American Museum of Natural History – my last weekend off in NYC

Have you watched „Night at the Museum“? I did and I therefore had to visit the American Museum of Natural History. By the way, this was the last official weekend off we had. It therefore was the last weekend I spent with my co-councilors – time went by so fast that summer!

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Before we headed to the AMNH, we went to Times Square where I bought some drumsticks at Hard Rock Cafe for my brother and we spent some time on the streets of Manhattan and also visited Central Park.

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Strolling around in Central Park

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We arrived at the American Museum of Natural History around noon and getting closer the counter, we realised that it is up to the visitor how much one wants to pay. They have a payment recommendation of $18 but the least you have to pay is $1. There were three girls in front of us who all paid only $1 and to be honest, in that situation, I considered that as pretty rude. They did not look like they were not able to pay the usual entrance fee and personally I think that if you are able to, you should pay the recommended fee, or at least a couple of dollars just to pay tribute to the museum, its staff, its donors etc.

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The famous Tyrannosaurus!

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The museum itself has many different exhibitions, the first one we visited was one about the African continent and informed visitors about wildlife and plants. I could not get this scenario of lions jumping out of the windows at night out of my head. There was also a polar/marine exhibition with a life-sized blue whale hanging from the ceiling. It was stunning!
In addition to all the wildlife on exhibition, they also informed visitors about the evolution of mankind and demographic change, it was super interesting!
Last but not least we went to the dinosaur and fossil segment and it was really breathtaking, imagining that these creatures actually existed and ran around on the planet. I can highly recommend the AMNH to EVERYBODY! Kids will love it, you will see tons of dinosaur skeletons, you will learn a lot and I promise- it will not get boring!

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Kale, Salad, Quinoa, Falafel, Avocado and more!

In the evening, before heading back to Long Island, we went to Apple Bee’s. Unfortunately we were not really into their menu and therefore went to another little salad bar/deli and got some nice salad quinoa falafel bowls. It was delicious but I sadly forgot the name of the place…For desert we went to M&Ms world and got our personal M&M colour analysed. I am green! It was a fun experience but I do not recommend buying M&Ms there, it is unbelievably expensive!

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Good night New York City!

I definitely enjoyed my last weekend in Manhattan. Now there is only one activity in NYC left that I have not already talked about- so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!
xx, Sophie

Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Weekend off in NYC #2.2

Welcome back to New York City, it’s been waiting for you!

Today I will be sharing with you some pictures of the Grand Central Station/Terminal, Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We decided to dedicate one weekend to different Museums in NYC and that day we went to the MET and also visited Grand Central Station.

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I guess all Germans out there will understand that I was pretty excited when I found a real bakery at Grand Central Station. Yes, they had real bread and great bread rolls that were not sweetened and did not taste like cake rather than like original bread. My friend and I bought ourselves a lunch and another bread roll with cream cheese for our „Abendbrot“ („Dinner“ in German, or if you want to translate it literally „Evening bread“). It  was  amazing !

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I really love the ceiling of Grand Central, it actually reminds me of the magic ceiling in Hogwarts…
Even though I’ve already been to Grand Central in 2015, I didn’t know that there is an apple store up the stairs. My friend unfortunately, crashed her iPhone screen the other day and bought a phone case at the store, but as far as I can remember, you really pay the price for the location.

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On our way to the Whispering gallery

Also- did you know that the Grand Central Terminal has a „Whispering gallery“ in front of the „Oyster Bar“ Restaurant? If you are directly facing one of the four corners of the gallery, you can speak to you friend who is facing another corner, even though you are meters apart from each other.

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Additionally, I just found out that there is a tennis club on the fourth floor, isn’t that crazy? However, this attraction is not really a low budget activity as far as I’ve heard…
Last but not least, did you know that as one of the largest railway stations in the world, Grand Central Terminal is actually radioactive? And that because of its granite walls the radiation levels produced by the station exceed the radiation levels that are allowed in a nuclear power plant?

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In the afternoon we decided to stroll through Central Park and then headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The MET is the largest Art museum in the United States of America and it’s located on the Upper East Side, on the edge of Central Park.
At first I was really worried about the queue in front of the building but as far as I can remember we did not have to wait longer than fifteen minutes.

Correction: I confused the ticket price with the tickets in the AMNH – we paid $12.00 for a student ticket.

