Questions about LANGUAGE IMMERSION
My son has not had any formal French language training, can we sign him up?
To participate in our French language immersion summer camp programs, children are required to have studied French for 1 to 2 years minimum. They must be able to understand the counselors and to communicate with other participants as well. Many of our students are just learning French and traveling to France for the first time.
We look for students who are interested and curious about the language and culture. Please have your child take some French classes before signing him up for an immersion program in France.
With the basic knowledge of the language and with the help of our competent and experienced counselors your child, once at camp, will be able to further develop his/her language skills without feeling intimidated nor out of place.
All activities at camp take place in French only and our counselors, through the use of simple language and signs/gestures, will be able to ensure that your child can participate and be understood in the different activities. All security and safety announcements will be communicated in French but to ensure proper and complete comprehension for our foreign campers there is always an English speaking counselor available to assist beginners if needed.
Do you provide French classes during the camp session?
No we do not offer French classes. Our program is a full immersion program not a study program.
Here children learn and experience the language by living the everyday life in France in total immersion with other French children of their own age.
What is the level of French fluency required of the children?
Minimum 2 years of French studies are recommended to participate in our program. We welcome students from International French schools all over the world, we also welcome students from foreign schools taking French classes and even students working with private tutors.
Everyone studying French and loving it is welcome! As long as the child is able to put together basic sentences and understand others he/she will do well. If your child is comfortable conversing in French at a basic level, the Immersion Program is right for him/her.
Are children with different levels of French placed together?
90% of the participants are French natives, and only 10% are foreign students. Some foreign campers are already bilingual, but most of our participants are beginners and only know a minimum of French.
We do not group children by “level”, the more advanced speakers help beginners, it is part of the experience, each child progresses at it's own rhythm. Campers learn from each other, help each other and exchange their knowledge.
No matter what level of French children have, everyone benefits from the immersion experience!
My child has forgotten a lot of French? Will your program help him recover his French and become bilingual again?
Many returnee kids become “rusty” when they are not in a French environment all the time. However, as long as they are willing to try and speak only French, our Immersion Program will certainly help them become bilingual quickly.
You may be surprised at their improved fluency after camp!
My daughter can basically speak French, but her reading and writing are very poor. Which program is best?
While reading and writing are important skills, our camps are not reading and writing intensive. If your daughter can basically converse in French, we’ll help her with any gaps she may have in her reading and writing skills!
My child can’t really speak French yet, but I want him/her to experience a ‘French shower.’ Is it OK to register for this Immersion Program?
Just being at camp, your child will get a ‘French shower’, don’t worry. But he/she will actually learn more French if he/she takes French lessons prior to immersion.
Also, we do promise parents that the Immersion Program is an all-French environment. Please assist us by registering for a program that best fits your child’s current abilities and this may mean waiting one more year before signing up for immersion. For this experience to be successful your child must be ready!
Questions about the STAFF:
Who runs the camps? Are the safety regulations as strict in Europe as they are here in the USA or some other countries ?
Every one of our camps is run by professional organizations that have been in existence for at least 20 years. Rules and Safety Regulations are very strict in France for camp organizations.
We work in partnerships, and represent, 2 French camp organizations that each have more than 30 years of experience in running some of the best camps in France. They offer what we consider (after 20 years of experience running VSF) the best educational summer camp programs in France!
All our camps are regulated by the French government and have been been approved by the "Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports" (French Government).
How experienced are the counselors? How old are they?
Counselors are between 20 and 40 years old. They all possess the BAFA diploma (Certificates of Professional Aptitude, Educational Counselor), each camp Director the BAFD. These diplomas are required by law in France in order to work for any camp organization. The camp counselors are all French natives.
We have staff in each camp with first aid qualifications.
At some camps we also have counselors in training—who are mostly high school students working to obtain their BAFA (and even some former camp participants who have now grown up!) Finally, we have a support staff of bilingual English/French staff to ensure the smooth running of the VSF program. In addition to the rigorous application and interview process, our counselors bond together for a special training session prior to the start of camp. From this, our counselors emerge with a firm understanding of the Camp program and of VSF’s program… along with a high level of safety consciousness.
