After 5 weeks (plus one kind of working week) I have officially finished my career as a camp counsellor. Phew! I was a combined English teacher, dance/drama/singing teacher and game player at holiday day camps for Italian children. (They were not referred to as Summer Camp Italia in any form.) Though by ‘finish’ I really mean ‘for now’ as depending on what I’ve got going on next year, and depending if they wanted me back, I may repeat.
Summer camp was sometimes fun, always challenging, always crazy. The tutors were mainly students from the UK on their summer holidays. This lead to a (not so groundless) fear from one week’s camp directors about the level of alcoholic consumption and we received strict instructions to follow the 11pm curfew. On going out for a tutors only dinner organised by the directors we were told ‘you can have ONE beer or ONE wine but please,’ (and this was accompanied by hands clasped in prayer) ‘please do not get druuunk’. Awesome.
I spent three weeks staying with different host families in different parts of northern Italy. The meant I got to experience some amazing food and amazing Italian hospitality, and also saw some parts of Italy that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to (Mantova, Vicenza and some smaller towns). My Italian also improved slightly, especially staying with the last two host families who didn’t speak any English.
We quickly learnt what English words bear a strong resemblance to their Italian equivalent (eliminated, repeat and possibilities being just a few), when to switch to our limited Italian (Basta! being the most popular word choice) and what afternoon games were already known under Italian names to help us get through the hot weeks.
I often had the youngest group of students who would usually already know groups of words – numbers, animals, food, etc, but whose understanding of English was basically zero. Some weeks I had helpers – teenage Italians with a solid grasp of English – in the classroom who helped with behavioral management and occasionally translated the more difficult requests, other weeks I did not. On those weeks trying to explain classroom games, activities or teach items for the all-important end-of-week show was very close to impossible. But it usually all worked out in the end.
I came home over stuffed with food, with a slightly increased eating-related Italian vocabulary, grateful for a break and in awe of primary school teachers.