, money, relationships, location guides, and more. Craig and Linda post great reviews of cities and countries, but they also focus on the less talked about, equally important issues: like how to eat healthily on the road, celebrating the holidays away from home, and packing light to fit a carry-on bag. Almost any question you have, or might wonder but haven’t considered yet, Craig and Linda have covered in their over 300 episodes.
  5. Travel Tales Podcast
    • Host: Mike Siegel
    • What to Know: Siegel is known for his work as a professional stand-up comedian, meaning he knows how to explore both the best and worst parts of travel in lighthearted conversations. Siegel invites a different guest each week to talk about flipping property abroad, becoming a kidnapping victim, traveling to receive medical treatment, and more. No two stories are the same but all are equally eye-opening, making them an easy and fun listen.
  6. Travelogue
  7. Abroaders Podcast
    • Host: Erik Paquet
    • What to Know: This show is for the budding entrepreneurs, the people seeking personal growth, and the hopeful money savers. Paquet’s 200-plus episodes cover multiple airlines, reward cards, and hotels to help you make the most of your money and travel the way you want to travel. Leveraging your credit is important to learn young, especially if you want travel to be a serious investment and not just an occasional vacation. Paquet is more than equipped to help you learn this lesson.

 

Remember, this is just scratching the surface of all the content out there. Whether you find something you like from this list or realize you’re looking for something a little different, there’s countless podcasts to keep you busy and help you learn about someplace new. Any really good shows you think we missed? Comment below and let us know!

Preparing for College with a Gap Year

Thirty percent of freshmen…go away to college only to recognize — either because of their grades, their habits, their mental health or all of the above — that they’re not ready for college life.” This statistic from the New York Times may seem shocking to some, but many of us may be able to relate.

College is hard. I’m a senior now, in my second to last semester, and it’s still hard. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun and rewarding, and worth it, but it does mean that many of us – despite the best efforts of our secondary schools, parents, etc. – are ill-prepared to tackle college. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life in the same town, following the same routine: wake up, school, extracurriculars, homework, sleep, repeat. Maybe the weekends and vacations offered variation, but for the most part, you’ve known only one way of life. William Stixrud and Ned Johnson say it best: “for so much of these students’ lives, their parents, teachers, tutors and coaches have told them what to do and when.” Going to college and suddenly being responsible for yourself can be a shell-shock.

college gap year winterline

Stixrud and Johnson have more words of wisdom: “if you question your teenager’s readiness for college at the end of high school, you cannot expect that he or she will be ready by fall. It takes time, practice and some failure to learn how to run a life.” So how do you prepare? A gap year, they say (and we agree!), “can help students mature so that when they do enroll, they are more likely to be successful. For highly stressed, high-achieving students, a gap year offers time to recover from high school before tackling college.”

My Experience

I’ve written before about my regret in not taking a gap year for myself. Though I did return to college after freshman year, it certainly wasn’t easy. In fact, the fall semester of my sophomore year were some of the most difficult months of my life. I was withdrawn, constantly exhausted, crying or sleeping all the time. I went to one or two of my eight class periods a week. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the Behavioral Medicine office, discussing the possibility of taking a semester off, that I realized how unprepared I had been for this part of my life.

I’d done really well in high school, maintaining an impressive GPA in all honors and AP classes, being on the cheerleading team, and participating in multiple clubs before and after school. On the weekends I held a part-time job and volunteered. I considered myself responsible in high school, and looking back, I still do for that age. I packed my own lunch every day, drove myself everywhere, got my homework done without being nagged, and paid for a lot of my own leisure expenses.

Elaine and Cody doing some food prep. | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Winterline students cooking on their gap year | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

But I didn’t know how to properly study for a college exam, or maintain a strict budget. I didn’t know how to cook a meal, work a laundry machine, or clean a bathroom. I didn’t know how to maintain communication with roommates, advocate for myself in a job or internship interview, or make an impact on a community to which I was new. And that didn’t magically change when I got to school. I didn’t absorb these skills by osmosis from my parents or my peers; I didn’t pick up on it easily. All that happened was that the skills I didn’t know suddenly became more important and necessary and I still didn’t know them – and I began to collapse under the pressure.

Luckily, with support from my parents, doctor, and the school, I did finish that first semester of sophomore year, kept my scholarship, and returned to school the following semester after a much-needed winter break. But not all students are so lucky. Some can’t afford to return to a school where they didn’t succeed as expected. Some are so burnt out, so mentally taxed, that returning right away isn’t an option.

The Takeaway

So in my opinion, Stixrud and Johnson are right. If you aren’t prepared for college when you graduate high school, it’s ok – and maybe better! – not to go right away. You can’t learn the necessary life lessons in a week, or even a month. That’s why I wish I had done, and I recommend, a program like Winterline. Doing a gap year gives you a longer period of time to learn these lessons so that you aren’t overwhelmed, and the ability to do so while traveling with a group of your peers makes the lessons so much more fun to learn. A gap year gives you world experience that you just can’t learn at home or in the classroom, and opens your eyes to how many ways of life there are.

Winterline Gap Year Students
Winterline Gap Year Students

You don’t have to maintain that “wake up, school, extracurriculars, homework, sleep, repeat” routine. Immersing yourself in different cultures will show you how rich and fulfilling your life can be with different experiences. And if you decide to return and go on to college, as many do, you’ll be armed with skills that you’ve learned hands-on, making your school experience as smooth and as fun as it’s meant to be.

Photos of the Week 11/2

Hola, Costa Rica! Can you believe it’s November already? Our students have had a busy week settling into their second country, of their 9 month journey, and getting SCUBA certified. Check out some of their awesome pictures from their new destination.

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photos as well.

Stella and Christian | Photo From: Christian Roch
Stella and Christian | Photo From: Christian Roch

winterline global skills surfing
Abby and Cristina ready to catch some waves | Photo From: Cristina Hoyos

Enjoying the sunset with friends | Photo From: Tyler Trout

Staying flexible | Photo From: Paris Geolas
Staying flexible | Photo From:Paris Geolas

Peace from below the sea | Photo From: Abby Dulin

Taking in the ocean air | Photo From: Brittany Lane
Taking in the ocean air | Photo From: Brittany Lane

Catching some waves | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Brogan and Billy | Photo From: Brogan Trevethan
Brogan and Billy | Photo From: Brogan Trevethan

Spencer, Brogan and Billy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey

Costa Rica Vibes | Photo By: Paris Geolas
Costa Rica Vibes | Photo By: Paris Geolas

Chasing waterfalls | Photo By: Nora Turner

Diving | Photo From: Abby Dulin
Diving | Photo From: Abby Dulin

 

All smiles for Costa Rica | Photo From: Paris Geolas

Ready to hit the waves | Photo By: Tyler Trout

Interested in visiting Costa Rica for yourself? Apply today to visit for yourself on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

Photos of the Week 10/26

This week, our students bid farewell to Panama and headed to Costa Rica, where the first item on the agenda is learning to scuba dive! Take a look at the last of the Panama photos and get ready to see Costa Rica through the students’ eyes.

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Parrot in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Friends enjoying the Panama City skyline | Photo By: Emma Mays

Katie and the empanadas she made | Photo From: Katie Mitchell
Katie and the empanadas she made | Photo From: Katie Mitchell

Our students helped reclaim a pedestrian walkway in Panama to help make sidewalks safer for everyone! | Photo By: Caedon Ott
Our students worked with our partners at ThinkImpact to help reclaim a pedestrian walkway in Panama to help make sidewalks safer for everyone! | Photo By: Caedon Ott

The group after their sidewalk project | Photo From: Caedon Ott
The group after their sidewalk project | Photo From: Caedon Ott

Locks on the bridge | Photo By: Emma Mays

Stained glass in a Panama church | Photo By: Nora Turner

Josie enjoying coffee in Panama City | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
Josie enjoying coffee in Panama City | Photo By: Becky Quilkey

Panamanian Church | Photo By: Will Vesey
Panamanian Church | Photo By: Will Vesey

Good vibes, great views | Photo By: Nora Turner

New friends in Panama | Photo By: Will Vesey
New friends in Panama | Photo By: Will Vesey

Abby learning to dive
Abby learning to dive

Luc learning to dive
Luc learning to dive

Panamanian Gothic | Photo From: Christian Roch

Mountains and friends | Photo By: Stella Rose Johnson

Jason learning to dive
Jason learning to dive

Panama City skyline | Photo By: Emma Mays

Spencer, Billy, and Josie in Panama City | Photo From: Josie Edmiston
Spencer, Billy, and Josie in Panama City | Photo From: Josie Edmiston

Squad 1's first day of SCUBA in Costa Rica
Squad 1’s first day of SCUBA in Costa Rica

Celebrating a successful firsts country visit | Photo By: Emma Mays

Still haven’t seen enough of Panama yet? Apply today to visit for yourself on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

How to Blog Safely During Your Gap Year

Here are some rules of thumb for staying safe while sharing about all the awesome things you’re experiencing.

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1. Know where you are

Each country varies greatly in the amount of freedom granted to its internet users. Even within regions, there can be great differences in freedom of speech.

Consult resources like this Reporters Without Borders map, that outline levels of freedom along a number of different measures, in order to know your risks. Notice, for example, how greatly freedom of speech varies in the Caribbean, or Southeast Asia.

2. Talk to locals about your blog ideas

Depending on the kinds of things you see or experience, you may want to write a celebration of cultural diversity, or a scathing diatribe of a city policy.

Pitch your ideas to locals before you publish them, people you can trust. If you’re in Vietnam, for example, and you want to write about resource distribution, talk to locals about it. If they give you a lukewarm response, it probably means you shouldn’t publish it until you leave. And that brings us to our next piece of advice.

