By Monica Valentini, Former URJ GUCI Camper and Counselor
The past 11 summers with GUCI have been irreplaceable, unmatchable, and profoundly meaningful. I have had experiences that guided me to where I am now and have met the people who have had the most significant impact on me, and I will forever be grateful for this. I feel the most comfortable at camp, surrounded by the best people I know, truly being able to be my most authentic self, with no question of whether or not I will be judged or accepted. Never have I encountered an environment anywhere close to this little community in Zionsville, Indiana.
My favorite summers were those when I served as a counselor and the summer I spent in Avodah. This is when I got to begin going to camp for two months at a time, and began too see the direct influence of summer camp on campers and staff members. These summers show you that one month seriously isn’t enough time at camp, and two months certainly isn’t either. I was able to learn so much more about myself and others, about patience and flexibility, graciousness and generosity, and communication and leadership. These skills are genuinely priceless and demonstrate the lasting value of spending my summers at GUCI. I fully believe that everyone should keep going to camp until they absolutely can’t anymore.
Deciding that I would not return to GUCI this summer was probably the strangest and most difficult decision I have ever made. Strange because I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than going to camp, and difficult because I know no summer without GUCI and that is something I never wanted to give up. Following in my older brother’s footsteps, as I often do, I chose to participate in Onward Israel, a program where I am living in Tel Aviv and working with a company in an internship position. As exciting as this opportunity is, I inevitably felt very anxious and doubted my decision not to return to camp. I am lucky to be able to come to Israel and live here for the summer, but I am often plagued by thoughts that somehow this summer will not live up to the many previous summers I have spent at overnight camp, and I will have somehow wasted a summer I could have spent at GUCI.
As I have just settled into my apartment in Tel Aviv and have begun my internship with a market research company, Ipsos, I am extremely hopeful that this summer will be unforgettable. Oddly, I find comfort in my discomfort, knowing that GUCI has been my home away from home for as long as it has, and reminding me that I will always carry with me the things I have learned and the people I have met at Goldman Union Camp Institute.