The Monteverde ISP Experience

Each student in Winterline completes two ISPs, also known as an Independent Study Projects, during their gap year. These are apprenticeships in which the participant learns a variety of skills, doing things like coffee farming to shadowing a local government. Our first trimester offered ISPs in the beautiful little tourist town of Monteverde located in the Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica. Definitely a highlight of the first trimester, myself and the other students of Squad 1 all loved our ISPs. Here are a few of the things we learned throughout our time spent in the Monteverde cloud forest.

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Monteverde Cloud Forest | Photo By: Whitfield Smith

My personal ISP was titled “Cooking Costa Rican Food”. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect as this had not been my first choice for ISP, but due to overlapping desires in the squad, this was the one I was given. And I can safely say I absolutely loved every second of it. Every morning for a week, I woke up and visited my teacher Karen’s house, where she taught me the recipes of local Costa Rican cuisine. Karen was a regular member of the local community, not some intimidating 5 star chef. I have never cooked anything before in my life, but Karen was such a wonderful teacher that every meal came out more delicious than I ever could have expected. And luckily so, because unlike the other students doing their ISP, I was cooking my own lunch rather than bringing one each day. Whether it was ceviche (raw fish cured in citrus juices), picadillo with tortillas (ground beef served similarly to a taco), or rice pudding for dessert, I enjoyed every meal and came away feeling more proud of myself and satisfied with the dish than I ever thought possible.

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Josh’s ceviche!
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Josh cooking picadillo

The real kicker? Karen couldn’t speak a word of English. I learned everything by watching and inferring certain things based on the way she gestured. I certainly picked up a bit of Spanish after this ISP, though only words that can apply in the kitchen. At least now I can read Spanish menus in restaurants a bit better. This ISP taught me so much about traditional dishes of Costa Rica, of cooking in general, some Spanish, and how to interact with a language barrier. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, especially since as I said earlier, it wasn’t even my first choice and I couldn’t have had a better time with it.

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Josh and his teacher Karen

My squadmate, Jacob Rona, did the ISP known as “Reusing and Recycling Materials”. This title, while a bit unclear on what the ISP will actually consist of, certainly sounded interesting on paper, as we have been learning all about sustainability throughout trimester 1, and recycling is a huge part of sustainable living. This apprenticeship turned out to be one of my personal favorites as I would visit Jacob after cooking my lunch and I got to see him in action. It may have been the happiest I have seen him on this trip, and he’s the type of guy who is always smiling. During his ISP, he welded scrap metals and other materials together to create useable appliances such as candle and wine holders or small “toy” cars. His mentor, Memo, also spoke no English, but was a very energetic guy and had a certain love for the western genre, so everything they made together was cowboy themed. It looked like a lot of fun and I was very impressed with all the pieces he and Jacob made together and how practical everything they made was. I know that Jacob would recommend this one as well, he loved it so much that he had his pieces shipped home separately from him to gift to his family.

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Jacob showing off his welding tools
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Jacob’s wine bottle holder

Other Squad 1 ISPs included: coffee farming, bird art installations, photography, identifying edible plants, painting, mindfulness, intensive Spanish, baking, and sustainable farming. I never heard a single complaint about any of these apprenticeships, and I can easily say that overall, Monteverde was absolutely a highlight for Squad 1’s first trimester.

Why to Choose a Semester in Latin America

Not everyone has 9 months to dedicate to a gap year, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to have an hands-on education and travel experience. That’s why we created a semester full of skills and and cultural exploration in Latin America! This program kicks off in September 2020, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about the future. Here are 10 reasons you should consider applying for to join us.

  1. Visit not one, not two, but three different countries! Many study abroad trips only offer you the experience to live and learn in one country. Maybe you can fit in visits to other countries along the way, but they’ll likely be shorter trips that you have to plan yourself. On Winterline’s Latin America semester program, your whole group will spend time in Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru. No need to choose just one!

