During my university years I worked in an American Summer Camp for two summers. I returned to the same camp twice, getting a substantial raise and promotion the second year.
I was a literacy teacher at a camp in New York State for disadvantaged girls from New York City. The two weeks they spent with us (we had three sessions over the summer period). The girls ranged from 8-16 years old, and many returned year after year, and some eventually becoming Teen Leaders and then counsellors once they were old enough.
The two summers I spent there were hard. Not because I was away from home, but because of the daily challenges we faced. The girls challenged us, the environment challenged us and the lifestyle challenged us. I counted myself as a tough cookie, but I was surprised at how tough it was at times. Yet I returned.
I would imagine that the experience could have been so different had I ended up in a different camp, but the camp I became part of was so worth while. It believed in giving girls an opportunity to see further than their inner city lives. One counsellor said that she had attended as a girl, and the camp had been the sole reason she never turned to drugs. Powerful stuff.
Did you try the USA camp experience? I was older than many members of staff (already into my twenties) but still felt it pushed me in ways I hadn't predicted.