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'The only thing worse than being at Summer Camp is not being at Summer Camp at all.'
As we packed up our stuff and left for home, we asked each other exactly how we were going to sum up our camp experience. How do you accurately explain camp life to your friends and family at home? Rewind back ten weeks ago when we'd all just arrived in the States, our supervisor had told us exactly how we were to summarise. Before we'd even started she warned us that 'the only thing worse than being at Summer Camp was not being at Summer Camp at all.' Back then I just assumed it was some cheesy American drivel but now I completely get it. Working at a children's Summer Camp is the absolute worst but at the same time it's one of the best and most rewarding things I've ever done in my life. And here's why:
Everyday I taught dance to six classes of around 60 children, completely and utterly alone.
Talk about being thrown in the deep end right? Having never taught a class of children before in my life, the entire first week of camp was a nightmare. I was terrified. What if the kids hated me? What if what I was teaching them wasn't right? What if they wouldn't listen? Most days I was absolutely drained, both physically and mentally. Keeping up with that many 7-17 year old kids was actually really hard work. Just making yourself heard amongst a class of sixty is hard enough let alone actually earning some of their respect. On top of that, I was continually lesson planning and choreographing dances for the kids weekly showcase. There was never a minute where I wasn't busy doing something.
On the other hand, everyday I got to teach something I love.
I'd argue that dancing has always been my number one passion, right from when I first started training aged three. After taking a break from it all whilst studying at Uni, it was the best feeling to be back working and performing in a proper studio. I also discovered my new found talent for choreographing. Creating six dances a week was challenging but to see the kids utter joy and excitement while learning and performing the routines made it all the worth while.
The days were long and the nights even longer.
After a day full of dance I'd return home to my cabin. To rest? No, don't be daft. I'd return to my cabin alongside my fellow c0-counsellor Jade (from Scotland) and our 20 kids for that week. Now when all you want to do is sleep, being squished into a cabin with 20 squealing girls is not the one. This and being entrusted with someone else's precious little darlings is actually a very daunting experience. Luckily we were given groups of girls aged 11-14, but that wasn't to say there was never any difficulties. As counsellors we had our fair share of tears, tantrums, tiffs and trouble makers to deal with. All of them thoroughly enjoyed mocking my accent too. Apparently 'it's a flash light not a torch.' One night I was even rudely awoken by a small gang of 12 years olds and attacked in my bunk with shaving foam and toothpaste, not ideal.
But we genuinely made a difference to all of our campers.
Despite some of the difficulties most of the kids were wonderful. It often felt like having 20 extra little sisters. I never thought I'd be sad to see them leave but for some I was a little tearful. (For a few though there were real tears of joy. Good riddance!) One of my favourite parts of being a counsellor though was receiving their little thank you notes and drawings. For me it was proof that I'd made a positive impact to their camp experience which felt like an amazing achievement.
We got in trouble for under-age drinking.
Perhaps the worst part of camp was being punished for partying (something I do very regularly, penalty free, at home.) One weekend a small group of us attended a house party and by this I mean a proper American house party. Red cups, huge kegs, beer pong, jelly shots, outdoor pool, slip and flip etc. We argued it was a real cultural experience. The camp director however was less than impressed. Convinced that we were going to be sent home in disgrace we were almost relieved to receive the 'small' punishment of losing a day off and a ten hour pit fluff. (For those of you who aren't familiar with this term, a pit fluff involves removing every foam cube from a five ft. gymnastics pit, airing out the cubes and then placing the cubes back into said pit.) I'm not being dramatic or anything but this was genuinely the worst ten hours of my life. And do I regret attending that party? Absolutely not.
Yet, I made a group of fabulous new friends from all across the UK and the world.
Being thrown together in the small bubble of camp life made everyone who worked there really close. This sounds super cheesy but it didn't matter where we were from or what it was that we did before, we were now all in the same position going through the exact same triumphs, trials and tribulations. For the three months I was out there these people were my friends and my family, my only network of support and that was what brought us all together. It still feels strange not seeing them all everyday. Whilst I'm grateful to finally be home, I still genuinely do miss them.