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

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

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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

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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?

 

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.

    winterline, gap year, cambodia
    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!

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).

winterline, gap year, india

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.

Finding a Home on the Road

For the first time in twelve years, I am not in typical schooling. Despite the lack of a desk, learning has not stopped. On a program where my life consists of new experiences and new people constantly, my brain feels more stretched now than it did in Calculus III. As I’ve been trying to process the newness and the lessons I learn every day, I’ve realized that not only am I gaining new perspectives, but I’m changing old ones. As complex ideas like permaculture and design thinking become more clear, simple ones, like “home”, are becoming much more muddy.

When I moved out at sixteen to attend boarding school, I don’t think I understood then how much that word would become something I circled back to. “Home” was no longer a GPS destination, it existed somewhere between my house and dorm room, a place I couldn’t pinpoint. I listened to my friends assign it all sorts of different meanings, the backseats of their cars, their pets, their beds at home, and it became more and more difficult to make home a concrete structure. We talked about home, but we knew every time we went back that it wasn’t the same anymore.

This year, I have a less permanent home than I ever have. Almost every week is a new location, sometimes hostels, sometimes a hammock, sometimes even tents. During our NOLS course, a week long backpacking trek in the Gila, the homes we referred to started as the houses we left behind. Once we arrived in Panama, I started to see a shift. We were starting to become comfortable with the constant discomfort that comes with travel. My backpack wasn’t a piece of foreign equipment, it was everything I owned. All the things I forgot about or left in my drawers at home almost didn’t exist. And if I did need something, I could count on almost anyone else in my group to share or let me borrow it.

In our rural homestays in Piedras Gordas, my “home” was with a host family. Although it was clear that I didn’t know the customs, and I couldn’t speak the language, I fell into patterns of comfortability with them. Through sharing food, stumbling over Spanish, and even acting things out, we fell into understanding.

At present, I don’t live in a house. Yet home is not a word that I have banned from my vocabulary. In fact, I find myself saying it more and more as I am away. I’ve found that home is not a place, a person, or even a group of people, but places we build within ourselves. The home I used to talk about referred to places where I felt comfortable. Creating a home while you’re away from one is all about finding the peace within your own mind to create spaces where you’re comfortable, and you feel loved.

What this also means is developing the ability to be open to every new environment and every new person you meet. That is not an easy skill at all. Travel comes with exhaustion, fear of change, discomfort, and isolation from being in different places. It can take a lot of bravery to open yourself up even once, let alone having the courage and effort to try on a daily basis. Starting a conversation at a restaurant or with your host family can be daunting. Finding running routes or spots to exercise in a new city is scary. Asking for help in a language that is not your own, or from people you don’t know, can be difficult.

Being an open person is not easy for me. Every day I have to try to open doors, start conversations, and push down my fear of embarrassment. Yet almost every day, I am rewarded. With each new exchange, I’m building a foundation. I think of all of the times I try something I’m afraid of, be it a new hike, new food, new group of people, as putting down a brick for my house. Some bricks are harder to lay than others, and sometimes I can build a wall in a day. The way to truly test the strength of your home is to see if, by the time you leave, you’ve filled it with family.

I’ve bounced around pretty frequently for the last two years, and I felt that the places I left behind were barren and empty. I think of my room at my house in Raleigh sitting empty, my dorm room which is now occupied by someone else, and my cabin in Durango. When I decided to leave, looking back was never an option. I thought that in order to keep moving, you couldn’t put down roots. I see now that in every place you can build a home, and in every place you should try. Over the course of the next year, I will not count the memories I have by the pictures I’ve taken or plane tickets I’ve collected, but by the homes I built and the people I housed.

A Tale of Two Farms: Volunteering in the Panamanian Jungle

winterline, gap year
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.

winterline, gap year
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.

winterline, gap year
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.”

winterline, gap year
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.)

Winterline, gap year
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

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.

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.

 

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.

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?

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?

 

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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Using Technology while Traveling

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

Winterline Blog Safely during gap year

Technology is great…

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

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

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

…But we don’t need it 24/7

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

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

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

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

 

Keeping your 2019 Travel Resolutions

It’s almost February, have you been able to stick to your resolutions? If your resolution for 2019 is travel related, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re interested in going somewhere you’ve never been, immersing yourself in a culture for longer, learning a foreign language, or getting skilled in cooking a new cuisine. No matter what it is, we all know that New Year’s resolutions can be hard to set and even harder to stick to as the year goes on. So here are 3 tips worth keeping in mind to make your 2019 travel resolutions come true so that you can have the most adventurous year yet.


Make 2019 the year you see the world.
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Start Planning

According to CheapAir.com, the best time to buy flight tickets for the lowest price is 70 days in advance. Want to make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal? Download apps like Hopper, which analyze flight prices and keep you updated on the cost and best time to buy based on their predictions for fluctuation. Not only will planning in advance help you maintain your budget, but it’ll allow you to make an itinerary. You can schedule as loosely or as thoroughly as you please, but it helps to have an idea of what you want to see and do so that you can get the most out of your trip.

If you find yourself with an unexpected break and don’t have the luxury of planning in advance, cross-reference flights on multiple websites to make sure you get a fair price – and do it in a private browser!winterline work study student

Join a Travel Rewards Program

If you’re able to use a credit card, find one that has travel rewards best suited for you. Forbes declared that the best card for 2019 is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has a current sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months. This is equivalent to at least $625 in redemptions, and the card has great flexibility among travel partners. If the Chase card doesn’t work for you, Forbes outlines other cards with great travel benefits that might be a better fit.

If you aren’t looking for a new credit card, there are plenty of travel brand loyalty programs that you can join. According to U.S. News, the best hotel reward program is Marriott Rewards, and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan offers the best airline rewards. If you’re loyal to another brand, check out the rest of the rankings from U.S. News or search to see if your preferred hotel or airline has a program.winterline_airplane_budget

Be More Flexible

This may sound like it contradicts tip #1, but they actually go hand-in-hand. Planning ahead of time allows you more flexibility with travel dates; if your schedule isn’t jam-packed yet, you can choose dates based on their price instead of your own limited availability. And of course, flexibility doesn’t just apply to booking flights and accommodations. Traveling should be fun and enlightening, not stressful. In 2019, don’t worry about planning your trip down to the very last second. Allow yourself time to explore, to get lost – both physically and emotionally. Let yourself discover things you might not have otherwise about both your travel location and yourself! Let plans and activities and preconceived notions change. You might be surprised at just how much you gain when you let go.

blue cohort Belize
Blue Cohort walking in Belize | Photo By: Dini Vermaat

What’s your 2019 travel resolution, and how are you planning to achieve it?


Ready to Explore the World in 2019?

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Best Travel Podcasts

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

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

 

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

20 Ways to #OptOutside this Holiday Weekend

Looking for a fun way to #OptOutside this Thanksgiving weekend? We have your back. Whether you’re adventuring with friends, family, or your fur baby we’ve got you covered. With 20 ways to #OptOutside, we’re sure you’ll love something on our list.


A Gap Year you’ll be thankful for.

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1. Explore your city

No matter where you are there is always something to see. History is all around us and sometimes when it’s in our home town we never get the chance to see it. Whether you’re home or abroad, explore the sites, parks, and world around you. We promise you won’t regret it!

2. Build Something

Opt outside by building a new inside for those who need it. So many amazing skills come together when you build something using your own two hands, and nothing will make you feel more accomplished than seeing the end result.

#OptOutside
Photo By: Abby Dulin

3. SCUBA Dive

Live near the Coast? Spend your weekend diving. Our students have loved their time getting their SCUBA certifications in Costa Rica. Not near the coast? No worries! Most SCUBA diving courses start with you learning in the pool. One of our students from Kansas came on our program having already earned her diving certification!

Maria ready to dive | Photo By Emma Mays
Photo By: Emma Mays
#OptOutside Scuba
Photo By: Winterline Staff

4. Go Camping

Camping with friends and family is an easy way to #OptOutside for the whole weekend. Be sure to enjoy what’s left of the fall weather while you still can.

Will helping pitch the tent | Photo By: Abby Dulin
Photo By: Abby Dulin

5. Swim

This may be dependent on where you live, but if you have a pool and some warm weather, invite some friends over to share in your leftovers and spend the day swimming together. (Or just relaxing in the hot tub.) And if you live up north, you can always opt for a Polar Bear Plunge! 

Alex Messitidis
Photo By: Alex Messitidis

6. Chase Waterfalls

You don’t have to be in Costa Rica or Belize to take in an amazing view. There are plenty of waterfalls here in the U.S. that you can enjoy. Not sure where to begin? Google “Waterfalls Near Me” and grab your pack and get chasing.

Waterfall #OptOutside
Photo By: Meagan Kindrat

7. Go boating

With so many different types of boats to choose from there’s sure to be something to fit your city. Boating is a great way to enjoy the water and see places from a new perspective.

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8. Bird-watching

Bird-watching isn’t just for grandmas. You’d be by surprised the amazing wildlife you can spot in your own backyard. And, with your smartphone you don’t need a book to identify the birds you see. Just download one of the many bird-watching apps and go adventure. Just be sure to not disturb the birds you do see.

#optoutside birdwatching
Photo By: Maria O’Neal

9. Practice Yoga

Of course we’re not all as talented as our Yogi Field Advisor, Arielle…Yoga is a great exercise pretty much anyone can do. And it’s a great way to take in the fresh air while practicing.

#OptOutside Yoga
Photo From: Arielle Polites

10. Take a hike

We mean it in a nice way. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to #OptOutside is to take a hike. Bring a friend, bring your pup, bring some water, and enjoy.

Andrew walking in Maharashtra | Photo By: Lex Messitidis
Photo By: Lex Messitidis

11. Water sports

From wakeboarding to wake surfing, to water skiing and tubing. There’s sure to be something you’ll love when it comes to getting your adrenaline pumping on the water.

12. Fishing

Give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for day. Teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for his whole life. Fishing is a peaceful and great way to #OptOutside alone or with friends or family.

Fishing in Wyoming NOLS

13. Football

And we don’t mean watching it. We mean getting outside and playing with your friends and family. Feeling frisky? Raise the stakes and play for that last piece of pie.

Photo By: Brittany Lane

14. Learn a new skill

There are so many outdoor skills to choose from! Our students especially loved learning archery but maybe you’ll love rock-climbing, gardening, or golf! Learning a new skill is a great way to feel accomplished after your long weekend.

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

15. Practice your photography

Nature is a great model! Head outside with your camera and work on your photography or videography skills. Your instagram will thank you later.

Photo By: Emma Mays
Photo By: Emma Mays

16. Stargaze

There’s nothing like a clear night sky. Keep track of how many constellations and planets you can find.

Leela Ray
Photo By: Leela Ray

17. Spend some quality time with your pet

Whether you’re taking your dog for a walk, playing with your animal outside, or going horseback riding. Spending some quality time with your pet outside in nature is one of the cutest ways to #OptOutside.

Photo By: Emma Mays

18. Cook

Cooking is probably the last thing you want to do after all the time you’ve spent in the kitchen for Thanksgiving, but cooking outside can be loads of fun. Whether you’re roasting nuts, grilling, or improving your campfire cooking skills, cooking outside can be a good time – and also prep you for your audition for Survivor.

19. Kayaking

Kayaking is a great way to enjoy the water and the company of others. If you live on the coast or even a city with an urban river there’s sure to be a place you can rent a kayak and embark on this fun adventure.

Photo By: Abby Dulin

20. Take a nap

Set up your Eno hammock or a picnic blanket and sleep off your turkey coma in the great outdoors. We won’t judge you.

Photo By: Emma Mays
Photo By: Emma Mays

Interested in our programs? Apply today for our Fall 2019 Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

How to Blog Safely During Your Gap Year

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

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1. Know where you are

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

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

2. Talk to locals about your blog ideas

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

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

3. Use a tor hidden service

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

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

4. Sometimes you just have to wait

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

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

Winterline Global Skills Paris Geolas

5. Don’t be discouraged!

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

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

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

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

9 Tips to Successfully Experience a Homestay

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

Panama homestays | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

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

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

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

Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay
Breakfast at a Monteverde Homestay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Practice Self-Care While Traveling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Arielle Polites

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. As a teenager, I was eager to see the world and live in a big city; this inspired my decision to move to New York City for college. Now that I am older, I am drawn back to the woods, the sprawling hills of New England, and being surrounded by nature. I thank my mom for my love of nature. She always took us for hikes in the fall to see the changing leaves. She also fostered a passion for culture in me, hence my love for exploring cities, too.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

I love being a mentor to others and facilitating learning in non-traditional classroom settings. Winterline has such a unique program model and it mirrors many of my personal ideologies and outlooks. I had to try a lot of different jobs and experience many different ways of life in order to find what makes me truly happy. I am honored to be a part of the Winterline student journey as they learn more about themselves and the world.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

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

I am excited about everything! I am, however, thrilled to practice my Spanish and be in nature. I can’t wait to experience the beauty of Costa Rica and Panama with our students and partners while my friends and family are shivering in the cold fall weather back in New England!

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

My favorite thing about traveling is connecting with locals and learning their food traditions. I love to cook, and sharing a good meal (preferably outside!) is my favorite way to connect with others. Food brings people together despite language or cultural barriers.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites
Arielle with her co-facilitator, Jeff.

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

I went through a number of challenging experiences when I was a teenager and I longed for a mentor that could support my growth and remind me to believe in myself. As the quote by Ghandi goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I have striven to become the person I needed when I was younger.

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

I did pass on the opportunity to eat fried insects in Thailand, which is perhaps the most exotic food option I’ve had abroad. I have tried so many fantastic and interesting foods abroad though. My favorite food memory comes from when my time teaching English in Italy. I went out to a meal with my host family and what I thought was my entree was simply an appetizer…I ended up eating a seven course meal, with foot-stomped homemade wine, and squid ink pasta…..all just a block from the ocean and without understanding more than a few words in Italian.

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

I would like the students to know that though I am a silly and fun-loving person, and my first priority is student well-being. I live my life and do my work with compassion.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I can do a few crazy yoga poses (I am a yoga instructor) but the coolest thing I can do is 20 non-stop cartwheels. It’s been a few years since I have had to prove this skill…so you may have to trust me on this one.

Winterline Global Education Arielle Polites

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

My Study Abroad Experience

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

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

The Logistics

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

Checking out the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach in Melbourne.

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

Becoming Immersed

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

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

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

Making the Most of Your Time

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

  • Visited historical and cultural landmarks like the Hyde Park, State Library of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Royal Botanical Garden
  • Explored nature by hiking in the Blue Mountains and Royal National Park, visiting gorgeous beaches, seeing koalas and kangaroos, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, cliff jumping, and going to a surf camp 
  • Traveled to Bali, where I visited a monkey forest, the active volcano Mt. Batur, a rice patty, a coffee plantation, and the spectacular Tirta Empul temple
  • Learned about Australian media by going on a tour of ABC channel, which is the equivalent to our PBS, being featured in a segment on the most popular radio channel Triple J, and sitting in the audience of a political debate show called Q & A
  • Said goodbye to Sydney by climbing on the famous Harbour Bridge overlooking the city at night before spending an evening at the Opera House
Monkeying around at Bali’s Ubud Monkey Forest
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
Kangaroos at Blackbutte Reserve in Newcastle
Making waves at surf camp
On air at Triple J
All-natural figure eight pools at the Royal National Park
The famous Three Sisters rock formation at the Blue Mountains
The spectacular Tirta Empul temple
Looking out on the beautiful city of Sydney one last time

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

You Should Go Abroad, Too!

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

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

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

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

It’s always a good time!

Meet The Field Advisors: Jeremy Cronon

 

 

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

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

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

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

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

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

What sparked your passion for teaching/traveling?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

In 2017, I spent 24-hours upside down.

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

Travel Bloggers to Follow on Instagram

Jackson Harries

@jackharries

This photographer actually took a gap year in Thailand, and after that year he has focused his efforts towards film and environmentalism.

Brian Kelly

@thepointsguy

I personally follow Brian, and his page is awesome! He is constantly sharing new travel tips, and amazing photos and videos from his trips.

Love Letter to Europe

@lovelettertoeurope

Another one of my personal favorite travel accounts. Every post is what their name describes… A love letter to Europe. They post incredible photos, and definitely inspire my next Europe trip.

Stephanie Be

@stephbetravel

Stephanie took a gap year to travel early on in her career, and she never stopped! Her gap year is her career now. Follow her for beautiful destinations photos, and motivation to travel no matter where you are in life!

Dame Traveler

@dametraveler

This blog is incredible. Not only does it share breathtaking photos, but its goal is to inspire and empower womento “travel more, do more & be more.” It’s my personal favorite!

 

Winterline Global Skills!

@winterline_global_skills

Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion! We post pictures and videos every day. Most of our content is curated by our talented students, so definitely hit us with that follow.

 

How Gap Years Help Build Relationships

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

Engaging with other age groups. 

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

Reflection on strangers. 

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

Gender roles.

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

Changing ideas on family and their relationships back home. 

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

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

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

Parent/child connection. 

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

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

Meet The Field Advisors: Patrick Galvin

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Santa Rosa, CA, but moved to Truckee, CA at age three.

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

It combines so many of my passions into one awesome program.  I wouldn’t be back for a second year if I didn’t love it.

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

I’m most excited to go back to Rancho Mastatal.  I love the remote location, farm to table food, beautiful hikes, waterfalls and it is run by a great group of people.

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

Everything!  Meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, trying new foods, seeing beautiful landscapes, and pushing my comfort zone.

What sparked your interest and passion in teaching/mentoring?

I first led programs in South East Asia with high school students and loved the role immediately.  Interacting and mentoring young adults at a pivotal point in their life is a lot of fun and inspiring.

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

I’ve tried lots of different insects, tarantulas, durian fruit, eyeballs, brain, intestines, main organs,  blood sausage, a century egg, etc.  I’ll try anything once 😉

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

I love to spread positive vibes; it’s rare to see me without a smile on my face.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’ve traveled to 31 one countries so far and can’t wait to experience more.

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors, like Patrick, and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

Chef Up: Cooking with Winterline!

