Why Your Parents Worry about a Gap Year

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

“How are we going to afford it?”

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

“Is it safe?”

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

“Won’t it be a waste of time?”

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

“Won’t you fall behind academically?”

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

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

Location Spotlight: Cape Leopard Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Field Advisors: Ellen Molander

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

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

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

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

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

Meet the Field Advisors: Felipe Buitrago

Where are you from originally?

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

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

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

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

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

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

What are you most excited for about Winterline?

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

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

7 Reasons to Go to Cambodia

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

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

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

New Student Spotlight: Darshil Dholakia

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


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

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WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

Surat, India

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

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

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

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

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY WINTERLINE?

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

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

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

Darshil Dholakia, winterline, gap year

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

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

Nora

Admissions Advisorwinterline, gap year, travel, earbuds

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

Erica

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

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

Cara

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

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

Matt

Chief Risk Officer

winterline, gap year, travel,

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

Ashley

Director of Student Services

winterline, gap year, travel,

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

Eileen

Director of Programswinterline, gap year, travel, dark chocolate

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

Nick

Presidentwinterline, gap year, wild sage, carry-on

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

Allie

Marketing Coordinatorwinterline, gap year, travel, crossword

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

Susu

Country Director for Costa Rica

winterline, gap year, travel, pen

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

 

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

The Dawn of India

In March of 2019, our Winterline squads spent a month traveling through Western India. During this time, each of us had the chance to choose our own adventure by embarking on an Independent Student Project. Destinations included an Ashram, an Ayurvedic healing center, a farm, and a dance studio.

Be it thoughts, mental images, or sensations, each of us has unique memories of our time living in India. In my case, the sound of the ancient Sanskrit chants played during meditation still ricochet in my head.

In order to showcase our varied perspectives and experiences, I asked my fellow squad members to engage in a bit of self-reflection.

What is your favorite memory from India?

“It was the last day of the Art of Living ISP, where we took a course on how to make your life happier and more fulfilling. We were in an Ashram which is a sort of remote sanctuary where people can go out to connect with nature and meditate. Great vibes had been flowing the whole week and it all culminated after the last meditation session. We were instructed to close our eyes and “let the music flow through you.” Then this funky Indian music comes on. I felt self-conscious at first but we all got into a groove soon enough. It felt incredible to be in the moment and just dance my own dance.” – Sam

“My favorite memory from India was the wild banter that would occur during my time at the Art of Living ashram, particularly at lunch time. We had a cook named Ganesh that would feed us way too much and would continue to put food on our plate no matter how much we pleaded. He didn’t speak very much English but he somehow managed to tease and mess with us purely with gestures and his emotions.” – Caedon

“My favorite memory from India is Red Stone. Red Stone was the location for my self-care project. The food we ate was amazing and the owners of the farm and meditation center were so open and friendly. In the mornings, we practiced yoga and in the afternoons we would learn about sustainable living and meditation.” Tyler

“My favorite memory was the hilarious meals we had during my ISP week at an ashram with 5 other members of my squad. One of the kitchen staff called Ganesh loved to serve us food and would pile on a new portion every time we finished eating despite our protests, to the extent that some of us got 5 servings because he wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was the greatest show of hospitality and friendship that we could have received because it overcame the language barrier between us, and it gave us a sense of belonging within that community.” – Yeukai

The Ashram Crew | Photo by: Suryatej

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

“We spent five days learning about a very specific type of meditation, called pranayama. We would spend multiple portions of the day practicing breathing exercises, as well as beginning to train our mind and enter a calm state of relaxation. I was able to get into this so called meditative state, and it was quite incredible. With time I hope to be in full control of my focus and state of mind.” – Caedon

“I am most proud of my dedication to yoga and meditation during my stay at Red Stone.” – Tyler

“I’m proud of how my group and I woke up early every morning and continued to practice the breathing techniques and meditation skills we learned at the Ashram for over a week after leaving the ashram. It was hard to keep up with it afterwards because of the busy Winterline schedule, but we all want to take what we’ve learned back with us when we go home.” – Yeukai

“I’m proud of myself for experimenting with new cuisines. I tried a different Indian dish almost every day I was there and I don’t think I ever had an absolutely terrible meal.” – Sam

Moo! | Photo by: Suryatej

What was most challenging for you?

