The night before I was set to leave, the excitement of it all turned to pure terror. I remember thinking: “Oh my gosh. What have I gotten myself into?!”
Last week, I went as a counselor for a program known as Outdoor Education, a one week camp for fifth-graders in which they learn about the importance of preserving nature.
I remember having literally the best week ever when I went as a camper.
After arriving at the camp, I was sent to my first meeting where I met all the other cabin leaders and the head coordinators. I was the only one from Burlingame High School who went that week so, at first, not knowing anyone was unfavorable, however, by dinner that night we had all become friends.
Let’s just say that I really lucked out with my (15!) cabin kids; they were all pretty receptive and cooperative, which was really impressive considering their age. After they left for an activity, I regrouped with the head coordinator and the other cabin leaders for a meeting to share how our “get to know each other” activities went and to share any concerns about our kids.
That week, I not only formed a family with my kids as their big sister, but also with the entire Outdoor Ed staff and the cabin leaders. That was one major difference from when I was a camper. I do not really remember any other cabin leaders from my year but, this time, there was that inevitable bond between us, because we were going through the same challenges as a big sibling to our cabin kids. We would have these meetings every day as a time to unwind and just reflect on our leadership abilities and focus on the upcoming activities for the next day.
Being a cabin leader was not a walk in the park. I definitely had a lot of fun but, as cabin leader, I had infinitely more responsibilities: gather all the children everywhere quickly, make enough group trips to the restroom, not let any child go unattended even for a little while, all while being very sensitive to the children. Establishing myself as a nice but fair cabin leader was definitely the most challenging part of the week. I had to make sure my kids knew that I was there for them, as a few got extremely homesick during the nights. I would spend a lot of time calming them down and, in one severe case, take one child to the health center because her homesickness manifested itself physically.
I got tremendous satisfaction reading the “cabin leader reviews” which the kids filled out midweek, in which some children wrote that I really helped them overcome their anxiety. I was not only a mediator in their occasional arguments and a guardian, but also a counselor.
I am so glad I decided to do this. I think it is more than fair to say that I will miss my kids, the staff and the other cabin leaders very much, though we knew each other for just a week. My kids and I were sad to see each other go, but I think we all drew something really special from that week, something that can only be gained through experience. It is something that cannot be described through words on paper.
Janani Kumar is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.