The American chef, David Chang, once said, “Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for.” I began to deeply understand his words after my year with Winterline, and especially while reflecting on one of my favorite skills on the program; cooking.

I’ve always loved to bake and cook at home for myself and my family, but I had never taken any professional cooking classes. Throughout my year with Winterline, I was exposed to an array of culturally diverse cuisine with the opportunity to learn how to make some incredible dishes. We had some amazing partner organizations, but I was most impressed with the cooking schools we worked with while I was on Winterline. I further discovered my love and passion for cooking this year, and found the beauty in creating and sharing meals with my closest friends.

The first partner that introduced our group to cooking was actually not a cooking school. NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) was our first official partner with Winterline. We did an 8-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and learned a lot about a lot, specifically in the outdoors. We each were split up into small cook groups and had to ration our food before the expedition. By the end of our trip, I was amazed by how delicious our meals were each day, especially considering we only used dry ingredients and a small, propane-powered stove. For breakfast, we had eggs and sausage, chocolate chip and cranberry pancakes, and even brownies one morning! And for dinner, we made quesadillas, pasta, pizza, and even a quinoa-based dish with Salmon! We ate like kings during NOLS, to say the least. After my positive experience with cooking in the backcountry, I was hooked. I wanted to cook as much as possible throughout the rest of Winterline, and I did.

My cook group, Leela and Patrick, “cheffing up” some dinner… I believe this was Pasta night!

Although our first “official” cooking partner wasn’t until second trimester, I had plenty of opportunities to cook in Central America. Most of our accommodations in Belize and Costa Rica had kitchens. When we stayed at Rancho Mastatal, I assisted in the kitchen and even helped cook dinner with my homestay family there. And during my ISP in Costa Rica, I learned how to make corn tortillas from scratch, all in Spanish! If it’s something you’re interested in learning more about, I’d encourage you to find out-of-the-box ways to cook during the first trimester.

Winterline_Anna Nickerson
Learning to make home-made/hand-made corn tortillas in cooking class! (It’s much harder than it looks)

When we were in Cambodia, we spent a couple days at École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule, a hospitality and culinary school located in Siem Reap. We went through a series of learning about techniques and various meals. We then made our own savory dishes, desserts, and baked goods. By the end of each day, we had lots of amazing food to try. I particularly liked that there were full-time students on the campus, so we had the chance to ask them questions about their experience. After we learned our skills at Paul Dubrule, we took it upon ourselves to create and serve a 3-course meal, plus cocktails and dessert, at our hotel. Winterline rented the hotel kitchen and bar for us that night and we put on quite a show for our guests, the other Winterline cohort. We made Asian-inspired courses, and I had the enjoyment of being a chef that night! It was a great (and tasty) way to celebrate our successful week.

From left to right: Alice Hart, Anna Nickerson, Alex Messitidis, at the Paul Debrule school in Cambodia.

When we were in Bangkok, Thailand, we also took cooking classes at Bai Pai Thai Cooking School. This was one of my favorite partner organizations all year! The class was really hands-on and we made a 4-course meal (including a delicious dessert). The courses were all traditional Thai food, and creative dishes. They even gave us individual recipe books to take home, and I’ve put it to good use already!

Our amazing instructors at BaiPai!
The Pad Thai I made! This was difficult to pull off…

For my Independent Study Project, I went to Paris to take French cooking classes. Although none of the other Winterline students did this with me, it’s something I felt worth including in this post. It was a significant and meaningful way to come to an end of my year with Winterline. I built upon cooking skills that I had acquired earlier in the year, and I shared my meals with total strangers who I grew to become friends with.

Putting my piping skills to the test with this white chocolate mousse in my French cooking class.

I discovered the beauty in creating and sharing a meal with someone, or many people, this year. I found my passion and interest for cooking, and I was able to share my passion with so many of my close friends during the year. We coined the term, “chef up” as slang for “cooking.” Some of my fondest memories from Winterline involve creating and or sharing a meal with the group. It’s a very special part of the Winterline experience, and I hope some of you reading this can find your own ways to “chef up” during your gap year.

Meet The Field Advisors: Hillevi Johnson

Where are you from originally?

My dad was in the Navy when I was little, so I was born in Illinois and also lived in Southern California and Wisconsin before moving to southern Oregon in 4th grade. I went to college in Oregon and moved to Portland directly after. After four years, Portland really feels like home (for now at least!). 

Why did you choose to become a Field Advisor?

Becoming a field advisor seemed like the most incredible mix between being able to travel to new countries and experience new things while also mentoring emerging adults at such a crucial and exciting time in their lives. Leading high school students abroad is something I’ve done previously, but the trips were much shorter. I was really drawn to the idea of getting to form solid relationships with students over several months!

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

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

How to choose?! I’m really looking forward to everything, but Panama will be a new country for me to visit and I’m really excited about spending time in Panama City. 

What is your favorite thing about traveling?

Food! That’s absolutely up at the top of my list. Different cultures have the most wonderful, delicious diversity of food and I want to try it all. I also love hearing other languages around me and learning etiquette of new cultures. The list of things I love is very long, but those things are some of the best.

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi  

What sparked your passion for traveling?

I was hooked on travel from my very first experience out of the country, which was to Costa Rica when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I fell in love with everything about it and have been trying to figure out cost-friendly ways to travel (or combine travel and work) ever since. 

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

In Thailand I tried fried mealworms and crickets, and in Peru I tried Cuy (guinea pig)! 

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

I’m ready to be 100% in this experience with these students. Being mindful and present is something that I am always working on and improving, and I am committed to bringing my best self and I expect others to bring their best selves as often as they can, too. I also recognize that such a huge adventure can be scary, and I empathize and want to provide as much support and guidance as I can while students have the experience of their lives.

Winterline Field Advisor - Hillevi

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Aside from travel, another passion of mine is animals. I love (*LOVE*) animals, and recently had begun learning how to train guide dog puppies. Someday I hope to raise one!

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

How to Survive a Long Flight

If there’s anything that I dislike about travel, which is verylittle, it’s the long flights. And I mean long flights. When I flew to Cambodia with Winterline, we took a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles and a 4-hour flight from Taipei. We completely skipped January 21stbecause of the International Date Line! Here’s 19 tips (hopefully not the same number of hours as your flight) to help you survive all that air time:

  1. Melatonin/eye mask/earplugs:If your flight is a redeye, and even if it’s not, it’s a good idea to bring a sleep aid and things to make you more comfortable. I have a hard time falling asleep on planes, so I like melatonin because it’s natural and doesn’t leave me feeling groggy when I wake up. I also like to bring an eye mask (or a big hoodie) and earplugs to help me forget I’m on a plane.
  2. Work/be productive:There’s not many opportunities to work on things without the distraction of emails, your phone buzzing, or social media notifications. I find that I get a lot of productive work done (writing/editing blogs, video edits, drafting emails) when I’m 30,000 feet in the air.
  3. Read: I tend to get distracted with life and forget to catch up on my reading. I love bringing a kindle or paperback book on long flights. Again, a nice advantage of the distraction free environment!
  4. TV/Movies:Hopefully your airline has movie players attached to the back of each seat, but it’s always a good idea to check before your flight. If they don’t, download some movies on iTunes and have a good ole movie marathon.
  5. Music: I love to download new music before a long plane ride and listen to it throughout the flight. It’s a great time to sit down and just explore some new songs and artists, especially if you have a habit of listening to the same playlists for months!

    Long Flight
    View from the plane as we landed in Delhi, India. You can see the pollution in the sky!
  6. Portable charger:Definitely a must for long flights! If you plan on using your phone throughout the flight, have a charged portable charger on hand. I like this one from Amazon.
  7. Neck pillow:This is so essential, whether you want to sleep during the flight or not. If you get one that inflates (like this one), you can save room in your carry-on!
  8. Stretch and walk around: This is a tip for true survival. Some people suffer from blood clots on long flights if they don’t get up and move around. Every hour or so, I like to get up and walk around to prevent this. Bonus:if you make friends with the flight attendants, you can walk to the back and get free snacks!
  9. Change of clothes, deodorant, toothbrush: You change your clothes after a 12-hour day, right? So why not change them in the middle of the flight? I like to pack a pair of comfy pants and a loose t-shirt to change into midway on a long flight (12-18 hours). It’s also really refreshing to put on some deodorant and brush your teeth!
  10. Journal: If you like to keep a notebook/diary/journal, long flights are a great way to write your heart out! I love to journal and I’ve found this to be a great way at both killing time and reconnecting with myself.
  11. Podcasts: I don’t regularly listen to podcasts, but I have friends who have told me they lovepodcasts, especially on long flights. Just make sure to download episodes before the flight.
  12. Look out the window: Something so simple, yet often forgotten. I tend to get distracted by looking out the window and listening to music. Some of my favorite views have been from an airplane!

    Long Flight
    Beautiful view out the window on my way home from Dominican Republic!
  13. Call ahead to order special meals. Most international airlines will provide meals throughout the flight, but it’s always good to call ahead and check. If you are vegetarian, gluten free, or have another dietary restriction, you can call ahead and order a special meal for no extra cost (usually up to 24 hours before the flight).
  14. Play a game:My brother and I play tic-tac-toe, my dad and I play hangman, and I’ve even played Uno with some people on flights. Bring a mini chess board, a deck of cards, or even a multiplayer game on your phone!
  15. Coloring book:I love filling in coloring books, especially mandalas, but I never have any time. Long airplane rides are the exception! It’s a lot of fun and can be a great way to pass time and spark your creativity.
  16. Learn the local language: If you happen to buy Wi-Fi on the plane, you can practice the language on Duolingo or watching basic language videos on YouTube. It’s always good to know some basics of the local language. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, bring some downloaded YouTube lessons, or old-fashioned flash cards!
  17. Have a conversation: I’ve met quite a few really interesting people on planes. Sometimes, people don’t want to be bothered with annoying conversation on the plane, so don’t force it. But, if you do start chatting, you can kill a lot of time getting to know your fellow passengers!

    Long Flight
    Patrick and I enjoyed talking with each other and our other Winterline friends during flights!
  18. Crossword/Sudoku in the airline magazine: Honestly, the airline magazines can be pretty interesting. I’ve read some cool articles, and I alwaysdo the crosswords and Sudoku! It’s also fun to play with a travel buddy.
  19. Take your shoes off:Last, but certainly not least, and my personal favorite! As long as your feet don’t smell bad, take you shoes off and relax!

Curiosity as a Skill

Most people know the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” But fewer people have heard the rest of that sentence, which ends, “but satisfaction brought it back.” I have always considered myself a curious person, but my personal approach to curiosity changed throughout the course of my gap year with Winterline. I discovered new ways to satisfy my curiosity by seeing new places, trying new things, and saying, “yes” to new opportunities.

When I first enrolled in Winterline, I was focused on the skills and travel aspect of the program. I only envisioned myself learning and discovering new countries, but I failed to remember that there would be a significant amount of free time during the program. As a result, I found myself just hanging out and watching Netflix on our rest days. I wasn’t really doing anything with that valuable time.  When I got home for winter break, I did some reflecting and realized that I hadn’t been satiating my desire for adventure outsideof the Winterline program.

So, I made a goal for myself going into Southeast Asia and Europe. My goal was to do something with my rest days, whether it was visiting a new temple in Bangkok, seeing a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, or visiting a beautiful cathedral in Vienna. I made a list of all the locations on our itinerary for second and third trimester, did some research on each city/town, and came up with a list of things I wanted to do and see on my rest days in these specific locations.

As I moved into second trimester, my goal evolved into “saying yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me throughout my travels. And I had some incredible experiences as a result.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I woke up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat with Nick, my field advisor, and one of my best friends, Alice. I visited a floating city in Siem Reap with Alice, to see the sunset. I went to China town in Bangkok to celebrate Chinese New Year, and we all stumbled upon a famous Thai rock star’s concert. I celebrated Holi at an Ashram with Nonny, Pablo, Alice, an old Austrian couple and an Ayurvedic doctor and his kids. I went to Dachau concentration camp by myself and had a humbling and moving experience. I went to Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice with Patrick. I modeled for an artist in front of Notre Dame. I even saw Waka Flocka perform in Munich. I had all of these experiences during free time and on rest days.

Celebrating Holi in Lonavla, India with an assortment of friends.

I did so much and all because I began to say yes, to everything, within reason of course.

Attending Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica with Patrick.

There was one specific time, though, that sticks out to me. On my first full day in Pune, India, I went out to lunch with Sophia and Alice. I remember we all had an incredible lunch and then decided to explore. I looked at my list from winter break and saw “Aga Khan Palace,” which I knew nothing about. When we got there, we began to explore and wander the grounds. I learned that the palace had been turned into a museum and that it was where Gandhi, his wife, and assistant were imprisoned. We continued to wander around aimlessly. I was in awe of the beauty of the palace and its dark history. We saw a little pathway with a sign in Marathi, the local language in Pune. We decided to just follow it, even though we had no idea what it meant or where it led. We entered an enclosed garden and I saw a tombstone. As I walked closer to it, I made out the words, “Here rest the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.”

We stumbled upon the ashes of Gandhi.

It was in that moment when I realized how powerful my curiosity is and how far saying, “yes” can get me. I’ve learned to look at my own curiosity as an evolving skill- something that grows and develops as I do. I want to continue to say yes to new opportunities as I go to college, further immerse myself while traveling, and continue to lead a meaningful life.

So, how will you satisfy your curiosity on your gap year?

3 Things You Need to Do After You Return From Your Gap Year.

1. Manage Any Reverse Culture Shock.

Most people are familiar with regular culture shock, the feeling that you get during your travels where you realize you’ve truly left home. I’m sure you probably felt this while traveling on your gap year. You’re experiencing foreign and new things which sometimes are a blast and sometimes aren’t as fun (hence the word shock). But reverse culture shock isn’t talked about as much. It can be disorienting and uncomfortable when you come back from your time abroad and realize your idea of home isn’t quite the same anymore. As our Field Advisor, Mischa, outlined in his blog on reverse culture shock,

“After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.”

So how do you deal with it?

Accept and understand that you’ve grown as a person. This isn’t always a quick process, but understanding how you’ve changed will help you adjust your “new” self in your “old” surroundings. Additionally, it’s important to connect with others who have shared your experience. Know that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling reverse culture shock. If you find that a text or a snapchat doesn’t meet your need for connection…reach out to your travel friends! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to your friends you spent time traveling with. After all, on a program like ours, you just spent 9 months seeing each other, every. single. day.

You may also find that journaling, blogging, or vlogging helps you keep your experiences alive and eases your transition into coming home. These activities can help you integrate your travels into your daily lives. And don’t forget, if you really love travel you can always work in the industry. Just because you spent the last 9 months traveling doesn’t mean you can’t make it your lifestyle or go abroad for an extended period of time again!

winterline global skills reverse culture shock

2. Tell Your Story!

As we mentioned above, journaling and blogging can help you with your transition from travels to coming home. As many of you may be discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience abroad. As Mischa mentioned in his blog,

“Go easy on these people. You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.” 

A great way to find the “sweet spot” in your storytelling is to be intentional. Ask people to come over and watch your GoPro videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so they know that it’s your time and it’s important to you. Another great way is to share your experiences on social media or with other students who plan on going abroad. Do you remember your own uncertainty, anxiety, and excitement as you researched the perfect gap year program for you? Wouldn’t it have been great to have a review from someone like you, who’s been in the exact same situation, had a great experience traveling, and come home to share their story.

By leaving a review on websites like Go Overseas or Go Abroad, you’ll give back to the global travel community. You’ll help future students like you feel more confident making their travel decisions and you’ll be encouraging more people to go abroad and share in experiences like you had.  Seriously, it’ll give you warm fuzzies and make you fall in love with your gap year all over again.

Not to mention sites like these will reward you for your reviews with contests where you can win travel abroad again. Check out this one that Go Overseas is hosting now. 

3. Travel the World, AGAIN.

Once you’re home and adjusted, you may notice this itching feeling in your stomach. It’s the travel bug! Now that you’ve experienced such amazing adventures abroad, you know what to expect when you travel the world again. Right? It’s time to start planning your next trip. Maybe you’ll head back to that amazing town in Costa Rica, or use your new certification to go SCUBA Diving near the Great Barrier reef–whatever the case is, we’re sure you have a head full of ideas, and we can’t wait to see where you wanderlust takes you.

Need help going abroad again? Check out that Go Overseas contest we mentioned above. This contest runs from literally right NOW through June 15th, and there are prizes available every week — including the grand prize, which is $1000 toward your next trip overseas.

How to Travel Alone

Let’s face it. It can be scary to travel alone, either as a man or a woman, especially in a foreign country where you don’t have your friends or family to help you, or even explore with you. As someone who has traveled alone in different parts of the world, I have some “do’s” and “don’ts” for when it comes to traveling alone. And maybe I’ll even give you a few reasons to start solo traveling…

#1: DO learn a few basics of the language in that country. It could be as simple as learning a few greetings and how to order a coffee, but that goes a long way. Locals, no matter where you are, really appreciate if you put in some amount of effort to speak their language. And it can help you feel more confident when you’re by yourself in a new place.

#2: DON’T be scared to take public transportation. Specifically, in Europe, I was afraid that it would be dangerous to take the metro or tram alone, especially at night. However, I found that I had no problems, always felt safe, and I saved tons of money taking the metro as opposed to taking Uber or taxis!

#3: DO start up conversations with other people. You’d be surprised by how many locals are interested in getting to know you, and how many fellow travelers you’re surrounded by! I found that I actually connected better with people I met along the way when I was alone because I was more invested in finding friends and people to keep me company. I’m even friends on Facebook with a few of them now!

Anna and her friend she met in Paris!

#4: DON’T lock yourself away in your hotel room! It’s easy to put something off because you’d only do it or see it if you had someone with you, but don’t make that an excuse to do nothing! Come up with things you want to do, and then go out and do them!

 #5: DO ask other people to take photos of you. This is something I felt really awkward about at first. I wanted photos to document what I saw, and I wanted to be in at least some of them (and I am not a fan of public selfies). I was pleasantly surprised at how nice people were when I asked them to take a photo of just me. I got over my fear of being “awkward” very quickly, and now I have photos from my solo trips that I’ll have forever.

