Photos of the Week 10/11

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

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

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

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

Certification Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos of the Week 10/4

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

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

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

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

Travel Blogging with Polarsteps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Field Advisors: Sam Forti

Where are you from originally?

Columbus, Ohio

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I’ve always loved the outdoors and wanted to travel. When I found out I could do both, professionally I took my first instructor job and never looked back.

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

My first major travel experience was studying abroad in Mongolia with SIT for one semester in college.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

SCUBA!

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Sam and his fellow Field Advisors at orientation

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

I really enjoy helping feel comfortable and confident when it’s their first time in the backcountry or immersed in nature.

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

Getting to track and trail the Big 5 (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard) and other animals in South Africa.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m good at finding four-leaf clovers and can make a flute out of a plastic straw.

Photos of the Week 9/27

Trimester 1 began with our students traveling south to work with Outward Bound Costa Rica. Their 11 days with this amazing partner have just come to an end, but they were full of new adventures, beautiful sights, and challenging skills. From exploring the city of San José and becoming immersed in its culture to technical tree climbing, Spanish language learning, and becoming Wilderness First Aid certified, our students sure have been busy.

Take a look at some of these experiences captured on camera! If you’re interested in seeing more from Outward Bound Costa Rica, you can check them out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Zoe shooting hoops | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Alyssa experiencing Costa Rica | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Costa Rican architecture | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Waterfall hikes | Photo By: Peyton Farley
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Nik in the waterfall | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Felipe and Lydia hanging out | Photo By: Peyton Farley
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Liam and Alyssa high five | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Squad 1 playing mini-golf | Photo By: Jacob Rona
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Tropical hikes | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Justin tree climbing | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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Leon and a feline friend
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Lucas in the rain | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Sleeping dog | Photo By: Jack Li
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Our students at Outward Bound Costa Rica | Photo By: Outward Bound Costa Rica
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Squad 3 at Outward Bound | Photo By: Outward Bound Costa Rica
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Alyssa tree climbing | Photo By: Veronica Allmon
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University of Costa Rica | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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Veronica and Jamie cheers after their skills | Photo By: Liam Mcilwain
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All smiles for waterfalls | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Wilderness First Aid certified | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Leon getting bandaged for Wilderness First Aid training | Photo By: Outward Bound Costa Rica
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Wilderness First Aid training | Photo By: Outward Bound Costa Rica

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

Hostels vs. AirBnB: Where to Stay?

One thing is for sure: young, modern travelers are tending to eschew hotels in favor of hostels or home sharing. But how should you decide where to stay, when? We’ve broken down the main differences between staying in a hostel vs staying in an AirBnB to help you know which will be right for you on your next trip.

Considerations

Privacy and Noise

If you’re someone who can’t function with strangers in your space, a hostel might not be for you. AirBnB is the way to go in order to have private space. Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, you can get your own room or even the entire house/apartment to yourself. If you’re going to be coming in after a long day of travel and you want to fall in bed without having to talk to anyone, AirBnB is a good choice.winterline, gap year, hostel

People

For those traveling alone but looking to meet new adventure buddies, hostels provide a space to interact and connect with like-minded individuals. However, AirBnB is more helpful for immersing yourself in the culture. You’ll be in someone’s actual home, and if the host is there with you, you have a go-to local to ask questions or recommendations from. Additionally, if you’re traveling with more than a few people, you may find that you get more for your money by splitting an apartment than getting a room in a hostel.

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One of our Africa Homestay Families with our Partners, ThinkImpact.

Location

Is there a specific neighborhood you’re looking to stay in? Most cities have more AirBnBs than hostels, meaning you might be more likely to find a place in your ideal area. Transportation factors in here, as well. Many hostels are located in central neighborhoods, near public transportation and tourist attractions. AirBnB allows you to filter by these specifications as well, so you can find accommodation that suits your specific needs and desires from either service!

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Riding the train in Thailand | Brittany Lane

Food

Do you like to cook? Do you think that after exploring your destination, you’ll actually want to come home and cook? If that’s a yes, it may be worthwhile to find an AirBnB that allows you access to a kitchen! This way you can also save money on eating out by making meals in your room.winterline, gap year, cooking

Duration of Stay

If you’re only in town for a night or two, and you know you’ll only be spending time at your accommodation to sleep, these issues may not matter much. In this case, it may just be worthwhile to go wherever’s cheapest!

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After all, you could sleep anywhere | Photo By: Emma Mays

Do you prefer to stay in a hostel or an AirBnB when you travel? If you like to use both, then what’s the tie-breaker for you? Let us know in the comments!

Meet the Field Advisors: Joselin Hernández

Where are you from originally?

I am from Nicaragua, a country full of lakes, volcanoes and beautiful beaches, and warmhearted people. Most of my family still lives there.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I have worked with different organizations focusing on community service, leadership and global education for students abroad. Later in my career I started working on managerial roles & I realized where I could really contribute the most was in the field, working directly with student groups, as a mentor, as a curriculum designer. Winterline was the perfect next step, to be back in the field, to see and experience firsthand with the students the wins, the joys, the challenges and the personal growth that come from international travel.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I remember my grandmother taking me on local excursions in Nicaragua, which fed the travel bug inside of me from early on. I decided to do my bachelor’s degree on Tourism Management, with the desire to work on sustainable tourism. I had my first experience abroad when I was 18. I went to Panama on my own for 10 days. I saw the tremendous power travel had on me, pushing me out of my comfort zone & expanding my perspectives on life. 

This trip to Panama motivated me to seek job opportunities where I could facilitate experiential learning experiences for youth abroad, which is how I began working with groups of American students in Nicaragua in 2009. From then on, I have worked in this field in different countries, mostly in Latin America.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I believe Winterline is an incredible opportunity for growth in so many areas: personally, professionally, socially. The skills portion of the program makes it worthwhile, and its approach to mentoring students to become increasingly more independent and self-sufficient as the program progresses is incredible. I am excited to try and embrace skills with curiosity, enthusiasm and open-mindedness together with students. I am most excited about Rancho Matastal, where we will be learning natural construction techniques, since this is one of my biggest passions. I have done several workshops on Bamboo and Cobb Building Techniques in the past and want to deepen my knowledge of it.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

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

I am 100% committed to support both the students in this journey, and the local partners in each country that have worked so hard to make each learning piece of the program and incredible experience for the students.

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

Exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest and being mesmerized by the lush and dense vegetation and diversity of animals, I once saw a panther drinking water from a stream, not so far from me. Interacting with indigenous communities, and their traditions and ceremonies, learning from their plant medicine.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I speak 4 languages. Spanish is my native language, I learnt English while in high school. Then I moved to France to teach Spanish, where I simultaneously learned French. I went to study Tourism Management and Teachers Training in Austria for 2 years and learned German, which I am still studying. German has been the hardest one to learn.joselin hernandez, winterline, gap year

Photos of the Week 9/20

We are so excited to announce that our 2019-2020 gap year has officially begun! On September 11th, students from all three of our squads met up at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado, for orientation. Each individual squad began their own journey in Costa Rica this week, but it was amazing seeing students from each group bond as one entire Winterline family at orientation.

Below, we’ve chosen some of our favorite photos from Colorado to share with you. Be sure to stay tuned, as we’ll be posting Photos of the Week every Friday for the next 9 months as our squads move across the globe, some going to places Winterline students have never been before. Here’s to the best gap year yet!

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All 3 Winterline squads at orientation! | Photo by: Erica Schultz
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Hiking views
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Bonding bonfires | Photo by: Liam Mcilwain
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Hanging out by the fire | Photo by: Liam Mcilwain
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Long bus rides | Photo by: Liam Mcilwain
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Alyssa and Veronica at the YMCA | Photo by: Liam Mcilwain
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Life looks better from the top | Photo by: Liam Mcilwain
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Shooting hoops | Photo by: Lucas Massolo
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Winterline in nature | Photo by: Eliza Valley
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Pablo jumping for joy | Photo by: Eliza Valley
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Hannah and Peyton showing off the Winterline logo | Photo by: Erica Schultz
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Squad 1 | Photo by: Erica Schultz
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Squad 2 | Photo by: Erica Schultz
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Squad 3 | Photo by: Erica Schultz
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Our incredible Field Advisors | Photo by: Erica Schultz

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

Monteverde Independent Study Project

When we talk about Independent Study Projects, we often emphasize the Trimester 3 ISP most heavily. After all, this is the project that you spend Trimesters 1 and 2 planning and gearing up for. It’s the biggest taste of independence, and one of the most unique parts of a Winterline gap year. However, did you know that during the first trimester, you get an ISP, too?

In Monteverde, Costa Rica, our students get to participate in an ISP that’s a little more structured since it occurs so early. While no two students can participate in the same Trimester 3 ISP, students may work side-by-side in their Trimester 1 ISP. However, there’s only one student per homestay family.  That’s right; in Trimester 3, students find their own ISP accommodations. But in Trimester 1, students are placed with a local family. This allows you to become immersed in the cultural experience, connect with new people, and learn even more skills.

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Homestay family

There’s a long list of potential Trimester 1 ISPs that students get to pick from. Below we’ve highlighted just a few of the possibilities to give you a glimpse of how much Monteverde has to offer!

  • Coffee – Farm to Cup
    • If you can’t start your day without caffeine, you’ll love this experience. Students will learn and practice the process that coffee goes through from seed to cup. This includes fertilizing soil; picking, washing, and drying coffee; running sample roasts; and even preparing espressos!

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      Grinding coffee beans
  • Handcrafted Paper
    • We use paper all the time, but have you ever really considered how it’s made? Now, you can learn how to turn pulp into paper. Not only will you get to create the pulp and screen it into paper, but you’ll take it to the next step and learn bookbinding!

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      Screening paper
  • Horsemanship
    • Animal lovers, this one’s for you. Learn how to take care of horses the Costa Rican way. First, you’ll get a basic lesson in horseback riding. From here, you’ll tackle feeding and washing, checking and cleaning equipment, and even shoeing and training the horses! Once you’ve got this down, you can improve your riding skills on a horse tour.winterline, gap year, monteverde, horse
  • Medicinal Plants
    • Herbalism is both an art and a science, meaning this ISP can appeal to anyone. You can pick up botanical vocabulary and learn how to identify plants, as well as their medicinal properties and herbal actions. Once you know what they do, you can use them to prepare teas and other products!winterline, gap year, monteverde, plants
  •  Traditional Cooking with Local Crops
    • The best way to understand another culture is to eat their food. Not only will you learn to prepare Costa Rican cuisine, but you’ll do so using fresh and local food produce, like yuca, corn, and guava. Each day, you’ll learn about the ingredient, what you can make out of it, and taste its flavor.

