Liana Smith was a #USNZCampCounselor

Liana Smith was placed at Camp Shoshanim, PA. Photo Credit: Liana Smith.

There isn’t much that can prepare you for the Camp America experience – so much happens in those unforgettable few months that it’s difficult to explain for the unlucky few outside the camp ‘bubble’. While travelling by yourself or throwing yourself completely out of your normal routine in a new country can be daunting, it’s important to keep an open mind, and truly embrace every opportunity that comes your way. While 99% of the summer is about meeting new people, exploring and having fun, there are always low points. People get homesick to some degree, feel out of place or become doubtful of exactly what they’ve gotten into!

It’s important to remember that we’re all human – emotions run high in crazy situations and of course you will miss home, as that’s your comfort zone! I believe that it’s these times when you learn the most memorable lessons of the entire summer. I learned how to truly put myself out there to develop the friendships needed to combat homesickness, and to throw myself into unfamiliar situations such as learning about Judaism at camp so as to feel more at home and to help me foster a more adaptable mindset.

But you know what, while those lows definitely hit hard, the highs more than made up for them! Experiencing a new religion, developing an appreciation for a different way of life, creating incredible friendships, spending the days doing what you love on the lake and overall having an unbeatable adventure and living life to its fullest is what camp is all about!

Camp is exactly what you think it will be, and yet also nothing like it at the same time. It’s going to a strange new place but feeling at home within a week. It’s throwing yourself out of your comfort zone but feeling more comfortable to express yourself with a bunch of strangers than the majority of your peers. Most of all, camp is about truly losing yourself in the adventure and immersing yourself so completely that, by the end of the summer, you become your true self. You’re still the same person (though with noticeably more tie-dye and friendship bracelets), but so much more in touch with your overall self that you can’t help but grow as a person, looking towards your next great adventure in life.

The U.S. Embassy is running a photo competition to celebrate the opportunity that Kiwi youth can have working as summer camp counselors in the United States, and highlight the benefits that this experience can bring. Photographic submissions can be made via social media using the hashtag #USNZCampCounselor, and more information can be found here: https://nz.usembassy.gov/photo-contest-usnzcampcounselor/.