A Roller Coaster of Feels: The Trials and Triumphs in Hosting an English Camp

Guest Article by Lalitha Adury
American University

 As ETAs, we have a diverse job description. We co-teach 20 hours a week, get involved in, or even run and lead, extracurricular activities and clubs, and are required to host two English camps for our students. While I enjoy all (eh, maybe more like most) aspects of my job, one of my favorite parts is hosting and getting to participate in English camps. To clarify, an English camp is a program run by an ETA where students participate in activities centered on a theme so that they can practice different English skill-sets in a relatively fun and pressure-free environment. While it is obligatory to host two English camps, we ETAs generally find ourselves getting involved in a lot more, either because we really like English camps and decide to host literally all of them, or because we really like helping out other ETAs. We have had some really cool English camps this year, with many different themes and fun activities that we hope our students have enjoyed. In April, I got to host my first one: Master Chef Malaysia. I hosted this event for my Form 4 and 5 students, providing them an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the English language while participating in an activity I have come to learn my students love – cooking!
The participants, English Panel members, and ETAs at MasterChef Malaysia English camp

However, no matter how fun or successful an English camp is, let me be the first to say that the road to get there is definitely filled with some hurdles. Be it lack of support, issues with technology, or problems with students’ attendance, there are no shortage of obstacles to overcome when planning an event as an ETA, let alone a full day of non-stop programming. When it came to planning my English camp, I faced two primary obstacles. The first was getting students to come to the camp, despite their professed enthusiasm. In fact, recruiting participants was like being on a “roller coaster of feels,” for a lack of better words. I went from having 70 kids grabbing permission forms, to hounding all of them repeatedly (repeatedly, I tell you) for multiple days until I painstakingly collected 25 signed forms. Eventually, I made my peace with the fact that this would be a small English camp and moved forward. The second issue was that it was very difficult to find recipes that don’t utilize ovens, stoves, and fridges, and that only contain halal ingredients readily available in Malaysia. Emphasis on “very.” However, after some extensive googling (because when is the internet not the answer?), I was able to procure some no-bake recipes for my students to try making chocolate chip and cornflake granola bars, strawberry shortcake parfaits, peanut butter and banana oat balls, and Oreo cheesecake dip.

ETA Nida Syed with her group and their chocolate chip cornflake granola bars 
The students displayed incredible levels of creativity, determination, and enthusiasm for learning English as they worked in teams to participate in this English camp. However, they were probably even more enthusiastic to meet the other ETAs from Perlis who, because they are wonderful state mates, came to help me out with my camp. The students’ first task was to create a poster for their table and a name for their final products. Afterwards, they had an hour and a half to prepare and plate their dish based on a recipe I provided for them in English.

ETA Naja Pulliam-Collins and her group as they brainstorm ideas for a name for their dish 

The English panel members served as judges and walked around to taste the food and listen to the group presentations about the food. Each group was awarded 1st place in one of the following categories: taste, creativity, design and plating, and use of English.

ETA Tess Rosenberg and her group plating their dish for the judges 

Overall, it was a great day, and I know that my students had a blast! It just goes to show that no matter the obstacles we face or however long the roller coaster ride may feel when were are planning programming, everything works out in the end. We spoke English, enjoyed ourselves, and ate some food – really just all the markings of a successful camp. Most importantly, no English camp, or any event, really, is complete without taking some selfies. Here is one of our best ones: 

ETA Jamie Derosier taking a selfie within a selfie. Selfie-ception anyone?

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