Bridging the Gap with Oliver

 

Give us a quick overview of what to expect from reading your book!

 

Bridging the Gap dives into the stories of people from all different walks of life who have found ways to incorporate travel into their lives and encountered incredible results. From stronger GPAs throughout school to higher job satisfaction across a career, travel proves itself a valuable asset in driving meaning and fulfillment during all stages of life.

The book offers strategies, stories, and suggestions for how travel can and should be included in every period of life for any lifestyle. Ultimately, my hope is that reading Bridging the Gap will encourage anyone to seek out travel and gap year experiences and point them in the right direction to make it happen. 

All proceeds are going to COVID relief so we can all get back to traveling soon! 

 

What was the hardest aspect of writing/publishing a book?

 

I think the hardest aspect was finding the confidence to move forward with the final steps of publishing. There are always new ideas popping up in my head for things I would want to add or change in the manuscript. Allowing myself to feel confident in where the book is as a representation of that time and place while I continue to grow forward was a valuable challenge to navigate. 

Did you learn/perfect a new skill from this process? If so, what?

 

Diligence and time management are skills I’ll always be working on but were definitely improved over the process of writing Bridging the Gap. Hopping back into the manuscript as frequently as possible and just moving along day by day helped me hone in on my focus and dedication toward the project. 

 

What inspired you to write and publish an entire book about your gap year?

 

The book is actually not about my own gap year. I wanted to write Bridging the Gap to serve as a useful tool of encouragement for people who want to travel more but aren’t sure how. When I set off on my first gap year with Winterline, there weren’t many resources to support my exploration into the idea and I hope Bridging the Gap can be that for other people. Since Winterline, I’ve been able to travel in a wide range of ways across different periods of time. People always ask me how they can do something similar, so I wanted to write a book that highlights a bunch of ways various people have made room for travel in their respective lifestyles. Bridging the Gap highlights students, young professionals, digital nomads, retirees, and more who have all successfully incorporated travel into their lives. 

 

What did you gain from your gap year? What do you think was the most beneficial aspect of taking a gap year?

 

My gap year experience with Winterline helped me realize that travel and exploration can be staples in my life. I was exposed to so many people who were doing exciting things all across the globe and I realized there was no one concrete path I needed to take moving forward. The degree of confidence and independence I felt leaving Winterline has been hugely beneficial in enabling me to take the reins on my education and career journey. bridging the gap, winterline, oliver

 

What did Winterline do specifically that benefitted you and/or your future? Did your plans for yourself change once completing your gap year?

 

Winterline supported an experience focused on exploration and breadth of perspective. Everyone involved really encouraged expanding your horizons to consider new vantage points toward life. Heading into my gap year, I had deferred admissions to Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee where I later enrolled and have since graduated from. The lessons I learned from Winterline grew and were instrumental parts in supporting my pursuit of travel over the past 5 years. Without Winterline, I doubt I would have found myself doing nearly as much of what brings me meaning and joy now. 

 

What do you think students should consider this Fall if their college plans have changed?

 

I think now is the perfect time to consider a gap year. International travel may not be immediately available, but taking the time to craft a year of experience that brings you meaning outside of a school setting is invaluable. Developing independence and confidence while leaning into a curiosity for your different passions will not only make you a better student when it comes time to head to university, it will invigorate an excitement for learning. 

 

Any other advice for students in this current situation?

 

Start small. A gap year doesn’t need to be a massive leap into the unknown where you leave everything behind and start anew. It can be, but often, it starts with a simple commitment to yourself to try something different. Plan out a week-long trip where you separate yourself from whatever your day-to-day might be. It could be a week camping away from work, a handful of days road tripping to a new part of the country, or flying to a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never made the time. 

The week will give a taste of what it’s like to take adventure into your own hands. Use it as motivation to start planning out what a longer commitment could look like. Every gap year will be different but each should be fueled by curiosity and passion that typically hides dormant inside our busy routines. Brainstorm a list of five things and five places that have always interested you. The list doesn’t need to make sense or add up yet – just get the ideas flowing and on paper. 