3. Use a tor hidden service

Anonymizing your internet presence can make a big impact on other people’s ability to track you down. This may not sound very sexy at first, but if there’s something so serious that you absolutely have to write about it, it might be worthwhile to mask your identity. Even when you’re doing the right thing, you can still be punished or used as a scape-goat.

Tor services, developed by the US Navy, are one of the best ways to anonymize yourself. Read up on how to do it right, and remember to log out of whatever account you’re posting with. Just because you’re on Tor doesn’t mean your Facebook post will not have your profile photo attached to it!

4. Sometimes you just have to wait

You may have a great idea, or a great article, or expose, but if publishing it would put your life or safety in great jeopardy, it’s probably not worth it to publish immediately. As a foreigner, you don’t have the same rights as you would back at home, and you may even have less protection than the locals themselves, certainly not the same depth of personal connections.

Publish your articles, pieces, works of art, when you know you will be safe. Don’t even publish it on your way to the airport if it’s probably sensitive. Wait until your flight touches down at your next destination.

Winterline Global Skills Paris Geolas

5. Don’t be discouraged!

It may sound like a lot of work to keep up a blog during your gap year, but the rewards can be immense.

Blogs can be an incredible reflection point for you, pushing your thinking and helping you digest all the crazy different things you’re seeing day-to-day. They’re an awesome exercise in public dialogue and written presentation. They may even offer something of value to the local communities in which you find yourself.

And of course, they can pull your friends and family along with you for the ride, helping them share in the same insights you’re having, as they’re happening.

Whatever your reasons, stay safe out there, and keep your head about you when publishing content in another country.

9 Tips to Successfully Experience a Homestay

Some of these tips may seem self-explanatory, but it’s easy to forget and be thrown off guard when you’re in a new surrounding. Remember that your host family signed up to host you, so they’re excited to have you and help you familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Be appreciative of this!

Panama homestays | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

1. Don’t forget your manners: Remember to always say please and thank you just like your parents taught you.

2. Speak their language: You are spending time in a homestay to get more acquainted with not only your host family’s culture, but also their language. It’s the perfect place to practice. Don’t worry about making mistakes or sounding silly!

3. Food for thought: Always, always, always eat the food your homestay offers, or at least take a small portion to try it. If you have dietary constrictions be sure to relay that up front.

Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay
Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay

4. Be outgoing: It will probably be somewhat out of your comfort zone, but don’t retreat. Ask questions and share your experiences; now is not the time to be shy.

5. Dress as they dress:  Be mindful of your family’s customary dress and customs. Showing too much skin for women in some countries, for example, is frowned upon.

6. Lean on your host family: It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick while away. Remember your host family is their to help.

One of our Africa Homestay Families with our Partners, ThinkImpact.
One of our Africa Homestay Families set up through our Partners, ThinkImpact.

7. Unplug: Be respectful. No phones, iPads or laptops while enjoying time with your host family. I repeat..put the phones away!

8. Help out: While you are living there, chip in as much as possible with household chores and upkeep.

9. Give them a gift: It’s a nice gesture to leave a parting gift. And keep in touch, too. I am sure they will love to hear from you time to time.

Living in a homestay can be one of the most rewarding experiences your will have while traveling and studying abroad. Refer to these easy tips to make your time there carefree.

Photos of the Week 10/19

Our students are keeping busy down in Panama! This week they managed to fit in an assortment of kayaking, building, hiking and exploring, visiting the Panama Canal, and getting closer to nature. Their activities would take a long time to list, so why not see for yourself?

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Learning to kayak | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Maria Hanging out in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Maria Hanging out in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays

Wading through the mud with friends | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Putting muscles to work building | Photo By: Abby Dulin

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

Nature’s beautiful creations | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Spencer and Billy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey

Breathtaking landscapes | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Reaching out to new friends | Photo By: Emma Mays

Scenery of Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays

Peaceful Panama | Photo From: Brittany Lane
Peaceful Panama | Photo From: Brittany Lane

All smiles in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays

Working hard | Photo By: Emma Mays

Learning to cut wood | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Just some of the girls | Photo By: Emma Mays
Just some of the girls | Photo By: Emma Mays

Visiting the Panama Canal | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn

Can you say paradise? | Photo By: Jeremy Cronon, Field Advisor
Can you say paradise? | Photo By: Jeremy Cronon, Field Advisor

Abby Kayaking | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos
Abby Kayaking | Photo By: Cristina Hoyos

Benji in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays
Benji in Panama | Photo By: Emma Mays

And, finally, a bonus because we can’t forget about our precious four-legged friends!

Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Photo By: Emma Mays
Photo By: Emma Mays

To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

5 Ways to Practice Self-Care While Traveling

Traveling can be exciting, life changing, and thrilling, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating at times. It’s important to be able to balance your aspirations and your needs to ensure that you don’t burn yourself out and you can make the very most of your travels.

Here are some of my favorite ways to rest and recharge anywhere from in your accommodations, to a plane or car, to a hike or beach.

  • Practicing mindfulness. Whether you’re a meditation pro or you’ve never tried it before, there’s countless guided apps, websites, and books that will help you disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world. Take a step back with a session that fits into your schedule, even if it’s just ten minutes. I always find that I’m able to appreciate what’s going on around me more when I’ve had a moment to truly tune in to my surroundings and my own energy. You don’t have to be a yogi or a hippie to enjoy this exercise, I promise! You just have to be willing to give it a fair try. However, if you find that sitting in silence just isn’t for you, there’s other options. Personally, I love using coloring books to channel my attention!

    Winterline Students practicing mindfulness on their gap year.
  • Stretching. I’m not a yogi, in fact. I’ve never particularly found yoga very interesting, so I completely applaud any of you who can do it! But I can’t deny that simply stretching for a few minutes in the day can make a big difference in my overall attitude. It’s easy to find yourself tense in a normal day, and that may be exacerbated by long days, cramped travel positions, and confusing new places. Loosening up your body will help loosen up your mind, and not only will you find yourself more comfortable and adaptable, but I’m always able to sleep better when I stretch before bed!
  • Pamper yourself. Guys, this goes for you, too! When your body feels good, your mind feels good. There’s nothing better than putting on lotion or a face mask after a dry flight or a sweaty hike. Even just allowing yourself a few extra minutes to soak in the shower or brush your hair can have the soothing effect you need. Try finding some travel toiletries with familiar or calming scents that ground you and remind you of home.
  • Journal! When you’re traveling, your mind is constantly working. You’re trying to remember everything you did that day, every fun anecdote and fact, every flight or bus or train schedule. You’re calculating money, languages, time zones, itineraries, and even if you’re a world class planner, this is tiring. So get it all out! Decrease the clutter and write it down. You can bullet, or write longform; whatever helps lift some of the weight off your shoulders. Free up the headspace for the new adventures tomorrow will bring!

    This is the journal I used every day while I was abroad.
  • Eat or drink something really good. It’s ok if it’s not super healthy. This is about letting yourself enjoy a food as well as the experience of eating or drinking it. Stick with something safe, like ice cream or chocolate, or try something new and unique to the area you’re in. Don’t eat it all at once, savor it and really taste the flavor, feel the texture. Food’s a great way to connect to a culture and tune in to your body.

One of the most important things to remember is that self-care doesn’t have to be luxe or extravagant. Practicing self-care shouldn’t stress you out more; it should be relaxing and comfortable. Everyone likes and appreciates different things, so don’t worry if your idea of self-care is different than someone else’s. All that matters is that you know yourself and what you need, and that you allow yourself to have those pleasures – especially during times that can be stressful, like travel.

What’s your tried-and-true way to practice self-care? Share your ideas with us and your peers!

Photos of the Week 10/12

Greetings from El Cocal!

Our students are keeping us envious with their beautiful photos from Central America. In Panama, they’ll be working with our partners at ThinkImpact at local micro-businesses, practicing research and leadership skills, and learning to kayak. In the meantime, they’re settling in and showing off their excitement alongside the gorgeous backdrops!

Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.

Relaxing in the hammock | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Greetings from the children of El Cocal | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Hello to El Cocal! | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Views | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Beautiful Panama | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Up close and personal | Photo By: Micah Romaner

Best hiking buddy | Photo By: Micah Romaner

Furry friends | Photo By: Micah Romaner

Loving the Panama life | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Making new friends | Photo By: Will Vesey

To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

My Study Abroad Experience

I’m back, everyone! You may or may not remember me, but I finished up my marketing internship at Winterline in December as I prepared for my semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Now I’m back again and able to reflect on how my thoughts and fears, goals and aspirations have changed.

My program welcomed us to Sydney with a cruise around the harbor to see famous landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge!

The Logistics

After a long, long flight, I arrived in Sydney, where my program managers picked us up from the airport. My program was organized really well. There were about 150 students there, the majority being other students from my school. We lived in an apartment-style dormitory owned by Boston University and took classes in the adjoining building. This meant we were never really on our own or too far away from people we knew and trusted.

Checking out the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach in Melbourne.

I had mixed feelings about this style. On one hand, I felt safe and supported. On the other, I never felt truly immersed in Australian life because I was constantly surrounded by other Americans. There are pros and cons to traveling through different types of programs. While this was my best choice, be sure to explore all options to find the perfect-fit program: one whose goals, expectations, and attitudes align with yours.

Becoming Immersed

There were a few things that helped to me combat that feeling of not belonging. For one, my program sets up every student with an eight week internship in Sydney. Four days a week, I worked 9 to 5 as a marketing intern at a non-profit. I was around Australians, but I only had a handful of coworkers and none were in my age range, so I found it a bit hard to connect. That said, they really gave me insight as to the culture and society in the country.

