By Adam Nickels, Camp Interlaken Staff 2014.
Throughout the past couple of years, the prospect of working at a Jewish summer camp in America was constantly a thought of mine. It is always been a hot topic of conversation with me and my friends as we have always been hearing so many previous experiences from friends about their time working at summer camps across America. It had always been a burning and raging thought in my head, I kept on saying to myself ‘I need to do this, this experience is me and there is nothing else I could possibly enjoy more!’. However there were always the taboo subjects that hindered me from applying for this unbelievable experience such as the length and the cost, but boy was I mistaken. I realised that I had a long summer ahead of me so the time was perfect for me as I had just finished my first year at Birmingham City University and the passion for me to work at a Jewish summer camp in America was too much, I couldn’t contain my excitement for it so I applied with Jewish Camps USA, hoping to have the summer of a lifetime and I hadn’t even told my parents yet! Once I finally decided to tell my parents, their response seemed just as keen an eager for me to go as my attitude was.
Jewish Camps USA is an incredibly, awesome company whose sole aim is “British Jewry changing the lives of children for a better future”. This was quite simply me and what I wanted to do. There was nothing more that I wanted than to go and be part of this unique experience where I can go, representing my country and help to change the lives of the children at camp. Being a new applicant to an entire new process, it can be quite daunting which it was. I was unsure if I was answering the questions right or if they were going to choose me, I was very nervous. However, with the incredible and unbelievable help that I got from the staff at Jewish Camps USA, I managed to calm my nerves and manage to show them the true person that I would want the children in America to see me as. The process of applications, interviews and visa applications seemed to be so difficult, but these wonderfully trained experts were so helpful and knew exactly what they were doing that what was deemed to be a daunting process, turned out to be a very smooth, easy one. Their friendly, smiley faces and constant positive attitudes help to ensure that they are only sending the best of the best across the pond.
I was fortunate to be placed at Camp Interlaken JCC in Eagle River, North Wisconsin. The first thing I did when I found out my placement was look on a map. I was quite disappointed at first as this camp seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t until I then went onto the camp website, saw some pictures, read some articles and watched a few videos that I knew my perception of this camp was completely wrong. I was suddenly extremely excited about what I was getting myself in for. This dream was becoming a reality. Once I had booked my flights I remember saying to myself, ‘this is it’. I did not sleep a wink that night, even though the 5 month countdown had only just started! I remember watching a video where Toni, the camp director explained everything about that camp and the smile on my face remained enormous the whole time. I just could not wait to be there. The videos showed a tour around the camp, the excitement was getting unbearable!
Time flew by before I was on my way to Heathrow ready to start this incredible journey of a life time. I flew to Milwaukee, WI where I was greeted by a lovely lady named Beth said to me in the car ‘you don’t know what you’ve got yourself in for!’ Obviously she was speaking utterly positively and she continued to say that this really is going to be the most awesome
and memorable summer of my life. I couldn’t quite believe I was actually in America and nearly at camp! When the bus arrived at camp and in the distance you could see the staff that were already there jumping up and down, screaming and waving, I remember thinking to myself ‘who are those weirdos jumping and going crazy?’ Unbeknownst to me that these were going to
be the friends for life that I was going to make. That was it, I was at camp, and it had started.
How could I possibly explain my experience at camp without writing at least a good 30 pages? There is so much that I can say about this experience, the friendly faces, the happiness, the amazing children who just make the experience what it is, the camp food (I’ll let you use your imaginations to whether or not that’s a good or bad one), the friendships, the memories, the cries of the departures of the children at the end of camp, the laughter, the Jewish pride, the sheer joy of seeing your campers build the most amazing memories, the banter, the jokes, the list just goes on. I wish I could sit here and write down every single memory and experience that I had at camp but some of it needs to be saved for those who are going to apply, who are obviously going to apply with Jewish Camps USA because they are quite simply the best!
Not only does this fantastic opportunity help you learn more about yourself, the person you are and give you valuable life experiences but it is a fantastic CV enhancer and something which can help you achieve a job of your dreams by teaching you such important and necessary skills. I honestly believe that my experience has given me so many more skills that I did not have before, it enhanced my leadership skills and provided me with more transferrable skills that I couldn’t have even imagined that I would have gained from spending my summer at camp. Now that I am back at university I am even working for Jewish Camps USA, again gaining more skills and experiences which I am sure will only help me after university for when I am looking for a job.
After 2 weeks of travelling through Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and New York it was safe to say that the flight home from New York was an emotional one, not because of the turbulence but because of how I spent the majority of it reminiscing, looking back through my photos, watching videos and reading letters that my campers had written me. I was even asked by the flight attendant if I was alright because she could see how emotional I was getting. Everyone had said it but I never believed it until now, that yes, it really was the most memorable summer of a life time. This experience would not have been possible without the sheer determination, happiness, guidance and expertise that I received from Jewish Camps USA. These people are driven and motivated by the thought of sending British Jews across the Atlantic to go and help make a difference and be remembered out there. If you were in the same position as me, faced with a long summer and a burning desire to travel and make a difference, then I strongly urge you to apply to Jewish Camps USA here! My experience has not ended, it has only just begun and I still say to myself what I said to my campers at the end of camp ‘It’s never goodbye, it’s always see you later!’
Birmingham City University Student