IYC 2018 France – by Josh Swanbrow

“IYC? Never heard of it, sounds interesting I guess.”

“That was my rationale, I suppose, when I confirmed my place two days before the camp was due to start. So with a fair degree of optimism, I threw some clothes into a rucksack and made my way a thousand miles away to the south of France. I’d arrived by myself, knowing no-one, yet I quickly felt a sense of kinship with the other participants, we were a huge variety of nationalities and backgrounds, but we’d all turned up to the camp, and that was a wonderful thing to have in common.

We pitched our tents in a field overlooking the Pyrenees mountains, the view was incredible, miles of woodland and hills in all directions, I’d never seen anything like it. When the sun set, the stars came out to light up the sky, I was spellbound at the lack of light pollution, the sheer quantity of stars was surreal.

After a couple of days spent setting up the camp, the annual hike began. We were all divided up into groups, given some foodstuffs and a map, and then we set off across the mountains. The hiking was arduous, we left the campsite and took the path straight up the side of a mountain, it was very hot and we took several breaks, but just before lunch, we’d made the peak. We stood almost a mile above sea level, watching an eagle fly below us, I think we all felt a huge sense of accomplishment. Once we walked down the other side, we stopped in the nearby village, here, we rested, before finding a generous family who allowed us use of their garden to spend the night. The next day, we set off once more to the second campsite, where we were able to rejoin all the other groups and see how everyone else had fared.

The second week was spent at the first campsite, with wonderfully cooked meals by the kitchen team, singing and workshops. Initially, I dreaded the singing, I can’t sing, but being part of a large group really makes you feel like your voice is contributing. Towards the end of the camp, we performed to the local village, I don’t quite know what the locals thought when 80 odd of us turned up to sing outside a coffee shop, but they seemed to enjoy it, which put a smile on my face, at least. There were a variety of workshops to choose from, such as sports, drama and making an obstacle course. Regularly throughout the camp, people showcased their talents on the open stage, it was amazing to see people’s different talents, along with regular performances from different workshops.

At the end of the camp it was, unsurprisingly, time for us to say farewell. It was sad to see so many people I’d become close to leaving. But I’d truly say that IYC is an unforgettable experience, I leave with memories that will last a long time. The camp gives you a place to be yourself, make friends, and above all, have an absolute whale of a time.”

•  Josh Swanbrow, participant IYC 2018  •