I worked at a nonprofit called Action on Poverty, which does incredible work to help underprivileged communities in Africa, southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

Another great way to connect with locals is individual travel. Some friends and I spent a weekend in a small town called Newcastle where we used a home-sharing site. We ended up staying with a family: a mom, a dad, and two pre-teen daughters, who became our personal tour guides. Staying with the family was wonderful. They offered to drive us to a few of our destinations, gave us tips and recommendations for food and shopping, and offered us a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Australia. We learned about their schooling, politics, and overall lifestyle, and in turn, they asked all kinds of questions about ours. This was such a great way to interact with locals, but you can strike up a conversation in so many places. Random people would ask where we were from, leading into conversations anywhere from a restaurant, to public transportation, to a museum.

Making the Most of Your Time

Something that I grappled with while abroad was feeling like I was wasting time. Any time I slept in late or watched a show on Netflix, I felt like I was missing out on the opportunity to do something in Australia that I couldn’t do at home. And this bothered me. I got down on myself a lot until I finally was able to put it into perspective. By keeping a journal and sending weekly emails home about my experiences, I realized just how much I was truly doing and how many incredible experiences I was having. The list below is just a sample of some of the amazing activities I participated in:

  • Visited historical and cultural landmarks like the Hyde Park, State Library of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Royal Botanical Garden
  • Explored nature by hiking in the Blue Mountains and Royal National Park, visiting gorgeous beaches, seeing koalas and kangaroos, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, cliff jumping, and going to a surf camp 
  • Traveled to Bali, where I visited a monkey forest, the active volcano Mt. Batur, a rice patty, a coffee plantation, and the spectacular Tirta Empul temple
  • Learned about Australian media by going on a tour of ABC channel, which is the equivalent to our PBS, being featured in a segment on the most popular radio channel Triple J, and sitting in the audience of a political debate show called Q & A
  • Said goodbye to Sydney by climbing on the famous Harbour Bridge overlooking the city at night before spending an evening at the Opera House

Monkeying around at Bali’s Ubud Monkey Forest

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

Kangaroos at Blackbutte Reserve in Newcastle

Making waves at surf camp

On air at Triple J

All-natural figure eight pools at the Royal National Park

The famous Three Sisters rock formation at the Blue Mountains

The spectacular Tirta Empul temple

Looking out on the beautiful city of Sydney one last time

I definitely recommend keeping track of all the awesome stuff you do, whether you journal, blog, email home, or post photos on Facebook. This way you won’t forget the fun details or anecdotes. You’ll also get to keep your friends and family updated, which will make them happy. Even better, it’ll prevent you from having to retell your entire journey every time you see someone new!

You Should Go Abroad, Too!

I won’t lie to you and say that every moment of abroad was smiles and rainbows and sunshine. As my plans solidified and my flight approached, I was excited, but I was also really, really scared. I’ll admit it: I cried when I left. It’s ok to have fear; in fact, it’s good to be. It means you’re pushing yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. I was scared that something bad would happen at home while I was away, or to me while I was on my own.

Bad things do happen. My childhood dog/best friend passed away while I was gone, and my grandmother got sick. I already told you that I got in my own head about how I was using my time. Sometimes I felt left out. I worried about any number of things going wrong. But you can’t let fear stop you from living your life. You have to balance your worries with the plain fact that sometimes there’s nothing you can do. You just have to remember that you’ll be ok, and the experiences you do have will outweigh the bad possibilities.

Grateful for the friends that were there for the ups and downs of abroad

My study abroad experience is just that: mine. I have good memories and not so good memories. But when I tell other people about my trip, and one day when I look back on it, I’m going to remember all of those once-in-a-lifetime activities I got to participate in. I’m going to remember the friends I made, and the work experience I had; what it felt like to be across the world from my family and how it made me braver; the things that I learned about myself, what I’m capable of, how adaptable I can be. I can’t know what your abroad experience will be like, but I can tell you that if you take the leap and stay open, you’ll be glad that you did.

It’s always a good time!

New Student Spotlight: Micah Romaner

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


 

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

Gap years are extremely common among the Jewish community. Whether studying Jewish literature or simply living in Israel for a year, many of my older friends took a year between high school and college to learn more about the world and themselves. It wasn’t until my brother spent a year in Israel before college that I even considered it, but after hearing his incredible stories and constant praise for his year abroad, I knew what I wanted to do after high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

Most people assume that gap years are taken for students who are not ready for the pressure of college life yet, but this is not me. Although I feel ready to continue my education, when else in my life will I have the opportunity to escape for a year and explore myself and the world? Going into college with such a different maturity level and experiences will hopefully lead to a more beneficial education and a greater appreciation for the world around me.

 

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Cooking. Since a young age I have had a love for food, both eating and making it. The creativity you can express, along with its rich history, make cooking a skill everyone should learn, and one I hope to master.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

As of now, not at all. That is a main reason I chose Winterline, to explore so many different fields and hopefully form some sort of understanding or plan for my future. I’ve always been interested in biology and genetic engineering, so maybe some of that will come up this year, but I don’t have any real idea.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Growing up my family traveled a lot, all around the US and the world. My favorite trip was a 2-week trip we took to Morocco when I was 14. The country’s long history with Jews, amazing food, and rich culture are things I will never forget. I still remember an afternoon, after lunch at a traditional family restaurant, table overflowing with lamb couscous and fried vegetable-meat pockets, we wandered through the old city’s streets, into random little markets and speaking with the occasional old man who knew English. It also helps that the night sky over the Sahara desert is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

Along with a greater sense of global citizenship, I hope to learn how to interact with people from all different backgrounds and implement the best of all those cultures into my life. Being able to make friends wherever you are is a skill I believe everyone should have, no matter the professional field. All the amazing skills Winterline presents you with are just a portion of what a traveling gap year can teach.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I’m a pretty outgoing guy that really loves to adventure and get out of my comfort zone. I went to school with the same people for 18 years so I am extremely excited to make new friends and new memories! 

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline is the perfect combination of structure and freedom, travel and learning, and such a great way to meet new people. Going into a gap year knowing nobody is something I’m looking forward to.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

Even though I’ll be spending a year abroad, I’m a true Texas boy and carry that pride with me everywhere, including my Texas flag. I’m a very laid back guy but when the time comes I can burst out with energy and get everyone rowdy.

Meet The Field Advisors: Jeremy Cronon

 

 

Where are you from originally?

Growing up, I lived a double life. During the school year, I called Madison, WI home. During the summer months, my family packed up and headed north to Bayfield, WI, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior. Whether meandering State Street or sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands, both places fundamentally shaped me.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

Place-based learning has been a focus of mine for years. When I was teaching high school, I always wondered what it would be like if my students could engage with people in the place they were learning about and could utilize all of their senses to more fully inform their sense of that place. Winterline offers that opportunity without holding back, pushing students (and staff) to fully immerse themselves in a place and to learn from it… together. Being along for that ride feels like the opportunity of a lifetime.

What are you most excited for when it comes to the Winterline itinerary?

The ocean is one of the most wild and powerful forces on the planet and scuba diving is about as close to off-world travel as I think I will ever get. I’m two parts excited and one part terrified for the scuba certification!

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

For me, traveling is the lived expression of curiosity. Every interaction has the potential to flip your world upside-down, forever impacting the way that you live your life.

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

I believe in the power of storytelling. Each experience we have adds a layer of depth to the stories that we tell about our lives, even if we don’t realize it. As a teacher, stories are my way to make history and the world come alive. Travel is how I add complexity to the stories I tell.

What has been the most interesting food you’ve tasted while abroad?

In New Zealand, I cooked a massive pile of veggies using the Māori method called hāngī, which utilizes geothermal heat and steam to cook food. The result was delicious and I got to hang out in a hot spring while the meal cooked!

What is something you want students and parents to know about you?

One of my passions is peeling back the layers of our reality to understand the systems at work, whether digging into the cultural history of a region or searching for the true meaning of language. I don’t just want a surface-level understanding of the world around me, I want more. I hope to be able to share that curiousity while I am working with Winterline.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

In 2017, I spent 24-hours upside down.

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.

Family Visits

Gap years, no matter how long or where they take you, are undoubtedly an investment. Investment of time, investment of money, investment in education. Similar to the process of researching colleges, it’s important to research your gap year to find the right fit.

I remember looking into colleges and having a hard time deciphering differences between what they stood for. Looking at website after website made my head spin as they all seemed to bleed together in their overlapping similarities. I was only able to really feel committed to a college after visiting the campus and meeting the student body. I felt a deeper connection of belonging after seeing firsthand the happiness of the real students and faculty.

Winterline family visits
Erica’s Winterline Cohort in Belize

Similarly, it can feel like all gap years say the same things about how life-changing the experience will be or the growth you’ll endure through the program. Here at Winterline, we want to ensure that you, and whoever may be supporting you in this process, feel fully comfortable and connected to us as real individuals who make up these programs. The difference between coming along on our incredible journey or not could simply be the human connection; being able to move the computer screen aside and converse with a real person who has experienced this program firsthand.

That’s where I come in!

I’m Erica. I was a Field Advisor during the 2017-18 gap year program. Just like students, Field Advisors endure the highs and lows of the program: the excitement of new skills and the onset of homesickness, the moments of alone time and the feelings of togetherness, the elated feeling of scuba diving and the unfortunate feeling of eating a food that you probably shouldn’t have bought from a street vendor. We experience it all while making sure that students get the most out of their program by supporting them, having fun with them, and ensuring their safety.
Erica  sharing in student skills while a Field Advisor for Winterline.

