Christopher Buss

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Lionís Club 2017 Ė South Carolina

Where to begin? How to summarise one of the best experiences of my life into just a few short paragraphs and convince any reader not to miss out on an experience of a lifetime. Well here we go

Through the Ringwood and Fordingbridge Lionís Club, I was offered a trip to the Youth Camp in South Carolina, from the 15th July Ė 4th August 2017. Now donít get me wrong, when I told my parents that I wanted to do this, they were aghast. To be fair, Iím typically not the most willing person when it comes to social interaction, and this was out of my comfort zone entirely, but I thought why not. I had been to the states (California) a year prior to signing up and loved it, and was going to jump at the first opportunity I could to return to the country. 

Jump forward to July, Iím saying goodbye to my loving parents and about to get on a plane for the first time without anyone else. Just this was an experience in itself and I hadnít even left the country! An eight-hour (delayed) flight later, and I arrive at a very busy airport. Long story short, too many people, not enough time. Missed my interconnecting flight. After a lot of talking to a panicking mother over messenger, and trying to frantically get in touch with my host family, I got booked into a hotel overnight and got the next flight in the morning down to Columbia.

 From here, I met Dominykas from Lithuania and Lion Paul Dove, and later I met Lion Bobbie (my host family). I spent a week with a host family here, and they are some of the most kind-hearted people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I learnt about their ways of life, how they do things in the South and a lot about their lives and the Lionís Club. During this week, I also met 4 others from my camp, Fabien (Germany), Max (Russia), Lily (Austria), and last but not least, Dori (Hungary).

Though I enjoyed my time with the host family, the camp changed everything for me. Meeting everyone else and being able to spend the next two weeks in each otherís company changed my life Ė literally.

Lion Jim Varn, who was the coordinator of the camp, told me before we started that I would make friends for life Ė I didnít believe him for one bit. I was sure that I would make friends that I would get along with as acquaintances, but I never expected one bit for there to be something more.

Though slightly shy and nervous at first, it did not take long at all for people to start becoming acquainted with one another, though a clear partition between male and female was established quickly (this was broken down throughout the remainder of the camp). Within the first few days, we had gone White Water Rafting, visited Lake Jocassee (a state made reservoir), and even visited a theme park. 

As a group, we celebrated Birthdayís, learned about the traditions of the states, while also learning many new things about each otherís countries and ourselves. Together, we attended many, many, many Lionís meetings and met lots of new wonderful people with different ideologies and views on life, though all united through one cause (The Lionís Club - the hospitality of some of these people will never cease to amaze me).

After a few fun crazed days, we head off to Myrtle beach to relax for a few days and enjoy the heat. While we were there, a family came to see Noora (Finland), whom which their daughter had been staying with Nooraís family back in Finland (talk about a small world!). We also explored the local shopping centres etcetera. 

From here, we visited the Birds of Prey and saw the Magnolia Gardens. We also explored the city of Columbia, visited the Governorís mansion (while learning about American Politics), and truthfully just had a wonderful time. Every experience was something new, something memorable, and something I will always treasure. 

At the end of the camp, tears and crying were ensured. After 2 weeks with these wonderful people, whom many we will not see again, we reflected on our time in South Carolina before returning to our host families. It was hard to break away, and we had our many hugs goodbye, but sadly this experience had come to an end.

Despite at the time of writing this over 2 months have passed since we all departed from one another, many of us have kept in touch. About what Jim said about making friends for life, even if that doesnít end up the case, I can sure tell you that many of these people I will know in years to come, and will never be able to forget. Though I knew many of them for just 2 weeks, that was enough for me to learn the true meaning of friendship. Every single day people laughed, people smiled, people sang and had an expression of pure joy.

Though there are certain memories that stick out more than others, every moment now defines who we were, who we are, and who we will become. Every action we made managed to bring happiness to ourselves, even in the times where it didnít seem possible. 

So, I tell anyone who is still reading, congratulations. If you are interested in the Lionís Club Youth Exchange Program, without a shadow of a doubt do it. Maybe it wonít work for you, but I can be sure to tell you it exceeded my expectations going into it ten-fold, and I would say if you are given the opportunity, donít miss it! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet many peers around the world, so relish the experience and meet many new, wonderful people along the way! 

Christopher Buss.

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