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    Photo By: Whitfield Smith
  2. Spend minimal time in the classroom. While some of your skills require a classroom day or two, the majority of your time will be spent in the field, learning by doing. Practice Spanish by conversing with native speakers, learn about sustainability by building and farming on a rainforest ranch, hone your business skills alongside local entrepreneurs, and so much more.
  3. Immerse yourself in each community. Yes, you’ll be living and learning in a group, but you’ll be doing so alongside locals. Some programs house you in a dorm, where you live together and learn from instructors they’ve hired. We know that, in order for you to learn cross-cultural communication and actually experience each country, you need to be spending time with and learning from the people who actually live there.

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    Photo By: Veronica Allmon
  4. Head home with 3 certifications under your belt. That’s right, you’ll have plenty to add to your resume, including certifications in CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and scuba diving! If you’re interested in a career in outdoor education, this is a great head start. If not, this will be a fun and out-of-the-box dose of real world skill-building.

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    Certification cards (Credit: Sherly Budiman)
  5. Get a taste for rural and urban life. Embrace the outdoors through scuba diving, artisanal fishing, surfing, beach lifesaving, technical tree climbing, natural building, hiking…the list goes on! It’s time to make yourself comfortable in nature, and all of these skills will help you do so. But you’ll also spend time in the city working on leadership, presentations, designing for urban resilience, prototyping, project planning, and more.
  6. Learn from the experts. The people who teach you these skills know what they’re talking about. We partner with a variety of organizations to ensure that you’re learning from qualified individuals or groups in each field.winterline, gap year, latin america
  7. Find your path and your purpose. Not sure what you want to study in college or pursue as a career? Getting a taste of so many different skills will expose you to ideas you’ve never heard of or considered. You’ll learn what you like, what you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about.
  8. Balance between guidance and independence. Your Winterline semester will be led by Field Advisors who live and travel with you, ensuring you stay safe and on track. They’re there to help when you need it, but they won’t hold your hands the whole way like a parent! You’re responsible for aspects such as your budget, showing up on time to skills, and planning your own activities on free days.  winterline, gap year, latin america
  9. Save on tuition with a scholarshipIf you’re interested in traveling with a friend, you can save $500 each by enrolling together. Looking to build a portfolio for journalism, photography, videography, or social media? Save $500 with work-study scholarship!
  10. Make memories to last a lifetime. One semester is plenty of time to change your life. These new skills, countries, and friends will leave you with stories, photos, and learnings to bring with you wherever the future takes you.winterline, gap year, latin america

If you’re interested in joining our 2020 semester program to Latin America, complete your application today to secure your spot!

Photos of the Week: Trimester 1 Recap

The last few months were pretty busy for our students! Now they’re home for a few weeks to rest and recover before jetting off to Southeast Asia in January. With so many skills and adventures, you might have already forgotten what they accomplished during their fir. While you can always look back at our past Photos of the Week to remind yourself, we also have some pictures that were previously unpublished to share. Take a look to see the beach adventures, the tree climbing, the rainforest explorations, the scuba diving, the business building, the urban innovation, the homestays, and more.

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Ashley basking in the sunlight
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Crawly critters | Photo By: Ashley Zhao
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You’re never too old to play in the sand
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Costa Rican sunsets never get old | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Scuba selfies!
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Getting serious at business bootcamp | Photo By: Liam McIlwain
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Revamping a Panamanian community | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Time to climb | Photo By: Aimee Diederich
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Eli practicing scuba skills | Photo By: Micah Zimmerman
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The skies are pretty at all times of day | Photo By: Hannah Wareham
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Jack on the open seas
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Everything’s better out on the ocean
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Lauren and Emmie hanging out at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Leon, Pablo, Eli, and James at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Upcycling for Monteverde ISP | Photo By: Lauren Allen
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So many fabric choices for upcycling! | Photo By: Lauren Allen
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Learning to use a sewing machine | Photo By: Lauren Allen
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Lauren with her host family
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Reach for the sky | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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The rainforest is beyond beautiful | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Dogs make the best adventure buddies | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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In the rainforest, you see such unique species | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Taking in the view with a friend | Photo By: Emma Macfayden
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Sunset strikes again | Photo By: Sherly Budiman
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Learning about sustainability at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Squad 3 exploring the rainforest | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Getting dirty | Photo By: Whitfield Smith
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Josh and his field advisors, Jamie and Felipe
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Squad 1 in Costa Rica

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. Want the experience, but unable to dedicate a whole year for travel? Then join our Latin America semester this fall! It’s never too early to start thinking about your future.