Let a friend or family member know that you’re thinking about taking time to pursue something different and share your list with them. Bounce ideas around together and pretty soon your list will start narrowing itself down and you’ll have someone to keep you motivated as you plan things out and commit to your next adventure. bridging the gap, winterline, oliver

Can you give some background on your travel experience, what led you to do choosing a gap year, and ultimately what led you to get the idea to write this book?

Toward the end of high school, I was sitting in my driveway when I received an acceptance email from what I thought was my dream university. I had been constantly working over the years for this moment but I remember feeling somewhat indifferent about the email. I was excited, but I questioned if all the work was truly worth it and what my motivations had been along the way. 

At that moment, I decided I would do something different that no one had encouraged up to that point. That something became my first gap year traveling across ten countries over nine months. Since then, I’ve pursued multiple gap year experiences living and traveling in places around the world. I wrote Bridging the Gap to encourage people to seek out travel and show that you can incorporate travel into any lifestyle at any point in an education or career journey. 

Did you find any correlations between mental health and travelling/gap years?

Definitely. A large amount of research is out there demonstrating how taking time to travel and pursue gap year experiences has positive effects on mental health and well-being. These experiences rejuvenate inspiration and excitement for life which is often sorely needed in the grind of today’s world. 

What are some of the main skills you find you learn or develop during a Gap Year/Travel?

Resiliency, creativity, and empathy. 

Things often don’t go quite according to plan while traveling. You end up in situations without much of the typical comforts you’ve come to rely on be it routines, foods, directions, or cultural norms. 

Creativity comes when you find out different ways around these obstacles. You learn to plan and alter plans independently and are exposed to a variety of ways to go about doing that. Your mind has much more time to wander and explore ideas you otherwise would’ve been too busy to lean into.

After seeing different parts of the world and living in places other than whatever was previously called home, I believe you develop a stronger sense of empathy. It’s much easier to appreciate and value the perspective of others once you’ve walked a bit in their environment. Feeling lost at times makes you much more akin to lend a hand to others whenever they may similarly be in need of some help.bridging the gap, winterline, oliver

Any advice on alternatives for people to “scratch” their travel itch during COVID?

Great question and one I’m still working on myself. I’ve found that camping and spending time outdoors has been helpful. It reminds me how much the environment right around us has to offer and is a great way to explore a bit. 

Reading and watching different travel-based stories also transports my mind for a while. I finish with an even bigger itch than before but it’s nice to get lost in a travel story for a while. 

Last thing I would add is to do some memory logging. I’ve been going back through old travel photos/videos and it’s been awesome to slow down and appreciate all the memories. Right now I’m attempting to catalog them a bit in little picture books or movies and it’s been pretty fun. 

Does a gap year/travel make you more employable? How does one reconcile gaps on a resume where they have travelled? How do they make this travel experience work in their favour?

100 percent. A gap year and travel experience signals an individual’s ability to adapt and adjust to different environments. Soft skills like adaptability, resilience, and creativity are constantly cited as the most needed attributes in the workplace that are simultaneously the most difficult to teach. 

A gap year experience allows people to refresh and refocus their career priorities. It gives time to ensure that you’re setting off toward a path you find value and meaning in. Speaking to this confidence is essential to translating the value of travel into the value you bring to the workplace. 

Pairing a gap year experience with the pursuit of a passion or skill set on the side will deliver an even more marketable skill set. The bulk of my book was written while traveling and it now serves me well in any interview. Not to mention, any travel experience is probably the best icebreaker and conversation point for an interviewer who has seen the same resume 100 times that day. 

What’s next for you? Where to next?

All this time in quarantine has left me with a pretty extensive travel list by now. I’m thinking a trip across the Trans-Siberian Railroad could be a cool way to cover some ground once we’re allowed out of the house again. 

bridging the gap, winterline, oliver

You can buy Bridging the Gap on Amazon, with all proceeds going to COVID19 relief.

