After finishing my first year of uni, I left my family, friends and boyfriend and headed off to Massachusetts to spend a summer looking after a bunch of kids between the ages of 7-18 at a summer camp.
Of course, it didn't just happen spontaneously. I signed up for the program in late November, after feeling the pull of wanderlust whilst studying for exams. I had just started my degree in American Studies and was desperate for my year abroad to happen. The idea of spending a summer at camp, and in America, and being paid a small amount for it sounded great! After signing up I was invited for an interview in my nearest big town Birmingham. The interview was fairly informal and I got told straight away that I would be through to the next round. My interviewer processed my information and I was on the system, waiting for a camp to select me. After paitently waiting a few weeks and hearing nothing, me being me started to worry. Was I going to get picked? Would I be going to America? After days of worrying I chose to sign up to go down to the London Camp America Fair, where hundreds of camps showed up to directly recruit hopefuls on the spot.
When we got there, the queues were round the corner, making you realise how many people were in the same position as you and also fighting for your job. When I got into the fair I straight away started to search out camps that had a performing arts focus. I was convinced that I would be teaching drama or singing that summer. After realising the stiff competition for these camps, I started to broaden my search. Which is when I came across my camp, with only one other person at the stand, asking for sailing instructors. Although I had put my sailing experience on my Camp America profile, it was hardly anything I though could get me a job. It turned out I was wrong. After a quick interview, I was offered the job and had secured my place at a camp in Massachusetts for the summer. Walking out of the venue and being able to tell my family that I was flying into Boston in June was such a great feeling and I couldn't wait to get there.
The closer I got to the date of leaving, the less enthusiastic I was about going. I had a tough time convincing my boyfriend at the time to be happy with my decision and was left feeling guilty about how I chose to spend my summer. Needless to say, we broke up soon after I came back from camp. Therefore my trip to Heathrow was a sad occasion for me... until I met my two other camp mates. We all met at departures and before we had even gone through security, we were already friends. We were all three going to be working together on the sailing beach throughout the summer and by the time we touched down in Boston we were firm friends. I had left the guilt far behind at the departure gate.
My first night at camp was a surreal one. We were shown to our platform tents and with it being past midnight, quickly laid out our sleeping bags to get some sleep. I was too tired to even care about the spiders in my tent or the animals in the forest. The next night allowed me to appreciate the setting I was in and I had to get a fellow camper to use a flip flop to push the spiders off the side of the tent closest to me! Going to camp makes you less scared of bugs for sure, by August I was calm and collected when I woke up to the view of my little spider family.
Me and my fellow three Brits arrived at camp a week early to get motor boat training and sailing training. By the time the rest of our counselors had arrived, I was already accustomed to camp life and I think I shocked them with my enthusiasm! We all had camp names at the camp I worked at and I spent hours thinking of what my name was going to be. After a clumsy moment at my student digs in Swansea, a friend referred to me a Luna. From there the name stuck in my head and is what I went for at camp. Some other names, all with stories attached from other counsellors were, Prime, M&M, Sharky, Hype, Maize and Luff.
Over the weeks there were so many incidents and stories that are always retold when I see friends from camp, but it's safe to say I was so happy there. There's something about living in the outdoors that is refreshing and exhilarating and I loved the daily challenges with the children. Even though they were sometimes the worst!
On our weekends off we travelled all over the area of Massachusetts we were staying in and I eagerly waited for each weekend to come so we could travel more.
My days at camp consisted of:
7.00am - waking up
7.30am - waking the kids up
7.50am -attending flag pole
8.00 am - eating my weight in yogurt at breakfast
8.30am - teaching sailing, relaxing on the beach watching the kids swim, archery, biking, kayaking and other activities.
12.00 pm - eating my bodyweight in lunch
12.30pm - singing songs in the dining room
1.00pm - more activities
6.00pm - eating my bodyweight in any food I could get my hands on because I had worked so hard watching the kids exercise all day
7.00pm - night hikes, themed nights, quiet activities.
9.00pm - get the kids ready for bed and secretly eat any snacks us counsellors could find
9.00pm - go to bed, there was never a night when I wouldn't fall asleep straight away.
Since my camp was very small; about 30 staff and 100 kids each week; we were able to plan the activities for the children and therefore had ultimate control of our week.
Be warned though, camp, although being an active place, can make you gain weight; well actually just being greedy makes you gain weight and that's what happened when I was at camp. I myself did little exercise throughout the day, but watched the kids do exercise instead. By the time it came to meals, I was sure I had burned as many calories as they had. I later found out I was very wrong.
When the end of camp drawed near, it was such a sad moment. I had spent a little over two months at camp, but it seemed like so much longer, we packed in so many adventures in two months. With my backpack re-filled with memorabilia of the summer, I left camp to go on a week's travel around three major cities before heading back to the UK. I went with two girls, one of whom I had quickly become best friends with at camp, and another who after travelling for a week with, I became just as close to. But I'll save those stories for another time.
If you are considering signing up for Camp America or any other camp recruitment service, I would 100% recommend it. It taught me to be stronger, better and more resilient than anything else has and I made some of the best experiences along the way. I will always have a soft spot for my camp and for all my fellow counsellors that came along for the ride. Camp America will change you, but always for the better.
Find more information on Camp America and the experience here : https://www.campamerica.co.uk/