On the first day of camp, I was asked to describe myself using one sentence. Attempting to describe IAYC in one sentence, or even in just some pages, is impossible. It’s hard to describe the way it makes you feel during and after it, it’s hard to describe the warm and cozy feeling it creates and it´s even harder to look back now at all those memories and not smile. If I had to describe IAYC in one sentence, I guess it would be “A warm home you didn’t know you needed, but found, and never want to leave again”.

Looking back now, I don’t really know what I was expecting when I applied to IAYC back in January. I found IAYC by accident, a series of lucky events led me to it. But when I read about it, with the little information I had, I knew this was the right place for me. I remember the uncertainty during my arrival trip, I knew I was going to be the youngest and that caused my brain to fill itself with uncountable doubts. Upon my arrival there weren’t many people apart from me, but the minute I walked through the door of the camp house I could already feel the friendly environment. Soon, many more people started arriving, some of them nervous newbies like me, and some oldies from previous years that hugged each other as soon as they met.

Once everyone was there, I could start feeling the loud, happy environment that was being created. I can honestly say that the first week was the most confusing and craziest week of my life. What are all these games? Who has the hat? WHY ARE THEY DRAGGING PEOPLE INTO THE SHOWER???? The raccoons had WHAT….??? The confusion made each day more exciting, because you knew that there would always be something new to surprise you each day.

I was assigned to POLO, a group which focused on studying moons and their orbits. I chose a project based on astrophotography and the creation of a smartphone-based guide to astrophotography, which also required us to use telescopes. Initially, we weren’t quite sure about how we were going to approach it, but after some guidance from our WG leader, we started experimenting with our phones and got unbelievable results. My working group partner and I would spend entire nights working outdoors, trying to capture images of various planets, stars and of course, the Milky Way. Despite unfavourable weather conditions, we managed to capture great images. Throughout these 3 weeks, I not only got to use and know how a telescope worked, but also realized how powerful a day-to-day object such as our phone can be and how to use it to its fullest capability. Working group sessions would always have something interesting going on and each time something knew you could learn.

I would always look forward to the time after lunch when we would have NAP. Remember the games that you played as a kid? Or those times when you had a stupid idea and decided to bring it to life? (Like perhaps making a car for an egg out of sticks for an egg and using a balloon as the engine)? Well, this (and much more) is what NAP is all about. Every day you’ll find yourself doing things you could’ve never thought about, each time there will be a new game or a new task to surprise you. Whatever you do, trust me, you will always have a great time.

Past midnight was the most magical part of the day. If the weather allowed us, we would gather sleeping bags, telescopes, and anything necessary for the night and head outside. Some chose to observe, others to capture images, some played guitars and sang and others simply laid in their sleeping bags talking for hours. Whatever you chose to do was entirely up to you, but no one wanted to waste a single minute of their night. Therefore, whatever your’re sleeping schedule is like before camp, forget about it completely. After a few days of adjusting, with everything going on you will most likely stay up until dawn- or… who said sleep anyway? The adrenaline and the sheer energy will easily keep you awake for 48 hours. Oh, and if you thought that cloudy nights would be boring nights, consider circling round a table not touching the ground. The unbelievable number of games that IAYC has willon’t never let you ever get bored. Want to create your own game with your own crazy rules? Go ahead, grab some people, and make the most out of the night.

Going back through my memories, every part of everyday was special in its own way. Whether it’s writing your report, observing, playing an 80s game during NAP or having a crazy party, you will never feel bored. The isolated location and the lack of Wi-Fi will disconnect your mind from the outside world. Just as it should be. These strangers and new faces from all over the world will become friends in a matter of days. And when camp eventually ends, you’ll realize that you’ve become part of an incredible family, and that they’ve become yours. When camp ends, you’ll realize that you’ve just lived through the quickest 3 weeks of your life. It truly felt like that; going back was like waking up from a perfect dream, a fantasy, a sort of utopia. A place where everyone felt familiar and close, a place you’ve laughed like never before. And going back through all those wonderful memories I can’t help but smile, laugh and miss every single new friend that I made. I’ve met some great people who I can undoubtedly call some of my closest friends and with whom I know I still have many great experiences and adventures to share, as I know I’ll stay in touch, for that’s what the IAYC does- it brings lifelong friends into your life. And I know that next year we’ll return for another 3 weeks and have the most amazing time. So, if you’re considering whether you should apply or not, trust me: you absolutely should. It’s this once-in-a-lifetime experience that brightens up your life and fills your soul with happiness and joy. And if you happen to also be thinking about perhaps looking for other similar camps, trust me on this too: there is nothing, absolutely nothing as unique as the IAYC.

By Sashka