Working at a summer camp isn’t just about the camp experience, you are already in America and have a visa with a month left, why not travel around the country for a bit.
When you are looking at booking your flight think about whether you want to book your return flight out of the same airport as you flew into as you may want to travel somewhere else and fly out from there. Book a flight which is easy to change (from my experience Delta www.delta.com and STA Travel www.statravel.co.uk are the easiest/cheapest to change) or alternatively just book a one way flight and decide when you get there.
You meet many different people at Summer Camp who you might make plans with- some Americans may invite you to go and visit their home or College after camp, or you may find other people who want to travel. So be prepared to change your plans, because there’s no better way to travel across America than with an American!
Getting ready to embark on your summer camp journey can be stressful enough without worrying about what to pack, how much luggage space you have, what to take and what to leave.
Many summer camps will provide you with a packing list, these can be useful but they are very generic.
My advice for packing to go to a summer camp is to pack for all occasions, rain or shine. A rain jacket is a necessity as are shoes which can get wet, as you never know when the weather will turn against you. Do some research about your camp, is it a uniformed camp? If so, you will only need clothes for your days and evenings off, meaning you don’t need to bring your whole wardrobe with you.
You should also look at your activity and understand what you will need to be able to undertake it, for example a tennis coach might want their own racquet, a lifeguard may need a large number of swim suits, water ski instructors will needs swim suits and may want to take their skis. General activity instructors should take a look at all the activities available to the children and be prepared with suitable attire to be able undertake all sports and activities.
Many Summer Camps are located in remote areas away from local towns or villages, meaning it maybe hard to obtain everyday items such as; shampoo, deodorant, suncream, body wash etc. I would suggest that these items should be purchased before you travel and packed with you to avoid getting caught short. Mosquito repellent is a must for the summer, try to find one with a high DEET percentage as they work the best and avoid purchasing shampoos and similar items with powerful odours as these attract mosquitos.
You may want to pack some photographs to display around your bed or some home comforts to make your place feel more homely. Research the special activities your camp has throughout the summer, as it may not be easy to buy any items you may need for dress-up days. For example for 4th July some items that are red, white and blue may be a good to bring with you.
The main thing through is not to stress, if you are sensible and think carefully about what you need for the summer then you should be fine. Remember everyone will be in the same position as you, you can’t and won’t pack everything you need but don’t worry as someone will be there to help you out.
There is lots of information available about the different types of summer camps and what they involve- activities, people saying they love it and companies giving you advice, but no one really tells you what it’s actually like to be there. The good, the bad and the unexpected!
Okay so you have got yourself a job, your visa’s sorted, your flight’s booked and you are counting down the days until you leave. It then hits you that you are actually going, you may become nervous, anxious, excited and experience many more different emotions. The most important thing to remember is that this is perfectly normal! Of course you are going to have mixed emotions, you are about to undertake the trip of a lifetime, going to a different country, a completely different place, where you may not know anyone at all. Remember you are not alone, many of your co-workers will be in exactly the same position as you.
The best thing to do is to prepare yourself, many camps have Facebook pages for their staff where you can get an idea of who you will be working with, post a comment, add some people and start talking to them. A familiar face/photo will be nice for you both when you arrive.
Many camps have handbooks that they email to staff, these give you an idea of a number of things- itineraries, packing lists, daily schedules and many more useful things. Read through this carefully, it will help clear away the fear of the unknown.
Relax!!! This will be an amazing, unforgettable, unimaginable, eye-opening experience that you will never forget!
There are many ways in which you can successfully obtain a job at a Summer Camp. There are a number of companies you can apply to, such as Camp America or Bunac. These companies make the process very simple; you apply to them, they give you an interview, you pay and then they sort out finding you a job, flights and visa. This is a good way to do things if you have no preference on which camp you get placed at and don’t mind paying a sum of money upfront for them to arrange everything.
Another way to do things, which is what I did, is to do it all by yourself (which sounds harder than it actually is). When I wanted to work at a summer camp I knew that I wanted to be a water ski instructor and I had seen that a number of camps offer water skiing in their programmes. Water skiing programmes varied tremendously between camps- some camps offered water skiing behind tiny metal boats, some offered water skiing but 30 minutes from the camp and others have brand new state of the art equipment. This made me question which camp I wanted to work at, so through a little research I found Raquette Lake Camp, which had 11 state of the art Nautique boats and was on the water front (the second year I returned they acquired 8 brand new boats).
