WEP Italia Camp Counselor – The experience of a lifetime

When summer 2018 ended, I always said to myself “I want to make the most out of next years summer and do something different from what I’ve always usually done”. I then began to think of what I could possibly do; what would really interest me and benefit my career as well? Inter-railing seeing as all my friends have done it (near enough all of them)? Get a full-time job and make money that will go towards getting my first car, not to mention that it’ll help with my CV accreditation as well? Both ideas seemed great at first, but I wanted the good life; to get both sides of the deal, travelling and developing my career. My older brother Tony gave his thoughts on the situation and said to me “why not do CAMP Italy with me this year? 2 weeks of teaching and travelling around Italy, It’s a win-win situation for you!” So, I did, Tony and I went to Bardonecchia in the north west of Italy, 30 miles west of Torino to teach Italian children aged between 7 and 14 how to speak, understand and improve their English. 

We started our official first day as camp counselors on 8th July meaning we’d have a day to prepare ourselves for the teaching methods, which counselors would get what students to teach and rules and safety operations for the kids. So, the night before I got stuck into my first ever teaching experience, I could not sleep; the thoughts going through my mind of messing up and the sheer pressure I was putting myself under to give these kids the best possible experience of their summer camp. At times during that night I was questioning myself saying “what the hell am I doing here? This is already too much for me!” even though the camp coordinators (Ester, Lucila and Jasmine) explained everything brilliantly and always had their door open for everyone, I still couldn’t quite get to grips of the whole idea of me being a teacher; Unease and unrest to say the very least. Next thing I knew it was morning and time to take a 3-and-a-half-hour lesson for the intermediate class.

First 20 minutes or so into the lesson were a disaster I thought personally. I started the introduction for the class by saying the usual stuff, my name is…, I’m from… etc. and then asked the children to tell me their name and a fact about them in English. Big mistake! These kids barely knew how to say hello my name is … in English never tell me a few facts about themselves. Luckily, however, Diana (another counselor) came into the lesson and set the tone for the rest of lesson. She understood the best way to teach kids learning and developing another language; kinesthetically. It was like a huge mystery for me but then I saw the correct manner to approach this lesson; by bringing energy to the lesson, act out the word I was describing and take my time, I had to remember that I wasn’t talking to my mates back home over here.

As the days continued during the week, the more comfortable I felt teaching Federico, Alessandro, Sofia, Danielle and Flamine. I felt good for myself and more importantly for the kids’ education and their summer experience; that they were getting better teaching standards for something that is brilliant, and quite popular, to have for an Italian kid (2nd language). Within 2 or 3 lessons, their confidence improved, their grammar and pronunciation skills were correct, and they had more enthusiasm to engage more with questions I had asked them, making me feel really proud, as if to say I had taught them well.

I will always be grateful for WEP Italia giving me this fantastic opportunity to advance my teaching experience, but I will also always be thankful for them allowing Tony and I to travel around both Italy and southern France during our 2 weeks teaching abroad. During the 14 nights in the great weather, we visited the Italian cities Rome, Torino and Milan and as for southern France we took a very quick day trip to Cannes, Monaco and Nice, Yes, all in 1 day! We were exhausted travelling back to Bardonecchia, but you have to seize the moment when it presents itself to you and we made sure we did. Seeing the Alps, the Colosseum, and the Monaco scenery were some of the highlights of the trip. These were places I never thought I’d ever see, places that I always wanted to see, yet I I’ll never forget those views I saw, ever!

A Picture of both Tony and I after playing a crazy football match with Christian Camp, another summer teaching camp based in Bardonecchia. This is solely because when the town held the winter Olympics in 2006 many hotels, villages and hostels etc. had to be created to hold all the competitors, media and fans and ever since then, Bardonecchia has been home for Italian summer camps. The story behind us playing together is quite something. Our WEP students were playing a game and I was sitting down embracing the view of the forest park in the alps and then someone, whom I hadn’t saw before or were able to say I recognized him sat beside me on the huge log. We then got talking and next thing I saw were a few of his pupils, from his camp, coming over to sit down with us as well. Next thing I knew at least 20 pupils were crowding us! I felt like I was a celebrity… for 15 minutes at least; good while it lasted. And from there, they suggested we played a match, we did, they won sadly but that was the least important thing to get worked up about! 2 teaching camps came together and created a memory that all involved will never forget! Some things just write themselves.  