Anna in front of Notre Dame

 #6: DON’T always have your headphones on. This is something I’ve noticed that a lot of people do when they’re by themselves, traveling or not. I’m not telling you to stop entirely, but when you’re traveling, it is so amazing to observe and listen to things as you walk by. There are definitely some things you can miss when you’re “plugged in.”

#7: DO stay in hostels! Hostels can be a great way to meet other people from around the world who are either traveling alone or in a group. Either way, hanging out at the bar or in the common area of your hostel is a great way to meet other travelers and make friends!

#8: DON’T be afraid to eat alone. So many of my friends have told me that they’ve skipped meals in the past, just because they have no one to eat with. I understand this feeling of awkwardness, but the reality is that no one else besides you really cares. I tend to feel comfortable eating alone, but sometimes I will bring along a book to read, my journal to write in, or even my phone to watch a show on. Just, please, don’t skip a meal because you’re alone!

 

Solo traveling is an amazing thing, and I encourage everyone to do it at some point during their lives. So many of my positive experiences while traveling have been when I’m without anyone else. There’s something about traveling alone that changes my perspective and makes me more eager to connect with others, more observant, and more grateful for what I’m doing. DO travel alone!

 

Feel free to check out Anna’s personal blog to read more about her Winterline experience!

Independent Travel: My Empowering Europe ISP Experience

Before I was even enrolled in Winterline, I knew that I wanted to study cooking in France during my Europe ISP (Independent Study Project). I’ve always had a deep interest in baking and cooking, especially given that I grew up in a household where family meals were of high importance, and brought us all together. What I didn’t realize, however, was that spending a week alone in Paris, with my sole intent of learning a variety of traditional French cooking skills, would actually teach me the power of my own independence.  

Anna holding up her eclairs that she made at La Cuisine, her cooking school in Paris!

On my first full day in Paris, I had an entire day to spend doing nothing. I didn’t have cooking classes, nor did I have anything scheduled on my calendar (a rare occurrence for me). After sleeping in, going out to get some groceries, and having lunch at a local Pho restaurant, I got back to my Airbnb apartment and came up with a general itinerary for my week. I realized that there was so much I wanted to do in Paris- more than I could even fit in if I stayed for a month. And this was in addition to wanting to learn how to cook and bake, so I set out to do all those things. And I was able to do all of them, because I was alone.

Anna captured Monet’s Water Lillies at L’Orangerie.

I walked through the Tuileries and took a nap in a chair at a small fountain, like all the locals were doing. I visited Musee D’Orsay and fell in love with Van Gogh’s work. I visited the Eiffel Tower. I had the richest and most delicious hot chocolate, at Angelina. I had the best macaron of my life. I had the best ice cream of my life. I had the only, and best, escargot of my life. I had a personal style consultation. I saw the most beautiful view of Paris, on the roof of a mall. I walked everywhere. And I fearlessly navigated the metro every day and night. I ran across the Paris marathon. I went to L’Orangerie and wandered as I admired Monet’s Water Lilies. I interviewed a French chef. I modeled for a caricaturist in front of Notre Dame. And I learned how to make classic French sauces, pate a choux and eclairs, two types of macarons, debone a chicken and make a variety of meals with it, and how to select the proper ingredients at any market.

That encompasses a little more than half of what I did while I was in Paris for just over a week.

Anna’s delicious macarons that she made in class!

During this week, I discovered how competent and powerful I am, and that my interests range even more than I thought. The cooking classes were amazing, and I’ve already used some of my newfound skills at home. But most importantly, I discovered more for myself in Paris than I would have if I was with anyone else. Because I was alone, I only did the things that I wanted to do, and I never felt badly for dragging someone along with me because I wanted to see something.

Spending my week alone in Paris was empowering and thrilling. And it allowed me to see how much can do on my own.

If given the opportunity, I highly recommend that every traveler, spends a significant amount of time traveling alone. I promise you’ll see yourself, and wherever you are, in a different light.

 

To learn more about independent travel, feel free to contact us or read more on our blog!

Also, check out Anna’s personal blog!

 

What to Expect from Trimester 2: An Interview with Alice Hart & Sophia Mizrahi

From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia
From left to right: Sophia, Alice and Anna at the National Museum of Cambodia

As our group finishes our second trimester, we’ve been doing some reflection about the last few months in Southeast Asia. I interviewed two of my best friends on the trip, Alice and Sophia. They each reflected on their own experiences in Cambodia, Thailand, and India, which was a lot of fun to see…

Why did you join Winterline this year?

 Alice: “I had known I was going to take a gap year and once I saw Winterline’s skills and the variety that they offered, I decided that I wanted to use this year to figure out what I want to do in the future. I wanted to use the skills to put me on track for my future career.”

Sophia: “I wanted to go to college immediately, but my mom was very open to the idea of a gap year and encouraged me to look into it. I was looking at gap year options, and I knew that I didn’t want to stay at home and work before college. At first, I was scared of being away from home for 9 months, but once I looked into the program I knew that it would provide me time to mature before college and allow me to grow, which it’s done.”

Alice cooking at Paul De Brule
Alice cooking at Paul de Brule

What has been your favorite place we have traveled to in the second trimester and why?

Alice: “It’s definitely between Cambodia and India. I loved Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was quiet, but at the same time there was a lot of access to different activities. I loved the different cultures and it was a great place to people watch, especially on Pub Street. I also loved learning to make different Cambodian dishes at Paul de Brule Cooking School and learning about hospitality.”

Sophia: “I loved Bangkok, Thailand. I spent a couple winters there as a child, so it was great to be back. Even though I was sick there with a sinus infection, I loved it so much. I really enjoyed the hustle-and-bustle of a really big city. I also enjoyed doing cooking school in Bangkok!”

Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.
Alice and Anna celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors, in India.

What has been the greatest challenge during second trimester for you personally?

Alice: “I think living with other people is a challenge I’m still dealing with. It never becomes magically easy to do. I am also still figuring out how I can speak my truth to the group, but I also am learning to accept that people won’t always listen to me.”

Sophia: “Honestly, it’s been challenging to be sick a lot of this trimester. I really wanted to take time to appreciate where we have been, but I had a hard time doing that when I was constantly so physically sick.”

What has been the greatest reward during this trimester for you?

Alice: “I think still being able to learn new things about my peers even though we have all been together for so long. It’s been interesting to see new sides to these people, who I’ve lived with for so long, and I always learn something new from everyone.”

Sophia: “Even though it was a nightmare, my reward was getting through most of the bike ride in Siem Reap. I never thought I would be able to get through it, but it was really satisfying and a personal accomplishment for me.”

Taking a bike ride and making new friends| Photo By: Alice Hart
Southeast Asia Bike Ride| Photo By: Alice Hart

What advice/words of wisdom would you give someone who is contemplating taking a gap year with Winterline?

 Alice: “To have realistic expectations. A lot of people think that this program is a way to escape their own lives. And the truth is that your personal problems will follow you and you’re going to have to learn how to navigate these problems, especially with people you can’t walk away from. Learn to have the sympathy and empathy to manage your relationships within the group.”

Sophia: “You may want to go home. The whole year won’t be unicorns and rainbows. Your group is going to go through so much together as a family, but also remember to rely on people in your group for support. Also, keep your socks dry on NOLS and don’t get trench foot like I did!” 

Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.
Anna, Alice, and Sophia having lunch together in Asia.

Is there anything you wish you had known before going into this trimester?

Alice: “People will surprise you.”

Sophia: “I wish that I had packed a real jacket because it’s going to be so cold in Europe. Also, I wish I had known I would get more bug bites on my body and face in Southeast Asia than in Belize and Costa Rica. I was the only one!”

Alice and Sophia at the National Museum of Cambodia | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Last question… What experience or expedition has been the most fun for you, during second trimester?

 Alice: “Sophia, Anna, and I had a “tourist” day on one of our rest days in Phnom Penh. We went to the National Museum of Cambodia, got massages, had lunch at a local restaurant, and explored some of the temples. It’s one of those days that will always be one of my favorite memories and just picture-perfect. I love my two best friends.”

Sophia: “My favorite day was when we went to the Bai Pai Cooking School in Bangkok, and then explored the mall afterwards. I was very proud of my cooking capabilities and for also navigating the huge city using public transportation.”

 

To learn more about our students be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We upload new posts three times a week!

Healthy Travel Tips

I have an impressively weak immune system and a knack for getting bizarre diseases and sicknesses. I have gotten a number of eye and ear infections while in Hawaii and California, stomach bugs in the Dominican Republic and Canada, and I even discovered I had a MRSA staph infection on my leg two days before leaving for Tanzania. I take my own health precautions more seriously when I travel to foreign countries to avoid malaria, the dreaded “Montezuma’s revenge,” and other travel-provoking illnesses. But unfortunately, within the last two months of trimester 2, I have gotten sick in every city that we’ve been to. Along the way, I’ve learned some things about my own health habits that I’d love to share.

Whether you decide to take a gap year with Winterline, or a family vacation, these tips will help you stay healthier and happier abroad…

#1) Take Daily Probiotics

I always take daily probiotics, whether I am traveling or at home, but it can get easy to slack off on remembering to take these pills every morning. Set a reminder on your phone for the same time every day (and adjust it when you change time zones) so that you remember to take that probiotic every day. Your gut will thank you.

#2) Exercise Regularly

I find it extremely difficult to fit in time (or space) for exercise while traveling. Spending only 20 minutes a day to go on a long walk, roll out the yoga mat, or go for a swim will keep your body so much stronger and up for the toll that travel has on the body. I have found many simple exercises that you can do without any equipment online and recommend coming up with a plan that will keep yourself accountable to your physical wellbeing while traveling.

Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson
Anna biking in Cambodia with Winterline student, Alex. | Photo from: Anna Nickerson

#3) Everything in Moderation (even moderation, sometimes)

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of people this trimester has been eating healthy. With all the amazing new food in different countries, there are plenty of healthy options to explore. But there are also Burger Kings on every corner of Phnom Penh and 7-11’s in Bangkok, which can be tempting, especially when you’re homesick. The way I have been able to avoid this issue is to allow myself “treats” such as an ice cream bar on a particularly hot day or a soda with dinner. It has helped me immensely to not be strict with my diet, but to keep in mind that almost everything I eat should be in moderation. Encourage yourself and your travel buddies to try the local street food and skip the McDonalds.

Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson
Anna enjoying a local cafe with fellow Winterline Gapper, Alice. | Photo by: Anna Nickerson

#4) Get Good Sleep!  

This is a huge one that I am convinced has caused a lot of my sicknesses this trimester. I have gotten into the pattern of staying up late to watch Netflix, talk to friends, or work on my writing, and then needing to get up early for program days. I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, program day or not, and reserve my late nights for the weekends. It’s easier said than done, but once you get into this habit, which can be aided by incorporating melatonin or meditation into your nightly routine, you will avoid getting sick.

#5) Drink CLEAN Water

I may or may not have gotten sick in Phnom Penh because I wasn’t careful about where my drinking water/ice was coming from in restaurants. It’s obviously important to drink water, whether you’re traveling or not. For me, this looks like carrying around a Nalgene and filling it up with bottled or filtered water in the hotels and hostels. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter if their water is filtered or bottled, and even ask them to see their water filter. It’s your health, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are consuming clean water and ice. I learned that the hard way, so don’t make that mistake!

Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson
Anna exploring with water in tow. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

#6) Go to the Hospital (if necessary)

My automatic assumption was that healthcare in Southeast Asia was bad. I had to put this stereotype to the test when I went to an international hospital in Bangkok due to my incessant cough attacks and fatigue. It was the most beautiful hospital I had ever been to and the staff was amazing. I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, got my medication, and was on my way. Obviously not all hospital experiences around the world will be like this, but don’t push the idea of going to a hospital aside, especially when you really need it. Do your research before going to the hospital, and have a friend evaluate you to see if you really even need to go.

This brings me right to my most important tip…

#7) DO YOUR RESEARCH

Before I left for Southeast Asia, I had a check-up with my physician. I showed her the list of the countries and cities I’d be visiting and she showed me how to look up medical facts about each place that are vital to know if you want to be an informed traveler. All of this information is available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov). If you want to stay healthy, you absolutely have to do your research well before traveling to a new country.

Anna researching the next steps of her adventure while abroad.

I will be the first person to say that being sick while traveling is not fun. The physical toll it has taken on my body also infringes on my ability to be present on Winterline somedays, and I wish I had taken even more precautions before entering Southeast Asia. Make your health a priority, and I promise your experience anywhere in the world will be so much more worthwhile!

Backcountry Medicine as a Life Skill: An Interview with Shantanu Pandit

Backcountry medicine is easily one of my favorite skills we’ve focused on during Winterline. One of our first skills during 1st trimester was with NOLS in Lander, Wyoming when we spent two days learning in our Wilderness First Aid course. And most recently, we completed a three-day Aerie course in the Mahindra United World College Institute, located in a rural part of Maharashtra, India. The course included both lecture-style and hands-on learning in the areas of disaster response and austere/backcountry medicine. I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our three instructors, Shantanu Pandit. He shared some of his personal experiences with backcountry medicine and his passion for working and living in the outdoors… Thank you, Shantanu!

Who are you? What motivates you?

Shantanu: “I [am] an outdoorsperson who is also interested in outdoor education. I have derived immense joy and happiness in the outdoors – hiking, climbing, a bit of rafting, ‘outdoor educating’ and …many a times just doing nothing! I know that each time I have been out I have benefited tremendously as a person. What motivates me today is to have people experience the outdoors in such a way that it is safe and enriching for not only us visitors but also our various environments (e.g., natural, socio-cultural, archaeological, etc.). I believe that it is essential for us to keep experiencing the natural environment and help sustain that environment.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What sparked your passion for being and working in the outdoors?

Shantanu: “I have always lived close to a mountainous area near Mumbai, India. This region is extremely rich in its cultural ethos. I started hiking when in school. Things that I had read in books started coming alive for me as I continued going outdoors… and this soon was a ‘more real’ reality for me than the urban setting that I was brought up in. Eventually, experiencing the Himalaya sealed it. If I have to name the most important aspect that provided the reason for working in the outdoors then it is the sheer sense of comfort that I felt being in the outdoors. This was home.”

 

What is the best outdoors trip you’ve ever done?

Shantanu: “How can one ever answer that question?! The most rewarding bird-watching trip I have had till now was in Sikkim… the most memorable rafting trip I had was not because of the rafting, but because of the riotous group that I was a part of… there have been several life-changing experiences (being a part of the team that attempted the third highest mountain in the world & the NOLS Instructor Course, to take but two examples)… I am afraid I cannot name one trip, sorry!”

 

Can you give the overview of Aerie Backcountry Medicine? What does it teach and what is its mission?

Shantanu: “Aerie Backcountry Medicine is a Montana based for-profit organization that teaches wilderness and rural first aid in the United States and other countries. I think Aerie is enriched because people from various walks of life work with its courses. I see Aerie as an agile organization that adapts to various geographies and cultures in order to effectively teach and spread safe practices. Despite its national and international presence, I have experienced Aerie as an organization that is kind of small enough to have an extremely warm and friendly organization culture… The stated mission of Aerie Backcountry Medicine is ‘Caring for injured or sick people is a privilege. Preparing people for this service is Aerie’s mission.’”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu working on the Himalayan section of the Aerie WEMT semester, on search-and-rescue navigation exercises. | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

 

When were you first introduced to backcountry medicine?

Shantanu: “I was introduced to backcountry medicine in 1987 when a friend who is a doctor-mountaineer started teaching us first aid in the context of outdoors. When I took my Wilderness First Responder course in 2000 (through WMI of NOLS), I got to know the richness of backcountry medicine in its formal and vibrant form. On a peak climbing expedition, while hiking up to the base camp, one of our porters got hit in the face by a falling rock that had bounced off the ground in front of him. This person was ‘responsive to verbal stimuli’ when I reached his camp in the night. After I gave first aid, I cautioned his brother to have the patient sleep in the ‘recovery position’ only and keep a tab on his breathing and explained the reasons behind this. I think that was a good call. The patient was successfully evacuated the next day (fortunately he was LOR x 4 by that time).”

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Shantanu: “Being a part of a community that teaches safe practices that influence safety of people in the outdoors and the environments that we derive so much pleasure and joy from. Teaching/instructing also keeps me on my toes in terms of updated knowledge and practices, skill-levels, etc.”

Winterline Back country medicine
Shantanu hiking on a NOLS course | Photo by: Iris Saxer and Shantanu Pandit

What advice do you have for people who haven’t taken any first-aid or medical training courses?

Shantanu: “Take any course that you can afford, ideally a ‘wilderness first aid course’ (‘wilderness’ is defined as being one hour away from definitive medical care – a definition that fits so many urban situations also). First aid skills are a ‘life skill’.”

 

What advice do you have for our own group of Green Cohort students moving into our last months of traveling together?

Shantanu: “Develop the skill and habit of ‘reflection’… make it a part of your daily life. Reflection on one’s experiences – be it a small incident, a day or a course/project – leads to tremendous learning and growth. Shared reflection and/or feedback from others is more powerful. All the Best!”

 

If you have any questions about taking a backcountry medicine course, please visit the NOLS and Aerie sites, or feel free to contact us!

3 Skills You Have to Learn on Your Gap Year

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

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

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

Which skills do you need to be prepared for life?

Central_Square_Theater_Performance.jpg

1. Collaboration

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

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

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

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

Hiking Wyoming NOLS Winterline
Group backpacking with NOLS
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.
Our Green Cohort navigating Bangkok together.

2. Independence & self-sufficiency

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

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

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

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

Learning to take public transportation abroad alone is a skill.
Paper-making ISP in Costa Rica

3. Cross-cultural understanding

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

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

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

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

Winterline students learned from locals in India | Photo By: Daniela Mallarino
Winterline students with local children in Thailand.

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

Thank you, Cambodia.

