“So what are you doing for the summer?”

There it is: the dreaded question. I have friends working in labs, taking classes, and interning at very impressive places, so you could imagine that my response of, “Oh, you know, camp counseling,” earns me nothing but pity glances and a quick conversation change, as though I was not good enough to save the world in my time away from Hopkins.

I take these judgments with a smile because I know that there’s more to my summer job than may appear on the surface.

I work at Clara Barton Camp, a camp in North Oxford, Massachusetts for girls with Type 1 Diabetes. This will be my ninth summer at camp and third as staff, earning me the ~very impressive~ job title of Head Counselor of Rainbow Ridge.

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You could say I have a summer home on the water

My job is just like any other camp counselor. I don my badminton pinney to teach badminton to the campers in character as my Estonian alter-ego Herp, as well as my Christmas sweater in the summer heat to transform our camp into an imaginary ski resort to lead campers in virtual skiing, a camp classic and my personal favorite activity. We boat, swim, play sports, and sing and bang on the tables at meals.

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Yeah, I do sports

Really, it’s like a scene out of the Parent Trap.

However, having fun and making camp magic for the kids is only half of the job. All summer, I carry around a backpack filled not just with crayons and sunscreen, but also with blood glucose meters, sharps containers, and emergency sugar. I help kids make friendship bracelets, but I also help them count carbohydrates, take insulin injections, and learn more about diabetes.

At camp, having diabetes is the norm, rather than the exception like in the real world. It is one of the few places where joking about your dead pancreas earns laughs, rather than confused looks, and where for a few weeks, the kids can just worry about being kids, as there is a whole team of nurses living on camp to take care of managing the disease.

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Not such a bad thing to wake up to

For the past two summers, we have also been the site of some interesting biomedical research. A team of researchers has been testing the innovative bionic pancreas on some of the campers and staff, which has been very cool to observe, as both a biomedical engineering student as well as a person living with Type 1 Diabetes.

While I may be learning about the boys of One Direction while my friends are learning reaction mechanisms and substituting tie dye and running shorts for business casual, I can’t imagine my summer any other way.

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Maybe there is some chemistry involved