I remember the day I saw Loch Insh for the first time. The translucent water was shining and the sun was brighter than ever. The beach was full of people laughing, running and getting ready to get into the water. Literally the best place to spend the summer. At that moment, I knew I wouldn't regret being part of the team leading the IH Aberdeen Young Learners Summer Programme.
The first few days were crazy! We got to know each other and even though we were the most varied group I have ever seen, we got along perfectly. In fact, in only two weeks we became a (slightly crazy) little family.
We had Marianna, from Russia, the cutest eleven year-old monster. Pablo and Estela, the crazy Spanish twins. Isabela and Anna, from the Czech Republic, the most amazing and smart teenagers. Me - Lucía, the teaching assistant and finally, the incredible teacher Grainne, who made this programme possible.
The days flew away so fast I can't even believe we were there only last month.
Our daily routine was pretty organised but we made sure to adapt it to the group. We had three activities per day, which were the basis for the daily English lesson. We started off with a great breakfast at the Boathouse Restaurant, where we picked up our lunch for the day as well. The variety of food was incredible and the students got to try a typical Scottish breakfast, though not all of us were fans of baked beans (sorry!). We took our sandwiches, chocolates, fruit and crisps and moved to the first super exciting activity of the day!
We tried literally everything they offered: archery, biking, paddle boarding, orienteering, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, raft building, shinty and jumbo sup. Fortunately, we could also repeat the activities we loved the most and we were lucky to canoe all the way down the river to Aviemore! That was an incredible experience. Throughout these activities we could explore the surroundings and discover the beauty of Scotland while also gaining new vocabulary and becoming fluent in English. I have to admit I ended up learning as much as the kids.
After our first activity of the day, we would have lunch followed by a short break. I still miss those sandwiches! We played cards, Frisbee, we sang, we danced and we truly enjoyed our free time. Some days we would go back to the chalet and have a tea or coffee before the next activity and to recharge our batteries.
Once the afternoon activity was complete, we would get ready for dinner. Take a shower, have some rest and simply fool around. At five we would go back to the Boathouse Restaurant, where the nicest staff would bring us our dinner. We had different soups to choose for starters and two options for the main meal. Not to mention plenty of juice, bread, butter and salad. I am a vegan myself and they always had an alternative option ready, even some of the kids chose to try it sometimes. The food was just amazing, and the sizes were so big we usually didn't even have space for dessert!
After dinner, we would go back to our cosy chalet for English lessons. Even though some of them don't want to admit it, the classes were super fun, and the innovative methods Grainne used were perfect. We played, we ran, we laughed, and all the activities were interactive and educational. Sometimes they wouldn't even realise time was up! The improvements we saw on their use of English were incredible.
Then we would have the third activity and they definitely loved movie nights, eating popcorn and watching musicals. We ended up singing the songs all the time! I have to admit we were quite good at harmonizing!
Estela and Pablo were lucky to turn 13 on camp, and we made sure they had an amazing birthday. Everyone was really excited and looking forward to the day. Their parents even gave us some presents for them before they left - we all prepared to make sure they had an awesome day. We woke them up singing, there were balloons and decorations all over the place, the other kids did some drawings for them, and we bought a cake, a card and their new favourite ‘piggy’ sweets. They will never forget their 13th birthday at Loch Insh.
At the end of the week, they even allowed us to have a bonfire on the beach, and that was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Of course, we were prepared and we bought marshmallows and biscuits. We even got to bake some fruit. We thought about building it ourselves but we had to accept the fact that we didn't know how to. However, the instructors were there to help, and there is nothing they didn't know how to do. The kids loved them and they made all the activities much more appealing and fun.
The weekend arrived without us even realising it, and we got to leave our little paradise for a while to discover some of the most wonderful places in Scotland. We went to Loch Ness and Inverness on Saturday, and after a long trip singing in the car, we enjoyed a sunny day exploring the city and taking a cruise around the Loch to get to Urquhart Castle. We even saw Highland cows as well! I also saw Nessie, but of course, no one believed me J
On Sunday we had something different planned... we went to Landmark, one of the most famous amusement parks in the UK! It was quite an original place to be honest. Right in the middle of the forest, we learned a lot about the area and its inhabitants, especially red squirrels, spotting them in the tress as we walked. We even saw a dinosaur, and I have to admit I was shocked when I entered the Butterfly House , where hundreds of different butterfly species lived freely and flew around you. That was my favourite. However, some of them couldn't wait to get to the rollercoasters, which were scary to some of us but not fast enough for crazy Marianna, who also got to jump from the Sky dive, as well as Pablo and Estela. It was a crazy day!
The second week went even faster, we got more confident and the kids more fluent every day. They kept falling into the water though – mostly on purpose! The time was fast approaching to say goodbye and none of us wanted to accept it... but we still had one last great activity to look forward to - The Reindeer Centre! We took our car again and got ready to visit some of the most amazing creatures on the planet. We first learned a little bit about they are at Christmas... and we finally got to climb into the Cairngorm mountains to get to their home. The scenery was breath-taking with the river rushing past, the trees towering above us and once we crossed the gate on the top of the hill, the reindeers just began walking around us! It was surreal! They were super soft and we even got to feed them.
There were two babies, the first reindeer twins to be born in the last 10 years. We weren’t allowed to touch them as keep them alive and well is a constant challenge. Pablo and Estela were especially curious about this being twins themselves! We took loads of pictures and I already know what I am leaving under the tree this Chritmas!Once we said goodbye to our new friends, we drove to Loch Morlich another stunning stop where we had lunch with some friendly ducks. Finally, we drove back to Aviemore for some last minute shopping and we went back to our paradise to pack and say goodbye...
On our last day, we went to the beach again and had some sweets while putting our knot knowledge into action to tie our memories into colourful bracelets while enjoying an improvised talent show I will never forget. Like all good things our time at Loch Insh had to come to end, and despite our tearful goodbyes we knew we would always remember Loch Insh 2018 with a smile.