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Anyway, the current exhibition in summer 2018 was „Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the catholic imagination“ and it was breathtaking.

The Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition—at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters—features a dialogue between fashion and medieval art from The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.

Looking at all these stunning robes or rather at these artworks, accompanied by impressive, classical music, created such a majestic and powerful atmosphere. It was simply amazing.

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At that time there was also an impressionism/naturalism exhibition „Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence“including art pieces by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet. Impressionism (19th century) is one of my favourite eras and art movements in the history of art. The MET has so many great exhibitions and if you are at least a little interested in art, you will love it. And if not, you could still enjoy the view on the Manhattan skyline and Central Park from the roof terrace on top of the building.
I will definitely come back if I get the chance to!

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Have you ever been to NYC and did you go to the MET? If yes- how did you like it?
I wish you all a great week!

Sophie

Taking the ferry to Brooklyn but ending up at IKEA – Weekend off in NYC #2.1

We started our second weekend off with a nice dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I definitely fell in love with this restaurant, and to be honest, I think I’ve already tried at least seven of their Cheesecakes last summer. However, I had the best salad I’ve ever had with a lot of Guacamole!

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As you might have read in my previous Weekend off – Post, we usually spent our time off in NYC, since the train ride from our city in Long Island to Penn Station was only an hour long. Our goal for this weekend was to take a ferry to Brooklyn and walk the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan and to visit Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and certain Museums (I’m gonna tackle the Museum part in a separate post).
Well, it turned out that not everything went as planned…

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Ground Zero

Ground Zero

Saturday morning, we already had breakfast at camp and arrived around eleven at Penn Station and took a subway to Ground Zero. I was in desperate need of a good black coffee (coffee at camp was usually just instant coffee which is not really delicious if you like to have your coffee black) so I went to Starbucks, ordered coffee and literally paid almost $3 for a small bottle of water.

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I was really surprised how much street art we saw around Ground Zero, I didn’t remember it to be that much from my last trip to New York City in 2015.
The World Trade Center Memorial is very impressive, I really like that they mentioned all the names of the victims of the 9/11 attack.
However, I was not completely sure if I liked that so many people took pictures in front of the memorial, especially people who made instagram stories or uploaded pictures of themselves, smiling into the camera with all the victim’s names in the background.
Personally I feel like it is not particularly respectful to take those kinds of pictures in front of a memorial that reminds us of the deaths of almost 3000 people.
What is your opinion on this topic?

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Can you spot the Statue of Liberty?

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After our stop at the World Trade Center Site, we walked down Greenwich Street to Battery Park where we were considering doing a boat tour. Unfortunately we discovered an at least 400m long queue of people waiting to buy tickets, hence we decided to skip the tour and just chilled out a bit at the boardwalk.
Admiring the Statue of Liberty, which is still always a surprise because of its small size, we took some pictures before continuing our sightseeing stroll.
I mean, honestly! As a child I always imagined it to be humongous and visible from almost any part of Lower Manhattan, consequently I was a bit disappointed when I first came to NYC but I could not help but smile about it :)!

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IKEA is always a good idea

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Already feeling a bit hungry we planned to take a taxi boat to Brooklyn and to walk the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan later in the afternoon.
Accordingly, we were super pleased when we found out that we only had to wait a couple of minutes for the next ferry. The so called „New York Water Taxi“ was yellow and rather had the appearance of a speed boat like the one I took in Bali when I went to Nusa Lembongan.
As already said, we could not wait to have our late lunch and therefore were happy to finally sit down, and hopefully find a nice restaurant ASAP :D…
The ferry or the slow speed boat honked and left the dock and started to drive to the right, even though Brooklyn Bridge was to our left.
We were slightly confused but still confident that we would soon arrive at our destination.

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However, even after five minutes the ferry was still driving to the wrong direction and after having passed Governors Island we began to laugh despite growling stomaches and were open for another adventure, maybe we would eventually end up somewhere in New Jersey – nobody knows!
It took another twenty minutes till the boat approached a bay and we bursted out laughing when the ferry finally docked and spotted people waiting at the dock with big dark blue plastic bags with „IKEA“ written in bold yellow letters on it, waiting to take the Taxi Boat.

