Interview with returning counselor: Emily Westphal


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Emily “Emma D” Westphal

I am from the “Mitten State” aka Michigan. I grew up in Gaylord, but now live in Hermansville, which is in the Upper Peninsula.

What do you do when you are not at your REAL job at camp?

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When I am not at my summer home enjoying the beauty of Northern California with some amazing friends, I am an Art Teacher for a small public school district. I teach all ages, starting with young 4’s all the way through middle and high school students. Here is a link to my website: http://artofthejets.weebly.com.  I also am the Senior class advisor, run an after school art club for elementary students, and coach JV Volleyball. In my free time I love home décor projects, training for my first 5K, keeping in touch with friends, and spending as much time as possible being “Auntie Em” to my adorable niece and nephew.

When did you first start working at CCC?

I first took the leap and came to Coppercreek back in 2009. This summer will be my 6th year on staff, but it seems like time has flown by.

What were your biggest fears about coming to camp?

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Coming to camp my first year was like going to college all over again, except this time, I was a flight away from anyone I knew. It was very hard for me to get on a plane and go somewhere that I’ve only seen in pictures. At least when I went to college, I could visit beforehand. I was nervous that I would not connect with anyone, feel homesick, and not be as good of a counselor as the veteran staff.

What was camp like when you arrived?

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Chilly. All I can remember is thinking to myself, “Isn’t this California? I thought it was hot all of the time!” That summer, the nights were pretty cold during staff training, and I definitely wasn’t expecting that. The days were beautiful, and that made up for it 100%. The Directors and staff were friendly, welcoming, and I felt at home very quickly. I knew I made the right decision by taking the risk of trying something new.

What are your favorite activities?

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My favorite place at camp is the high ropes course. I like to facilitate it as the course supervisor, but I love to be a platform supervisor high up in the trees. The view is incredible, and I love watching campers conquer their fears. In addition, I have come to really enjoy a mountain bike ride here and there. It may not be something I am an expert on, but I love the challenge, and the feeling of satisfaction after completing a hard ride. I also have a soft spot for the talent show, vespers, and dressing up for Friday night dances.

What is your best memory?

I cannot pick one, so I compromised with three.

When I successfully got up on a wakeboard on Lake Almanor with the help of an amazing past counselor, Ryan McDowell.

A silly interpretative dance for the talent show to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King with the amazing Becca Rudy.

Last year at Vespers when Eric James Barger (the first) wrote a piece for me explaining the “Emma D Rule Book for Life” that made both of us cry in front of all of camp.

How did you feel when it was time to leave camp?

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Oh man… I am an incredibly emotional person, so I always take it really hard. I realize that I will not see everyone for at least a year, or more, or ever again for that matter, and I become quite sad. After leaving, I go through a period of time at home where I experience “camp withdrawals” and it is odd to adjust to everyday life. I definitely miss everything about Coppercreek instantly.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you came to camp?

So many things. The first thing that comes to my mind is to try everything. You will never what you are capable of unless you give it a shot. Did I think I could fly across the country and make friendships with a “second family” away from home? No. Did I think I could try a riding lesson on a horse? No. Did I think I could complete an element of the high ropes course? No. But instead, I accomplished all of those things. ☺

If you could give campers advice on how to enjoy camp, what would that be?

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Try a variety of activities. Be silly. Get to know everyone in your cabin, including your counselor, because they are awesome! Step outside of your comfort zone. Perform something in the talent show. Try a horse lesson if you never have before. Sign up for out of camp trips. Go all out for dance costumes (I do!).

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And my top advice: Write down your favorite part of the day before you go to sleep. I call this concept Happy Thoughts. I have a happy thought book including all five of my years at camp, with entries from not only me, but ALL of my cabin members as well. It is SO amazing to look back and remember all of the times over the years. Those books are some of my prized possessions.

What is your favorite quote?

“A happy memory is a joy forever.”

Categories: Friendship, The Staff House, Welcome to camp, What I like about camp | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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