So I’m Lydia and I’m probably the one you keep getting emails from at the moment about sorting your visa. I am the visa co-ordinator here at CCUSA and I am also in charge of all the social media accounts for the UK.
Last summer I was lucky enough to go to camp for the very first time and I loved it so much that I’m going back again this year. I went to Camp Matoaka, which is an all girls camp located in Maine. I couldn’t of wished to go to a prettier state; our days were always spent exploring beautiful little towns of finding a secluded beach to chill out and relax.
At camp last year, I was lucky enough to be offered the position of head of department for the Arts and Crafts area, which was such an incredible experience. However, this summer I wanted to spend my time outside in the lovely sunshine so I will be joining the horse riding department. I couldn’t be happier about returning to my favourite place on earth and enjoying another summer having the most incredible job in the world.
At camp you are constantly thrown into situations that are a mixture of completely bizarre and outrageous – but one thing is for sure; you will remember every single moment. My favourite moment at camp was definitely colour war. This happened in-between first and second session and we all got put into two teams. Either pink or purple (which were our camp colours). And then basically, you just compete for 2 days straight until the winner is announced. It was such a whirl wind of emotions looking back on it but everyone at camp got into the spirit and it was even better when my team (Purple) won! That moment is something I will never forget.
Without a doubt, the thing I miss most about camp is the people. From my friends that I met in the first couple of hours of being at camp to the campers I lived with for 7 weeks and got to know throughout the summer. My friends at camp became my rock, and I can honestly say that I am closer to some of those girls then I am some of my friends from back home. You are around them 24/7 and spend your days off having the most incredible adventures. And then you have the campers you live with. I couldn’t have asked for a better bunk and I love each of them somuch. You really do go through everything with them – from tears, to laughter, to hearing about all of the new things they have achieved and nothing will ever beat that feeling.
If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone going to summer camp for the first time it would 100% be to get involved in everything. You aren’t going to remember the things you didn’t do, but you certainly will remember the times you made a bit of a fool out of yourself or the time you helped out with an event going on around camp. Plus, those couple of months that you spend at camp will pass you by so quickly. You blink and its almost home time and all you want to do is stay that little bit longer. I know that when you might be very nervous about going to camp and that’s only natural. Give camp a chance and you will love it – I promise.
The great thing about camp is there is always something going on; from a colour run, to a campfire with smores, to a talent show with all of the counselors. But my favourite time at camp was every Friday morning when we had chocolate chip pancakes. It was always the camp challenge to try and beat the amount of pancakes we ate from the week before. I think one week we reached 1100 pancakes and I never seen a group of campers looked so pleased with themselves. I have decided to give up chocolate for a whole year this year though so that is definitely going to be a huge struggle.
If I was only allowed to go to camp with 3 things, the first thing I would take with me is definitely a watch. At camp time just isn’t a thing. It is so easy to loose track of time and even what day of the week it is, so it’s always handy to keep an eye on the time. The second thing I would take with me would be a blanket. Yes - you are spending your summer in America and it is known for having lovely weather but when it gets dark, boy does it get cold. My first week at camp, I spent about $100 in Walmart buying tracksuit bottoms and extra layers because it was sooooo cold during the evenings. The last item I would take with me would have to be some thread for making bracelets. The girls at camp absolutely LOVED making friendship bracelets and would come to the arts and crafts department all the time to ask for some. Friendship bracelets at camp = life.
The great thing about the J1 visa that you travel to the States on is that you get 30 days after camp to travel. My top tip would be take advantage of the 30 days you get given. This is an incredible time to explore, go on adventures and see America. I have been lucky enough to go to America beforehand but I have now done about 37 out of the 51 States. You will also meet so many people at camp who want to travel to the same places so it becomes so easy to just travel with different groups of people to all of the places you want to go and not get bored. A lot of the time, your campers will also offer you their homes to stay. You really do create a bond with these children and don’t be afraid to take up the offer from them. It means you get to save money on accommodation and that means more money to have adventures.
Remember – just think about the stories.