Plain and simply, my life would not be the same were it not for the summer camp experience.
As an 18 year old boy, who had grown up in an insular community in Glasgow, the prospect of spending 9 weeks working at summer camp in Pennsylvania was one that provided me with an opportunity to truly internationalize my perspective on life. Having lived in what can only be described as a bubble for the 18 years prior to my first summer spent in the US, upon touching down at JFK airport in the summer of 2002, I knew that my life would never be the same again.
Raised as a Catholic boy in the heart of a tough, working-class district, being placed at a Jewish summer camp, high up in the Pocono Mountains, was as culturally-unique and educational as anything I had previously experienced in life. From the very first minute I stepped onto camp, I was enriched and challenged in ways that would shape my perspective on life forever. The truly international community at summer camp introduced me to people with ideas, beliefs and behaviours that enhanced and improved my own principles - and I'd love to think they learned from me as well.
My summer camp experience(s) - which I celebrated for 5 consecutive summers - continues to drive me in chasing new cultural experiences throughout the world. Since making my first international trip aged 18, I have now been to every habitable continent and continue to revel in new, cultural experiences. I am a better person, citizen and am considerably more open-minded due to the impact summer camp and subsequent cultural experiences have had on my life.
To penalise providers of true cultural exchange is simply wrong and detrimental to global citizenship.