Jamal's Camp Exchange Experience Jamal is a st mary's university student who went on Camp Exchange USA with IST Plus and CIEE

Orientation and training – Learning the ropes/meeting the staff

The Orientation week is great fun at camp! At times it can be very nerve wracking as your're somewhere completely new and you meet a whole load of new faces in a very short space of time. But the orientation week helps you find your footing and get to know all these wonderful faces and make friends very quickly - friends that you become very close to. The training itself is also very useful for working in a camp - having done both waterfront training and counsellor training, it does help you prepare for the summer ahead. It also helps that orientation is done by previous counsellors, so they are well aware of how you are feeling prior to the kids arriving!

Email our Team for more details - camp@istplus.com

On the water

Meeting the kids – what made it special

The night before the kids arrive there are so many mixed emotions! This is the part that you have signed up for, but at the same time it can get you nervous because you’re hoping the kids will be nice (as you will be with them all summer!) - as well as you hoping that you can make the summer unforgettable! However, once you see the excited kids, some who are new, some who have been to camp before, you realise how special camp is for the kids and that you really want to make this summer better for them than the last one. Whats special also is how highly the kids look up to you. For the next few weeks you’re like a big brother/sister to them and they will love you to bits. They will look up to you as a role model, copy what you do, how you talk, they will try to be like you in every way!

Email our Team for more details - camp@istplus.com


The activities

The activities at camp vary quite a bit. In my camp, the activities were mostly "outdoorsy", having waterfront activities such as a banana boat, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, baseball, judo and a wide range of sports! As a Counsellor, you really engage in these activities as you do it with the kids. At times, you also motivate them to want to join in, so while they are doing these things, you are also making them as fun as possible. The moment they see you do it, they want to join in too! The activities are great fun to join in. The days usually have a very early start and a late finish, with all these activities being done, you’re so tired by the end of it - but it is so fulfilling at the same time! As waterfront staff, or specialist staff, you are in charge of making these activities fun for the kids! So as specialists you are “the teacher” who engages the kids to want to do in the activites, as Waterfront, I also made sure that while the kids are having the time of their lives, it was also safe for them in the water! As waterfront kids love you to also swim and play with them in the water because you’re the “cool lifeguard” who is the awesome swimmer and not at all “afraid of water, big waves, sharks…” So they really look up to you!

Living at Camp

The camp itself – location/scenery/ food and housing

My camp was located in the middle of nowhere. The location was amazing for that reason. The nearest town was a small town, with a few shops a breakfast place, a bar and a wallmart. But that made it all the better. You were away from cities and home comforts for 9 weeks, and on days off the camp organises for you to go to different places to see places. So through the summer you can find yourself chilling by a river, or jumping off high rocks into lakes, both which are great fun. The scenery is the most amazing part of camp also! Sunsets away from the city, where you can actually see the sunset is the most beautiful thing ever! Being able to look up at night and see so many stars is also something that made the camp amazing, since we were so far away from towering buildings and cities, there was absolutely no light pollution. Nothing is more relaxing than being down the waterfront after work has finished and stargazing with your friends while chatting! Food in America is not as fatty as everybody thinks. It’s not all Mac and cheese and Hamburgers/hotdogs. You normally get 3 decent meals throughout the day, which varies, for example we had Mexican, Italian, chicken, beef etc. Some camps however, can have different dietary needs. For example, by Camp was a Kosher diet camp, meaning that bacon was only on my days off! The housing was exactly what you would think it would be from the movies, it is bunkbeds inside of cabins! The cabins during orientation are also extremely social as you live in them with a group of people your age. Once the kids come in and you start living with kids it’s also great fun, they normally sleep the whole night too so it’s not a major worry about not getting your beauty sleep!

My Best Memory

My Best memory was working with the lower camp kids. All the kids were great and gave me so many memories that I’ll never forget. Their humour, how brutally honest they can be at times. I had a child in particular who had anxiety and separation issues. He had never been away from home for a long time (even though to us it was only 3 weeks) and was convinced his parents had sent him to camp because they didn’t love him/ they had punished him. He spent the first week of camp crying his eyes out because he thought this, so we needed a lot of patience and to try and build a bond with him somehow. This was particularly difficult because he was the kind of child that didn’t like most of the activities. However, gradually working with him and at times, just being the person he used to come to, just for crying, or to help him switch on showers or open something or whatever, he eventually built a bond with me and starting opening up more. He gradually started opening up more to me, becoming friends with me and joining in on activities with me (albeit the problem was he only wanted to be with me) and copying what I do. He gave me 2 funny moments before he finally accepted camp, which were one night he woke me up at a ridiculous time, like 4am to tell me that “since he liked me, he wanted to say goodbye to me as he was running away now.” However, he wanted me first to help him pack his bags so that he could leave without his things. When I told him I couldn’t because it was so late, he turned round and said to me “It’s okay, if you want help me in the morning I’ll just go back to bed now.” The second time he did this, he seemed so much more determined, he woke me up again and told me, he was ready to leave now, he’s had enough and that he was going to miss me. (this is a 9 year old boy) I knew he wasn’t going to do it, so I went along with it, told him it was Okay, I was going to miss him too, which then he turned round and asked me would I be able to point out for him which way to actually walk so that he would make it home. When I told him I didn’t know, we would check a map in the morning and he would be able to leave then, he said “That’s okay, ill go back to bed then. As I promised, we looked the following morning on a computer on google maps to see where he actually lived, how far away it was walking. We saw that it would take him about 24 days walking because it was on the other end of America. I still remember his heavy sigh as he was trying to work out how he was going to do it, then eventually turning round to me and saying “You know what, I think it might be a good idea, that rather than walk home, I stay with you for the rest of camp and just wait for my mum to pick me up.” From there, I taught him to swim, he went on banana boat rides, and his parents were so surprised how much he had changed in the 3 weeks! Then they tell you they are excited to see you again next year, that you have to come back and be with them again. Non negotiable.

What you learnt (about yourself/new skills etc)

During Camp, you realise how good you are at things you never know you could do. Camp makes you so open about things, you lose a lot of self-conscious issues there. For example, you may get embarrassed performing, or acting a clown, then suddenly you're over there with the kids and with your friends, and your dancing around, performing in plays, taking up new skills you turn round and say “if I was anywhere else, I definitely would not be doing this.”Camp helps you grow up and realise what your capable of as an individual, you’re so far away from your comfort zone, you find your own footing in terms of leadership, time management, looking after others. You realise how independent you are, more so than in Uni, because you’re in a different continent doing these things. You realise, that at times, especially when the long day’s start kicking in, especially in the first week, you’re going to find that you have the patience of the saint, and then some! But all these things come together when you find yourself doing new things, that by the time you feel those last few days sinking in, you know you’re going to miss it. You go back home and all you're doing is telling your friends about the skills you have learnt, that you didn’t know you could do these things, all these dances you’ve learnt, all the kids you’ve met and how they are special and how they have changed. All you’re going to be talking about for ages is camp this, camp that, you will probably be going to get your friends and family fed up of hearing about it and maybe even, decide you want to go again next year! Also don’t forget! Once camp is over, the travelling kicks in! You get to travel America which will be your best holiday ever, you go around places with the friends you’ve made in America and make some unforgettable memories. In my case, I visited NYC, Washington D.C and then did a roundtrip all the way down to south Carolina, and made my way back up again through Tennessee !

The Team!

If you'd like more details please email our team at info@istplus.com or go to our website!

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