I had just finished my delicious seafood fried rice and dragon fruit smoothie at a local Khmer restaurant down the street from my hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I started heading back to the hostel to fill up my water before going back to the yoga studio where programming was that day. As I made it into my room, I quickly realized that I had misplaced my sunglasses (an absolute necessity under the scorching southeast Asian sun). I tore my room apart trying to find them, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I half-heartedly accepted the loss, but as I walked back I stopped at the restaurant anyways. I asked the hostess if I had left my sunglasses at my lunch table, but she told me the staff hadn’t seen any. I thanked her and walked away from the restaurant. I crossed a couple busy streets with tuk-tuks, motorcycles, taxis, and people on bicycles weaving in and out of the traffic, and I eventually made it to a sidewalk when I heard someone behind me yelling. Assuming it was a street vendor or tuk-tuk driver trying to get my attention, I ignored it. But after a few seconds, I turned around curiously. A man on a motorcycle stopped next to me and waved. I recognized him from the restaurant as he handed me my sunglasses. He smiled as I thanked him repeatedly, and then we both carried on in our opposite directions.

This all took place on my first full day in Cambodia, and I feel that this little anecdote fully encapsulates my 3-week experience in Cambodia. Earlier that same morning, we had been with our regional director who was giving us an orientation of the country. He told us the precautions we needed to take in order to prevent theft and assault, and how to maximize our personal safety. Given that it was my first day in a new city, country, and continent, I had my guard up, especially with my newfound knowledge of Phnom Penh’s dangers. My experience with the man and my sunglasses completely altered my view of the Cambodian people, and shifted my perception of where I was.

Phnom Penh | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Phnom Penh | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

As most of my friends and family know, I hate big cities. They tend to be overcrowded, loud, dirty, and congested, all of which are things that stress me out. I hardly find myself going out of my way to get into a city; typically, I do just the opposite. Being from both Washington State and Colorado, I have become accustomed to living in more rural and natural environments with easy access to the ocean and rivers and forests and mountains. First trimester’s somewhat rural settings of Wyoming, Belize, and Costa Rica were right up my alley. But upon arriving to Phnom Penh, I knew it would be a challenge for me to assimilate to “big city living.” After my encounter with the man from the restaurant, I found myself looking for more positive aspects of being in a big city rather than dwelling on the things I hated about it. No longer afraid or extremely weary of my environment, I naturally became more accustomed to Phnom Penh, and genuinely appreciated what it had to offer, even though it wasn’t where I was actively choosing to live.

Tuk Tuk | Photo By: Anna Nickerson
Tuk Tuk | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

I went out of my way to break through my own discomforts about being in the city, which didn’t come as naturally to me as it did to most people in my group. I forced myself to cross the street without hesitation, holding my ground with the motorcycles and tuk-tuks zooming in and out around me (and not letting myself freak out). I stayed open-minded about eating the local cuisine by eating at different restaurants and cafes, night markets, and street vendors. I even made an effort to take Natanielle’s advice of “speaking smile” by smiling at the locals, even if I couldn’t speak with them in their native language.

The overarching lesson I learned from that occurrence on my first day in Phnom Penh is that both receiving and giving little acts of kindnesses, especially while traveling abroad, can become pivotal moments that alter your view of where you are, how you act, and the culture around you. I want to thank that man from the restaurant, wherever he is and whatever he is doing. His act of hospitality and kindness allowed me to see Cambodia for what it is: an amazing country that has gone through immense loss, yet is filled with some of the kindest and genuine people I’ve encountered.

Thank you to that man, and thank you to Cambodia.

To hear more from our Anna check out our student voices page, as well as her personal blog.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Journal on Your Gap Year

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

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

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

1. Change

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

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

2. Reflect

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

3. Bring your friends along for the ride

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

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

4. Practice

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

5. Remember

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

 

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

 

Language Immersion in a Foreign Country: An Interview with Jessie Zúñiga Bustamante from the Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica

As one of our final skills in Costa Rica, our group had the opportunity to do 5-day “Independent Study Projects” of our choice. I chose an intensive Spanish course and absolutely loved it. I have taken Spanish in school for a total of six years, so I wanted to take advantage of this week because I want to become more fluent in the language. For five days, I met with two different professors, Evelyn and Jessie. We conversed entirely in Spanish for hours on end, focused on the verb tenses I struggle with, and even did cooking and dancing classes. I enjoyed my time with both my professors immensely and cannot express my gratitude for the two of them enough. Jessie kindly answered some of my questions about her position as a Spanish teacher and shared her take on education and language immersion.

How long have you been a Spanish teacher?

 Jessie: “I started teaching SSL (Spanish Second Language) in 2005 when I was a Spanish & Latin American Literature student in college, so I have 12 years of teaching now. Wow! I’m old, haha!”

Why are you a Spanish teacher? What inspired you to become a Spanish teacher?

Jessie: “[It’s] funny because I would not have thought about it, but one day, one of my professors at University of Costa Rica told me about a Spanish Academy that needed teachers during my college summer break, so I went there and got a job for that summer. I had a group of 4 students: Joe from the United States, Martina from Austria, and Damian and Anna from Germany. We were together for a month and it was awesome! We had so much fun and we learned so much [about] each other from cultures to languages, food, [and] personal space! At that moment, I learned that I love teaching. I love the chance of getting to know people from all over the world. So far, I have had students from the US, Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, India, Israel, Jordan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, France, Italy, some African countries, Romania, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan…and so on. This is amazing because, through our conversations, I could learn a lot about their cultures…it’s like being in those countries somehow. These experiences made me a better person, more open and aware that differences are a good thing for humanity… So, I have been doing it since then! [I feel] so lucky!”

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Learning verb conjugations on day two! | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

How long have you been working at the Monteverde Institute?

Jessie: “I first came in January 2015 for a 4-month college course (I did the same in San José), then back to San José, and returned to Monteverde in December 2015 for a permanent position in the Spanish Department as a teacher and coordinator. Although I never thought I wanted to live outside San José, I decided to leave my comfort zone and try a different place and job position. It was a wise decision because I have learned a lot about my job, nature and conservation, grassroots projects, sustainability, etc. It is a pleasure to live and work in such a special and beautiful community like Monteverde.”

 What is your favorite part about working at the Monteverde Institute?

Jessie: “My favorite part is working with students in projects. I totally love the fact that MVI is a non-profit organization, so we do a lot for the community. Many courses have projects for building, interacting with elders or children, giving lectures on climate, conservation, etc., for the people here…It makes me feel proud to be part of an institution that cares so much and is involved with the people.”

What is something you find rewarding about your job?

Jessie: “I strongly believe in education. Education is the key for a better future. Not only for our country, but for our world. There are so much things we need to learn in this life, beginning with ourselves. So, being part of it somehow makes me feel happy and rewarded. If my work contributes to make someone connect with others through language or better culture understanding and respect, I’m more than happy. And since education is a two-way street, I also learn a lot from my students… this is where my satisfaction [in teaching] comes from.”

What advice do you have someone who is trying to learn a new language?

Jessie: “First, do not be afraid of an immersion program. This is the best way ever to learn anything…but also, it takes a lot of practice and studying. Like any other thing in life, if you want to learn a language, desire is a must. If you really want something, you must go for it. Be in a country that speaks the language, live with a family, and make friends. A language is [a part of] culture too.  The most important thing is to enjoy [learning] while doing it!

What advice do you have for our Winterline cohort going into the next two trimesters of traveling?

Jessie: “Attitude is everything. No matter if something bad happens, what matters the most is what you do with it…cheesy, I know, but true. Your attitude could make people open their hearts, or close them forever. Take advantage of every single thing you will find in this journey, and as we talked in class, be a beautiful bridge between your country and culture and the rest of the world. Do not let language or any other cultural issue be an obstacle for your learning. Be open minded. Be grateful for what you receive from people everywhere, and for    all the things you have back home. Give love. Smile. Offer your help. Communicate! Sometimes a smile says more and is better than words.”

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Anna with the “Tarzan rope” at the suspended bridges tour. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

Thank you so much for your time with my ISP and for teaching me so much. I had so much fun with you on the bridges and in the classroom. I hope we can stay in touch and I promise to practice my Spanish in the future!

Jessie: “Thanks to you too! I enjoy our time together a lot, and I really hope you learned many things for your life and future! You are good in Spanish, I hope you really continue with it! Have a wonderful trip around the world, chica. Learn as much as you can. You have a once in lifetime opportunity. Treasure it!”

 

To hear more from our Gap Year students be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook. We’re also on Snapchat (@Winterliner).

Study Abroad Myths Busted

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

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

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

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

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

Myth: Studying abroad is too expensive.

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

Myth: It isn’t safe to study abroad.

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

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

Winterline students learning Wilderness First Aid at NOLS

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

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

Myth: I’ll miss out on things.

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

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

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

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

 

Why I’m Going Abroad

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and almost 21 years later, here I am…still in Boston. I love this city and my school, so I have no regrets about choosing to stay local for college. My only trips have been fairly short, meaning I was unable to truly immerse myself in a new culture. I’ve always been fascinated by travel, and I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. However, once it hit me that I would be continuing my education so close to home, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere completely foreign to me.

I visited Israel and floated in the Dead Sea between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

I did, in fact, base a lot of my college decision around schools that offered study abroad. My college has a fantastic study abroad program, offering the chance to study on all seven continents. That’s right, our students even go to Antarctica!

I decided to stick with one of the programs specifically for my major of Advertising, meaning I would either be going to London or Sydney. For me, this was actually a really easy choice. While London is a great city, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe before. Also, Europe is pretty accessible from the East Coast, and I’m confident that I’ll get to go back later in life. So choosing Australia was obvious.Sydney is literally the farthest I can get away from Boston, on the complete other side of the world. It’s a city that not a lot of people from my area get to go to, and logistically, I might not ever be able to go in my life without a program like this. I know how lucky I am to have the chance to go anywhere in the world to study, and I wanted to take advantage of that.

Climbing Masada, an ancient Israeli fortress, at sunrise in 2015.

All of my friends who have studied abroad tell me that this experience is going to change me, that I’m going to learn so much about myself. I don’t doubt that for a minute. For the first time in my life, I’m going to be truly independent. Sure, I have friends going, and there’s program managers and professors. But for three months, I’ll be living much more than 45 minute drive away from my parents.

For a self-proclaimed child like myself, this is really scary. I’m admittedly not always the best at taking care of myself. There’s no meal plan in Sydney, and I don’t know how to cook. My mom still has to remind me to make doctor’s appointments. I don’t do laundry or wash my dishes enough, and now I actually have to listen to my dad when he explains finances and budgeting to me. I understand how privileged I am that, at almost 21, I haven’t had to completely take care of myself yet. But I’m ready to learn.

My best friend and roommate, Marissa, is coming to Sydney with me!

Study abroad will teach me these basics of how to be an adult. It will also teach me how to appreciate the world and people around me. It’s easy, especially as a student, to get caught up in the little things. I need to see the bigger picture. I need a reminder that living isn’t just about school or work. I’m going to get to explore the natural beauty of Australia and reflect on just how amazing this life is. I’ll meet new people and get new perspectives on everything I thought I knew. I’ll experience a whole new culture: food, art, politics, communication.

I leave in a little less than two months, and that’s simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Part of me still wants to back out. I’ll miss my family, and my friends, and my dog. But the rest of me knows that this is the most important thing I can do for myself. Studying abroad is about allowing yourself to be scared, and pushing your limits. Finding out what you can and can’t do, what you like and hate, what the world looks like to you and what you look like to the world. So, Sydney, I’m coming for you, ready or not.

 

5 Free Resources for Learning a Language

Is your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language? If you checked out our recent blog by our Gap Year student Anna, then you know learning a language can help you truly connect with a country’s culture. You don’t need to be fluent in a country’s native language to visit, but it’s always cool to know another language. Whether you want to brush up on a language you’re no longer confident in, or learn a new one entirely, these 5 free resources will help you out.

DuoLingo

This site and app work best for practicing as opposed to learning. DuoLingo familiarizes you with a language through reading, writing, listening, and speaking drills. The site gives daily reminders to study and allows you to track your progress. You can also share with friends, and even list your skills on LinkedIn! DuoLingo offers almost 30 languages, including High Valyrian – the language spoken in Game of Thrones.

Winterline Learning Language Duolingo
Busuu

This site allows you to learn vocabulary, practice writing in the language, and chat with native speakers to perfect your speaking and listening skills. In order to keep you motivated, Busuu offers badges and in-site awards when you reach your goals. Busuu also offer specialty courses for necessary travel phrases, which is great if you’re just trying to get a basic grasp on a country’s language before you visit.

Winterline Learning Language Busuu


Memrise

The unique feature of Memrise is the ability to learn new words and phrases by seeing them in sentences with similar sounding words and phrases from your native language. This helps build the correlation in your mind between the languages. The site also uses pictures in tandem with words for added visual association. Finally, Memrise also re-words translations to ensure that you’re actually learning the meaning instead of just memorizing the translation.

Winterline Learning Language Memrise


AccelaStudy

This source has a different app for each language you want to learn. The setup and features are the same; the only difference is the language itself. AccellaStudy offers flashcards, quizzes, and even a hands-free option so that you can practice a language while driving or otherwise occupied without even looking at your phone! You can also customize your study set if you find yourself having trouble with a particular word.

Winterline Learning Language Accela


Rosetta Stone Travel App

Though Rosetta Stone is a professional source that requires payment, they offer a free app specifically for on-the-go translations. The app combines pictures with common phrases so that travelers can learn basic sayings in the language of their choice. A unique and helpful feature is that you have to repeat phrases into your phone’s microphone to practice your pronunciation.

Winterline Learning Language Rosetta Stone

 

Be sure to keep in mind that sometimes, sites translate word-by-word without taking into account differences in sentence structure or grammar. This may lead to some faulty translations, but learning is a process! For even more resources, check out the page “Fluent in 3 Months”. For more travel skills be sure to check out our recent posts on our blog

 

 

Connecting, Not Just Communicating: The Beauty of Learning a Foreign Language

During my final week in Costa Rica, I did something that I had not anticipated doing before starting Winterline. I presented my photo essay about the suspended bridges of Monteverde to a room full of local Costa Ricans and my Winterline peers. I presented my photos, some brief research I had conducted about the bridges, and my opinion on how the bridges contribute holistically to the town; they individually affect the economy, the natural beauty, and tourism of Monteverde in a positive manner.

I presented entirely in Spanish.

Now, let me go back a little bit… I have been taking Spanish in a classroom for the last six years and I am in love with the language. I find myself listening to “Latin Pop” more often than any other playlist, and I religiously translate words from English to Spanish in my head. There have been a few cases in which I have been able to actually apply my Spanish skills, like when I went to the Dominican Republic for a service project, or when my family and I occasionally go to Mexico on vacation. But it wasn’t until my Independent Study Week (ISP) in Monteverde where I actually realized that my Spanish-speaking capabilities can take me further than greeting someone or asking where the bathroom is.

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Learning verb conjugations on day two! | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

We each got the opportunity to choose our own ISPs before heading to Central America. Given my interest in improving my Spanish, I signed up for the “Intensive and Immersive Spanish Course,” which may have been one of my best decisions on Winterline thus far. Over the 5-day course, I learned so much about the language, and more importantly Hispanic culture, by simply speaking in nothing other than Spanish. Evelyn, one of my professors, and I spoke entirely in Spanish for four hours straight on my first day of class. I told her about my family and my health and my best friends at home and my reason for doing Winterline, the list goes on. I told her about so many things that I didn’t previously think I was capable of talking about in Spanish. We had genuine conversation in another language and it was beautiful.

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Anna with the “Tarzan rope” at the suspended bridges tour. | Photo From: Anna Nickerson

Unfortunately, many people approach learning a language too concretely and without a “big-picture” mindset. They only see it as another way to communicate, and nothing more. And people who can speak multiple languages are seen as a novelty rather than an opportunity to learn about connecting (“Breaking The Language Barrier”) with other people and cultures. I initially approached learning Spanish in a very definitive and concrete way by thinking that it was only taught in a classroom. I’ve realized after my ISP that learning a language isn’t just about the language- it is also about the culture. During my week, I took a cooking class, a dance class, and even went on a tour of the suspended bridges- all things that make up the town of Monteverde and more broadly, Costa Rican and Hispanic culture. I’ve also come to realize after speaking a significant amount of Spanish, that learning a new language opens doors to connection. I made real relationships with my two professors, Evelyn and Jessie, and connected with each of them on different levels. I learned about their lives and why they’re teachers. They even gave me personal advice for my travels to come on Winterline. If we all look at learning new languages as ways to simply communicate, we are looking at language-learning incorrectly. Sure, communication comes as a result of learning a new language, but the ability to connect is one that only some people will find as they speak in foreign languages and actually engage and put effort into conversations. This is where language-learning becomes important, and very fun.

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One of the bridges on the tour. | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

But, I digress. Back to my presentation. We were all required to present individually about our ISP weeks; what we did, who we did it with, what we learned, etc. I had been preparing a photo essay for my presentation and knew throughout the whole week that I would be speaking in Spanish, by choice, to a room full of native speakers. Honestly, I was terrified. I prepared my photos and my PowerPoint presentation and even went to the Monteverde Institute early on the morning of presentations just to practice with Jessie, my other professor. She assured me that my speaking was perfect, yet I stayed anxious throughout the day.

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One of the bridges on the tour. | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

Sure enough, it came time to present and I put my whole heart into it. But, my hands were shaky as I pulled up my presentation onto the screen and I could hear my soft voice quiver as I introduced myself and my photo essay. As I moved on throughout the presentation, I stood up taller and spoke louder with more confidence. The words flew out of my mouth without even thinking. “Is this how becoming fluent in Spanish feels like?” I asked myself silently. I completed my presentation and absolutely beamed as my audience members gave me a round of applause and complimented me.

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Learning to make home-made/hand-made corn tortillas in cooking class! (It’s much harder than it looks) | Photo By: Anna Nickerson

I felt connected with the entire room and proud of myself for making an effort to connect. I didn’t have to speak in Spanish, and initially I did not want to, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and began to finally see language for what it is: an opportunity to connect, not just to communicate.

 

To hear more from our Gap Year students be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook. We’re also on Snapchat (@Winterliner).

