Something Old, Something New: Summer Camp on Two Sides of the World


There’s a sweet spot every March when the weather takes a turn for the better and the general mood on campus wakes from hibernation, turning its collective eye towards summer.

Every year, at exactly this time, I wake up to feelings of intense nostalgia for a sleepy summer camp tucked by the edge of a hundred-year-old wood in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.

During the school year, this land belongs to a private elementary school—the kind with a progressive education motto, where teachers called by their first names take preschoolers on hikes through the woods to play in the creek. The summer camp is hardly different. It’s here that I’ve worked for my last five summers—learning how old a kid can be before musical chairs bores them, mounting productions of shortened Disney musicals (once accidentally creating Al & Addin when too many kids wanted lead roles), and discovering once and for all that the only game truly suitable for all ages is, rather ironically, called Mafia.

Each August, I leave feeling happily exhausted and excited to return to school. But with each March returns that same nostalgic desire to have nothing to do but play with children in the woods, to ditch the nagging feeling telling me to do something big, loud, and Harvard with my summer.

This March, the nagging feeling won out.

I applied to eleven internships and wasn’t chosen for any. I was torn—desperate to return to Rose Valley, but equally desperate to prove I could be wanted elsewhere. I was finally saved by one friend’s description of his summer trip to China to teach English at another school-turned-summer-camp. It seemed like the ideal next step—something old, as they say, and something new.

My summer will be structured like a good meal: a one-week Rose Valley appetizer before July’s main course in China, with a brief Utah hike between the two. I’m counting on that first week to take the edge off my nostalgia, to remind me why working with children is so important, to open up my heart before sending me overseas to become a student in my own classroom. I could never have predicted this on that fateful morning in March, but for now all I can do is hope to make myself as happy a home in Dongguan as I have in the Rose Valley woods.