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Alumni Spotlight: Nikola

Published: January 16, 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 Nikola! Nikola has spent 14 summers at Waldsee as a villager and a counselor, beginning as a two-week camper in 1999. Nikola has played a number of roles at Waldsee, from helping organize International Day to serving on our Waldsee leadership staff.

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How did you find out about Waldsee?

My good friend and next door neighbor at the time, Meta, had gone the previous summer and told me about it. I decided to go with her, and the rest is history!

What made you come back to Waldsee year after year?

As a kid, I had struggled with finding "my" people, socially. My first summer at Waldsee was the summer before my freshman year of high school, and I loved every second of it. There's something about being at camp that is like a sort of alternate universe -- you can reinvent yourself and be someone you don't get to be at home (choosing a new name -- or two, if you were in Märchenwald (middle ages program) like I was -- certainly helps with that, too!). For someone like me who had spent a long time trying to find my place and "fit in," I found that at Waldsee I was a much more outgoing, almost extroverted person. I had a whole group of good friends (some of whom, 21 years after my first year, I'm still friends with!), and it was an amazing feeling.

As a Betreuer (counselor), I took on many roles, from helping lead KT Märchenwald, to being a Stammbetreuer (leadership staff member), to planning International Day with the four other counselors from neighboring villages, and more. I always felt supported and encouraged to try new things, and I enjoyed feeling confident in leadership roles. I also really loved trying to help the kids and teens feel that same "I belong here/I am a person who has value" feeling I felt as a villager.

But my favorite part was getting to see all of my favorite people for a few weeks every summer, and, as overly sentimental as it sounds, making new memories with them all.

Ilse, Nikola und Meike

What did you look forward to the most each year?

Honestly, I just love all the little things that make up what it feels like to be at Waldsee. Speaking German all day every day, standing on the benches to welcome the villagers into meals in the Gasthof, making and gifting Namensschilder (name tags) to each other (last time I counted, I had somewhere close to 50 of them!), singing all of my favorite songs during Gesang (song hour), eating Brötchen and Müsli (mit Schokostreuseln, natürlich -- rolls and cereal, with chocolate chips of course!) for breakfast, being so proud of our Märchenwald kids when they finally performed their play, running to the Kostümhaus to throw together a last minute costume for an Abendprogramm (evening program), and many more things that would make this list far too long!

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

The Krankenschwester (nurse) used to just be a trailer near where Cafe Einbeck is now, and the Laden was in a Kleinhaus (small cabin), and instead of Cafe Einbeck, we just had the Kiosk!

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What's your favorite Waldsee Lied (song)?

I have to pick only one? That seems unfair! Is picking "Lieblingslied" a predictable cliche? "Freunde" and "Birkenbäume" are also two of my faves that give me all of those Waldseeweh feels. Along with too many others!

Best snack at Cafe Einbeck?

Haribo everything, especially the cherries and mini frogs.

Sonst noch was? (Anything else?)

One of my favorite traditions was creating musical-themed Essensvorstellungen (meal presentations) with Meta -- mini medleys of songs from a musical, with the lyrics changed to be about the food we were going to eat. We always spent way too much time making sure the syllables fit and the rhymes worked, but it was always worth it!

Meet Nikola and other members of the Waldsee community from throughout the years at our 60th Anniversary Alumni Weekend, July 17-19!

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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.