49 kids, 6 teachers, 5 Teamers, 28 days. I can already tell that this last month will be one of the highlights of my year, maybe even of the next few years. So many emotions and experiences and personal growth were packed into Language Camp that I still haven’t had time to process it all, two weeks into living with my host family. That may also be partly due to my (somewhat unhealthy) habit of trying not to think about things that I know will make me sad, though.
I loved living in Schloss Wittgenstein, nestled in the boughs of a cloudy pine forest, overlooking the hundreds-of-years-old town of Bad Laasphe. I loved sitting in the Schloss Cafe for hours, eating Kuchen and laughing with friends. I loved the walk through the woods down to Bad Laasphe on Sundays, church bells ringing, ushering us to the service. I loved sitting in the windows and gazing out at the courtyard or at the windmills on the horizon that looked more like a landscape painting from the Renaissance than a real landscape. I loved hearing the piano being played, the sound echoing out of the Plenum and drifting through the whole castle like the soundtrack to a movie based on a book by Jane Austen. I loved the Plenum itself, too; sometimes I’d forget to pay attention to the activity we were doing because I was so transfixed with how the light at sunset brought the paintings on the ceilings to life.
Aesthetics aside, Language Camp was a transformative experience. I loved my German class and my wonderful teacher and the other students there struggling through the Dative Case with me. I loved the Teamers and the activities that the Teamers organized for us. Only 2 weeks into living with my host family, I’ve already applied so many of the lessons we were taught about living in a new culture and how to deal with the emotions we’re facing.
The required daily 45-minute-long Self Reflection Time during which I journaled was essential in helping me to sort through my scattered thoughts and from the mess create a framework of how I wanted to grow as a person both at Camp and throughout my exchange year. Small Group helped me work through the fears I have about being too open with people -- every time I talked about something that I normally would have just kept to and struggled with myself, I was met with empathy, hugs, and even insight that helped me solve the problem better than I could have done alone. I really appreciate how much thought, time, effort, consideration, and heart was clearly put into making Language Camp exactly what we all needed. I can’t imagine doing this year without it.
It’s true what they say about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, and I don’t want to think about how Language Camp is an event that, as per the rules of life, will remain in the past. Maybe someday I’ll go back to Schloss Wittgenstein. Probably not. I think it would be too hard to walk its halls without the aim of getting to Plenum for an activity on time, or to German class, or to the cafeteria to eat dinner with my friends and talk about our day. The courtyard would be empty of the people I know, stretched out on whitewashed benches, feet dangling from stone walls; the rooms occupied by strangers.
I don’t think I can go back, at least not for a while. It would be too hard to see Schloss Wittgenstein without the people who made a castle into a home.