Perfect Holiday Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

The holiday season is coming up quickly, and it’s never too early to start thinking about gifts! Whether you’re treating yourself or honoring a relative or friend this winter, we’ve compiled some gift ideas for the traveler in your life. For more gift inspiration beyond this post, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board

  1. Add a little flair and personality to boring travel pieces with a cute passport cover and luggage tags. This way, no one will take your luggage, but maybe they’ll wish they could. 
  2. Everyone wants great pictures to remember their trips by, but having a professional camera may be too expensive to buy or impractical to carry. Luckily, anyone can make their iPhone camera high-quality with the olloclip core lens set. The set attaches over the phone’s front and rear cameras with either a fisheye, super-wide, or macro 15x lens for just $99.99 on Amazon. 
  3. The last thing you want to realize when going overseas is that you can’t charge your devices because you don’t have an adapter. You’ll never be in that situation again with this 5-in-1 adapter from Nordstrom. The plugs work for over 150 countries, and are even color-coded for simple use. The best part? It’s only $35.                                                                
  4. Both chronic overpackers and forgetful travelers will appreciate this packing guide for any trip. Only $10 on Amazon, this book will ensure you bring exactly what you need – no more, no less – on any journey. You’ll never pay any overweight luggage fees or run to drugstores for left-behind items again.                                                                                                                   
  5. Hydration is key to staying healthy, especially when you’re spending long days walking, hiking, or doing similar activities. The Klean Kanteen is regarded as the best water bottle for travel due to its durability, insulation, and leak-proof cap. The brand claims that a 20oz bottle will keep drinks hot for 20 hours and iced for 50 hours, priced at $30.95 and available in a variety of colors. Another option is the Grayl, a bottle which purifies the water for you, removing pathogens, particulates, and chemicals. For $59.50, the bottle purifies water in 15 seconds, making it ideal for camping trips or visits to any countries where there are recommendations against drinking the tap water.
     
  6. Help your traveler stay organized and keep a record of their journey with a travel notebook. For the no-frills recipient, Moleskine makes a traveler’s notebook designed to store printed emails, itineraries and maps at $22.95. It is made to keep track of your observations and explorations on the road, featuring sections marked by colored tabs; paper that is ruled, dotted, and plain; suggestions about how to make it digital; and a sheet of stickers. If you’re looking for an artsier notebook, checkout I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded. Available on Amazon for around $15, this journal is filled with quirky doodles as well as space for “addresses, itineraries, reviews, and tips from locals; a reference section with time zones, measurements, and other relevant information; graphic pages for note taking; and a back pocket”.
     
  7. There’s no greater feeling than that of achievement when crossing a destination off your bucket list. Take it one step further with a scratch-off map, letting you visually mark off the places you’ve been in the world, and the ones you have left to go, for under $30. 
     
  8. Sleeping in noisy situations can be hard. Whether on a plane or train, or in a hostel or camping, give the gift of rest with this two-in-one eye mask and ear plug duo. The mask blocks out all light and an estimated 40% of noise. The Hibermate typically retails for $99.95, but as of November 3rd, the 2018 Generation 6 mask is on sale for $49.95.
     
  9. Buying for somebody else? You can’t go wrong with a gift card. Visa gift cards work anywhere credit cards are accepted, making them a great versatile option. AirBnB gift cards give travelers a homey place to stay. Many hotel and airline brands also offer gift cards, as do most outdoor apparel retailers!

This is only a sampling of all the incredible gifts a traveler could ask for, but they’re guaranteed to make any recipient grateful! Make sure to keep an eye out for those Holiday sales for an ever greater deal on some of these purchases. For more gift inspiration check out our Pinterest Board

What to Expect from a Homestay: An Interview with Alex Messitidis

Pura Vida! Our green cohort just finished their first homestays, which took place in Mastatal, Costa Rica. Most of our cohort members had never experienced staying with host families before, so we were all anxious about the process beforehand. We spent 3 nights and 3 days with our families and had incredible experiences. I recently interviewed Alex Messitidis so that she could explain the concept of a homestay and how her experience went.

Some people are confused by the concept of a homestay. Could you explain what a homestay/host family is?

Alex: “This was my first homestay so I’ll explain to the best of my ability. A homestay is when you get put up with a family for however many days, for me it was three days, and you get the opportunity to get acclimated to their culture, their family, their ways, all that. You spend time with them all throughout the day. They cook for you, you go out with them, you learn about them, you get close with them. I think the whole point is to get you ‘culturally aware’ and to get you to understand the difference between living in a [city] versus living on a ranch in Costa Rica, like I did. So, for me, a homestay is living with a family in a foreign country and getting acclimated to their culture.”

What were some of your fears or anxieties going into your homestay? How did you get over those while with your host family?

Alex: “One of my biggest fears is change. I really don’t like moving around or getting close with new people. But, growing up my mom always told me that instead of fearing the change, I had to be the change. So, [going into my homestay], I just asked myself what my mom would do if she was there. She’d tell me to look down at my arm, look at my tattoo that says, “Be the Change” in big typewriter font and she would say, “Give it your best shot. Go headfirst and even if you fail, who cares?” So, I guess I just thought to myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn’t know when the next time I’d be able to do a homestay was. I challenged myself to make the most of it, practice my Spanish, get close with the kids, learn about their culture, eat their food even if I have no idea what’s in it. I think it’s about realizing and recognizing that this might be my only opportunity to get out of that comfort zone and if I don’t now, then I maybe never will. And I think this whole trip is based around getting out of your comfort zone, so why not go headfirst?”

Homestay Winterline
Alex’s host family’s cat that she met on her homestay. | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

 Can you tell me about your experience with your homestay? What were some personal challenges and what were some things that went well?

Alex: “My homestay was absolutely amazing. I already knew the dad, Junior, because I had played soccer with him a few days beforehand. He spoke fluent English, but I made him speak to me in Spanish because I wanted to practice. I was actually pretty surprised because my Spanish is not that bad. His wife was wonderful as well. I only saw her when she was doing laundry and cooking, which is the standard there. The wives do most of the work around the house and I give her a lot of credit for that because everything she did was amazing… They had 2 kids, [a 9-year old girl and a 3-year old boy]. There was a language barrier between me, the wife and the kids…, but it made me test my Spanish and I realized that I knew a lot more than I thought… Putting my Spanish to the test and being in the position where I didn’t have the option of speaking either language, I needed to figure it out and try or I would have starved for 3 days! The challenge was connecting with the family, especially with the language barrier, but it turns out that a smile goes a long way and even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, smile it off!”

Winterline Homestay
Natanielle coloring with the kids at her homestay | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

What advice would you give someone who is nervous about staying with a host family in a foreign country?

Alex: “It’s completely normal to be nervous, especially when you’re being thrown into a situation that you’re not comfortable with. Most people aren’t comfortable with the thought of change, but I think that’s the whole point of this experience. To do something you never have and cross that cultural barrier- understand the diversity between countries and recognize that even though you may not have a lot in common with these people, like language or cultural barriers, doesn’t matter as long as you’re ready to try. If you’re trying to meet them halfway, and they’re doing the same, and you’re both being patient with each other… it’s going to be fine… Honestly, I’d be shocked if you weren’t nervous! But, everything is an experience, whether it’s good or bad, and I think that everyone should do a homestay in a foreign country because it shows you a different side to family, work, everyday life and a lot of people don’t recognize that… Have an open mind, have an open heart, and a smile goes a long way.”

 

Happy World Kindness Day!

What’s World Kindness Day?

Did you know that today, November 13th, is World Kindness Day!? World Kindness Day was founded by The World Kindness Movement, which is an international movement with no political or religious affiliations – it’s meant truly for everyone. Over 28 nations represent the movement, and you can see if your country participates here.

The concept of World Kindness Day was born on November 13th, 1997: 20 years ago today! On this day, Japan brought kindness organizations from around the world to Tokyo, creating the first body of this format. Their noble mission aims “to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world”.

Photo By: Dini Vermaat

Winterline & Global Citizens

Like the World Kindness Movement, we at Winterline encourage our students to practice kindness every day. Students on our programs seek to be kind to each other, those they meet while traveling, and themselves. Our global gap year program consists of three trimesters, with the second semester in Asia focusing on connecting individuals across cultures and building relationships.

People typically associate the word “kindness” with interpersonal relationships. At Winterline we feel that kindness in regards to communication is key, and therefore a skill. Our students spend time in Cambodia acquiring skills in conflict resolution and team dynamics. We hope that from this, students will learn how to avoid or peacefully navigate through issues with others, making them more humane global citizens. This part of our gap year program has been so popular, we now offer a short program that focuses specifically on communication and intentional living.

We believe that travelers should have respect for and genuine interest in the native cultures and people. Bringing together people from different backgrounds is one way of establishing a kinder world!

Our students practicing mindfulness

However, kindness to others isn’t the only type of kindness that matters. Once people learn to love and be kind to themselves, they can mirror that affection to others. To achieve this, students train in relationship building, empathy, and mental health support during their stay in India. Self-care is also a strong focus point as our students travel throughout Southeast Asia.

We need to internalize kindness before we can direct it at others. This is what differentiates being nice from being kind. Being kind comes from within; the desire to be a good person simply for the sake of being a good person as opposed to treating others well for recognition.

Making Everyday World Kindness Day

It’s easy to be caught up in the sad or scary things happening in the world around you, but life is so much more than that. It’s important to take time when you can to remember the good things. You can make a day brighter, whether it be someone else’s or your own. Spend a few minutes being kind to yourself: meditate, do yoga, or pray; eat your favorite snack; hug someone (human or animal!) you love. Be kind to others: help someone with a chore they can’t do themself; donate time, resources, or money to an organization that matters to you; smile or say hi to someone new on the street.

Winterline GSP students taking time to reflect.

An act of kindness doesn’t have to be huge to matter, and today doesn’t have to be the only day you practice kindness. Try working it into your everyday life by focusing on doing one act of compassion each day. Being kind will become second nature, and not only will you make yourself happier, you’ll help to make the world a better place.

What does kindness mean to you? How are you celebrating World Kindness Day? Share with us in the comments or on twitter

Backpacking on a Budget

Airplane-view-Copy1.jpg

Cost can often be the most stressful part of traveling. Often bucket lists and bank accounts become worst enemies. However, credit cards can make travel more accessible with points and miles. Credit card points are earned when you spend money, and can be redeemed for items such as merchandise, cash back, or travel expenses.

One company has made their mission to help dreamers become actual travelers with these rewards. In March 2016, Alex Miller created Upgraded Points help people with low disposable income have the world experiences they might otherwise be unable to have. 

Upgraded Points offers guidelines and resources that help many people reach their dream destinations. The numbers don’t lie: in the months of 2016 after Upgraded Points’ launch, over one million people visited the site.

Recently, Miller shared a guide to maximizing student travel, and we’re highlighting some of his words of wisdom for you. 

  1. Know when to book a flight for the best price. Prices are likely to be highest around times of high travel concentration, like the holidays. Prices may be lowest on Tuesdays after airlines evaluate how well seats sold over the weekend.
  2. Have a specific goal in mind, and do your homework to reach that goal.
  3. Sign up for a student card to receive travel discounts, and visit sites for discount flights and housing. Miller outlines some great options in the guide.
  4. Know why going abroad matters. Whether you get college credits, learn a foreign language, or help someone who needs it, your travel has a bigger purpose. Take advantage of some of the student volunteer organizations that Miller mentions, like
  5. Build credit! This is a huge focus of Upgraded Points, and their website has an immense amount of helpful knowledge and information for both first-time and current credit card users.

Financial responsibility is always a good attribute to have, so we recommend checking out the rest of the Upgraded Points site to learn more about seeing the world without breaking the bank.

Meet The Field Advisors: Erica & Patrick

We are gearing up for our Gap Year orientation and we’re so excited to introduce you to two of our four field advisors. Erica and Patrick will be heading to Colorado to meet with one of our two groups of gap year students.We are so proud to have such strong leaders and experienced travelers as field advisors for the upcoming Gap Year program. For the next nine months Patrick and Erica will be leading our students around the globe for the adventure of a lifetime.

erica schultz winterline field advisorerica schultz winterline field advisor

Meet Erica Schultz

Since 2013, Erica has dedicated her time and talents to leading experiential education student groups through travel across the globe. She has worked with programs in Costa Rica, Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Through her work in the Peace Corps and her degree in Spanish writing and literature, she has found her passion of creating strong connections with other cultures through their languages. With over four years of leading programs and about 50 student trips under her belt she’s beyond excited for the next nine months with Winterline.

Q: What are you most excited for when it comes to this program?

ES: I’m excited to share my stoke of visiting each country as we move through the trimesters! We are LITERALLY going around the world on this program! That’s a traveler’s dream.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

ES: For the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time working with high school students in different countries. Being a Field Advisor for Winterline, I’m given the opportunity to work and create impactful relationships with students that are a little older and have more independence. This program allows them to better control what they want to get out of the program and how it will shape their future. I’ve always been passionate about experiential education and learning outside of the classroom. As an FA I get to fulfill that passion by seeing students thrive through real life situations, through gaining skills that will potentially help shape their decisions later in life, and by gaining a well-rounded global perspective.

Q: What is your favorite thing about traveling?

ES: The feeling of stepping foot in a new and unknown country. It’s so exhilarating to know almost nothing about the place you’ve landed in and not knowing anyone there. Also, FOOD. Always! Trying everything and anything!

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ES: I haven’t had a home since 2013 (my mom might argue with this since my stuff is in my childhood room of my parents’ house!) I have been working for travel companies, had a small stint in Peace Corps, and pieced together road trips in between to keep the travel ball rolling. Since then, I’ve hit 16 countries (including new states in America) and I am excited to add two new ones to the list from this program.

 

patrick galvin winterline field advisorpatrick galvin winterline field advisor

Meet Patrick Galvin

A natural born leader, Patrick is happiest when his backpack is on and he’s out exploring new places. He is excited excited to join the Winterline family to combine his passions of travel, mentorship, and the love of life through the gap year program. Patrick found his passion for working with young adults during his travels leading programs in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. With about a dozen student trips under his belt, Patrick is excited about taking his leadership to new heights and places with Winterline.

Q: What are you most excited for?

PG: Anytime I pack my backpack to go on an adventure I get excited! I have a long list (the countries we’re going to, the skills we will learn, etc.) but I’m currently most excited to meet everyone in the group and get to know everyone. Each group is unique and every individual brings something special to the table. I can’t wait to find out what those unique qualities are 😉

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

PG: This job is one of a kind. It is the most rewarding and inspiring job that I have ever come across. Travel has always been an obsession of mine and I love to work with young adults in a mentorship role.

Q: What’s a place that you’ve never been but really want to visit?

PG: I can’t wait to get to India!!! It’s been #1 on my list to get to for the past two years 🙂

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

PG: The highest elevation I’ve ever hiked to is 5645 meters (18,519 feet).

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

 

6 tips to make the most of your gap year


Travel to 10 countries, over 9 months, and learn 100 skills?

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1. Have a specific learning objective (or two)

Every year is an opportunity to learn something new. Your gap year is no different. Take the attitude of heading out for your gap year with the possibility of learning 1-3 new life skills. Make them as measurable as possible. The less vague, the better. For example, don’t just say you want to become good at traveling. You’ll never really know if you’ve succeeded unless you can boil it down to something more specific.

Your goal could be,”I want to become certified in scuba diving.” Boom. Extremely specific and clear. You’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved this goal, and who knows, you might even become a professional diving instructor like one of our students!

You could also choose something like, “I want to be able to arrive at a strange, new place, and feel comfortable starting up a conversation with the first person I meet.” This is a social skill, but an invaluable life skill. You’ll be able to use it at work, in college, wherever you find yourself. These are the kinds of skills that matter most for the rest of your life.

2. Don’t stop at one location

Why confine yourself to a single place? You’ve probably already been doing that for years!

Your gap year is an opportunity to roam, to ramble, to wander the great unknown of our planet and of your own experience. If you’ve lived your whole life in a city, why not visit a few remote villages or explore a foreign ecosystem. If you’ve already traveled around Europe with your family, why not go to the places you weren’t able to see?

A multitude of locations will give you perspective far faster than any semester in college will. Not just on the differences between train stations and hostels, but also the differences in human societies, values, visions of the good life, and of course, your own fallibility.

And of course, if you want to visit 10 different countries in wildly different climates and regions, you could always do Winterline 😉

3. Have a detailed plan, but be ready to throw it out the window

Life demands flexibility. Your gap year is no different. If you’re doing it right, you won’t be in your hometown doing the same old same old.

So, get out into the world with enough to do that you won’t get bored and start doing reckless things to pass the time. But then be ready to throw that plan away if it no longer fits the situation. You may have drafted up the perfect travel itinerary back at home, and now that you’re in Costa Rica or Belize you realize that almost every single bus in your town runs once a week and you’ll have to set up camp for a while. There’s always a blessing disguised in curses like these. Take it as an opportunity to meet someone new, to develop a new plan, to explore the area, or to slow down and try to live like the locals!

4. Try something new

This goes without saying, but there are already too many people who take gap years to just travel from one beach to the next. It surely gets old after a while, but the problem is, if you do it for long enough, you run out of time to be doing the things that could have life-changing value for you. Life is better with a few challenges.

As Jeff Selingo, education writer for the Washington Post, put it:

For a gap year to have a significant impact on success in college, and later in the working world, it needs to be a transformative event, quite distinct from anything a student has experienced before — a meaningful work experience, academic preparation for college or travel that opens up the horizon to the rest of the world. It should also be designed to help students acquire the skills and attributes that colleges and employers are looking for: maturity, confidence, problem-solving, communication skills and independence.

Take the time to figure out what kinds of new things would be fun, valuable, and doable for you. Try to have a balance in your gap year. You want to make it worth it, so don’t tire yourself out with only terrifying things, or only easy things. Find the balance between the two, and then keep pushing yourself further.

5. Focus on relationships

This can’t be overstated. The people you meet on your gap year could verily change your life. You might study world history in Europe and have an amazing time like one of our students did on her Independent Study Project. Inevitably, you will learn the most about your strengths and weaknesses and what you can give to the world with the help of others around you.