Guide for Preparing to Live in a Different Country

Moving to another country is something most people dream of. Sometimes, you just feel like your home is out there, and once you locate the exact place where you want to get to, you will be truly happy. You have to be sure that this is just the place you want to live in, so you can have your best life, right in your dream city. But, moving to a new city will require you to be sure you have everything need. A guide to preparing for living in a different country is just the help you need.

What do you need to do before you move?

Once you decided to move to another country, you must be certain that you are ready to live in it. Moving is not really the hardest part of this. You can simply hire an experienced moving company, like verrazanomoving.com. You will have to take care of the documents for the relocation, so make sure you:

  • Have as much money as you can save- you will need it in your new city
  • Make sure your passport won’t expire by the moving date or get a new one
  • Get the documents you need for your visa
  • Get the visa- it’s the most important thing to do in the guide to preparing for living in a different country
  • Copy your important documents
  • Transfer utilities so you don’t have to deal with it once you move
  • Call your phone and internet company
  • Decide how you will travel and get the plane ticket if you need to
  • If you are moving with your pet, make sure you have all its documents ready
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Take care of utilities, documents and renew your passport before the moving day approaches

Once you are ready to move, you have to make sure you are completely ready for this relocation. Make sure you really do research that will reveal everything you need to know. The best way to do this might be to simply visit the place by yourself for as long as you can so you can get to know it as much as possible. This way, you will know exactly what to expect and what you need to get more information on.

Why do you need a guide to preparing for living in a different country?

Moving experience is often overwhelming so there is quite a big chance that you will forget something. This is not just about the documents you need to have once you start moving, but about everything you need to get to know before your relocation. Just when you are preparing for your gap year and need a packing list for your gap year abroad. You will simply be too excited to remember everything. But, get the guide for living abroad and you will be just fine.

Living is not as same as visiting, but still, visit

One of the best ways to make sure you will feel great in your new city is to visit it and make sure you love it. The thing is, if you like a city in a picture or from someone else’s story, you might end up being very disappointed with what you find. Make sure you know just what you get. If you like history, you will probably choose a place that is perfect for a history lover. By visiting it, you can be certain that it is just what you want. Never go unaware of what is waiting for you.

photo, moving, winterline
Visit your new country as a tourist before you move so you can get to know it better

Learn about the culture

Not just the culture, but the mentality is an important thing to be familiar with as well. It’s just amazing how different people from two different states can be. Not just that, but both cultural and reverse culture shock can really affect your life. Maybe the new country you go to turns out to be just what you need, in the cultural sense of the word. That is why you should make sure you get to know it as much as you can. You should also learn the language if you can.

Make new friends

Get to know the people who live in your future home. This way, you will be able to learn so much about both the country and its culture. If you want to go to one of the colleges that are encouraging you to take a gap year, spend this year making friends and learning about the new country. You will be prepared.

Search online for things you want to see and do in your new country

Search for your future new city online and make sure you find all the places and activities you are interested in. This way, you will be prepared to have fun in the first few months once you move. If you have your time filled with fun activities, you will feel much more secure and happy. Getting friends is much easier this way as well.

laptop, winterline, moving
Make sure you search for all the fun activities in your new city

Keep in touch with home

It’s really important to stay in touch with your family once you move. It doesn’t matter if you are just taking a gap year in another country or you want to move for good, make sure you know exactly how important staying in touch is. Your friends and family will be there for you in good and in bad times, and you will have support every step of your way.

Moving to a new country for a gap year or to live in for good is going to be an adventure of your life. You are going to love every day a little more. That is just why you have to be prepared as much as you can. If you know what is waiting for you and if you are familiar with the language, culture, and surroundings, you are going to have no trouble at all. Visiting your new country before the moving day is the most important advice when it comes to the guide to preparing for living in a different country.

