Top 4 Resources for Planning Your Gap Year

So you’re thinking about taking a gap year – now what? A Google search just isn’t enough to answer all of your questions: Should I actually take a gap year? Should I build my own schedule? Should I join a program? But there’s so many – which one is right for me? Can I get college credit? Can I afford a gap year? How do I attend college after my gap year? And the list goes on.

There’s plenty of resources dedicated specifically to answering these questions and making the experience as smooth as possible for students like you. Here are the best places for you to focus your research on for maximum understanding of the entire gap year process.

The Complete Guide to the Gap Year: The Best Things to Do Between High School and College by Kristin White

Kristin White knows a lot about education. As a consultant who helps families find schools, colleges, and special programs, she’s spent a lot of time visiting campuses and working with students. So you can rest assured that White knows what she’s talking about in her book, now in its second edition! Whether you’re in the first stage of considering a gap year or you already know you want one but don’t know how to spend it, White’s The Complete Guide to the Gap Year is the place to start your research.gap year book

Learn what college admissions deans think about gap years. Why gap years are growing in popularity. How you can afford the program of your choice. What the program of your choice is! With a directory including 200 of the world’s best gap year programs (including internship, career development, and college transition programs), you’ll find a path to your future in the pages of this guide.

Gap Year Association

The Gap Year Association (GYA) should be your go-to for research, advice, and information about gap years in general. Since 2012, GYA has been leading the gap year movement. Not only do they work to accredit programs like our own based on safety, quality, and integrity, but they work with colleges to build more opportunities for students to receive college credit and aid through FAFSA. Additionally, GYA conducts ongoing research to determine the benefits of a gap year.  Visit the GYA website to learn what a gap year is and why it matters, locate a gap year counselor, or find advice on transitioning from a gap year to college. If you’re looking for a program, they have an entire directory and list of possible scholarships! Guided gap year or self-created, college deferrence or transition, counselors or financial aid, GYA has it all.

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Squad 2 on their gap year

Listing Sites

Using program websites and social media is a great way to learn about the mission and purpose of the program. But the best way to see what a gap year will really be like is to hear from people who have done it themselves! Listing sites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas host unedited reviews from real alumni of each program. You can browse through the programs offered, or if you have a specific one in mind, search for it and check out what other students have to say. Both sites even allow you to create an account so that you can bookmark programs you’re interested in for further research and comparison!

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Our alumni write reviews for us on these sites

In-Person Discussions

The internet is a great research tool, but there’s only so much you can learn from looking at a screen. Sometimes, you just need to talk to a person to fully understand what you’re signing up for. Luckily, the USA Gap Year Fairs are the perfect opportunity for this! Every year, GoOverseas hosts 40+ fairs around the country, meaning there’s bound to be one to visit near you. The newest fair dates have yet to be announced, but they’ll take place between January and March of 2020. Countless gap year programs will be in attendance, giving you the chance to discover programs you haven’t heard of, learn more from trips you’re interested in, compare them side-by-side, and walk away with contact information and resources for more knowledge. As exciting as these fairs are, they can also be overwhelming, so take a look at our tips for making the most of these fairs to prepare.

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Our table at a past Gap Year Fair

If you already know that Winterline could be the program for you, we also offer special home visits! Our Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Erica, is located in the Pacific Northwest. If you call this region home, she’s always happy to meet with you and your family to give you more details on Winterline and answer any questions you have. Located elsewhere? No worries: you can jump on a video call with Erica for the same experience.

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Erica was a Field Advisor first, so she knows the program inside and out

 

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

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

 

7 Tips to Mastering a Foreign Language While Abroad

Most students have to learn (or try to learn) a foreign language in high school as part of their yearly curriculum. But as we all know, nothing beats taking your classroom studies on the road. Practicing a foreign language in its native country is the best way to become a linguistics master. Once abroad, however, you may find stumbling through words and sentences completely frustrating. Hopefully, this list of quick linguistic tips will help.winterline, gap year

1. Do your homework: Research the country you are planning to visit and learn some of the slang/basic phrases ahead of time.

