Learn & Experience

Sierra’s L&E Journey

2 November 2018 by  

“quickly realised how inclusive the camp was”

Sierra’s Story

Over the past 10 years we have had hundreds of children come to spend their summers with us and with each child comes a story, this is Sierra’s story.  Sierra is from Kentucky in the USA and first came to L&E at the age of 14 in 2014.  Her grandmother Denise made the trip up north to drop Sierra off at camp as she lives in London and Sierra spends her summers there.  After being bullied and picked on at school Denise wanted her granddaughter to grow up knowing that she didn’t need to “conform” and feel the need to try and “fit in”.  Sierra describes how nervous she was about coming to camp as she thought she would be an outsider being the only American.  She very quickly realised how inclusive the camp was and how her nationality or background didn’t matter.  Sierra later described the best part of L&E was the way in which she was able to interact with everyone regardless of age, gender or background.

“learn the art of travel in a safe and supportive environment”

The following year, as well as coming back to camp for 2 weeks Sierra, along with 5 other teenagers from across Europe booked onto the Teen Travel UK trip.  Teen Travel is a unique programme for 15 & 16 year olds which allows teenagers to learn the art of travel in a safe and supportive environment.  Sierra describes Teen Travel as “helping her with real life problems” and although she learns a lot from her parents about how to budget and organise transportation it isn’t the same as “experiencing it for yourself”.  Living and travelling with others is all about compromise and Sierra found this to be a big part of the trip.  Knowing that what one person wanted wasn’t the only thing that mattered and it was the whole group that needed to agree – “teamwork makes the dreamwork!”  Furthermore, being accountable and learning valuable practical skills translated into Sierra having the ability to navigate the international journey to camp each year.

“the L&E experience has been a game changer for Sierra”

Speaking about the overall effects L&E had on Sierra, she expressed that the experiences she gained from the multiple programmes she attended prepared her for college largely due to being exposed to people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.  Without these experiences she felt that her transition to college would have been “difficult”.

We asked Denise to try and sum up how she felt L&E had effected her granddaughter…“the L&E experience has been a game changer for Sierra.  She owns and rocks her self-confidence with ease and grace.  That confidence is no longer predicated on the “if they like me”; it is now firmly rooted in the “I will be fine if they don’t”.  Her view of the world and its infinite possibility is tremendously expansive.  She clearly understands that living life is about the journey, as the destination is just a marker at a point in time and ever changing.”

“an absolute pleasure playing a part in Sierra’s journey”

Sierra is currently undertaking an undergraduate course at the University of Kentucky in Animal Science and Technology and her goal is to become a veterinarian, and if you ask her grandmother she will describe this as her “destiny”.

It has been an absolute pleasure playing a part in Sierra’s journey and we wish her all the very best for the future and hope to see her back at L&E one day…perhaps wearing an orange polo shirt!

Full Testimonial from Sierra’s Grandmother

Sierra’s summer experiences with L&E made a tremendous impact on her self-esteem and sense of being.  Meeting, mixing, and bonding with young people from all over the world helped her to establish a real sense of belonging and an understanding of the privilege and responsibility that comes with being a citizen of the world.

L&E creates a microcosm that consistently exemplifies what real community is.  In this space, the young people are able flourish without judgement or ridicule or constraining social norms.  Kind consideration for one another is the underlying vibe or mantra.

With this as a foundation for her summer experiences, Sierra has been able to fully explore what being the best version of self looks like, feels like, and sounds like.  Her experiences with the extra activity (horse riding) helped her “find” her true passion.  The encouragement from the instructors and the opportunities she had to bond with the horses simply sealed her destiny.  Sierra will work with animals – full stop.

Before going to L&E she was being bullied and picked on at school.  The decision to send her to L&E was purely predicated on the fact that we did not want her to grow up feeling like she needed to conform or “be like” just so she could “fit it”.

When we arrived day-1 of her first year; I was helping her unpack and group of girls popped around the corner asking her name and where she was from.  Sierra froze and said nothing, so I did all the introductions.  I remember thinking “come on Sie get out there” and then I just left the room.  Within 5 minutes, she and the entire group came bouncing down the stairs and she was on her way.

As it turns out, her experiences with L&E have been gateway experiences.  Every summer when she returned from camp, she was more confident and secure and capable with a very grounded sense ofwho she is and what she wants from life.

As a part of teem travel, her self-awareness expanded even more.  Teen travel is a truly unique experience because it deems them fully accountable for what happens next.  It becomes a good experience only if they work to make if a good experience – as a team they plan, organise, budget, etc.  The fact that they are responsible for every single aspect of the allows them to make very adult decisions being fully accountable for the outcome.  The practical skills learned as a part of Teen Travel meant that we were more confident in her ability to navigate the international journey to camp every year.

The L&E experience has been a game changer for Sierra.  She owns and rocks her self-confidence with ease and grace.  That confidence is no longer predicated on the “if they like me”; it is now firmly rooted in the “I will be fine if they don’t”.  Her view of the world and its infinite possibility is tremendously expansive.  She clearly understands that living life is about the journey, as the destination is just a marker at a point in time and ever changing.

I can never in 1,000 years thank the L&E team enough.

Denise BB, October 2018

Full Interview with Sierra

1: How did you feel about coming to camp before you arrived?

When I first found out I was going to L&E I was excited because I knew it was going to be a great experience but when I arrived there I became very nervous and overwhelmed by the amount of people that were there. Since I was from America and many of the people there were from Europe, I thought that I would be an outcast.

2: How did you feel about camp after?

After my 2 weeks of being at camp was over I was very sad. I had so much fun meeting people, participating in activities and games and going horseback riding. When my time at camp was over that’s when I realized how close I had become with the campers and tutors, it felt like I was leaving my second family. 

3: What’s the best thing about camp?

The best part of L&E would have to be how involved the camp is. Most camps I have been to, you would find a small group of people you connected with and stay with them the entire time. With this camp all the activities and games were made to have everyone involved. Here I was able to interact with all people of different age groups and ethnicities and still have fun.

4: What did you learn on Teen Travel?

Teen Travel taught me how to live with others and how to compromise. I’m used to living with family members but had never stayed with people I had just met. I noticed how many times everyone had disagreements over what we wanted to do and what we felt we should spend our money on. Being in these situations made me realize that what I wanted wasn’t the only thing that mattered and that it is important to learn how to work well with others. Teamwork makes the dream work.

5: What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing TT but was undecided?

I would tell them that they should give it a try because it will help them with real life problems. Where I’m from my school never taught me how to budget and find my own transportation and accommodations. The little bit that I did know about these things came from what my parents told me but it’s not the same as experiencing it for yourself. Along with learning all these things you also get the chance to adventure out, meet new people, travel to new places and have fun while doing it. 

6: Any other thoughts about L&E?

I believe L&E is a great place for everyone. I was a very introverted person and L&E helped me step out of my comfort zone and get used to meeting and being around a lot of different people. 

7: What effect did L&E have on you?

In my opinion I believe that L&E has prepared me for college. If it wasn’t for the camp and teen travel I would not have been exposed to being around and living with multiple people from different cultural backgrounds and religions. Without L&E I feel like my transition into college would have been very difficult.