Location Spotlight: Bangkok, Thailand

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster”. This opening line from Murray Head’s hit song One Night in Bangkok is the perfect description of the capital city of the beautiful first country of trimester 2, Bangkok, Thailand. During your stay in this massive city of over eight million citizens, your list of activities will range from exploring shrines and temples, to working out in the outdoor gym at the beautiful Lumpini park, to immersing yourself in the shopping district of Ratchaprasong, and so much more. There truly is an activity for everyone, and throughout our stay I was continuously in awe of my surroundings, and excited to see more every day!

Our activities in Bangkok began with a tour of the city with the wonderful tour guide company Bangkok Vanguards. During this tour, the squad was split into groups of three or four, each with a guide of their own, and taken to various locations in the city to complete a scavenger hunt. During this scavenger hunt, we went to places such as Wat Saket, or the Golden Mountain, as it is also known, a beautiful mountain temple renovated by King Rama 1 of Thailand. This temple had a vast view of the city in every direction, and was filled with many different buddha statues, with bells at the peak to ring for good fortune while praying.

winterline, gap year, bangkok, thailand
Exploring the temples | Photo By: Micah Zimmerman

Following the Golden Mountain, the tour took us to Chinatown, a bustling district reflective of Chinese culture in Bangkok. Very crowded and dense with many activities and sights to see, it was nothing like the Chinatowns of America; it felt much more authentic and interesting to explore. And with authentic Chinese and Thai street food on every corner, you will never go hungry. Other areas included Ratchaprasong, a massive shopping district that is home to six beautiful shrines of various gods in the Hindu religion, as well as large shopping malls and hotels. This area of the city felt very American in a way, while still managing to capture the feel of Bangkok, the heart of Thailand.

As far as entertainment goes, there is much to see and do in Bangkok. From dense night markets, to exploration, to park visits, you will never be bored during your stay here. On one of our first nights here, we enjoyed a Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) fight, where there was never a dull moment.

winterline, gap year, bangkok, thailand
Our students got to learn Muay Thai too!

It is no lie that Bangkok is host to a number of spectacular temples. One of these temples is Wat Pho, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, which happened to be directly in front of the hotel we stayed at during our time in Bangkok. This temple is home to the Reclining Buddha, a whopping 46 meter (150 foot) long depiction of the Buddha laying down during his final stages of life. This temple is not only home to important Buddhist history, it is also architecturally beautiful; one of the most amazing human creations I have ever seen with my own eyes.

winterline, gap year, bangkok, thailand
Josh and Jacob with Field Advisors Jeff and Moriah

Bangkok is one of the greatest cities I have ever had the pleasure of traveling to in my entire life. I would consider it a must see for anybody that happens to catch the travel bug, and thankfully, Winterline was able to provide this for their students!

10 Ways to Keep Learning on Your Gap Year

Taking some time for yourself before you go from one education institution to another can be a truly life-changing experience. This can be the time when you do what you enjoy, meet new people, and get a whole new perspective of the world.

What troubles most gap year students is whether they will lose the habit of learning. To prevent that from happening and keep your brain absorbing new information, you should keep learning even on your gap year.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be locked in your room for hours each day. It just means that you should find ways that will provide you with learning experience on your gap year. Here are some tips that can help you out.

1. Use learning apps

There are so many learning apps that are both educational and engaging. Since most of us are already glued to our phones, why not use this to our advantage? Think about a skill that you would want to work on. Do you want to learn a new language? Or do you want to improve your writing skills? Whatever it is, there is an app for it. Once you decide on what you want to focus on, research the best apps for that purpose and pick your favorite. This learning habit won’t be demanding because educational apps are usually designed to be entertaining as well.

