My American Summer Camp Adventure
Hints and Tips for those thinking of working at an American Summer Camp
The Application process
The first thing you need to do once you have decided that you want to spend your summer in the sun, supervising children on fun-filled activities, is to chose the agency that will help you find that dream job. Popular choices are Camp Leaders, Camp America, USA Summer Camp, CCUSA and BUNAC. I chose to go through Camp America, which involves sending an application form, a face-to-face interview and agency fees.
Top Tips for the Application process:
Tip 1: make sure you are old enough to apply. Camp America states that you must be 18 by June 1st of the year you intend to start work.
Tip 2: be sure to look at how much each company's fees are before you sign up.
Tip 3: take time to fill in your application! Don't rush it. Places at summer camps are more competitive than they used to be due to the shortage of jobs in America, so make sure that your application form will be noticed. Check your spelling and grammar! Also talk about the skills that you will offer that camp.
Tip 4: show that you are 'enthusiastic', 'flexible' and 'willing to work long hours' as working at a summer camp will be hard work and employers need to know that you can cope.
Tip 5: Camp America specifically liked photos added to the application, particularly showing you taking part in a particular interest that you have stated about on your application. For instance, I had stated that I was interested in fencing, consequently I asked people in my class to take photos of me during a duel that I could attach to my application.
Tip 6: camps absolutely love teaching qualifications. I got my placement at an America Summer Camp because I had obtained a Level 1 Teaching: Fencing qualification. If you have a teaching qualification you can become an activity leader, which means not only are you instructing children on the activity that you love, but you also earn more money than if you were a general counselor. I know that Camp America offer you the opportunity to take a lifeguard course in order to gain a lifeguard qualification, and therefore strengthen your chances of gaining a place.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will find a position at a summer camp. Consequently, that is something that you must consider when deciding to apply. If you are thinking about spending your Gap Year summer at a camp like I did, than perhaps it is also wise to have a back-up plan just in case it doesn't go through. However, hopefully you will get the call saying that you have gained a place. I remember I was so excited knowing that I would be enjoying my summer working abroad in such a picturesque and scenic setting. If you do get placed the next steps are to sort out your flights and visa arrangements, which your agency will organise as much as possible for you. You will apply for a J-1 Visa exchange visitor visa in order to stay in the States. The U.S. embassy in London organise ''J-Days'' where members of the public will not be allowed to attend. Consequently, the day is pretty quick and stress-free. If you have gained a place, Camp America will book you into the first available J-Day and you will need to travel to London to attend it. On the day there will be Camp America representatives present outside the embassy assisting you with anything that you need. You will also need to pay your embassy fee, which is not an agency fee. In regards to the flights, the camp ma pay for those but check that before you book. Check whether you need travel insurance too.
Life at Camp
The summer that I spent working at an America Summer Camp was genuinely the most magical, exhilarating, and memorable summer that I have ever had. Yet, it was also the most exhausting experience I have ever had, as it is a physically demanding job where they expect you to work incredibly long hours. Obviously, each Camp is extremely different and has it's own character and charm, consequently I thought that it would be more beneficial to write some general tips that I have gained from my personal experience rather than describing my particular camp.
Tip 1: immerse yourself in the camp's culture. Learn the camp's songs, know the camp rules inside out, and be supportive of the camp's ethos. It will mean that you will get the most out of the experience. In addition, it will mean that the children you are supervising will also get the most out of the experience.
Tip 2: try and get on with everyone working at the camp. The camps are usually extremely isolated and therefore whilst you are working at camp, that camp does become your own little world. Consequently, it is important that you get on with the people you will be living with for many months. Furthermore, it is crucial to create a family ambiance at camp for the children who are away from home for long periods of time.
Tip 3: make the most of the fantastic facilities the camp has to offer. If you are a counselor, get involved in the activities with your group or alternatively, you can ask an activity leader to teach you about their activity in your spare time.
Tip 4: try and make it the best possible experience for the children. It is important that you are firm, but also make it as fun as possible. It is their summer holidays and they are away from their families. For some children, that means that they are away from home for the first time. It is your job to stop the children being homesick and make them want to come back to camp every year!
Tip 5: remember the drinking age in America is 21! So if you are going out there in your gap year like I did, you are not at the legal age to drink. There are some clubs however, that allows over 18s in if you wear a wristband showing that you cannot drink.
Tip 6: look into trips that you can take after Camp finishes with the money that you have earned. You do not make much money, but whilst you at camp you will not have any living expenses, as the camp provides your accommodation and food. Trek America is an extremely popular choice for people who want to explore the States in a group. Alternatively, you can travel with people that you have met from Camp like I did, which I would also thoroughly recommend as I had an absolutely unbelievable time travelling to Vegas, New York and Miami.
If you are looking for an action-packed, fun-filled summer spent abroad in an English speaking country, working at an American summer camp is the certainly the perfect choice. The working environment is fun and enjoyable because you are working at a holiday camp, the social life amongst the employees is great, and you make firm friends for life. It is an unforgettable experience!