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Yes, we accidentally took a ferry to IKEA instead of a ferry to Brooklyn. I did not even know that there is actually a ferry from Manhattan to IKEA.
Anyway, we therefore still ended up doing a boat trip, even though it was not particularly the one we expected to do.

Wall Street Stock Exchange

Still very hungry, we headed back to Manhattan and took a stroll to Wall Street in order to take a subway to Brooklyn and have lunch. Of course we could not miss out on taking a picture in front of the New York Stock Exchange!

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Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO)

Eventually, we made it to Brooklyn but it turned out that the search for food would not be as easy as thought. The restaurants at the promenade had big queues in front of them, I guess it would have taken us at least half an hour to be seated.

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Brooklyn Bridge

We consequently decided to head to the famous „Gossip Girl Viewpoint“ first, where you can see the Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street. I had a salad at a great salad place called „Sweetgreen„, my friend hat a slice of Pizza at „Front Street Pizza“ and we stocked up on water at a small shop called Peas & Pickles.
I really enjoyed all the great salad bars in NYC since you were able to pick your own greens and stuff or enjoy one of their amazingly creative creations.

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After we had filled up on our energy levels, we went to the promenade where you have a great view of the Manhattan skyline.

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DUMBO was pretty great, many young people, great bars and restaurants and we met some other counsellors from camp at the boardwalk. It is amazing how you can actually meet people you know on accident in such a huge city. Also, I got a call from my friend from Germany who has also been a counsellor at another camp that summer. She told me that she had seen my snap and that she was also in the city, watching a musical on Broadway, what a coincidence!

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Donuts

We had spent another great day in Manhattan and Brooklyn and after at least ten hours of running around, we found ourselves at a Dunkin Donuts store near Penn Station and enjoyed some sweet Donuts. My absolute favourite that summer was probably the chocolate one with these kind of sprinkles which was filled with some kind of coconut cream – so delicious!

I hope you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for more USA posts!
xx, Sophie

This post is not sponsored. All restaurants, shops, places etc. mentioned in this post are my personal recommendations.

 

 

 

How I fulfilled my Dream and went to Yosemite National Park, CA

I’ve been waiting for this for years. Yosemite National Park has been one of the greatest travel destinations for me since I got in touch with the work of Ansel Adams, a landscape photographer who shot many great landscape photographs.

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Half Dome, on my way to the campground

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I think it was in 2012 when my mother told me about Ansel Adams‘ work. I was thirteen years old and became really interested in photography and cameras when she introduced me to his photographs.
It didn’t take me long to find out about the National Park in his pictures.
Big granite monoliths, rocks so high your neck will hurt the longer you watch their summit, but definitely worth it!

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Half Dome

For years, Yosemite National Park has just been an unapproachable-seeming dream, until the day my Ballet teacher wore a Shirt from Yosemite in class and I almost couldn’t believe her when she told me she went there. That was in 2016 and since then I knew:
One day I will go there, one day I will see Half Dome, El Capitan and the Tunnel View with my own eyes.

Two years later, I applied for the Camp America program, got hired as a camp counsellor and decided to travel to San Francisco and Yosemite, even if I had to do it alone.
So I booked a campground, deciding I would travel there, no matter what.

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My preparation mainly included bringing a tent, which was far too big since I was hoping I would find people in my summer camp who want to join me, and a sleeping bag.
When it turned out that nobody would join me on my little four-day-adventure, I got a bit scared, since you need to take a subway, a train and a bus to the park and my campground was not in Yosemite Valley, but a 30 minute bus drive away.
To be honest, I almost quit, since I was by myself and I had to carry everything by myself and didn’t know where to leave my luggage in San Francisco.
However, I was too committed and decided that these little travel issues would not let me wait another three years till I would come back and try again.

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So I got up at six in the morning, took the subway, took the train, took the bus, waited three hours in Yosemite Valley for the bus to take me to the camp ground and finally arrived around six at Crane Flat Gasstation.

The camp ground was a five minute walk from the gas station and when I walked down the road, I realised that this campground was not really supposed for people without a car. The ranger at the entrance was a lovely woman who was obviously amused that a 19 year old girl with only one Carry-On back pack (my tent was inside, as well as my sleeping bag so I was actually just carrying one backpack) was checking in.
She asked me if I would, at any point, have a car and I answered I wouldn’t.
Smiling, she handed me my paper hanger with my booking number, showed me on a map where my camp space was and added „You don’t need to take the map, it’s probably annoying to carry around, you will find the spot without it“ and I just thought: ‚That lady clearly understood my packing issues :D!‘

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-day of arrival-
to be continued…

 

PS: Some of these pictures where taken during the bus drive to the campground, which explains why some of them are a bit blurry and have reflections in them. Additionally, I was not able to take the pictures with my reflex camera since it broke at the beginning of the summer. I took most of the photos with a bridge camera and also used my phone.

