Hannah studies Television and Radio Production at Salford University and went on her camp experience back in 2013. She went to the jewish camp, Camp Harlam in Pennsylvania surrounded by beautiful mountains. After enjoying the experience so much she decided to travel to Africa last summer to volunteer and this year will be au pairing in Spain! Here she tells us how Camp, you could say, was the start of her major case of wanderlust.
1. What made you decide to go to camp?
I decided to go to camp because I knew a few people who had been and they said it was amazing. I have also always been in love with all things America so knew that one day I wanted to spend a good few months there and doing camp America seemed like the best way to do that and I got to travel to other states cheaply.
2. Give us a run down of what a normal day was like for you in camp.
On a normal day I would wake up around 7:30 and then go to the dining hall for 8am (I was in a Jewish camp and I’m not Jewish so I wasn’t allowed to sleep in the room with the kids, this turned out to be a huge positive) so after eating breakfast the all the councillors would get together from the same age group to find out what’s in store for the day, then the specialist counsellors would have a morning meeting. After those I would go to the radio shack and get ready for the first group of kids for the day(It was myself and an American guy in charge of radio). In the morning we had about 2 classes then we had lunch. After lunch we usually had a rest hour where I would just relax with friends or go and see what my girls were doing. After that we would go back to the studio for about 3 more lessons. There was a break between these though where we got a snack- luckily I was really good friends with the people who worked in the kitchen so I just went in and got the best snacks. We always had a free period in the day though and just one of us would take the class. In that time I would go to the ‘mo’ the staff area and Skype home or just relax, maybe even nap! After dinner we would have an activity planned, sometimes all the same age group joined or just all girls. These were really fun, I always enjoyed these activities and the kids never failed to surprise me. After that was milk squad, this is where boys and girls of the same age got milk and cookies before bed, this was always fun for the councillors as this was where a lot of first kisses happened so there was always kid drama. After that we would go back to the bunk and hang around while the kids got ready for bed then we would either do a small activity with them or let them just chill. Around 9pm we would leave (if it wasn’t your turn for smirah’ looking after the kids) Usually we would just go down to the mo and relax, sometimes we got to go out of camp to get food or go to the cinema etc. Our curfew was 2am and I utilized this every night, my closest friends were on camp power so they didn’t have to get up early and they lived in the mo so they stayed up late so I always did too. Sometimes I regretted this the next day.
3. What did you take from the camp experience?
From this I realised I grew up in my own little bubble with no drama and everything was always very happy. Camp definitely opened my eyes much more to how different people lived their lives, how different we all are and I am very accepting of that. I was very curious to find out lots about other people and how they lived. I also took away the best friends I could ever ask for, when you are at camp you are with these people for around 3 months straight every single day, they see you at your best and at your worst. They get to know you better than anyone has ever known you. You have this bond that is so strong because you have done this together and you rely on each other so much you become like a family.
4. If there was one memory you could relive from camp what would it be?
This is so hard! There were so many amazing days it’s so hard to pick one specific memory. Although I am not Jewish I think one thing that I would relive would be Friday night Shabbat. It was the most beautiful setting; we would sit outside on these benches on top of the hill overlooking the camp and the most beautiful mountains. It was always boiling hot and everyone was crammed on these tiny benches but the atmosphere was wonderful. We would all be singing songs and dancing, it was amazing. So if I had the chance to relive it once more I certainly would. I keep remembering all these things what happened that I would love to relive, singing around the camp fire, canoeing and seeing a bear, the theme parks/water parks, the final nights of the sessions with the girls. Oh wait! Now thinking about it I know exactly what I would relive. Every night, well most nights, we would all get together (who ever was there at that point before we went to milk squad) and we would all put our arms around each other in a big circle and we would sing a song, I cant remember what it was called but the international staff would call it Celine Dion. It was a really lovely moment where everyone was relaxed, it was pitch black and you could see the fire flies and slightly hear the other groups singing from across the camp. At that moment there was no drama, everyone was happy and it felt like a family. Ahh another thing that was amazing that I would want to relive was the final song session, for part of colour war we would have to learn some new songs. They were in the tune of popular songs (eg one direction) but the lyrics had been changed to be something to do with camp. Each team had 3 songs, a fight song, a Hebrew song and then like a slower song. Everyone was so passionate about singing these songs especially the fight song and the slow song, by the end of it I had lost my voice. We would all sing/shout these songs to each other in the big hall on the last day of colour war just before we got the results of what team had won. It was so much fun!!
5. What do you miss most about camp?
I miss the community we had, that there are always so many people around to talk to, you’re never on your own and everyone is going through the same feelings so every one is really close. And how little stress there is, unless you lose a kid when going on a trip (which I did, but luckily we found her). Also that you could just be silly all the time, I had so much fun every day. I have never laughed so much before camp and I loved the fact we got away with everything silly that we did.
6. What advice would you give to someone going to camp for their first time?
My advice would be to enjoy every minute, you will be tired a lot of the time and sometimes you just want to throw certain kids in the lake but you’ll get through it and have an amazing time. Every time I go away I never realize how amazing of a time I’m having until I’m back home in England. Take any opportunity, if a local person asks you to go round, do! Experience as much as you can and do all the activities they offer, even if you don’t like it! Put yourself out of your comfort zone and just have fun!
Hannah did her camp experience with Camp America. Check them out here.