Ivan saw his opportunity to visit America, something he had always wanted to do, realized in the summer of 2022 when he was hired as one of the international camp counselors at Camp Asbury. Studying International Business, he saw it as a chance to test his skills and himself as he immersed himself in a new culture and a new language. He came to camp that summer hoping to grow in his English-speaking skills, to learn about the cultural differences between Mexico and America and to have some fun and memorable experiences. Ivan got all those things and much more.
The process of securing a position at a camp in America and finding the right fit was not an easy task, Ivan notes. At first, Ivan found himself reaching out to camps, unsure of exactly what his expectations should be. Eventually, he decided he needed to stop contacting camps and let them contact him based on his profile on the Interexchange platform. He would interview camps, but kept finding that nothing was coming from it, and the deadline to be placed was fast approaching. On the last day of placement, Camp Asbury reached out to him and requested to interview him. Ivan recalls feeling nervous and praying leading up to the interview that something good might come from this. His nerves turned to excitement as he video interviewed with the Camp Directors, Sammi and John, and they instantly clicked with him. He was offered a job on the spot and as soon as the interview ended, he raced to his dad joyfully to tell him the news.
Job secured, preparations in place, nerves kicked in as Ivan neared departure for America. He was nervous to cross the border because it was his first time and he had heard it could be difficult and he did not want it to derail his journey. However, he found himself getting into the US without any issues and soon in Hiram, Ohio. His nerves were still on edge because he was in a new place where no one spoke his language. He was having a challenging time understanding a lot of what was being said at first but recalls a moment in which he realized he could put his anxiousness aside, “I remember the first activity we had at the patio. It was my first time participating in anything, we were doing ropes initiatives. We were all blindfolded and we were holding onto a rope trying to make a square. I tried to say something to participate and give ideas and I know my English was so bad that day, that no one understood me. But no one judged me, and they were trying to understand me. I said, ‘Wow, these are really nice people.’ and I felt accepted.”
Ever since that moment during his first staff training Ivan has had a deep connection with Camp Asbury. When asked how camp has impacted his life he said “This is something I have been thinking about recently. How good camp has impacted my life. My mom and grandma passed away four or five years now. Since I lost them, I have been having a hard time in Mexico. I do not have anyone I can talk to that way anymore. Now, I come here, and I have people that remind me of them. Like Nurse Kristin, she has parts of her that remind me of my mom. The staff here feel like family… Camp represents a family for me.”
Before this past summer ended Ivan was already saying he wanted to come back for a third year and asking when we could start the complicated process of getting returning international staff back, because of how much this place means to him. “It’s like when you go off to college. In the summer is when you are free, instead of going somewhere else, you return home. In the summer, it is the only time I can return home. It is the only place I want to go after a hard year. Return home and be safe. That is how I feel here.”