Benjamin Bloch is currently on a gap year and doing a Ski Season in Tignes, France. He is a fluent French speaker as he spent eight years living in France growing up, but get him on to the subject of Camp America and he very quickly speaks American. This is a good thing as he is heading back to camp for the second time at the end of April and he can’t wait. Here’s why…
Who suggested Camp America was right for you?
No one suggested it to me. It was something I discovered by myself. To be totally honest, after watching Camp Rock when I was 12, I really wanted to go to an American Summer Camp. It just looked like so much fun. After that I googled how it would be possible and at the top of the list was Camp America. From that point onwards I was just waiting for the day I could start filling out that application form.
What was the toughest question in the interview process?
There were no really tough questions in the interview. The toughest thing was to not totally freak out! I wanted to pass so badly that I was terrified of saying something wrong. At the end of the day though, the interviewer wants you to pass while assessing your suitability for the program. For me personally, I found it hard answering camp-specific questions, such as how I would deal with a homesick child. I honestly didn’t know as I’d never had to before.
Which camp did you go to and for how long?
I went to Surprise Lake Camp, a Jewish sleepaway camp nestled in the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York. I was there for nine weeks; one week of orientation and the rest was “normal” camp.
What did you refuse to leave home without?
I refused to leave home without a big bar of Dairy Milk. That definitely goes to the top of my essentials list.I knew that there were places that sold Dairy Milk, but I had read that it tastes different in America, so I brought some of the real thing.
What happened on Day One?
Day One was an interesting day. It was staff arrival day at camp and I was exhausted! I had been on a late afternoon Camp America flight the day before, and by the time we’d got to the hotel, had our second orientation with Camp America staff, and got to bed, it was 1am US time and 6am UK time. After that, myself and the other Surprise Lake Camp staff were on the 5am bus to Manhattan to get the train to camp. I was exhausted before camp had even started!
Was your bed comfortable?
When I first saw my bed, I thought that they had forgotten the mattress! All that was there was a plastic, almost yoga mat type thing. I didn’t think that there was any way that I’d be able to sleep on there. However, I had some of my best night sleeps at camp. It did wonders for my back, and it turns out that mattresses are ridiculously overrated!
Did you like the other camp counsellors?
I really loved everyone at camp. It’s very hard to explain to people who have never been. You live and work with the same people all day every day for the entire summer. You form bonds that are different to any others in the “real world”. Everyone was there for the same reason – to give the campers an amazing summer.
What was your special skill?
My specific skill was technical theatre. I was hired as the Theatre Manager of camp. That meant using skills I had learned intensely over the previous two years every day in a work environment, which I loved. I got to teach the campers a passion of mine, and something I am very good at (though I do say so myself) every day. No camper got electrocuted and no one broke any equipment, so I count it as a success!
Did you learn to cook?
I didn’t learn to cook, but I did learn a whole different diet! American food is delicious, and if I wasn’t doing exercise every day, they would’ve had to have rolled me onto the plane home!
What was the most memorable Camp day during your stay?
It was Olympics day. 24 hours of nothing that I had ever seen before as it was organised chaos, and I don’t know how it all worked to this day. The campers and staff were split into four teams, the Black Witches, the Red Vampires, the White Ghosts, and the Blue Zombies. All competing to be Olympic champions. The Red Vampires won.
Did you fall in love?
I didn’t fall in love with a person or the country, as I was already in love with America. I fell in love with camp. All the returning staff told me that it’s a really special place that I would develop such a connection to. I didn’t feel it until about three weeks in, and from that point I knew I’d be back.
Are you still in touch with your co-workers?
I am still in touch with quite a lot of my co-workers, and I’ve met up with a couple in the UK. It’s much harder to stay in touch in the “real world”, but for those people we make the effort. Some I speak to on and off, but we pick up exactly where we left off, and it’s amazing to be able to do that with so many people. www.jewishcampamerica.co.uk