Gain Valuable Experience Abroad

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This week’s blogger is Jesa Pace, who studied Journalism and Mass Jesa PaceCommunications at Iowa State University. While in college, Jesa participated in a unique study abroad and service-learning program called Camp Adventure.

During my first year of college, I was introduced to many different academic clubs and programs. The study abroad programs sparked my interest and I soon developed an immense desire to participate in a semester abroad, however I did not know much about the different options available.

It was October of my freshman year when a friend told me about a program she had participated in the summer before called Camp Adventure. She explained that Camp Adventure Youth Services was a service-learning program offered through the University of Northern Iowa. The program trains students over the course of a semester to serve as interns on American military bases, embassies and other installations around the world. While in the program, interns may do a variety of jobs, from running day camps to providing swimming lessons for children on the base. Camp Adventure interns also receive 12 college credit hours.

Once interns are given their placement, the program covers the cost of interns’ transportation, room and board. With all of this considered, Camp Adventure seemed like the perfect program to earn college credit, travel internationally, experience a new culture and work with children, all in a very fiscally responsible way. It was an opportunity I could not pass up and just a few weeks later, I found myself at an interview.

In January, I was accepted into the program and began the training process. Each week I attended four hours of training, quickly learning the ropes of being a camp counselor. In the spring, I was told that I would be stationed at Camp Walker in Daegu, South Korea for the summer and would be working with four college students from the University of Northern Iowa and The University of California Davis. I was incredibly excited!

In June, I left for Daegu with an open mind and very little knowledge about where I would be living. I would be spending my summer in. I never imagined then that I was about to embark on a truly life changing experience.

I spent my days during the week teaching swimming lessons in the morning and running a summer camp in the afternoon. One day each week, we would take the kids on a field trip, which was great because it also allowed the other counselor and me to experience more of the country. Working with these kids was an incredibly eye-opening experience as many of them had spent most of their lives moving from one base to another with their families, while one or even both of their parents served our country in a variety of ways.

On the weekends, we took trips all over South Korea. We spent most of our time hiking, visiting beaches, touring temples and learning more about the country’s history. Some of the highlights of the weekends were going kayaking, bungee jumping and visiting the largest statue of Buddha in South Korea.

My three-month placement in Daegu flew by and I enjoyed every minute of my time there, making it incredibly difficult to leave the kids and the other counselors. Looking back, I have realized that there was no better way for me to spend that first summer while in college. Not only was it an experience of a lifetime, I was able to get a semester ahead in my degree with the credits I earned, not to mention that my performance allowed me to be eligible for and participate in a four-week Camp Adventure Program in Italy the following winter break! On top of all of this, the program was a great resume builder and a material talking point for me during interviews for internships in my field of study that came to follow.

While Camp Adventure is a great program for students, it is not the only opportunity available that can provide work experience, college credit and the opportunity to travel. I would encourage all students to do their research and get involved on campus to learn more about the great opportunities out there. It is an excellent way to gain that initial internship experience you need while doing something incredibly meaningful for yourself and others at the same time.

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