This summer I was given the opportunity to work at an English as a second language summer camp in Pakostane, Croatia. Camp California was created in 2003 by Mike ‘Higgy’ Higginbotham, a surfer dude from Cali who fell in love with the coastal lifestyle of Croatia and agreed to help CCUSA in creating the first American coeducational summer camp in Europe. Since then, Camp California has hosted over 8,000 children from over 60 countries around the world, spanning from Iceland to Australia and everywhere in between. The camp is part of the Pine Beach Resort, which houses miles of straw cabins, a state of the art outdoor dining pavilion, and gorgeous toilet facilities with hot water showers. It is located in the small village of Pakostane, which is about 2 hours from Split and 30 minutes from Zadar. There were 5 sessions, which included a one week session and four two- week sessions. The counselors came around June 10th for our training week and quickly found amazing and adventurous friends in each other. Since the point of the camp was to make sure the European children spoke English, all of the counselors came from English speaking countries.
The best training week cabin – Lindamar!
By the end of the first week, I had a slew of new friends from South Africa, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Soon we were given our own cabins for the first session and I was paired with Fiona, a spunky Irish girl with an affinity for Adidas clothing.
Our camp’s private part of the beach
We were quickly thrown into two roles – cabin counselors for a group of 10-15 year old girls from places like Albania, Hungary, Italy, France, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Russia, and activity counselors in charge of teaching 6 activities a day, ranging from waterpark to dance, arts and crafts, mountain biking (ouch), and even poi spinning.
Fiona and our Session 1 cabin
Our typical day would look a little like this:
7:00 AM – we wake up and have morning showers (Some cabins had evening showers, it depended)
8:00 AM – we all head to Hollywood Bowl, where each cabin had their own bench to sit on. Our program director would then give us the weather for the day and we would answer trivia questions based on one country per morning. If someone from your cabin answered correctly, your cabin would be sent to wash their hands and then head to breakfast.
9:00 AM – everyone heads back to their cabins to do their cleaning chore chart and get ready for their activities.
9:30 AM – the first of 6 activities start and the kids would go with their designated counselors to various parts of the resort to do their scheduled activity.
9:30-12 PM – the kids would go to 3 of their activities.
Teaching Paddle Boarding on the ocean
12 PM – Everyone would head back to Hollywood Bowl for a recap of the morning and then we would head to lunch in cabins.
1-2 PM – We would have cabin hour, where the kids could take naps, read, or play inside the cabin.
2 PM – We would all head to our 4th activity.
2- approx. 7 PM – The kids would go to their remaining 3 activities.
Camp Cal Band
7 PM – Another Hollywood Bowl roundup, followed by dinner.
Approx. 8 PM – Our Evening activity would begin – sometimes it was Egg drop, Lip singing, Gender Wars, Cardboard Catwalk, International night, or free activity night. Each cabin would participate together.
9:30 PM – 10 PM – Evening shower time (Depending on your cabin) and then quiet time until lights out at 10 PM.
10-11 PM – Counselor free time either at the Cafe, the dining pavilion, or taking your own shower.
One of my cute campers lip singing to “Kung Fu Fighting”
We would get 24 hours off each weekend and would be placed in groups. Each group would book an Airbnb in a small Croatian town and spend the day relaxing by the beach, shopping, or sightseeing. I was able to travel to Zadar, Split, Zagreb, Biograd, and other beautiful coastal towns lined with gorgeous Italian villas and various beaches. We would sleep in, eat a ton of pizza, and talk about our different lifestyles while enjoying our time in the sun.
Split, Croatia with Rory
Our visit to Split
For international night, we were given a random country and had to create a skit with the children. I had a blast making a revolutionary football game with the Americans, rapping and eating waffles with the Belgians, and taking a bike tour of Paris with the French girls.
The cutest French twins in the world!
If you weren’t on your day off on Saturday, you were hosting the carnival/free choice during the day and watching a movie with the kids at night. It was always a chilled out day full of laughter and fun memories.
Blindfolding kids for pin the tail on the unicorn during the Carnival
On Sunday, we would sleep in, have more free choice, and then play Scottie the Pirate, which is a creative version of capture the flag. We would split the entire camp into two teams and the rivalry was unreal! The weekends were always extremely fun.
The white team for Scottie the Pirate
The Americans were able to celebrate the Fourth of July allll day long and were very loud and proud with their patriotism! They even made us burgers and fries for lunch. We felt very loved and enjoyed telling the European kids all about our traditions at home.
All in all, this camp seriously changed my life. I was surrounded by open minded, adventurous friends from all over the world, I was able to learn so much about Europe from the children, I had to take responsibility and grow up a little, I was able to play on the beach every day, and I met my boyfriend. It was a wild ride and a very humid one, but I can’t thank Camp California enough for giving me such amazing memories and lifelong friends. Thank you Higgy, the Croatian staff, Pine Beach, and my staff buddies for rocking my world and giving me a summer I will never forget!
All is well, safely rest, CAMP IS LIFE
For more information on Camp California, please visit http://campcalifornia.com.