Homesickness And Acculturation Stress

The issue: As funny as they are, movies such as Meatballs and Wet Hot American Summer do not accurately portray a high-quality camp experience. Indeed, rather than having sex multiple times a day with multiple partners, starting food fights, flying underwear up the flagpole, hazing each other, and swearing like sailors, camp staff embraces the professionalism of their jobs; they take quite seriously the enormous responsibility of caring for other people’s children.

The solution: I’m glad if international campers and staff members are initially disappointed that a legitimate camp experience looks nothing like what is portrayed in film and television. I’m glad because it suggests they have instantly noticed key differences. I then take it upon myself to gently, but clearly, share with them why those differences are so valuable to leadership and child development.

Seeing Stars

Any international experience can be stressful, especially when it is disorienting. With special attention to the factors above, native staff and campers can help soothe homesickness and diminish acculturation stress.

Best of all, there are likely many opportunities to open international guests’ eyes to some wonderful new experiences, both literally and figuratively.

I’ll never forget the feeling of taking a new Russian kitchen staff member into the middle of Camp Belknap’s baseball field late at night to see a meteor shower. Having grown up in Moscow, he had never seen so many stationary stars, let alone a few shooting ones.

“Now I see,” he said.

“Isn’t it amazing?” I replied. “And if you let your eyes adjust, you can even see the Milky Way.”

“No,” he said. “I mean now I see why you come back here every summer.”

Dr. Christopher Thurber is the school psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy, the waterfront director at Camp Belknap, and the co-founder of the leading web-based educational resource for youth leaders, ExpertOnlineTraining.com.

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Related posts:

  1. Kids’ Big Fears: Part I
  2. Getting A Handle On Homesickness
  3. Manners Matter
  4. Breaking Through
  5. Writing Camp Jobs On A Resume

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