I have been waiting for a long time to attend Teen Session at Camp Haiastan. This was my fifth year at Camp Haiastan, which has been on my schedule almost every summer since I went for the first time at eight years old. I remember the feeling inside of me on that first day walking onto the campgrounds that this would be like a second home to me, and it has been. I have built a strong love for AYF Camp Haiastan through all these years, which I feel has always helped me connect with my Armenian roots. Whether I am dancing the Michigan hop, connecting my pinkies with my friends or chanting in the Mess Hall with my cabin mates, I can feel a sense of appreciation for my Armenian heritage. It has connected me with so many people, and I don’t know how I would be able to live without it.
I was so excited for this year’s Teen Session. Camp has always been a memorable experience for me year after year, but this time would be different. I would be meeting young people from all over who I had never met before. This year’s Teen Session had a record-breaking number of participants. The excitement had me counting down the days until the drive up to Massachusetts.
I was fidgeting in my seat during the long, three-hour drive. I kept thinking about whether or not I would be in the same cabin as all of my close friends from years prior and meeting new people. My friends had checked into camp earlier than I had, so I knew which cabin they would be in. As soon as I heard that I would be in cabin four along with the rest of my friends, most of my worries subsided.
Thinking back on the first day of camp feels as if it were so long ago, when it was really just a few weeks ago. While it was mostly the same as previous years, the environment had changed. It was different being with people who were all so close in age with me. I learned about my fellow campers on a much deeper level and made new friends from many different places. Before Teen Session, I was unsure if I wanted to be on staff after aging out of camp. After those two weeks, however, I now know that I will be applying to be on staff as soon as I can. I saw how much work was put in and the level of dedication and commitment by all staff members. I hope to be a part of that someday.
Since I no longer attend an Armenian school, I have started to feel how much the AYF and Camp Haiastan impact my Armenian spirit and help me be an active member of the Armenian community. I am grateful to have experienced all these years at camp, because it has definitely strengthened my bond with my Armenian friends, who I can honestly say are my family. I can’t wait to go back to my home away from home. I wouldn’t trade my experience at camp for anything else in the world.