Top tips for being a USA Camp Counsellor this summer
It was a few years ago now when I headed State side for eight weeks of pure camp fun but that doesn’t mean the time has been long forgotten. It’s completely the opposite if anything and right now we are at that time of year where everything reminds me of summer camp. My heart just aches, knowing I’m not returning this year. My Facebook is full of people talking about camp, I stupidly followed Camp America on Twitter and now can’t get away from how many people will be having the time of their lives this summer. So instead of sulking about it all I decided to put together my top tips for being an Camp Counsellor in the States this summer. Hopefully I can help you to make the most of this amazing experience.
Pack old clothes for camp but pack nice clothes for going out too – When I packed for camp I wasn’t aware of how much people would dress up on days off or evenings off. I also didn’t pack coloured clothes for every team colour. It is COOL to be dressed all in green if you get put in the green team during a special day. This includes face paint, bandanas etc. Clothes will get dirty at camp and washing facilities will probably be the local laundrymat – so don’t expect them to ever come clean again. Take plenty of old clothes preferably items you don’t mind throwing away when camp is over to lighten your bag from travelling. Pack nice clothes for days off and to wear travelling after camp. If you’re travelling from abroad expect to be underprepared the American counsellors bring half their wardrobe!
Take enough money to be able to enjoy your days off – At the camp I went to ‘days off’ were a HUGE deal. We would rent out a condo or go to a lake house and then throw a massive party. To do this you needed the money for renting out the place, then for booze, food and any activity on the following day. It all added up pretty quickly but trust me you did not want to miss out on it or you’d be out of the loop on all the gossip.
Look forward to ‘days off’, they will be the best – The weeks are long and the days even longer. Camp isn’t an easy job but it is so much fun and full of the best rewards. But when you are just having a bad week and craving time away from camp look forward to the next day off. You never have to wait more than 10 days for a day off and planning will begin as soon as the last one finished. Time with your amazing co-counsellors, drinking from iconic red cups and playing beer pong will stay with you on those days when the kids are being a pain.
Don’t plan to skype or keep in touch with friends/family – there just won’t be enough time – Camp will start slow and you’ll have the whole summer ahead of you. The next thing you’ll know and camp will be half way through and you haven’t had time to skype once. Don’t plan to keep in touch with family/friends via the internet as some camps won’t even have wifi. The best way for keeping in touch is via mail as this is what the kids do.
Expect to make some of THE BEST FRIENDS with your co-counsellors – You will be living, working and relaxing with these guys 24/7 for about two months. They will soon become your good friends in such a close knit environment. There may be some people that are returning from the year before, but they will welcome you with open arms. So don’t panic, put yourself out there on the first week and get to know as many people as possible before the kids arrive. Camp is huge for counsellor romance too – I mean I met my boyfriend there three years ago! Equally if you take a dislike to someone from the start this could ruin your summer.
Don’t stress over looking after the kids, it will get easier – So you got a place at camp but aren’t really comfortable looking after kids of your own, induction week will only make this worse by giving you examples and not all good because they need you to be prepared. Seriously don’t stress about it, you might be thrown in at the deep end but it is the best way to learn and within a week or so you’ll be wondering what all the stress was for. Listen to camp returners, respect the kids especially if they are some of the older ones and just generally be a fun and creative counsellor – the rest will come easily.
You’ll be living with the kids, in cabins or similar – don’t expect luxury – Before I arrived at camp I didn’t really know what to expect with living conditions. Each camp is different and chances are you will have a vague idea before you arrive. Just remember you will be sharing your accommodation with the kids, this includes the bath rooms – ours did not have doors just curtains (was not expecting that before I arrived). Do make your cabin/tent (or whatever else you are sleeping in) feel like home, unpack, decorate and most of all do it together. It will help the cabin to bond initially.
There will be counsellors that have been there for years and think their way is the right way – Just understand that this will happen and you have to take what they say with a pinch of salt. Some of them will have been at that camp since they were seven years old and have eventually become a counsellor. Just agree to disagree with them but whatever you do stay on the right side of them.
Enjoy it, act like a kid, and be completely crazy – We had a phrase called camp cracked that we used on any counsellor who was finally cracked enough that they started to act like a kid and doing all those things they thought too cringe and embarrassing on the first day. That is exactly what happens to you at camp, you become part of this bubble and anything outside of life at camp no longer matters. I enjoyed camp as much as the kids by the end of it and didn’t want to leave.
My summer at camp changed my life. It may sound cliché but I don’t care it is 100% true. Make the most of your summer and you’ll never forget ‘this one time at camp’…