Nine Weeks of Summer Camp in Long Island, NY

Camp is officially over- and I am officially sad. I had such a great summer here in Long Island, I met great women and made many friends. Last year in December when I was in Australia, I made the decision to apply for Camp America and turned down an internship in Berlin for it. At that time, I wasn’t really sure if that was the right decision and I feared I could regret it. Looking back now, it was the best thing to do to end my gap year.

My camp is a camp for underprivileged children from Long Island and the board works the whole year to set up the camp. They do a lot of fund raising, they run a thrift shop and more in order to give children in need the opportunity to spend two weeks in a free summer camp.

Camp America has many different camps in their program and some private camps are really „exclusive“ and only quite wealthy people can afford a placement at a summer camp for their kids in those camps. Since the gap between rich and poor is growing in Long Island and everywhere else, I really appreciated the work in my camp because I feel like I’ve done something good.

Working with children can be exhausting, but very rewarding at the same time. I loved all the kids I had in my cabins and even though there are always some issues with some campers, you still learn to worship the work with kids and you learn from every problem you’ve dealt with. I had so much fun this summer and now I am laying in my bed, realising that this will be the last night I’m sleeping in a wood cabin with nets instead of windows and bunk beds. I can’t believe it and I don’t want to leave….

However, we had lots of fun in Long Island, it is such a great place with so much to do. I will definitely write a post about the area where I stayed. If you ever come to NYC, take a LIRR Train from Penn Station to Long Island- it’s definitely worth it!

The last picture in this post shows the little beach near our camp, where I occasionally went for a run in the morning- it was so beautiful!! The beach pictures were taken on a beach festival at Long Beach where we went on our first off weekend. It was such a great experience because we sat in the sand at the beach right next to the ocean, listening to live music and eating food truck-food. There was also a firework above the water at night and it was literally the best firework I’ve ever seen! We loved it ♥️

I had a great time, but life must go on. I will fly to California tomorrow and I am super excited. We’ll see…♥️

Thanks for reading!

xx, Sophie

Quick Update: Camp and New York City

Hello everybody,

I hope you are enjoying your summer at the moment and that the weather is good. In Long Island the weather great, even though it gets quite humid here and we sometimes have a 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) which is a lot when you are running around the whole day and do activities with the kids.

My third week in the United States has just begun (this blogpost will probably be published a bit later) and it is great so far. We had orientation for one week and the campers arrived the second week. We are a small camp in comparison to other camps in the United States, some of them have up to 7000 campers each summer. During orientation we prepared everything for the campers, for example we planned activities, games and different sessions, but we also had First Aid and CPR lessons. Additionally, we talked a lot about child behaviour and how to cope with difficulty situations, trust me – there will be difficult situations. It might depend in what kind of camp you are, just be prepared.

However, I can already tell that working with kids is an amazingly rewarding experience. One moment you think you are too strict and then suddenly they hug you, or draw you something and tell you that you are their favourite councellor. At the moment I feel like I am in a bubble because I don’t really feel like I am on earth right now. I am somewhere else, a save place that only exists to create great summer memories. It is amazing.

Yes, I am also exhausted sometimes. Coping with difficulties is sometimes really hard and sometimes I worry that I am not good enough for this job. But this is fortunately not often the case and when it happens I try to turn my thoughts on standby and focus on the kids, I am responsible and I want them to have a great time. Camp is about the campers, they are the most important piece in this great puzzle and it’s amazing to see how they change during that time. Kids who are bullied in school suddenly smile and laugh a lot. Introverted children suddenly become the loudest. It is a great community and I get up every morning with a smile on my face and am excited for the new day.