“We had to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning and practice the breathing exercises. There was a particular way you had to kneel (vajrasana) that made the three stages of pranayama extremely painful. Luckily I found that putting a pillow underneath my shins quickly resolved my dilemma.” – Caedon

“The biggest challenge for me was not speaking the language. Though many people do speak English in the cities, when we got to more rural destinations few people could communicate in English.” – Tyler

“Having to travel in small groups constantly because of the safety risk to females in India was challenging, because it took away from my independence and ability to be spontaneous.” – Yeukai

“Adjusting to and accepting a totally different way of life in the ashram was more challenging than I expected. Especially when we met an ayurvedic doctor. I remember walking into his hut and seeing this stout man sitting there. He read our pulses and told me that my air and fire elements were agitated, and that because of this I would soon lose all of my hair. It was so strange to experience coming from a western culture where medicine is based more on science.” – Sam

Boat trip with our Art of Living course instructor | Photo by: Suryatej

If you were to sum up your experiences in India with a single word or phrase, what would it be?

“Enriching” – Caedon

“Peace” – Tyler

“Inspiring and introspective”Yeukai

“Exotic” – Sam

Meet the Field Advisors: James Townsend


Ready to start your adventure?

LEARN MORE


Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in a small town just north of Baltimore, Maryland.

Why did you choose to become a field advisor?

Being a Field Advisor with Winterline is such a special position and the choice was easy to make. I’ve often asked, and have been asked by coworkers while working in similar jobs: if I could create my own program, what would it look like? When I first discovered Winterline’s Gap Year program, my mind was blown by how similar it felt to what I had been imagining all along. Strong emphasis on a global education, with practical skills learning, an introduction not only to the world but in a way to one’s self, and in a time frame in which participants can really make the most impact on their life, that’s the kind of program I have always wanted to be a part of!

How did you begin teaching/traveling?

I got my start working internationally with a company that runs trips out of Tanzania. I studied abroad in Tanzania for a semester and it was the regional focus of my degree in International Studies, so finding an opportunity to lead and teach in a country I am completely in love with and knew a lot about was something I had to do! Previously I had been leading outdoor adventure and leadership trips in the USA for several years, and to find an industry that combined my passions for experiential education as well as travel and culture was nothing short of a dream job.

james townsend winterline gap year

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

This will be my second or third time to most of the countries on the itinerary. Part of what I love about my job is being able to introduce and share the things that made me fall in love with in these places in the first place! For example, I spent a month in Cambodia last year and one thing I was so struck by is how it really wears its history on its sleeve. From the ancient temples of the Angkor period 1,200 years ago to the abandoned structures from the Khmer Rogue era in the 70s found throughout the country, the more you see, the more you’re constantly inspired to learn more about its history and people. The more you learn, the more you can understand and contextualize every experience you have into a greater understanding of what Cambodia really is. Being a part of that learning journey is what I love not only about my job, but about traveling as well.

james townsend winterline gap year

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

Honestly, the most incredible thing I’ve seen is the amount of hospitality so much of the world gives freely to complete strangers visiting their country. Last year I bought a motorcycle in Vietnam and spent two months traveling up the country. The tough thing when traveling by bike is that between all the tourist sites and major cities, there tends to be up to three to four days of travel through rural villages, mountain passes, and dense jungles before you get to where you’re going, and not very many resources to know if there will be a place to stay or eat on the road ahead of you. The real surprise came in these moments, where I’d stop in a village and ask for a nearby hotel and people would insist I stay with them and their family for the night. Or I’d stop under a tree in the rain to take a break and someone would just appear with a hot cup of coffee and a towel, without a word of English. One memorable night involved an invitation to camp on the beach with a family who brought all the tents, a massive feast, and a giant portable karaoke machine. The amount of meals offered to me by complete strangers who refused any money in exchange was incredible, and has really taught me the value in trusting others.

james townsend winterline gap year

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

I was a student of experiential education. I grew up going to summer camps, doing multiple study abroad courses and semesters at university, and even now to a degree by being a part of programs like Winterline. By far those have been the most impactful and transformational experiences of my entire life. They’re exciting and rewarding, but can also be challenging and demanding at times. It’s often those challenging moments that are the most defining in our personal growth. I believe having someone who understands those challenges, and the rewards that come with surmounting them there to mentor you is one of the unsung benefits of a gap year program, and it is a part of my position that I take most seriously.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

The Maasai tribe of East Africa takes the honor of who they offer the first drink of the meal to quite seriously. In my constant effort to not offend my hosts’ culture, customs, or hospitality, I am pleased to report on behalf of anyone curious, that raw goat’s blood tastes exactly as you’d probably imagine raw goat’s blood to taste.

james townsend winterline gap year

 

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

Location Spotlight: Rancho Mastatal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

winterline, global skills, gap year
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!