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The start of my Camp America journey

26.06.19

Its 8am on Monday June 24 2019, and I’m currently sorting through about 10 checklists trying to figure out what I need to get sorted in the next 24 hours to make sure I’m ready for tomorrow. There’s a feeling in my stomach unlike anything I’ve ever really experienced (like nausea… but excited nausea…) and a thousand imaginary scenarios bouncing about in my head about where this summer could take me. And all this because, tomorrow at 4pm, I fly from London Heathrow to Newark NY to begin my Camp America journey.

In January, when I first considered doing Camp America, it was little more than a pipe dream. Everyone around me was trying to settle on how they’d spend their summers – holidays, work experience placements, internships – and thus, I couldn’t help considering how I’d be spending mine. I did some cursory research on the whole process, and was thinking about it purely hypothetically. I ran the idea past my parents, and they were super enthusiastic for me to pursue the impulse; so I did.

It’s a somewhat lengthy application process; not so much stressful as rigorous. There’s filling in your profile to begin with, and then making an application video (optional, but I would encourage it), and then acquiring references, and then paying fees, and all this before you even get officially accepted into the program. Once all of these steps are completed, you have to attend a face-to-face interview with a Camp America rep.

I ought to clarify here that you should throw your predispositions about ‘interviews’ out of the window. I met with a lovely rep at a coffee shop in Leeds, and we had a smoothie and an informal chat about my interests, qualifications, and hopes for camp. It was a super positive experience, and really put me at ease about the application process. She signed me off and thus my profile was sent off into the ether, waiting patiently for a camp to pluck me up into their world.

As I understand it, some camps can just hire you then based on just seeing your profile. My camp, however, interviewed me over the phone, and then offered me the job. This phone interview was similarly very positive and calm, and was lots about my personality and hobbies and how comfortable I’d be living away from home etc. They offered me a placement there and then, and once I’d clicked ‘Accept’ on my Camp America profile, the more formal stuff began.

Luckily, Camp America do the legwork to organise your flights and insurance for you, meaning the main responsibilities I had left to do were to get my J-1 Exchange Visa, and a medical form from the doctor. The latter was a simple process and the Visa, though daunting, wasn’t stressful really. There’s a long and detailed online form to fill in, and once you’ve done that, you just make your appointment at the embassy. The embassy was really calm and the staff interviewing me for my Visa made the whole process really easy and accessible. They take your passport for a few days and, just like that, you’ve got a shiny new visa. 

And that was that. That was every step complete. So now I zoom back into this moment, sat in a coffee shop with a luke-warm Caramel Latte, with a complete monolith of packing ahead of me. I’ve only had a few days home from University before flying tomorrow, and it’s been nice to touch base. But it is necessarily strange that this time in a few days, I’ll be in a cabin at Camp Turner, in Allegany State Park, training for the crazy summer ahead and getting to know people who could change my life. Its like the opening chapter of a teen novel, but with less clichés. And I couldn’t be more excited for the plot twists to come.

Click here to follow Aaron's blog and keep updated on his camp experience!