Last summer I went on a two month trip to America to lead a children’s summer camp in Malibu, California. After an 11 hour flight from London to Los Angeles, I finally arrived feeling exhausted and a million miles from home! However in true American style we went straight from the airport to a fast-food restaurant (even though it was 2 a.m. in English time!)
The first week of camp was used as training for the staff. We learnt about the problems campers might have, such as home sickness and bed wetting. During this week we also did many bonding activities, the first of which was a six hour hike to the beach. As someone who usually avoids any form of exercise wherever possible, I was very nervous about doing such a long hike. Aside from having my legs scratched from walking through prickly plants, the hike was a lot easier than I expected. We arrived on the beach at about 5 o’clock, and started to cook. This was probably my favourite part of the day, as the camp fires provided us with some warmth against the wind, and we got to make s'mores! After this we spent the rest of the evening huddled up trying to stay warm and getting to know people. After a very short night’s sleep I woke up early as the sun rose, and to my horror saw swarms of sea gulls flying overhead. This was the perfect end to the day for me, as I have a massive phobia of birds! When it was finally time to leave, I got up covered in sand and couldn’t wait to get back to the luxury of camp!
Although I was relieved to be back at camp, the accommodation there was not quite as luxurious as I remembered. I had to sleep in a tent with fifteen campers and three other leaders. We also shared our tent with hundreds of spiders, a few bats, racoons and mice. One of my friends was lucky enough to wake up to find a mouse in her hair! She managed to get it away from her without waking the campers but then realised it had left her some lovely droppings behind as a present!
Whilst I was working at camp, my job was to look after the campers all day. I had to sleep in the same tent as my campers, sit with them at meal times, take them to activities, and keep them entertained throughout the day. I really enjoyed working with children, and there was never a dull moment when you were with them. We managed to convince a group of seven year olds that they needed to put moon cream on if they wanted to go swimming at night time, as otherwise they would get burnt by the moon!
I have so many amazing memories from camp several of which were during my favourite daytime activity, pool time. We would make whirlpools by holding hands and running around in circles and when we let go we got carried by the current. Another high point for me was the talent show the campers put on. They all had such funny talents, for example one boy swung a torch around his head for a few minutes as his talent and some others sang the ABC! Every night once our campers had gone to bed, we were given a few hours to spend with the other leaders; we got to do karaoke, watch films, and we even had a banquet one night!
I was shocked to discover that singing songs took up a large part of the day at camp. I can’t sing in tune to save my life, so the thought of singing songs first thing in the morning (which seemed far too early to be singing), and before and after dinner was intimidating! However for some unknown reason, I grew to love the bizarre camp songs that we sung each day like ‘D-I-S-C-O do you want to disco?’ Since I’ve been home I sometimes find myself singing a random camp song and have to stop myself before people think I’m going insane!
On my days off I got to explore some of California; I went to Santa Monica and Santa Barbara and got a feel of what it was like to live there. Doing Camp America is a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel around America. The other leaders come from all over the country and will want you to go and visit them after camp. This allows you to travel all over America for a fraction of the cost it would usually be. Some of my friends went as far as Hawaii and New York after camp! I made lifelong friends at camp who I still keep in touch with and I cannot wait to go back to America to visit them!
Although the experience did have some low points such as being woken up by animals, I am so glad I went. I got to try many new things that I would never have got a chance to do like rock climbing and horse riding. Another personal highlight was watching my campers grow and overcome their fears whilst they were on camp, which was a hugely rewarding experience. I would strongly recommend Camp America to anyone who enjoys working with children, wants to try something different and is interested in travelling in America.