2. Read at least one book a week

Books are an endless source of information that can take you into a parallel universe. Give yourself the assignment to read a new book every week. If one book a week isn’t suitable for you, set your own time limit. It is important that you give yourself a certain amount of time per book because that will motivate you to read as often as you can. For some suggestions, check out this list of popular gap year books on GoodReads.

reading, winterline, gap year
Hanging with Friends

3. Get outside of your comfort zone

A growing experience truly starts when you get outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to learn something completely new. You can learn how to play the guitar, go to a cooking class, or try a new sport. Even if it’s unlike you and it turns out that you aren’t cut out for it, the fact that you were daring enough to give it a try will be satisfactory.winterline, cooking, gap year

4. Volunteer or attend events

Attending events can provide you with interactive learning. Google and social media can get you all the information you need about upcoming events near you. Go to an industry-specific mixer, hear out a guest lecturer, attend a conference, or go to a music festival. If you want to take it one step further, you can apply to volunteer at some events. “Volunteering was my main occupation during the gap year. Whenever I saw an interesting event near me, I applied to volunteer. That was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Aside from many practical skills that I’ve adopted, I learned how to be better at organization and managing,” shares Kristin Savage, a freelance writer at Studicus and FlyWriting.

 5. Find an internship

The best way to prepare yourself for your future dream job is to do real-life work. This year can be your chance to gather some valuable work experience. What employers value most is practical knowledge and that is what you can get with an internship. Internships can also be a great opportunity to test out your dreams. Maybe you have plans to work in a specific niche but you’ll never know whether that job really agrees with you until you give it a try.internships abroad winterline

6. Travel

If traveling wasn’t already on your gap year to-do list, add it right now. You don’t need to go backpacking through Europe or visit exotic countries around the world but you should organize a trip to a new place. Traveling broadens your mindset and helps you learn about that country, city, or place through experience. This can be a win-win situation. Visit some places that are on your bucket list and learn everything you can about it along the way.

plane, winterline, gap year
View from the plane as we landed in Delhi, India. You can see the pollution!

7. Combine a job and a hobby

Do you like to ski? Or dive? Or maybe you are proficient in a second language? Perfect your current hobbies by finding a job that will revolve around it. For example, if you are a talented painter you can hold lessons (in person or online). In this way, you’ll further mold your talent and earn some money. “During high school, I was really good in Spanish and I even learned it in my free time. I used my gap year to work as an au pair in Spain. It helped me to work on my speaking skills and I met some great friends who I’m still in touch to this day,” says Estelle Leotard, a blogger and translator at IsAccurate about her gap year experience.

8. Take online courses

With the variety of online courses, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. Whether you want to perfect your current knowledge, prepare yourself for college, or learn something completely new, online courses got you covered. There are some popular and reliable platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare that can offer you whatever you need. The best part is that you can adjust the learning schedule based on your preferences and plans.

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9. Become a part of the program

Connecting with like-minded people will give you the motivation to embrace learning new skills. Not to mention that it will make the whole process easier. What will help you to combine fun and learning is if you become a part of a gap year program. Programs such as Winterline can teach you anything you want to know from outdoor skills over leadership skills to technical skills. The program focuses on teaching you practical and applicable skills while you are having fun with other students.winterline, gap year, group

10. Keep a learning journal

Make your memories and learning experiences permanent by writing a learning journal. No matter what type of information you have attained, write it down. It can be a new skill you have learned, or interesting facts about a certain city or country, or just a new perspective on the world that someone pointed out. By writing it all down, you can always look back and remind yourself what type of value your gap year has provided you with.

A gap year can be filled with memorable and valuable experiences that can transform your life. The choices are many, but it is up to you to decide which direction you want to take. The most important part is that you listen to your needs and wishes and adapt your learning accordingly. Don’t forget that fun should be essential in your learning experience on your gap year.winterline, gap year, journal

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Marques Coleman is a blog writer at TrustMyPaper and GrabMyEssay. He specializes in marketing and marketing and copywriting. Moreover, he is an avid traveler and always tries to learn something new.

Quotebook: Time Spent in Panama

Did you enjoy our time in a big city? Why?

“Yes! I love the freedom of choice that we had with food and entertainment. And of course, I enjoyed every single bite of Asian food that I was finally able to eat.” -Sherly

“Definitely, the city is incredible in that it’s an international hub and it combines fun urbanlife with Latin American culture” -Casey

“It was satisfying being in an urban environment after being in two remote locations in Costa Rica, just enjoying the city life and the different culture” -Pablo  

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The extraordinary skyline of Panama City accompanied by a friendly street cat. Photo by Alexandra Johansson

What was the most meaningful experience you had in Panama City?