I’m Erica. I was a Field Advisor during the 2017-18 gap year program. Just like students, Field Advisors endure the highs and lows of the program: the excitement of new skills and the onset of homesickness, the moments of alone time and the feelings of togetherness, the elated feeling of scuba diving and the unfortunate feeling of eating a food that you probably shouldn’t have bought from a street vendor. We experience it all while making sure that students get the most out of their program by supporting them, having fun with them, and ensuring their safety.

Winterline Family Visits
Erica when she was a Field Advisor in Belize

Travel is an inherent risk that I love to constantly take. If we stay in our comfort zones, we can never grow to our full potential. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always going to be rainbows and butterflies. I’m here to tell you that when those dissipate, and the going gets tough, you will grow tremendously, and no doubt become a more confident, competent, and independent individual.

Erica with a student in Cambodia.

Right now, I’m just another article floating in the gap year realm telling you how awesome we are! What I want to be is a real person with real experiences from your potential gap year investment. So we’re offering family visits to your home. This will allow us to discuss the ins and outs of this program face-to-face with you and your parents/guardians. I’ve found that parents feel much more at ease with the idea of sending their child off to a 9-month program once they know the people behind the company. We understand the importance of connection, safety, and trust, so the least we can do is introduce ourselves!

If you are interested in having me visit, please email me at erica@winterline.com or contact anyone at Winterline and I’ll be in touch to figure out a date that works for all involved.

How Gap Years Help Build Relationships

The bond created amongst students who are traveling on a gap year together will foster lifelong friendships. Author and President of the Board of the American Gap Association, Joseph O’Shea’s book: Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, outlines ways a gap year can impact relationships otherwise:

Engaging with other age groups. 

Most students admittedly spend a majority of their time at home with peers. During a gap year, students meet and interact with people of all ages from very young children to seniors. Generations of people become their network, and they’re more likely to want to continue to engage with older/younger people after their years abroad.

Reflection on strangers. 

Students react differently and change their attitude towards strangers. For many, there is a distrust of strangers; many are “positively disposed” to people they do not know. While traveling, almost everyone is a stranger. After taking a gap year, students report having more faith in people and understand that for the most part, people are genuine and friendly. Approaching and interacting with strangers becomes second nature and a must, especially when traveling independently.

Gender roles.

Many countries have differing viewpoints on men’s and women’s roles, especially in regards to their household responsibilities. Acute awareness of these differences helps students appreciate the challenges of family and gender equality overall, and influences how they will develop their own family dynamics back at home.

Changing ideas on family and their relationships back home. 

In many developing countries, extended family often plays a larger emotional role (living together, caring for each other, etc.) than in the United States. Many students recognize the need to reconnect or make more effort to spend time with their own relatives. And if they didn’t have a close family growing up, it may also become a bigger priority for them when they return home.

In these communities, students see the importance of strong parenting in a child’s life. This encourages students to be an influential role model for their own future children. Many young adults say they dislike children until they actually spend time with children from all of the world and in different cultures. It helps broaden their perspectives, as well as connect with people in a different way.

Students took a closer look at how marriages work and what makes them work beyond living with their own parents.

Parent/child connection. 

Students often feel that their parent-child relationship becomes one of mutual respect as adults. And after a year abroad, they tend to be more grateful for their parents, especially if they helped to fund their gap year.

Students benefit in so many social and emotional ways while traveling on a gap year and then once home. Gap years encourage students to engage with their world in ways they never had before. And we think that’s pretty cool.

How a Gap Year Develops the 8 Characteristics of Leadership

Taking a gap year offers many unique benefits, including developing leadership. But what does that actually mean? How is leadership defined? How does it apply to a gap year? Frankly, there are so many ways to characterize leadership, but at the most elementary level, here are some of traits that they typically embody. And how they can be learned and applied to students traveling and exploring new cultures during their gap year.

1. Awareness: A keen sense of what’s going on around you. It goes without saying that by merely traveling alone, you can’t help but take in all the scenery, people, and cultural traditions in any given country. It’s a great opportunity for students to not only explore the world, but to also “be aware” of the world, and broaden their perspectives.

2. Decisiveness: Making a fast and firm choice. There are always going to be times during a gap year when students have to make a decision quickly, even it means going with their gut. You miss a flight, now jump on a bus. This is a skill that empowers students to become effective leaders in school and within the workplace!

3. Confidence: The mentality that “you can do it.” Challenging activities, such as mastering a high-ropes course or backpacking through tough terrain on an excursion-type gap year are just two examples of ways to build confidence. Confidence allows students the space to try more, during and after their gap year.

4. Empathy: Experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and mannerisms of the people around you. Exemplifying respect. In a recent post, I outlined the ways students can be respectful travelers, which is worth a read. But empathy probably goes far beyond that, especially in terms of experiencing life in developing countries; you come to appreciate what you have.

Alex and Alice
Alex and Alice | Photo From: Alex Messitidis

5. Individuality: You being you. Many students come from small towns or have grown up with the same people; standing out is sometimes tough. A gap year provides the perfect opportunity to showcase how students are unique; they get to meet a new group of peers, and start anew.  A gap year is also a great time for self-discovery; finding out other things about yourself that you did not realize before, but lends to your individuality.

6. Honesty: Telling the truth. Students will most likely be traveling in a small cohort. Being “straight-up” with peers and truthful with Field Advisors opens up strong communication and a positive dialogue across the board.

7. Focus and Accountability: Thinking through a situation and taking responsibility for your actions. I will relate this to post-gap year life. There is ample research to support that gap year students return to academics with a definitive course of study and career choice, which demonstrates focus. They don’t waste their time or their parents’ money, keeping themselves accountable.

Andrew learning archery | Photo By: Susie Childs
Andrew learning archery | Photo By: Susie Childs

8. Inspiration: Uplifting people. Students return home refreshed, with new life perspective. They feel optimistic about their future and it’s something they want to share. That’s also why they become a program’s best advocate. So many of our Winterline alum have shared their stories about what Winterline has done for them since the program. Check them out under “Alum Spotlights” on our blog. 

Taking a gap year is a journey. A learning experience. An evolution of character that can certainly develop into the strong attributes that define leadership.

5 Steps to Defer College

What to Know

Choosing to defer before you apply:

If you have yet to apply to college, be sure to note on your application that you’re considering a gap year. You can do this by explaining why you want to take a gap year and how you plan to spend your time off. Write this in the essay or personal statement part of your application.

Choosing to defer after being offered admission:

If you decide to defer after being admitted, you will need to contact the university and inquire about their deferment practices. At some universities, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Others may grant deferral upon request without need for additional information. Prepare to provide detailed information about your gap year if the college requires it. If you’re considering a gap year that has some relevant bearing on your intended course of study, be sure to indicate that when you make your request.

Things to consider when deferring admission:

Deferring admission may mean several things at different universities. You will lose your housing, you could lose your scholarships if they cannot be deferred too, and you may have to reapply for admission again after your gap year. Talk to the college and ask them about their deferral policies. The American Gap Year Association surveyed some colleges about their policies and their responses will help you see how different colleges handle deferrals.

What if the university denies your request?

If the college denies your request to defer, you have two options. You can enter college in the fall and opt to study abroad during your four-year college experience. Or you can take the year off to travel with a program and reapply the following year. Again, always remember to consider the opportunity and benefits a gap year presents.

If you request a deferment, you will lose your spot in the upcoming class.

Once you request the deferment, and the college approves your request, you cannot change your mind. Colleges release your spot to wait-listed students. Your decision will be final, so act confidently!

What to Do

Follow these 5 steps when requesting to take a gap year:

1: Do your research and determine which gap year is best for you.

2: Contact the admissions department and tell them that you are interested in taking a gap year.

3: Explain your reasons for taking a gap year, including any relevant information that might coincide with future study.

4Contact the financial aid office to determine whether or not your scholarships and merit aid will still be available when you enter college the next year.

5: Secure approval from the college before beginning your gap year.

It’s relieving to know that college will still be an option when you return from a gap year. So if that was a fear holding you back, what else are you waiting for?

Lesson #2 from My Gap Year: Try Everything

A follow up of Ben’s first post about his gap year.

A Gap Year is a fantastic way to get some answers. Typically, more important than finding what you want to pursue, is finding out what you absolutely don’t want to pursue. Prospective gap year students should seek the greatest breadth of experiences possible in order to check off potential areas of study, and pursue the short list that remains once in college.

Designing my own gap year is still one of my greatest accomplishments. I take pride in the fact that I turned “I’m not ready for college yet” into one of the most productive years of my life. I hiked the 2,174.6-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, worked in a variety of industries, and taught English in Peru. In looking at potential interests that I pursued, however, I was only able to check off a few. I learned that I didn’t want to work in telemarketing or light fixture manufacturing (no surprise there), data entry, or retail. But these were the jobs that I could get straight out of high school. The good news is this lesson made me really want to get a college degree, so my first semester in college yielded my highest grades yet. The bad news? I still didn’t know what to study.

I came away from my gap year interested in education, but my lack of breadth throughout the year meant my examination of other disciplines was far from over. I started majors in communication, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology. I waited until the last possible day – halfway through sophomore year – to declare my major as international relations. I wandered through more than a third of my college education. J.R.R. Tolkien was right when he wrote that, “Not all who wander are lost” – in fact, I had a pin stating that on my backpack for the entire trail that year – but when the financial stakes are as high as they are in college, it’s best to have focus.

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My advice to you: don’t treat your college tuition money like the entrance to a buffet. Instead, spend your gap year doing as much as possible in as many areas of interest as possible. You will become a well-rounded person, a greater asset to your school and future employer, and a more interesting person!

A skills-based gap year is the best way to ensure that when you step on campus as a freshman, you’ll know what to do next.

