I first went to Camp Alleghany in West Virginia in 2019. Scared and shy little me had no idea about the world I was about to step into. Camp had picked up all the international counsellors at the airport and I had instantly connected and become good friends with two of the other girls from the UK. Still one of the moments I remember most was getting off the bus at camp. It was midnight, I hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours, and now I was getting onto a barge to cross a river in the dark. Certainly a surreal start!
Halfway across the river, headlights appeared and the head counsellors at camp started singing and welcoming us to camp. I had no idea what was happening and at the time was wondering what I was getting myself into. Skip forward three years (and two years of not being able to go to camp) and I couldn’t wait to step back onto that barge. Camp is my home away from home, and seeing people that I hadn't seen in three years was such an amazing feeling.
My advice: Nerves are normal, but have faith that everyone is in the same boat (or barge?!) and will be feeling exactly the same way as you. Being surrounded by people 24/7 can take a couple of days to get used to, but I can guarantee that once you’re home, you’ll be counting down the 300+ days to getting back out there.
You’ve just spent the last 12 weeks experiencing some of the best moments of your life and now you’re on an eight-hour flight home, scrolling endlessly through the pictures and videos you took of your summer.
Being at camp really makes you stick to a routine, and even though every day at camp is completely different, the make-up of the day is the same. Every morning we would get up at 7:30, have flag raising, breakfast, clean our tents for inspection, have a staff meeting and have an assembly filled with announcements and songs all before activities would start at 10am. Then you would go from activity to activity with different groups of campers before it was lunchtime at 1pm. After rest hour, it was time for another afternoon filled with activities before free swim in the river and then songs and chants filling the dining hall yet again at dinner time. You think this may sounds like a jam-packed day, but the day isn't over yet. After dinner we would have an evening activity which could be anything from campfire to Blue/Gray competitions or a counsellor talent show. Before getting ready for bed, it was always milk and cookies time and then tent time getting everyone ready for bed before doing it all again tomorrow.
Having this format for nine weeks over the summer really gets you in a proper routine. And then all off a sudden coming home, you feel a strange sense of loss as you don’t really know what to do with yourself.
My advice: Well first of all, there’s always next year. One of JENZA team here has been to camp eight times! But my advice would be to celebrate your memories instead of mourning them. Make sure you reconnect with friends and family when you get back, sharing the experience you had but also finding new fun things to fill your time with.
The friendships you make at camp are truly like no other. They become your second family because you’re spending 24 hours a day with them, seven days a week for nine weeks! The bonds you create are a special type of friendship and I would truly say the people I met at camp are some of the people I am closest with - even if I have only known them for nine weeks.
Working at a summer camp really is the hardest job you will ever love, and you truly rely on the people beside you to get you through the hard days.
I think getting to go back to camp a second time really made me appreciate it more and I thought I couldn’t love camp any more than I did the first time. I think the more you go back to this place, the more it means to you and the friendships you make just become stronger.
My advice: Coming home from camp will feel like a bit like you’re missing a part of you. But the best thing about friends from camp is that you’ve been through everything together, so that bond is unbreakable – its crosses timezones and oceans. So those friends will always be there for you when you need them. The second best thing about camp, is that you meet people from all over the world, so essentially you have a sofa to sleep on in every continent!
"You’ve just spent the last 12 weeks experiencing some of the best moments of your life and now you’re on an eight-hour flight home"
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