Fresh off of a family backpacking adventure in the Grand Canyon and from another trip hiking in Big Sky, Montana with friends, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oliver Sandreuter, 18, from Roswell, GA who will be joining Winterline along with a group of other travel-enthusiastic teens and college students this coming fall. Here's what he had to say about his decision to take a gap year and what he expects to gain from Winterline.
Q: The concept of taking a gap year program is relatively new for many students? When were you first introduced to the idea and why did you decide to take one?
OS: I don't feel as though the concept of taking a gap year is necessarily new to many students these days, but that it's just seen as unrealistic. I actually knew of a few students in the grade above me who took one. But when I first thought about taking a gap year for myself, I nearly brushed it aside because it seemed too good and too different to be true. After taking some time to look into the idea a little bit more though I found out just how real and available the opportunity can be. Then, I was hooked! Many students, myself included, can feel limited to the typical high school straight to college structure. While there is definitely nothing wrong with sticking to that path, a lot of other options are available to students looking for something different.
Q: Did you apply for college and defer? How many colleges?
OS: I only applied to three schools, the University of Georgia, the University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt University. In the end, I chose "Vandy," in Nashville, TN because it offered the best opportunity for me and felt like a home away from home. Once I got a little more settled into the idea of taking a gap year, I started looking into the school's deferment procedures and contacted Admissions. They were completely fine with it. The entire admissions office was extremely supportive of the trip and made it a breeze to fill out the necessary paperwork.
Q: How many gap year programs did you research? How did you decide on Winterline?
OS: I probably looked at more than 20 gap year programs online, but when I found Winterline, I really liked the sound of it. Of course, a lot of the programs sounded good and had a lot of exciting elements, but they all seemed too narrowly focused and limited to certain areas, whether it be travel, study, or service work. I kept finding myself wishing that I could combine them all into one. This predicament was solved when I found Winterline. It has everything that I could have ever ask for in one program. Winterline’s fundamental belief in creating well-rounded and worldly citizens really resonated with me and proved to be just what I was looking for.
Q: Have you ever traveled abroad?
OS: I've spent a good bit of time traveling domestically here in the United States, but I have also been fortunate enough to visit both Mexico and Guatemala through mission trips. I spent a week in Mexico on a less structured trip focused on community and relationship building. My church has a presence in Guatemala, so the work there was a lot more tangible in a specific location. We built irrigation trenches and did some housing structural work like redoing cement floors for people's interiors. A lot of families have dirt floors, so when the floors get soaked, it is just mud. They barely have any floor space, so many kids end up having to sleep in the mud. It was an extremely humbling experience. I learned that they are genuinely happy, content people despite living without the material benefits or amenities that we have here in the States. These experiences and others have made me realize the benefit of spending time in different cultures and places. I look forward to being exposed to even more through Winterline.
Q: What do you expect to gain from taking a gap year traveling abroad?
OS: My primary goal of taking a gap year is to broaden my view and understanding of the world while also being able to grow as an individual in all aspects of my life. I truly look forward to being pushed out of my comfort zone—to learn how the world works and to find my own place within it. But realistically, I don't know all that I want to gain out of my gap year experience. I can't really pinpoint to any one thing that I expect. That's the beauty of it! Maybe I'd say a sense of independence. That I know I will certainly achieve. This program will expose me to a wide variety of experiences. You'll have to check back!
Q: What excites you most about traveling with Winterline in September?
OS: I'm excited for all of it! It's impossible not to be. The extreme diversity of the program is the biggest excitement for me. There are so many different things to do and see. The journey will not only lead me all across the globe, but will also give me the opportunity to explore areas and skills that I never dreamed of. While some of the things will certainly be more to my liking and familiarity than others, I can’t wait for the hiking and backpacking. Luckily for me we get to start right off with that!
Q: What country intrigues you the most? What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline?
OS: The entire Southeast Asia unit of the trip in Thailand, Cambodia, and India interests me the most. Those are countries and cultures that I have little to no knowledge of or experience with, so I look forward to learning and enjoying my time there. Buddhist studies and caregiving in Indian hospitals both intrigue me. I find it important to approach it all with an open mind and a blank slate and just let whatever we discover there have its say.
Q: Do you have an idea of what you would like to do in the future?
OS: Well, right now, the "pre-gap year" Oliver is planning to create his own major combining sports management and business at college. I envision combining my passion for sports with communications and economics, as far as the actual career though, I'm undecided. I don't really picture myself as a personal sports agent, but more along the lines of working with a franchise managing or marketing a team. Who knows though, all of this could easily change upon returning home.
Personal Fun Facts: Sometimes during these interviews, I forget that I am meeting teens and young students who listen to Pandora and text their friends all day long. So, I thought I would add a few little fun facts so you can get to know Oliver all that much more.
Favorite food: I love Buffalo Wings or a good steak, but anything with Ranch dressing... Oh, and Costco's Chicken Alfredo; I will miss it while traveling!
Favorite song/band: I'm not really hooked on any one song, but one band you can't go wrong with is the Chili Peppers.
One of your favorite hobbies: hiking and backpacking
Favorite quote or motto you live by: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for" -John A Shield
The 5 adjectives that best describe you: Open-minded, Independent, Passionate, Competitive, Communicative
Family: My entire family has been so supportive of me in everything that I do and especially with my Winterline trip. Part of me wishes I could bring them (my parents, three sisters, and of course my two labs) with me!