3 Skills You Have to Learn on Your Gap Year

But where these articles fall short is in describing how one actually learns these skills. Where in our modern testing culture do you learn the ability to learn? Where do you learn collaboration and critical thinking?

The gap year  is the perfect opportunity to define your own education, and create the kind of learning you know should be a part of your pedagogical repertoire. It’s your opportunity to zoom out, and figure out, “What are the kinds of things that I want to learn?” rather than the things that are mandated to you.

The short-list below is about inspiring you to be active about your own learning, and to use the gap year as an important opportunity to explore a number of different lifestyles, experiences, careers, and fields of study.

Which skills do you need to be prepared for life?

Central_Square_Theater_Performance.jpg

1. Collaboration

No matter what your job or lifestyle in the future requires, the ability to collaborate effectively will be an invaluable skill. Increased automation and artificial intelligence will probably be taking over all of the tasks that don’t require an innate understanding of human nature. Anything rote is likely to be replaced too.

The one thing robots can’t do is think like a human. They’re not inherently team players. So those jobs are here to stay. Working on a design team, negotiating a deal, doing scientific research, developing new energy policy and technology — these are just a few examples of careers that depend structurally on effective collaboration.

Semester abroad, gap year, and summer programs don’t always support collaboration. Many programs will send you to a far-off place on your own, with no team to bounce ideas off of, no peers to challenge your thinking or push you to understand how another team mate is feeling. Living in community is harder.

All of our programs focus on cohort models specifically for this reason. But that’s not to say there’s no alone time.

Hiking Wyoming NOLS Winterline
Group backpacking with NOLS

Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.

2. Independence & self-sufficiency

We’ve all heard the stories. A student leaves home to go visit a far-off country. Runs out of money, gets robbed, gets stuck at an airport with the wrong visa and can’t come home, or worse.

Learning independence and self-sufficiency is a matter of degree. You don’t give yourself something too easy, nor too hard. You don’t drop yourself in the middle of a Mumbai slum on your first time away from home. And you don’t want to spend all your time abroad on the Thames, sipping lattes. You want to find the place where you’ll grow the most, the fastest.

Winterline’s approach is to sequence independence, building up to the Independent Study Project, where our students propose budgets, planning itineraries, and their own learning schedule, and, for the 9-month program, are given free reign to pursue them anywhere in Western Europe on a given stipend. In advance of that, students learn how to survive in the wilderness, how to deal with solitude with meditation, how to negotiate and manage a budget.

You learn independence by taking out more and more sizeable chunks of it. The key is balancing safety with challenge, knowing your limits, and knowing when you’re ready for the next big bite.

Learning to take public transportation abroad alone is a skill.

Paper-making ISP in Costa Rica

3. Cross-cultural understanding

The world is becoming smaller. Interactions that weren’t possible a decade ago occur on the regular. Flying around the world for business used to be the sole definition of globalization, but now these things can occur instantaneously across the web. You can FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Uber Conference, Facebook Live and so on. You can probably even Twitch your meetings.

But what all this means is that any international understanding you possess is inherently magnified. You may be running a startup in Boston, but your interactions with people from different countries, of different faiths, time zones, values, priorities will be extremely regular.

Having spent time in a certain country is one thing. But having interacted with people from those places in a deep, sincere, and meaningful way, beyond “Do No Harm” and toward actually contributing to those communities as they’ve defined it, is of far more value. You can speak to their work styles, their deference to elders, their ways of expressing respect because you’ve taken the time to understand them. But also, you can know your own limits, the limits of your own culture, perspective, and sense of what’s possible in the world.

Culture is a powerful force, and it shapes what we believe we can do with our lives. The more cultures you are familiar with, the more of an impact you will be able to have in your life.

Winterline students learned from locals in India | Photo By: Daniela Mallarino

Winterline students with local children in Thailand.

Ultimately, the value of a gap year is not just about making you more prepared for a career, but making you more prepared for all of what life has to offer. The more you see, the more you experience and interact with regarding collaboration, independence, and cross-cultural understanding, the more you will be prepared for life.

A Lesson from My Gap Year: Relax, You’re Awesome.

High school students receive drastically different messaging than I do as someone in the field of experiential education. They’re asked every day what they want to be when they grow up, where they are going two months after they graduate from high school, what they want to study, and what they want to accomplish. Most of the adults who ask that probably don’t even know what they want to be, do, or accomplish, so they’re asking pretty unfair questions.

My favorite thing about getting out of high school and college is that I now hear a completely different philosophy. My colleagues consistently say that there’s no way a high school student should be expected to know what they want to study, let alone what they want to do with their life. My life goal is to make sure high school students receive similar, more supportive messaging.

If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, you’re probably feeling pretty vulnerable. People probably ask you “why?” Because you have guts, that’s why. If something doesn’t quite feel right about going straight to college, listen to your gut, and figure out a responsible plan of action. People will understand – even if it’s after the fact.

ben welbourn

Senior year, students at my high school consistently asked me why I wasn’t going straight to college, and they asked the question with both curiosity and a palpable tone of confusion. A few weeks into my gap year, I was a couple hundred miles into the Appalachian Trail when a Facebook group popped up: “I wish I was Ben Welbourn.” Front and center: a photo of me conquering another mountain. It was created by our class president/football captain/lacrosse captain/resident stud. That was my first positive reinforcement from a peer, and it happened over a year after my decision to defer from college. After that, I got more and more support from high school friends and complete strangers from the college I was yet to attend. Be patient!

A week before graduation, my high school Spanish teacher asked me what my plans were post-high school. When I told her I was about to start a gap year, she told me “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” Initially, I took that as an insult, as if she was telling me, “Yeah, you’re a mess, so you’re probably not ready for college.” I’ve kept in touch with her long enough to know now that she just saw a gap year as a great opportunity for me to find focus.

Stick to your guns, but put in the leg work to make sure that once you do take your gap year, you’ll come out with new skills and experiences that everyone will appreciate.

5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Journal on Your Gap Year

You’ll say to yourself, that was so amazing, there’s no way I’ll forget it. And then..

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

While there are many good reasons to bring a journal with you on your gap year travels. There are even more reasons to keep a journal. Here’s five!

1. Change

You’ll be changing so much during your gap year. That was the whole reason you’re doing it. Documenting your observations, your reactions, your perspectives as you move through the world will create enormous value for you in terms of presenting what it was you did, who it was you met, and what you visibly learned and engaged with.

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

2. Reflect

Writing is a powerful tool. Not just for spreading the word about what you’ve been up to, but for processing what it is you’re seeing. Whether you’re writing in a journal or writing on a blog, documenting your journey helps you grow when you slow down and take stock of what’s happening to you. If you’re doing it right, every day of your gap year will be a completely new adventure.

3. Bring your friends along for the ride

While not everything you’ll write down in your journal is or should be public knowledge, you’ll want to have something to share with your friends and family back home. Keeping that journal updated daily will ensure that those crazy quotes that blew your mind open about how that sailor in Greece or that tea-stand owner in India sees the world don’t get forgotten.

Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat
Dini Journaling in Belize | Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

4. Practice

Your gap year should be as much about exposing you to new experiences, new cultures, and ways of seeing, as it should be about acquiring new skills and abilities. You have a whole year to get better at something. Why not make it something that is useful in just about every profession, career, and life setting? Writing is an invaluable tool for communicating at scale.

5. Remember

And of course, you’ll want to revisit those memories that you’ve made. You’ll want to hit ‘save’ on life while you’re living it up or stuck at some bus stop somewhere. Because all of the ups and downs are what make your gap year beautiful (though hopefully you’ll have more ups). Looking back on how you were thinking about a predicament, perhaps thinking about it too hard, or not enough, you’ll realize how much fun you were having on the road, figuring everything out for the first time. You may even get a few laughs out of your old self.

 

Many of our students love to share their experiences with others through journaling. Be sure to check out the “Student Voices” section of our blog. Additionally, two of our current gap year students have travel blogs themselves check out Anna and Meagan’s adventures by reading their blogs!

 

How to Save for a Gap Year

Planning that once-in-a-lifetime gap year experience? Looking for ideas on how to raise funds for your adventure?  Thought we’d share a few ideas to get you started.

Here are just a few examples of how you can work to make your gap year adventure happen. Remember, it’s never too early to get started.

Get creative

  • Jump on your laptop or phone and reach out to your community. This can include a calling or letter writing campaign to family, your church, local businesses or your regional Chamber of Commerce.
  • Set up a crowdsourcing page and share it with everyone you know. Make sure that you clearly explain your goal, state how you’ll use the money, and why you need it. Ask everyone to share it with their friends and colleagues.

Go with the “tried and true.”

  • Think about organizing a car wash, hosting a garage sale, or holding a series of bake sales. These events and tasks can be fun and help you save up for your next big adventure!
  • Do you have a birthday coming up? Ask for donations toward your gap year fund instead of another video game, book or pair of jeans.

Use your gifts

  • Have a special talent or hobby? If you love to draw or knit, why not hop on a website like Etsy to sell some of your handmade drawings or scarves?
  • Work! Why not get a part-time job, babysit or walk dogs for your neighbors, or offer tutoring services? There’s even apps to help set you up with jobs like these

Hopefully this list will jump start other ideas and inspire you.

Remember to stay positive and don’t give up! Winterline also offers scholarships and the ability to pay with 529 College Savings Plan or AmeriCorps Education Award. Also, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with our special discounts. For more ideas and for a list of scholarships and grants, visit the resources section of the American Gap Association site.