“The combination of learning business in the Business Hub of Central America, contributing to the Miraflores neighborhood through urban innovation work, and experiencing the beautiful nature with the Parara Puru Indigenous community; the diversity of our experiences is what made it a meaningful trip in Panama.”-Sherly

“While looking for my friend I needed wifi and these two guys that owned a bar helped me out and bought me a beer, we ended up talking for almost two hours and really forming a connection” -Casey

“San Blas. Getting to see San Blas, it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, I enjoyed the beauty of the islands and getting a chance to really relax with my best friends” -Pablo

winterline, gap year, panama
Me and my friend from high school, James, who joined Winterline alongside me, standing on top of the building where we participated in Business Bootcamp.

What did you learn during our time there?

“Happiness truly comes in different forms; the urban innovation team found it by contributing to the community, the indigenous people found it by living in nature, and me, spending my birthday on the beautiful islands of San Blas.” -Sherly

“I learned different skills, the first being how to be an entrepreneur, making our own start up company. After that, I learned about the concept of urban innovation and how much of an impact it has on a community. And finally, how beautiful this country really is.” -Pablo

winterline, gap year, panama
Me and my friend/fellow Winterline student, Lucas, with the indigenous people of Parara Puru.

Would you ever like to go back?

“YES!” – Sherly

“Without a doubt” – Pablo

“Absolutely” – Casey

Business Boot Camp

Young business entrepreneurs of the future, rejoice, for Winterline will not deprive you of the knowledge and experience you seek. During your time staying in Panama City, you will participate in a week-long business course offered by a host of amazing and intelligent teachers. This portion of the trip was entitled “Business Boot Camp” and was perhaps the most practical and applicable of all the skills learned in trimester 1.

The course consisted of four days of exploring the inner workings of the economy, of how businesses utilize markets to their advantages, how businesses grow. We discussed  supply and demand, we learned how to read annual monetary projections, we picked apart why some businesses fail and why others succeed, and we compared and contrasted the perks of leading large companies such as Amazon and Netflix.

winterline, gap year, business bootcamp
Christian explaining why Netflix is successful (Credit: Lydia Miller)

After four days of learning business basics, we had three days of small group business creation; teams of three to four were tasked with thinking of a business idea, and then fleshing it out to the point of pitching it to a panel of judges, posing as investors, in order to see which team had the best and most feasible overall plan. Originally expecting this not to be too difficult having just spent many hours learning exactly how other businesses complete this very same process, we soon learned this would be no easy task. Not only is an original idea in and of itself difficult to come up with, but including monetary concerns (incomes and expenditures), creative differences within groups, and finding the best way to present these ideas in order to gain funding was harder to manage than it initially seemed.

I think by the end of the week, we all gained a greater appreciation for many big businesses out there when evaluating their success. However, this task was also very fun. The competition aspect gave everyone a motivation to overcome the issues we encountered, and hearing the visions of each of our companies from group to group, and even within our groups themselves, was interesting and eye opening. The time to present came in a flash, the hours passed by like minutes, having worked so hard and so intently. While everyone was nervous due to the professional nature and atmosphere of the presentation, the judges claimed time and again how impressed they were by the zeal and hard work of each student, despite us only having one week of experience prior.

winterline, gap year, business bootcamp
From left to right: Darshil, Liam, Peyton and Zoe presenting their thrifting company (Credit: Lydia Miller)

To sum up business boot camp in one word, I would choose “rewarding.” The work was hard, but this final presentation made up for all the hangups along the way. Through these business pitches we gained presentation skills and came to understand each other better, as well as how to trust each other better in a professional setting. We learned about delegating roles that were suited to each of our individual strengths, and discovered new strengths we didn’t previously know we had. I have never seriously considered a business career before, but business boot camp in Panama City has definitely gotten me thinking.