How many campers per staff member
Typically we have a ratio of approximately 7 campers per staff member (9/1 for teenagers). Not only does this ensure adequate supervision and safety, but also lots of personal contact between the children and the camp staff.
Questions ABOUT HEALTH AND SAFETY:
What happens if my child gets sick or is injured?
For anything beyond a minor issue, we will contact you as quickly as possible.
In the case of mild injury or illness, we will provide appropriate care on site and continue to carefully monitor your child’s condition. In the event that medical attention is required, we will take your child to the nearest doctor or hospital, and of course will communicate closely with you.
If your child cannot continue to participate in camp, or poses an infection risk to others, we may ask you to pick him/her up from camp and take him/her home.
What about the children’s hygiene?
All the camp counselors have the responsibility to make sure that all children brush their teeth, wash their hands before each meal and shower themselves regularly following the schedule of each group.
Is there any first aid personnel at the camp site?
Yes. A first aid nurse is permanently at the camp site and is available 24 hours per day. All medication is kept under lock and key in the infirmary.
The first aid nurse is there to administer medicines in accordance with parent’s or doctor’s instructions to the children during camp. A log of your child’s health is continuously kept up to date. A hospital as well as several medical centers (doctors) are located nearby. We will inform you as quickly as possible should your child require medical attention during his/her stay.
Please be reassured by the fact also that the French Health System is one of the finest in Europe.
Has there ever been a serious accident or injury during a camp?
No, we have had zero serious accidents. The primary concern of the camp staff is the health and safety of each camper. All security measures are respected during camp activities and sports are often supervised by professional experienced instructors.
Our staff members are trained in risk management and takes this matter very seriously. Of course, because we are running, playing, and exploring the outdoors, we do encounter plenty of scraped knees, bumps, and so on. To us, this means that kids are playing hard, testing their limits, and ultimately learning for themselves how to be safe—critical, elements of healthy development! But when a child needs care, our Lead Instructors are all trained in first aid, and will take care of your child just as you would.
A word about guns and weapons
For American parents particularly: considering the recent tragic events, we are happy to let you know that France has very strict gun laws. Gun ownership is heavily restricted.
Do you have insurance?
Yes, every camper is insured. Our insurance is provided by AVI International, a major company in France.
A copy of VSF’s insurance coverage for foreign campers will be sent to each family in their child’s Pre-Camp packet prior to departure.
How is bedwetting treated?
Bedwetting is one of the most potentially embarrassing things that can happen to someone at camp, so it is paramount that parents let us know if the condition exists. Once informed, counselors are careful to use discretion where warranted.The counselor will find some quiet time to speak with the bed wetter in private, to let him know he is aware of the condition and how they will treat it if it occurs. Generally, the child and counselor work out a "secret" signal for the morning to let the counselor know if bedwetting occurred during the night. Then, after all the other kids have trooped off to flag raising, one counselor will remain behind to remove the soiled linen and arrange to have it washed. The linens are returned before the morning activities are over, so no one is the wiser! Of course, we also use as many preventive measures as possible - reduce liquid intake close to bedtime, and remind the child to use the bathroom before going to bed.
General Questions about VSF PROGRAM
What is the average age of the campers?
We welcome children from six years old up to 17 years old, we tailor our activities so that everyone can fully participate and enjoy them, camp activities are offered by age groups.
We tend to have the greatest number of kids in the second through sixth grades.
What is the best age to come to camp?
The best age for a child to begin attending camp is when one is “ready.” Some are ready at age 6, while others are ready a little later in childhood.
We have new campers in all age ranges, and it is never too late to experience a great camp experience!
What percentage of French children will there be at camp? Where are they from?
90% of the campers participating in our program are French natives, 10% are foreign children signed up with VSF. We work with small groups. Groups of 20 to 40 children. With only 2 - 5 foreign campers in immersion in each group.