I applied to Raquette Lake Camp directly through their website (as an America would) and they invited me to do a Skype interview. After this the process was simple, they mailed me the visa forms, I filled them out and sent them back, the camp forwarded them to the company they use, the company posted them back to me and I booked a visa interview (the camp even reimbursed me all my visa expenses when I got to camp). Within the whole process in the end I only paid for my flight, which also meant I could book the flight I wanted to the closest airport to camp and a return flight from any destination I wished to (the second year my flight went London- Albany NY, Albany NY – Orlando, Orlando – London). The companies usually only fly you to and from New York City.
Annys Adventures – Raquette Lake, New York
Once arriving at camp there were many employees who had arrived through a company, it wasn’t until the first payslip came through that we noticed the difference (counsellors arriving through companies earned around $765 whereas my total earnings were around $1550). I know that summer camps are for the experiences and travelling but I would much prefer to have nearly double the money to travel with after. We found out that the summer camps have to pay the companies money to gain employees this way and then they take that off the counsellors wages.
Don’t get me wrong people have had amazing summer camp experiences going through companies and some camps won’t employ overseas counsellors unless they are with a company. I’m just trying to open people’s eyes to a different way of gaining employment, as well as influencing and showing those who were put off by the costs involved with going through a company, that it does’t have to be expensive. Everyone should work at a summer camp no matter how they found the job.
I was fortunate enough to spend two consecutive summers at Raquette Lake Camp as a water ski instructor and these undoubtedly transpired into some of the best experiences I have had!
Annys Adventures Blog – Cocoa Beach, Florida
I urge everyone to do it, whether it’s a summer between University years or as part of a gap year, you should go and work at a summer camp.
I have created a list of the reasons why everyone should spend a summer working at a summer camp:
To Travel! Many summer camps are located in remote and beautiful places such as northern New York, Maine and North Carolina. These remote locations are beautiful, with many surrounded by forests or lakes, which provide plenty of places for activities. The kids spend their summers at camps to get away from the big cities and what better way to do it, the smallest things matter there; such as just looking up at the sky at night are mesmerising- I can honestly say I have never seen so many stars before! The J1 visa which entitles you to work at a summer camp also gives you around a month to travel the states after camp is over. Many camps pay in US Dollars which works out perfectly as travelling money.
Meet friends for life! Summer camps draw in counsellors from all over the world, I met new people from all over America, England, Australia and New Zealand. At first whilst it may seem scary going and not knowing anyone, everyone is in the same boat, you will make friends quickly especially with your co bunk counsellors and those doing the same activity as you.
Unique Experiences! There is a big difference between going on holiday to a place and living there. I had visited America many times before going to summer camp, but I found it was a massive culture shock which surprised me. Interacting with people from countries other than your own and learning about their way of life was so interesting. Being in America during the summer also meant I got to experience 4th of July celebrations, which was a once in a lifetime experience that I won’t forget.
Camp Traditions! All camps are different, have their own traditions and special events. The camp I worked in had a number of traditions including various chants at lunchtime and dinner, special songs and brother/sister activities with the boys camp. Throughout the summer at various times they had special events, these included; Halloween trick or treating, an Hawaiian party, 4th July celebrations, the mini sing, the big sing, carnival, 6 chairs, breakout and team week. Team week was the biggest event, where the whole camp was split into two different teams and competed against each other in different activities throughout the week.
Outside Benefits! Working at a summer camp is also a very good thing to have on your CV, it allows you to give examples of a variety of skills and situations such as; team work, childcare, patience, commitment, adaptability, cultural changes and many more. I can’t count the number of times in job applications or interviews where I have benefited from my summer camp experience.
Hard Work! Working at a summer camp isn’t an easy thing to do, the hours are incredibly long, often working from when you wake up to when you fall asleep with a few hours off during the day. You will get some nights off, our nights off started at 9:30 pm and ended at 12:30am. Both years at a camp I completely forgot I was being paid, it was such a good experience that I would have potentially undertaken it without being paid.
Annys Adventures – Raquette Lake, New York
All these opinions are my own, but if you have the slightest desire to work at a camp, do it- you definitely won’t regret it. There is no better way to travel and work in another country whilst making memories that last a lifetime.