February is Gap Year Exploration Month!

Are you ready to #explorethegapyear? Every year, more and more students are considering and taking gap years before entering into college or their career path. We believe that the life experience, skills learning, and cultural growth students explore during this time set them up for a successful adulthood ahead. While we could talk about this every day, Gap Year Exploration Month was created to help students, parents, families, and counselors, discover the incredible opportunities that lie within a gap year.

So why should you consider a gap year? How do you know if a gap year is right for you? How do you know which gap year is right for you? These are all great questions!

The first step is recognizing that there’s no one type of student who takes a gap year. There are plenty of misconceptions about gap year students: that they have to be rich, that they weren’t good students, that they’ll fall behind, that it’ll be a waste of time. We know that none of this is true, and the data backs us up.

gap year exploration month, winterline, gap yearThe next step is to find the right program for you. To ensure that every student ends up in the program that fits them, you have to explore your gap year options. We believe wholeheartedly in our program, and so do many others – Winterline was recognized as one of the Top Rated Gap Year Programs of 2019! But Winterline is just one of the many gap year opportunities available. You can use #explorethegapyear on social media to find information, and find program reviews on sites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas.

Winterline Gap Year Students
Winterline Gap Year Students

Additionally, this month is the result of a partnership between the Gap Year Association and Streamable U. Together, they’re bringing you a month full of educational and entertaining livestreams hosted by a variety of gap year programs and experts.

Whether you’re looking for general gap year information or specific details about Winterline, you’ll want to check out these events.

  • February 6th: Through a partnership with Streamable U, our Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Erica, is giving an introductory info session on Winterline
  • February 10th: Get a taste for Winterline on our Instagram Live with a current student in the field
  • February 18th: Learn about the benefits of a gap year and Winterline’s gap, semester, and summer programs in an info session hosted by our Admissions Advisor Nora
  • February 24th: Hear from an expert on Instagram Live: former Field Advisor and current Director of Outreach and Recruitment, Erica

    Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat
    Caroline and Erica celebrating Holi at MUWCI | Photo By: Dini Vermaat

And of course, there’s still dates on the USA Gap Year Fairs circuit! Join us in one of the following cities to learn about a variety of gap year programs, including our own.

As always, we love talking to students and families, so reach out with any questions or schedule a home visit with our Director of Outreach and Recruitment. If you’re ready to commit, you can apply for a Winterline gap, semester, or summer program today.

7 Tips for Starting Your Own Travel Blog

A good travel blogger transports you to the places they are seeing and experiencing; they make you want to go there yourself. So how do you do that?

1. Use an easy-to-use blogging platform.

Although there are a plethora of blogging platforms out there, these are three of the most recommended options available: WordPress.org, Wix.com, and Blogger.com. All three offer simple templates and make it easy to post content and pictures even while using your mobile device. They are perfect for any blogging novice to get set up and running immediately.winterline, gap year, travel blog

2. Use descriptive words to paint a picture.

Composing engaging entries remain the cornerstone of good travel blogs, according to Cameron Wears, of the husband-and-wife blogging team Traveling Canucks (travelingcanucks.com). “The most important thing is to entertain your readers and always share something informative, but interesting. The Internet is overloaded with information and people have enough on their daily agenda, so your posts should be fun,” he says.

Don’t hesitate to add some passion and emotion, along with your humor. Think of a good movie: if you laugh and cry, it’s usually one you want to watch again or share with your family and friends.

3. Use picturesque and inspirational photos and videos.

The saying, “pictures paint a thousand words” is so, so, so true. Words paint the picture, but photos bring the experience to life. Images play such a key role in creating a successful travel blog, but they have to be the right pictures.

Keep in mind that your “visual content” should be more than just typical travel photos of buildings, scenery, or people posing for the camera in a group. Take the time to compose a photo library that includes candids, observations, people currently living in their environment.

