How It All Started.
Summer Camps are not always what we see in the movies; the wooden cabin with bunk beds, the lake, a fireplace, kids running around a pier while other swimming and canoeing. Although there are still many summer camps like that in the US and perhaps a few in Europe such as ferienhort.at in Austria (where a good friend sent their kids to a few summers ago); the ‘summer camps’ these days are a money-making machine.
I remember I was only eight years old when my mom came to my room and both sitting on my pink canopy bed asked me if I wanted to go to Germany with my brother and some other kids from school. “You are going to stay with a family and live with them for eight weeks”. I didn’t understand what she was saying but I felt scared of the unknown and nodded my head several times. My brother Sergio left that summer and we wrote him a letter every week. When the post arrived at our mail with his letters and his news, it was easy to live the exciting experience on our minds. What he ate, the places he visited, the fact he took a bike to go everywhere unsupervised by a parent, the chocolates and gummy bears he ate… next year I was on that plane with a bunch of other kids, new clothes and even a new Kodak camera (yup, it was a Kodak, the ones which you needed to put a sort of a cube if you wanted to use the “flash”).
We all stayed at a Jugendherberge (youth hostel) for a week in Austria. I still remember two of my roommates, Ulla and Maritza. The group leaders took us everywhere; sightseeing to the most breathtaking mountains, rivers…they took us to a fun park, a water park; I still remember the popular song the bus driver played nonstop! But one good day we drove all the way to Germany where a lot of host families were waiting for us. We were all so nervous! Suddenly we didn’t speak or sang; we were just waiting for our turn to leave. We were not going to see anybody from the group or even I was not going to see my brother for the rest of the summer! “Edna is your turn, you are going to be staying with “Familie Sturman”. The man (or my “father”) gave me a stiff handshake and introduced me to Pia; my “sister” for the summer. She had an accident and her knee went through surgery. She wasn’t walking properly. She gave me sort of a hug and left on a little car to their place. A one-story very German-looking house. Nice house. There were the Oma and the mother too. Oma used to bake and organize the “Kaffee trinken” every day at 4 pm. I remember a beautiful table full of goodies. AMAZING! Hot chocolate, tea, coffee, cake, Jaffa Cake cookies (to date, my favourites), Nutella…need to say more? What a lovely woman, a sweet Oma who even had a bird called Pips or something like that.
The mom was very nice too, I remember one day she was drying my hair and she was telling me something about her breast area…I honestly didn’t understand what she was trying to explain, but the word “Krebs” stayed with me. It was not until a year or so later when we received a card in the mail in Mexico that said she passed away. The card was written in German and we were all trying to decipher what it said. There was a cross so my parents figured out what happened. Breast Cancer. I was very confused; I was only ten years old.
“I wanted to cry big time. My throat hurted for containing it. I didn’t drop a tear. That was the first sign of the strong woman I was going to become.”
On the first day, I was with Familie Sturman, they took me to a Birthday party at one of their neighbours. I was different and all the kids were intrigued by the kid from Mexico. A lot of yummy candies my eyes and mouth never before tasted; cakes…. We also went to a forest close to the house. At this point, I had such a knot in my throat…I wanted to cry so badly. I used to believe maybe while we were on the plane; all the people I knew in Mexico; changed Mexico and the scenario; and now everything was just different, that the birthday girl was playing the role of my friend Sandra in Mexico for example. Everybody looked like someone I knew, maybe everything was just a game to see how I behaved in a different environment? I know, a little sci-fi thinking for the ’80s. Anyways, no matter how much I wanted to cry and how my throat hurt for containing it; I didn’t drop a tear. I guess that was my first sign of the strong woman I was going to become.
That summer passed by very very slowly. I can’t tell if I improved my German language skills, but I definitely came back home full of experiences, a better version of myself, full of gifts, Nutella jars and plenty of stories to tell. Who would have said 30 something years later I was going to be blogging about it.
Guinea Pigs in The UK
After a few more summers in Germany and my parents now as main organizers; they decided to explore with us the UK as an English language destination. The UK started to become quite popular for ESL (English as a second language or EFL English as a Foreign Language) programs. We went to Bournemouth, a beautiful town on the south coast. Here, the host families were not nice and caring. At the house I stayed, there were a bunch of rules we had to follow, the houses were old and the floors cracked. The food was terrible…omg! I was even scared to walk back home in the dark because it was almost in front of a pub and just at the end of a tunnel.
The school we went to was a house. Literally a house adapted to be a school or so I thought. I was honestly expecting a real modern building (dah!). There were tons of Spanish students, gorgeous girls using these mini skirts and dresses in the ‘Brit’ unpredictable weather. It took me many years to understand the weather there; I even wore thermal underwear in mid-summer the first year! Oh, dear! But hey, England was always pictured as a cold, foggy, humid country.
