I wanted something different. I was bored of school and I wanted to distract myself with something to look forward to for the following year, little did I know I would be experiencing the journey of a lifetime…
I didn’t know what Camp America was, nor would I have been able to guess what it entailed or what you even do in that instance upon being asked that question. My best friend, Ella, introduced me to the concept of “Summer Camps” provided by Camp America and I instantly fell in love with everything about it. Get this, you spend 9 weeks in another country, working at a camp somewhere amazing, you work with the coolest kids from all spices around the world and you do this while specialising in something you are passionate about.
Drama has been a subject that has greatly influenced me both personally and academically. I have found that through drama, I have been able to be more confident within myself, to be able to express my passion for drama and also develop my skill set. It has helped me to grow as an individual through my theatre performances. I have been able to understand real human emotions, reactions etc. Drama gives me enormous gratification and I love the sense of camaraderie and being part of something bigger than myself. The energy, passion and enthusiasm from my peers encourages me to step up and be a better version of myself. I was ultimately ready to share this with the world and to have ‘The Summer of a lifetime'.
I have always said to my peers and family that “I just want to escape Melbourne winter”. I don’t know how I will last 3 months but I am quite sure that I can achieve this. I applied on the CA website with my best friend as soon as it opened and we both started our applications. Amongst the many wonderful and exciting camps, ‘Pali Adventures’ really caught my eye and had me super excited for the future adventures I will have. I waited patiently in line behind countless others who are also eagerly awaiting to be placed in their dream camp, I finally got to talk with my future director; I knew Pali Adventures was the one for me. Later I went on to become the ‘Assistant Director of Acting’ where I taught all my campers about Acting & Improvisation techniques, choreographing a variety of performances for Friday night showcase and assisted my director. I eventually created and successfully ran my very own ‘Improv’ elective. My camp name was Feta.
Honestly, it wasn’t easy leaving Australia. I had never travelled internationally nor had I ever been away from my family longer than one week. Suddenly I was flying across to the United States to live and work in the Californian Mountains for three months and on top of that, I was away for a total of four months. I consistently reassured myself that I will be okay and that I will make it through my summer.
Pali Adventures for me was an interesting and fulfilling experience. I worked as one of three Acting Specialist Counsellors as well as also being a Teen Counsellor for the eldest boys (15-16). I am only 19 and to my advantage, I was a Year 10 Level Leader at my School and they were no different to the kids I mentored, so in a sense, I was prepared for my role. I was able to recognise who they were and what their likes and dislikes were going to be (usually) and predominantly, I wanted to be their best friend, role-model and leader at Pali. However, it wasn’t always easy working with the eldest boys. I often faced issues on a daily basis, but it didn’t stop me from being motivated as it made me more determined to make my boys have the ultimate summer of a lifetime that they ALL deserved. I loved every moment with them all, no doubt.
Would I work with teens again? ABSOLUTELY! My dream one day when I eventually return is to have earned a role as Group Leader to the 13-16-year-old boys and Director of Acting.
There is so much passion and enthusiasm in becoming a camp counsellor. Every day you see the change in yourself becoming an even better you and after 79 very tough days, I had completed my journey. I arrived at Pali as Jack and walked out as Feta who conquered 9 weeks of camp. I never knew that I would love being attacked with shaving cream and water bombs, running elective activities ranging from Arts & Crafts, laser tag and Archery to spending time with kids every day! Pali changed me as a person. I now appreciate a lot more in life as I learned the challenges and obstacles you face in life are possible to manage, it just takes time.
My goals at Pali were to make an impact on every camper possible. During my nine weeks, I was informed by a handful of campers themselves that because of me (and others too) they returned for an extra week! There is absolutely no greater feeling than a camper who leaves and then surprisingly returns to camp because of you. The disbelief upon seeing that very same camper who told you that they will be coming back to Pali in Summer 2018, just randomly appear would often bring tears to my eyes because it meant that I did my job with love, care and passion. An even better sentiment was when a camper’s parent, a total complete stranger, endlessly praised me for my work on behalf of keeping them happy and safe when not in their care along with the never-ending appreciations and hugs. Those Saturday afternoons were always the most upsetting, but likewise liberating as I always knew that they too are leaving as a different individual, as well as I recognized I would be once I finish.
It doesn’t matter how old they may be, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t known them for long, it doesn’t matter where they are from… in just ONE whole week, the campers looked will look up to you as their role model and leader for life. I am now a different person and I couldn’t thank Camp America and the Pali Adventures staff enough for this amazing opportunity.
To those who are reading this and are thinking about doing Camp America... DO IT! Live life with no regrets, this was such an amazing experience and I will be forever grateful for the Pali family because they will always have a place in my heart. You will create long lasting relationships with the people around you that have seen you grow from the very start to the end! I have connections everywhere in the United States, England and even in my home country, AUSTRALIA!
I want to again recognise the Camp America office staff & Pali Adventures! Thank you for giving me the summer of a lifetime.
Jack M – Pali Adventures Summer Camp, 2017