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      Cooking in Costa Rica

Remember, these are just five of our 30 ISP possibilities! If you were going to Monteverde today, which ISP would you pick? Is there anything in Costa Rica that you’d love to get hands-on experience in that we haven’t listed? Let us know!

Meet the Field Advisors: Carlos Gustavo Moriera-Alvarez

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Costa Rica, I was raised in the mountains of Heredia Province, surrounded by wonderful landscapes and coffee fields all around. I now live in London, but will move soon to Canada.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I decided to become a Field Advisor because I got to meet 3 WL students 2 years ago when I designed one of the ISP they enrolled in Monteverde. I liked the spirit they had, I loved the way they were just trying to figure out their lives and I wanted to be a part of it since they all told me that they would like me to lead along their side. I wanted to be able to inspire and help them reach their goals and potential.

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I started teaching when I was 20, I was traveling and doing a lot of grassroots development back then… I got to work in with students in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama. I taught in tough urban and rural, same as for indigenous and afro communities within those countries. I wanted to change the world back then, that spark of altruism started my travels. Then, with time, the rest of South America, some of Europe and Asia as well.

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Carlos at the YMCA of the Rockies for Orientation

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I am excited about the possibility to create a positive impact in the lives of the students in a way that allows them to discover their path, what may like or not, and to get a general idea of themselves and their role in life.

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

I am going to push them to their limits, I intend to get them to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I will share with them what implies critical thinking and cultural understanding. I love to talk, I smile a lot, I am also a very peaceful person. They can always reach out and find someone that will listen to them, to try to understand what they may be feeling and experiencing.

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Carlos and the other FAs at Orientation

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

There is no way to sum this up with words nor within one sole experience. I lived on the riverside communities scouting the Amazon river all the way from Iquitos (Perú) to Manaos (Brazil). I have done skydiving over the Iguazú waterfalls during sunset. I hicked/ran the Inka Trail towards Machu Picchu. I did 12h trecking over a glacier in Patagonia (Argentina) after backpacking for 300+ km. I backpacked for 1 year between Europe and Asia without a paddle, just figuring out what I wanted to do along the way. Hitchhiked/boat-hiked allover Philippines and then lead a group of volunteer teachers from diverse nationalities. There’s a lot out there in the world, these are a few of the things I remember.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I am very goofy! And I love (in a crazy way) nature and wild animals that are not from the ecosystems I grew up in, therefore I will be with a sense of awe and wonder in these new places… just like a child.

Meeting my Winterline Coworkers

Winterline staff members are spread out across the world – from Southeast Asia, to Latin America, to various cities in the United States. In some ways, this distance is amazing. It allows us to have regional experts in the locations that our students visit, and it means someone is available for assistance in every time zone. However, by far the biggest downside of this distance is that it’s difficult for our staff members to spend time together in person.

There are coworkers I’ve spoken to almost every day for the past two years over the phone, through text, or on a video call – yet we’d never met in person. That is, until September 3rd, when the majority of our office staff met up in Winter Park, Colorado for a staff retreat! We flew in from across the world, with our farthest staff member coming in from Cambodia and our nearest arriving from other parts of Colorado. We also got to spend time with a few members of our sister organization, Thinking Beyond Borders.

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Colorado views

Now, “work retreat” might sound like an oxymoron to some people, but for many of us, this time together only solidified our passion for Winterline. By far the highlight of these days was getting to know my coworkers on a deeper level! We covered all the basics that just don’t come up over meetings: where people are from, where they went to college, whether they have siblings. But we also got to connect much further. I learned what the perfect day for my coworkers would look like, which values they hold most esteemed, and what their individual goals for the year are.

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All smiles from Ashley, our Director of Student Services, and Cara, our VP of Sales and Marketing

We sat around and talked, of course, to figure this out, but I also learned a lot about my coworkers through our activities! We participated in a ropes course, just like our students do at orientation. This day was so much fun and it was so inspiring to see how each and every person gave their all. We took risks, we supported each other, and we celebrated each other’s accomplishments. Yet, no one pressured each other to go faster or to complete a course that was too challenging for that individual. This balance of respect for each other’s boundaries and encouragement to push each other to do our best came naturally to our team, and is something that reflects in our workplace relationships, as well.

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Our Admissions Advisor Nora conquering the ropes course

I think it’s important for you, our students and families, to understand this aspect of our company. Comprehending what goes on behind the scenes or picturing who the individuals are that make up Winterline is hard. Even I have had trouble comprehending this information at times, being separated from the rest of the team!

But let me tell you this: I already knew that Winterline is made up of the most dedicated, passionate individuals. From this staff retreat, I learned that this work ethic comes from strength, diversity, and integrity in my our personal lives. Having a team composed of such well-rounded people allows us to offer a program that allows you or your student to grow and learn, take risks and challenge yourself, and become your best self.

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Showing some love to our coworkers!

I’m already looking forward to our next retreat. And if you have the chance to talk to any of our incredible staff members, whether it’s about work or not, take us up on it! We’re always happy to meet you, support you, and help you figure out what the right path is for you.

Meet the Field Advisors: Jamie Hackbarth

Where are you from originally?

Columbus, Ohio! Most recently I call home Denver, Colorado.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

I choose to become a field advisor because I believe in the transformational power of experiential education. I experienced the positive impacts of learning outside of the walls of the classroom and want to share that experience with young people today to shape and expand their worldview.

winterline, gap year, jamie hackbarth
Hiking Mont Fitz Roy in Patagonia

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I began traveling during high school down to Honduras to assist at an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. This experience made me hungry to keep learning from other cultures and people from different life experiences, which led me to study abroad throughout Central America and Barcelona, Spain. After college, I served with the Peace Corps in rural Peru, which is where I began teaching and mentoring young adults. I continued my teaching over the past several years with the State of Colorado by leading educational programs for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I continue to travel for personal growth reasons throughout the world every year and am excited to do so with Winterline!

winterline, jamie hackbarth, gap year
Holding Nala in her Peace Corps community in Peru (brought home the dog!)

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I am most excited to share my passion about global experiential education with students, and mentor them through this process.

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

I truly believe in the power of authenticity, and bringing that to grow and learn from every experience and person you encounter.

winterline, jamie hackbarth, gap year
Kayaking through Chicago

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

Sky-diving over the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the Amazon Jungle with locals!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

As a kid, I used to perform in half-time college basketball games as a mini ‘Harlem Globetrotter’! Ask me how to spin a ball on your finger.

winterline, gap year, jamie hackbarth
Hanging out in Machu Picchu

Why You Should Learn Spanish on Your Gap Year

Learning a new language can be intimidating. We worry about our pronunciation, grammar rules, speaking too slowly…and that’s when we know the right words! But learning a new language is also unbelievably rewarding, and worth the work it takes. Here’s 7 reasons that we incorporate Spanish language learning into our gap year.

Learning is best in-context

We always strive to embed our programs into the contexts where they’d best be learned. Why not learn SCUBA diving at a coral reef, rather than a swimming pool? Why not learn about sustainable energy at some of the premiere institutions in Europe? Learning Spanish is the same. The meanings within the grammar and the motivation for learning itself come together quickly and more naturally in context, such as at a homestay in Panama. We’re all about deep learning experiences.

winterline, gap year, spanish
Winterline students at a homestay in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Ability to communicate with other people

Spanish is spoken by over four hundred million people world wide, which makes it the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese. Spanish is the main official language for twenty-one different countries, which makes it one of the most useful travel languages out there. If you study it at the start of your gap year, think of all the doors that might open for you along the way.

Appreciation of more cultures

There’s often no better way to learn about the intricacies of a culture than to learn the ways people express themselves verbally. Even from region to region, variations in speech can tell you an enormous amount about the ways others see the world. Learning Spanish during your gap year can open up encounters with people that might forever change your life for the better, increasing access to the culture on an immediate scale.

winterline, spanish, gap year
Being welcomed by the children of El Cocal | Photo By: Brittany Lane

It makes you more hireable

Whether you’re interested in management, sales, marketing, banking, or telecommunications, Spanish-speaking ability is becoming one of the fastest growing job needs in the world. We have nothing against students getting great jobs in fast growing industries.

Helps you understand your own language better

This one is not unique to Spanish per se, but learning a foreign language often provides a much deeper appreciation for your own native language, and of the sensibilities and idiosyncracies of the lengua franca in which you grew up, especially your own grammar. For example, why can you say three cups in English, but not three milks?

winterline, gap year, spanish
Students painting Spanish signs in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Because its cool

Speaking Spanish is awesome. Ben Affleck, Maya Angelou, David Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matt Damon all speak it, even though its not their native tongue. Plus, you probably have friends who speak Spanish. Wouldn’t you want to know when they’re sharing secrets with each other?

It keeps your brain active

There are many documented advantages to bilingualism. But even if you’re not a young child or concerned about the long-term effects of aging on the human mind, speaking another language can really sharpen your mind, and help you keep bringing your A-Game to whatever you do.

It will help you get ahead when you get to college

Most colleges and universities have language requirements. They used to be Latin, but thankfully, these days you get to choose. A solid foreign language foundation often allows you to ‘test out’ of the foreign language requirement, or at least skip basic intro classes. This saves time and gives you the opportunity to focus on all the things you want to do.

winterline, gap year, spanish
Students in Costa Rica | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Interested in learning Spanish and other skills on your gap year? Check out our skills list and itineraries for an idea of what a Winterline gap year entails!

Location Spotlight: Hanifl Centre

Hanifl Centre, an outreach of the Woodstock School in Mussoorie, India, is an outdoor education center in the Himalaya where Winterline students stay during Trimester 2 of their gap year. 

