In 2015 I decided to take a leap of faith and apply to work at a summer camp in America. I had no clue what I was getting myself in for when I applied, but 3 years later it is still one of the best decisions I have ever made!
But what is it really like working at a summer camp? What should you be prepared for? Well, the best 4 months of your life!
1. America is very big!
It is always good to remember that America is HUGE. My camp was based on the West Coast, so my experience was full of temperatures over 100F, beaches and Water sports, where as someone on the East Coast would have a different experience all together. Neither are better or worse; one of my best friends’ camp was based on the East Coast and she had an amazing time. But it’s good to remember when you’re accepting contracts; look where your camp is based!
2. Flights are Expensive!
When planning your trip, remember that while you’re getting paid at camp, flights can be expensive, depending when you book! I always try to book my flight in January, knowing I will be away in May/June because they are significantly cheaper 🙂
3. Second Family
Be prepared for these people to become your second family, whether they are fellow counsellors, leadership team or upper management. I now have such a selection of international friends that I know I can go to both America or Australia and have a sofa to sleep on, wherever I go.
Every camp is different, but it is always good to check how and when you get paid. Some camps pay per week, fortnightly, monthly, and others pay at the end of the contract, so it is good to check in case you need to save more money before you head away! Additionally some camps pay by cheque, bank transfer so its good to know if you need to set up an American Bank Account. I recommend Payoneer.
Each state is different, but California was HOT and I mean HOT!! I was lucky that Fresno wasn’t sticky and humid, but it still required me to wear factor 100 sunscreen to prevent looking like a tomato – and that still happened from time to time. Protect yourself and wear sunscreen and t-shirts! Yes you may look silly in a hat and rash guard for Lifeguard training, but do you want to look like me when I didn’t wear my rash rashguard?
6. Boys (or girls)
I went to a co-ed camp (there are so many types) so there were around a 40:60 ratio of girls to boy counsellors. This meant that relationships both friendly and romantically can form. Be mindful while you are at camp, if you find yourself just focusing on that one person, you are not doing your job correctly. Have fun, but keep in mind you are there to work as well.
Pack clothes you don’t mind getting ruined! Days at summer camps revolve around making the campers happy, so if they want to cover you in paint – you let this happen! Surprisingly even cleaning your clothes can sometimes damage them…it’s hard to hand wash at camp! But you can still bring “cute” clothes for days off and travelling, and of course remember all that FANCY DRESS CLOTHING!
8. Gossip and Drama
It does sometimes feel like you’re back at high school with the gossip and drama. When you’re circulating with 100 counsellors, issues can arise because not every is your cup of tea. I try to stay clear of all of it, but it is hard when you or your friend is at the centre of it! We preach that we are a sisterhood, but when two girls like the same boy it can create drama. Be nice and remember your real friends won’t make you “bitch”.
9. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Yes, this is a real thing…both during and after camp! Bu
t you also need to remember to look after yourself, take breaks when needed. Most camps will have a rest hour/shower hour so use them to your advantage and actually rest. And you don’t always need to go to Staff Hours; you need to sleep to be healthy!
10. Hard Goodbyes
Goodbyes never get easier, these people become your family over the 4 months spent together. They are there through the happiest and toughest times, and will always be there no matter what. We now call it a “see you later” because if they’re true friends you will visit, or fate will bring them back to you somehow! Camp is full of internationals from Australia, Canada, Spain, but also America itself for me is 8 hours behind the UK. FaceTime will become your best friend during the 8 months away from camp, and be ready for 100 group chats with different people from camp talking about camp 24/7.
Camp was honestly one of the best thing I have done to date, and every year gets harder deciding if I want to go back, who knows if they’re will be a return in 2019.