2. Get study materials: Pick up an English translation dictionary for reference. You will need it!

3. Download a few language apps: Google Translate is just one of the many useful travel apps available for iPhone and Android. It can translate whole paragraphs of text or even just spoken words. Simply say a phrase in English and the app will repeat your words in the foreign language where traveling.5 Apps to Help You Learn a New Language

4. Go to school: You may find it helpful to take a few language classes while abroad. This is exactly what Winterline’s students will be doing while spending several weeks in Central America in Costa Rica.

5. Immerse yourself! Meet as many people as you can and talk to them without reverting to English (or your native language).

6. Practice the language: While abroad, speak the language every chance you get. Winterline’s students will also be living in a homestay for part of their experience; the perfect environment to practice, practice, practice.

7. Be patient; it will come.

You may find that navigating a foreign city, deciphering a menu, or simply attempting to barter in a bustling market challenging. Follow these simple steps, though, and you will soon find yourself communicating and interacting like a local. Well, hopefully close.

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)
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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.

The End of an Adventure

As hard as it is to admit, every trip has to come to an end. Whether you’ve been gone for a week or a year, it can be hard to say goodbye to a place you’ve fallen in love with, to the friends you’ve made, to the excitement of traveling overall. So how can you prepare yourself for the inevitable journey home?

Get your souvenirs

Don’t feel like you have to get gifts for everyone you know, but if you see something that you just know your family member or friend would love, why not bring it home to let them you know you were thinking of them on your trip? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a meaningful gift. Even a postcard with a nice note will make your loved ones feel included in your adventures. And of course, get something for yourself to remember your trip by! Whether you want a small token from each city you visit or one larger reminder of your journey overall, each time you look at your souvenirs you’ll be transported back to your trip.winterline, gap year, souvenir

Exchange contact info with your friends

Whether they’re your Winterline peers or people you met along the way, you’ll make friends that you want to keep in touch with. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their WhatsApp numbers, email addresses, or social media information. The last thing you want is to get home, miss them, and be left wondering about their life when you realize you have no way to reach them. Even if you know you won’t be or remain best friends, it’ll be nice to scroll through Instagram and see what new adventures they’re having.winterline, gap year, friends

Visit your favorite place one last time

Could you spend hours in a specific museum? Does a landmark or monument take your breath away every time you see it? Is there a specific cafe or restaurant where you want to try everything on the menu? Give yourself time to visit this place once more before you leave. Bring your friends if you want to share its magic or go alone for some intentional reflection. Maybe this is the best place to get your souvenir, but at least take plenty of pictures to remember it by! You can even do some journaling here: make note of how the place makes you feel, your favorite thing about it, and what you’ll miss the most.winterline, gap year, temple

Update your resume

If you’re coming home from a Winterline gap year, you have a slew of new skills under your belt. Add them to your resume! Whether you’re going to college or looking for a job or internship, you’ll want people to know where you’ve been and what you’ve learned. This is especially true if your gap year helped you discover the subject you want to study or the skill you want to pursue as a career. winterline, gap year, study

Reflect, reflect, reflect

What did you learn from your travels? Is there anything you would do differently? Are there skills you learned that you want to practice when you get home? Asking yourself questions like these will help you process your experience. This will make it easier for you to share the details with friends and family, and it’ll help you prepare for any future travel experience! You can think about what was successful about your journey to do again and what you’ll change next time you go somewhere. Of course, there are aspects of travel that you’ll miss, but get yourself in the right mindspace for returning home by thinking about who you’re excited to see and what you’re eager to do upon your return.winterline, gap year, journal

What’s the hardest part for you about going home at the end of a trip? How do you prepare yourself to say goodbye?

