The American Institute for Foreign Study (Australia) Pty Ltd opened its Australian office in 1999 and began offering its Camp America and Au Pair in America programs to young Australians. In 2005, AIFS commenced offering inbound programs and currently facilitates cultural exchange programs for more than 2,000 young people.
I had wanted to do it since an older friend of mine had told me about it. Fast forward a few years, and I had finished uni, and I was 23 when I realised I wasn't keen to settle down for a normal 9-5 job. I saw an ad on Facebook about an upcoming info night for Camp and the rest was history!
So, putting trust in Camp America and my Camp Director (with whom I only had a Skype interview with) I boarded a plane and hoped for the best. A 24 hour flight, a 6 hour train ride and a 30 minute car ride later I was met by a group of smiling faces at what was going to be my second home for the next three years – Stone Mountain Adventures. I accomplished so many things that I never thought I could do – become a Rock Climbing Instructor and learn how to set up climbing routes, take care of campers as the Camp Nurse, lead a Canoeing Camping Trip and Co-Captain a White Water Rafting Trip multiple times.
To be patient, to be kind and to show resilience. To especially show those three things at the same time, especially when the going gets tough. That everyone has a story. That you'll always figure things out - even when it seems like there is no answer. And that people will ALWAYS end up joining in if you approach something with enough energy and enthusiasm!
Pennsylvania - because it's so beautiful and green and there's so much to discover.
My very last night with the campers in my last year. A fellow counsellor said the most heartfelt speech to me in front of the campers, then this started a chain reaction and other campers and counsellors approached me to talk to me once the meeting was over. I started crying and couldn't stop for another 4 hours, and when I woke up I couldn't see out of my eyes because they were so puffy. It sounds pretty sad - but it really reinforced the fact that my camp was everything to me, and saying yes when my camp director offered me a job was the best decision I had ever made.
Not only are you doing something for you, but you're also doing something for others. You learn responsibility, how to put others before you, how to be leader, a role model and a friend. There is no other environment quite like summer camp, and when you come home you won't recognise yourself - in the best possible way.