The centre’s full name is The Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study, and it was established in 2003 by Woodstock School alumni Suzanne and Paul Hanifl. The Hanifl’s founded the centre as a way to expand upon skills and knowledge of outdoor education for students and visitors alike.

hanifl centre, india, winterline, gap year
Photo By: Emma Mays

To pursue this mission, the Hanifl Centre offers a catalogue of courses ranging from just a few days in length to an entire semester abroad. Some of these courses are on topics like Wilderness First Aid. The Hanifl Centre defines wilderness as “ being an hour away from definitive medical care, which makes it relevant to most rural and urban settings in India.” The Outdoor Leadership Course is another example, which covers two main topics: leadership and outdoor skills. Some of the focuses here are conflict management and risk management, as well as functional map reading, ropes skills, and Leave No Trace ethics.

So what does a visit to the Hanifl Centre look like for a Winterline student? Hanifl Centre’s campus has both a dormitory and classrooms stocked with resources for learning, scientific equipment, and outdoors gear. In order to be environmentally friendly, the building utilizes a passive solar space-heating system and an active solar water-heating system!hanifl centre, india, winterline, gap year

Over your two week stay on campus, you’ll hone a variety of skills, starting off with a multi-day course in disaster medicine. Once you’re confident in these skills, you and your peers will take off on a week-long trek in the Himalayan Mountains! Finally, to wind down from your adventure, you’ll finish off with another multi-day course in which you practice yoga and meditation.

Interested in having this experience for yourself? Join us next year to visit Hanifl Centre and so many more partners on our 2020 gap year!

Why Your Parents Worry about a Gap Year

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “how do I convince my parents to let me go on a gap year?” We get it. Parents and guardians want what’s best for their children. And sometimes, what’s best is a gap year! So how do you explain that to them and balance your own needs with theirs? You can anticipate some of the questions your parents may have and come prepared with answers to satisfy them.

“How are we going to afford it?”

There’s a misconception that gap years are only for the rich. While some programs are expensive, breaking down the costs makes a sticker price more palatable. For example, we understand that the $55,000 cost for Winterline can be shocking at first. But this payment is all-inclusive, meaning it covers your skills and program fees, travel and lodging within the program, food, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and other related expenses. Additionally, many programs including our own, offer scholarships and work-study opportunities to bring down the cost. It’s also worth considering that a Winterline gap year is roughly equivalent to the cost of a year’s tuition at a private university. We believe that you’ll get more out of your gap year, especially if you’re not yet sure that college is for you. Of course, Winterline isn’t the only option. Other programs offer different lengths or destinations for lower prices. You can also design your own gap year to fit your specific needs. You can also find a list of non-program specific scholarships through the Gap Year Association website.winterline, gap year

“Is it safe?”

Don’t roll your eyes when your parents ask! It can be daunting for them to look at a long list of countries you want to visit, especially when they know little about the countries or have only heard negative mentions. But Winterline is fully committed to maintaining student safety and keeping risks to a minimum. Our program is accredited by the Gap Year Association for upholding these standards. We hire Field Advisors who are familiar with the regions of the world to which you travel, and have both Travel Medicine First Responder and Wilderness First Responder certifications. Each of our partners have been carefully vetted before we work with them. Additionally, our field staff are in constant communications with our headquarters and always have access to local authorities and emergency personnel. We do everything in our power to ensure student safety and happiness!winterline, gap year

“Won’t it be a waste of time?”

A gap year is about taking space to learn about yourself, your passions, your strengths and weaknesses, the world around you, and how you fit into that world. Does that sound like a waste of time to you? Emphasize that on a program like Winterline, a gap year isn’t about lying around in bed all day. You’ll be out in the world, meeting people with different world views, experiencing new cultures, attempting skills out of your comfort zone or purview. You’ll be learning and growing every single day. What better way could you possibly spend your time? Even if you decide against a program in favor of working, taking non-traditional classes, or traveling, you’ll be discovering new things about yourself. You’ll have a better understanding of who you are and what you want in the future. This means you may actually be less likely to waste time in the future studying something you don’t love or working a job that you’re not cut out for.winterline, gap year

“Won’t you fall behind academically?”

A worry for both parents and students is that if you take a year off from traditional school, you won’t want to return afterward. The first thing to remember here is that there’s no set timeline on education. Just because some of your peers go straight from high school to college and graduate in four years, doesn’t mean you will or have to! Working at your own pace is the best way to succeed. And studies actually show that gap year students outperform other students, both immediately after their gap experience and over the entire four-year college duration. Students report that taking a gap year helped them to figure out their interests, and therefore are more satisfied in their majors and careers.winterline, gap year

Now’s the time to talk to your parents! Explain to them why you want to take a gap year, how you think it will benefit you, and what your ideal gap year would look like. Still need some more help? Our Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Erica, and our Admissions Advisor, Nora, are always happy to chat with families about their particular situations and concerns. Send us an email at admissions@winterline.com or give a call to 1-888-737-4226!

Location Spotlight: Cape Leopard Trust

With the introduction of our new Itinerary 2 option to travel to Rwanda and Africa on a gap year comes the introduction of new partners in these countries. We’re thrilled to be able to add Cape Leopard Trust to our long list of exceptional partners around the world!

The Cape Leopard Trust, formed in 2004, is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that promotes research on and conservation of the Cape mountain leopard and other natural predators.

There’s little known about many of these predators, so in order to keep an eye on the species, Cape Leopard Trust uses cameras with movement sensors to capture footage in the Cederburg Mountains. Further, to monitor the leopards, they’re trapped and tagged with GPS radio collars before being released back into the wild. Fun fact: like human fingerprints, no two leopards have the exact same spot pattern! This makes it possible to identify individual animals and estimate an area’s population size. cape leopard trust, winterline, gap year

Though these leopards are not a threat to humans, they do prey on sheep. This causes problems for farmers and their livestock. Cape Leopard Trust understands that sometimes farmers are desperate because attempts to protect their livestock are not working, but they also understand that leopards are simply following their very nature by preying. Killing all the predators is not sustainable, practical, or effective. So Cape Leopard Trust is trying to find a solution that allows sheep and leopards to coexist.

When you visit Cape Leopard Trust on your Winterline gap year, you’ll be doing more than just learning about conservation in theory. You’ll work in the bush and learn about the Cape Leopard in the only place in the world where they’re found. With this partner, you’ll learn about using camera traps to find these animals, how to extrapolate the data to determine migratory patterns and territory, and use this information to work towards conservation of the species.cape leopard, winterline, gap year

If you’re interested in learning more about the research that Cape Leopard Trust conducts, you can find plenty of information on their website. If you’re inclined to support their endeavors, you can also donate to the organization! But as we all know, the best way to learn is by doing. So if the work and goals of Cape Leopard Trust intrigue you, you should apply now to join us in South Africa and become a part of this effort for yourself.

Meet the Field Advisors: Ellen Molander

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

After many years as a classroom teacher working in international education I began to feel stagnant and stuck. I wanted to continue working in education with students, but in a different capacity, outside of the classroom. I am passionate about travel, social emotional learning, self discovery and hands on skills based learning. My search for a new career path within education brought me to experiential ed, leading summer programs for high school students. It was through this work that I discovered gap year programs and began leading semesters.winterline, gap year, ellen molander

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I studied Early Childhood Education in University and began my teaching career in the traditional classroom setting. Having always regretted not studying abroad, after my first year of teaching, I began looking for international teaching opportunities. It was then that I packed up and moved to Guatemala to teach 3rd and 4th grade. Upon arrival I was immediately bit by the travel bug! Fast forward 11 years and I’ve never looked back. I’ve lived, taught or traveled on nearly every contenent.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I truly believe that travel has the ability to break down barriers, change perspectives, and open hearts and minds. I am excited to share this journey with students while traveling through Latin America, a region that has become my home over the last 11 years and is near and dear to my heart. winterline, gap year, ellen molander

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

Thats a hard one! I love to laugh and have fun. I’m extremely compassionate and caring and dedicated to what I do. I don’t believe in living inside the “box”

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

So hard to pick! While living and working in East Africa I had the opportunity to see so many incredible animals in the wild. Something that I never dreamed I would do in my life. In Uganda we tracked white rhino on foot, in Zanzibar I swam with wild dolphins in the Indian Ocean, and in Tanzania I went on countless safaris and saw more animals than I ever thought possible.winterline, gap year, ellen molander

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I am a certified yoga teacher. When I’m not leading student groups you can find me in my mat practicing or leading classes. winterline, gap year, ellen molander

Learning to Manage Social Stress

The beginning of the school year can be a terrifying time for the teenage mind. New expectations, new routines, and worst of all, new friends, all combine to create the perfect storm of social anxiety.

Going into college prepared means having learned these skills to a ‘T’. Students who can effectively navigate social settings, and manage conflicts are in the best position for success in college.winterline, gap year

New research highlighted in the New York Times from David S. Yeager, ‘a leading voice in the growing effort to help college students stay in school,’ and Carol Dweck, famous for her work with growth and fixed mindsets, have pointed to teens’ ability to learn social anxiety coping strategies. One can teach students these skills; they’re not permanent predilections.

Critical to the research, teenage depression is at nearly 11 percent, and many teenagers battle high stress daily. Despite that, research sees rates of coping skills as “weak.”

At Winterline, we’ve structured all of our gap year programs to be heavily oriented toward these peer-related skills, skills that we see as essential for life, career, and work in the 21st century. From the start or our program, students practice team-building and leadership skills, non-violent communication, and conflict mediation. Throughout their months abroad, experienced Field Advisors lead by example. Students observe how to navigate conflict, negotiate, bargain, and empathize with peers and colleagues.winterline, gapyear

Dr. Yeager’s suggestion that students learn ways to “hold onto a long view” is exactly what we teach during our Global Skills Programs. When you travel the world and learn skills in their appropriate context, you immediately begin to connect the dots between what you’re doing on a daily basis and the impacts you can have in the world.

The gap year is the perfect opportunity to distance yourself and recalibrate. Doing so will help you figure out what you’re good at and how you want to impact the world.winterline, gap year, instagramwinterline, gap year, instagram

Meet the Field Advisors: Felipe Buitrago

Where are you from originally?

I am from Bogota, the capital of Colombia, situated in the middle of the Andes.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

It excites me to be back in the “field’” once again and witness the power of other ways of learning unfolding through transformational experiences. I think that as an FA I’ll be able to support young people to articulate, in action and in conversation, the narratives of their own journey.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

My teaching career started back in 2010 at Earlham College, as a Language and Literature program assistant for the Latin American and Spanish department. During that time I was able to support curriculum, lesson plans, and developed collaborative research with faculty.