Disconnect on Your Gap Year

I’ll admit it: I’m a technology addicted millennial. I have my phone on all the time. I can’t go five minutes without checking my phone. It’s a problem, but if you’re like me, you’ve got a thousand excuses to justify it: I get anxious when I don’t know what time it is. It’s a digital age, I need to stay connected. I can see and do things on my phone that I can’t in real life. Simply, I like my phone! This is all true. But there’s a difference between enjoying the use of your phone and being unhealthily dependent on it. And many of us – including myself – are.

So let’s go back to excuse number three: I can see and do things on my phone that I can’t in real life. When I’m sitting in bed, that’s true. But if you have the opportunity, why not actually go see and do those things? A gap year or studying abroad may be the perfect lesson in learning to live without relying on your phone.

I’m guilty of scrolling through my phone while having conversations with people. While I tell myself that I’m a great multitasker, I know deep down that it actually prevents me from fully listening and is incredibly rude. When you put your phone away, you can make deeper connections with the people in front of you, and hear things you might not have if you were trying to tweet and listen at the same time.

By doing so, you’ll learn so much about yourself, and who you are without the world influencing you 24/7. Without social media, you’ll have no pressure to impress anyone. You can focus on what you actually want to do, and not worry what anyone else will think of it. When you’re traveling the world, you want to be sure you’re having experiences that matter to you, not ones that you’re only having so you can post about it later. This in turn will teach you individuality and confidence in your own decisions, which will help you in both your school and career.

A gap year is all about new perspectives and stepping out of your comfort zone. For a technology addict, there’s no better way to achieve this than putting the phone away.

I’m not arguing you dump your phone for good (unless you want to! Power to you!). I’m sure we all have friends and family who we can’t often see in real life. You probably love keeping up with memes and trends. But remember to put real life first so that you’re in control of your technology instead of your phone having power over you.

 

Taking a Gap Year for Mental Health

The school system in America is so rigorous and stressful, it makes sense that high school students are burning out. In 2016, 62% of undergraduate students reported struggling with “overwhelming anxiety”. The same study found that specifically, 41% of incoming college freshmen were seriously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. So you’re not alone if you’re having difficulty finding the motivation to continue post-graduation. Allow yourself a break. A gap year may be just what you need to reinvigorate your curiosity. However, not every gap year will provide you with the same outcomes. An an ideal gap year should allow you to take on a fresh perspective. You should build relationships with new people, visit new places, and interact with new cultures.

A gap year will instill a new sense of purpose in you. Many of us live in one place for our entire youth, where all we do is go to school, maybe work, and participate in a few extracurriculars. This routine can get boring and you may start to wonder what the point of day-to-day routine is. Travel will give you the chance to see corners of the world where you’ll be reminded that life for others is so different.

Susie
Susie hanging out | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

You’ll understand that you don’t have to confine your life to your current routine. The possibilities for your life are endless. You may find a new passion or renew your love for an old hobby or interest. A program involving volunteering will remind you of the status you hold in the world. You may have a newfound gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had and dedicate yourself to helping others, or you may find resources that can help you in the future if you need them.

Gap years will also teach you the skills needed to cope with periods of anxiety or depression. Traveling in a structured program will give you room to develop individual skills and self-sufficiency while knowing that you have support to fall back on if needed. This allows for trial-and-error similar to college. You’ll be in new situations with new people, but you will not be alone. By having this practice, you’ll gain maturity along with confidence in yourself and your communication abilities, which will help you immensely in college.

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

Another difficult skill that you’ll pick up on is resilience. Many students go to college and perform differently than they expected, then have difficulty bouncing back. The same goes for people applying to jobs that don’t work out. On your gap year, you’ll work through trying times, physically and emotionally. You’ll probably fail at something, and you’ll deal with fear and stress at some point. Having field advisors and a group of students around you will help you figure out how to move forward and reflect on your experience to succeed the next time around, which is invaluable knowledge.

I’ve been a perfectionist, type-A student my entire life, and over time, that started to affect me negatively. By the time I got to college applications, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to go to college. I didn’t think I could take any more of the constant work, but the societal pressure for higher education influenced me to go directly to college after high school, anyway. My parents were very supportive of me taking a gap year if I decided, but it was my own anxiety that pushed me to go to college. My freshman year was full of excitement, and I was happy with my transition.

But sophomore year, everything fell apart. My fall semester, I was skipping almost every single class due to being overwhelmed and uninspired. I had no motivation to get out of bed in the morning, often sleeping all day and crying all night. I so desperately needed a break, but I had not allowed myself to take one. A gap year may not have prevented this, as mental health has many factors. However, I do know that I should have been kinder to myself and taken time to recuperate.

My advice to you is take the time you need to be in the best mindset for school, whether that be an entire gap year, a semester off, or some other option. If you’re struggling, reach out to a trusted adult or one of the many resources recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Here at Winterline, we think that studying abroad is one of the most important experiences a student can have. However, some students might be held back or hesitate because of invalid information they’ve heard. We’re going to bust some of the study abroad myths that you might have heard. We don’t want anything keeping you from a journey that will change your life for the better!

Myth: I can’t study abroad if I don’t know the native language.

One of the major points of studying abroad is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. As long as the program has no language requirements, don’t let this keep you from traveling. You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you pick up on common phrases. There are also a plethora of books, websites, and apps to help you learn the language either over time or help you communicate in a certain moment. Going to a country with a language you don’t know only guarantees that you’ll become more confident putting yourself out there. It even allows the possibility of learning yet another new skill while abroad: a new language!

Myth: I won’t know anyone, so it won’t be fun.

Again, studying abroad is about challenging yourself. It’s like going to kindergarten – or college! Everyone else will be in the same boat as you, and because you’re in a similar situation, it’ll be easy to bond. That said, study abroad is a great time to learn to become comfortable being alone. Independence and self-sufficiency may be hard to learn, but they’re important skills to have.

Myth: Studying abroad is too expensive.

As much as it sucks, sometimes money does hold us back from things. Luckily, most academic programs want you to study abroad, so they’re willing to help you do what it takes to achieve this. Talk to your advisor and see what financial aid and scholarships your school applies. You can also find scholarships through websites like Mach25, FastWeb, and the Gilman International Scholarship program. There’s plenty more; all it takes is setting aside some time to Google. Some countries even offer scholarships as incentive for students to study there, so be sure to explore that option, too. For our programs we offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid. Additionally, since our Gap Year Program is worth college credit, we can accept 529 funds.

Myth: It isn’t safe to study abroad.

Be assured that your program was carefully vetted before being opening up to students. Every program wants to keep you safe, both for your benefit and for their own reputation! You should use a certain amount of caution, but that’s standard even in your home town. Pay attention to government and program warnings and use common sense, and you’ll be just fine.

Going along with this, many female students, students of color, or students with disabilities may feel that certain countries aren’t safe for them. Of course, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, but studying abroad is a worthwhile experience that you can, and deserve the opportunity to, do. If you need more support, check out Diversity Abroad, Mobility International USA, or the NAFSA Member Interest Group websites.

Winterline students learning Wilderness First Aid at NOLS

Myth: They don’t offer my major, so I shouldn’t go.

Say it with me this time: study abroad is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone! Even if you can’t study your major, you can get credit for required core courses or even for a minor. You could also discover a passion or hobby you love unrelated to your major! If your worry is that taking a semester off your major will prevent you from graduating on time, check in with your advisor to make it work. Or, you could consider a summer abroad. Research actually shows that four-year graduation rates for students who studied abroad is 17.8% higher than it is for those who didn’t go abroad. If you’re worried about study abroad impacting your employability after college, we have a whole blog on that.

Myth: I’ll miss out on things.

Ah, yes, FOMO: the fear of missing out. I get it. I’ll be studying abroad this spring, and I’m jealous of my friends who get to stay together, hang out, make new jokes and have new experiences. But they’re probably thinking the same thing about me getting to go somewhere new! Your friends will still be there when you get back, and you may miss something going on at home, but you’ll be back. You’re just temporarily trading a familiar setting for the opportunity of a lifetime to experience something new somewhere different.

Myth: I can just travel on my own after college, and it’ll be the same.

Sure, study abroad is a great opportunity to travel and explore the community. But it is also about learning – learning about your major, the country or city you’re in, and yourself. Study abroad challenges you both personally and academically. It allows you to build new skills while exploring the world. You still have to go to class, which gives you a structured model for experiencing the culture around you.

The whole world is at your fingertips with study abroad, and you have the opportunity to experience an adventure that so many people don’t get. No matter where you choose to go or what you choose to study, you’ll learn more than you ever thought you could, and that’s reason enough to pack your bag.

 

12 Books About Travel You Have to Read

You may already be familiar with some of the classic travel stories. Eat, Pray, Love; The Alchemist; On the Road; Into the Wild are just a few (and if you haven’t read them, you should). But if you’re on the hunt for more pages to turn, here are a few books to get your mind – then hopefully, your body – wandering.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bryson was born in America, and upon returning after 20 years in England, decided to walk the Appalachian trail. The 2,100 mile trail is no easy feat, stretching all the way from Georgia to Maine! Bryson’s style is both witty and aware; he manages to find awe in even the most mundane sights. A Walk in the Woods is not only an intriguing read, but a much-needed reminder that sometimes, it is about how you get there. The journey itself can be the adventure.

 

 

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Following the success of A Walk in the Woods, Bryson took his travels to the opposite side of the world: Australia. Bryson explores the history of the continent, interacts with its unique species and people, and poking fun at just a few of the town names. Bryson is adamant that Australia is the most dangerous place in the world, but it’s obvious he loves it immensely. By the end of this book, you will too, whether you’ve been there or not.

