IYC 2012 Sweden – by Jana van Gent

‘Goodnight sweetheart well it’s time to go! Goodnight sweetheart well it’s time to go! I hate to leave you I really must say so good night sweetheart goodnight!’

The words of the song still ringing in my ears as we left for the station. It was the end! The end of the most brilliant two weeks. We came to the station, onto one train and then onto another, then a mad rush to the third but as I sat on the third train it hit me: it was over!

I began to reminisce:

BRING! BRING! BRING! My eyes slowly opened and I wondered where I was, why was I being woken up at such an unearthly hour? Then I remembered I was off to IYC, International Youth Camp, and a bolt of excitement shot through me. I had been waiting for so long and I had so many expectations which I knew would probably be far exceeded. I moved like a zombie that morning and next thing I knew we were going through security and then we were sitting on the plane from London to Stockholm, Sweden! We all travelled in a daze of excitement and over tiredness that day. Catching buses and trains getting off at wrong stops, meeting up with other campers and staff. After a long day of travel we were walking the last ten minutes to the campsite.

In front of us there was a vast field in the distance a white marquee and an indiscernible wooden structure with a plastic roof (later discovered to be the kitchen tent). As we came nearer to the people we all began to run in a mad rush! We were greeted by lots of strange faces asking all sorts of questions and offering us food and drink which was welcomed gladly.

After we put up our tent and unpacked we went to explore. We found the lake which was beautiful (but our only washing spot!) After some people had a quick swim and more arrivals we had supper. After supper we all gathered together, divided into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses and we began to sing. As we sung I knew I would love this as much and a lot more than any other Christian community camp. It was the singing that made the atmosphere and created the feeling that we were all one, and above all the absolute enjoyment! The feeling of joy as everyone let go of their inhibitions and sung their hearts out. In the evenings to come I listened and sung, lost in beauty and freedom I felt then!

Names; there were so many names and it felt as if before we had a chance to learn any of them we were sat in a circle and my name was called out with eight others I didn’t yet know. We were off on a hike. We had no idea which route we would take, no idea where we would sleep. Our goal to collect as many points we could and get to the second campsite! Our group was going quite well. We were getting where we wanted to be but then everything went downhill. We suddenly found we had lost any form of path and we were aimlessly wandering trying to find a way across the lake, mosquitos biting every patch of bare skin. Finally we found our way across and a house where they offered us beds and a sauna; it was brilliant and a wonderful reward after we had nearly given up. We had a lovely comfortable night and set off the next day to the second campsite. We arrived, blisters in their full glory and mosquitos bites that could find no rival! We were exhausted and welcomed the warm meal that night!! We spent two days at that campsite and then walked back to ‘base camp’.

The next week was filled with activities, singing, entertainment on the open stage, cold refreshing lake water, lovely food (eating four times the amount you even thought was possible. At camp you seem to be eating as if you were eating for five not just one!) We had a selection of activities to choose from and I chose self-reflection. We discussed our lives and became amazingly close to the people in our group. Much closer than you would even think possible in such a small amount of time!

One evening half way through the camp the staff told us that we were going to a modern art museum. Everyone was excited for the next day! We woke up early, walked to the station and got on the train. As we changed train and were going further away from the place we thought we were going the questions started. We’re not really going to the modern art museum are we? Look there’s a sign on the platform for Stockholm! We’re not are we? You don’t think – ? Stockholm? That would be exciting! And sure enough half an hour later we ended up in Stockholm. We were all allowed to do what we wanted, so some friends and me went first to the old part of Stockholm with its beautiful old buildings and small streets which make you feel like you are in another world. Then we went for an ice cream and visited the art museum. We had a brilliant day and at 5pm we met in the park with the rest of the camp. We sat in a circle around a tree and ate pasta salad off plates which some late coming staff members had brought for us. We were being given strange looks from the passers-by but no one cared everyone was just happy!

IYC is a place where you can forget about life in the outside world, you can forget who you are, what is expected of you and who you think you are. You can just lose yourself in being free and happy; there in a place where different nationalities and cultures meet. Different backgrounds let go of any prejudice they might have and welcome everyone with open arms. Everyone is welcomed with warmth and happiness!

‘This is Arlanda Airport terminal 5’. The voice jolted me out of my day dream. The train had jolted to a stop. We were at the airport now! I checked in and as I sat at the gate waiting to board the plane I felt an emptiness inside me. The two weeks were now over and my life was to continue. I had left the camp a different person to the one I had come as. I wasn’t sure how yet but I knew it was better and it had benefitted me. I had spent just two weeks shut off from the real world and it had seemed to open my eyes to what potential the world had, and what life could bring you. Two weeks which had been an amazing experience I had learnt at least one valuable lesson: Now is the Time! The theme we had discussed throughout the camp; don’t wait for life to come and pick you up. Pick up life and lead it your own way!