This summer commemorates a year since I moved out of my second-year house, frantically packed a case of clothes which I had no idea would be useless and hopped on a plane full of strangers to North Carolina. Sounds a little crazy and a little random, right? That just about encapsulates Camp America in a nutshell.
Now here for my second summer at Blue Star Camps – an unorthodox Jewish Camp in North Carolina – I’m taking the first ten minutes to myself in about a week. It seems a little too peaceful, a little too uneventful – it’s giving me chance to actually sit here and ask myself ‘what the hell am I doing back?’
Camp is a strange place. It will transform you into the cheesiest person possible, it will test your patience like no other job will and it will also present you with countless opportunities to grow as a person. Does it have its rough moments? Yes. Do you have to fake it ‘til you make it? Sometimes. Do I regret any of it? Not a single moment.
If you’re wondering what Camp is like, my best advice is to watch the film Parent Trap. Think swimming in the lake, campfire s’mores and making up countless dramatic handshakes with campmates. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s a chance to make a connection with kids who need a role model; to mingle with people from all over the world and all walks of life; to prove to yourself you can handle any adversity thrown your way.
This year I’m working in a leadership role rather than as a counsellor, meaning I oversee ten staff as well as checking in with sixty-four children in my unit! There have been moments where I’ve doubted myself with this level of responsibility – after all, ensuring nearly seventy people are simultaneously coping with the stresses of a Camp environment can be challenging. That said, I’m into my fourth week now and feel I’m getting into my groove. The secret? Confidence. And a smile – that always goes a long way.
I encourage anyone who wants a fun, special summer away from academic work to sign up. My reasons last year were varied – I was lacking confidence, was desperate to meet new people and also wanted the chance to travel around America after. Camp gives you all that. Last year I stayed with my co-counsellor in Florida along with many of the other staff and they even organised a surprise in New York for my twenty-first in December. No ocean will deter us from reuniting!
I often get asked what my favourite part of Camp is. A special day like ‘Colour War’? Trips off camp to theme parks? Organising fun evening programs for twelve-year olds? It’s all of these – but my best memories are always the small, everyday moments. The times when my staff manage to make me wheeze with laughter within seconds. When I look up from my list of jobs and am greeted by a surreal canvas of green and blue and smiling faces. Or when I catch campers writing in my travel diary only to realise they’re writing: ‘You’ve made a lasting impact on me for the better.’
This may just be the naffest article you ever read. I may look back on this article in 6 weeks when I leave this second home and cringe my heart out. But I also know the moment I step foot off this place, I’ll want to be back. After all, I’ve not only met my best friends here, but also my family. For that, I’ll forever be grateful.