My Summer in Sweden - My Family Travels

This is the account of 11-year-old Madeleine’s CISV Village summer experience in Bastad, Sweden.  For those who don’t know, Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) is an independent, non-profit, non-political volunteer organization that sponsors multi-cultural summer camps and exchanges in 59 countries for ages 11 through 18.  CISV has been around since 1951 as a way to bring together young people from different countries and cultures, to promote an appreciation of cultural differences and to prevent the development of prejudices.

On July 1st, I went away for a month as a junior ambassador for a peace-making program called CISV, which stands for Children’s International Summer Villages. 

The program was held on the coast of Sweden this year. I joined together with thirty-one other 11-year-olds from Germany, Israel, Brazil, India, Jordan, Sweden, Philippines, and the USA to become friends and understand each other’s cultures. Four of us from the Washington, DC chapter of CISV and a leader represented the USA delegation.  I found this experience to be really exciting and life-changing.
Dear Journal: July 1st-2nd 

It’s 5:30 PM and everyone’s said their goodbyes. Now we’re on the plane to Sweden. I can’t believe that I’m leaving the USA for a month! I’ve never been away from home for that long.

10pm : Our flight was delayed for 2 hours, so we got off to a late start. People are turning off their lights to go to sleep, but not me! I’m way too excited to sleep!

6am: The flight was delayed so much that we missed our next flight! Now we’re stuck in a German airport’s café joint drinking soda. The next plane to Copenhägen is in 4 hours. Yikes!

The first thing that our American delegation did was stay at a host family for the weekend. I found this to be a great way to get to know Sweden and its people.  

Dear Journal: July 5th 
Our host family has been great so far. I’ve been eating Swedish meatballs and hanging out on their tree-house and trampoline. The lady’s name is Annika, and she has two sons, who are pretty nice to my delegation. Everyone except the younger son speaks English. Well, sooner or later I’ll be leaving this family and heading towards the camp!

When I first arrived at camp, I was nervous that I wouldn’t make friends. That changed after the first day when we began playing nonstop name games (not my favorite part). During these games, I met several girls from Jordan and the Philippines who later became my good friends.

Dear Journal: July 6th 

 The “camp” is actually an old boarding school!  It’s really fancy, with automatic doors and big rooms. The people here are so nice! I know I’m going to love it here.

By the first week, playing crazy games and laughing with all of my new friends became my normal routine. Every night I would stay up late chatting with the girls in my room, then wake up to find that each day was better than the day before. I was eager to participate in games like sports, arts and crafts, and many thinking games such as peace-war-peace. 

Dear Journal: July 8th

Today the alarm went off – the fire alarm! Of course, it was a fake. They just showed us what to do if that ever happened for real. 

Dear Journal: July 12th

Today we got a treat. We got to sleep in, then we watched Finding Nemo for Activity 1! The best part – NO LEADERS WERE AWAKE! It was really awesome.

Dear Journal: July 16th

We went on a field trip today to a Swedish zoo and saw some animals. I even got to pet a moose! There were birds, fish, reptiles, wolves, elk, llamas, and more! I bought my brother, Jamie, a stuffed moose as a gift.

Some of my favorite games were trust games. There were other games that involved cultures, like making your own culture/world in some part of the camp and having other cultures come and visit your world. We also played a lot of sports and did many “energizers”, which are songs or chants to wake us up, in many different languages. 

Dear Journal: July 17th
For our second activity we played trust games. First, we made a big line out of everyone, lied down, and passed a person over our heads with only our hands! After that, we were thrown high in the air and caught by just a parachute. I felt more comfortable than when we played trust games earlier in the month. By the end of the day, I was confident in all of my friends!

A few times over the month I was a little homesick, but to my surprise I didn’t think much about the USA when I was doing activities and having group discussions about religion, cultural differences, peace, and friendship. But the few times I felt homesick for my family (usually at bedtime) my delegation and my friends were there to help me.

I always looked forward to the daily time spent with my USA delegation: my adult leader (Lara) and the other kids (Mia, Zora, and James). I really enjoyed the “national nights” of  seven other countries, and most of all hanging out with my friends who I am keeping in touch with at this very moment. I never had any of my usual “alone time” but why be alone when you have so many great people from all around the world to play with? The month went by faster than I could imagine, and I wish I had more time with every single person at that camp.

Of course, we didn’t just stay at the camp. There were two or three times when we went to the beach, the pool, a park, and a zoo. Plus, we went to another host family for a weekend with other kids from the camp. I went with a group of four: Bea from Brazil, Inbal from Israel, and Dina from Jordan! I was lucky to stay in a house right next to the beach with beautiful landscape. I met so many people there, and I still remember each and every one of them.

You would think that staying with so many people, some of them who do not speak English very well, would be tiring, but it wasn’t. I made friends with kids from Israel and Germany that did not speak much English, but I didn’t care about that. By the end of the camp, almost everyone was speaking English as fluently as I do! 

I finally realized that we may look different and wear different clothes, but we all feel the same on the inside. Kids from around the world are more alike than different. Everyone wanted to be treated fairly.

The saddest moment at camp was, you guessed it, leaving:

Dear Journal, Last Day

I can’t believe I’m actually going home! I’ll have to leave all of these people and return to the USA. Well, now we’re on the plane, my last moments in Sweden. That’s all for now, though I hope I will be able to continue my CISV experiences!

Everybody was so happy to be at the camp, and I sure couldn’t think of a better place to be during my summer! I was constantly laughing and smiling, and I don’t know if there was any time that I wasn’t doing those things. I hope that I can continue participating in CISV for my whole entire life, continuing to travel to many countries through interchanges and then becoming a JC (junior counselor) and then a leader. I think everyone who loves to travel and make new, different friends (and maybe even the people who don’t like those things) should embark upon a CISV summer experience.

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For those who don’t know, Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) is an independent, non-profit, non-political volunteer organization that sponsors multi-cultural summer camps and exchanges in 59 countries for ages 11 through 18.  This account was originally published in 2004 on

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