The French children come from different provinces throughout France; our foreign campers come from many different countries in the world (USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Canada…).
What should my child bring to camp?
A complete list of items will be sent to each participant one month prior to departure. Since campers get dirty and wet, we recommend that children bring old play clothes (they can more easily recognize old clothes as their own); new clothes are best left at home. Anything brought to camp should have your child's name on it.
You may sew on or iron on name tapes, or use a laundry marking pen. Wet feet are no fun at camp - please be sure to pack extra shoes and socks!
Can I sign my child up for just one week?
We offer 10, 15 and 20 day sessions. 10 days is the minimum, 20 days is really the right length of time to truly benefit from immersion, 10 days is ok but appropriate for very young children or sometimes first timers that is why most of the time we will recommend a 20 day session.
One week is definitely NOT ENOUGH but it can be a good start for a first time camp experience.
Why a 20-day session is best?
We have found in our many years of running VSF that the greatest impact on a camper’s life happens the longer their stay is with us. Unlike the many camps which offer just 1 week sessions, a full 20 days provides plenty of time to participate in activities. Plenty of time for the effect of immersion to take place and for the children to make real progress in the French language and enough time so that each camper gets a complete camp experience.
We also run 10 days and 15 days sessions but we’ve discovered in the past that campers spend the first week, acclimatising to the new environment and settling in and the second week anticipating going home. Camp felt busy and hurried. Campers overwhelmingly tell us they prefer the longer 20 day session.
A 20 day stay gives time to get settled, become comfortable, create bonds with the other campers and explore new things. It affords ample time to just enjoy the pleasures of summer life at the camp and enough time to appreciate the French culture! Such a program simply cannot be lived, or even successful, during a shorter time frame.
Why Choose VSF?
Here is the answer to this question !
How many campers attend VSF each session?
We limit our enrollment to no more than 100 campers (foreign) per summer total. These campers are immersed in camp sessions at a rate of 10% of the total.
We have found this to be a camper population that greatly accommodates many aspects of our camp philosophy. Some of the major advantages of a smaller camp family include better and more thorough supervision, greater familiarity throughout, quicker bonding and development together, and better communication within the camp family.
At a hundred campers each individual will have greater participation and access to activities and we can assure ultimately more personalized care.
What is your average return rate every year?
60 to 70%
How much spending money should we give our daughter? How can we be sure that she won't lose it?
A complete Pre-trip and Pre-camp packet is sent to families 4 weeks prior to departure. It includes a "Spending money Form & envelope" with camper's name and address written on it. We recommend no more than 100 € spending money for camp + an additional 30 for each night the child will spend in Paris at the hotel with our team (for dinners).
Children are responsible for their spending money during the trip. While at camp (especially for the younger campers) this money is kept in a safe. Teenage campers carry their spending money with them and are responsible for it at all times, but they can also ask to keep their spending money in the office's safe. We will supply everything they need during camp.
Campers can use their spending money to buy ice cream and souvenirs when they go on field trips or if they go to town with their group. We ask children to carry their own money during the time of travel, so please teach them to be discreet with whatever money they do bring.
Do children have any time for shopping during their trip?
Yes, they have a little time to shop during some of the field trips at camp, just enough to bring home some souvenirs.
Do you sell any items to children?
No, we do not.
Do you offer any day camp program without overnight sleeping?
No, our camps are residential camps; children sleep at the camp and are away from home for at least 10 days-20 days. This time and these conditions are very important for immersion to be successful.
Do you have any programs for children older than 16 years old?
Yes, we often offer programs for kids age 13-17, our program changes every year, please check our website regularly and look in our TEENS CAMPS page.
Do you have a camp where all three of our children could go?
First please keep in mind that we do not mix young children and teenagers. Sometimes we also feel that it is better for siblings to be separated, they immerse and benefit more from the program this way. Other times it is helpful for them to be together, it really depends on the situation - but we will help you make the right decision.
My child doesn't know anyone else. Can you make sure that he/she has a good time?