An Interview at Rancho Mastatal

While he and his squad were learning about sustainability at Rancho Mastatal, our student Liam took some time to interview staff member Ryan Roberts. Liam learned all about Ryan: what brought him to Rancho Mastatal, what it’s like to live on the ranch, and how he intends to use what he’s learned in the future when he eventually leaves the ranch.

Watch the interview to find out what life is like in rural Costa Rica, and if you’re interested in visiting for yourself, you’re in luck – in 2020, students on both of our gap year itineraries and our Latin America semester program will be spending time at Rancho Mastatal. Apply today to be one of these students!

Photos of the Week 11/22

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

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

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

If you’re interested in living this journey for yourself, apply now for our 2020-2021 gap year. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future. And if you apply between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll automatically save $1,000 on your tuition!

Outward Bound Costa Rica: A Family

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

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My squad learning how to technical climb trees in the rainforest

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

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

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

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

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

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My squad with Grace, Oscar, Kevin, and Karina

Photos of the Week 11/15

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

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

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

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

Reflecting on Trimester 1: A Squad 1 Quotebook

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

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

Spencer Turner:

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

Lydia Miller:

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

Darshil Dholakia:

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

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

Photos of the Week 11/8

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

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

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

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

Visiting Playa Potrero

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

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Our squad with the Hotel Isolina staff

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

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

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

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Shirley, Alex, Carter, and Me 20 meters underwater

 

CPR and Wilderness First Aid at Outward Bound Costa Rica

Deep within a rainforest in Cartago, Costa Rica lies a boisterous school filled with tremendous opportunities. This is the rainforest base of Outward Bound, a company self described as “the leading provider of experiential and outdoor education programs for youth and adults.” The students of Winterline spent much time on one such program learning the ins and outs of both CPR and Wilderness First Aid. Every single one of us became certified in both, a valuable accomplishment for both the next eight months of our travel, as well as for further than the foreseeable future. The process was quite simple actually.

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Instructor Bailey(Source: Outward Bound Website)
winterline, costa rica, outward bound
Instructor Carlos (Source: Outward Bound Website)

Amid some of the craziest travel opportunities of our lives, we began the process to receive our certifications with…school. Not the most exciting portion of the trip, but necessary and helpful nonetheless. Our two instructors, Carlos and Bailey, spent eight hours for three days in a row teaching us everything we needed to know in order to help one another in case of an emergency.

This consisted of typical textbook reading, practicing on dummies as well as each other, and watching videos of possible dangers we may face as well as how to deal with them. Using each other as pretend victims was exhilarating as many of the situations we were acting out required us to trust one another to practice certain skills and handle each other in the appropriate manner. Aside from that, while it wasn’t the most exciting three days of note taking and test stress, Carlos and Bailey worked to make it as interesting as possible to keep us engaged and prepared to earn our certifications.

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Students James and Darshil taking the wilderness first aid test to receive their certification (Credit: Lydia Miller)

Most of the focus with Outward Bound was on wilderness first aid (first aid in a situation where help is not readily available). However, we touched on workplace injuries as well during the CPR portion. This was actually an eye opening experience for many of us, because it really hammered home the point that accidents can happen anywhere at any time, and if nobody is prepared to deal with them, you may be out of luck.

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Certification cards (Credit: Sherly Budiman)

I’m very happy to have received my education in CPR and first aid because I won’t be the person panicking in the background; there’s so much more my peers and I can do to help now. What I’ve taken away from this experience is that everyone should receive an education similar to the one Outward Bound was able to provide, and I’m sure my peers can and will say the same.

I’m very proud of all the work we put in over the course of the week, and looking back I can say the time we spent together throughout this education was very valuable in terms of bonding and trust building within the group. Having to work together in “stressful” situations led us to rely on each other as well as ourselves, and I think that was important for us to go through so early on in the trip while we still don’t know each other too well. Overall, I can say I’m quite pleased with this segment of Winterline.

Monteverde Independent Study Project

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

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

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Homestay family

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

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

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

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

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      Cooking in Costa Rica

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

Location Spotlight: Rancho Mastatal

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

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

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

Working with wood | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Working with wood | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Building at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

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

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

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

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

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