Traveling has been a part of my life ever since I was granted a scholarship to finish the International Baccalaureate school diploma at a boarding school in Montezuma, NM. Continuing, with my undergraduate education in a small liberal arts school in Richmond, IN, followed by an MA in Outdoor Education; a program between universities in the UK, Norway and Germany. Currently, I live and work for an international school in Berlin, Germany.

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that is able to imagine and encourage other ways of learning. I believe that Winterline’s exposure to different skills, scenarios, environments, and cultures is key in a course of imagining new processes of active learning and self-discovery.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

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

I feel honored to be part and accompany the journey of a group of students that choose to explore their curiosity, step beyond their comfort zone, and acknowledge their privilege while preparing for life.

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

Tracking a pack of wolves in Yellowstone National Park (Lamar Valley) in a research study back in 2010. For four weeks I was able to learn about and understand the effect on the overall health and impact of the reintroduction of the wolves into the ecosystem of the park.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m a big fan of urban gardening. Currently growing in my small balcony: Green beans, a pumpkin, avocado trees, figs, tomatoes, strawberries, coffee, pepper, sweet potato, and two beautiful cucumbers.felipe buitrago, winterline, gap year

Does a Gap Year Improve Study Habits?

Studies gathered by the American Gap Association show that taking a gap year can improve grade point averages for returning students and solidify academic major and career choices. A 2011 study at Middlebury College, conducted by its former dean of admissions Robert Clagett, found that students who had taken a year off had consistently higher GPAs than those who didn’t. How can a gap year actually improve a student’s study skills and academic performance?

Developing practical and applicable skills.

Structure and problem-solving are just two of the many skills necessary for developing good study habits. When a student chooses a structured gap year they will learn time management, effective communication, and critical-thinking throughout the program. Many gap year students will also volunteer and work during their gap year program, which also requires organization and problem-solving. These tasks will help improve their discipline, attention to detail, and study skills over time before entering college.winterline, gap year, study

A sense of purpose and focus.

Academic burnout is one reason students consider taking gap years. Many high school students say they chose a gap year because they needed a break from studying. After taking a gap year, students say they have a greater sense of purpose in their studies and their career choice. Taking a gap year exposes students to new experiences, new cultures, and new environments. Therefore students have a better view of the world and what career choice and educational path they want to pursue. With a sense of purpose, students admit they study more and study harder with career focus.winterline, gap year, study

Maturity and self-awareness.

Gap years force students to mature, learn the language, and become independent adults. Students become aware of their surroundings, of the culture and the people, and of their own ability to solve problems on their own. All of these life experiences, again, lead to improved study skills and academic performance.winterline, gap year, study

There are so many positive reasons why students should consider a gap year between high school and college. Developing practical life skills leads to improved study habits, a sense of true purpose, and  maturity.

7 Reasons to Go to Cambodia

When you’re thinking of travel destinations this year, why not think outside the box? A Winterline gap year offers you unique options. Stand out from the crowd and learn about a beautiful country you might not otherwise consider: Cambodia. We still have a few spots left on our 2019 Itinerary 1 gap year, and our 2020 applications will be opening soon, so get ready to visit with us!

  1. Our trip focuses on interpersonal skills and communication. Maybe you’ve been having trouble getting along with people. Maybe school’s so overwhelming that you need a reminder of the bigger purpose. Maybe you’re trying to learn more about yourself. All of these issues will be touched upon.
  2. Learn about conflict and see how it leaves a lasting mark. From the late 1960s until the 1990s, Cambodia was under the rule of the oppressive Khmer Rouge. While the regime ended long ago, its destruction has left an impact on Cambodia’s citizen today. Visiting Cambodia will teach you first-hand about a history you don’t know. It will also enforce the importance of learning to keep peace, and you’ll be able to pay homage to the country’s losses, helping them move forward.
  3. You’ll get to see the beauty of Angkor Wat, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The temple complex is the largest religious site in the world. These ancient buildings are not only breathtaking, but full of history you don’t usually learn in class.
  4. Cambodian culture is unlike any other. From the dance, to the cuisine, to the religion, Cambodia is vibrant in color and experience.  
  5. Visitors often say that Cambodians are some of the kindest people in the world. Despite a recent painful past, the people have an infectious and inspiring spirit. The best way to learn about a country is by hearing what its native people have to say. Go to Cambodia and listen to people’s stories. It’ll help you understand more about this country than you could learn from any textbook.
  6. Experience the liveliness of a Cambodian market. Various types of goods pack full bustling stalls. Shopping at one of these markets is not only exciting, but will give you a glimpse into daily life.
  7. The country is more than just its temples. Siem Reap has a diverse nightlife scene, while Phnom Penh is lauded for its cultural renaissance and world-class dining. Battambang is up-and-coming, notably for its architecture and contemporary art scenes.

Going to Cambodia means you’ll get to disconnect from the fast-pace of life. The beauty, the religion, the solemn history, and the kind people of the country will remind you what life is really about. Learning about loss and tragedy is difficult, but it’s important for moving forward. This visit to Cambodia will be both a physical and spiritual journey, as you recognize how to connect and communicate with both other people and your own self.

New Student Spotlight: Darshil Dholakia

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?

Surat, India

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 heard about students taking a gap year to do some internship or some job but after exploring Winterline, I got a new understanding of gap year and what all things we can do in a year. Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

 I planned to take a gap year as it will help me explore myself and the world.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am interested in cars, so I am excited about driving with BMW. Also, technology drives my life, so I’m very much keen to learn about robotics and stuff.Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

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

I will be joining my family business wherein we cut and polish rough diamonds. We have expanded into the IT industry so will be joining into that sector.

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

I have been to many countries in Europe, UK, New Zealand, US, Canada, Thailand, etc. I have also been on cruise ship journeys. My favourite trip was of the Canadian Rockies with family. It was an amazing experience between the mountains and the forests. The best place was Lake Louise. It was all blues and greens. Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

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

As the program is big enough and has lots of things to learn and explore, I don’t know what I expect, but whatever I get, it will be a life long experience and learning.

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

This is a tough part for me. I am a bit of a shy guy and introvert trying to express myself. So I’m hoping to make new friends.Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

WHY WINTERLINE?

It provides a range of countries to experience. The way they planned the itinerary and the learnings from each place is amazing. It gives me what I want, i.e. experience, growth, travelling and exploring.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I love listening to music. Whenever I feel lonely, I start listening. I listen to music while I am doing my projects as well. I am a tech geek. I am a pilot by hobby.

Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

What’s in Your Carry-On?: Winterline Staff Edition

Our Winterline staff are no strangers to travel. Former Field Advisors, expats, and general travel enthusiasts alike, we’ve all had our fair share of long flights. So to help you figure out what’s most important to pack in your carry-on bag, I asked our seasoned travelers to share the items they wouldn’t be caught without.

Nora

Admissions Advisorwinterline, gap year, travel, earbuds

Headphones!!! I’d lose my mind without them. Lately, I have Netflix episodes downloaded to watch during the flight. A change of clothes or two in case something happens with my luggage. A snack if I can remember-usually a granola bar. I hate flying, so for me I’ve found that music/podcast/Netflix is a better distraction than a book, which is why I don’t really read on the plane.

Erica

Director of Outreach and Recruitmentwinterline, gap year, travel, cash

Cash on hand. What if your credit cards don’t work? Did you forget to put a travel notification on it? Cash is ol’ reliable. Plus, it’s super quick and easy to walk up to a currency exchange in your destination airport and change currencies so you can immediately have local cash on hand. But make sure your cash on hand is made up of crisp bills! In many countries if your bills are torn a little or worn out too much, they won’t take it, including currency exchanges. Get crisp new bills from the bank or an ATM before you leave!

Cara

Vice President of Sales and Marketingwinterline, gap year, travel, book

Always food for me! Plus a book (old fashioned!), a sweater or scarf in case the plane is chilly, and  extra phone charger.

Matt

Chief Risk Officer

winterline, gap year, travel,

A battery pack for phone and a SIM card case to make sure I don’t lose the sim from my home country carrier.

Ashley

Director of Student Services

winterline, gap year, travel,

A phone charger/battery bank and first aid kit, and a bandanna because they are versatile and come in handy for various things

Eileen

Director of Programswinterline, gap year, travel, dark chocolate

I would say a book or my kindle and some dark chocolate.

Nick

Presidentwinterline, gap year, wild sage, carry-on

I always travel with something from home; a rock, some sage, or a piece of jewelry from home (thus the Navajo turquoise earring I wear). I also always have 2-3 pairs of headphones so I can listen to music and podcasts.

Allie

Marketing Coordinatorwinterline, gap year, travel, crossword

I don’t go anywhere without a book, whether it’s downloaded on my phone or a physical copy. I also like a good crossword book to keep me busy, and headphones of course!

Susu

Country Director for Costa Rica

winterline, gap year, travel, pen

I always have a pen!!! You never know when you’ll need a pen, and it’s soooo great to have on hand.

 

Are we missing out on something handy that you like to keep in your carry-on bag? Let us know in the comments! And if you’re looking for a comprehensive packing list, we’ve got that covered, too.

7 Ways to Save Money while Traveling

There’s a feeling of relief and excitement once you’ve finally saved up enough money to book a flight for the trip you’ve been dreaming of. But it’s important to keep an eye on your finances in regards to the rest of your vacation, too. From accommodations to food to experiences, you want to do the most while spending the least. Here’s a few ways to make that happen.

