Oh, summer camp. I quite honestly don’t know who I’d be as a person if I hadn’t submitted an application with Camp America this time 5 years ago. 5 summers, 16 months and a lifetime of memories later, I now like to spend my time telling everyone else how awesome it is and that they must quite literally, REGISTER IMMEDIATELY.
Fellow counselors, feel free to read this and laugh, relate, facetime your camp friends crying and inevitably submit a returning camp application. Hey, why don’t you try and make it to 5 like I did and watch your mum wonder if you were secretly filming the sequel to the Parent Trap?
Here are 8 signs that Camp America changed your life…
1. YOU NOW HAVE THE INFECTION THAT IS WANDERLUST
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
Camp America is a cultural exchange programme, so not only do you get to go live and work in the USA, you also get to travel around for 30 days afterwards. A pretty solid package deal, if you ask me. Large portions of food mixed in with incredible sights and topped with a sprinkle of camp friends = perfection. Immersing yourself in a new culture is like going to school again, but it’s fun and there’s no awful teachers or mean kids. You learn so much everyday whether it’s that you’re taking out the trash, and not the rubbish, or that you’re a much better bracelet maker than you ever thought. Before you know it you’re home and not only planning your next trip back to camp, but your travels around the world too. Your bucket list increases, your bank balance decreases and your days are spent with your head stuck in a Lonely Planet book. Your most searched term on google is how can I travel the world for free?
2. YOU HAVE BEST FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD
How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
A summer at camp is never complete without a gaining a handful of special friends at the end of it. Actually, friends that you make within 10 minutes of meeting them at the airport. Camp brings together people from all over – from different cultures, walks of life and the most weird and wonderful personalities you could ever imagine. It is the perfect place to go to be accepted for who you are. Nervous about being too loud? At camp, too loud is probably not loud enough. Afterwards, your life will consist of facetimes, countdowns and sobbing over your camp scrapbook. Oh, and you’ll become an absolute pro at knowing what time it is all over the world. Camp friends are the best friends. You spend so much time with them and they see you at your absolute best, singing around the campfire and dancing on tables, but also at your worst; a couple days without a shower and about to explode when you haven’t had a great nights sleep. And they still love you. You think time flies when you’re having fun? Wait until camp. You blink and suddenly you’re in a sobbing circle of friends on the last day, holding hands and wishing time travel could be invented already so you can go back and relive the adventure all over again.
3. YOU APPRECIATE THE SMALL THINGS IN LIFE
There’s no wifi here, but you’ll find a better connection.
This quote perfectly sums up one of the most unique and special parts about camp. You’re out in the wilderness and your biggest problem of the day is if you’ll get enough Mac & Cheese for dinner. At camp, the smallest things made me so happy that after getting a note on my bed telling me to have a good day, I’d begin welling up and running around camp screaming Evie’s name to find her and give her a huge hug. (A side hug, if kids are around of course). A smile, a note, some candy or simply a high five is enough to brighten anyones day, and since then I’ve tried to incorporate it into my life at home. Whilst in New Zealand, I left little notes on everyones bed the day before we all went our separate ways and seeing their happy faces made me feel as though I was back at camp. Random acts of kindness is equivalent to a sprinkle of fairy dust; it’s all you need to make the world go round. I came home each year with an extra bag full of photos, decorations and that random rock little Jimmy gave me that I couldn’t bear to let go of. I have no regrets; five summers at camp turned me into the most sentimental hoarder that ever roamed this Earth – and I’m proud.
4. THERE ARE CAMPERS YOU’LL NEVER FORGET
Don’t ever underestimate the impact you may have on someone else’s life.
No matter what type of camp you work at, you’re always going to impact children in a way that you could never imagine. You become a superhero with an invisible cape whilst working as a counselor, and those little kids look up to you more than anything. You used to think someone telling you that you looked nice was the best compliment you could receive, but try I hope you’re my counselor next year. It’s impossible to beat. Of course we don’t have favourites at camp… but there are always those campers that come into your life and unexpectedly change it. Whether it’s a camper who has transformed in character over the summer, a difficult camper who found their feet, or a camper set to be the next Oscar winning actor; no matter the story, they will always break your heart when you have to say goodbye. Regardless of whether these campers will remember you, you will always remember them and the impact they made on that big, camp counselor heart of yours.
5. CAMP IS STILL A HUGE PART OF YOUR LIFE
You can leave camp, but camp never seems to leave you.
Once you’ve stopped living 9 months for 3, the real world calls and you hop into your comfortable bed without a ladder and start wearing more than three pairs of clothes all week. But, camp never really leaves you. Before you know it, you’re at University applying to be a Camp America Brand Manager thinking that it probably is the coolest job you can have. And it is. Or, you’re looking for an extra job and realise that seeing as you spend your entire life encouraging people to go to camp, you may as well do it officially, right? Suddenly, you’re at interviews singing camp songs and at recruitment fairs cheering on the guy who has just been placed. You get everyone else prepared for summer and pray they’ll need advice so you can talk to them about how much of a super awesome tie dye loving counselor you are. They may find you odd initially, but once they’re on that plane they’ll understand. Your family however, will still wonder if you own any other clothes that don’t have your camps name printed on it. It’s my work uniform, I tell them.
6. YOU’VE GROWN IN CONFIDENCE
Step outside your comfort zone.. it’s where the magic happens.
From the beginning of the process where you’re interviewed, to selling yourself over Skype or a recruitment fair to when you step foot on American soil – you’re challenging yourself for the better. Camp is full of positive change; you’re responsible for a handful of children that look at you with their big beady eyes and expect you to know all the answers. And if you don’t, you make it up – right? I’m sure you never expected to go to camp and be able to dress up as the opposite sex in less than 2 minutes, or sing a song about a random moose so well that you’re surprised your Grammy nomination hasn’t come through yet. But you do, and you thrive like the ninja counselor that you are. You meet awesome people from around the world, become a friend to many and a leader to hundreds. One summer has passed and although you may not realise it immediately, your confidence would have grown increasing amounts and it’s a pretty great trait to gain.
7. FOOD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN
Life is short, eat dessert first.
I mean this is a given. Everyone that goes to America will have that particular treat that is their all time guilty pleasure. It’s time for Walmart; you walk in, run over to the food area and you know the exact place your Swedish Fish/double stuffed Oreos/Reece’s Pieces are located, and you grab them so fast just in case your fellow counselors have the same plan. You then run back 10 minutes later because you convince yourself you haven’t bought enough. A summer at camp isn’t complete without a snack stash. Ice cream scoops are bigger than your head, a small in the US is equivalent to a large in the UK, and you spend your summer telling yourself that the reason your jeans are tight is because it’s all that muscle you’re gaining from walking around all day. Now, you make sure you stay in the good books of your American friends in the hope they’ll send you a treat or two. Or five.
8. YOU’RE A BETTER PERSON
There is always that one summer that changes you.
The most important sign of all. Camp without a doubt changes you for the better, no matter how many summers you spent there. It allows you to become the true version of yourself in the most sublime setting on Earth. An opportunity to inspire children, travel the world and make the best friends you could ever imagine whilst having the most fun you’ve ever had. I could promote Camp America 24 hours a day, because it is a programme that has the opportunity to completely change your life. Because of Camp America, I’m now travelling the world solo and feel completely confident doing so. I have gained so many new skills and have thrown myself into so many crazy experiences that I never thought I’d be able to do. Life is too short not to grab an adventure like no other, and come out ten times happier and crazier than you were before. This world is meant to be explored, right? So get out there and learn more about this wonderful globe than school could ever teach you.
You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.