IYC 2014 Poland – by Rebeca Lopez-Walker

6:30 am Monday morning. I can’t contain my excitement any longer. What!?…6:30 am!…Monday! You’re nuts! (well maybe…..). This is no ordinary Monday morning though, it’s Monday August 4th, the beginning of the best two weeks of the year (in my humble opinion). Two weeks of camping under the most beautiful blanket of stars and being lucky enough to call it your home (all be it for two weeks), meeting new,awesome people, doing insane amounts of singing, hiking through foreign lands, finding somewhere to sleep after a long days march, partaking in exciting workshops, singing and chatting the night away by the campfire, making lifelong friendships, eating gloriously tasty food, learning more about yourself and the people around you. I could go on for a while, so in short, it is the first day of IYC (International Youth Camp).

For those of you who have not heard of IYC before, it is a camp for young people between 17 and 25 years old, from all over the world. IYC takes place every summer on a beautiful field in a different country each time, and is organised and run by past participants. Every year there is a different theme which plays an integral role in camp life and leads to incredibly interesting evening activities and conversations. Past themes have included “(In)dependency” (2013) and “Now is the time” (2012).

This year IYC took place on a stunning hill top above the Polish village of Wisła, surrounded with blueberry bushes, woods and superb views of the Polish-Czech border. With the Polish-Slovakian border merely 15 km away, the theme ‘Crossing Borders’ seemed very fitting.
As we arrived at the campsite we were met by a group of participants who had arrived previously and everyone started introducing themselves, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. I felt at home immediately! After setting up our tents and catching up with friends we played games to help learn each other’s names, a tough feat as there were 85 names to be learnt some of which I had never heard before and others with near impossible pronunciation. However everyone tried to accomplish this as quickly as possible (after a few days it is just a little embarrassing to ask someone their name for the fifth time).

One of my favourite parts of IYC is ‘The Hike’. It sounds rather daunting doesn’t it? In reality it is super fun. A few days after arrival day the camp gets split into smaller groups of about eight/nine participants and one staff member, and each group hikes their way to a second campsite over the course of two days. The groups are given a map of the area, food, water and other essentials, before saying goodbye to the rest and commencing their adventure over mountains, through little villages and across streams.

On the way we ate picnic lunches on mountain tops, helped out at a local carpenters, were lucky enough to meet Johan, an amazing man who at 80 something years old worked as a dentist, took care of his ill wife and still offered us a place to sleep in his home for the night! I must say I enjoyed every moment. There is also a competition involved between the hiking groups making it even more exciting……I would love to tell you about it, however some things are best kept as a surprise!

The days after the hike on returning to our main campsite are a bit of a blur in my mind, time seems to whizz by and days morph into each other. Singing every morning and evening, making hammocks, flags and toilet paper boxes in workshops, sitting down for meals in our circle, running to the white marquee as the next thunderstorm begins to crawl its way over our hill and coming together for the close of day. These memories and more are set deep in my heart and I will take them with me throughout my life, experiencing IYC is something which I will be always grateful for.

If you think you might be interested in coming to IYC in 2015, check out iycamp.com for more detailed information or head over to the IYC Facebook page (facebook.com/iycamp) for loads of camp photos, they will surely win you over! Also keep an eye out on Facebook for any announcements like next year’s location, application opening dates, camp dates etc….it will all be posted on there as soon as it happens.

I can honestly say IYC will be an experience you will never forget!

Hope to see you there next year!