Learning Vacations Abroad
Summer Camps Aren't Just for Kids Anymore
“My kids didn’t want to go to summer school this year, so I decided to go instead,” the woman sitting next to me joked as we introduced ourselves on the first evening of a week-long creative arts
summer camp for adults. She had signed up hoping to learn how to draw in perspective, and I was there to improve my creative writing skills. We were also both looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation.
In ever-increasing numbers, adults are signing up for “summer camps” or other combinations of travel and education. Google for “learning vacations” and you’ll come up with over 100,000
hits. The last camp I chose was called Centauri, (www.centauri.on.ca), housed in a private girls' school in rural Ontario (the managers are currently looking for a new location for the 2007 season). I was initially attracted to the school because
its course outline offered daily workshops in writing supplemented with readings, performances, and other cultural activities. When I arrived on the first day, I discovered that my accommodations, though spartan, were comfortable. After dropping
off my bags, I went to the main hall, where I met my fellow participants, about 40 of us in all. The program director, a friendly, easy-going fellow who played the tuba in an orchestra in his other life, welcomed us with a short speech. Teachers
and students then had a chance to get to know each other over dinner in the school's dining hall. Later in the evening we gathered on the front steps of the main hall for readings and performances by our instructors.
The next day school began. Our teacher, Lynn, a children's book author, soon set us at ease. Her training as a former elementary teacher obviously helped. Within the first half-hour, she had us working on short, fun
writing exercises, and before we knew it we were reading our work aloud to the class—even me, the shy one in the corner.
Over the week, we discussed topics such as generating story ideas, creating characters, developing plot, and marketing. Lynn brought several boxes of books and articles we could borrow. We also had access to the school
library. We attended classes from about 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the mornings, broke for a few hours to eat, work on projects, and socialize. Then we regrouped for classes in the afternoon. Lynn offered to review and critique a piece of our writing
and meet with us individually to give feedback. By the end of the week everyone in my class had a finished piece of work.
Although I enjoyed the classes, I was happy to discover that I had plenty of free time too. I could write in the computer lab or library, or outside in the sun, or under a shady tree. There were also slide shows,
readings, elective workshops, presentations, card games, and videos. Suddenly I recalled that we were smack dab in the middle of rural Ontario and headed out to enjoy the fresh air. Walking trails started at the entrance gate and led off into
secluded wooded areas with marshy spots perfect for bird watching.
The campus itself was modest in size. Two bungalows provided bedrooms. The main hall housed classrooms, offices, a library, the computer lab, and the dining room. Here students and teachers met and mingled over meals
prepared by the school’s most popular staff member, the chef. Many of us left for home with a few extra pounds around the waist and happy memories of being spoiled for six blissful days.
Dinner conversations revolved around books, movies, art, and travel. Work and the rest of the mundane world were held at bay for a time. For one week at least we were all writers or artists. Students ranged in age
from early 20s to late 60s and came from as far away as Bali. The day before our departure the art students presented their projects at an outdoor art exhibit, and I encountered the woman I had met on the first evening. She had obviously learned
a lot about perspective in one short week. I was impressed. Over wine and cheese, we chatted about our week at camp. Maybe it was the wine, or the sun and the fresh country breeze, but one thing was certain: we were both heading for home feeling
more rested and relaxed than we were when we arrived.
There are literally thousands of websites offering information about learning vacations. Here are some places to start: www.shawguides.com, and www.culturaltravels.com.
(Web editor's note: you can find many articles, programs, and tours on TransitionsAbroad.com for learning vacations abroad.)