Jacinta knew that camp was the right place for her, so much so that she is going back to Camp Sloane YMCA for her fifth year in a row! Read her story below…
I wanted an opportunity where I could be completely immersed in American culture, and experience something completely different from my life at home. I always liked kids, I’d always dreamed about travelling America, I wanted to travel solo and so camp seemed to provide the perfect blend of all that.
The process took me a little longer than I anticipated. I applied in November and wasn’t hired until April. I had interviews with a couple of different camps before I was hired at Camp Sloane YMCA. The biggest struggle for me was not being in confident in viewing my hobbies and interests as potential work skills. I was a passionate water skier and hadn’t even considered listing in on my application – which is what I was eventually hired to teach all summer.
The camp I went to was Camp Sloane YMCA. It is a Coed sleep away camp for girls and boys aged from 6 – 18 years. It’s based in Connecticut on the east coast of America, just 2 hours north of New York City. Being apart of a YMCA camp was incredible because it’s a worldwide organisation, meaning there are opportunities and connections outside of your local camp community. I was lucky enough to go volunteering at a YMCA camp on a Native American Reservation with some of the campers last summer!
The camp is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been (and yes I’m completely biased). It’s 270 acres and includes a lake, horse paddocks, athletics fields, arts and craft area’s, as well as trails and camping sites out in the woods. Camp Sloane is a tent based camp, so we lived in platform tents with bunk beds for the duration of the camp. Seeing the stars every night right before bed was one of my favourite aspects of camp life. My camp was set at the bottom of the Berkshire Mountains, so at the top of camp you have a view of the mountains, whilst at the bottom of the camp is the gorgeous lake. One of my favourite views in the world was when I was canoeing along the misty lake during a 6 am sunrise.
I worked with a lot of people at camp, and everyone truly brings something unique to the camp world. I think the best thing about camp is that all those qualities that are deemed ‘quirky’ in the real world are what make you cool and fun at camp. I think there is a misconception that everyone at camp needs to be energetic and loud, but some of the most successful counsellors and some of my best friends are the most calming and grounding people to be around.
That’s the best thing about camp is that every day is truly different. Camp is a structured place however and the best way to think about is that it runs very similar to a schedule at school. The distinction is that every hour at camp is packed with activities to make you laugh, smile, get outside your comfort zone, and reflect. Like many schools, my camp had 7 periods a day. 3 periods were elective activities that were all about learning new skills. The campers attended their elective for the duration of a week. Singing, soccer, swimming, waterskiing – there is always lots to choose from. As a counsellor, I was responsible for teaching water-skiing for those 3 periods each day. Two periods of camp are called tent bonding time and that is all about spending time with your tent – canoeing, campfires or karaoke battles, free swim. Tent bonding time is all about getting to know the campers in your tent in a more relaxed environment. The final two periods of camp are rest time. With so much going on, we take an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to shower, unwind, read, write letters home and just have some downtime out of the sun.
My Happy Place – The lake. There is something so wonderfully magical about living next to a lake for 3 months. There was something so serene, peaceful and fun about spending time near Lake Wononpakook. Whether it was waking up early with my fellow counsellors to go canoeing at sunrise, going banana boating with your campers, having a campfire with smores overlooking the lake or the immense relief it provides when you jump in fully clothed at 1 pm on a scorching hot summers day.
When you go to camp it is about the people. It’s about being a role model for the campers, and then realising that there are actually 100 things you can learn from spending 2 weeks living in a tent with 8 eleven-year-olds. It’s about the friends that you only spend 2 months within the summer, and yet they know you better than the ones you spent 7 years of high school with. I’ve travelled to Thailand with one friend, to the Dominican Republic with a group of others, I’ve done countless American road trips and now most recently I’ve moved from Australia to Ireland with others!
I’ve returned to camp four consecutive years and I’m heading back for my 5th summer in 2020. Every year something different has persuaded me to return to camp. A big factor is the people – both the staff and the campers. Some of my closest friends are from camp and those 3 months we spend together are memories we’ll always treasure. As we come from all over the world, the camp is like our international home base and it provides us with the chance to all be in one country together. I’ve also loved the opportunity to see the campers grow and develop in their own way, moving into older villages, becoming leadership skills and even being on staff with some of them! Another aspect is the immense professional growth camp has given me. I’ve had the opportunity to move into different positions, step outside my comfort zone and develop so many professional skills, that I’ve carried into other positions outside the camp world.
I think camp truly allowed me to be the most authentic and best version of myself. Camp has made me a more confident and independent, and ultimately a more self-assured person that I want to be. Each time another summer comes to an end, I am happier about the person I am at the end of it.
Camp has also impacted so many major life decisions I’ve made. I went back to University and studied a post-graduate in Outdoor Education, I’ve worked in the travel industry and I’ve ended up living in 3 different countries across the past 3 years and I know that without going to camp, none of these things would have been possible.
If you loved Jacinta’s camp story and want to head to Camp USA this summer, check out our website here to get more information!