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 first did Camp America as part of my gap year in 2015 and had planned for it to be a one-time thing but I am now counting down the days till I get to go back to my second home for summer number 6 and can’t see myself stopping any time soon! About half way through year 12 I thought I had my plan all figured out. I had been pre-approved for my university course and was planning on starting early to help fast track my way through it. One afternoon we had a guy from Camp America come to school and tell us how great a gap year and camp can be, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I went along to an information session later that month with my mum and decided it really was an opportunity too good to miss out on. I started my application that night.
Having an Austswim qualification and life guarding experience I never thought I would be hired for anything other than water front but I had participated in a couple of school camps where we had been camping and hiking and even rock-climbing once or twice so I added them in as potential skills to broaden my application. I was pretty surprised to receive an offer to be a part of the Outdoor Adventure team and help run the high ropes course, but they promised to train me and I figured, why not? I accepted my placement and a few months later was off to New York to spend 10 weeks with complete strangers, in a country I’d never been to before, to help teach a skill I had little experience in. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
When I first accepted my placement at Timber Lake West I was really nervous about the whole thing and not sure if I was making the right decision but am now so thankful that I did it. My time at camp has allowed me to grow in so many ways that I never could have at home. Camp pushed me out of my comfort zone in all the right ways and really has helped to shape me into the person I am now. I am way more confident in myself and what I am capable of, have had the opportunity to travel and understand different cultures and have met some of my best friends in the entire world (I say that quite literally since the staff come from all over the globe). For my first 2 summers, I have spent my days on the high ropes course. 2017 and 2018, I moved to work as a general counselor which was super exciting. Last year, I was a group leader and finally, I will be returning as head staff this summer as the Outdoor Adventure Director running ropes and outdoor adventure programs. For anyone who thinks they don’t have time for a gap year, I urge you to reconsider because it might just be the best thing you ever do!