I signed up for American Village the final week of my undergrad. I just wanted a reason to go back to France and didn't care how I did it. Up to the moment I arrived on site, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but oh boy, it changed my life. Before campers arrive, you set up your site and get to know and work with counselors from all around the world. The bonds you form as a team in these few days create an unforgettable experience, not only for yourselves, but for the campers as well. During the session, you have counselors teaching English in the morning, activities (in English) in the afternoon and a big activity in the evening. At all points in the day, counselors are able to be who they are, and many, myself included, are able to dress in fun costumes to make learning and living in English fun for the campers.
I did this camp for 4 years in a row. I started as a counselor, having never been to a camp myself, and worked my way up to Head Language Counselor, Office Intern and even Site Director. I feel I was truly able to realize my personal potential through American Village. As a part of the AmVil team, I learned how I cope with cohabitation on little sleep, how to work as a team, as both a teammate and leader and how to turn a simple piece of cardboard into a couture outfit that is only needed for a 5-second skit. As an Intern/ Site Director, I learned how to communicate during recruitment, site set up and with the central office, in my case in English AND French.
I have met so many amazing people from around the world, many who I still talk to today and meet up with as often as possible. However, the impact we have on young campers gives an indescribable sense of pride, especially when you have them several years in a row. To see young people grow from year to year and become more confident in their own skills is powerful enough, but to realize the impact you are having on a young person's life as they are learning a language and about a culture that they may not be fully familiar with is incredible.
In conclusion, do it for the fun, do if for the campers, and most of all, do it for yourself. You will never forget the thrill of your first Congress and the tears that come while waving and chasing the bus of departing campers, whose lives will never be the same after just a few days at AmVil.
What would you improve about this program?
When I first started at AmVil, some of the sites were less desirable than others and there was a lot more preparation for counselors. However, when I went back last year, there was an incredible amount of materials available to counselors, so that we could focus more on creating an experience for the campers and not the pre-planning.