It was the start of Summer 2002. I was 17 and living in Cornwall, I didn’t know a soul (except for my family) and felt quite alone.
I was halfway through my A levels at college in Yorkshire when we suddenly (as a family) made the move.
My plan was to start back at college in the September, enrolling in a completely new course (in sports science) at Plymouth college. But I had five months to kill first.
Searching for a job
After scouring shops and local community boards searching for a little job that might keep me busy, I got talking to a guy in a sports shop about an outdoor adventure company he once spent a summer working for. It sounded amazing, I raced home and applied straight away.
A week later I was on my way to the South of France to work for Acorn Adventure as a kitchen assistant. Scared, excited and in total shock at this giant leap I had just made.
I’d never been away from home before, it was the scariest step I’d ever taken. But one that would change my life forever.
Feeling scared and alone
I cried myself to sleep on the first night. I didn’t really talk to anyone when I arrived as I was too shy. I went straight to bed, tossing and turning all night, only waking to find I’d slept through my alarm and was already minutes late for the morning meeting.
Quickly pulling on some clothes I ran through the trees to face the huge morning meeting circle. I was asked by the manager to see him afterwards. I felt all eyes on me as the meeting continued.
The next thing I know I’m waking up inside the marquee after passing out. I don’t know if it was the nerves or lack of sleep, but I had fainted in front of a 60 strong staff team.
I was forever known as the girl who fainted at her first morning meeting (although, fast forward a few months and I’d be know as the girl who woke up with her bed taking centre stage, and in the middle of the morning meeting circle!). Things changed.
Things definitely changed
I began my job in the centre kitchen; preparing salads and food for our village guests. Being in that kitchen was so much fun, we all took pride in our work, supported each other and had the best times.
The people around me helped me grow in confidence and encouraged me to believe in myself (up until this point I don’t think I ever did). I had the most wonderful centre managers (Iain and his wife Donna) who were like second parents to me; they believed in me every step of the way, they cared for me, encouraged me and always pushed me to test myself.
The people I worked with that summer brought the best out in me; they made me smile, laugh and encouraged my inner strength to shine through.
I started to enjoy taking the food over to our villages where our guests stayed (mainly English school children at this point) and would interact with the children and teachers.
It wasn’t long before I was promoted to village rep. I was the main point of call for the party leaders and children; ensuring everything ran smoothly on site and in their village. I hosted evening entertainments and had the neatest village on centre! I loved it.
(I’m pretty sure I’m the best village rep/manager Acorn Adventure has ever seen (although I’m sure my brother would like to disagree – he’s actually out working at the Ardeche site now!)
I loved seeing the school children arrive on centre, some of them arrived as I did; a little bit scared to be away from home and then suddenly growing in confidence through the amazing activities, support and experiences Acorn offered, often crying when they had to leave to go home. We changed their lives too. It was a holiday of a lifetime and a journey of adventure.
I loved every minute of that summer. I made some amazing friendships and have the most wonderful memories.
I did not want to go home. I was a different person to the one that had arrived
Acorn Adventure had changed the direction I wanted to take. I wanted more of it, I knew I’d be back the following year.
I ended up doing four seasons for Acorn Adventure; in my second season, I returned to the Ardeche. Followed by Normandy in 2004 and finishing in Narbonne (French Med) in 2005. You can find out more about Acorn jobs here.
During my second season, I met my future husband (Ian), the father of the little girl we share. We were together for eight years before we separated and now parent the most amazing little girl together. Acorn changed my life in more ways than one.
Remember the guy in the Cornwall sports shop who told me all about Acorn Adventure and the reason I applied? Turns out he was Ian’s cousin and we only realised when discussing it a few years later!
That summer was fate. The best summer of my life. The summer that changed my life.