Maya, Canada

Taking a gap year was the first opportunity I had to exercise my newfound dream of chasing adventure, and so when Canada called from across the ocean, I answered.

As a counsellor, I became something of a parent to the hundreds of children who passed under my care while at camp. I lead them in a multitude of activities that I barely knew how to perform myself (‘act like you’ve been there before’ was the motto that got me through), from sailing, kayaking and canoeing to high ropes, arts and crafts and campfire. Everyday I learned new things and everyday my confidence as a leader grew. It was a cool night in spring when I first realised the potential I possessed to bring joy and a shared sense of friendship to my campers. The school I was counselling at the time consisted of around fifty students, and I remember clearly the evening we spent in the dining hall, safe from the ravages of the west coast rain. Somehow I was lured over to the old piano by a couple of my core campers, and before I knew it, I was tapping out the notes to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. I encouraged the girls around me to sing along, easing their fear by joining in. As I played, children from other friend groups drifted over, and it wasn’t long before the entire school had me and the piano surrounded, as they sang along to their hearts content. It was a magical moment, a muted memory that I will cherish always. When I think back to that night, I reminisce over the way the children forgot, for those few precious minutes, the social constraints keeping them in their separate cliques. For that instant, conformity was ignored, and harmony reigned.

My time at Camp Elphinstone was an experience like no other, and to this day it remains the best year of my life. Not only did I learn how to interact with children and work as a leader within a team, but I also learnt an exceptional amount about myself. Yes, the child in my soul is still alive and kicking, and yes, she gets tired and grumpy sometimes. She can be a sore loser and irritatingly stubborn, and she can withdraw from civilisation just to cry in the most blissful of places (campfire), for no reason at all; but she is also kind and loyal and sees the beauty in the trivial things that most people overlook. My year abroad taught me to embrace my unique spirit in a way that high school never could.

For that, I thank you. M.