Elizabeth had the summer of a lifetime in Iowa on the Camp USA Programme. Check out her amazing story!!!
My Camp USA experience happened quite suddenly when the last few months of Final Year approached. Wondering how I would spend my summer before starting my graduate job, I came across an advertisement for USIT’s Camp USA programme. I thought to myself ‘ Sure, I might as well put my name down and see. No harm’. You could imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from USIT almost straight away for my initial interview. Who knew that it was an application that would change my life!
After a couple of interviews on Skype, I ended up being placed in a camp in Des Moines, Iowa in a camp that specialised with individuals with special needs. I wondered if I had the necessary skills that they would need to be a good camp counsellor but with a bit of training and confidence, my worry was instantly put at ease. The only thing worrying me after that was actually arriving there, a journey with three connecting flights is the longest I’ve ever travelled and by myself made it even worse but 15 hours and a temporarily lost suitcase later, I arrived in Des Moines!
My main role at camp was a Day Camp counsellor for the campers who only stayed during the day. A typical day of singing camp songs in the morning with our group, activities like horse riding, archery, swimming (the activity every camper always loved), boating activities due to the lovely lake they had on camp and lots more! The campers I worked with were absolutely amazing individuals and the bonds I made with them throughout the summer was incredible. It’s not long before it feels like home when you get your own nickname, mine being ‘’Irish Liz’’! In the evenings we would help out with our residential campers. On Fridays before finishing for the weekend, we gathered together to discuss the week and announced the nominations for counsellor and group leader of the week.
I got to know my fellow counsellors, even more, when we all got to share our cabin in the girl’s dorm, while there was a lot of us it was always great fun, especially all of our chats in the evenings huddled up at someone else’s bunk discussing what would we do on the weekends or how our day went at camp.
For the days off, Des Moines and Ankeny had lots to offer. On our days off, we did our weekly shop for badly needed snacks from Walmart (the place where you’ll go your the biggest adventure on, roaming through the aisles), go get breakfast and/or lunch in the best American places, like IHOP, also the must have American takeaways like Wendy’s McDonalds and all the rest!
Des Moines has an amazing city to visit, from shopping malls with every shop we all know and love, baseball games, to the Iowa State fair held in Des Moines, which is extremely popular and well known in the US. We also visited some more local attractions near our camp such as the Saylorville lake.
Unfortunately, as I had to return home for my graduation, I didn’t travel afterwards but it is worth mentioning the 30 day grace period to travel. Many of my friends from camp travelled to places like Chicago which is only a bus journey away from Des Moines! It was definitely a great end to the summer for many of my friends at camp.
All I can say about that summer is that it was the most life-changing experience and summer I will never forget. I learnt so much about myself working at camp and made friends for life, friends who I am currently planning reunions with over the coming months. For anyone out there who was in my position this time last year debating whether or not to apply, honestly just go for it! You won’t regret it, it will be without a doubt the best summer of your life, you will be coming home with an endless supply of stories for all of your friends and also those great camp songs you’ve learnt stuck in your head for a good month after!
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