What’s New: Our 2020 Gap Year

The Winterline program is constantly evolving so that we can continue to offer you the best gap year possible. This means that each year, there are some changes: some small, some big. Each change we make comes from student and Field Advisor feedback: what you loved, what could use improvement, what you’d add to the program that doesn’t exist. For example, last year we announced our second itinerary traveling to Rwanda and South Africa. Now, we have some really cool announcements about our 2020-2021 gap year! Here’s what will be new for next year’s students. Get excited!

New Countries

Guatemala

Finish off your Trimester 1 experience in Guatemala, the Land of Eternal Spring! You’ll still visit Costa Rica and Panama for skills like scuba, business bootcamp, surfing, and more. But students on both itineraries will also get nearly two weeks in this new country to learn skills such as weaving, ceramics, cooking, and candle making (more details below)! Your visit will also include an excursion to the deepest lake – and one of the most beautiful – in Central America: Lake Atitlán! In the lake community of Santiago Atitlán, you’ll get to explore the town and visit a handicraft market.

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Lake Atitlan in Guatemala | Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Croatia

Sadly, our 2019-2020 gap year will be the last group of students visiting Austria on the Winterline gap year. But in its place, 2020-2021 students will visit a new travel destination: Split, Croatia’s second-largest city! Located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, this city is the perfect place to introduce a new skill, as well: sailing! You can find out more about this specific skill below. Croatia will also be where students learn robotics with STEMI, getting lessons in robot assembly and mechanics, creating a mobile app, 3D modeling, and Arduino programming. Remember that students have the choice to either visit Croatia or South Africa, so think hard about which path you’ll take!

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Split, Croatia

New Skills and Partners

Weaving

You’ll have the opportunity to learn how local Guatemalan women work with cotton: from planting their own seeds, to dyeing the cotton, to creating something beautiful out of it. Throughout a three-day homestay in the town where these women live, you’ll get to weave and dye your own scarf to take home as a reminder of your experience and testament of your skills!

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Photo by Kiara Coll from Pexels

Ceramics

Spend a day learning the antique skill of ceramics from a local expert. She processes the clay from the mountain, brings it home, grinds it with stone, and fires it in her own house. You’ll be able to watch her process and work alongside her to create a small piece to keep.

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Ceramics | Photo By: Lydia Miller

Candle Making

In some of the villages of Guatemala, there isn’t always electricity, so candles are necessities. The citizens of these communities will teach you how to get, boil, and dye wax, and how to put the wick in the candle. You’ll also learn about how different types of candles are used in this culture during this daylong workshop.winterline, gap year, candles

Sailing

With Croatia’s Ultra Sailing, you’ll take an ISPA Competent Crew Sail Certificate 4 Day Course! You don’t need to have any background in sailing for this skill, as the course will cover all the basics. After a safety briefing, you’ll start to learn about unberthing and setting sails. There will be plenty of rope work practice and individual feedback before you take your certification exam. Not only will this course help you get another certification under your belt, but you’ll get to take in the beauty and experience of life at sea.

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Maria sailing for her Europe ISP

Glassblowing

With the help of Abate Zanetti in Venice, students will learn more about the timeless art of glassblowing. Do you know what the processes of fusing or lampworking are? After working with this partner, you’ll know what each term means, how they differ, and what types of glass they produce. Turning raw materials into beautiful glass art will be an experience you’ll never forget.

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Blown glass | Photo By: Emma Mays

You can visit our Gap Year page to find out more about what this journey consists of. Once you’re ready, apply to secure a spot on next year’s program! However, keep in mind, details are subject to change.

Certification Programs

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Winterline’s gap year and short programs give students opportunities to earn different certifications to prepare them for various careers. But what are the benefits of having these certifications?

Each year, high school seniors approaching graduation experience an unfamiliar combination of stress, anticipation, and anxiety. As students plan how they’ll spend the precious time between graduation and the start of college, many compare the benefits of a romantic quest for adventure and self discovery with the more pragmatic search for professional experience.

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Certifications like these may prove incredibly beneficial to students pursuing careers in everything from outdoor education, medicine, health care, environmental science, coaching, camp counseling, hospitality, tourism, and the like.

