In honor of Winterline’s first program in Africa, we’ve decided to focus this week’s blog exclusively on the incredible photos from Rwanda! Squad 3 has been having an incredible time exploring the town and bonding with the locals through their homestays. This week, the students used some of their free time to go on safari and see beautiful animals up close and personal. See for yourself!
Happy Friday! This week, Squad 1 is off the grid trekking the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. Before taking off on this adventure, the students got a course in disaster medicine from the Hanifl Centre. Last week, Squad 2 went through this course, so we’re excited to share photos from their experience. Check out the gorgeous mountain views and examples of life-saving techniques!
Meanwhile, we’re thrilled that, for the first time ever, our students are in Rwanda! Squad 3 is onto the Africa portion of their gap year; after Rwanda, they’re headed to South Africa. For now, the students are living in homestays and exploring the culture of Kigali through artisan skills like cooking and baking, dance, and farming. Stay tuned to keep up with their adventures!
Our three squads are spread across three different countries this week, and they’re each practicing different skills. Squad 1 is nearing the end of their time in Cambodia, where they took a class in bicycle maintenance before riding to Angkor Wat. They also took a class at Phare Circus School, then split up to pursue advanced skills. Our students had a choice between a 5-day meditation retreat, bicycle touring in Battambang, or getting an Advanced Open Water SCUBA certified off the coast.
Meanwhile, Squad 2 is in Nan, Thailand, where they learned the sport of Muay Thai boxing! The students also got to practice weaving and pottery, and spent some free time exploring the beauty of the countryside. Finally, Squad 3 is in Northern India, where they’ll be trekking the foothills of the Himalayas. Before taking off on this adventure, the students are getting a course in disaster medicine from the Hanifl Centre. It sure has been a busy and exciting week: see for yourself through the eyes (and photos) of our students!
This week, our students have been taking in the jaw-dropping beauty of the Taj Mahal and the grandiosity of the Angkor Wat temple complex. But they’ve been learning, too: creating marble inlays and vision boards, practicing advanced scuba diving, and cooking up a storm. The diversity of skills and culture across Southeast Asia and India are sure to be lifechanging for our students – see for yourself!
In the second week of Trimester 2, our students have settled back into their squads, new countries, and travel, meaning they’re ready for even more skills and adventure! Just like last week, our students cooked some delicious meals at Bai Pai Thai Cooking School in Bangkok and Ecole Paul Dubrule in Siem Reap. Other skills this week included ceramics, Muay Thai boxing, bicycle maintenance, and cultural exploration of the temples and city streets. Take a look at some of our photos from the past week!
The Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica is home to the section of the gap year when students live in homestays. That is, independent living with a local family while exploring their culture and experiencing an apprenticeship in a particular skill during our trimester 1 ISPs. During my ten-day long homestay with a family of four, a happily married couple with both a son and a daughter, I decided to take the opportunity to interview them in order to better understand their role in our journey, as well as my own in theirs. The interview (originally in broken Spanish via Google Translate but translated and tweaked to better suit English) is as follows:
Q: Why did you decide to start hosting travel abroad students?
A: Our family has actually been hosting students for almost 17 years. We have seen many types come and go, all participating in or working toward something new. It has always been a pleasure to meet people from new places as we don’t get to travel very much. It lets us learn more about the places they come from, and we enjoy teaching them about our home. We keep a photo album of all of the people we’ve hosted, and we enjoy adding to it.
At this point, we took a photo to add to the album and she showed me her past students.
Q: Have you ever had any problems with someone you’ve hosted?
A:Coming to a new place is a tough adjustment for many at first, especially when they don’t speak the language (this entire interview was conducted through Google Translate), so there are instances where we have had to ask our visitors to not to act a certain way so as to avoid trouble, however we are generally pretty open and accepting, and allow our visitors to be as independent as they please.
I can certainly vouch for this, staying with the family was a pleasure. They had very few rules and allowed me to do mostly anything I wanted. There was a lot of respect between us and it made for a very enjoyable stay.
Q: How much do you know about Winterline and what we’re doing on our journey?
A: Very little, we were asked to provide a home for international students and that was about it. Of course, we said yes, but we would like to know more.
This made for good conversation; them not knowing too much allowed me to break the tension easily and tell them all about the amazing program Winterline has put together. They were very excited to learn more about a program they had never encountered.
Q: Would you ever hope for or allow your children to stay with a family abroad?
A: I think it would be a good opportunity, but I would never feel safe letting my children travel like that. I’m a mother first and foremost, always worrying. Maybe someday if the opportunity arises, we will talk about it.
My ISP during this time was learning to cook, so I asked this question on a whim:
Q: How would you like it if I cooked dinner one night?
A: Oh no, I don’t like anyone else to work in my kitchen. I appreciate the gesture, but let me take care of things like that.
She held true to this, always anticipating and accommodating every one of my needs without me even asking. A very lovely woman and mother to get to know, and I am grateful for everything she has done for me.
This interview was especially difficult to complete, as Google Translate is not a reliable means of communication in another language. It was enough to get the point across, but I feel as though myself and my host family missed the full scope of each other’s responses. The interview may have been more fleshed out had I spoken Spanish, or they English, but on the flipside I feel as though this was a very valuable outcome for myself as well as for future students who can now take these shortcomings into consideration. I’m glad it went the way it did, and learning about my host family brought us closer together and made my stay that much more enjoyable!
We’re so thrilled to have our students back in the field for Trimester 2! Our squads are in Southeast Asia, spread out among Siem Reap, Cambodia; Nan, Thailand, and Bangkok, Thailand. They’re jumping back in: exploring the colorful streets, admiring the temples and religious monuments, conversing with the locals, and tasting the unique flavors.
In fact, this has been a food-focused week, with our students attending Bai Pai Thai Cooking School in Bangkok and Ecole Paul Dubrule in Siem Reap! Take a look to see the dishes they cooked, sites they’ve seen, and smiles they’ve had since landing in these incredible countries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!