  1. Hostels and home-sharing sites are your friend. On a Winterline gap year, your group accommodations are included in the program cost. But if you’re traveling on your own, don’t go straight for a hotel. Hostels and sites like AirBnB or VRBO are cheaper and have the added benefit of immersing you more directly in the local culture. You’ll get more of a chance to interact with people who actually live in the area and can give you tips and recommendations to make the most of your stay.winterline, gap year, homestay
  2. Do your research on admissions prices for museums and other institutions. Museums are often a must-see to get a taste of the culture, art, and history. You shouldn’t have to miss out because you can’t afford the trip. Many museums in Europe, for example, offer free or discounted tickets for not just students but young adults up to 25! A lot of museums also offer free admission on a certain night of the month, if you can work it out so that your visit overlaps. winterline, gap year, museum
  3. Look for free activities, too! There’s plenty of equally stimulating and cultural activities that you can participate in for no cost. Check out community calendars, look on Facebook, or ask a local to find out what’s going on in the area.
  4. Use the public transportation! Calling a cab may be tempting, but taking a bus, train, or even tuk-tuk will be gentler on your wallet. Even better, again, using the public transportation will give you a more authentic experience of the country you’re in. Maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with the person next to, find a hidden gem at a random stop, or have a fun story to tell your friends. You may also find that an overnight bus or train is much cheaper than a flight and will get you to your destination all the same.winterline, gap year, tuktuk, money
  5. Don’t eat out for every meal. If you have a kitchen, you should try to take advantage and prepare your own food, even if it’s just one meal a day! However, you can save money on food even if you don’t have a kitchen to cook for yourself. There’s plenty of light meals and snacks you can make without a stove: buy food at the grocery store or the local market for breakfast or an outdoor picnic. When you do go out to eat, try to stick to the local places instead of the tourist traps.student_eating_street_food_portrait
  6. Invest in a filtered water bottle. You may have to spend on it up front, but in the long run, you’ll save money refilling your water instead of buying new bottles all day in countries where the tap water isn’t safe for tourists to drink.
  7. Keep track of your spending. Oftentimes we aren’t aware of just how much we’re spending each day. Use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or an app, and take a few minutes at the end of each day to review how much money you spent that day and what you spent it on. This will help you realize if you’re spending too much on food, for example, so tomorrow you’ll know to pack more snacks and avoid eating out. This will also help you prioritize what’s most important to you and therefore worth spending a little more on.winterline, gap year, money

How do you manage your spending while traveling? Are there any tips you’d recommend for fellow adventurers?

 

New Student Spotlight: Lucas Massolo

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 was born in Santiago, Chile, but only lived there for about three months. I have been living in Miami, Florida for around 19 years now.

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 mom’s best friend’s son runs a gap year program up in Massachusetts which I visited 3 years ago. From then on I knew I wanted to do something like it.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

After completing my first year of college I realized that I wasn’t ready to continue on the same path. I wasn’t feeling very motivated to excel in a certain area and I was missing adventure.

winterline, gap year, lucas massolo

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn how to scuba dive in Costa Rica. I have always had a passion for the ocean and it will be very interesting to learn more about it.

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

I don’t have an exact idea, but I would love to do something along the lines of music, videography, photography, and saving the environment.

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

My favorite trip was to Barcelona. You can be at the beach, in the mountains, and in the city all in one day. And you can eat the best food in the world on the move.winterline, gap year, lucas massolo

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

I expect to gain responsibility, motivation, and friendship from the gap year program.

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

I’m always down for a good adventure.

winterline, gap year, lucas massolo

WHY WINTERLINE?

I chose Winterline because the itinerary looks amazing. Everything about it sounded perfect when I first read about it, and now I just can’t wait to begin.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I love to play soccer and basketball.winterline, gap year, lucas massolo

 

Creating a Successful Travel Instagram

One of the easiest ways to keep your friends and family updated on your adventures is by sharing with everyone at once on social media. Why not take it a step further and inspire people you don’t even know to set off on a journey? Getting thousands of followers may take a bit more work than just posting pictures every now and then, so here’s a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Set up your profile. Choose a name that’s easy to understand and search for, whether it be your real name or a fun moniker that’s relevant to the pictures you’ll be posting. Add a short description that explains who you are or what you do, and make sure that your profile is on public for maximum interaction! Of course, be sure to take precaution on any public profile: don’t share details that are too personal and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a parent, boss, or teacher to see.winterline, gap year, instagram
  2. You don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures, but make sure that your photos are good quality. Smartphone cameras are usually pretty reliable, and there are countless apps you can use to make your images pop. Make sure to post pictures that are visually intriguing and unique.winterline, gap year, instagram
  3. Build your aesthetic. Do you want to focus on global food? Architecture? Local people you meet while traveling? Of course, you can have a general travel profile as long as your photos all have a cohesive thread.
  4. Interact with your followers. Start your network by reaching out to friends, and friends of friends. Promote your Instagram on other social networks. Use a few, relevant hashtags that speak to your target audience. Follow similar accounts, and follow their followers, as well. This will likely inspire them to check out your profile. But don’t just be a ghost follower. Like people’s photos, comment on them, and respond to any comments they leave you. Build a relationship with your followers to keep them engaged.
  5. Don’t post too often or too little. You don’t want to clog the feed of your followers or they may get annoyed. However, post too scarcely and your followers may forget about you or unfollow. Consistency is key.
  6. Think about your caption, and make it relevant to the photo. Describe your experiences, or use a quote that sums it up. Hone your storytelling skills; nothing draws in an audience more than the combination of a stunning photo and an intriguing story.winterline, gap year, vacation
  7. Tag your location and any accounts relevant to the photo. For example, if you’re posting a photo of your food, set the location as the restaurant and tag them in the actual photo. This satisfies the curiosity of your followers and allows them to use your account as a reference for their own travels. This also increases the chance that the restaurant may repost your photo or interact with you, so their own followers will become aware of your account, too.

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    Taking in the waterfall | Photo By: Abby Dulin

Want to see how we do it? Be sure to follow our Instagram account to keep up with Winterline’s adventures!

New Student Spotlight: Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández

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?

A gap year was never in my interest. This is because I thought it was useless, mainly getting a perspective from friends who have done it in recent years. However, when I was introduced to Winterline I thought that it did not resemble any of the other activities my friends have done. My interest in Winterline derives from its mission to teach 100 different skills that are essential or useful in one’s life. I was very interested in this aspect, as I saw it as an opportunity I couldn’t dismiss.Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández, winterline, gap year

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I have been accepted to several universities in the US and Europe. However, I think I would profit tremendously from a gap year that would help me mature and expose me to new experiences that will give me more clarity towards my passion and path I want to take in my academic career.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I think I am very interested in all the skills. However, the skills that interest me the most are all outdoor activities. This is because I’ve been a very outdoors person my whole life, in recent years specifically I’ve had the opportunity to practice several outdoors activities. The first to come to mind is scuba diving, this is an activity that I really enjoy and would like to learn it as a skill.Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández, winterline, gap year

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

In my professional career, I want to become an entrepreneur as ideas are what passions me in life. Since I was very young I’ve been fascinated by simple ideas that now form large businesses, as a result, I’ve been very productive on thinking ideas of my own, I have several to form start-ups in the future. To follow my passion I want to study in a business orientated school that will teach me the necessary resources to reach my dream.

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

In 2016 I participated as a volunteer in Ostional, Costa Rica. The mission of the volunteering program was to preserve and help sea turtles in the Pacific ocean. To complete this objective we had to help the sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and take care of the baby turtles. This was my favorite trip as its the most satisfying experience of my life, I am a very animalist person as I am inspired by animals. In addition, I also met a lot of people in the program, some of which I’ve developed very strong relationships.Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández, winterline, gap year

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

In the program, I hope to become an independent and mature person. I also want to develop new relationships within and outside the program, I want to open my mind to new cultures and know new people around the world. Finally, I want to develop all skills as deeply as possible and feel a profound feeling of satisfaction at the end of the experience.

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

I want my future peers to know that I am a very down to earth person, I can describe myself as a very friendly and social person, usually never get angry, but will sometimes tell people off if they are doing a wrong thing. I am also a very communicative person and love to meet new people, I will always be trying to talk to somebody as I can barely keep my mouth shut. I am also a huge fan of soccer, as usual, I will do anything to watch the games of my team. Finally, I really like hip-hop and rap music, but you will have to put up with my Colombian music playing at full volume.Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández, winterline, gap year

WHY WINTERLINE?

Before knowing about Winterline, no other gap year program interested me, as all were too specific and superficial. I feel that Winterline is the only program that included many different activities, all for the purpose of teaching young adults on the principles of life, which is the only implication that will successfully prepare someone for the real world.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I am a very good soccer player.Pablo González-Pacheco Fernández, winterline, gap year

 

Vibrancy of India

Winterline students will get to spend some considerable time exploring India. And although much of India struggles with extreme overcrowding and poverty, it is a country full of incredible landmarks, religious history, and colorful culture. Gap year student visiting this spectacular country won’t have to look far to discover a vast array of new experiences.

Making Your Journey

For many travelers, the activities and landmark sites make the biggest impact. Visitors to India have plenty of sites to explore.

  • Taj Mahal — This world-famous marble palace is an architectural wonder with an intriguing back story. You could call it the LeBron James of places to visit in India.
  • Buddhist Caves of Ajanta — These caves, which date back as far as 2nd Century BC, have tremendous artistic and religious importance. Plus, they’re really beautiful.
  • Himalayas — You can’t ask for much more from a mountain range. World’s tallest peak? Got it (Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet). Glaciers? Check – the world’s third-largest quantity of snow and ice reside there. Several climates in various spots? Uh-huh. Multiple rivers? Yep.
  • Tea Gardens — Darjeeling isn’t just a variety of tea. It’s the gorgeous area of India where this type of tea actually comes from. Cool, huh?winterline, gap year, india

Eye-Opening Facts

  • With nearly 1.3 billion residents, India contains about one-sixth of the world’s total population. Only China has more people.
  • India’s Hindu calendar has 6 seasons: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, pre-winter, and winter.
  • It’s illegal to take Indian currency (Rupees) out of India.
  • India has the world’s lowest meat consumption per person.
  • India has more mobile phones than toilets.
  • Hinduism and Buddhism both originated in India. Hinduism is the country’s most commonly practiced religion.winterline, gap year, india

Flavors of a Nation

Like its majestic mountain peaks, Indian food isn’t subtle. It’s quite straightforward with its one-of-a-kind mixture of opposing, yet somehow complementary, flavors and consistencies – sweet vs. salty, creamy vs. spicy.

Spices like turmeric and cumin — along with consistent use of flat breads, rice and lentils, depending on the region — are major components of India’s food profile. The meats of choice are fish, chicken and mutton (that’s sheep, in case you didn’t know).

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Whether you want to try new foods or dedicate your time to a social cause, you won’t run out of fascinating places to go, people to see, and cultural nuances to experience in India.