While general experience in these fields is useful, students’ individual experiences can often be abstract and “unofficial”, making it difficult for a future employer to feel confident about a potential hire. Inexperienced students seeking a job often face a frustrating catch-22 when they lack the experience needed to get a job they were planning to use for experience.

Certified students avoid this conundrum, bypassing the stress and disappointment. Our affiliated certification programs are internationally recognized. So by training for and receiving a certification from them, students have a chance to build connections with instructors and get their foot in the door – a major advantage in many competitive fields.

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Certifications provide undeniable proof of one’s burgeoning commitment and expertise within a particular field. Pursuing a certification may also be the solution for a more goal-oriented individual, or an answer to doubtful friends or family members who ask, “what will you get out of your gap semester?”.

For students planning to study at a liberal arts college, earning a certification can offer a refreshing dose of real world skill-building before entering a highly academic environment.

Not only do Winterline students leave the program with these valuable certifications on their resume, they also make lifelong friends, hone their skills, and develop their worldview while travelling through breathtaking environments.

Why You Should Learn Spanish on Your Gap Year

Learning a new language can be intimidating. We worry about our pronunciation, grammar rules, speaking too slowly…and that’s when we know the right words! But learning a new language is also unbelievably rewarding, and worth the work it takes. Here’s 7 reasons that we incorporate Spanish language learning into our gap year.

Learning is best in-context

We always strive to embed our programs into the contexts where they’d best be learned. Why not learn SCUBA diving at a coral reef, rather than a swimming pool? Why not learn about sustainable energy at some of the premiere institutions in Europe? Learning Spanish is the same. The meanings within the grammar and the motivation for learning itself come together quickly and more naturally in context, such as at a homestay in Panama. We’re all about deep learning experiences.

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Winterline students at a homestay in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Ability to communicate with other people

Spanish is spoken by over four hundred million people world wide, which makes it the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese. Spanish is the main official language for twenty-one different countries, which makes it one of the most useful travel languages out there. If you study it at the start of your gap year, think of all the doors that might open for you along the way.

Appreciation of more cultures

There’s often no better way to learn about the intricacies of a culture than to learn the ways people express themselves verbally. Even from region to region, variations in speech can tell you an enormous amount about the ways others see the world. Learning Spanish during your gap year can open up encounters with people that might forever change your life for the better, increasing access to the culture on an immediate scale.

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Being welcomed by the children of El Cocal | Photo By: Brittany Lane

It makes you more hireable

Whether you’re interested in management, sales, marketing, banking, or telecommunications, Spanish-speaking ability is becoming one of the fastest growing job needs in the world. We have nothing against students getting great jobs in fast growing industries.

Helps you understand your own language better

This one is not unique to Spanish per se, but learning a foreign language often provides a much deeper appreciation for your own native language, and of the sensibilities and idiosyncracies of the lengua franca in which you grew up, especially your own grammar. For example, why can you say three cups in English, but not three milks?

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Students painting Spanish signs in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Because its cool

Speaking Spanish is awesome. Ben Affleck, Maya Angelou, David Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matt Damon all speak it, even though its not their native tongue. Plus, you probably have friends who speak Spanish. Wouldn’t you want to know when they’re sharing secrets with each other?

It keeps your brain active

There are many documented advantages to bilingualism. But even if you’re not a young child or concerned about the long-term effects of aging on the human mind, speaking another language can really sharpen your mind, and help you keep bringing your A-Game to whatever you do.

It will help you get ahead when you get to college

Most colleges and universities have language requirements. They used to be Latin, but thankfully, these days you get to choose. A solid foreign language foundation often allows you to ‘test out’ of the foreign language requirement, or at least skip basic intro classes. This saves time and gives you the opportunity to focus on all the things you want to do.

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Students in Costa Rica | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Interested in learning Spanish and other skills on your gap year? Check out our skills list and itineraries for an idea of what a Winterline gap year entails!

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.