Thanks for the great story Lauren!
This is a story of how working at a summer camp can change your attitudes and aspirations. I’m from the UK and when I was 18 years old I had, like everyone, big decisions to make. I knew, and had done as long as I could remember, that I wanted to go to university but with a long summer ahead of me, before the big move, I didn’t want it to go to waste. At my Sixth Form College I’d heard about Camp America opportunities and as quite an active/outdoorsy person, it sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I successfully applied, interviewed in the UK and gained a position as a camp counselor at a girl scout camp in Ohio, where I spent 3 months. But this is not the story of my summer camp experience, but about the confidence the experience gave me.
I wasn’t a very shy person, but I wasn’t particularly outgoing either. I was very nervous when I first travelled to America and started working, as although I had done the research, I still didn’t know what to expect. But the children were great. As a general camp counselor I was responsible for looking after the children, guaranteeing their wellbeing and making sure that they enjoyed themselves. The whole experience significantly improved my interpersonal and public speaking skills and massively improved my self confidence and comfortableness to live away from home. After camp, as most foreign camp workers, I used my extra one month Visa to travel in the USA. As the end drew closer I knew I had to use my new found independence and although it was never something I had considered before, I decided to take a gap year and defer my university entry.
I decided to travel and to fund that travel by teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) abroad. I had always hated public speaking at school. The thought of standing up, alone, it front of the class was something that kept me awake at night for weeks before the event. But at Camp America I was thrown into having to address large groups of children and moreover to lead those groups. I quickly got used to the role, started preparing less and less and found that I could comfortably stand up and improvise. This made me confident that I could teach a classroom full of learners.
I had always been a bit of a home bird. I had chosen a university that was going to be only a short commute from home and I always liked to be close to my family. Living away at Camp America, in such a supportive and comfortable environment, made me find something in myself that I didn´t think I had. It was, of course, difficult at times, but it made me realize that I could be away from home. This experience gave me that confidence to travel and live abroad. I chose a TEFL class on my return to become certified to teach English and then I chose to live, teach and travel in Thailand on a one year contact, something that previously I would have never considered.
Camp America was not only a way to fill a summer and have fun in the sun, it made me change my attitudes and aspirations. I am now in Thailand with three months to go and it has truly been another great experience, one that I can only owe to Camp America.