Anyways; there were Italians too; yes, many good-looking Italian boys. We all went to English classes in the morning and had a few organized activities in the afternoons. At night there was always dancing involved! “The Academy” was the place to go. An old theatre converted a club for students until 10 pm. What amazing memories I have from those summers in England! I fell in love a few times during those summers. One “love” even remain for many years (long-distance love, although he went to Mexico to declare his love for me).
Overall, I think I didn’t improve my English through school but certainly through being immersed in the country, speaking English with people from so many countries, ordering Big Mac’s and shakes on a daily basis; going to the stores, communicating with the host families while eating (a not so good) curry at 6 pm. I remember the experience, the school, the students, the town, the excursions to London, Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, and Brighton. I remember a romantic walk to the beach, a bench where I kissed Emilio for hours. Emilio was an Italian boy who I guess didn’t speak English at all! His roommate was my brother’s roommate; so it all stayed in the “family”. And, of course, I remember Mr. Gallina; the Italian man who owned the school. His son Paul took over a few years later and we all had a crush on him. I will always be fond of Southbourne School of English an amazing school, located in a beautiful town by the coast of England.
Fun Times Became Work. A Lot Of Fun Work.
Through the years, my brother Sergio and I became Group Leaders and Activity Leaders. We were in charge of all the students who travelled to England. At the same time, my other brother Jorge was operating Germany and we sent students to the amazing schools and summer Camps run by DID Institute. Patrick S. (Managing Director) and Almir K. (Marketing Director) are in front of the team and they are not just charming and professional, they couldn’t offer a better service and experience to their students and international agents.
We took over my parent’s business in Mexico and started from fresh under EduTravel World.
Unfortunately, my brothers kept and operated the business for the last 21 years and only invited me to participate from time to time. Yeah, as if Mr. Rojas wasn’t my father as well.
And Then I Moved To Canada.
12 years ago, I moved to Canada; Vancouver, BC to be more specific, and far from being what I expected in terms of work and opportunities I have been trying to find my way to live and survive in a very expensive city where if you are ambitious with money you will make it for sure; but if you are ambitious with no money left after living here for almost 12 years; then you need to be very brave, very creative, very innovative and driven forward to make it.
Tired of being underpaid, overworked, bully-ed, demoted and after extending my student permit over and over again, I decided to switch careers. If I was going to start from zero in a company, it was going to be at least in a trendy industry. An industry that focuses on the “now” and the future; ladies and gents: The Tech Industry. There is something very cool about being part of the Tech industry and being a woman in Tech. So I enrolled in a Digital Skills school and started studying Product Management; I saw another world opening for me. For my personal project at school, I worked on the idea of “The Camp” (the name before it became The Urban Camp). My classmates and a very confused teacher really loved my idea and it was not but after Christmas 2018 when I came back from Holidays in Mexico, super scared, no job, broken-hearted and barely had money to live; that I sat down and started creating a map for the year.
So The Adventure Begins…
I enrolled in many free webinars and online courses; I started following the right Instagram accounts and blogs; I have been going to as many free and paid talks, workshops, panels, networking events as I can. The idea of The Urban Camp came from an “AHA” moment. What a great way to mix education and technology and start preparing younger generations for the “now” and for the future. They will face a labour force offering jobs that we don’t even know will exist. I also want the younger generations to think, be more agile, solve problems, to create a mindset that creates an impact. To be conscious about the environment, the animals, to be respectful, empathetic, tolerant and patient with one another. I want the students coming to our summer camps to experience living like a local in a country and a city that is human-friendly, full of beautiful places waiting to be explored. Our programs will educate our students with the latest in technology and entrepreneurship. I want them to remember The Urban Camp as an amazing experience, where they will be immersed in a new culture, the English language, learning engaging skills that will last a lifetime. Our summer camps will be all my past experiences together but reloaded and taken them to the modern, hip and urban world.
“I want the students to remember The Urban Camp as an amazing experience, where they will be immersed in a new culture, the English language, learning engaging skills that will last a lifetime”.
I have been working and preparing myself none stop since January 2019 at home, at coffee shops, in the park, on the bus (great ideas came from bus rides believe it or not), weekends, even the summer went by and I even enrolled to study again! Yes, again. This time to an amazing Digital Marketing course and now I can officially call myself a Woman In Tech! I registered and incorporated The Urban Camp in BC and I am the Founder + Director of my own company (little dance and chapeau). But how do I manage school, business, side job to pay bills, boyfriend, roommate in a one-bedroom suite apartment in Vancouver…all at the same time? Well, those are the “secrets of the cinema” that I can’t talk about (wink).
Welcome to The Urban Camp!
Imagine your kids (or your students) learning and experiencing the life of people in tech and the small business + startup ecosystem in a city that is now called a Tech hub. Our Urban Campers learn to live like a local during their stay in Canada. While our Urban Campers practice their English, they connect with other Urban Campers and locals who live, breathe, play and work in this beautiful city.
Interested in learning more about The Urban Camp programs and camps? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn and soon we will be posting another blog with more info on our summer camps, workshops, adult programs and The Urban Camp Abroad! Thank you for reading. Till next time!