As I emerged through the doors of the arrivals area of BWI
airport, I was greeted by a large helium “welcome” balloon and the faces of my
two best friends, who I hadn’t seen in a year. This event is the direct result
of my application 2 years ago to BUNAC’s Summer Camp USA program. Within twelve
hours of leaving the airport I was back home; Camp Louise, a camp for girls in
the Blue Ridge Mountains in Maryland.
Working at a summer camp is one of those experiences you can’t truly understand
until you are there. The overriding feeling is that of family; when you live
and work at a summer camp it becomes your home, whilst those around you become
your family. Everyone is so close at camp, it’s a truly unique place to work.
The best place.
My first few days at camp are always a bit hectic; a combination of getting the
department up and running, helping camp prepare for the arrival of the campers,
completing an intensive training course in high ropes and learning the local
caves. It’s all in a week’s work…! That’s the beauty of a job at a summer camp;
a week there is never boring.
When the campers themselves arrive the fun really begins. It’s brilliant to see
how much the campers have changed in the year that you’ve all been apart, and
to see how excited they all are to be together again in their summer home. No
one gets any sleep on the first night.
After the initial excitement, life settles into something of a pattern of
sleeping, eating, completing activities, eating and sleeping again.
Occasionally in my department, we like to throw in a day which doesn’t quite
fit the schedule, which explains why I found myself at the beginning of the
Catoctin Trail at 7am on a particularly hot morning, ready to attempt a 27 mile
hike in one day with a group of campers. This is the kind of goal which to
everyone outside the camp world seems ridiculous, but for us just makes the
summer more fun.
Days at camp become a blur of activity. One day I’ll be leading
a group of seven year olds on the high ropes course for the first time, the
next I’ll be camping out in the forests by a lake, or wading waist deep through
mud whilst exploring a new cave. The evenings get taken up with camp-wide
activities; game shows, plays, the occasional battle of the bands… And so a
second summer passed in a whirlwind of getting stuck in the mud (literally),
hiking the Appalachian Trail, rock climbing and driving on the wrong side of
Camp ended in the usual way – food and tears, with the trauma of leaving
friends made bearable by a new excitement, the American road trip. For me, this
year it was a journey up the East coast, through New York to Boston. My time
there included historical tours, sight-seeing, whale watching and (you’ve
guessed it) a lot more food. I can’t help but day dream about how happy I could
be living in this country year round.
For me, the past two summers have been the best of my life. They’ve given me
skills, experiences and friends that I will remember and love forever. I’m
already counting down the weeks until I get back on that plane.