Erica has been leading programs and working internally with travel companies since 2013. She was a Field Advisor for Winterline for the 2017-18 Gap Skills Program and now works full-time as the Director of Outreach & Recruitment.
What is your favorite travel memory?
Hiking down to a waterfall in the ravine of a beautiful, lush, Costa Rican jungle. I was giving one of my students a piggy back ride down because she was a double amputee. It was REALLY humid, I was REALLY sweaty, she was REALLY sweaty. The trail could be muddy and slick in spots so you had to focus your steps and make sure you had good footing. There came a spot where I took my Chacos off to wade across a small stream and walk through more mud before getting to this beautiful waterfall.
It was so worth it to have everyone down there, especially that student. It was just a really special moment of creating a closer bond with that student, not leaving anyone behind, having other students support that and hang out with us during the trek. Then to have that refreshing water to swim in and jump into. It was such a good day!
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I think the easier question is how haven't I changed!
What I've loved most about Winterline is the perspective change it has given me in a way I wasn't expecting. My background has been more geared towards volunteer-related programs, but I've found that Winterline builds students up – their confidence, their independence, their desire to learn and discover, through the skills they encounter, and working on themselves personally.
Winterline invests in the well-roundedness of the student and allows them to try everything. I have gotten to see that transformation from start to finish, and it's extremely rewarding. I am continuing to learn the many ways in which students can thrive and learn in experiential settings, anywhere outside of the classroom. It has changed the way in which I look at how students spend their time between high school and college, or whenever they decided to take this year to experience the world first hand.
There are more right ways than one to help students grow and become confident and competent individuals.
Winterline is another great option out there for students that I'm more than happy to be a part of.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One story specific to the program that comes up a lot is the big mud fight our group had in Bangkok, Thailand. I was not with the group for this memory unfortunately, but I love hearing about it because students tend to laugh pretty hard about some of the mud throws that were made at each other from that day of programming. :)
I've really enjoyed hearing from them since the program ended in May of 2018, of how much they miss the program, the memories and inside jokes... and also how ready they've all seemed to go to college. I still keep in contact with most of them, and many bring up how different they were from the beginning of the program compared to now.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Besides what I've already done with Winterline, I would LOVE to go on the new Choose Your Path option to Africa for the 9-month Gap Year Program! Both South Africa and Rwanda have been huge on my list for many reasons, and the skills that students take part in with those partner countries are really intriguing. My love for travel really began during my first time in Uganda, so anytime I get a chance to head back to Africa, I grab at it!
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
What makes the Winterline unique is the very direct changes it makes to programming based on the student’s and Field Advisor’s feedback. Every year, the program changes a little bit, which is what keeps it interesting, safe, and well put together. If we get an overwhelming amount of dissatisfaction for a certain skill, we change it, whether it's the location, the skill itself, or maybe the partner we work with. If students really loved something, we leave it alone or continue to build on it in unique ways.
What we've been able to unveil for this next programming year is really incredible when you take into account the amount of time it took us to create it. The work ethic we have is really wonderful, and it motivates me to keep working harder.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
Team cohesion and organization. No matter how big or small a company is, if everyone gets along or at least works well together, on top of having clear goals and plans (daily to annual), so much can be accomplished.
Winterline is ever growing, but we are still on the smaller side, which I've really learned to love. I have gotten to dabble in other departments where in a bigger company I wouldn't have the opportunity to do so. For my personal career growth, Winterline has helped me become a better employee by allowing me to take part in responsibilities that overlap with other departments. That way, I also know more about the inner workings of the company really well along with what happens on the actual program.