“Leave No Trace” for Traveling on Your Gap Year

We’ve given you a look at our partner NOLS.  NOLS teaches you how to relate to the natural world in the most respectful way possible. Their Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines that allow you to get close to nature and enjoy the things it has to teach without doing harm. They cover everything from pre-trip planning to interacting with other people on the trail.

There’s clearly a parallel between each of these guidelines and those that we would prescribe for traveling internationally. Here are a few examples:

1. Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.

Depending on where you are in the world, different laws and regulations will apply. If you’re going to Bangkok, it could be pre-entry visa requirements. If you’re in the backcountry of Wyoming, the special concern could be finding clean drinking water. Venice, maybe pickpocketing.

Knowing what you’re facing before you get there can be a huge advantage, because it allows you to adapt while you still have time and other resources. You can pack your water filter, and your hidden money pouch. You can apply for that entry visa before you miss the deadline!

2. Visit in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4 – 6.

Each time you visit a place, you leave an imprint. Whether that’s a physical footprint, or a complex socio-cultural impact, something happens. There is no one way interaction, where you might receive a piece of a culture and not leave a mark. And traveling in smaller groups is imperative for maintaining that balance.

We all know the groups of a hundred people walking through town, matching hats, ice cream. It’s weird. Winterline always emphasizes small group sizes, whether that’s learning with a partner, or wandering through an old European town. It leaves a smaller footprint, and it also creates a stronger sense of community within the group.

Girls Hiking NOLS

3. Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.

Whatever you bring into your campsite, you take with you. This fundamental relationship to trash, refuse, and waste, is how we approach our international travel experiences as well. At the end of every Winterline activity, you’ll probably hear a Field Advisor say, “OK let’s pick up any micro trash we see.”

The aim isn’t to be annoying. It’s to recognize and acknowledge that we are all making an impact all the time. If twenty of us leave a plastic wrapper on the floor, the world will quickly become a landfill, and that’s not what we want. We learn about marine biology because we love it. We learn about life in the slums of India because we know that humans are humans. Whether it’s marine species or humanity, our trash affects each other. The way we treat the world is how we treat ourselves. This Leave No Trace principle highlights that very important fact.

4. Preserve the past, observe but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.

Everything that humanity has built is a part of our heritage. That’s what it means to be a global citizen, to be a citizen of the world. To truly embrace this complexity is to be an inheritor of all of human history, the good and the bad, the terrible and the true.

Allowing history to be, and to coexist with the present is what allows us to transcend the limited perspectives of our own time, and thus learn. When we embrace history, observe it without damaging it, we avoid making the same mistakes of our forbears, whatever the color of their skin or the beliefs of their time.

5. Be courteous, yield to other users on the trail.

You’ll never be alone forever. At some point you’ll join others, even on the road less traveled. How you treat those people is not only a reflection on you as an individual, but all the things you represent to them. Whether that’s your nationality, your eye color, your skin color, your fresh Nike kicks, the way you allow others to express themselves and pursue the things that matter to them in those brief moments of human interaction are not forgotten.

What gets established as culture doesn’t happen in large fell swoops, mandated from on high, but in the minutiae of fleeting moments, kind gestures, bitter memories. The way we treat others inches our society towards behaving in that way.

How would you like to be treated? And to go beyond the Golden Rule — which would have you do unto others as you would have them do unto you — how would others wish to be treated? Because we’re not all the same. That’s why we travel in the first place!

winterline, gap year, nols

6. Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

To soak up the world, it’s best to listen. Whether that’s on the trail or in the bustling streets of Mumbai, this Leave No Trace principle bears its own weight. The sound of the birds, of the singing of water taxis and tuktuks, of your peers laughing, these are the real joys of travel.

When you leave your home, don’t leave this principle behind. No country should be proud of having a boisterous reputation. The ability to learn is founded on the ability to listen. See the world, but also listen.

Does travel make you live longer?

Looking for a reason to postpone work and school for a journey around the world? Look no further: studies are showing that traveling more is related to living longer.winterline, gap year, vacation

That’s right. A 40-year study conducted by the University of Helsinki found that those who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37% greater chance of dying younger than people who take more time to travel.

In 1974, the university began tracking 1,200 businessmen who were identified as being at risk for heart disease due to weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels. The results were presented to the European Society of Cardiology in 2018. In addition to a shorter life span, those who traveled less were less productive at work and had more trouble sleeping. winterline, gap year, vacation

Though the study only tracked men, these results are significant enough to encourage to take a vacation! And they make sense. Overworking can lead to higher stress levels, which can affect your body, emotions, and behavior, leading to many health problems.

Professor Timo Strandberg warns, “don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays…Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.” It’s never too early to start thinking about how the way you live impacts your health. So if you think going to college or entering the workforce right away might be too overwhelming for you, consider taking some time off and refreshing yourself.winterline, gap year

And remember, this study comes from Finland, which is consistently ranked the happiest place on earth to live. Sounds like they know what they’re doing – maybe you should take some vacation time to visit!

New Student Spotlight: Jared Franklin

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 introduced to a gap year in the spring of my senior year.winterline, gap year, jared franklin

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I’m not quite sure what I want to do with my future and I’m hoping that through traveling the world and being pushed outside my comfort zone, I will find inspiration that will help guide me towards a future career.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

The skill I am excited to learn is diving. I can’t wait to see what it is like to explore underneath the ocean.winterline, gap year, jared franklin

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

I still have no idea of what I want to do with my future.

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

I have traveled many places. The trip that stands out to me is the one I took to Nicaragua for a school program the summer of my junior year. I liked learning about the culture and helping out in the community.winterline, gap year, jared franklin

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

With the opportunity to learn over 100 different skills,  I hope to gain inspiration for my future, as well as friendships and memories to last a lifetime.

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

I am a great friend, and my passion is in helping others.winterline, gap year, jared franklin

WHY WINTERLINE?

In researching many different gap year programs, I found that Winterline had the best reputation. I loved how Winterline travels to 10 different countries and partners up with experts in each country to teach skills I would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I have size 15 feet.

winterline, gap year, jared franklin

6 Things To Pack For A Gap Year That You Probably Didn’t Think Of Yet

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In preparation for our gap year programs, we create detailed lists of things students should absolutely not leave home without. Our field advisors travel with our students through India, the Colorado wilderness, Costa Rica, and beyond, and never fail to come back with sharper insights.

These prep lists cover everything from technology, the bare essentials, safety protocol, travel bags, toiletries, daily wear, even swimwear and sun protection.

Here are six things we recommend if you’re heading off for what could be the craziest year of your life.

1. Ziploc bags.

Ziplocs can be a lifesaver. They serve the same purpose as waterproof stuff sacks, but they can be used for a wide variety of needs and stuff themselves into the small corners of your bag. If you’ve ever needed to keep something dry, fresh, or not spilling over all your other stuff, you’ve known the value of ziplocs. They’ll help you keep items like notebooks, medicines, cameras, high-calorie snacks, and other items dry. Pack 5-10 large ziplocs for your trip.

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2. Immunization / vaccination card.

Too many people forget this item when traveling around the world. The thing is, you never know when you’ll need to show your immunization history. You could get stuck by a twisty barbed wire fence, or it could be a matter of getting a visa for a country on your bus detour. Your immunization/vaccination card will help expedite some of the most stressful situations you will hopefully never face while traveling the world. Never leave home without it!

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3. GoPro Hero 4.

Inevitably, you’ll want great photos of your experience, something to remember all the crazy experiences you’ve had by. But if a camera can feel like it’s pulling you out of the experience, strap a GoPro to yourself and you’re good to go. You get to keep both your hands free and do whatever it is you’re doing, knowing you can look back on it and laugh someday.

A solid camera will capture your experiences while not making you feel like you’re walking on broken glass. The GoPro Hero 4 takes high quality video, photo, and timelapse, and won’t break if you drop it under water.

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4. Rashguard Shirts

If you’re planning on doing any water activities, you’ll always be running the risk of rashes, as well as plenty of sun exposure. A rashguard shirt will guard you from rashes, obviously, as well as keep you from getting super sunburned or having to put on sunblock every 2 hours on every part of your body. Plus the tanlines look really cool.

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5. Water bottles and bladders

Every time you leave your camp or hostel for the next place, as a rule of thumb, you’ll want to have 2L of water on you. You never know when you’re going to fill up next, especially if you’re in a country or region without a lot of clean water (it happens). Wide-mouth Nalgene bottles are extremely useful for a variety of contexts, from just water, to mixing in hydration salts, iodine, and emergency medicines. They’re also easy to clean. Bring two of them.

Nalgenes take up space, even when they have nothing in them. If you prefer a more flexible shape, a water bladder can be useful. It’s not recommended to mix things into them, and they’re less easy to clean, but they’re adaptability and size is definitely a strong point.

Either way, don’t go without water. 3 days without it, and “you’ll perish.”

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6. Moleskin blister padding

Nothing will bum your day out more than blisters (besides no water). Bring the right socks and break in your shoes before any long treks and you still may need a little extra padding and relief. Moleskin padding can keep you going when your feet are dead, but your legs are fine. Heck, even the US Army uses it. But it can be hard to find in far off places, so don’t leave home without it.

Is there anything special you think we forgot? What’s the number one item you would want with you while traveling?

How to Market Your Gap Year

We already have the research that shows studying abroad increases your likelihood of finding a job. But how do you market your gap year or study abroad time to show potential employers what you’ve learned? Here are some tips for polishing your resume and LinkedIn profile to maximize your chances of your travel paying off.