This entire experience, from start to finish, was scary, exciting, nerve-wrecking, funny and just pure brilliant. I would highly recommend doing a summer camp for any need and anywhere; it’s a great chance to make new memories, new friends and actual learn more about yourself. But most importantly, yet rewarding, you will be helping children, teenagers and kids from all parts of the country or Europe etc. gain a new lifetime skill and experience. Surely, I don’t need to say anymore after that do I?

Connlaóth McSherry is a final year Bsc Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: Twitter – @ConMcS and LinkedIn – Connlaóth McSherry

A Stateside Summer

A Stateside Summer

Home for the next 14 weeks…

Wow! Where do I even begin to describe the BEST summer of my entire life? Well…

The 8th June, 2018 at Dublin Airport <DUB>. The day I left all my friends and family behind for 14 weeks to go and work at a summer camp, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Saying goodbye to my family!(my dad and brother trying not to cry was so cute!)

After a 6 hour flight, I touched down at Logan International Airport, Boston <BOS>.  A couple of hours of waiting around later, the Camp Assistant Directors, Vicky and Kevin came to collect me and a few (equally as nervous) camp-goers. Little did I know, within weeks, these people would become some of my best friends in the world!

A 90 minute bus journey later, and I had arrived at a place I now called home, Camp Burgess and Hayward,  in a small town called Sandwich (lol yes, i know), Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was greeted by about 10 or so people, who arrived at camp before me (one of them being my best friend Jessie – who i’ll talk about later!). Everyone was immediately so so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t believe it! First thing was first though…SLEEP! I could feel the jet lag starting to kick in already. The Camp Director, Allie, brought me and another girl, Megan, from Liverpool to our room where we would be staying the ENTIRE summer as ROOMIES!

Where it all began…

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This is the van – my baby for 3 months! Fun fact: in this picture the van was stuck in sand for 6 hours, where we had to be rescued by the local police and then be threatened with a $1000 fine for it to be towed!!!! Luckily enough the tow-truck man loved my accent so let us off for free!

So basically, it’s a funny story how this whole trip came about. I initially never really had much interest or knowledge about the whole ‘Camp America’ thing, but my friend Jessie (who I mentioned before) had applied and was offered a job as a Horseback Director in January, at Camp Burgess and Hayward. She told me that she had got placed and I was over the moon for her, but also envious that I still had no plans for the summer.

Anyway, a few months passed, and in April, Jessie mentioned that the camp was still advertising for people to come and help out for the summer, and that they needed people to be van drivers. As soon as she told me I couldn’t have emailed the Camp Director, Allie any quicker. A whole 3 months at a summer camp, with my best friend, driving around in a van?! SO much fun, I couldn’t say no!

Allie (who was the BEST BOSS EVER) emailed me back and we arranged a phone interview. The interview consisted of questions about my driving abilities where I completely lied and said I had drove 1) an automatic before, 2) a van before and 3) on the other side of the road before. Thankfully Allie trusted me enough to give me the job!

So there it was – I was officially going Stateside for the summer, with 2 months to save up enough money to last me 14 weeks and to fill out enough paperwork to last me a LIFETIME.

A day in the life…

Every single day at camp was so different. There was a general schedule which we followed every day, but what happened within that day just depended. Each morning at 7.50am we would have ‘flagpole’. This was a fun way to start the day where a member of staff would stand up and do something to help wake everyone up, like teach everyone a dance or do some stretches. We then raised the flag and said the Pledge (so American, I know!)

We would then go to the dining hall for breakfast, which was usually something like pancakes or waffles (believe me, after eating the same food every day for 3 months you start to get sick of it). Although the food was always amazing and the kitchen staff worked so hard to cater for almost 400 people a day!

As one of my duties as Resource Specialist (the scientific name for van driver), I would do a run into the local town, Hyannis, which was about 20 minutes away, at 10am, where people would spend their days off. After that, I would usually have somGA3e wee jobs to do  in the morning time, like collect things for camp or do the daily Dunkin’ Donuts run!

Whenever I didn’t have any van related jobs, I would spend my time at the waterfront, playing on the water trampoline, over at horseback with the 12 gorgeous horses we had (Elsa was my favourite) or playing on the slip ‘n’ slide. Yes I know, my summer job was SO DIFFICULT AND BORING!!

