Summer camps are a great US tradition, like baseball and apple pie, and their roots are heavily planted within the East
Coast. In fact, the first summer camp began in Connecticut in 1861.
But as the popularity of camps grew, and their specializations diversified over the decades, other areas of the US became
increasingly popular and even more urban based. Currently, San Diego, CA is ranked as the number one most popular city for
camps (Yahoo! Finance).
So, six years ago, when I had the idea to have a summer camp experience that was completely focused on teaching English as
Second Language and was targeted at 9-13 year old non-US kids, I had my homework cut out for me. Where in the country would
be best place for a non-native US student to enjoy an experience away from home and learn English at the same time?
DRUM ROLL PLEASE...The winner of my all of my research and mental efforts was…..ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA!!!
And here’s why…
Okay, yes, there is that stereotype with that TV show with the housewives, but here’s what really makes this a kid’s fun
1. The weather (duh): I wanted a camp that was more urban based – that is that students would experience important
places in the United States. Originally, Chicago was my first thought, since I was living there and there is no end to fun
places to see in that city. But, since we target students who go to school in other countries, I had to remember that our
summer vacation is not everyone’s summer vacation. Many countries have school schedules with the longest break in January
and February. I just had to envision tromping through the snow to visit the Sear’s Tower (now Willis Tower) with 60 kids in
tow to realize I needed nice weather all the time. And Orange County delivers – with average high temps ranging from
70-85F (21-29C), and not very many days of rain, it’s fun in the sun year round.
2. The safety: Cities in Orange County, CA are consistently on the list of the top 100 safety cities in the US.
And, according to Business Insider, Irvine, CA had the lowest violent crime rate for cities its size for the ninth year
in a row –
So, where is our camp located? – you guessed it – Irvine, CA, at the Marriott Residence Inn. The main reasons for
the safety in this area are that it is very affluent and educated. When parents send their precious youngsters to the US,
they can rest assured that their young ones are in one of the safest cities on the planet.
The attractions: There is never a reason for boredom is Southern California. As I mentioned above, the summer camp I
was planning was more urban experience based, rather than “camping” based. Since our students were coming from around the
globe, we needed to provide a linguistic experience based in American culture. So, each day, we take the students to a
place that even well-traveled adults can’t help but be in awe: Imagine going to all of these places in just two weeks:
Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World, The Getty, The San Diego Zoo, the Pacific Ocean, The Museum of Tolerance, UCLA,
and California Adventure.
4. The English and the teachers: Okay, I know when you hear “Southern California,” your first thought is not
“English” due the beautiful mix of languages we have here. However, the native speakers of English here speak it well.
Remember, this is a very educated part of the country, and the English is basically “accent less” meaning students from
other countries will understand and learn it well. Also, in the state of California, because of its awesome diversity,
all teachers are certified to teach English as Second Language. Since we hire certified teachers, and not traditional
“camp counselors,” this is a big win for all of us.
So, there you have it. This Midwesterner is officially sold on
Orange County, CA, and I have no doubt that our students are too!