There are a million ways to spend the long summer holidays; hanging out with friends, going to festivals, spending time with family, but have you ever considered going to camp? In recent years the number of young people flying off to America for a summer of fun has been soaring and it is easy to understand why. We spoke to twenty year-old student Stephanie Duncan about her experience as a camp counsellor through the Camp America programme in Michigan last summer.
How did you first hear about Camp America?
My brother was always interested in it when he was younger and it had always been something that my mum had spoken about. I had spent the previous summer doing nothing and didn’t really accomplish much. My mum saw the recruitment fair in the paper; I filled out the application and then went and got hired on the spot.
What is the role of a camp counsellor?
Basically you are the primary care giver of your group of children for the week you have them. They arrived on the Sunday and I would have them till the Friday. I was their guardian for that week.
What does a typical day in the life of a camp counsellor involve?
Waking up at the crack of dawn and having the mental capacity to get the children up and ready for the day. You have to be a child yourself, but also be an adult; you have to be in the mindset of a child but responsible at the same time. We would have a morning meeting down at the waterfront and we would sing songs to wake the children up, go for breakfast then start our activities. We would go down to the lakefront and do kayaking, canoeing or tubing and there were loads of games. My camp specifically did a lot of outdoor activities like building fires, cooking outdoors and building things from scratch.
What qualities would you say are important to be a camp counsellor?
You have to like children, I would say that is the main one because you couldn’t put up with kids that long if you didn’t like working with them. You need to have good communication skills to talk to, not only children, but children of a different culture. There are a lot of things that I would say that they didn’t understand and you have to put that into perspective when talking to them. You need patience and a lot of high energy. There’s no room for being lazy because it may be the sixth week of camp for you, but it will be the first week of camp for the kids so you’ve always got to be very motivated; you can’t let it diminish, you need to be that happy cheery person all the time.
What was your favourite part of the whole experience?
Probably the cookouts! s much as I loved working with the younger kids, when you had the older kids, you could have late night cookouts and have a big camp fire overlooking the lake front. We would sing songs there in the evening and make smores. So my favourite part was probably those moments were you could just relax and have some adult conversation which was really good.
How do you think being a camp counsellor and working at a US summer camp has benefitted you?
I think in terms of the fact that I do the Brownies and the Guides it gave me a lot of things to bring back to use with them, like different games and songs. It has definitely given me a lot more ideas and given me a better understanding of children. I also love the fact that it has given me loads of different friends from different parts of the world.
What advice would you give someone who is considering applying for Camp America?
Definitely go through with it because it will be one of the greatest things you will ever do in your life. Also don’t go expecting a holiday, because even though it technically is a holiday is it a lot of hard work. It is hard and it does get tiring so you have to get that in your head; you’re going to be disappointed if you are expecting an easy summer.
Travelling and living in America is pretty expensive – would you say it was worth the money?
Yeah, if you have the money to do it then you definitely should. In terms of actual cost of living, it isn’t that expensive, and I was able to bring back quite a lot of my money because I didn’t spend it all. In terms of getting over there then it is a lot of money and I won’t deny that, but if you are able to pay it then it is worth it. Whilst you don’t make your money back, you shouldn’t be doing it for the money. It really is more about the experience than earning money.
Would you consider doing Camp America again? And if so, would you want to return to the same camp or try somewhere new?
I would go back in a heartbeat. I would love to go back to the same camp; I loved the people and would happily return. But, if I was looking to apply again I would probably go somewhere new, only because I would like to explore more of America.
Camp America is a recruitment agency placing staff from around the world in summer camp jobs in the USA. If you want to get the American summer camp experience like Stephanie, check out their website (www.campamerica.co.uk) for more information.