Our co-founder Evgenia shares her memories of going away to a summer camp for the first time.
I was 10 years old when my parents decided to send me to a summer camp in England to improve my language skills. I was a very shy and quiet child, with very basic knowledge of English, and was not sure about any of it. I have never been away from home until then, and there I was, going for a whole month, by myself to a new country. But, my parents said it was good for me, and I trusted them.
I remember feeling very nervous in the airport with all the other children going to the same place. However, my father somehow managed to get on the plane just before take-off to reassure me once again that he will be there should anything happen. Knowing that my family has got my back gave me a big confidence boost. This knowledge and security have always stayed with me since that day, and it helps me move forward- independently- in difficult situations. Needless to say, I instill it in my child daily.
I lived in a host family and went to the camp by taxi every morning. It was a completely new experience for me- from having tea with milk and toast for breakfast to meeting so many children from all over the world. I was fascinated by the beauty of the camp and the English countryside, meeting so many fun people, trying activities I did not know existed. A huge change from the 90s in Russia. I spoke to my parents maybe once a week, but sent them postcards from my adventures.
While having so much fun and really improving my English, not all went so smoothly. After a horse-riding activity, I developed a severe allergy to horses. It was pretty scary, but luckily not life-threatening. I had a friend supporting me and informed the camp staff, and managed to stay calm and not get overwhelmed. I handled it very matter-of-factly, even though if this was to happen at home with my parents, it would be much more dramatic.
Then I got lost. One weekend, my host family went away somewhere and I was allowed to go to town (Bournemouth, 10-year-old foreigner) by myself. I wandered down into the town, to the shops to get some sweets, and then realised I had no idea how to get back. Somehow, I stayed calm again. I walked around for a bit, trying to retrace my steps when I noticed some bushes which were prickly to touch. Something in my memory jolted and I remembered the sensation of brushing my hand against them on the way down. I took the same road back up and was finally on the right street. However, nobody was home. It was getting late, so I rang the neighbour's bell, and in poor English explained to them that I am staying next door but they are out. The neighbours called the police. No mobile phones that many years ago, so could not track the host family immediately. Everyone was really nice and kind, and all ended well, but I am sure the host family got into trouble for that.
Other than that, I absolutely loved my first ever trip to the camp. I came back so happy and inspired, feeling much more confident and independent, and with a desire to discover more. The following year I went off to a boarding school, and really believe the camp experience helped with the smooth transition.
The key takeaways from that trip:
new experiences inspire and lead you to want more
children are more resilient when in a tricky situation without our supervision
a secure family bond is a must for confidence and independence
asking for help is a good thing
The benefits of the summer camp are absolutely amazing and here at Collab we strongly believe that all children should experience it in one form or the other to enrich and further their education.