“I am the people I meet, the videos I take, the coffee I drink with a dash of milk and two packets of Splenda. I am my dog’s best friend, and it’s my bed she runs to when she hears fireworks in the summer.” — Callie

The quality and quantity of friends and mentors you make during your gap year will all depend on you and what you give to those relationships.

6. Be safe

Last but certainly not least. Your gap year will be full of adventure. And adventure always comes with a dash of risk. Make sure you’re being calculated with the risks you take. If it’s a small risk and high reward, then great! If it’s a small reward and high risk then maybe you want to think of ten other amazing things you could do. You can still have plenty of fun while being safe. The key is finding the right mix of fun, safety, and learning.

So do your homework about visiting a place before you get there. Every society has their own written and unwritten rules. For your safety and for the peace of mind of your friends and family, know where you’re going, and be prepared for both the best of times and the worst. Do you know CPR? First Aid? Can you build an ad-hoc shelter if needed? Do you have a communication plan? Emergency evacuation insurance? If you’ve thought through these and more, you’re on your way toward a safe and happy return from an amazing gap year adventure.

If you’d like more resources on having a safe and successful gap year, feel free to reach out to us at admissions@winterline.com.

How to Deal with Reverse Culture Shock After Your Gap Year

After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.

Our Field Advisors travel the entire duration of the gap year with our students, serving as mentors, leaders, supporters, and sometimes just a good shoulder to lean on. Always in a student to advisor ratio of 8:1 or less, our Field Advisors get to know our students extremely well, and are an integral part of the cohort family, as well as of the Winterline program.


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Hello Beautiful Winterliners!

I hope that you are all doing well and enjoying your reunification with your family and friends.

Some of you might be on cloud nine in that “honeymoon” phase… Some of you may have skipped that entirely and gone straight into crisis. Remember that reverse culture shock is a normal experience. You are returning from a crazy whirlwind of a year and it takes time for you and those around you to adjust to the new you. Go easy on yourself through the process… you will adjust!

Here’s some tips for dealing with reverse culture shock:

1) Connect with people that shared your experience.

There are 19 people that understand what you went through this past year in a way that nobody at home will ever be able to.

However you stay connected, be sure that you do. Reach out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email. But don’t forget about the power of a conversation too. We spent the last 245 days (except winter break) seeing each other’s faces every. single. day. If you find that a text or a snapchat just doesn’t meet your need for connection… Reach out! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to the folks you spent the last year with.

I hope you all know that the three of us field advisors are always open to chat and curious to hear about your transition back home.

2) Reflect on the year

Journal, Blog, Vlog, edit your thousands of hours of gopro footage or create your own Winterline slideshow of your pictures. Create a wall or a shrine of all the things you collected from around the world.

Spend time to write down quotes and stories. The act of putting pen to paper solidifies those experiences in your mind so you remember them years from now.

Seek out solitude. Go for a hike or even just a walk around town by yourself. Leave your phone at home! Maybe you find a a nice tree to talk to… They’re pretty good listeners.

However you choose to reflect, make sure you make space for it. Some of the greatest learnings from an experience like Winterline happen after the program is over. Be sure you continue looking for them!

3) Share with others

As many of you are discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience. Maybe your family got a whole different perception of your experience through photos and phone calls and you just can’t make them understand what it was really like. Maybe your friends are just more interested in who’s dating who now than hearing about the struggle for democracy in Cambodia.

Go easy on these people.

You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.

Be intentional about your story telling. Ask people to come over and watch your videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so you and they know that it’s your time and it’s important.

Prathana and Leo ran into a prospective student at the Cambridge office and got the opportunity to pass their stoke on to someone who may be nervous about taking the leap. What better way to share your stories than you help someone else make a decision that could change their life too? You can talk to Cambridge about being an alumni connection or sharing your experience at your high school. This can be a great way for you to reflect too!

4) Incorporate your experience into home

Keep pursing the things that excited you. Find time to continue exploring the things you found joy in… Cooking, Rock Climbing, Parkour, Sewing, Harp Therapy, French, Biking, Baking, Scuba, Photography, etc. etc. I know I plan to make my own fermented sodas at home… maybe I’ll even take up Bollywood dancing.

Don’t fall back into your old habits (at least the ones that you don’t want to). Look for ways to bring your experience home. Maybe you want to say Buen Provecho before every meal, maybe you want to tell people what you appreciate about them more, or maybe you want to take more time to educate yourself about what’s going on in the world.

Let me know if you want the recipes to make some dope Thai food for your family!

5) Give yourself permission to relax

In the marathon to reconnect, make sure that you also take time to chill.

If you love to sleep… then take some time to sleep! Play some video games, watch netflix, lounge on the couch. You’ve been going, going, going for nine months straight. We pretty much didn’t have a weekend for the past 9 months, so I think we can take at least one to do nothing at all… maybe two.

Be patient with yourself as you go through the different emotions and changes that go along with reverse culture shock. Remember that it’s normal, natural and that it will pass! Most importantly, remember that your peers are probably going through the same thing. It’s ok to lean on each other.

6) Check out DropBox!

Here is the link (private) to a dropbox account that has some wonderful reminders of your year with Winterline. These are great things to share with your friends and family as a way to start telling your story!

In it, you’ll find the following things:

  • The Slideshow
  • The Grad Performance
  • Europe Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Startup Business Pitches
  • Monteverde Independent Study Project Presentations
  • Whistling Woods Film and Documentary Videos

You’ll want to download these things to store personally as you wont have access to this folder forever. We’ll let you know when the startup pitches or anything else gets uploaded.

I miss you all!
Mischa


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Packing List for a Gap Year Abroad

When my daughter left for Paris her sophomore year of college she had no idea what to expect, so she planned for every reasonable scenario, and created a packing least for her year abroad. Her bags were loaded with clothes, dozens of shoes, and other items that she would never use, but would surely take up much-needed space in her tiny apartment.

She spent six months abroad (with a home base in France) and traveled to every nook and cranny of Europe. By the time she returned home, she had definitely learned how to pack efficiently, and more specifically, how to pack practically.

1. Be wise about the basics

Don’t take large quantities of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can easily purchase what you need. Until then, pack travel-sized items, especially in your carry-on, in case your luggage gets lost along the way. It happens, many times.

2. Lay out all your clothing and items before you pack

This works great when you are trying to pack minimally. Determine how many outfits you will need and mix and match tops and bottoms. Do the same with shoes, sweaters, and jackets. Once you have all your clothing laid out, it will be easier to pack effectively.

3. Be logical about clothing

Don’t fill your suitcase with season-specific clothing. Pack clothing that can be layered: tanks under long sleeve shirts, sweaters on top of t-shirts, and a few seasonal items like swimsuits and one good jacket or “hoodie”. Weather typically varies from country to country and you want to be fully prepared for every climate change.

4. Pack comfortable shoes

It goes without saying that you will be doing a good deal of walking—that’s what travelers do. Again, my daughter learned the hard way. It’s simply not wise to fill your suitcase with high heels when you need a good pair of walking shoes that will last.

5. Pack your carry-on for emergencies

Have an extra set of clothes, along with whatever you wear to bed in your carry-on. Airlines are notorious for losing luggage, especially on International trips. Take the Boy Scout motto to heart—be prepared.

6. Make your carry-on a backpack

Backpacks are vital and indispensible when traveling abroad. A good backpack can hold more than you think and it’s so much easier to maneuver around than a carry-on that’s a suitcase. And don’t skimp on the cost! This backpack needs to last your entire trip. Sturdy stitching, front and side pouches, padded shoulder straps, and a low-profile color are all virtues. Many travelers agree that a body-hugging, internal frame backpack is worth the extra money and increases durability.

7. Protect important documents

Keep essential travel documents with you at all times. These include your passport, your plane ticket, your credit card and debit card, cash, and any other pertinent information you might need upon arrival. There are also numerous, well-respected travel wallets on the market for purchase. Most importantly, don’t ever let your purse or wallet out of sight when traveling abroad. Keep them zipped up in a pocket and attached to you at all times. Being stranded in a foreign country without identification or money is not anyone’s idea of a positive gap year experience. Another quick tip: if you’re traveling with a passport, it’s never a bad idea to email yourself a photocopy of the front photo and its signature pages in case you need to get it replaced.

8. Learn how to pack

Don’t just throw your clothes in your suitcase. There are videos that will teach you how to pack properly. This is a how to step-by-step blog post with visuals: How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Boss. And here’s a video I like from YouTube on How to NOT Overpack Your Suitcase.

9. Don’t overpack reminders of home

Of course you’ll want to travel with a few reminders and mementos from home, especially on an extended gap year trip. A few pictures, a favorite blanket, or some of your favorite movies are fine. But cramming your suitcase with all your favorites is not advisable. Suitcase real estate is a necessity. Save that room for essentials like clothing and comfortable shoes.

10. Save room for souvenirs

Keep in mind that you are going to want to collect keepsakes along the way to bring home from each of your travel destinations. Always, save a little extra space for these items in your suitcase.

If you need a list of essential items to pack when traveling abroad? Read this: Pack Light and Travel Happy. It’s also worth noting that most structured gap year programs provide a “must-follow” checklist of what to bring specific to their program.

Winterline Gap Year Program: Photo Contest II

In this most recent gap year program photo contest, students competed for prizes in five different categories.

A number of the students are photographers on our Media Team, a group of students composed of recipients of our work-study gap year scholarships. To account for any bias, all photographs were stripped of their photographers’ names.

The five categories were People, Places, Culture, Skills, and of course, Winterline. Here are the winners!


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People: Runner Up

  1. Captures kinetic energy, frozen in time
  2. Honesty of emotion
  3. Close up
  4. Shallow depth of field, bokeh, brings intimacy with subject

gap year photo contest runner up

People: Winner

  1. Powerful symmetry broken by the human form
  2. Formal narrative is asymmetric with half-nudity
  3. The expression captures curiosity, joy, even mischief

gap year photo contest winner people

Places: Runner Up

  1. Quality use of depth of field
  2. Subjects are perfectly crisp at the edge of an unknown height
  3. Captures a candid repose into human history, mixed with the challenge toward digital modernity

Places runner up gap year scholarships

Places: Winner

  1. Powerful sense of place
  2. Intimacy with an unknown owner, their belongings and their colorful attention to detail
  3. Architecture merges the old with the new, disarray with uniformity, roughness and tenderness


Culture: Runner Up

  1. Unique, close crop framing
  2. Colors of subject and sky contrast to reveal relationship between subject and others
  3. Decorations brought out in bite size via proximity to subject

photo contest gap year scholarship

Culture: Winner

  1. Abundant detail and humanity shines through in this image
  2. Universality and homogeny meet in the faces of the subjects
  3. Use of bokeh and focus pulls back the curtain between observer and observed
  4. Striking minimalism in the framing of the subjects

gap year photo contest scholarship

Skills: Runner Up

  1. Care and attention to detail from the subject brings out tenderness in this moment captured
  2. Eye-level humility meets the narrative of the subject’s focus
  3. Soft lighting from natural source adds to the emotional experience

gap year scholarship photo contest
Skills: Winner

  1. Close crop creates tension between subjects and what lies outside the frame
  2. Emotional tension & curiosity captured perfectly in the seen subjects’ eyes and the presence of an unseen subject.
  3. Lettering on main subject’s T-Shirt brings out further, unscripted meaning

gap year study abroad scholarship

Winterline: Runner Up

  1. The unknown background contrasts with the familiarity of the foreground, creating tension between the direction of the subject and the weighted centrality of the written logo
  2. Adventure and exploration captured perfectly with matched anonymity

gap year photo contest scholarship runner up

Winterline: Winner

  1. Dominant narrative of friendship and togetherness
  2. Adventure and respite brought to mind by the outfits and heavy lean of the subjects
  3. Symmetric framing and individuality despite matching outfits

gap year scholarship photo contest 2


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Help us Win the GoAbroad Innovation Awards!

The GoAbroad Innovation Awards are the premier source of recognition for innovation in the study abroad and gap year space. Molly’s video series culminated this month in two hyper-condensed visual narratives on the lasting value of a gap year, and more precisely, the value of the relationships acquired while taking a gap year.

UPVOTE HERE

Her 9-months in five minutes video, “Around the World,” was selected as an Innovation Awards Video Finalist for illuminating the courageous fine line between learning and fear, comfort and growth. Molly’s entire video series on her time spent in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Europe, as well as her 5-part vlog series on independent travel in Croatia, highlights the powerful dynamism of a gap year abroad, as well as the nuance of personal growth in this unique moment in life.

According to the GoAbroad contest moderators, the winner of the award will be determined by popular vote, so please share widely! It is a one person one vote system, so remember to fill out the form. The winners will be announced at the GoAbroad Reception during the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, on Thursday, June 1, at 5:30PM.

Please take a second to upvote Molly’s video series by visiting the voting page here and filling out the form!


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How to plan solo travel on your gap year

What do you want to do? For some, the answer is easy. There’s a country they’ve always wanted to go to, or some sight they’ve always wanted to see.

For others it’s about the activity: where can I best learn cooking, rock climbing, French as a foreign language, or photography.

Feel free to explore this interactive map of our students’ locations, partners, learning objectives, and photos!

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So, if you’re ready to start planning your own solo travel or independent travel project, here are four pieces of advice that we give to our students so they’re set up for success.

1. Make sure it’s awesome.

You only have so many opportunities in your life to plan something as free ranging as your time on a gap year, semester, or summer abroad. You’ll want to make sure that whatever you do, it’s better than most, if not all of the other things you could be doing. The economic concept of the opportunity cost is useful here. Do something awesome.

2. Think about what you want to learn.

Ask yourself, what are you interested in? What makes you weird? What is really cool that you’ve always thought about exploring? Or what is something you know almost nothing about?

Solo travel or independent study project should push you far enough out of your comfort zone that you’ll be sure to learn something new and crazy. It could be a life skill, a career skill, or maybe just something strange that you’re curious about.

3. Decide on a place

Once you have a sense of what you want to learn, think about the best places in the world to learn that. If it’s learning how to survive in the wild, you maybe wouldn’t want to go to Paris. If you want to learn urban photography, what about Dublin or Milan?

Choose a place that has either a top notch instruction partner, or a rich culture around that particular skill.

4. Make a plan

Our gap year students design their own independent travel and study projects months in advance. They design their own budgets, safety plans, learning objectives, and partners all on their own.

We’re always inspired by their creativity and personal ambition. But in fact, we hold them very closely accountable to a $1000 budget. They are expected to book their own flights, plan their own meals, find a partner or organization that will teach them what they want to learn and explore, and make all the arrangements necessary for a safe and happy return.

Further, they’re expected to give us a run-down on the safety precautions they’ve taken for making sure they’re safe; and also if the unexpected happens, they’ll be prepared and ready to respond.

Getting organized about your adventure is really important for making sure you have the best time ever. You don’t have to stick rigidly to a plan. In fact, serendipity can create some of the best learning experiences.

If you want to learn more about Winterline’s premium education travel programs, click this box.

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Gap year safety: How to travel in India

You get off the train in Mumbai, headed to Bollywood to learn filmmaking and maybe become a star, and you pull our your printed hotel receipt for $75 for the week at ‘Lucky Hotel.’ It has an address, but the tuktuk driver pulls away before you can even say the rest. The afternoon sun is beautiful and warms you from the cold train.

It’s going to be a great week. You’ll probably meet Salman Khan. On the train you overheard that the federal government just issued an order restricting paper bills, cash in roughly $7 and $15 US dollar equivalents. A kind old woman next to you advises you in perfect English to exchange all the bills you have in these amounts to the bank, they’ll give you your money back with the approved bills, “theek theek,” she says as she wags her head.

You check your pockets in the tuktuk as it veers around another glimmering corner of tight alleyways and a few holy cows. Petty cash. You should be fine, enough to pay the hotel. Worst case scenario, you have to use your credit card and make a call back home.

He comes to a stop in front of a stately hotel, helps you with your suitcase, and pulls away after a short bargain about the rate. By now you’re pretty good at guessing the right rate. You enter the building, see the giant chandelier by the concierge, and immediately realize it’s a mistake. You ask if this isn’t Lucky Hotel. The young concierge tells you there’s another Lucky Hotel in town, “Not far,” and in kindness calls another tuktuk for you.

By the time you arrive at the right Lucky Hotel, you’re short on the $75 you need to pay the hotel bill. They don’t accept credit. With the sun going down, finding another place is not an option, so you manage to convince them to let you stay there with only the first few days paid, and you’ll head to the ATM early in the morning, and have the rest of the day to explore those film sets you’d mapped out back in Paris.

You set your bags down beside the bunk bed and go to sleep. Turns out Lucky Hotel is a hostel.

The next morning you head out to look for an ATM and discover the streets are filled with people. The commotion happens to be the ATMs. People can’t get their money out. You wait in line for half a day, only to be told to go home around lunch time because the machine has reached its daily limit. With no other option, you do the same thing the next day, hoping for a different result, as your low funds are permitting you only to eat at either expensive restaurants that take credit, or at plastic table corner stores where the chefs don’t wash their hands.

While waiting for the ATM, you’re getting good at mastering the squat, but you keep your eyes out for Salman Khan. It might be a while before you actually get to start your film career.

Reflection:

  1. What happened here?
  2. In the comments section below, name 3 things you could have done differently to avoid this unfortunate outcome.
  3. How might you stay abreast of similar unexpected dilemmas as you move onto your next gap year destination?

100 Celebrities Who Took Time Off for a Gap Year or Study Abroad

At some point in your life, you’re probably going to want to wander, to see as much as can be seen, to learn as much as can be learned, to travel as far as can be traveled. And we highly recommend it!

The benefits of a gap year, of studying abroad, of and traveling include everything from newfound perspective, personal ambition, and even skills.

Take it from these famous individuals — getting out of your regular mold can be hugely influential on the many ways you define success in your life.

1. Steve Jobs

He famously started Apple, with all its iconic imagery and minimalist aesthetic. But what’s less well known is that he spent months living in India, meditating in the mountains and learning how to tap into what was important to him. He contracted lice, dysentery, and eventually scabies before running out of money and returning home to start a new project, the original Mac.

2. J.K. Rowling

jk rowling

J.K. Rowling spent three years teaching english as a foreign language in Portugal. During this time, Harry Potter went from being an idea on a piece of paper to the first three chapters of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone. Her time spent in a new country allowed her to craft her vision of the young wizarding world and a yearning for the British landscape.

3. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

Well before shooting The Hangover, Bradley Cooper spent 6 months in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, studying French. He is supposedly fluent. “When I was a kid, I remember watching Chariots of Fire. And French is the official language of the Olympics. So there’s a scene where a guy was speaking French and I thought, ‘Man, that sounds so cool. I want to learn French.'”

4. Emma Watson

Emma Watson

A gap year doesn’t always have to be a break from the intellect. In fact, Emma Watson decided to take a break from her acting career to study feminism and gender studies, committing herself to reading a new book every week as personal study.

5. Vera Wang

Vera Wang

Vera Wang, the iconic designer, spent a semester studying abroad in France at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. According to her biographer, Katherine Krohn, it was in Paris that “the architecture, fashion, and design of Paris inspired her, and reawakened her lifelong love of art”.

6. Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

This A-lister spent a gap year in Warnervale, New South Wales, Australia, where he apparently never picked up the accent. “I always had a wanderlust for travelling and I wanted to take a year off to go take an adventure, and it was.”

7. Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor famously studied abroad at Cambridge University, eventually getting a doctoral degree in English literature.

8. Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Angela Davis came up in the 1960s as a powerful political activist and academic scholar. Before that, she spent her junior year of college studying abroad at the Sorbonne in France and went on to do graduate study in Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany.

9. Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a well known entrepreneur who co-founded Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX. He was born and raised in South Africa but studied at Queen’s University in Canada, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.

10. Nigella Lawson

Now a famous British Chef, Nigella Lawson took a gap year to study Italian cooking, working as a maid to pay the bills. She found inspiration for her first cookbook there. “You forget how brave you are when you are young. My school friend and I went everywhere asking for work, and we ended up [as chambermaids] in this little place on a road that leads from the Duomo to the Piazza della Signoria. We shared the job and a room that was so small you had to climb over the bed to get to the loo.”

11. Prince Harry

When he was 19, he traveled to Australia to learn how to be a cattle-hand, and Lesotho where he helped build local infrastructure including a health clinic and a road bridge. He has since spent time studying in Nepal as well.

12. Hugh Jackman

Before X-Men’s Wolverine took to the big screen, he spent a gap year working as a teaching assistant at Uppingham School in the United Kingdom.

13. Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert

Her famous book, Eat, Pray, Love came from a long personal adventure through Italy, Indonesia, and India. It has sold over 10 million copies.

14. Kobe Bryant

Before becoming an 18-time NBA All Star, he lived 6 years of his life in Italy. He speaks both Spanish and Italian fluently.

15. Prince William

The Duke of Cambridge took a gap year in Belize, training with the Welsh Guards, teaching English in Chile, traveling in Africa, and working on a dairy farm in the United Kingdom.

16. Malia Obama

Malia Obama

Malia Obama took a gap year after graduating from her high school and her White House life before attending Harvard. In the fall, Malia traveled to Bolivia and Peru for extensive homestays and spanish language immersion. Multiple news sources say that she spent rest of her gap year interning with Harry Weinstein of Weinstein Company. Malia has shown her interest in film before while interning on the set of HBO’s Girls and TNT’s Extant starring Halle Berry. Although Malia has already been admitted to Harvard University, the year off will likely give her a myriad of experiences that will make her transition into college life easier and more fulfilling.

17. Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky

Katie deferred enrollment to Stanford University to go full time on swimming for the 2016 Olympics Games. She has broken thirteen records over her career and currently holds the world records for the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She was the most decorated female athlete in the Rio Olympics.

18. Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch

When he was 19, he traveled throughout the Himalayas, living with a Nepali family outside Darjeeling, and teaching English to Tibetan monks and nuns. “They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous people. Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no other previous teachers seem to have done. With 12 monks in a room with an age-range of about 8 to 40, that’s quite important – and the reward-punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could possibly ever teach them. They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humor you need to live a full spiritual life.”

19. Mike Myers

Mike Myers

After finishing high school and despite landing a gig at Second City, the prestigious Chicago-based comedy hall, Mike Myers flew to England for a gap year, where he became a founding member of the London Comedy Tour Players, starred in a British children’s TV program, and traveled all around the British Isles.

20. Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

A Burmese native, Aung San Suu Kyi studied in New Delhi, India, at the prestigious, Lady Shri Ram College. She then continued onto the United Kingdom, completing her undergraduate degree at Oxford in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

21. Pres. Barack Obama

Barack Obama

As a child, the former POTUS lived for 3 years in Jakarta, Indonesia. During college, he traveled to Hyderabad, India, and later Kenya, and Bali, where he completed his book Dreams from My Father.

22. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

When he was 22, Darwin got an invitation from his friend and mentor, John Stevens Henslow, asking him to join him on a trip to the Galapagos. Although Darwin’s plan was to become a clergyman and his father objected to the trip, Darwin decided to go anyway. His theory of natural selection, which came out of observations he made on that trip, has become the dominant force in the biological sciences. It not only defines how we understand species, ecosystems, and what he called “evolution,” it has shaped food sciences, the medical sciences, and more. He describes that trip as “by far the most important event in my life. It determined my whole career.”

23. Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Now the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton spent her gap year in Florence, Italy with the British Institute, studying art and literature, hanging out with friends, and spending time at the Uffizi Gallery.

24. Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi

Gandhi first left home to study in the United Kingdom at age 18. He studied to become a barrister, a high court lawyer, before returning home in India to fight for his nation’s independence.

25. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

As a 19-year old Mormon, Mitt Romney spent two years doing missionary work in France after his first year at Stanford University. He learned French and European literature, and his time there helped shape his political views that he then brought home with him for completing his undergraduate studies and moving onto Harvard for a joint JD/MBA program.

26. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was born and raised in Macedonia and Albania and went on to complete her schooling at Loreto Abbey in Ireland. Her missionary work took her to Darjeeling, India at the age of eighteen where her experiences led her to pursue a life of service and charity work — and global renown.

27. Karlie Kloss

Karlie Kloss

This famous model took time off between high school and college to pursue her career. She returned to her studies, like most gap year students, and graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

28. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

In the early days of Facebook, Mark famously dropped out of school to work on his new project full time. What is less well known, is that while the company was going through a rough patch, at the advice of his friend and mentor, Steve Jobs, Mark traveled to India to spend time in an Ashram founded by the sadhu, Neem Karoli Baba. The aim was to connect with the deeper mission of his company, and see a way through the difficult times. “[Steve] told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed as the mission of the company, I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India, early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be. It reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing.”

29. Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings

If you’re spending yet another night curled up watching Netflix movies, you’ve got one man to thank for that: CEO Reed Hastings. After completing his undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Hastings joined the Peace Corps for two years before eventually going to graduate school at Stanford University. During his time with the Peace Corps, he taught high school math in Swaziland, an adventure that widened his understanding of the world. In an interview, Hasting said of that time in his life, “It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying.”

30. Bill O’Reilly

Bill O'Reilly

The provocative TV anchor and author, Bill O’Reilly, spent his junior year studying in London at Queen Mary College, taking time off from his studies at Marist College.

31. Bob Vila

Bob Vila

Bob Vila is the host of the popular television show This Old House. Vila took time off to work with the Peace Corps in Panama. He constructed houses and worked toward building up communities. This ultimately led him to pursue a master’s degree in architecture. His love of construction never waned and he went on to work in home-renovation and television for the majority of his career.

32. Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the celebrated news commentator at NBC and MSNBC actually spent two years in his youth, living and volunteering in Swaziland, with the Peace Corps.

33. The Beatles

The Bleates

After graduating from high school, The Beatles moved to Hamburg, Germany as music apprentices, learning how to take their music to the next level. As John Lennon put it, “I was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg.”

34. Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran

About a year ago, Ed Sheeran decided to leave his celebrity lifestyle and take a gap year to travel. Sheeran burned his foot in a geyser in Iceland, traveled through Japan, and went white water rafting in Fiji. His most impactful experience, however, seems to have been on the beautiful island of New Zealand. He fell in love with the country while bungee jumping and hanging out with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson that he is now hoping to move there completely. As he told one UK newspaper, “I did ask for citizenship and I think we got an email from someone involved with that. So maybe that’s going to happen. I could be a citizen.” By stepping outside of his life, Sheeran was able to discover something new which may just be the next best thing.

35. Marco Polo

Marco Polo Mosaic

At the ripe age of 17, Marco Polo began the journey that would mold him as one of the greatest travel writers of his time. His accounts of East Asia were some of the first ever recorded for Europeans and led many to become more interested in travel including the well-known, Christopher Columbus.

36. Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Although many know Lin-Manuel Miranda for his latest victory, Hamilton, his earlier musical In The Heights was also a Tony-winning masterpiece. After work on In The Heights was completed, Miranda found himself in need of a vacation from the theatrical world. It was on a beach trip with his current wife that he first read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the book that would inspire the musical we all know and love. If Miranda hadn’t taken this break from his day to day life, he may never have found this piece of inspiration — which goes to show that time off can be exactly what one needs to get those creative juices flowing.

37. Mark Twain

Mark Twain Portrait by Abdullah Freres

Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” is one of the best-selling travel books of all time. While still a young man, he boarded the USS Quaker City headed for distant shores in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It was on this trip that he honed his infamous wit and comedic bite, as well as his own ironic self-deprecation.

38. William James “Bill” Murray

Bill Murray

The Ghostbuster, Groundhog Day, and Golden Globe cult star actually took four years off of acting to study philosophy and history at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

39. Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan was born in Ghana and served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations for nearly ten years. When he was younger, he attended school in Switzerland and the US, earning advanced degrees in International Relations and Management.

40. Mark Hammill

Mark Hammill

Also known as Luke Skywalker, Mark Hammill actually began studying drama in Japan, in his junior year of high school when his father was stationed there. A few years later, he applied those skills to The Force, “the energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

41. Paul Theroux

Novelist Paul Edward Theroux spent time volunteering in Malawi with the Peace Corps in one of its original volunteer cohorts. While in Malawi, he worked as a teacher and began writing. This experience developed his interest in travel and would lead him to travel by train through Eurasia, Central America, Africa and Europe. Each of these experiences led to a detailed travel writing book that included descriptions of the people and places Theroux encountered during his travels. He is now a famous writer.

42. Mildred D. Taylor

Mildred D. Taylor

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, the multiple recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, the Jane Addams Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Christopher Award spent two years serving in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, teaching English and History before returning home to the United States.

43. Alice Malsenior Walker

Author of The Color Purple, poet, and activist, Alice studied abroad in Kenya and Uganda with the Experiment in International Living.

44. Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

Before becoming Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder graduated from the University of Iowa, then studied abroad at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England, and was in fact a champion fencer.

45. Sec. Donna Shalala

Former U.S Secretary of Health, Donna Shalala, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Iran from 1962-1964. In an interview, Shalala stated, “I was tired of school and I wanted adventure.” She worked in a remote Iranian village and helped build an agricultural college during her time with the Peace Corps. Shalala still considers herself a Peace Corps volunteer and that mindset impacts how she approaches her day-to-day life. “My service in Iran was one of the most important experiences of my youth.”

46. Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm

The first African American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm first left the United States at the age of two for Barbados, beginning a long career of advocacy for people of differing backgrounds and opinions.

47. Jack Harries & Finn Harries

Jacksgap

Jack & Finn Harries, the talent duo behind the hit Youtube Channel, Jacksgap, spent their gap year developing a huge internet following by creating fun and entertaining videos and travel blogs. Profits raised through their Youtube endeavors allowed the twins to travel to many countries such as Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. What started off as a year of fun became a career in the field of video production and Jack Harries decided to ditch college altogether to work on the channel full time. Finn did go to college, but the year off made him decide to go to school in the United States and pursue architecture, a major he had not considered before. In regards to his gap year, Jack Harries said, “In our parents’ day, kids used to listen to rock-and-roll music in their bedrooms as a form of rebellion…this is our little rebellion. YouTube is our world. Whatever happens next, it’s been a great gap year.”

48. Chyna

Bodybuilder, wrestler, and Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, where she taught literacy for two years, from 1993-1995.

49. Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is currently planning to move her family back to England in the hopes that a gap year will allow her kids to experience the same sort of childhood she was exposed to. “It’s mostly about the family,” a source told Heat Magazine. “Emily is a little homesick, and she doesn’t want her kids to grow up not knowing their English family or roots. She wants them to experience the same things she did as a child: bangers and mash suppers and cold winters.”

50. Sen. Chris Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd

Senator from Connecticut for 30 years, from 1981-2011, Chris spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer, where he became fluent in Spanish. He has spent time serving as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America.

51. Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison started out as a club promoter in New York City. After a missionary trip to West Africa with Mercy Ships, he came face to face with extreme poverty and decided to spend the rest of his life working to eradicate it. He founded Charity Water, an organization that works to provide clean water to people in developing countries.

52. Julian Casablancas

The Strokes

The lead vocalist of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, spent half a year studying in Switzerland when he was a teenager. It was at this school that he met Albert Hammond Junior who would later help him form their successful rock band.

53. Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS, a retail company that began with a promise to donate a pair of shoes for every pair of shoes purchased. Before the company was born, Mycoskie was a contestant on CBS’s The Amazing Race where he traveled across the globe competing against other American participants. When he went to Argentina for the show, he saw that many of the children walking around Buenos Aires were barefoot and those who were playing sports wore canvas shoes. After this experience, Mycoskie decided he wanted to find a way to help and founded TOMS. TOMS has since expanded into selling other products such as glasses, bags and fair trade coffee. In an interview, Mycoskie said “I wish people would take more adventures to some of these countries and stimulate their economies and learn about what’s going on and do that for vacations.”

54. Kristi Yamaguchi

American Olympic Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguchi spent time studying Psychology abroad in Canada at the University of Edmonton where she also trained for her high-profile international competitions.

55. Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

In addition to her well-known films, Gwyneth spends time returning to the place she studied abroad in high school in Talavera de la Reina, Spain. “I never looked back, and I did not want to go home. The next time I went I was nineteen, and I have gone basically once a year at least ever since.”

56. Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The New Yorker writer, journalist, and surgeon, was born in the United States, but studied abroad, getting a degree as a Rhodes Scholar from Balliol College at the University of Oxford in 1989.

57. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton won the esteemed Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Although he didn’t graduate there, he gained perspective on the Vietnam War from an outsider’s perspective while in Oxford and began protesting vehemently against the war.

58. Gael Garcia Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal

Star of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and The Motorcycle Diaries, Gael Garcia Bernal was born and raised in Mexico and traveled to the United Kingdom in the hopes of getting proper acting training. His time in London helped him develop his craft as a performer and has led to his success in movies and television.

59. Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu earned both his Master’s and his Bachelor’s degree in the United Kingdom. When asked about his time in England, he said “I have wonderful, happy memories of my time at King’s. My experience was one of great encouragement and support in my academic studies and an acceptance and warmth from my fellow students.”

60. Dan Brown

Dan Brown November 2015

The author of the Da Vinci Code spent a year in Seville, Spain studying art history, the very subject that features so heavily in his famous book. It has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide.

61. Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan

The Fourth Female Supreme Court Justice of the United States famously studied abroad in the United Kingdom on a scholarship after finishing her degree at Princeton University. She was also the first female dean of Harvard Law School.

62. George Harrison

George Harrison

The influence of sitar, tanpura, tabla, sarod, pakhavaj, sarangi, and the dholak are not by accident in many famous Beatles songs. George Harrison’s trip to India dramatically changed the direction, both musically and politically, of him and his fellow bandmates. He started the first “goodwill concert”, raising funds for UNICEF with his Concert for Bangladesh. As he said, “I remember thinking I just want more. This isn’t it. Fame is not the goal. Money is not the goal. To be able to know how to get peace of mind, how to be happy, is something you don’t just stumble across. You’ve got to search for it.”

63. Ben Fogle

Ben Fogle

The adventurer, Ben Fogle, studied abroad in Costa Rica, where he went through a program on Latin American studies, inevitably paving the way for his later accomplishments.

64. Tim Rice

Tim Rice

The famous lyricist of The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Lion King, studied abroad in France, at the Sorbonne in Paris.

65. Kristin Scott Thomas

Kristin Scott Thomas

British actress Kristin Scott Thomas traveled to Paris, France when she was still a teenager to work as an au pair. She fell in love with the country and went on to study and pursue an acting career in Paris.

66. Sec. John Kerry

John Kerry

The American diplomat, politician, and Secretary of State spent years living in France and Norway, and attributes his “self-confidence, survival skills, language abilities and interest in public life” to those years.

67. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

Jeb Bush

At age 17, Jeb Bush, the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, traveled on a high school exchange program to Leon, Guanajuato, Guatemala, where he eventually met his future wife, Columba Garnica Gallo.

68. Joely Richardson

Joely Richardson

Originally from London, Joely went to school in the United States from the age of 12 up on a tennis scholarship.

69. Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

Well-known feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem is also known for having spent time abroad. After college, Steinem lived in India for two years to help young women organize against injustice. This experience sparked her interest in working in women’s rights and she continued to fight against these injustices throughout her career.

70. Sen. John McCain

John McCain

Born on a military base in Panama, McCain grew up at 20 different schools and military bases around the Pacific and in the US, certainly playing a role in his monumental commitment to his country.

71. Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury New Haven Connecticut

The lead singer of Queen, famous for so many great rock epics, including We Are The Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Another One Bites The Dust, was actually born in Zanzibar (present day Tanzania), raised in India, and went to school in London. His global perspective clearly played a role in his songwriting and performance style.

72. Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Originally from India, this famous science writer studied abroad at Stanford University, and later Harvard Medical School.

73. Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz traveled from Spain to New York to spend several years studying at Cristina Rota’s drama school.

74. Harper Lee

Harper Lee

Famous for publishing her canonical, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Harper Lee left home in her junior year at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, to be an exchange student at the University of Oxford, in England.

75. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

His theory of relativity has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation.” But it’s not clear he ever would have accomplished his many great feats of mathematics and physics had it not been for the amount of traveling and exchanging ideas with other giants in the field and in other fields. Through his life he lived in seven different countries, evolving strong views on not only physics, political structures, and music. In addition, the cross-over synesthesia between Mozart and theoretical physics could have played a substantial role in his greatest work. As he said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music.”

