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.
Why did you decide to do Camp America?
When I finished high school. I wasn't quite ready to jump into a course at uni. My dad, a high school teacher. told me about a program called Camp America that some of his ex-students had talked fondly about. So, I decided to check it out. The idea of travelling over to the States to work at a summer camp and immerse myself in the culture, while also getting to travel the country, looked like the opportunity of a lifetime! I decided to commence my application right away and plan my gap year around it.
What did camp teach you?
When I finished my application and was waiting for a camp to contact me, I was worried that I didn't really have many skills to offer any camp. Everything I'd listed I hadn't taught before or wasn’t really common in America. To my pleasant surprise, when Camp Cedar contacted me, they told me they wanted to train me as a swim teacher and lifeguard, two things I'd never done before.
Even before I had left, camp had taught me to be open-minded (and it continued to when I arrived!). With so many opportunities to learn skills and undertake roles that you have never been exposed to before, being a camp counsellor is a great way to grow as a person. I even started working as a swim teacher and lifeguard once I returned home!
Favourite place to travel to in the US and why?
With Camp Cedar being in the beautiful state of Maine, I had many opportunities to travel to some incredible beaches, mountains, lakes, and towns. I'd really recommend visiting the New England area if you love being outdoors. I also loved visiting my cousin in the action-packed city of Las Vegas, and then the laid-back city of San Diego – the perfect end to my travels. By far my least favourite place to travel to was the hospital, but fortunately Camp America had me covered for insurance and everything was fine!
Favourite memory from camp?
At camp, I played the roles of a friend, parent, teacher and an overall role-model. There's nothing more rewarding then having a great group of kids look up to you and seeing the impression that you have on them. Though my fellow counsellors and I worked hard every day, none of it ever felt like work because we were having so much fun! It helped to build a sense of camaraderie that I’d never thought possible and made days off and post-camp travel an absolute blast! I can’t wait to travel to the many corners of the world that I promised to visit my new friends in!
My favourite memory from camp would have to have been when I received a package of Australian snacks from home. Everyone in my bunk sat around in a circle and tried them all, and we debated all night if Pizza Shapes or Barbecue Shapes were better (Pizza all the way!). Overall, Tim Tams were the biggest hit – no surprises there!
Why would you recommend Camp America?
Living at camp is like living on another planet at times. The camp I worked at was made up of mostly kids from very well-off families, many of whom grow up quite sheltered. The camp counsellors they have are often their first exposure to different cultures and different perspectives on the world. As such, many ex-campers go on to do lots of charitable and selfless work – growing from the skills they learned at camp.
After they left, some other groups of kids visited, this time from disadvantaged parts of society. They showed loads of gratitude and had so much fun participating in activities they would otherwise not be able to do. No matter where you end up at camp, you get to make a profound difference in kids’ lives, and for that reason I could not recommend Camp America enough!