Capture the emotions, excitement, and passion of not only the people surrounding you, but also of yourself. This helps bring personality to your blog. Adding quality videos are great, too.

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Silhouettes in India | Photo By: Abby Dulin

4. Make it personal.

You will come into contact with people, occurrences and images that aren’t always positive and uplifting. You should write about your own reactions to the places you visit and the people you meet. People respond to honest posts; posts that divulge your feelings about the places you visit. There are countless travel blogs out there, and what sets them apart are the individual experiences you have.

5. Interview people you have met.

One of the best ways to get to know a new place is by talking to the people who live there. Hear their stories, take their recommendations, learn what they can tell you that a tourist brochure can’t. And then, pass on their wisdom to your readers.

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Zoe greets a Cambodian monk | Photo By: Devin Duffy

6. Post regularly and share on social media.

It’s not always enough to just post when you feel like it. You should try to keep a regular schedule to keep your reader’s interest. And always share your posts on social media to expand readership. If you don’t think you have time to blog, you can always just share extra pictures. More content means more connections. Always strive to grow your audience and drive traffic to your blog.

7. Post to promote the program.

If you love your program, you’ll want other potential students and parents to participate in and to see the importance of what you’re doing. So tell them about it! Write about what your program is like: the schedule, the locations, the activities, the instructors. Share what you learned, what you enjoyed, and what you wish you would have known before embarking on your adventure.

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Winterline in Colorado | Photo By: Pablo Gonzales-Pacheco

Being a travel blogger is one of the best ways to chronicle and share your study abroad trip or gap year experience with your friends and family with the added bonus of gaining blogging experience and continued readership. So, get typing!

Interested in blogging about your journey, but not ready to create a whole site? We’re always looking for guest bloggers! Submit your proposal to allison@winterline.com for a chance to be featured on the Winterline blog.

Monteverde Host Family Interview

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:winterline global gap year

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.

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Homestay family

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!

The Monteverde ISP Experience

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

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Monteverde Cloud Forest | Photo By: Whitfield Smith

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

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Josh’s ceviche!
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Josh cooking picadillo

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

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Josh and his teacher Karen

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

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

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

Why to Choose a Semester in Latin America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Erica and Cody at BMW Driving Experience
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

Reflecting on Trimester 1: A Squad 1 Quotebook

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

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

Spencer Turner:

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

Lydia Miller:

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

Darshil Dholakia:

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

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

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.

Travel Blogging with Polarsteps

Keeping a travel blog or journal sounds like a fun idea in theory, and the end result is certainly worth it. But there’s a lot of logistics that go into it from creative energy, to supplies like pens, stickers, or WiFi, to the sheer amount of time necessary to devote. So it’s understandable if your goal to track your adventure falls behind.

Luckily, there’s a way to make this process a whole lot easier: Polarsteps. This app, available for free on both the Google Play and Apple stores, does all of the work for you. Reviews describe the setup as easy and intuitive: you simply click to create a new trip and designate a name, summary, dates, and audience. That’s all you have to do!winterline, gap year, polarsteps

As you travel, the app will automatically track your route and make note of the places you visit. As you add photographs and locations, a travel log will auto-populate. And best of all: you don’t need any data or cell coverage for the app to work! Polarsteps uses GPS, which works independently, and the app will sync it’s data when you reach reception or WiFi at the end of the day or week.

On the app’s homepage, you get a summary of your journey so far, complete with number of miles traveled, number of countries and continents visited, how much of the world you’ve seen, how many people you follow, and how many follow you. There are other statistics available as well.winterline, gap year, polarsteps

And of course, no app would be complete without the ability to share your finished product. You can easily share your trip to social media. If you’re looking for a physical representation, you can also order a custom travel book to look back on.winterline, gap year, polarsteps

Feeling inspired yet? You can check out some of the staff picks of trips on their website, like India by Train or World trip by bicycle. Polarsteps is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Have you used Polarsteps before? If so, share your experience and your trip with us! If not, are there other apps you like for journaling and blogging?