I spent summer 2017 away at camp in America. It was the most terrifying and exciting 3 months of my life as far. Oh, I have so many stories to share but I will narrow it down to the main points. Not only did I get to travel outside of Europe, I also met lots of new people and spent 3 months camping out in nature. Exciting right!. This was the perfect time as well. I had just finished my second year at university, so I definitely needed the change.
I got the acceptance letter around end of May 2017 that I would be a counselor at Camp Mendocino- which is in San Francisco. It was now real. I knew there was no turning back. It was going to happen. I was going to Camp! I was going to America! Let the excitement begin. As you would imagine, I began on my to-do packing list. I had a guideline on what to bring but ultimately, I had to use my better judgement. After all, I would away from home for 3 months and I needed enough clothing as well as comfort food.
Being an introvert, this was definitely so much out of my comfort zone. 2 days left and I was all ready. Luggage packed and tickets booked, definitely no turning back at that point. I was rushing to have all my assignments checked and completed since I would have no internet out at camp.
One week before flying out and I was panicking and playing out all the different scenarios of what could go wrong. My luggage could get lost, the plane could crush (that one was a bit on the extreme side), what if no one wants to be my friend, what if I get seriously ill among others. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I found other people heading to Camp, all wearing Camp America T-shirts. In that moment, I realised that I was not going to be alone and that everything would be ok. I also reminded myself several times on the plane that if I didn’t like camp, I could always fly back home, however costly it would be.
ARRIVAL IN AMERICA:
I landed at San Francisco International Airport around evening time and being my first time in the country, I did not know what to make of it. I was more eager to get to camp and figure out how I will survive the next 3 months. Outside the airport was a van waiting for all camp Mendocino counselors. So as a bonus,I didn’t need to find my own transport. We were taken to the camp clubhouse where we would spend the night before heading off to camp in the morning. I met a few other counselor from the UK and we spent most of the evening walking around San Francisco looking for food and being tourists.
ARRIVAL TO CAMP:
The next morning we boarded the van and headed to camp. Camp Mendocino is located in the beautiful redwoods of Mendocino County- Fort Bragg. All camp staff including counselors had to be at camp 2 weeks early for orientation. Upon arrival at camp, we were allocated a cabin with at least 4-5 other counselors for the duration of the 2 weeks. During this time, we got to know one another. We played camp songs and games, ready for the campers.
Once the campers arrived, it was 2 counselors per cabin/tee-pee’s and about 8 children in each. I was put with the youngest group- the Otters (7-10). They were also other groups, each age specific. The first couple of days were the toughest for me, even though the children had not arrived yet, I was ready to pack my bags and return home. However, I knew this was to be expected so I stuck it out.
Once Orientation was finished, we got ready for the campers. We had volunteer counselors who would leave the night before and head into the city, to act as supervisors on the buses that would bring the campers. The rest of us, would rest and just wait for the day ahead. The first round of campers arrived, and that’s when I knew my summer had started.
My main job at camp was to help the campers have a good summer away from home. I was expected to help my campers wake up and guide them to breakfast, lunch and dinner every day as well as bonding with them, helping them choose what options they wanted for the day. I would often try and encourage them to try a variety of new things. But a lot of them would choose the same thing each day or just follow what their friends are doing. I also often took part in the activities.
Over the 9-10 weeks at camp, as counselors we would have 2 days off in the week where we could do what we wanted. We would have a short break before the next round of campers. Consequently, we went to town, or to the beach (if someone else was going) or just staying at camp and basically relaxing under the trees on a hot day. On one of my day off, my friends and I went to Fort Bragg town and had our nails down, and just spent the day out enjoying ourselves. I always looked forward to these days off.
When camp ended, I did some travelling. I went to San Francisco, Chicago (to see family) as well as Atlanta where my camp friend lived. I stayed with her for a couple days. My time at camp made me a stronger, independent and braver person than I could ever have imagined. I left camp a couple of weeks early due to personal reasons but I absolutely loved my time at camp.