An insight to my experience at camp the first year I went (2005). I had about the same experience as the lady who wrote this. It is still an adjustment, but easier as I prepare myself mentally ahead of time and after. It is totally a different Culture.
"At one time, like so many other people who had not tried to learn American Sign Language, I thought it was used only by people too lazy or stupid to master signing in English word order. I had found ASL confining. Using PSE I could make the sign for beautiful, gorgeous, striking, or pretty while mouthing the word to make my choice clear. This appealed to my writer's heart, in love with the nuances of the English language.
I didn't realize that skilled ASL signers could show similar nuances with facial expression and body movement that changed the meaning as surely as an English word did. The more I devoted myself to studying ASL, the more I began to appreciate its richness. The arch of an eyebrow, the expansiveness of a movement, or a slight change in posture all added interesting meanings to a sign. The masters of ASL wrote as skillfully with their bodies as any of the best authors I had read.
I had gone to the Gallaudet campus for a few brief visits since my Spring Week trip in college, but it had little to offer me when I wasn't a skilled signer. This time was different. I never knew that going to school could be such a pleasure. I had always gone to classes in places that were geared for hearing people. And I had always been an exception. At Gallaudet, being deaf was ordinary and acceptable. I had never experienced such liberation.
When I went to the cafeteria, I could ask questions about the food and easily understand the answers. If I stopped at the student center to ask for information or grabbed someone on the recreation staff to ask the hours for the weight room, I had no worries. Everyone knew sign language or could easily follow my "deaf voice." If they didn't, it was judged to be some fault of theirs, not mine.
There were no raised eyebrows at my high-pitched voice and no fumbles for a pen or paper. I didn't have to contend with poor lighting or people who mumbled. Everything was designed to accommodate someone like me.
My teacher signed, and so did all the other students in my class. For the first time I participated in classroom discussions. I went to lectures. I went to cultural events. Everything was new and exciting and I just could not get enough of it.
At the end of my first week at Gallaudet, I drove back to Winchester for the weekend. I needed to stock up on groceries, so I stopped at a supermarket. I walked inside the store, as I had twice a week for the past year, and suddenly, for the first time, I felt frightened. The din was unbelievable. And everywhere I looked I was surrounded by people saying things I couldn't understand. It was such a complete change from the past week that I could barely handle it. This was the world I'd grown up in, but suddenly I felt like a foreigner coming to it for the first time. I was so shocked by the depth of my feeling that I clung to my cart for several minutes before my hands stopped shaking. "
Heppner, Cheryl M. “Seeds of Disquiet” – 136 & 137, Gallaudet University Press 1992