Lunch and dinner time in the dining hall was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Everybody gets up and sings at the top of their lungs, standing up on chairs and dancing around the place like crazy people! At the beginning it is so daunting, because everybody knows each other so well from previous years at camp, and being the new ‘international’, you feel so shy and awkward, but after a few times, you soon start to learn all the words and become just as crazy as the rest!

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This was the big bags of paint that we separated into small buckets. My hands were stained green for DAYS!

At camp, one of the big events was the colour run. This was one of my highlights of camp. The run was 5k around the camp property, and all the kids and staff took part. Hundreds of dollars worth of powered paint was ordered in, there was inflatables, waterguns, a popcorn stand and speakers blasting music all day. The atmosphere was literally unbelievable! It was a day i’ll never forget.

The grand finale of camp was our 2 day long colour war, M&P (Mariners and Pioneers). The Mariners are the blue team, and the Pioneers are the red team. The neutral team in the middle was purple (the team I was on).I can’t put into words how seriously this colour war is taken. Looking back it’s funny because it’s only a colour war at a summer camp, but people get so competitive. There literally was blood, sweat and tears over the course of the 2 days.

The Pionners won this year, and the moment it was announced, the whole camp ERUPTED! It was such an amazing way to end the best 3 months of my life.

After camp ended, me, Jessie and Megan did some travelling for 2 weeks. We went to Boston, New York and New Orleans. Safe to say it was a crazy whirlwind of events. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, here I am, a month and a half now i’ve been home. In final year and working 35 hours a week. The joys!! Roll on next June when I can return to the second place I like to call home!

G x

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Grainne Arkins is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: @GrainneArkins

 

Fancy an American Adventure?

One my more recent spontaneous decisions that I made was to apply to work at a summer camp in America. It was not something I had ever considered doing but one day at the beginning of May I decided it was what I wanted to do with my summer. Obviously with it being so late on in the year to be applying and with it being so close to the camps beginning for the summer, I had limited choice on how to go through the application process. I couldn’t go through the more well known agencies such as ‘Camp America’ and ‘Americamp’ as their applications had closed for 2017 but I managed to find a company called ‘BUNAC’ who I was able to apply through. I couldn’t have asked for a better service so would highly recommend them to anyone considering camp!

Within the next month I got my visa and found out I would be Lake Staff at Indian and Forest Acres Camp in Fryeburg, Maine. I jetted off to Boston on the 7th of June to begin my adventure! The first two weeks involved setting everything up, being trained, familiarising ourselves with the camps traditions and getting to know eachother before the children arrived. Throughout these induction weeks the Lovewell (lake) staff got to go to the lake everyday and do all the watersports ourselves. On the final day before the kids arrived we carried out a tradition that apparently happens every year. We rented 30 canoes (three people to a canoe) and used our life jackets to tie them all together and spent the day floating down the Saco River, stopping at numerous beaches on the way. We were prepared and developed a systematic approach to the drinking strategy for the day. 20% water, 80% bevs.RR13

Once the kids arrived they were assigned their cabin and the counsellors found out who we would be living with. Our job as counsellors was to essentially play the role of parents to the children for the next seven weeks. The age range at camp was 7-16 and I was placed in the junior unit so the girls in my cabin were among the youngest. It’s so strange how you can develop such a close bond with people you have never met and I can honestly say I felt like the girls were my children for the summer.

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Indian and Forest Acres is a very old camp, coming into its 95th year, which naturally means it is full of traditions. I thought some of these traditions were odd at first but by the end of the summer I had fully come to appreciate them. The links below give a taste of what life was like at camp.

https://vimeo.com/226311311                                                 https://vimeo.com/229915789

On a typical day my routine would be to go to the lake in the morning, drive the boats whilst teaching the children how to water-ski and wakeboard. We would go back for lunch and then in the afternoon we would be teaching the kids how to sail, kayaking and paddle board.

RR15I had no travel plans for after camp before going but my flight home was three weeks after camp had ended. The friendship group that I had made decided to plan a road trip down the east coast.RR16

We started off in Boston, Massachusetts, making our way down to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania then on to Washington D.C. After this we went to Miami, Florida. We then started to make our way back up North to Wayne, New Jersey, stopping off at Orlando for some fun at Universal Studios, eventually ending up in New York City to finish our trip.RR17

 

I cannot recommend considering going to America to work at a summer camp enough! It was such an amazing experience and as cliché as it sounds, you really do make friends for life!

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Rebecca Reid is a Final Year Communication Management and Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @Rebecca12reid and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-reid-64b580153/