I would advise anyone taking a Winterline gap year to give every little, tiny, minuscule thing your absolute ALL. The more you put into this program, the more intentional and open you are, the more you will gain. You are building confidence every step of the way and if you think for one second it’s just going to appear on graduation day, you’re wrong. That said, just jump in. Be kind, too. People are what make a place special and if you aren’t respectful, you’ll really just end up hurting your own experience and you'll really miss out on some really unique human connections.
There are three types of days one could have on Winterline: a rest day, a core day (ISP prep, paperwork, even interviews sometimes), and a partner day. Partners are what makes Winterlines. These are the people or associations that teach us skills. Robotics, Scuba Diving, mask making, farm work, etc. A prime example of this is our first independent project that took place in trimester three in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Each student stayed with a homestay family. Out of many choices, I worked on a coffee farm. I woke up every day at 7 to have breakfast with my host family, grab my taxi to the farm at 7:45 to be there by 8. Typically, you’d be with the group waking up and eating breakfast together and leaving together, led by your field advisers (holding your hand through it). This time, I was responsible. Each day, I learned a new element in the process of producing coffee. Each partner is unique and interesting, trust me.
My biggest fear abroad was my big, solo travel extravaganza. I was terrified to wake up and catch that train to the airport in Munich. Terrified of checking my bag and terrified of going through security, and finding my gate, and boarding the plane, and landing, and getting my bag, and getting a taxi to the women I was staying within Seville, Spain. I was scared of the classes I was taking and exploring alone and eating alone and looking alone and feeling alone.
Then just as I imagined it, I did it. But instead of my hands shaking the whole time, they were still. I haven’t been able to explain it up to this point. The fear just went away, after achieving each step of the way. After getting off the train in Munich. I was just okay after that. Then, suddenly, I was on my flight to Prague to meet back up with my group and it was over. But I did it. And I’ll do it again.
From scuba diving in the Caribbean and working on farms in the rainforest, to traveling by train in Mumbai and walking the notoriously hectic streets of Bangkok and Phnom Penh, I have done so many things as an amputee and a “child” and a female- things people wrote off for me before I got the chance to consider them as options myself, but things I did nonetheless. I transferred the things people didn’t think I should do to my bucket list.
I’d like to mention that I had never traveled before. I felt like I had something to prove, which is a mentality that left me frustrated when I fell down or when I needed help up a railing-less staircase. I felt like I had to be everything at once, 100% of the time, and that just isn’t possible. Traveling is important; it liberates a person and it reconditions how they view the world. But everyone has their days, and you can’t expect the entire journey to be a straightforward path to glory and epic-ness. However, you can choose, every morning you wake up and wherever that may be, to thrive.