On the 11th June I started a journey that to be quite honest terrified me. Camp was something I had always wanted to do, but being away from home and everyone I knew for 9 weeks wasn’t as appealing. Yet here I was at Heathrow sat with 3 girls I had met just moments earlier about to board a plane to spend 9 weeks in the woods at an all girls camp in New Hampshire.
What I knew getting on this plane was that I would be homesick. That was in inevitable. I would have fun. Also inevitable. And that I would make some incredible memories. What I hadn't quite realised was how much camp would impact me and teach me along the way.
The first 2 weeks were staff training, and I'm not going to lie they were hard. The woods was a new environment, the people were new, the food was new, the time difference was new and the beds were new. And yes, I did get homesick. But I also had some moments that were the reasons that in that first week I stayed, because yes there was a day I wished I could go home. The first week was different and new, the second became homely and exciting. I found myself people I clicked with, could laugh with and cry with. These new people started to become friends, and the woods a second home.
And then the children arrived. Placed in a cabin with the juniors and someone I already felt as comfortable as friends I had known for years I was excited. And I was right to be. The kids were loving, kind and caring. It was tiring but rewarding and my co-counsellor was a dream. Someone I clicked with instantly and hope to stay friends with for a long time. Teaching rowing seemed easy, the girls keen to learn and me keen to be surrounded by what I knew and loved. Being on the crew dock with Hannah, my new found crew friend, didn’t feel like work at all. And when i watched two girls who had never rowed before seamlessly row across the lake in a double, I felt an incredible sense of pride.
As I got into a routine, camp became more like home and my co workers became friends and family. They were there experiencing the same things, going through the same emotions and it was an incredibly supportive and loving environment that I already miss a lot. Each and every single one of the members of staff there became a friend, some became best friends.There were days off full of singing on the coach, catching up with the co workers who I now saw less and visiting different states. I strengthened friendships, worked on my tan and smiled a lot. The time flew by each day the kids making me smile in their own individual ways and the bags under my eyes growing bigger- yet it didn’t matter because I was so happy. We spent days in the water, on the field, playing games in the ark. Mealtimes were loud, a little crazy but full of singing and laughing. And night times became flashlight time and story telling. Camp became a world away from home, but now it wasn't as scary because I felt at home too.
Thats not to say there weren't hard days. There were plenty of them. Days where being in charge of so many children left you so exhausted you could only cry. Days where the tan was instead sunburn and heat stroke was all to real. I think I cried more than I have ever cried in front of people. But that was ok because 10 minutes later one of the kids would make you smile with a comment or a joke. And of course there were the bug bites. That spread to a rash that covered my face and legs. But hey, at least the doctors had wifi and Hannah the nurse became an incredible friend! Silver linings.
What I am trying to say was that whilst camp was a place to escape life, it became just like life. Full of smiles and tears, and inspirational people. There were amazing memories: seeing a shooting star, watching fireworks, watching the girls row, story time with my 7 year olds, days off, climbing mountains, ice-cream trips and so many more. There were the hours that made the day easier, mainly those spent on the boat teaching ski with Kaitlyn, and there were moments I never want to forget- a list of which I began to save on my phone. I learnt a lot, how to make a friendship bracelet, how to go a few days without a warm shower, and how to braid 6 girls hair in 10 minutes. I also found resilience in myself, and patience. It was a whole great learning curve in a jam packed 9 weeks of fun and friendships.
My summer at camp came to end all too soon and a large part of me wishes I could go back there straight away. The friends I made with the staff and the campers I already miss, and I cant wait to reunite with some of them soon. My time at camp showed me that surrounding yourself with the right people is the best way to find the right you. And I can only thank every single person I met along the way.
*A special thanks to the leadership team, firstly for there belief in me, and also there support over the summer. And to Hannah E, Hannah G, Emily C, Kaitlyn, Helen, Evie, Niamh, Cailigh Shiv and May, for making me smile and laugh as well as putting up with my tears when the bumps in the road came. I can’t wait to see you all again soon.*