Have you ever dreamed about travelling to the Big Apple or L.A.? You have the perfect opportunity during your university years. There are different companies in Hungary (the two most well-known are CCUSA and Camp Leaders) that organize camp counselor programs for university students. It is easier to plan your journey with their assistance as they will help you if any problem occurs. Experience the real U.S. feeling and enjoy the benefits of getting to know a new culture.
My former roommate from secondary school planned to work in the U.S. She talked about it all the time and finally convinced me as well: I decided to join the program eventually. It took a lot of paperwork and time but finally in June I was standing at the BUD airport waiting for my plane to take off to Boston.
A long journey like this requires a lot of preparation and sacrifices. I missed my boyfriend and my family so bad. The lack of physical contact with your loved ones is the worst. Video chatting cannot substitute real quality time together.
I had serious issues with the food as well. The stereotype ‘Americans eat only junk food’ seemed to be true. We ate hot dogs, pizza and fries with hamburgers most of the time accompanied by a huge amount of chocolate and ice-cream. By the end of summer, I was not able to eat any of these so I lost some weight. I was so happy to eat Hungarian dishes when I arrived home.
If you go to the US with the help of these programs you will have to work. I worked as support staff in a camp for girls in Maine. I was in the laundry room with another Hungarian girl. I personally didn’t find this job too exhausting or difficult; keep in mind though that different jobs require different personality traits and skills. If you work as support staff, you could end up working in the kitchen, laundry room etc. In this case you have to be physically strong, while as a counselor – who works directly with the children – you need to find common terms with them.
Finally, please note that jetlag can be very bad.
Getting to know another culture is one of the most exciting things in life. The mentality of the Americans is quite different from ours. They have a huge smile on their face all the time, they never miss a chance to say hi – even if you are 1 kilometer away – and they are not afraid of expressing their happiness, thankfulness or sadness. Of course, these can be very strange for a shy person, but it appears to be even stranger when High School Musical starts in the middle of dinner and children dance on the table. We often tend to think that American movies are exaggerating but believe me, they are not. They live their lives exactly the way you can see in Hollywood films.
When you are in an English speaking country, naturally, you have to speak English. There are no excuses, you have to express yourself somehow, that way you are forced to practice the language. You can learn idiomatic English which is not isolated from real life because you experience it firsthand from native speakers.
On the other hand, this is also a cultural exchange program so the leaders of the camp took us to different places to show us Maine. These were beautiful lakes, rocks, hills and towns so we did not have to be bored on our days-off.
One of the most important things to note: you can break out from your comfort zone. Everyone has his/her ordinary life and people often do not want to give that up. It is easy and comfortable to live that way. Don’t forget that if you go to another country, you have to adapt to the traditions so you will change a bit. In my experience, I changed for the better: I became more self-confident, more independent and I tend to smile a lot more since then.
It is pretty much the same as in a Hungarian camp. We got up at around 6 o’clock, ate breakfast and went to the laundry room at around 7am. (Note: breakfast was sweet in most of the cases – I missed Hungarian bacon…) We were always terrified by the amount of clothes the children brought to the laundry. We put on some music and started working. Working meant putting the clothes into the washing machine (no separation of white or black clothes because we used only warm water) then putting them in the dryer and finally folding. We had a break at noon for lunch and after that we continued washing until 2 pm. After that we had our free time: we called our loved ones, went to the gym or went for a hike. In the evening we usually watched a movie with the other Hungarian girls and went to sleep around 10pm.
All in all, it went like this for 2 months and after that we had the opportunity to travel around the US which was amazing, but it is another topic which is coming soon.
Nagy Katalin Ildikó
Fotók: Krausz Dóra, Nagy Katalin Ildikó