I was one of those campers that had a countdown in my room until the start of camp. I would never have guessed that after seven years of being a camper and two years of being a staff member I would still keep the same calendar hung in my room, marking the days until my arrival at camp.
My first summer at ISTC is as crystal clear as what I ate for breakfast this morning. At age 18, camp is one of the few memories I actually remember about my childhood. What constantly drew me to think about camp and my amazing experiences as a camper was not as simple as the beauty of the camp or the friends I made along the way. Rather, those I remember the most and continually came back to see were my counselors, both foreign and home-grown, that helped me grow into the person I am today. As cheesy as it may sound, my counselors were and truly are my role models. As a camper, I wanted to be the coach from New Zealand and see where the counselor from England lived. I wanted to get to know those that taught me the importance of friendship and teamwork more than I ever wanted to know my own friends at home.
There is something about waking up every morning to an Australian singing, even though you could barely understand him or her. Walking to dinner and seeing how much fun and how friendly staff members were to each other as well as the campers furthered my desire to get to know them and to try and be like them. Coming to camp for the experience, sports, and fun would not be the same without the people putting the show on. Every summer, I would leave camp in tears, fighting my parents all the way to the car, begging them to let me stay for just one more week. My counselors, even though I only knew them as a camper and for a short period of time, became my role models and inspiration for the future. I eagerly waited each year to see how they have changed and what they would think of the new me. I learned so much about myself and who I can become as a person from them.
They have inspired me to pursue a career in education, to participate in Peace Corps, and to help improve the lives of everyone I come in contact with. One counselor in particular truly opened my eyes to the importance of life. Getting injured on my first day of camp would ruin most camper’s experience. Instead, my injury allowed me to see people in a different light, get to know the counselors on a more personal basis, and see how much fun I can have, even while on crutches. While my friends in school panic about finals and stress about injuries like I faced, I have come to understand the little significance of such events in the scheme of things.
Now as a counselor, I hope to give back even just an ounce of the experience I received from my counselors to my campers. I have learned and plan to pass on the idea of “Be the change you are waiting for”, a motto instilled in my mind from international staff that have influenced my development as a person. On top of being beneficial for campers to learn about the cultures and stories of international staff, it is also important to remember the positive impact camp staff members receive from a summer like no other. Camp truly inspires and pushes people to limits they thought were untouchable. If they are not given the opportunity to grow as individuals and inspire those around them, the camp experience for children will be altered and will never be the same. International staff are vital members of the camp experience, and play a huge role in keeping those countdown hanging on campers walls.