When You Grow Up

So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a classic question that so many young people are asked, in one way, shape or form. Maybe it’s “what do you want to be?”, “what do you want to do for work”, or even as simple as, “what’s next?” For some, they have an answer and for others, they have no idea. Regardless, a work-travel experience like summer camp can make you think differently and approach your experiences in a whole new way.

When I went to camp for the first time, I had an answer. I wanted to be a secondary school physical education teacher. In fact, I was going to a five-year university program to get my bachelor’s degrees in Education and Physical Education. I did follow through with my formal education and graduate the academic year after I first worked a camp, but my work experience drastically changed my path and ultimately, what I want to do.

I met so many incredible people who came from countries I’d never been to and had experiences I’d never even dreamed of. This made me put my idea of what my future would be on hold. I decided to travel to Australia and live, work, and travel there for 6 months. The friendships I made at summer camp deepened and the connections I made there took me across Australia. I stayed in friends’ homes and saw how they lived and interacted with the world. It made me question my own ways of doing so. This experience shaped me in so many ways – I began to understand what I really value in life and what’s most important to me. For me, it’s having positive relationships and challenging myself to be better, both personally and professionally, every day.

Long story short, I went back to school – twice. I continued on to get my Master’s degree, which focused on youth development at summer camp. I am now working on my Doctorate degree, with a similar focus, but broadened to emerging adult development. As a Canadian, I never would have imagined living in the United States, but the people I met and the connections I developed at camp made me aware of the PhD program at the University of Utah. I can very easily say that without going to camp, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

All the while, my focus has been learning and development, and how to promote these for young people, but my path, is drastically different than I imagined. So many of my life experiences stem from summer camp.

None of us can predict the future, but I challenge you to think about where a summer camp experience might take you. When you make new friendships and connections, how will this shape your life? Where will you go? To a new state or country? How will working with kids change what you want to be when you grow up? Maybe you will realize it’s not for you, maybe it will reaffirm that yes, a teaching career, actually is for you. Or who knows, maybe it will show you opportunities you never even knew existed.

“Oh, the places you will go” – Dr. Seuss

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