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Meet our students!

We are delighted to introduce you to our first group of students who will be traveling with us this coming fall. It's so great to be able to interview each one of them pre- and post trip.

Here's why Callie S. (18) chose to take a gap year with Winterline before entering college and the military, with some commentary from her mother, Dianne, too. Dianne, and both of Callie's parents, seemed to weigh extensively in her decision.

Q: Why did you decide to enroll in a gap year program?

C: A lot of my decision to explore a gap year program was to truly take a break from school and take a closer look at all of my options. As kids, my brother and I traveled with my family pretty extensively, so that also weighed in. Right now, my brother goes to St. Andrews in Scotland; he's a junior majoring in International Relations with a Minor in Arabic. My parents also travel internationally for business and they lived in London for a period of time before they got married. Needless to say, I have the travel bug.

D: As Callie mentioned, we lived and worked as expats in London for 3 years and gap years are quite common there, so we were familiar with the concept. Both Callie’s dad and I travel extensively overseas for our jobs. I am a Senior Vice President at a large, global financial services firm and Paul's company builds large, logistical infrastructures for firms and government entities in very remote international locations. I also went to Miami University in Oxford, OH, where I studied International Relations and participated in their Luxemburg study abroad program. So, proudly, I will say I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, with both of our children’s interest in international experiences.

Q: How many countries have you visited already? What sticks out among all of your trips?

C: I've been to five different countries. I think my trip to Italy was most memorable. My dad is of Italian heritage. His side of the family was from Northern Italy. I never expected it to be like home or the American way, but I was surprised at how different it was. I began realizing just how diverse cultures can be. That really intrigues me.

Q: The concept of taking a gap year program is relatively new for many students. When were you first introduced to the idea of taking a gap year before college?

C: I hadn't really heard that much about gap years until one of our neighbors went to New Zealand before college. Based on her experience, we started doing some research late in my junior year and started seriously thinking about it in my senior year. I applied to college as a back up. I was accepted to the University of Illinois and Penn State. I deferred at both schools and told both schools of my decision.  I actually met with the ROTC officer at Penn State. These are schools that I will potentially look at again when I return.


Q: How many gap year programs did you research? How did you decide on Winterline? Dianne, it certainly had a ton of appeal for you...

C: This program is truly the opportunity of a lifetime. I really only researched four other programs. Winterline was my top choice. The selling point was the number of different countries I'd be traveling to and its focus on real-life skill building, which set it apart. The idea that this program encompasses people from all areas of life was also something that initially attracted me to it.

D: Again, because we lived and worked in London, gap years were familiar to us, but the programs are known to be unstructured. As a parent, the appeal of Winterline seemed to match up nicely with Callie, especially, as she said, because it is skills-based. The opportunity to do things in an immersive environment in many different countries with a multitude of different cultures, that was big for us and exactly what we were looking for. It’s a huge opportunity for her, at the right time in her life. I think it will have a positive impact on solidifying all the dreams she wishes to pursue after her gap year.

Q: What do you expect to gain from your gap year program and while traveling abroad? 

C: The short answer: I think, most importantly, confidence and leadership. I plan on going into the military. Whatever I learn about other countries will give me the knowledge base that I can take with me when I join the military, especially in relation to what we have in comparison to the United States. A worldly perspective. Who knows, that could all change.

The long answer: I wish to gain independence and resilience; I truly hope to witness the power of selfless learning. I am also confident that I will gain modesty and restraint in the presence of conflict, in addition to the ability to converse with people who differ greatly from myself. I hope to gain a true sense of acceptance and desire to learn about the world outside of what I am accustomed to.

Above all else, I hope to gain knowledge. I wish to learn about the world and the people in it. I see this program as an opportunity to better myself in all areas, from intellect to strength to creativity. This adventure is an experience I can use to truly humble myself and build my character exponentially. I realize some of this program will push me to my limits. It is a chance to find out what I am made of and learn to overcome adversity in a way I have never had to before.

Q: What excites you most about traveling with Winterline in September?  

C: I think that both my friends and my family's friends would describe me as a respectful and mature individual who loves to learn, take on new challenges with the best of attitudes, and meet new people whenever possible. So, I guess what excites me the most is meeting new people. I grew up in a small, close-knit town. I've grown up with the same people my entire life. I can't wait to get introduced to the other students, exchange stories, and meet people from other countries and all over the world.

I love making friends and will enjoy hearing about all of the different backgrounds that make up people. I am incredibly nostalgic and I find such happiness in experiencing fun things with fun people, particularly if those people are new in my life.

D: Her father and I always knew she would commit herself to serving her country, but we felt that she kind of needed to have some real-life experiences before making such a commitment; be with people not associated with her past. We are certainly nervous, but also really excited for her.

Q: What country intrigues you the most? What activity or learning experience captivates you the most about Winterline? 

C: I have to be honest; I am most excited about the Latin American part of the trip. I am huge into sailing and boating. My family actually has a house in Traverse City, MI, so I grew up on the water. Being on the water, I love it. I had a large fear of sharks when I was little, but I can't wait to get back to the ocean! I haven't shut up about learning to scuba dive. I've always wanted to try it!

Q: Do you have an idea of what you would like to do in the future?

C: I would like to join the Marine Corps. I am very patriotic; I envision a career of service. But I also know that having a family in the military can be very challenging down the line. So, maybe something in an American History Field or possibly missionary work—a leadership career path. The experiences this program offers for young people are tremendous. I hope that I will learn the true meaning of freedom while experiencing it in many different ways through many different cultures, which I believe will also help shape my career and future.