An everlasting cultural impact: Why international staff is imperative to camp culture 

A Scot, Mexican, English, and Texan walk into a summer camp. Who wants to shoot the first round of jokes? This past summer we were known as the camp ‘STEM’ program: Scotland, Texas, England, and Mexico. Being the native Texan, I had never heard such an eclectic mixture of voices in all of my camping days. Their wonderful accents and different vocabularies would not only brighten my day but also broaden my horizons. Maria, Laura, and Caitlin. All my friends, all my sisters. All from different countries, yet we were all together in this one place.

From the undeniably Scottish way Laura would say the word ‘girls’ and having it end up sounding like ‘ghetto’, to Maria spouting things in Spanish from time to time and Caitlin just being ‘crim crackered knackered’ at the end of each day—that office was an everyday cultural experience.

If it hadn’t been for those three phenomenal women, this past summer wouldn’t have been what it was—incredible. The fact that four young women from all over the world were able to find one spot and have friendship, happiness, culture, diversity, laughter, and true light cultivated into their lives is nothing short of miraculous.

How did we all come to know one another so deeply that we could tell who was in the room without asking? How did we form a bond so strong that we could comfort one another without saying a word? How did we mesh together so well that our disagreements turned into laughing fits? The answer is plain and simple. It’s summer camp—Heart O’ the Hills Summer Camp for Girls to be exact.

There is no other place in the world like summer camp; the bonds you form between those three months and sashaying cypress trees is something that goes unmatched. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without those three women or camp. To have a place so dear to your heart that your body genuinely aches when you have to leave. To form a sisterhood so strong you can’t even picture what life was like before they entered it.

To be able to say that I have genuine true friends from all over the world is one of the things that I am most proud of in this life. No matter where I go in life I know there is someone waiting for me with open arms—and talk about a gratifying feeling!

So how did we come to meet here? What caused our paths to blend?’

Each one of us took a leap of faith and entered the world of camping. We said ‘yes!’ when offered the role of camp counselor, and we would say that with more excitement each year. For me coming to camp was a lot easier and a heck of a lot cheaper than world travel. I didn’t have to file paperwork for a visa or pay for plane flights. I didn’t have to fly halfway around the world from family and friends to a place full of strangers and unknown atmospheres. They did. And they did it time and time again.

They braved the summers thousands of miles away from loved ones to take a walk through camp with me and 150 young girls. They killed spiders, sang at the top of their lungs, were shoulders to cry on, taught valuable life lessons, and changed the lives of each person they came into contact with—campers and counselors alike. Those three ladies, along with thousands just like them tackle the opportunity of summer camp each year.

Summer camps across the nation are lucky enough to have counselors come from all over the world each year. From Australia, Mexico, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and many more—young people take the leap and go to camp. When they come over from across the pond they carry with them traditions, vocabularies, ideas, opinions, cultures, and dietary needs different to ours. These young people open up their worlds and give us more knowledge than a history class or globe ever could. It is unreal how much they have to offer and are willing to share about their lives and culture with people they are just getting to know.

Imperative that camps hire internationals

It is imperative that camps continue to employ counselors from different countries. The kids swarm to them with starry eyes and open minds because they want to know everything about their homeland. They are the kind of superhero that can get a child to do anything because they say it in a cool accent. Without these young men and women, camps wouldn’t serve the same impact and camps wouldn’t be fully staffed like they are now. At Heart O’ the Hills, counselors from overseas are treasured and a huge asset to the camp culture. They are celebrated and no doubt, the coolest people on camp. Whenever a counselor or camper from a different country makes their way to The Heart, their flag is hung in the main village where people pass through every single day. It is a special way to represent that even though people come from different backgrounds, when at camp they are together as one.

The best times of my life have been spent with international counselors at my side. I have learned more from them than any book I have ever thumbed through. If your camp doesn’t employ from overseas, you should.

Your camp, your culture and your kids will thank you for it. 

So, a Scot, Mexican, English, and Texan walked into a summer camp—and they had the time of their lives. 

–Fallon Parnell

About the Author

Fallon Parnell

Always stay humble and kind

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