Summer is coming to an end, and if you live in the UK – it wasn’t up to much. My advice to you, is to start focusing on next summer! That’s right, summer 2018. Before you’ve even packed away your sandals and favourite shorts, I want you to consider an adventure for next year.
Working as a counsellor at a summer camp in the USA, is easily one of the best decisions I ever made. I applied to Camp America in late 2008 and was offered a job at a camp in Michigan, USA in January 2009. Applications are open for summer 2018 and I want to convince you why applying could change your life!
Firstly, I want to explain what it is. I quickly realised people have the wrong idea. They think summer camps are where rich families in the USA ditch their kids for the whole summer. Not true. Some of these families save all year to send their children, some come through a sponsor, and other camps cater specifically for underprivileged children.
The types of camps are incredibly varied. There are religious camps, sport specific camps, YMCA camps, girl scout camps… I could really go on. My point is, that there are camps to suit – not just the children – but the staff too! The length of camp changes from camp to camp too. There are day camps, 2 week session camps, and whole summer camps.
I spent 2 seasons interviewing potential staff for ‘Camp America‘. The best way to describe who they are is, a cultural exchange program. There are several other companies that promise the same service but I personally believe that Camp America is second to none. So I will only be using them as an example.
Camp America work with the highest number of camps, increasing your chances of placement. Every year they place over 7,000 people at camps all over the USA! They have won awards for recruitment and customer service. Plus, I’ve met a bunch of them. They are simply the most awesome, hardworking bunch of people.
Your job as a camp counsellor is basically to make sure the kids have the best summer ever… No pressure. Seriously though, you lead or assist in sports/activities, look after the childrens wellbeing and generally just make the experience FUN.
Depending on your experience, you might live with the children in cabins, or your co-staff. There are also options to work in the kitchens, on maintenance or sometimes in an office environment. When you decide to apply, and reach the stage of selecting an interviewer – they will advise you on your skills.
Certain experience gives you a higher chance of placement at a camp. If you have coaching skills in any sport, or are especially good at something such as photography. Lifeguards are needed at any camp with a waterfront area, as well as swim teachers.
However, if you aren’t the sporty or the artistic type, then any experience with children is great! Whether it’s scouts, girl guides or volunteering at a youth club.
When I completed my application, most of my experience was with horses. So I included lots of detail about that. I was offered a job working within the horseback program at a camp which included other sports. The program manager was kind enough to agree to let me spend the first half of the summer working in the barn, and the second half on ‘main camp’ living with the kids and assisting in other sports.
As I spent 4 summers straight attending the same camp, I learned lots of different activities. This let me teach archery, arts and crafts and assist with a ton of other things. I also learned to sail, waterski (very badly) and drastically improved my swimming.
This always feels a bit hidden, and it’s not! It just sounds like a lot of money until you break it down. Luckily, Camp America now have a page dedicated to breaking down the costs. They also deal with the whole process and guide you through getting your visa, booking your flights and transfers to camp at the other end. The only costs you might need to cover yourself are; a medical from your GP (though I never paid for mine) and the cost of getting to and from your nearest USA embassy for your visa appointment. I believe it’s normally London now.
Since you live on camp for a minimum of 9 weeks through the summer, don’t worry, camp will feed you. Camp America will pay you a minimum of $650 for the summer. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s effectively ‘pocket money’. Depending on your age and the job you do, you may be given more. The only thing you need money for during the summer, is nights off, snacks and sometimes laundry if the camp doesn’t have facilities. So save up your spending money for after camp travels!
It doesn’t hurt to enquire. Now is a great time to apply, there’s less pressure on completing your application and plenty of time to volunteer with children to get extra experience. When January rolls around, Camp America host recruitment fairs all over the UK. If you haven’t already been placed by then, these are a GREAT way to get hired.
Hundreds of camps attend and allow you to sell your personality face to face with camp directors. I have worked at around 4 of the fairs, both for my own camp and for Camp America. Look out for my blog post nearer the time, with advice and hints on how to get hired at the fair!
So, if you have an outgoing personality (or wish you did) then I think a summer at camp could be for you! I’ll be posting from now until summer 2018 through the application process and up to a packing list. I’m also open to questions and suggestions, so please get in touch. This experience changed my life, and I hope you decide to let it change yours.