Working in America – My experience as a camp counsellor!

Many people will have heard of the opportunity to work as a camp counsellor for their summers as part of a cultural exchange programme in the USA. Well I am officially one of those people! Many agencies provide this opportunity for individuals, the most popular and well known being Camp America, however, I actually went out with the agency Camp Leaders. There are so many other agencies too, you just have to look around and find which one you prefer.
So what does it mean to work at a summer camp?

It means simply you don’t get a holiday until camp is over and this is usually somewhere between 6-8 weeks! A lot of people assume that working as a camp counsellor for the summer is all fun and games, you actually work 24 hours a day making sure the children have everything they need and are looked after. Yes, this is extremely tiring and hard work so you love your days off once a week, but it is so worth while.

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What was my role at camp?

Every camp runs a little differently but the main idea of each camp is the same. Working as a camp counsellor means you are assigned a ‘bunk’ of children of which it is your job to live with them across the summer, you make sure they are ready for all the activities each day, they do their jobs in the bunk and also to make sure they have the best summer possible. Yes, the bunks are not the most glamorous and you have to climb onto the top bunk every day, but they become home for your summer and when you leave, not sharing a room with at least eight others feels very strange… it is very quiet after a summer of noise! Most people who are hired through Camp Leaders are known as ‘specialist’ camp counsellors, they each have a specialty area in which they will teach in across the summer. For me, this was dance! Growing up I danced and competed every week, but due to injuries it meant I could no longer dance competitively, so I decided to dab my hand into teaching, it helped me land the job for America. I spent the whole summer teaching the children different dance styles, choreographing dances and having so much fun.

What was an average day at camp like?

Camp is a whole different world, you live in this bubble for the summer where you don’t really know what is happening outside of it. Everyday is jam-packed with multiple activities and sessions to attend each day, our camp there was 7 activity periods a day then an evening activity too, in one activity you could be playing volleyball by the lake where as in the next you could be zip-lining over the water! What I will say is the thing to expect the most is (if this is something you are interested in doing),is to be prepared to be tired, all the time! But, so is everyone, because camp is non stop everyone will hit that point where it is all a bit too much, but something crazy will happen or an activity will make you remembered that camp is ultimately the best fun you will have, there is nothing else like it.

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How do you know if working at a summer camp is for you?

If you enjoy the unexpected, being a big-kid all day and getting involved, which sometimes means getting messy or embarrassing yourself, then you are perfect for summer camp. There is nowhere to hide at camp, everyone sees everything and everyone knows everything, you learn to live with it and learn that the best way to connect with the children and other counsellor is to just get stuck in. You have to not take yourself too seriously, you are there to look after the children but you are also there to make their summer the most memorable possible. If this means getting covered in paint or dancing in the talent show, do it!! If you want the adventure of a lifetime and to experience a whole new culture, apply, you never know where you could end up.

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What were for me, the best things about working at a summer camp?
  • You get to experience a brand new culture, for me, something I found fascinating, the children loved hearing about the English culture too! They were also amazed by my British accent and loved hearing my say words we use differently and trying to imitate their accents. I’m not too bad at imitating ‘I’ll have a hamburger and fries please’ hahaha!
  • Working with like-minded people, people who wanted to work with children and have fun all at the same time.
  • Making friends which I know will last a lifetime. You get to know your fellow counsellors very well across the summer, you spend all your time with them pretty much. I have so many friends I know will be there forever, spread right across the world which is amazing too!
  • Gaining so much self confidence. I believe camp changed me for the better, it made me stronger, more independent and more happy with the person I am growing to be.
  • Making the children’s summer amazing, seeing the kids happy is what it is ultimately about.

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Would I return to work at a summer camp?

OF COURSE! 2016 was my first summer as a camp counsellor but I will be returning for my second summer this year. I cannot wait to see some familiar faces with both staff and the children and meet new people too. People say camp changes you, that it certainly does, you wait 10 months of the year for the best 2 months, camp!

There is so much more I could say about my experience and what I did whilst I was over in the USA, but I don’t want this post to be a million words long haha! I have some ideas for further posts regarding my experience, but let me know in the comments what you want to know. I can talk about the process of being hired, how I found travelling alone across the world, travelling after camp, just let me know what it is you want to know! I do hope this has helped anyone who is thinking of applying to work at a summer camp, there is much more to know, so please ask away! I will also be posting a similar post soon, I volunteered for a week after the summer camp at a bereavement camp and that changed everything for me, look out for it soon!
But, until next time…
– Bobby
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