76. Ang Lee

Ang Lee is an award winning director known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain. Born and raised in Taiwan, he chose to study abroad in the United States, completing both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Illinois and New York respectively.

77. Colin Firth

Colin Firth

Colin Firth was born in England. His parents were both in academic fields and because of this, he spent much of his childhood abroad in Nigeria and St. Louis, Missouri.

78. Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage was a well known African-American sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance. In 1929, she was able to travel to Paris, France to study sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

79. James Baldwin

James Baldwin

James Baldwin, a well known writer during the civil rights movement, took time away from the United States while producing a work of nonfiction on his experience growing up in Harlem. He moved to France because he believed it would help him write more honestly about his home. He spent many other years traveling in Istanbul, Switzerland, and France, but his writing always acted as a reflection on his home in America, and as a provocation for change.

80. Isla Fisher

Isla Fisher

Australian actress, Isla Fisher, spent a semester studying theater at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. It was after this experience that she began pursuing acting as a career.

81. Paul Rudd

Paul Rudd Actor

The American actor and comedian put his academic career on hold to travel to the United Kingdom to study Jacobean theater at the British American Drama Academy.

82. J.M. Coetzee

J.M.Coetzee

The Nobel Laureate in Literature was born in South Africa, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing a PhD in Linguistics as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Texas at Austin.

83. Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd 2014

To deepen her understanding of French, her major, Ashley Judd flew to Paris to live and immerse herself in the language.

84. Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer

The CNN anchor and reporter was actually born in Germany, raised in the United States, and studied abroad, completing a master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Johns Hopkins University.

85. Cole Porter

Cole Porter

The famous jazz composer and songwriter, born in the United States, studied orchestration and counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, France. He’s a notable character in the contemporary Owen Wilson film, Midnight In Paris.

86. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The famous author, speaker, and visionary was born and bred in Nigeria, but did her studies at Eastern Connecticut University, Johns Hopkins University, and later, Yale University. Her stories of getting through oversimplified narratives and toward a more realistic understanding of our differences are a well-known viral phenomenon.

87. Henry James

Henry James

The “literary giant” was famous for his writings on Americans living abroad. He moved to England in 1876, where he composed many influential novels, including Daisy Miller, and The Portrait of a Lady.

88. Lewis and Clark

Lewis_and_Clark

Lewis and Clark went off to find a clear water route throughout North America and to bring information about plants animals and the land’s inhabitants back to Thomas Jefferson. Their journey led them to the pacific northwest and Lewis kept a detailed log of their journey and their interactions with the Native American people. Their expedition opened America’s eyes to the possibility that lay in this uncharted land and inspired many others to journey in search of all the potential the American West had to offer.

89. Chris Pine

Chris Pine

Chris Pine took a year off from his studies at UC Berkeley to study at Leeds University in England.

90. Jeremy Piven

Before becoming one of the main actors on the show Entourage. He fell in love with acting while studying Shakespeare at the National Theater in London.

91. Ursula K. Le Guin

The famous novelist and short story author was a Fulbright scholar, studying in France the year after college.

92. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal decided to travel abroad to the United Kingdom to study theater at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts in London.

93. Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde studied abroad in Ireland where she focused on the performance arts at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.

94. Tia Mowry

Tia Mowry

Credits: IMDb

Tia Mowry studied at Pepperdine University and spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy where she studied Italian and the humanities.

95. Amartya Sen

This Nobel Laureate and renowned development economist was born and raised in Calcutta, but went to college at Trinity College in the United Kingdom before returning home to conduct some of his most influential and groundbreaking research.

96. Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

The idea of a gap year in North America as a form of self discovery may be attributable to Jack Kerouac’s great work, On The Road, a novel that catalogs Jack’s travels with his friends across the United States. After dropping out of Columbia University, Kerouac spent time working on a number of sailing vessels before going on the journey that inspired the novel. The characters in On The Road are vivid and complex and the novel soon became a testament to youth culture in the late 40s – early 50s. Without having traveled, Kerouac may have never made the observations that inspired these characters or developed the characteristic voice that made the novel so epic.

97. Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a bestselling author who has written on everything from travel to science to Britain’s history and identity. While in the United States, Bill Bryson took time off to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend. This walk inspired his book, A Walk in the Woods, which was adapted as a movie in 2015.

98. Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta Oil Painting

Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar who traveled extensively through North Africa and the Middle East, accounted his findings in a book called Travels. He is one of the most famous travelers in the history of the world.

99. T.S. Eliot

T.S.Eliot

T.S. Eliot moved to the United Kingdom in his late 20s to attend Merton College, Oxford. His poetry and playwriting brought him so much fame in the UK that in 1927 he relinquished his US citizenship to become a British subject.

100. Sir Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton

The famous English explorer and linguist spoke 29 different languages, was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and awarded a knighthood, and yet never completed a college degree, having been expelled from Trinity College in Oxford. His work in defying the ethnocentrism of the day was groundbreaking in many respects.

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How to Keep In Touch While Traveling Abroad

Your gap year program sent you packing lists, visa and immunization requirements, invitations to connect with other students on the trip, required pre-trip reading and more. Maybe there is even an orientation or meet up for families.

But is there a prescription for staying in touch with your family and friends when you’re abroad?

Here’s a quick checklist with a few tips for keeping those relationships alive for when you come back:

1. Think about the important people in your life

Gabi and Noah hiking through Wyoming NOLS

Maybe it’s just your parents. Maybe you want to stay in touch with your siblings, or your grandparents, your high school friends, the kids you worked with at your after school program.

Whatever the case, you may be looking at different expectations from each of them. Think about what it would mean to lose contact with them and try your best to rank them by priority, as strange as that might sound. Who must you absolutely not lose contact with?

2. Consider their lifestyles and flexibility

Gap Year Skills Benefits

While you’re abroad, your friends’ and families’ lives will go on. They’ll be working, taking classes, going about their lives in very different ways. Your friends might be sleeping in, but busy all night. Your parents might be free in the evenings, but busy in the early mornings getting ready to start their day.

You’ll most likely be operating in different time zones, with great distances between you. The digital age has made communication immediate, but that doesn’t mean your family might not be sleeping when you send that emergency text to re-activate that frozen credit card account.

3. Decide on a communication platform

gap-year-girls-photography-class

Snapchat. Your grandparents might be very important to you, but if your plan was to Snap the whole adventure, you might have to convince them to get on Snapchat, or come up with another plan. On the other hand, Snapchat offers an incredibly easy sharing experience in a kind of gritty, home-made format. It can make your friends and family feel like they’re here for the ride.

Email is great because it can be opened at one’s own convenience. You just send it out to everyone on an email list you’ve built, and they read it whenever they like. You can attach files of course, and write stories. People like stories.

Video chat. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Facetime — these are all great ways to call people and video chat across the world. However, they each have their own country rules. If you choose one in particular, remember to look at which countries they are not available. China, for example, blocks Facebook. And many countries in the Middle East block Facebook.

Instagram is a great platform for sharing images and bite-size stories. It’s also great because it focuses so heavily on higher quality images, and everything you do can be sent out to many people at once. Do you want to have a private account or a public one? Advantages of a private account are obviously that no one weird is following you without your consent. Public accounts you have a chance to grow a following, perhaps win some photo contests, and speak to people you don’t necessarily know in person. You could also just create two accounts.

SMS. If you’re looking for something more intimate, one-on-one conversations, consider how the other person prefers to be contacted. In some places, you might not have Wifi or data access, but might be able to send SMS text messages. In other cases it might be the total opposite. Consider both the other person’s familiarities as well as the kind of digital access you’ll have. Texts are the easiest mode of communication in many situations, and they are still a highly preferred method of communication among our students.

Youtube. Perhaps you want to send home a richer experience of everything you’re learning and going through. Video can be extremely vivid. Vlogs are a relatively easy way to bring people into your experience, and you’ll get a chance to work on your editing and video skills. Many of our students make music videos like this one.

4. Determine a communication schedule before departure

Talk with your parents and guardians especially about this one. They will probably worry if you disappear off the face of the Earth without telling them, and with good reason. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re invincible, and mistakes happen all the time.

If you decide that once a week is manageable, then stick to it. Commitment is a virtue, and you’ll learn a lot from trying to get to a phone booth in the middle of a crazy religious festival, or whatever it is, because you said you’d do it. If calling via phone is too much, perhaps consider adjusting the communication plan by adding a mix of platforms.

You can text your friends and family every few days, and video call every couple weeks. The key is consistency and predictability. In many cases, your home base can be an incredible resource for safety and support while you’re on the road. If you need to, just remember ask for help.

The key in making sure that you have the right balance of support and freedom to explore and do your thing, and that all your friends and family are happy too, is having a plan, and sticking to it. If you need to change the plan, give them a heads up.

5. Remember FOMO

Boat Ride Bangkok Thailand Bangkok Vanguards

Your friends and family back at home might be having a great time. Their photos might be incredible. All the friends they’re making, that ice cream place you used to always go to. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re having the best time ever, and they’re bored out of their minds sitting in a giant lecture hall, missing you.

The point is, the images we send home and receive don’t always tell the full picture, so don’t get too carried away by the fear of missing out, and remember why you decided to do a gap year in the first place. The challenge is completely part of it. And just the same, just because you’re having the best time ever doesn’t mean everyone wants to know every detail. Be careful not to alienate those you love because they didn’t make the same awesome decision as you to take a gap year and learn something new about the world.

Staying in touch is about keeping those relationships healthy during your time abroad and so they’re there for you when you come back, as healthy and happy as ever.

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Winterline Gap Year Photo Contest

At the end of each trimester, we like to host a photo contest among our students. It’s a fun way for friends and family back home to see how far we’ve come and what we’ve been up to.

This fall, we had five prize-winners for our photo contest:

  1. Landscape
  2. Skills
  3. Wildlife
  4. People
  5. Winterline

The last one is meant to be defined in the eyes of the photographer-students themselves, and a few of them got pretty creative! The photos were judged anonymously by a Winterline staff committee. Submissions were cleared of original titles and sources. Merits were determined by image alone. Runner ups received prizes of local Costa Rican coffee mugs, winners received a range of prizes from Winterline Nalgenes up to an REI day pack.

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All in all, it was an incredibly difficult selection process, with many quality submissions across the board. Above all else, we at Winterline want to give our congratulations to all the winners and wish them the best in the rest of their gap years.

The first runner up for “Landscape” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative.
  2. Playful light and dark shadows with silhouette foreground
  3. Landscape includes a sense of the immediate experience
  4. Strong colors despite bleak expanse

landscape-runner-up-gapyearphotocontest

The winner for “Landscape” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong use of shadows and multiple landscape dimensions (water, rock, mountain)
  2. Self-portrait-esque
  3. The Golden Hour

gapyear-photo-contest-landscape-winner

The runner up for “Skills” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong tension between strength of the measurement tool and the fragility of the living organism
  2. Vivid use of macro detail
  3. Cute
  4. Immediately understandable narrative

gap year photo contest wildlife photography

The winner for “Skills” was considered on these points:

  1. Clearly a new skill
  2. Strong use of eye-level perspective, brings audience down the level of the activity
  3. Strong use of depth of field & wide aperture: face is perfectly crisp, drawing attention to the subject immediately
  4. Emotional

gapyear program photo contest goat milking costa rica

The runner up for “Wildlife” was considered on these points:

  1. Beautifully photographed wildlife subject
  2. Colorful, in focus, context provided for size
  3. Intimate & casual

hummingbird-costa-rica-gap-year-photo-contest

The winner for “Wildlife” was considered on these points:

  1. Perhaps not technically wildlife, subject is dramatically framed by its context, in situ
  2. Lighting well chosen
  3. Perspective — nearly eye-level

gapyearcostarica-photography-contest

The runner up for “People” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative of ease and rest.
  2. Human and approachable.
  3. Composition is beautifully imbalanced.
  4. Strong perspective, captures the sense of ground & earth which draws out the emotion

gap-year-photo-contest-people

The winner for “People” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narratives, easily understandable
  2. Eye-level perspective adds to the sense of dignity of the subject
  3. Framing with wall brings out the sense of intimacy with the subject
  4. Subject and objects hold each other in contrast with the uniformity of the background

people-gap-year-photo-contest

The runner up for “Winterline” was considered on these points:

  1. Strong narrative, well-aligned with Winterline brand of skills, friendship, and exposure to new experiences
  2. Use of Winterline logo
  3. Clear emotions of joy & spontaneity with new experience
  4. Strong use of non-candid subjects

gap-year-photo-contest-winterline

The winner for “Winterline” was considered on these points:

  1. Visually impressive colors and use of light
  2. Strong 1st person perspective
  3. Strong narrative of personal reflection mixed with the reflection on the water
  4. Answers the questions: why a gap year and why winterline while also capturing the feeling of adventure and delight at the end of an eventful day.

gap year photo contest winner winterline

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Six Reasons to Take a NOLS Course on Your Gap Year

NOLS has long been a leader in the field of outdoor education. Netflix founder Marc Randolph famously did his first NOLS course at age 14.

But why do we value it so much for our gap year and semester programs? Why do we prioritize it so early on in our global skills programs?

1. Wilderness experiences push you beyond where you thought you could go.bamae_cold_nols_outdoors.jpg

Every time the wilderness beats you up, you have a chance to push through. We want our students to know from day one of their gap year experience that they are capable of far more than they previously imagined.  That insight serves them greatly when they get to even stranger places on the other side of world. Knowing that you have an ever greater capacity, as well as knowing your limits, are critical components of what you can learn on a NOLS course.

2. You will learn skills that save livesoliver_with_syringe_wfa.jpg

During your NOLS course, you’ll get a chance to learn how to cook in the wild, how to keep your body warm, how to treat water, how to deal with intense inclement weather, how to read a map, the essentials of packing everything on your back and carrying your home, the essentials of hiking. On our gap year programs, students enter the wilderness experience having completed a Wilderness First Aid Certification, and the NOLS course is a real-life opportunity to put that experience into further practice.

3. You need to get away from your daily routine comforts to grow.ominous_mountain_valley_nols_outdoors_hiking.jpg

For our students to have the best gap year ever, they need to understand the relationship between comfort and learning. If your plan is to spend your gap year in as cushy an environment as possible, don’t be surprised if you learn very little. To really get a sense of how the other half lives, you need to live with the other half. Whether that’s in the wilderness, in the bustling streets of Bangkok, or the trim avenues of Western Europe, you’ll find discomfort somewhere. The more you learn to seek out that discomfort, the more prepared you are for life.

4. Your decisions have consequences.

hiking_nols_colorado_reflection_consequences.jpgOn a NOLS course, especially on the custom programs we’ve built for our students, you’ll have the chance to make decisions with real consequences. How you inspire your fellow travelers, how you navigate the wilderness, how you respond to changes in the weather — these all matter. There is no ‘reset’ button when you’re in the wild, and your teachers will give you the chance to make real mistakes, within reason of course. But if you mismanage your group, it could mean having to walk through the dark after the sun has gone down, or waiting out in the cold. Real responsibility builds real character.

5. You will learn about your leadership style.nols_heating_food_cooking_campfire_warming_hands_sunglasses_gap_year_program.jpg

Everyone has their own way of doing things, especially when it comes to leading. One of the critical components of the NOLS course is how leadership training is codified and refined, so that you can learn about yourself, your strength areas as well as your weakness areas. What are the boundaries of your comfort zone, and what level of control do you insist on having over your teammates when given the leadership role? To know both ends of the spectrum is a distinct life advantage. You can imagine why the founder of Netflix sees NOLS as one of the most valuable experiences of his life.

6. Wilderness experiences create shared identity and powerful memorieshiking_together_in_colorado_mountain_view_vista_boys_lake_gap_year_programs.jpg

When we design our gap year programs, we don’t just send students out to travel to different places around the world. We have very clear learning objectives in mind regarding skills, self-discovery, and team learning. No one should go it alone. When you begin your gap year, you’ll want to know that your friends and fellow travelers will have your back when the going gets tough. It’s not enough to know that they’ll stick with you in the good times. You never know what kinds of situations you’ll find yourself in. Having beared the wild together, you’ll know that you have others you can rely on, and can travel the world safely and confidently, knowing that each of you has earned their trust and their place in the circle.

Fireplace_gap_year_program_campfire.jpg

6 Reasons Why Traveling is Awesome

Traveling abroad is even better. Here’s why:

1. The grocery stores are more fun.

At home, going to the grocery store is a frustrating chore – especially on the weekends when hoards of people are out in full force. But when you’re in a new country, grocery shopping is an exotic adventure. Every aisle is full of items you’ve never seen before and tastes you’ve never experienced.

2. History lessons come alive with firsthand perspective.

Reading textbooks about the rich history of countries such as Thailand, Italy and Spain is one thing. Experiencing it in person against the backdrop of foreign tongues and centuries-old sites is something entirely different.

Travel is the best way to immerse yourself in learning without even fully realizing it.

3. Materialism melts away.

You know all that stuff we pile in our bedrooms at home – clothes, shoes, beauty products, CDs, video games, etc.? Once you start exploring marine ecology in Panama or learning high-end cooking skills in Southeast Asia, you quickly realize how little that stuff actually matters.

4. You become better at being alone and being in groups.

You won’t be able to hide behind your ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ label anymore. When traveling, many times you’ll be alone. Other times, you’ll have to be around lots of people. Both experiences are important and easier amid gorgeous scenery, fascinating cultures and good-natured people with interesting accents.

5. It does wonders for your photo collection.

Taking spontaneous photos and videos with your phone is fun, but how many selfies and food close-ups does one person really need? Time spent abroad gives you tons of photo opportunities, ranging from stunning scenery shots to one-of-a-kind cultural landmarks.

6. You might be happier.

Proof that travelers are happier than those who never venture far from home is purely anecdotal, but it’s still powerful. Have you ever had a long chat with someone who’s been all over the world – especially right after they return home? It’s like a dopamine fireworks show.

Travelers get a real buzz out of experiencing other cultures. While learning, reflecting and growing, they have loads of fun in the process.