However, we also have off weekends when one sessions ends and the other is about to begin. On those weekends people go visit other places, which we did on our first day off. We took a train to Penn Station in the middle of Manhattan and spend our day in NYC. I know it sounds so stupid but it felt like coming home. There is no city like New York City. People from all around the world walk on these streets, it is always busy and overwhelming. This day we ran around a lot and visited some tourist attractions and even went to a thrift store in Soho. It was great! We don’t really have nice thrift stores in my town but the ones I visited in Amsterdam, London and NYC were amazing! Our day off was nice 😊

However, something happened: my camera broke. After six years of picture taking, something in the body is not working, and nobody can tell me what it is. I will have to wait till I’m home and figure something out for my time in the states. It’s sad but it can happen. We will see…

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy my NYC iPhone pictures 😊

Have a good week!

Sophie

Camp America – An Announcement

Note: When you read this, I will already be on my way to the USA.

Camp America is an organisation that provides cultural exchange programs for young people from the age of 18. Every year thousands of people from all around the world travel to the US in order to work in a summer camp for kids and teens.
Since American students have 12 weeks of summer vacation, it is very common to spend some weeks in a summer camp.

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In camp there are different job positions, you can be a lifeguard, a general counsellor or a specialist.
As it is a cultural exchange program, you will be working with Americans who are often former campers at their camp, probably many Britons (everyone in Great Britain knows this program), people from western Europe and even Australians and New Zealanders often take part.

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Types of Camps

There are different types of Camps and if you have preferences, you will be able to add this in you application. These are the camp types:

  • Private Camps
  • Jewish Camps
  • Christian Camps
  • Special Needs Camps (e.g. working with children and adults who have a disability)
  • Underprivileged Camps (Free of charge for the campers)
  • Girl Scout Camps
  • Day Camps
  • Single Sex Camps

I had no preferences in my application and I know have the honor to work in an underprivileged camp in New York.

YES, I WILL SPEND NINE WEEKS IN FREAKING NEW YORK!

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Working at Camp

You can either work as a counsellor, or as Campower.
Working as a counsellor means looking after the kids and you usually share a bunk with them and your co-counsellors. You will also be involved in different activities the campers have every day. Another option is being a specialist and teaching the kids something. You can basically be a specialist for every kind of sports.
Dance, soccer, basketball, equestrian, ropes, tennis etc.
But camps need also specialists for arts and crafts, nature, they need lifeguards, or even specialists for girl power.
In general, working at camp can be a very, very rewarding experience!

Campower staff can be working in a kitchen or be part of the maintenance staff. Basically they experience camp in a different way than the counsellors, since they are not responsible for the kids.

I will be working as a general counsellor and also as an arts and crafts specialist, which means I will be doing arts projects with the kids and also be a counsellor.
I really hope that I can also occasionally teach ballet or jazz modern classes, but the dance counsellor job in our camp mainly focussed on hip hop and street dance, which I am definitely not good at 😂

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How to apply for Camp America

If you want to spend your summer working at a camp in the USA, you need to apply on the CA-website or if you are German, at AIFS. You also need to be free at least from mid June till September. The application process is quite extensive.

You have to write a lot about yourself, why you want to work at a camp, tell them about the experience you have with children, you need at least two skills you can write about (sports, art etc.) and need two references from your teacher or trainer (must not be part of your family).
Additionally, you need to film a video about yourself, presenting your skills and your life, you have to fill in a medical form with your doctor’s signature, you need a certificate of good conduct and CA or AIFS will interview you.

 

After your interview with your organization where they will make sure that you are capable of doing such a job, your application will be uploaded and all camp directors have access to it. If they are interested in hiring you, they will contact you and arrange a interview via skype. If they think you are suitable for a job at their camp they will ask if they can hire you. Now that you are hired, you have to apply for a VISA and go to a local embassy to get it approved. During your summer, you will have a medical insurance and if you are a „first year“, they will also book your flights and care of almost everything.
Now you can prepare yourself for camp, get in touch with other counsellors and be over excited for the hopefully best summer of your life 😄!

After your time at camp, you will have another four weeks to travel in the country, usually internationals will travel together, but you can also travel alone or book a Camp America-Track. This part is of course optional and you can choose the amount of days you would like to spend travelling.

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What do you think about this program? Would you be interested in working in a summer camp in the United States?

xx, (overly-excited) Sophie

 

Pictures in this post are not mine, they are from the movie „The Parent Trap“ with Lindsay Lohan from 1998. If you click on the images, you will directly get to the source where I found them.