The Resume

  • This should be pretty self-explanatory, but you never know: make sure you actually include your travels on your resume! Don’t just leave a blank space in your chronology. If your travels don’t fit under your work or education experiences, try titling a new section: “International Travel,” “Relevant Experiences,” or “Relevant Skills.” Or, play around to find something else that you feel encapsulates your time abroad.winterline, gap year
  • Tailor the resume for your anticipated next move. You probably accomplished a lot on your gap year, and as great as it all was, it isn’t all relevant to every position. Based on the position you’re applying for, your resume may be a little different. Pay attention to the job description and requirements and use the skills you learned that show your capability for the spot. There are some basic skills that are applicable to every job, like communication skills, so experiences like developing interpersonal skills with Cambodian monks would fit on every resume.winterline, gap year
  • Using action words is a generally good tip, but it’s especially important when you’re summing up an experience as all-encompassing as your gap year. You really want to emphasize the hands-on experience you’ve had by choosing powerful verbs: think “conducted research on lionfish” instead of “learned about marine life.” Be precise, concise, and specific!winterline, gap year
  • Give yourself credit for your work! Sometimes we pick up on skills we aren’t even aware of. For example, if you ran a travel Instagram, you have social media marketing skills. If you ran a travel blog, maybe you picked up on SEO/SEM. Think about what you did on your gap year and push it one step further – what did you gain from each of those experiences?winterline, gap year

The Interview

  • Think about a challenge you overcame while on your gap year, and be ready to talk about it! Maybe you had trouble adjusting to a new location, or you tried a new skill and failed at it. Employers will always want to know about your initiative, adaptability, resilience, and crisis management skills, as well as your level of self-awareness and ability to plan for future issues.winterline, gap year
  • Prepare real-life examples about your skills and experiences. You can’t put every detail onto your resume, but you can elaborate with anecdotes once you’ve grabbed the interviewer’s attention with your standout resume!winterline, gap year

Remember that your resume is just an overview of you and your capabilities. You want it to be succinct and enticing enough that employers want to know more. The interview is the place to really shine and get into the details and examples you’ve already outlined. If you get overwhelmed, just remember how much you’ve already accomplished and it’ll seem less daunting!

 

New Student Spotlight: Lauren Speroni

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 heard of the idea in high school when I learned about alternatives to going straight to college.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

It seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more outside the classroom setting and to learn about yourself. winterline, gap year, lauren speroni

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn circus skills because it seems intriguing and so different from all the others.

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

I am leaning towards doing international work either in a business or diplomatic setting.

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

I have traveled to many European countries and places within the US. My favorite trip has to be to Alaska because the environment and wildlife are so unique and the Northern Lights were amazing.winterline, gap year, lauren speroni

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

I want to come from this with many great experiences and memories along with growth and skills I would not have been able to get anywhere else.

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

I might seem reserved at first but I warm up quickly. I love to goof around and blast music and dance.

WHY WINTERLINE?

Winterline has the length and structure I wanted out of a gap year. It really ties together all the traveling and skills I’m looking for.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I can tie a cherry stem in my mouth.winterline, gap year, lauren speroni

 

Alumni Spotlight: Leela Barlow

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

I spent the summer as a job site manager for a painting company. Glamorous I know, but I created a great relationship with my co-workers and my boss because of the communication and interview skills I learned from Living on Purpose and Startup Institute. In the Fall I started my first year at University of California – Santa Barbara to study Global Studies and Political Science. My time spent travelling piqued my interest in international politics and global processes of culture, and now I get to pursue that from an academic perspective at one of the top public schools in the nation. winterline, gap year, leela barlow

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

My post gap-year plans didn’t change as much as they became more specific. I applied to university in the middle of Winterline, knowing I wanted to pursue tertiary education, but it wasn’t until after Winterline that I knew what I actually wanted to study and how I wanted to make my impact on the world.

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

Yes. A million times yes. Winterline stripped away everything that my environment had layered upon me, and left just the core of my personality, my most genuine self. It wasn’t just by chance, I spent all year consciously self-reflecting, but I don’t think I would’ve considered it at all without the experience of changing my environment every week to see what remained. Winterline showed me how to accept and present my most genuine self, and it’s changed the way I interact with people of all different backgrounds for the better. Now when I walk in a room I stand tall, knowing who I am and how to interact with others. winterline, gap year, leela barlow

What was your favorite skill to learn and why?

Maybe it’s a typical answer, but I really enjoyed our mixology class in Cambodia. It was really fun to learn how to make a good drink, and if I’m being honest, I think it’s made me less prone to irresponsible drinking habits now that I’m at college. I’d argue that being peer pressured into drinking poor quality liquor is a little less appealing when you’ve had the chance to sit at a bar and drink something that doesn’t burn all the way down and leave you broken the next morning. winterline, gap year, leela barlow

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

I truly enjoyed Trimester 2. Asia’s history never fails to surprise and humble me. My favourite place was probably Siem Reap because it was one of the first times we got to interact with the other cohort. Plus, we got to do circus school; as it turns out I’m not bad at aerial silks.

What did you do for your Independent Study Project? Have you continued using that skill/have you used that skill since the project occurred?

I went to Budapest to refine my photography skills, and it was truly my favourite week out of the entire year. I had a chance to take this new version of myself that I had uncovered and bring her out into the real world. I use the photography skills I learned all the time because it’s a passion of mine, but more than that, I take the independent travel skills I acquired with me every time I set out on a new trip. To be able to arrive in a foreign place and not feel lost or vulnerable is something I truly think every person needs to have. I believe the attitude you arrive with plays a huge part in your safety and competence wherever you end up.

winterline, gap year, leela barlow
Photo by Leela

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

This is not a vacation! You are going to have to work hard to be present, or you’re wasting your time. Take feedback and try it on, give feedback unapologetically but also with empathy. This is your chance to learn and grow without sacrificing your GPA — so take it! You will learn so much about the world on Winterline, it’s hard not to, but if you make use of every opportunity or challenge you’re presented with, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself, and that’s what will get you through any future endeavour.

Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?

Absolutely. We keep each other updated on Snapchat all the time, some more than others, but in all honesty I feel we’ve gotten even closer since the program ended over a year ago. We still share our personal experiences and struggles with each other, and give each other support despite the miles between us. It’s like having a secret only twelve people know. No one else quite understands the experiences we had, and I think that keeps us in contact as what we learned evolves and translates into our daily lives.

What is one of your favorite memories from your program?

One of my favourite memories was in India during our small group project week. I stayed in Pune and learned about Art Therapy, Dance, and Hindustani music at Artsphere with Patrick Neafsey and Liam McLees. The whole week was memorable, but I think my favourite part was getting to celebrate Holi, the festival of colour. I’m half Indian, so I’ve gotten the chance to participate before, but never in India, and never like we did in Pune. We scoured the local mall looking for white clothes to destroy, and we went with a group of people that had taught us Capoeira earlier in the week. When we got there, we were welcomed by people we’d never met as if we were old friends. It was wonderful to celebrate and connect with people despite whatever language or cultural barriers existed; there was just an effervescent quality to the festival unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. winterline, gap year, leela barlow


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

I could write a thirty page paper to answer this question, but for the sake of time, I’ll just give you my most pressing reason why Winterline has benefited my life. I never realized that the people I knew back home were either exactly like me, or understanding enough to let me be the way I was, good, bad, or indifferent. I was an “acquired taste,” as an old friend put it, but I thought that I would be well off enough to stay that way. On Winterline, I was living with twelve other people who didn’t understand me in the slightest, and vice versa. It took nine months of stripping away all of the preconceived notions and prejudices left behind from bad first impressions and my terrible habit of keeping people at arms distance to see why Winterline was such a good decision for me. It’s kind of hard to learn how to get along with twelve very different people without learning how to get along with everyone else too. The most useful thing I learned on Winterline was how to speak to anyone without sacrificing my own personality in the process. In other words, I learned the basics of speaking someone else’s language in my own dialect, a skill I continue to practice and that benefits me every day. winterline, gap year, leela barlow

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

New Student Spotlight: Micah Zimmerman

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 a gap year around the same time that I was seriously looking at colleges, a little less than a year ago, but I didn’t give it any real thought until recently when I realized that maybe college next year wasn’t for me.winterline, gap year, micah zimmerman

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I couldn’t find something that I really wanted to study and everything about Winterline looked amazing. I wanted to use this year to find out what I liked so that I could narrow down the choices for college.

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am really excited to do the BMW program and to scuba dive.

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

Although I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the future, I would love to work on fixing the environment through renewable energy.winterline, gap year, micah zimmerman

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

I have traveled before, my favorite trip was to Israel because I got to see so many historical things from my religion.

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

Honestly I don’t even know what to expect, but I do hope to learn a lot about myself and what I enjoy doing.winterline, gap year, micah zimmerman

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

I want my future Winterline peers to know that I am always open to be friends and I love to try and learn new things.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I am double jointed in my arms (I’ll show you what I mean if you ask)winterline, gap year, micah zimmerman

 

On Teaching Failure: Words from a Winterline Field Advisor

This came up for me some time ago as I sat on the edge of a bed with a dear friend. Her baby and my niece, 7-month old Sylvie, lay several feet away snoring as though the world were her protector and that bed were a cocoon of safety and light. I told Jenny that I constantly found myself in situations that push me beyond what I am comfortable with. It is not a conscious decision, but one rooted in some deep part of my internal landscape where growth and the desire to become fully awake and fully open in heart and mind are a driving force beyond my navigation skills. I crave comfort and stability, yet I embark upon a life of instability and sped up change

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When I reflect on why I constantly find myself in front of young people in tough places, acting as a self-declared mentor of sorts, I can’t help but ruminate on why I choose to take on such a bold task given how my life has unfolded thus so far. I find thoughts running through my head that there has to be someone more adjusted and better suited to such a monumental task. What I’m learning is that there is a massive thread of intention that guides me forward and across the paths of these young people. And it is that intention that is needed, not the illusion or allure of precise measurement or perfection.

There’s something enthralling about offering up a lifetime of experiences to someone who is still on the threshold of figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world around them.

That gift does not mean I have to have expertly figured out how to live, it simply means I am present and aware. The word “guide” has always felt more appropriate than teacher – the intersection of the monastic life and that of a teacher within one degree of separation upon a large sundial of how I fit within society.

Why work so hard on self, on increasing the quality of life for myself and those around me? There is this funny little f-word (no, not that one!) that has taught me more about being human and doing right in this world than any textbook or piece of quixotic internet advice ever has – failure.

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I stand in front of young people in the hopes of modeling the sort of behaviors and actions it has taken years of hard work to get to. I stand in front of youth because I envision a world where the practices, programs, and relationships that have created the best of being human within all of us, are part of our upbringing and part of the rhythm of our communal growing-up.

But then I come back to the f-word and I hesitate to create a world where all the answers are perfect and all the people are pure and wise. Somewhere I know this to be true, but it is the path forward, often laced with f-word breathing dragons that makes us whole and full of grit.

