By Camp America on 22/06/2017
Cieran is heading back to URJ Camp Harlam for his second summer...
I decided to apply for Camp America towards the end of my gap year from college before I started university with a friend of mine who had heard of Camp America. I was none the wiser!
When he explained the details I was hooked on the idea already. We heard there was a recruitment fair in Manchester in the next few days, so I headed onto the CA website, completed my application and headed to sunny Manchester (it was the coldest I’d ever been). But when we were inside it was a hive of activity. I was approached by Camp Harlam and the assistant director guided me through what Harlam was all about. I’d got excited before even being hired!
Being a British counsellor going to an American summer camp on its own was very daunting considering I’d never flown before so my first flight was 7 ½ hours from London. I was also going to a Reformed Jewish camp, and not being Jewish I was not sure what to expect. But my fears quickly left me as I was welcomed home by staff, counsellors and directors who made me feel at ease.
My favourite memory of my first summer in the USA was my first Shabbat session on Friday evening. This is where the full staff team gather together to open the rest period and it is a very heartfelt community experience. Spending time with newly made friends was great.
Camp friends are the people you spend every morning with, every lunch with, every night with, and as for this you learn a lot about each other very quickly. Whereas normal friends you might grab a cheeky McDonald’s with or a drive with. Camp friends understand what it’s like working the long hot summery days.
Camp has shaped my future in the sense it is a very hard place to leave. When we arrived, people said you live 10 months of the year for 2 and I could never understand it myself - until around halfway through the summer. The vibe the campers bring to the place is indescribable. It has helped me develop as a person, my skill set and my confidence.
Even though I was not of Jewish faith, I would not change my camp for the world. I was interested in learning all about it. If you go with an open mind, you’ll be surprised what you can pick up. I even learned some Hebrew! From the banging on tables for meals to the song sessions under the sun in Chapel on The Hill.
I would recommend the Camp America programme to everyone, and I have! It’s an incredible experience that is hard to tell people unless they have been! The bond you get with your fellow staff members and campers is very strong and it’s a place you can make friends for a lifetime.
Cieran - URJ Camp Harlam (2016/17)