For many consecutive years in my childhood, from the years 2008 to 2012, I have attended a camp at the Smithsonian Conservational Biology Institute, in Front Royal, Virginia. This was long before the institute was given a campus for George Mason University. This amazing camp was where I first laid eyes on my dream, the dream to become an Animal Conservationist. Here at the camp, I met many fantastic friends, socialized with them, hiked with them in nature, and even watched and learned from the caretakers of the animals at the center about how they live. This was the stepping stone that led me to go to Mason and follow my dreams.
On the first year, when I was out of fifth grade, I went to this camp out of curiosity. From the very start, where we watched a newborn Black Footed Ferret being taken care of, I was hooked. I had a blast hiking, touring the area, and just plain socializing. Incidentally, since I had started this camp, I had become less tense, less awkward, and far more social than I was during my early elementary school years.
On the second year, I had much more luck finding animals in the wild, aside from the captive ones in the Institute. One of the days, I saw three black bears and a bobcat on the same day! Too accompany that feat, I made at least a dozen new friends, and I even got to interact with a Kiwi! I learned amazing things, like what the diet of all the animals in the SCBI, and even got to pet an endangered Clouded Leopard!
The next two years I stayed there for not one but two full weeks for both years. I got even more social, won many contests in the camp games, had a lot of fun with the students who matured with me, and got to see even more animals.
As the years went on, I became more and more distant from the other campers and the animals of the center, but often I look back, and think “man I want to see them again!” I even was able to revisit some of the hikes in recent years, sniffling tears of nostalgia while doing it. I also revisited the 4-H center where the camp visited last weekend, and I felt many more tears of nostalgia go through to my eyes. What a lovely experience!