Most children come to camp alone, but they quickly make friends! We begin the camp with team-building and trust-building activities, to help everyone get to know one another and get into the right spirit. We love seeing friendships continue after camp, and many kids return to camp to find many familiar faces from the previous camp.
My child wants to go to camp with a friend. Can they stay together during camp?
Please let us know in the registration form comments area if your child will be attending with a friend. We can always arrange for them to be in the same room or tent.
Do Boys and Girls share rooms? and where do the counselors sleep?
Boys and girls sleep separately. Rooms are organized by age group. There is one counselor per room (women counselors supervising girls, men counselors supervising boys), sometimes camp counselors have their own room located next to the children room.
I can I be sure that my child will not spend his time speaking English with the other foreign campers?
This really first depends on your child’s motivation to speak French. All the activities are in French and of course we encourage and help foreign campers to speak French ONLY during activities. It can be reassuring at first for foreign campers to group together, help each other and share this experience, but if this situation lasts or if this keeps them from immersing in the group properly they can be separated. Children can be separated during activities especially if they tend to speak English when they are together, but will still have many opportunities to be together during meals, free time, and other occasions.
How do I know if my child is ready to go to a sleep away camp?
Most families consider sleep away summer camps for children 8 years and older. However, age is not the only factor in determining when a child is ready for sleep away camp. Consider your child’s level of interest and desire to explore this summer camp option. Consider your child’s experiences away from home without you. Has your child slept out at a friend’s house or spent a weekend away from home? Always be positive and talk with your child about the benefits of going to sleep away camp. The best indicator of your child's readiness to attend a sleep away camp is your child. Ask him or her. If he says he wants to go, then more than likely he is ready. Don't force your child if he/she says he/she doesn't want to go. But remember that anxiety about something new and different is normal.
How do I know if VSF Camp is right for my child?
If your child is ready for a sleep away camp and is interested in discovering French history and culture, if he/she loves to travel, likes playing, integrating, exploring nature and learning new sports or activities, then VSF Camp will be an excellent choice.
My child is shy. Will she fit in?
Our staff is trained to help all campers fit in. The first day of camp is spent learning everybody’s names, becoming familiar with the camp set-up and the week's activities. The buddy system is used when moving between activities, so no camper is left alone. Our group period, before dinner, helps friendships develop among roommates.
Can my children go to church during camp?
Our camp organization is governed and regulated by the French government which is an “Etat Laique” which by definition is non-denominational, meaning that believers, children or adults, no matter what their religious beliefs are: - Cannot wear visible ostentatious signs, which would tend to put forward their religion, - Are not able during camp to practice religious rites in public, Attending church or other religious services will not be possible during camp.
Questions about TRANSPORTATION
How do the children get to camp?
Campers can fly from any city in the USA or in the WORLD to Paris and meet our group. We have Staff in Paris CHARLES DE GAULLE Airport in charge of campers arriving from every possible destination on the same day. For more information please read VSF Transportation schedules and procedures.
Transportation to and from camp is from Paris, by TGV Train or Coach bus, escorted by the camp staff.
What options are available for transportation to and from camp?
Most of our foreign campers fly on major airlines (unaccompanied minor) to meet our group at the airport in Paris. Our Staff welcomes campers arriving from around the world exclusively at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Transfers to our selected Hotel at the airport for their first night. During their stay in Paris children are supervised at all times by our Team. The journey provides a wonderful opportunity for the kids to meet each other and begin to make new friends a nice way to start.
Some parents are in France on holiday while their children attend camp, we give them the option to bring their children to meet the group at the hotel one day prior to departure OR to bring they can bring them directly to the camp location. At the end of camp they can also pick up their child directly at camp or upon arrival at the train station in Paris. (Visiting the camp is possible upon request) Specific times are scheduled for drop off and pick up at the camp location.
PLEASE NOTE Transportation procedures may differ depending on the camp program you will choose. For more information please visit our Transportation page here.
Do you offer escorted flights?
