Winterline: My Gap Year Hasn’t Opened My Eyes to the World

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Finding Acceptance

My Gap Year has felt more like a holiday, getting to travel for a short vacation away from my reality that is home in Nepal and the struggles that I can see and feel there.

Finding My Comfort Zone

I’ve always been out of place, a stray puzzle piece that doesn’t really fit in anywhere. Back in Nepal, boarding school in India – it didn’t matter where I went, there was always someone who didn’t like what I wore or what I represented. Winterline has been different – it has been a wonderful group that not only accepts, but respects me. I’ve experienced something I feel like I’ve rarely experienced before: a sense of adequacy. Everything so far has felt comfortable, even if I’d never done it before. Everyone else has been pushed outside of their comfort zone. I’ve been pushed into a comfort zone.

I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons there – inside of the comfort zone, where I can really stand still for a second and evaluate, something I’ve almost never done. I’ve learned that there’s so much growing to be done every day! I’ve learned to throw myself out there.

Sure, I could just sit back and do what is expected of me and be enough. But that’s not where I want to be. I don’t want to be just good enough. There are days where even doing just that is difficult but when I’m barely making an effort is when I need to be working the hardest. I’ve met many people on this journey, driven by goals and ideas who have more knowledge on one single skill or idea than you would think there is to know! All because they’ve dedicated themselves to never being just good enough and pushing themselves constantly.

Discovering Growth

I found that growth is an incredibly slow-moving, constant, lifetime process. And most of that is the daily grind of effort and willingness to grow and understand that it’s never easy and it’s not supposed to be. It’s kicking and screaming at the top of my lungs when I think I can’t do it anymore and I keep doing it anyway.

I’ve learned growth is intentional; it doesn’t happen by accident.

I saw on my Gap Year that growth hurts. It hurts the same way everything hurts when I’m on the last stretch of ascending a hill on a long trek and my muscles are screaming in pain but I keep going because I’ve made it so far and I know that it’s going to be worth it. And I know that it’s going to hurt more the next day, but I do it anyway, because what I will remember is the reward and not the pain. I imagine a lifetime of growth, never any less painful but always stronger for it. I ask myself these questions: “Would I rather not have seen or felt struggle? Do I doubt myself for saying maybe? Am I stronger or weaker for this realization? Do the experiences I’ve had make me indestructible or vulnerable?”

My Gap Year Didn’t Change My Life… I Did

I am who I am. Nothing will change that. I can’t change who I am, and I can be bitter about it or I can maybe try and love myself and maybe do some good in the process.

I guess the answer is choice: What I do with what I have. Do I let the struggles I’ve seen make me more hateful towards those who choose to ignore them? Or do I help them see what can change? It’s something I struggle with every day. I would have never imagined myself where am today. Never. I could have easily been the next kid, fighting for an education, married off at age nine. Instead, I try to have gratitude for what I have. I have choice. And on Winterline, I have had and will have all the resources I need to make my own choices, good ones that I will be proud of and bad ones that I will be thankful to have known and learnt from.

At the beginning of Winterline, they told us it will be as difficult as we make it. We can shuffle around people and cultures like the next tourist or we can simply be present in the crazy whirlpool of opportunities that are already there for us. I’m trying to chose to make an effort every day of my life, whatever it’s going to throw at me. My Gap Year didn’t change my life, I did.


Prathana Shrestha first published this piece on the Winterline Student Voices.

Tips From A Student: How To Travel Overseas On A Student Budget

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Travel Overseas On A Student Budget

College is an amazing time of life full of new friends and new adventures.  With so much stress from coursework while class is in session, it’s great to use the breaks either before college, or, between semesters to travel to new places.  You can fit a lot of experiences into just a few weeks, but paying for this can be tricky. I use some clever tips I’ve learned to be able to travel to exotic places without spending a fortune or coming back to school knee-deep in debt.  Yes, you may have to work a bit while you travel, but it’s all just part of the adventure and working in a different country is an experience most people can’t claim as something they have done.

The first problem is, of course, how to pay for the trip. One way to do this is by picking up a part-time job and saving some money. When that falls short, I would suggest doing what I did. I did some research and learned that I could get a travel credit card that was designed for students. This was great for a number of reasons. I was able to pay for my larger expenses after my trip and not stress about how to pay for it before my trip. Also, the card gave me a way to pay for meals and lodging while I was overseas (in places that accepted cards) without having to carry hundreds of dollars in cash on me at all times (don’t try this, it’s too dangerous). Finally, it allowed me to exchange currencies automatically without having to deal with small kiosks that exchanged cash for you while charging you a massive fee. A not-so-honest lady in Poland once charged me extra because I didn’t understand the exchange rates; so by using a card, I generally cut this problem down to a minimum. Having a travel card was, and continues to be, very useful for me when traveling abroad.

Airfare’s always a challenge too, but one of the best things to do is ask for miles from friends/family, or, visit this great website for good deals and tips for travel.  There are some student-only fares through STA that are usually discounted, but occasionally there are deals to be had for last-minute flights.

Some places give you the option of paying for Internet services but you can save some cash by sitting in coffee shops or hostels that offer free Wi-Fi; it’s a great thing to find while traveling and believe me, they’re almost anywhere. Keeping your friends and family updated on where you are and the fun you are having is a nice thing to do, and you want to be able to do it as cheaply as possible.  Often your hostel will give you a password for their connection when you check in, and most have a computer or two available in the lobby for paying guests. Be sure to check with your hostel manager to make sure you can use the computers because if they aren’t for your use, they’ll be pretty upset (trust me). If you need a hotspot and you’re far away from your hostel, try this hotspot locater to get a sense for what’s in your vicinity. This website has been very helpful for me on a number of different occasions.

Packing light when you travel is the way to go.  Not only are you hauling around less baggage, but you’re also saving money by not checking bags on planes, and sometimes trains and buses.  Most people find that a backpack is more convenient than any other type of luggage, but fortunately you can get a sturdy backpack that is lightweight for fewer than one hundred dollars.  For the price and convenience, you can’t beat it. I love using a backpack because it’s more personal. If someone is trying to pickpocket you and you have six bags, it’s easy. If you have one bag that’s in your hands or locked on your back, you’re giving them a bit more of a challenge. I found mine on Amazon and it has been all over the world without breaking. Find yourself a high quality pack and you’ll find yourself a travel partner, too. I was on a train in London, once, and a man tried to slide his way into my backpack without me noticing. Too bad for him, I noticed. Take care of your pack and your pack will take care of you.


KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.