Summer Camp USA and StarJam – Claudia’s Time in the USA

Claudia is a new member in the IEP team who has done a bunch of travel! That includes a summer spent at a camp in the USA working as a Camp Counsellor. Claudia was inspired by her time at camp, to work with less abled people to help make their days brighter. Now volunteering with StarJam is Claudia’s outlet for spreading the cheer! Read on to find out more about Claudia’s experience in America and how it shaped her love for volunteering.

Where did you spend most of your time on your Working Holiday?

My camp was based in Texas for 2 months in a place called Conroe. About an hour from Houston.

Did you travel around while you were away?

I travelled around during my 30-day grace period around the East Coast of America with the friends I made at camp. It was a lot of fun hopping around backpacker accommodations and figuring out airports while making a lot of memories!

Where was your favourite place that you visited?

New Orleans and Boston- two completely different places but both awesome in their own way! New Orleans was super colourful and fun to be in. My favourite thing about New Orleans was being able to walk anywhere and hear live jazz music 24/7. With Boston, it has a lot of history with being one of the oldest cities in the USA. Doing the Freedom Trail was a highlight there and just enjoying some time in the park with a sandwich. If I was to go back, I would get a car and do a road trip rather than flying to all the destination! More to see along the way

What kind of work did you do on your working holiday?

At camp, I was hired to teach kids Archery between the ages of 5-15. I had done archery once over a New Zealand summer, and my camp picked this skill up and flew me over earlier to train me up to be able to teach it! From here, my camp got to know me more and I ended up teaching kids to swim, dance, arts and crafts and cooking.

What was the best part about the work you did?

The best part about working at camp are the kids. You are really getting them away from their homes and letting them have the best summer of their lives. Also getting to know a whole lot of different cultures and personalities and being able to celebrate that in an outdoor area is great. And who doesn’t love a good smore!

What do you miss most about living abroad?

The people and the culture! I have a bunch of friends from camp and we catch up every second year who live around the UK. So not being able to see them every day sucks, but its even more reason to travel 😊

What was the most challenging part moving to and living abroad?

I think for me was being home sick, but it made me more relatable to the kids as they were homesick too, so we just had a chat about how we were feeling which made everything better. Once you get past the first initial days of homesickness, it is a great experience. Just know that everyone is going through it and you’re not alone. Everyone at camp is away from their family, you’re all in the same boat!

What would be the first thing you would do if you went back on a working holiday?

Make sure I take a disposable camera for awesome memories to keep with me! You may be overwhelmed from working there, but you’re going to want to have photos to look back on to remember the experience you had at your camp.

How do you think living abroad has changed you both personally and professionally?

Personally, it made me grow a lot as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I first did a working holiday. While at Camp, I realised I wanted to work in the travel industry, so when I came home, I started doing a course in Tourism. Professionally I have a lot of experience now with working alongside a whole bunch of different cultures.

What tips or tricks would you give yourself if you could travel back in time to just before you left?

To trust the process! We really do take the time to find you a camp that suits you, just let it happen and go with the flow of the process. I was placed at a Girl Scout camp which I was a little unsure if that was right for me as at the time I didn’t have a lot of girl friends, but it was so much fun and I had the best summer.

How has your experience at Summer Camp helped your time at StarJam since returning?

The ability to adjust had been super helpful. The American culture is quite different than New Zealand and being able to mould to different situations is quite helpful for StarJam! You don’t know who is going to walk through those doors, but we always open them with welcoming arms.