We used to have flights departing from the US but not anymore. Children participating in our program now come from many different countries in the world not just the USA, therefore to keep our logistic as simple as possible, we have decided that each family would be responsible for booking a flight for their child. It is the responsibility of the parents to book airline tickets, taxis etc... for their children or to bring them to Paris to meet our group.
We live in New York, can we fly our son directly to Paris to meet with your group? Will someone be there to pick him up at the airport?
Yes, we have Staff in Paris CHARLES DE GAULLE Airport in charge of campers arriving from every possible destination on the dates of arrivals and departures.
Will you help our son check in for his return flight home?
For their return flight home, campers will be escorted by the VSF Team and checked in by our staff for their return flights home.
We are taking a family trip to France before the camp session starts, can we bring our children to Paris to meet the group?
Yes, you may bring your children to us directly in Paris. All our campers will travel from Paris by bus or train to the camps escorted by the camp staff. Our program starts in Paris, it is recommended that everyone leaves with the French children from Paris. The journey provides a wonderful opportunity for the kids to meet each other and to begin to make new friends, a nice way to start this special holiday!
Questions ABOUT REGISTRATION AND PAYMENT:
How do I register? Can I sign my child up over the phone?
When do you have to pay?
A deposit of 500 € is required with your first application to reserve a space for your child at camp. Full payment for the tuition is due no later than May 1st. The deposit is fully refundable for 14 days.
Do you accept Credit card payments? We live in a foreign country how should we send our payment to you?
We accept credit card payments via Paypal.
The Deposit can be paid directly online via PayPal on this page.
Once the deposit is paid, the remaining balance due on your invoice can also be paid by credit card via PayPal (upon request we will send you a request of payment by email so you may proceed with payment online).
All payments can also be paid by direct wire transfer to our company's account. Payments must be made in the Euros currency.
Note : If you wish to pay the entire camp tuition by credit card at the time of registration, please let us know and we will send you by email a request of payment from our PayPal account for the full camp tuition.
Why do we need to pay a deposit?
A deposit secures your child’s place in a given camp, which is important because by late spring there will be waiting lists for most camps. Your deposit is also very important in helping us prepare the camp, the logistic of our program, and the necessary recreational equipment for your child.
When are tuition payments due?
Full payment is due no later than May 1st for all campers. For last minute sign ups, full payment is due at the time of reservation. An detailed invoice is sent to all VSF families and a reminder in April. If payment is not received on the due date, your child will not be able to attend camp until full balance is received. Please read our Terms of payment and refund policy (VSF Conditions of enrollment)
Is there any rebate if there is more than one registration from the same family?
Yes we do apply family discounts and group rates. For more information please read our Dates and Prices page.
What is the Pre-Trip / Pre-Camp packet?
This packet is sent 4 weeks prior to departure to all VSF families it includes: a map with directions to the camp (for parents visiting the camp), your child’s personalized transportation schedule, a packing list, and all the information you’ll need to help your child prepare for his trip to France.
What forms will we need to fill out?
There are a few forms that we will need on file in order for your child to attend camp. These forms include: VSF Application forms, Health forms, Travel Information Forms, VSF’s conditions for participation. We will send all these documents to you at the time of registration.
We have a family who may be interested in coming to camp with our child. Can you send them a packet?
Absolutely! We'll send them a packet which includes all of our current information.
Questions ABOUT ACTIVITIES:
My child has no experience hiking. Will he/she be OK?
No problem! Before hiking, we stretch and warm up to prevent injury. Also, we teach the children basic safety rules and trail etiquette. Finally, we have staff at the front and rear of each hiking group, to make sure that no one gets lost and that everyone is feeling fine.
Both of my boys are very athletic, will there be plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities like camps in the States?
Some programs are more athletic, other more artistic. Our camps offer a wide range of activities including sports activities but the main focus of our program is the cultural experience and the discovery of the country. American summer camp programs focus mainly on sports activities, French camp programs are a little different; do not expect to find a typical American type camp in France for example.
My child isn’t a strong swimmer. Will he be OK?