 

 

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Weiner sets out to answer a philosophical question in this travel memoir. A self-proclaimed grump, Weiner wants to know where the happiest people in the world live. He travels to dozens of countries, each which have their fair share of problems. While he may deem one country the “happiest”, Weiner’s book reminds us that nowhere is perfect, and happiness is subjective.

 

 

 

The Places in Between by Roy Stewart

Not only did Roy Stewart decide to visit a place not many of us are familiar with, he decided to walk across the country of Afghanistan. In his book, Stewart recounts this two-year adventure, which took place in 2002 shortly after the Taliban were deposed. His writing is objective and clear, offering unprecedented insight to the country and its people. If you’re looking to learn more about an unexpected place, this is the book for you.

 

 

 

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

Newly graduated, title good girl Rachel makes a life-changing decision when she buys a plane ticket to Ireland. While abroad for the first time, Rachel meets a friend with whom she travels to three different continents, learning to live in the moment. This coming-of-age story is filled with fun and personal anecdotes, as well as lessons about life after school. Anyone considering a gap year is sure to find answers in this book.

 

 

Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Like your adventure with a side of romance? In this story, DeRoche recounts an age-old story of meeting a man in a bar. However, this man is about to sail around the world, and he wants her to join. Despite a phobia of deep water, DeRoche throws caution to the wind and decides to go. This book is as much about self-discovery as it is about relationships, as DeRoche learns and sees more of the world around her. The combination of travel and love is tied together by DeRoche’s conversational writing style for a fun and easy read.

 

 

Paris Was Ours by Penelope Rowlands

 

This book consists of short stories from 32 different writers explaining what life in Paris is to them. Some moments are exciting and new, some depressing and mundane. Each one draws light to the dream of living in Paris, which often seems to be a love/hate relationship. Every city has its ups and downs, and this collection explores a variety of both for an in-depth, honest narrative.

 

 

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Adams had never done so much as sleep in a tent when he decided to journey through Machu Picchu. Adams is eager to uncover mysteries about the Incas and the fortress of Machu Picchu itself. His ability to describe the amazing sights he encounters both there and along the way is impressive and captivating. Not only is the book entertaining, readers really do discover Peru through Adams’ eyes. Adams’ tale serves as a note that anyone can begin to adventure at any time, and doing so will change your life.

 

 

Worldwalk by Steven Newman

At 28, Newman set off from his home in Ohio to backpack around the world. This four year journey took him across 21 countries on five continents. Newman’s background in journalism gave him the perfect platform to write about the unbelievable experiences he had and the unique individuals he met along the way. He may be an adult, but Newman’s journey is a compelling coming-of-age story sure to warm your heart and motivate your travels.

 

The Palace of the Snow Queen by Barbara Sjoholm

Sjoholm begins the recount of her travels in Sweden, and continues to travel throughout Scandinavia. She returns to the area for three winters, during which she learns about the area’s little known history and people. The far north may not be an area many choose to visit for vacation, but Sjoholm explores the tension between tourism and local Sami work and culture. The memoir is an intriguing and fascinating look into the famous Swedish Icehotel and the area surrounding it. Her tales won’t melt any ice, but they will fire up your desire to see this region of the north.

 

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack

When you think of America, you probably think of the 50 states. But what about the other territories we occupy? Upon realizing how little he knew about these areas, Mack set off with a goal to learn more about them. From Puerto Rico and Guam, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Polynesia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, Mack reminds us how crucial the territories are to the history of America. Both a fascinating, culture-rich memoir and a political, informative travelogue, this book should be read by every American.

 

 

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah

Motivated by childhood vacations in Morocco, Shah moves his family from London to Casablanca. The move into a run-down house is followed by the process of restoring its glory, with the help of three residents whose lives are run by the jinn. His account is both funny at times and deeply thoughtful at others. The cultural insight makes readers feel connected to the people despite geographic or spiritual difference, which is a hard feat to accomplish.

 

 

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Keep reading! Once you find an author you like, check to see if they have other works. Ask for recommendations. Peruse the travel section of your library or bookstore. And if you find any great reads that we should know about, be sure to let us know.

7 Reasons to Go to Thailand

Thailand is quickly rising on the list of popular travel destinations. Don’t waste any time in getting there for yourself. It can be difficult to choose where to go in another country: do you stay in its biggest city or one of its small, hidden gem towns? We won’t make you choose on our nine day trip. If the promise of authentic pad thai isn’t enough to convince you to apply, maybe these reasons will. The Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, what’s holding you back?

  1. It doesn’t matter if you’re a city or a country person; you’ll get to experience both! Spend part of your adventure exploring an area you’re comfortable with. The rest of the time, you’ll get to push your boundaries in a new setting.
  2. Travel off the beaten path in both urban and rural areas for a unique trip. You’ll visit non-tourist destinations for an exciting and one-of-a-kind journey. Winterline Student at Temple Bangkok Thailand
  3. Learn directly from Thai chefs how to create a traditional three-course meal. If you love cooking, then you’ll learn to put a twist on your daily meals. Don’t know how to hold a knife? This is a great way to learn. And, of course, you’ll get to eat what you make. Is there any better way to connect with a culture than to eat their cuisine?
  4. Pick up a skill that you would never have thought to learn otherwise. Maybe you already know how to fish, but have you ever been a rice or coconut farmer? Now’s your chance to see how agriculture works on the other side of the world.
  5. Protect the earth, or more specifically, mangrove forests. You’ll be taught coastline protection techniques to help keep these important ecosystems intact. It’s important to take any and every chance to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to save precious biodiversity.
  6. Thailand is brimming with culture, especially in its temples. Learn about religion, spirituality, and history in a country that your classes might not focus on. The predominant Buddhist heritage is apparent in everything from the architecture to the interpersonal interactions.mike_temple_wat_pho_thailand_bangkok-gap-year-program
  7. Nicknamed “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand has notably friendly people. Get to know them and their stories through conversation while you’re traveling. The country welcomes tourism, so really, you’d be doing them a disservice by staying home!

What’s holding you back? Apply now to experience Thailand for yourself; you won’t regret it. Don’t forget, our Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, sign up while spots are still available!

Why I’m Going Abroad

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and almost 21 years later, here I am…still in Boston. I love this city and my school, so I have no regrets about choosing to stay local for college. My only trips have been fairly short, meaning I was unable to truly immerse myself in a new culture. I’ve always been fascinated by travel, and I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. However, once it hit me that I would be continuing my education so close to home, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere completely foreign to me.

I visited Israel and floated in the Dead Sea between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

I did, in fact, base a lot of my college decision around schools that offered study abroad. My college has a fantastic study abroad program, offering the chance to study on all seven continents. That’s right, our students even go to Antarctica!

I decided to stick with one of the programs specifically for my major of Advertising, meaning I would either be going to London or Sydney. For me, this was actually a really easy choice. While London is a great city, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe before. Also, Europe is pretty accessible from the East Coast, and I’m confident that I’ll get to go back later in life. So choosing Australia was obvious.Sydney is literally the farthest I can get away from Boston, on the complete other side of the world. It’s a city that not a lot of people from my area get to go to, and logistically, I might not ever be able to go in my life without a program like this. I know how lucky I am to have the chance to go anywhere in the world to study, and I wanted to take advantage of that.

Climbing Masada, an ancient Israeli fortress, at sunrise in 2015.

All of my friends who have studied abroad tell me that this experience is going to change me, that I’m going to learn so much about myself. I don’t doubt that for a minute. For the first time in my life, I’m going to be truly independent. Sure, I have friends going, and there’s program managers and professors. But for three months, I’ll be living much more than 45 minute drive away from my parents.

For a self-proclaimed child like myself, this is really scary. I’m admittedly not always the best at taking care of myself. There’s no meal plan in Sydney, and I don’t know how to cook. My mom still has to remind me to make doctor’s appointments. I don’t do laundry or wash my dishes enough, and now I actually have to listen to my dad when he explains finances and budgeting to me. I understand how privileged I am that, at almost 21, I haven’t had to completely take care of myself yet. But I’m ready to learn.

My best friend and roommate, Marissa, is coming to Sydney with me!

Study abroad will teach me these basics of how to be an adult. It will also teach me how to appreciate the world and people around me. It’s easy, especially as a student, to get caught up in the little things. I need to see the bigger picture. I need a reminder that living isn’t just about school or work. I’m going to get to explore the natural beauty of Australia and reflect on just how amazing this life is. I’ll meet new people and get new perspectives on everything I thought I knew. I’ll experience a whole new culture: food, art, politics, communication.

I leave in a little less than two months, and that’s simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Part of me still wants to back out. I’ll miss my family, and my friends, and my dog. But the rest of me knows that this is the most important thing I can do for myself. Studying abroad is about allowing yourself to be scared, and pushing your limits. Finding out what you can and can’t do, what you like and hate, what the world looks like to you and what you look like to the world. So, Sydney, I’m coming for you, ready or not.

 

History of the Gap Year

Do you have a soon-to-be high school graduate who is researching colleges, visiting campuses and getting ready to complete the Common App? Then it is probably an exciting time, but possibly also a stressful one for your family due to the fact that there are so many important decisions to be made.

Perhaps your son or daughter is also starting to explore the idea of taking a gap year, defined by the American Gap Association as “an experiential semester or year “on,” typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

Winterline Gap Year Program Robotics

Hmm. A gap year sounds interesting you say… tell me more.

You may have heard about a student from your son’s high school who traveled for six months after graduating last year. Or you remember that a few years ago your neighbor’s daughter interned for a year to explore career options before starting university. These are two common gap year experiences.

If you’d like to learn more, a reliable resource about gap years is the American Gap Association. They share the following history of gap years on their site:

“Gap Years originally started in the United Kingdom in the 1970’s as a way to fill the 7-or 8-month gap between final exams and the beginning of university. The intention in the UK for that time was to contribute to the development of the student usually through an extended international experience.

