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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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!