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Alumni Spotlight: Lea

Published: February 6, 2020

As we gear up for the 60th summer at Waldsee, get to know some long-time members of the Waldsee community! This week, meet Lea! Lea first came to Waldsee in 1998 and has spent 17 summers with us as both a villager and a counselor. She has worn many hats at Waldsee, but you’re most likely to find her in the Büro as our business manager or on the Marktplatz teaching the annual International Day dance.


How did you find out about Waldsee?

My German Saturday school teacher (shout out to Frau Golsch) was the one who told my parents about Waldsee. My parents decided to send me for a week to test it out (I also got a scholarship to attend from the Swiss Benevolent Society of Chicago, which still offers scholarships for one week at Waldsee!) and I was hooked!

What made you come back to Waldsee year after year?

As a kid, Waldsee let me explore and gave me freedoms I wouldn't normally have -- villagers often have a lot more agency and choice than they do at home. I also loved being with kids my age and running around outside. I came back as a staff member because I missed all of these things, and I kept coming back for the people: both co-workers and the villagers. There is no better feeling in the world than watching kids grow up and having them remember things you did together. As counselors, we play a really big role in these kids’ formative years, and they put a lot of trust in us. We watch them grow as people, and over the years we as staff also learn and grow. Even though I have a full time job, I come back for all these things, the fresh northern Minnesota air, and, of course, the opportunity to organize all the small details at Waldsee.  


What do you look forward to the most each year?

I did and still do look forward to being with some of my favorite people in the whole world. Doesn't matter if we haven't seen each other for nine months or nine years -- Waldsee is family and always will be. I look forward to making an impact in villagers' lives and seeing how they grow and learn while at Waldsee. And of course learning and growing myself - this will be my 10th (!) year on staff and I know I have learned so much over those years. I love getting to be a leader and help new staff grow and learn as counselors by passing on my many years of wisdom. And again, I look forward to organizing the heck outta Waldsee and making all kinds of schedules and lists.

What’s something that’s different now than your first year at Waldsee?

SO much has changed (and at the same time so little). We used Deutsche Mark when I was a kid, and many of the buildings weren't there (Einbeck, Laden, Heilbronn/Stuttgart, Ober/Unter, Biohaus....). The Laden was in a blue hut next to the bank, Heilbronn was in a trailer back where Cafe Einbeck now is (there were still trees there too), and most kids had to sleep in the smaller blue cabins!  


What’s your favorite Waldsee Lied (song)?

Wie Schön, of course. Although I do love some of the newer songs we've learned like "Du Schreibst Geschichte" by Madsen.

Best snack at Cafe Einbeck?

Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is the best afternoon pick me up you could ask for. I also love that we have paprika chips for sale now.

Sonst noch was? (Anything else?)

I have had almost every single role in Waldsee except for Rettungsschwimmer (lifeguard) and high school credit teacher! (Did I mention that I’ve been at Waldsee so long that we used Deutsche Mark my first summer as currency instead of the Euro???)


Have you spent nearly a decade or more at Waldsee over the last 60 years? We would love to hear from you for a future blog post! Please fill out this form here if you are interested.

Additionally, we are collecting and digitizing photos from alumni in honor of our 60th anniversary this summer. If you have any photos you would like to share (particularly from the 80s and 90s), please send them to betreuerschaft@gmail.com.