Expectations vs. Reality

Everyone’s seen those Instagram posts that show perfectly posed photos, with outfit on point, hair in place, and the perfectly selected photo, contrasted against ones that have none of those features. Overseas work-travel experiences are no different. There are your expectations and then the reality of it.

Going overseas for a work-travel experience is a big deal, and one that you begin to dream about and plan for many months in advance. All this time means that you’ve got a while to imagine every single detail and even obsess about them all. When you spend so much mental effort into picturing these things, you develop expectations.

Unfortunately, when there’s a mismatch between your expectations and reality, challenges arise for everyone involved. In the summer camp context, this means for you (and sometimes your friends, family, and partner back home), your camp directors, and the campers you’re working with. Sometimes the mismatch is good – the experience and everything it encompasses is way better that you expected! (A candid photo can turn out really awesome!) But other times, it’s a little bit, or maybe even wildly different than you thought it would be. In order to avoid this, it’s best to appropriate manage your expectations before you depart for the experience, and also learn techniques to work through the mismatch if it occurs.

Setting expectations:

Before you leave, do as much research as you can, including research on the camp itself. Check out the website and any social media accounts your camp might have. Look at the maps online, learn the daily schedule, read all of the different materials your organization provides you – and do this ahead of time! Don’t let your mind make up ideas about what it might be like, when there’s information available about what it actually is like. And remember to ask questions. The staff working at your camp are there to help you prepare for the experience. It’s all about setting appropriate expectations.

If there’s information you can’t find, don’t let your mind dream up an idea and get the best of you. Allow for some flexibility so that when you do get that information, whether that be when you first arrive at camp or if someone from your camp answers your questions, you won’t have a pre-developed idea of something. Because guess what? If you’ve never done it before, you can’t know what it’ll be like. Part of the fun is experiencing it for the first time, without any preconceived ideas.

Expectation mismatch:

When reality doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t be negative. It’s way easier said than done, I know. But try your very best to stop the negative thoughts from repeating in your mind. Take a deep breath and stop for a bit. Reframe your thinking and don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Yeah, it sucks – things aren’t what you expected. But the great part is that, while it’s not what you thought it would be, it can be so much more. Even the things that aren’t so great have the potential to teach you lessons and develop different qualities that you may not have been able to otherwise. When your expectations are not met, you’re uncomfortable, but you can learn so much about yourself when you are uncomfortable. Ultimately when your expectations and reality don’t match, it’s an opportunity for you to face a challenge and be successful.

Hopefully these few tips help you prepare for your work-travel experience! If you have other ideas about how to set appropriate expectations, let us know. We’d love to hear them!

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