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Maria shares her Summer Camp Exchange USA adventure in Che-Na-Wah camp with BUNAC, and gives us an insight into what it is actually like working (and playing) in a traditional American summer camp.
I arrived at Heathrow, excited and nervous about the 10 weeks ahead of me, and keen to find the other BUNACers heading to my camp. I needn’t have worried; they all found me – well, I was a bit hard to miss in my teal BUNAC t-shirt! I collected Emilia and Emma coming to my camp, and a number of others we thought were going to other camps, such as Emilia going to a camp “near Vermont”, so quite a way from my camp. A good hour of chatting later, and something came up that made us realise that Emilia was coming to camp Che-Na-Wah as well! Upper State New York needs to get itself some cities as reference points!
A lot of travelling later and we arrived at camp, and were shown to our bunks. The view from mine, the awesome bunk 4, could not have been more stunning.
It rained, for literally the whole of orientation week. I remember thinking I would need to get some more jogging bottoms and wellies …wait, “sweat pants” and “rain boots”. But when the girls finally arrived, they brought the sunshine with them. I had five lovely 9-year old first-time campers, who owned so much stuff; once they unpacked the bunk was transformed into a sea of pink/purple/tie-dye/glitter, with posters of Justin Bieber everywhere. Yep you just had to learn to love him; after all, you would be seeing the wonderful JB wherever you went in bunk 4, even when you sat on the loo.
I was a pioneering counsellor, but no that didn’t mean lashing wooden poles together for 7 weeks; I was trained how to belay campers on the climbing wall and high ropes course, and I was trained in first aid so that I could take campers on hikes in the beautiful Adirondack mountains, and I was trained ..well, no actually I wasn’t trained at all in how to light campfires, that was just assumed knowledge, so like 10 minutes before they wanted a smores party, the head counsellors would ask me to make a fire. No pressure!
Belaying was a lot of fun, when it went right. Cheering on the campers was great, as they conquered their fears of heights and made it to the top of the tower or across the high ropes or down the zip line. And there was a giant’s ladder section on the tower, where they could work in pairs to get to the top together, so we got to see super-cute team work! But a few times we had the terrifying task of rescuing ropes that we accidentally dropped – it happened to me right at the start of camp, and I had to climb to the very top of the high ropes course, my nose in line with the highest cable, to sort it out. Character building, I think they call it.
There were a lot of highlights at camp. For example, they had a tradition of ‘honouring’ people who had done something special each day, and I was honoured one time by my bunk, who chanted together: ‘We would like to honour Maria Tubbs for teaching us about England!”. So cute :)
I also got to try skiing in my free time. When I told my mum about this later, she asked where the snow was. No, not that kind of skiing …water-skiing of course! Yeah I found it weird to begin with that they called it skiing, but after a summer of it I just got used to skiing being waterskiing and thought nothing of it! It was so much fun; on my 7th attempt I managed to stand up and do a lap round the lake, woop!
I loved having such young campers, they were so enthusiastic about everything …to the extent that yes they even enjoyed sweeping out the cabin. And pretty much every mealtime they would have persuaded one of the other bunks to start a song going with us across the dining room. You’d just be casually eating your pasta and salad, when you’d hear “HEY BUNK FOUUUURRR!!” You have to reply “HEYYY WHAAAAAAT?” It doesn’t stop there: “DO, THE FREAKOUT!!” “The WHAT?” “THE FREAKOUT!!” By this point, you have to be standing on your chair, with your hands in the air ready to dance about for the finale: “WE ARE FREAKING OUT, WE ARE FREAKING OUT, WOOP!” It sounds humiliating, but it was actually a lot of fun!
Leaving camp was inevitably a sad day, as you get really attached to everyone for the 7 weeks you’re together. But realistically, I’d got a lot out of being there, I’d had a great time, and I was ready to leave.
My boyfriend flew out to meet me in New York after camp, and we saw all the sights in New York, Washington DC and Harper’s Ferry together, which was lovely and a perfect end to my summer camp experience. And after some weather disruptions to flights back to the UK, I finally returned home and ready to tell everyone who was willing to listen all about my awesome summer!
Do you want to start your awesome summer? If you have experience working with children sign up to our Summer Camp Exchange USA programme and inspire future campers and make ever-lasting memories! Call us today to see if you meet the requirements 03339997516.