Please clearly indicate swimming ability on the Swimming Certificate. Lifejackets or buoyancy aids are always worn for water sports, except for body-boarding, surfing and snorkeling sessions. Alternative activities are arranged for non-swimmers at most centers. Participants must be able to swim 25 meters to participate in water sports activities such as kayaking, river rafting, hydrospeed, sailing, kite-surfing, diving of course, or wave skiing on the sea, Water confidence is adequate.
What is a typical day's schedule?
Click here: Typical Daily schedule FOR Camps 4 and 15
Click here: Typical Daily schedule FOR Campers age 6-12
Click here: Typical Daily schedule FOR Campers age 8-13
Click here: Typical Daily schedule FOR Campers age 12-17
Questions ABOUT FOOD AND ACCOMODATION
How is the food ?
FRENCH CUISINE is different from what our campers are used to, but it is delicious! Tasting new food is also part of the experience.
My child has special dietary needs. Can you accomodate this ?
We will do our best and can almost always accommodate your child’s needs. Please don’t forget to let us know at the time you register, so we can consult with you and make any advance preparation needed. A vegetarian alternative can be provided, if requested before the start of the holiday. We can accommodate most special diets required on medical or religious grounds but we will require full details at time of booking.
Where will the children eat, and what do they eat ?
Click here to view a Typical Menu.
Our camps are committed to provide three healthy, high-energy meals per day, a balanced diet and plenty of variety. Each camp also provides a drink and a small snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon if the program allows. A vegetarian alternative can be provided, if requested before the start of the holiday.
Breakfast: Typical French Breakfast, with a choice of cereals, toast and preserves; hot chocolate or coffee, yoghurts and fruits.
Lunch: Either a choice of hot meals with vegetables and salad or a packed lunch including sandwiches or bread rolls with a choice of fillings, piece of fresh fruit…
Dinner: A hot meal including vegetables and mixed salads, fresh fruit or choice of French desserts.
When following a camping itinerary campers and counselors prepare meals together. At our Ocean Camps, we cook most meals together, and kids love pitching in to make delicious and nutritious meal.
Where do the children sleep ?
A detailed description of the type of accommodation and sleeping facilities is presented in details on our camp sites page (on the website). Mattresses, pillows, sheets and blankets are provided whether your child sleeps in a room or in a tent. However, please note that a personal sleeping bag is required in the clothing list for most VSF Camps. This sleeping bag will be used during camping trips outside the facilities.
What time to the children go to bed ?
Even the fittest youngsters feel tired after a full day of activities followed by our evening entertainment program (veillées), so we try to insist on sensible bedtimes for youngsters to ensure that everyone gets a good night’s rest. Exact times may vary from centre to centre, but are usually between approximately 9:30 pm for 7-10 year olds, 10:30 for 11-13 year olds, and 11.00 pm for 14-17 year olds.
What do we need to pack to bring to camp ?
A detailed list of necessary clothing and supplies is sent to parents along with their child’s PRE-TRIP package well in advance of departure. We provide all the equipment necessary for all the activities, although youngsters do need to bring personal items such as water-proof jackets, sunglasses, hats, footwear and casual clothes.
We ensure that children are equipped with activity equipment which conforms to European standards. Approved lifejackets are provided and must be worn during water sports sessions. Strict range disciplines are enforced for archery.
Climbers are always protected by helmets and a safety rope and harness, and all our motor-sports vehicles have their speeds regulated. Please note that we are continually up-dating our equipment to reflect current best practices and therefore equipment used may differ from that shown in photographs in our website.
How is laundry handled ?
If your child is staying for more than one week, please note that each camp provides one machine wash a week. Laundry service is provided at camp.
Questions ABOUT CAMP REGULATIONS, PHONE CALL POLICIES
Can we visit our children during the camp session ? Can we call them (telephone)
In most resident camp program, visits or telephone calls are not allowed during the camp session. After your children arrive at camp, you will be able to communicate with them by email, text messages or with postcards! Better than telephone calls. Often, a child is making a healthy adjustment to being away from home when a telephone call from mom and dad can bring up separation issues again, that's why phone calls are usually not recommended in resident camp programs.
