We’re missing our sense of adventure

Theresa Bruskin

I wish I could write an amazing first column that showcases my dazzling wit, but that’ll have to wait until next week.

You see, I spent my summer working at a Girl Scout camp in Virginia, which believe it or not, makes it difficult to keep up with the news. We worked seven days a week, with a faulty Internet connection and a daily waiting list for 30-minute slots online. And we were only able to leave camp if someone was willing to drive (and even then, we usually just went somewhere for food and air conditioning). Needless to say, I feel horribly uninformed.

So while I reintroduce myself to society – if you see me carrying stacks of newspapers, please don’t judge – I’ll have to start with this: If you haven’t spent a summer living and working with a group of strangers from around the world, you’re missing out.

More than half our staff was international, with women from the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Colombia and Russia. I spent July Fourth vastly outnumbered and some weeks was the only American in my group. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Where else could I have become so close with people from every corner of the world, or have experiences like explaining the civil rights movement to a South African or learning German children’s songs or discussing health care reform with someone from England?

You learn a lot about people living the way we did, and the friends I made never cease to amaze me. And they all had one remarkable thing in common: They all paid an agency to place them with an American camp. For most, the costs outweighed their summer salaries, meaning they took a loss to come here. They quit their jobs, left serious relationships behind and had barely any contact with their families, all so they could pay to work here.

There’s no American equivalent to the programs they came here through, but I don’t think the idea of spending a long, hot summer eating bad food and watching someone else’s children (by the end, we had each cared for about 200 girls) is one many Americans would pay for. Camp America, on the other hand, claims to send more than 7,500 camp staff members to the United States every year and has been operating since 1969.

But the women I worked with understood that they were paying for an experience, an adventure, and for some, a life change. Granted, they didn’t know what they were getting into – Girl Scout camps are nothing like “Wet Hot American Summer” or “Bug Juice” make summer camp out to be. There were no tennis courts, no boats, no boys, but lots of body fluid, biffys (a.k.a. latrines) and bugs. Some complained that their agencies misled them, and that they expected something radically different.

At the end of the day, though, we all had tans, better legs, tons of photos and friends we wouldn’t have met anywhere else. And the international folks experienced something totally American and got to live in another country, which is more than most of us could say.

I don’t know if it’s the mainstream American attitude toward travel – that unless it involves relaxation or tourism, it’s not worth paying for – or if it’s our attitude toward life altogether, but by lacking that sense of adventure, we’re seriously missing out on life.

Well, I want to find a way to change that. Send me an e-mail about something you’re doing, and I’ll write about it.

Theresa Bruskin is a senior journalism and political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].