America is huge, with its rolling plains in the midwest, it’s mountains in the east coast, and vast amount of different cultures you can run into just crossing the street. I’ve seen movies about America, I read a book about going to summer camp, caught up on some blogs I found, so I felt prepared. I knew coming to America was going to be nothing like my home and I felt ready to combat any homesickness that came my way with skype, facebook, and the photos I had packed to hang up next to my bed. Homesickness didn’t hit me when I landed in Boston, nor when I first got it camp, I started to get a little niggle on a beautiful sunny day towards the tail end of our staff training.
I don’t get homesick. I get campsick.
Coming from a small quiet village in England, I don’t think I wasn’t fully aware about how loud people at camp can be. I know that might sound a bit harsh, but with people high-fiving all the time, singing songs out of the blue, mixed in with the new environment and different food I started to feel a bit out of place. I had missed a couple of calls from my parents since the staff training did last the majority of the day, and looking at facebook pictures didn’t fill me with happiness like I thought it would. With only a couple of days before the campers got to camp, I started to panic, what did I sign up for?
I spoke to one of the head counselors at my camp about what I feeling. Although it was difficult to let her know that I was having a hard time, because I am afraid she was going to tell the director and then I’d be fired. But having a chance to get my thoughts and feeling off of my chest and out in the open was such a relief. She spoke to me about her own experience coming to summer camp for the first time. Although she was an American herself, being in a new environment, with new people can of course be overwhelming. We came up with some ideas of things that I could do in order to help with the transition, she even introduced me to some other international counselors that I hadn’t gotten the chance to meet yet. It’s always nice to be able to chat about home with other people who are from your same country. We also had an unscheduled night during staff training, where I got to call my parents and then head out to do some pre-camp shopping with some of the friends I had made at staff training.
She and I spoke again the next following days and she continued to remind me that when the campers get here I’ll have a better structure for my day which would help. At the end of the first session of camp, my homesickness was quickly replaced by tears of sadness as my campers who I bonded with so much over the 4 weeks were being picked up by their parents. Everyone’s homesickness is different and difficult, but I can only say to not give up at the first hurdle and speak to people. It doesn’t have to be your head counselor, it could be the friend you made during staff training. Just let people in and do not bottle it up, I promise, it gets easier.