How can I communicate with my child? How will I be informed of his well-being?
Communicate in writing, send Emails!
Campers are regularly encouraged to write to their friends and family during the entire camp session.
The mail distribution is done every day at the time of the daily gathering. Most centers have a computer available for our foreign campers to be able to receive emails.
- Please observe camp policy about phone calls.
Apart from the fact that your child is probably in the middle of an activity session, in the shower, eating dinner, and therefore far from the telephone, our experience has shown that children really do settle in much better if undisturbed by personal telephone calls, that is why telephone calls are generally not recommended during the camp session.
One way we minimize homesickness is by not allowing children to call home (unless it is an emergency) which gives them a chance to settle into the camp program.
However please note that we will send you a June the phone number of the camp's office or the camp director's cell phone number. Parents can call this phone (ONLY) during set calling hours to speak with their children.
The use of personnal cellular phones is regulated and authorized only for campers age 12 and older.
Every 3 days, a detailed report is sent to VSF Office by the camp director. Our team also stays available to respond to parents questions concerning their children's adaptation and progress at camp.
If you have questions please contact us it will be our pleasure to give you news concerning your child’s integration and his general behavior and we will, of course, pass on any important personal message you may have to your child.
- A Blog for each camp!
The camp team will be posting news and updates on the children, their activities and schedule during the entire camp session. A great way for parents to stay informed on their children during camp. We will send you the code to access your child's camp blog prior to departure (please note that the blogs are in French!) Stay Connected!
- Personal Email updates:
During camp our team is in constant contact with the camp Directors and the camp staff. VSF will keep parents informed by email once a week about their children personal experience at camp.
Can parents visit the camps ?
The simple answer is yes, you may visit the camp. Please contact us in advance if you are considering a visit, we’ll be happy to help. However, we also encourage parents to consider letting camp be a “parent-free zone” for their child.
Part of the camp experience is leaving home to enter a new world, and developing independence and self-sufficiency.
Questions ABOUT HOMESICKNESS...
Please read our featured article About Homesickness here
My child has never stayed away from home, and might become homesick. How do you handle that?
We’re ready to support your child if he/she is missing home. Not only will we listen to their feelings and reassure them, but we find that most kids soon get over those feelings as they make friends and get involved in the many fun activities.
How do I know that my child will not get homesick?
Homesickness is absolutely normal, and our staff expects it and handles it well. Children are usually a little bit homesick the first three days, this is what we call the "adjustment time", a time to recover from their trip, adjust to their new environment and to the language, a time to connect with others. This is a very important time in the "immersion process" they need to go through these feelings in order to find within themselves the social skills (and language skills) they need. Generally, children who have had happy experiences staying several days with family or friends, and who adapt easily to new environments, make friends easily and enjoy playing with other children have normal social skills. They are ready for sleep-away camp.
My son has never been away to sleep away camp before. How will he do if he comes to France by himself?
Because of the family-like atmosphere that we have created as part of the unique environment of VSF French summer camp program, returning campers welcome new campers with open arms. We strongly encourage inclusiveness as part of our camp philosophy, which all of our past campers are aware of and have previously practiced. While some new campers do come with friends or siblings, many first-timers also arrive on their own. They assimilate well into the camp, and our counseling staff makes every effort in facilitating this process.
What if my child gets homesick?
We take homesickness seriously. We train our staff and plan our program in such a way as to avoid homesickness. However, there are a few children every summer who are unable to shake homesickness. (No more than five in 1000 campers go home early due to homesickness each summer.) If this happens, we will contact you. Please understand that, should you choose to remove your child from camp due to homesickness, you will not receive a refund.
How can I prevent my child from becoming homesick?
