Ever since we moved to the US, my mom was always signing me up for different events. This summer no different. Since this was my first summer here, she signed me up for many things. Three camps, one of them was me spending the week as a volunteer camp counselor. We traveled to different places like California and Nashville. A very eventful summer, but this camp was probably my favorite and the most eventful week of my summer.
When my mom told me about Concordia Language Camps, I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about it. So it was a camp where you learn a certain language and completely “immerse” into the language. I chose German as my language and I would spend the whole week eating talking and learning in German. My overconfident self was 100% sure that I would be fine only talking in German for an entire week after only a couple of months learning the language. So the weeks leading up to the camp, I wasn’t worried or nervous. I was excited to pack my own bags. We couldn’t carry and books in English or any electronic items. I was a little upset about living without any book and my phone for a whole week, but I was fine otherwise.
So on 24th of June, my dad and I set off for Bemidji Minnesota, a small town where Waldsee (the German camp) was. I had my suitcase and my pillow in my hands, and I was getting a little more nervous. When we reached the gate to Bemidji, I could see many kids who were also going for these camps. We landed in Bemidji and my dad handed me over to the Concordia camp people who were waiting in the airport to transport the kids who were arriving from Minneapolis. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, they took us to the bus. I was preparing myself to sit alone on the bus and in Burger King, which was where we were going to go for lunch. Luckily a girl who was around my age decided to be friendly (which frankly speaking I was extremely grateful for and I was so lucky to have been able to meet her) and we hung out till we reached the camp. Unfortunately she was going to a different language camp, so we never saw each other after that.
So I finally reached Waldsee and I was the only person in the entire bus who was going to the German camp. When I entered, I quickly realized that when they had said that everyone speaks German, they were serious. The two people who were signing me into camp spoke German, the counselors all spoke German. Everyone.
I was now starting to get a little worried. Do I know enough German to communicate with everyone?
[Spoiler Alert: I didn’t]
I got assigned my cabin and I went to the nurse who luckily spoke English. I also chose my bunk, which was in the corner of the house and a bottom bunk. This was also when I met my roommates. I have to say, I was very lucky, my roommates were all friendly and we all had a similar experience with the language, and we were all new. They became my closest friends and we exchange a couple of email as often as we can now. The first full day for me was Tuesday. Tuesday was probably my least favorite day because I was extremely homesick the whole day. The day would have been fun, had I not been so sad and homesick. This really proves that two people could do the same thing the whole day, but if one person is sad or upset then they end up having a terrible day.
However things changed on Wednesday. I hadn’t expected Wednesday to be such a fun day. In the back of my mind I just wanted to get through this day, and I would be one day closer to going back home. The day went by normally, like Tuesday. In our camp we used to alternate between familie (family in German), which was when we got into a group with about 6 other campers and two counselors and we did something to help us enrich our German or learn more about German culture. We learned German songs or German dances. We also played some games to practice introductions and greetings. We would also have activities like painting or music or football (or soccer). This would start around 10 in the morning and end at 7 pm when we would have our dinner and an evening program which could be a bonfire, or some plays in German. We would also have a couple of breaks in the day to buy candy from the cafe or hangout with friends. On Wednesday we had an Oktoberfest which is when we had our dinner outside. We feasted on pretzels, salad and sausages. We also did some dancing in the middle of our meal which was something I had never done before, but I had a blast. On Thursday we watched a play in the evening and my cabin had a night-time bonfire under the stars near the beautiful lake behind our camp. Friday was the last day and I had very mixed feeling about that day. On one hand I was excited to go back home, but on the other hand I was really going to miss Waldsee and my friends. The day went by quickly. In the afternoon we had a friendly game of football and when I say friendly it wasn’t friendly at all. I ended up sitting on the side and talking to my friends. We had a disco party in the evening where we dressed up all fancy and danced out hearts away to German pop music which was surprisingly good. In the middle of our dance party they played a Bollywood song which I found hilarious. On Saturday we all said our goodbyes and I headed back home.
Being an only child, I had never experienced living with so many people. Something about waking up and seeing seven other people wake up with you is fun. Or sharing a bathroom and three showers. In the timeline of four days, I got so comfortable around my cabin mates that I was comfortable with the fact that when I was taking a shower three other people could be outside and the only thing that separated us was a curtain. I learned a lot from the camp as well. I learned to respect people’s privacy. I learned to be independent and do things on my own without asking anyone else. I also got a taste of “living on my own” (not really because I had others living with me). I really think that every child should try living in camp at least one summer. It’s a place where you have fun and make friends, but you also learn and grown as a person.
And the food is amazing