Gap Years came to the United States in the early 1980’s through the work of Cornelius H. Bull, founder of Center for Interim Programs. Since its transition to the United States, Gap Years have taken on a life of their own – now embodying every manner of program and opportunity imaginable, both domestically and internationally, all with the shared purpose of increasing self-awareness, learning about different cultural perspectives, and experimenting with future possible careers. Since their broader acceptance into the American system of education, they have served the added benefit of ameliorating a sense of academic burnout. In fact, in a recent study, one of the two biggest reasons Gap Year students chose to take a Gap Year was precisely to address academic burnout.”

This all sounds good you may say, but what do colleges think about gap years?

More and more, colleges and universities understand the value of a gap year. Many notable schools, including HarvardMiddlebury, and Princeton to name a few, allow (and may even encourage) students to defer for one year to spend time in a “meaningful” way. The year may be structured or unstructured, support a student’s academic or service goals, or be a time for personal reflection, travel or skill building. Often students choose to intern for the year to gain valuable career experience.

There’s a growing body of research indicating that taking a some time between high school and college is the right step for many students.

So if your son or daughter is thinking of a gap year, keep an open mind, do your research and be sure to sit down with your child and clear identify goals for the year.

5 Free Resources for Learning a Language

Is your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language? If you checked out our recent blog by our Gap Year student Anna, then you know learning a language can help you truly connect with a country’s culture. You don’t need to be fluent in a country’s native language to visit, but it’s always cool to know another language. Whether you want to brush up on a language you’re no longer confident in, or learn a new one entirely, these 5 free resources will help you out.

DuoLingo

This site and app work best for practicing as opposed to learning. DuoLingo familiarizes you with a language through reading, writing, listening, and speaking drills. The site gives daily reminders to study and allows you to track your progress. You can also share with friends, and even list your skills on LinkedIn! DuoLingo offers almost 30 languages, including High Valyrian – the language spoken in Game of Thrones.

Winterline Learning Language Duolingo
Busuu

This site allows you to learn vocabulary, practice writing in the language, and chat with native speakers to perfect your speaking and listening skills. In order to keep you motivated, Busuu offers badges and in-site awards when you reach your goals. Busuu also offer specialty courses for necessary travel phrases, which is great if you’re just trying to get a basic grasp on a country’s language before you visit.

Winterline Learning Language Busuu


Memrise

The unique feature of Memrise is the ability to learn new words and phrases by seeing them in sentences with similar sounding words and phrases from your native language. This helps build the correlation in your mind between the languages. The site also uses pictures in tandem with words for added visual association. Finally, Memrise also re-words translations to ensure that you’re actually learning the meaning instead of just memorizing the translation.

Winterline Learning Language Memrise


AccelaStudy

This source has a different app for each language you want to learn. The setup and features are the same; the only difference is the language itself. AccellaStudy offers flashcards, quizzes, and even a hands-free option so that you can practice a language while driving or otherwise occupied without even looking at your phone! You can also customize your study set if you find yourself having trouble with a particular word.

Winterline Learning Language Accela


Rosetta Stone Travel App

Though Rosetta Stone is a professional source that requires payment, they offer a free app specifically for on-the-go translations. The app combines pictures with common phrases so that travelers can learn basic sayings in the language of their choice. A unique and helpful feature is that you have to repeat phrases into your phone’s microphone to practice your pronunciation.

Winterline Learning Language Rosetta Stone

 

Be sure to keep in mind that sometimes, sites translate word-by-word without taking into account differences in sentence structure or grammar. This may lead to some faulty translations, but learning is a process! For even more resources, check out the page “Fluent in 3 Months”. For more travel skills be sure to check out our recent posts on our blog

 

 

Early Stage Careers

After your gap year, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of what you love and how you fit into the world. This knowledge will grow as you continue through college and into your post-graduate life. However, you may still need help finding the right job. That’s where Early Stage Careers comes into play.

Early Stage Careers does exactly what it sounds like: they work with college students and recent graduates to focus your interests, prepare you for a career, and empower you to take the necessary steps to launch forward. Your coaches will help you build skills that will propel you throughout the rest of your life. These tools, such as networking and personal branding, are integral in the job force!

Winterline Global Entrepreneurship and Business Programs

You might be thinking, I can get a job on my own. And you certainly may be able to! But Early Stage Careers points out some relevant statistics that show how young graduates face a different entry field than older workers did. The following information is taken directly from their website:

  • Companies use technology to screen and eliminate up to 75% of resumes submitted
  • Number of career fields has increased nearly 300% in the past several decades
  • College graduates need technical skills and work experience to obtain an entry level job or internship. They no longer have the luxury of “learning on the job”.
  • Even for those with high GPAs at prestigious universities, a college degree is no guarantee of a good job. In fact, 44% are underemployed. On average, college graduates take 7.4 months of full-time job searching until they find a job. (Federal Reserve Bank, NACE)

Because ECS works exclusively with young individuals, they’re experts with the specific issues that you face. This makes them best suited to help you identify and achieve your career aspirations.

teaching-my-teen-money-management

ECS helps you fix the most common mistakes college graduates make when applying to jobs. They help you apply early, remind you not to waste time on unrealistic positions, and prepare you for interviews and follow ups. Coaches aid you in honing your personal story, and teach you to maximize LinkedIn use and customize cover letters to the job. ECS covers every aspect of job application and preparation, meaning they can handle all of your questions and needs. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and it can even benefit you more than you might guess. They are experts, after all!

You can reach out for more information from Early Stage Careers, or read some of their articles and blogs for a more thorough understanding.

Location Spotlight: Monteverde, Costa Rica

Near the end of trimester one, our students spent an exciting two weeks in the beautiful town of Monteverde. To keep you engaged with our students’ journey, we’re giving you an in-depth look of the town.

Monteverde is known for its high altitude of 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level, which places it directly in the clouds. Thanks to these clouds and the moisture they provide, the town has an incredible amount of biodiversity. This variety of species makes the town a big spot for ecotourism, and a great place to visit or study.

The community of Monteverde itself began when four pacifist Quakers from Alabama sought to find a place to embrace peace and cultivate their dairy farms. In 1950, some of the Quaker families moved to Costa Rica. Then, they began to establish Monteverde with some of the area natives. Today, Monteverde has about 7,000 permanent residents. The town is also home to environmental organizations, the Monteverde Conservation League and the Monteverde Institute, where our students are lucky enough to study.

Costa Rica Rainbow
Costa Rica Rainbow | Photo By: Our Field Advisor, Sarah

The Monteverde Institute was founded with the vision to build “a sustainable community for a sustainable world”. The Institute brings attention to, and attempts to find solutions for, local issues affecting the community. All food comes from local sources, and the facilities are environmentally efficient. They achieve this status by collecting rainwater, using biodegradable cleaning supplies, recycling, and using passive solar energy and natural lighting.

In addition to giving back to the environment, the Institute gives back to the people of it’s community. Our students participate in homestays through the Monteverde Institute! Families who host don’t just receive compensation. They are also able to participate in programs and classes specifically geared toward them, such as a sustainability and energy audit.

Winterline Homestay
Natanielle coloring with the kids at her homestay | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

Alex Messitidis
Making new friends in Costa Rica at homestays. | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

During their homestays, our students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP). Each person gets to pick a study focus, and some of the options are truly unique. For example, some of our students get to process coffee, all the way from farming to brewing. Others paint their own batiks, creating a cloth that expresses their individuality. Others still participate in tree climbing, a home bakery business, or upcycle discarded materials like tires to create new products. Spanish conversation and foot reflexology are also two popular options.

Monteverde
Ingrid’s Bakery, one of our Independent Study Locations | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

The rest of the ISP programs include making handcrafted paper, woodworking, mapping, working in aqueducts, tropical farming, horsemanship, dairy farming, natural building, and bird tracking. With all these options, each student is sure to find something new that they love. In fact, it’s probab;y hard to pick just one!

Charlie
Charlie making a silk batik while at his independent study | Photo From: Charlie Dickey

Baking
Students baking for their independent study project | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

Monteverde is full of incredible opportunities not just for our students, but for visitors of all kinds. Whether you’re after ecological learning or cultural immersion, this breathtaking town is sure to draw you in. 

Perfect Holiday Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

The holiday season is coming up quickly, and it’s never too early to start thinking about gifts! Whether you’re treating yourself or honoring a relative or friend this winter, we’ve compiled some gift ideas for the traveler in your life. For more gift inspiration beyond this post, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board

  1. Add a little flair and personality to boring travel pieces with a cute passport cover and luggage tags. This way, no one will take your luggage, but maybe they’ll wish they could. 
  2. Everyone wants great pictures to remember their trips by, but having a professional camera may be too expensive to buy or impractical to carry. Luckily, anyone can make their iPhone camera high-quality with the olloclip core lens set. The set attaches over the phone’s front and rear cameras with either a fisheye, super-wide, or macro 15x lens for just $99.99 on Amazon. 
  3. The last thing you want to realize when going overseas is that you can’t charge your devices because you don’t have an adapter. You’ll never be in that situation again with this 5-in-1 adapter from Nordstrom. The plugs work for over 150 countries, and are even color-coded for simple use. The best part? It’s only $35.                                                                
  4. Both chronic overpackers and forgetful travelers will appreciate this packing guide for any trip. Only $10 on Amazon, this book will ensure you bring exactly what you need – no more, no less – on any journey. You’ll never pay any overweight luggage fees or run to drugstores for left-behind items again.                                                                                                                   
  5. Hydration is key to staying healthy, especially when you’re spending long days walking, hiking, or