Parents make the biggest difference when it comes to preparing a child for a session of camp! We have found the best way to prevent a child from becoming homesick is to have an open dialogue with your child before he comes to camp. For instance: campers who want and look forward to the fun of camp will enjoy and benefit from it. Readiness depends on the individual maturity and attitude of the child. A child who is persuaded or misled will probably have a rough time of it at camp. Remember, there is a lot of difference between "getting to go to camp" and being "sent to camp.”
What does your child expect from a camping experience? Are all of his expectations realistic? Children sometimes imagine camp as a place where they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Living at camp is a lot like living at home. There's lots of fun things to do (but only within certain parameters), and along with the fun comes some responsibilities (like cabin clean-up, taking turns, sharing, etc). Parents can help by discussing the new experiences that camp will involve: sleeping and eating with other kids, being in unfamiliar surroundings, and the need for give and take.
Our counselors do a lot to prevent homesickness too! Homesickness usually occurs because a child feels uncomfortable in new surroundings with lots of new faces. This is certainly understandable, and our counselors do a great job of welcoming the campers by getting to know them, their interests, and goals for the camp session. We make them feel at home by giving them a camp tour upon arrival. Parents when completing their child's application, must include any information so the counselors can be alerted to anything that should merit special attention (such as a recent divorce, death in the family, or other unusual circumstances).
Questions from CAMPERS
What happens on the first day of camp?
You're excited. You're scared. Your stomach has butterflies and your head is swamped with questions. Will I make a friend? What cabin will I be in? Who will be my counselors? When do I get to pick my activities? When do we eat?!? Wow! You sound just like the rest of our campers! When you arrive with the help of your camp counselors, you will unload your luggage and they will help you get settled. Staff members will be there to greet you and tell you what room you will be in. You will then meet our camp nurse, all the camp counselors and the camp Director.
You will then take a tour of camp and you will learn more about the special activities planned for the week.
Finally, after dinner everyone gathers together for the traditional “evening veillée” (pronounced vay-yay) with your group, time to make new friends and get to know each other, play fun games that will help you get to know one another!
Does camp have rules that I will need to follow ?
Yes! Camp has some rules that everyone is expected to follow. But don't worry we will help you remember. The main rules are:
1. Be Respectful. (This means that you should be nice to everyone and everything) Foul language and physical or verbal aggression are not permitted, EVER!
2. Be willing to try. It is not expected that you will be good at everything we do at camp, but it is expected that you are willing to give things a try.
3. Use the buddy system at all times. (Campers should always have a buddy – of their same gender - when moving between activities and during free time.)
4. Cleanup after yourself. – Campers are expected to make their beds every morning, to keep their possessions tidy and organized and help with the cleanup of their room and camp.
5. Keep food and drinks out of the bedrooms. (They attract animals, mice, bears, wolves etc....) only joking about the wolves and the bears ;)!
6. Put on clean clothes and take a shower each day.
How are the counselors? Are they nice ?
You bet! Our counselors are college age people who love the outdoors and kids! They are all experts at having fun and are eager to have you come to camp. Counselors will become your good friends. They will help you meet new friends, complete projects and even learn fascinating new things. Every room has its own counselor.
What if I don't know anyone at camp?
A lot of campers don't know anyone when they first arrive. But don't worry, that won't last long. The first day at camp is spent learning all about the other campers in your group and in camp. By dinner on the first day you will know lots of people.
What type of activities do you offer at camp?
Our activities are what make VSF Camps so special. Check out the specific page on our website that describes your camp in details. Unlike other camps that assign groups to activities, at VSF camps most of the time YOU choose what activities you will take. With several choices each day you will always be doing something you like. All the activities are lots of fun and you will take something home with you from many of the activities you do.
What if I still have questions?
You can always send me an e-mail. I love hearing from campers and your question may be added to this section for other campers who may be wondering the exact same thing.
Should I bring a friend ?
More than 95% of our participants come by themselves for their first year. Many times, returning campers will plan a second summer with friends they made the previous year at camp. Participants quickly form long lasting friendships during their stay and return home with many new friends. We do not allow more than 3 teens in any one group who already know each other from the same home town.