Thank god for my failure I think now. Thank you, with all the gratitude we little humans can muster, for the hurt, the shame, the failures of those around me to protect me from life and for the runaway emotions that threatened to drown me as sure as I knew the day would end. It is in that place, where I can accept myself in shadow and light, that my heart opens further and the thing I perceive as having the power to destroy me actually becomes the wisest teacher of all.

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What is this quality, and how can I stand in front of young people and teach them that failure is OK, but self-doubt is not? The decisions you make, what happens to you, is not who you are. What matters is how you move forward and the determination with which you fight to be the best person and create the best world possible. That is worth walking through the self-determining gauntlet of failure.  Attitude, then, fundamentally shapes how we perceive what comes to us in life, both good and bad. Our downfalls and shortcomings quickly become our greatest asset for empowerment and inspiration.

Fundamentally we are all sitting in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to become our biggest and best selves.

The perception of inadequacy or misappropriation a terrifyingly delicate and appropriate place from which we can let go and enter the current of our own lives.

The external, that piece that we claim as our personality and deeply personal aspects of our lives, is driven by choice and intimately linked with our egos that are designed to protect and serve at all costs. When then, does our creation of safety and familiarity become the aversion to the exact thing that will allow us move into deeper connection with self and other?

Go out of your way to take a risk, to engage the notion of failure within your world view. I promise you will discover qualities of yourself that you didn’t know and you will find a greater place from which to decrease the isolation of being a modern human being. The only thing separating us from our biggest selves might be holding our potential for failure in one hand and our potential for greatness in the other.

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There’s a Jesuit idea that has at its core that the place you will encounter the most growth – spiritually, emotionally, and communally – is that place you resist the most. It’s confrontation on a personal level where our fears and self-doubt meet the external stimuli that gives those darker or harder places within us life.  Thomas Merton once confided in his mentor his fears of entering the priesthood and his strong aversion to death and dying. In response, his mentor decided the best place for him to grow was to be of service within a hospital in a hospice ward.

Alumni Spotlight: Cody Lyon

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

I went to work at home for the summer, then college at University of Arizona in Flagstaff, AZ.winterline, gap year, cody lyon

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

It has made me more mature, but also a little frustrated knowing I’ll still be in college while the rest of my friends will get out before me.

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

I have become more mature and confident.

What was your favorite skill to learn and why?

Scuba, because I got to see the ocean from a new perspective.winterline, gap year, cody lyon

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

I really liked Cambodia because the people are kind. I liked the food also.winterline, gap year, cody lyon

What did you do for your Independent Study Project? Have you continued using that skill/have you used that skill since the project occurred?

I did farming in Ireland. I am not doing that now, but learned to respect farmers even more.winterline, gap year, cody lyon

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

To open his or her mind. Don’t dwell on past mistakes.

Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?

I try my best to keep in touch.

What is one of your favorite memories from your program?

Sunsets in Monteverde where our cohort stayed in a house overlooking lush mountains.winterline, gap year, cody lyon

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

New Student Spotlight: Josh Herman

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 probably introduced to the idea early in high school, they have been becoming more and more popular over the past few years so I’ve heard about them quite a bit.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I really did not want to go to college right after finishing high school, I just knew I needed a break and originally I wanted to skip college altogether, but I think a year of travel is just the thing I need to refresh and reassess before getting back into it again.

Josh Herman, winterline, gap year
Josh and his older brother

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

Any storytelling/creative writing skills I can learn, I’m excited to learn. Those, and the video production skills as well.

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

I either want to write a bestselling novel, or write and direct a major motion picture. The medium isn’t exactly important, I just really want to tell a story that inspires and elicits emotions in people.

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

I don’t have the most experience travelling, but when I was about 8 or 9 we went on a cruise in the Caribbean and to the Virgin Islands. I really enjoyed the ship itself, as well as all the beautiful and diverse locations we went to.

Josh Herman, winterline, gap year
Josh and his friends at the New England aquarium

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

I really hope to gain a new perspective on the world, and to broaden my horizons past the small, boring little corner of the world I’ve spent my whole life in.

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

I guess they should probably know I’m very sarcastic, so most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is either a joke and shouldn’t be taken seriously. That, and also I’m a pretty stoic person, I don’t always show a lot of emotion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun or empathize with the group either.

Josh Herman, winterline, gap year
Josh and a friend at Target, where he works

WHY WINTERLINE?

My sister, Allison, works at Winterline and told me all about it. It sounded like a great experience, and I figured if I was going to take a travel gap year I best do it with a program my family is already familiar with.

Josh Herman, winterline, gap year
Josh and his older siblings

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I can juggle? I really don’t know what to say here, I guess I had long hair for a few years, but that looked terrible so we don’t really talk about it.

 

Changing the World Through Education

Who else has had this idea of changing the world? Who else has had this dream about being the Nelson Mandela or the Mahatma Gandhi of their country? Whether or not you share these dreams, we can all agree that this is a huge cliche. Well…I have to say I’m part of this cliche.

I have had this dream since I was 8 years old. But it was only when I was 12 that I discovered how I could make change happen: through education. Do not ask me how a 12 year old could come to Nelson’s Mandela conclusion that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” but I did.winterline, gap year, education, cristina hoyos

When I was 15, I experienced something that allowed me to confirm that my 12 year old self was right. I attended a German school through an exchange program, and it was the first time I experienced a different style of education inside the traditional system. It had the same structure as my school in Colombia but it was more basic and straightforward. This allowed me to have a lot of free time for myself. My life was not about school, it was about developing my passions. So I started to ask myself why the education style was so different and if that impacts the development of the country. The answer was hard for me to find because there are so many things going on behind the scenes in education. When I came back home I realized I had to do something to improve the Colombian system in order to improve our country.

Many people would say that if you are against the system, you should get out. However, I knew I had to finish high school to have the tools required to make a change. I took advantage of the system and used the opportunities given to me, such as the Monographic Project and student government, to get involved with the field of education. However, my involvement burned me out. I put so much effort into being the best that I didn’t leave enough time for myself. I realized that if I really wanted to change the world, I would have to change myself.  The first thing I knew I had to do was put my beliefs into practice and, in order to do so, experience a different kind of education.

Originally, I didn’t even want to bring a book on my gap year trip. I wanted to be as far as possible from everything related to academia. But I realized that through travel, I could explore the world through education and give the word a new meaning.

winterline, gap year, education, cristina hoyos
Looks like Cristina did end up bringing a book or two!

In every country we visited, I dug into education in order to get closer to the world and create a connection with each place. I started in Panama, in a public school from a rural community that suffered from a low quality of education due to lack of space, teachers and personnel. I was familiar with that, as these issues are commonplace to public education systems in Latin America. It makes a lot of sense; developing countries struggle a lot in financing public education.

winterline, gap year, education, cristina hoyos
Cristina and a student in Panama | Photo By: Brittany Lane

In Costa Rica I visited a private school that taught with a Quaker Philosophy. It was a Utopian education, but it represented the minority. The general public school system was closed due to a strike and I was unable to visit a public school.

Asia is different in every way: religion, economics, politics, and history, all tie into the different education system. For example, I couldn’t even find information about Cambodian education because the country found peace only 30 years ago. They are still recovering and reconstructing from genocide, which makes education not as high of a priority as it is, for example, in India. In India I visited UWC Mahindra College (MUWCI), an IB college with an excellent education, an example of one of the highest levels in the world. But is that really representative of India? In some ways, MUWCI felt like a bubble, because you drive 15 minutes away and you understand what poverty is.

winterline, gap year, education, cristina hoyos
Cristina and Abby in Cambodia

In Europe, the Spanish education system looks a lot like the Latin American one. Then we get to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. All of them have this excellent system where students don’t need to finish high school to succeed. And finishing in the US, the greatest world power, education is the country’s Achilles heel.

I was able to observe how education can impact a country’s development and future and it allowed me to make important conclusions about the world. Asking myself the role of education in every place helped me to piece together the building blocks of countries and allowed me to understand the diversity of the world. I could connect better with every place we visited and see it from a different perspective. Education was a universal constant in every place, something I was always looking for. Through this experience I was able to collect ideas to implement in my own country and achieve my biggest life goal. I believe that my experience on Winterline allowed me to change and develop myself, my passions and my understanding of the world. I hope that one day the tools I gathered during this year help me to change the world.

Alumni Spotlight: Pablo Matthias Fonseca

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

I went right to college, but it was somewhat of a special one. In Germany we have some colleges in which you are in a sort of internship half of the year and you study the other half. In mine I went to college one week and the next I would be working.winterline, gap year, Pablo Matthias Fonseca

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

I didn’t have a plan at all.

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

Yes, of course. Interacting with people has become much easier and my English improved exponentially. I have a lot of stories to tell, which is always nice. I know a lot more about other cultures and I think it helped me realize that I wanted to study history.winterline, gap year, Pablo Matthias Fonseca

What was your favorite skill to learn and why?

Wandering! I have done it since finishing Winterline and I really have to say that it is an activity I love. I probably wouldn’t have tried it on my own.

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

I think the second trimester. I hadn’t been to Asia before and I really liked it there. Specific location: Probably Venice. It’s a city I really love.winterline, gap year, Pablo Matthias Fonseca

What did you do for your Independent Study Project? Have you continued using that skill/have you used that skill since the project occurred?

I attended cooking classes in Madrid and of course, I cook every day and have been using the recipes I learned.

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

To go to all of the activities. They are worth it!winterline, gap year, Pablo Matthias Fonseca

Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?

Of course. We keep in touch using the cohorts’ chat on snapchat and I phone some of them from time to time.

What is one of your favorite memories from your program?

The afternoon in Burano [Italy] during the photography skill and our days in Prague.winterline, gap year, Pablo Matthias Fonseca

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

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.

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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!

winterline, gap year, sherly budiman
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!

winterline, gap year, sherly budiman
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.

winterline, gap year, lauren allen

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.

winterline, gap year, lauren allen

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.

winterline, gap year, Lydia Miller

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


winterline, gap year, europe, prague
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


winterline, gap year, europe
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


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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?

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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.

Continue reading

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
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Monkeys everywhere in Thailand | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Becky at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Squad 1 enjoying the meal they cooked at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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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.
LEARN MORE


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