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The Highlights of Spending Your Summer at Camp

Posted: 15th August 2018 10:50

We’ve all been there. Uni’s finished and the bursary money has long been spent – leaving you with a very empty bank account and in urgent need of finding a job. However, not all summer jobs have to be as boring as stacking shelves and tidying up piles of clothes in shops. If you’re interested in travelling, and looking for a great way to enhance your CV; working at an American Summer Camp may just be the best decision you’re ever likely to make. Rob Watts spent five summers working at American summer camps; and has shared his knowledge on what it is like to spend four months in an ‘absolute dream job’.

The process to work in the USA for a summer is very straightforward, and with the help of agencies such as Camp America, BUNAC and Camp Leaders, they will make sure that your experience runs as smoothly as possible. First of all, you will need to invest time and also money into committing yourself to working in the States. Outlays such as visa papers, agency fees and flights are all standard costs of what applicants pay for the service. A trip down to the US Embassy will also be scheduled; but as long as the relevant paperwork is provided on the date you are assigned, the process for being accepted is very simple.

Rob SaysFrom my experience in applying and going through the process of gaining a summer placement; it was pretty straight forward. You pay a fee to an agency, complete an application form stating your current position, and what type of employment you are looking for at a summer camp. Candidates are also required to attend an interview with an agency representative; this is nothing to worry about, the agency will just want to see what you are like and which type of camp will best suit your qualifications and interests.

Choosing the Right Summer Camp For You

Summer camps are all about offering a choice to the children. This is why there are so many different types of camps, ranging from specialist sports, to camps that are designed to cater for under privileged children; and depending on what you are hoping to gain from your American camp experience, will depend on where you chose to work.

Sports camps are an excellent way for children to enhance their skills at a certain sport. Whereas most camps will offer various sports on their daily schedules; specialist camps will focus just on sports. These facilities are catered towards young athletes who are playing competitive sports regularly, and also for children who just love playing soccer, baseball, basketball or American football.

Many camps in the US do have small amounts of religion as part of the their daily program but don’t let this deter you; unless you are going to a specialist religious camp, the amount of content that is included is minimal and is very educational to the campers and counsellors alike. There are also camps that are available for children coming from under privileged backgrounds; these camps are typically not as lavish as specialist sport or private camps, but the experience of working with these children can be absolutely life changing.

Rob Says… I worked at two separate camps over five years, both, very different to one another. Working with children from privileged Jewish backgrounds can be very fun and the facilities provided were incredible. However, I had the opportunity to work with underprivileged children also, and found it to be an extremely rewarding experience.

Work Opportunities

With over 10,000 camps located all over the USA, there are jobs at camp for everyone. If you take an interest in soccer and have a basic coaching qualification, being a soccer coach can be a great way of building your experience up, whilst also being able to play soccer all day! If you consider yourself to be an excellent swimmer and feel you could help other improve their stroke; why not be a swimming instructor or even a lifeguard? These can be some of the best jobs to have at camp as you are outside all-day, witnessing gradual improvement from campers and also topping up your tan! The same would apply if you camp has a lake facility, if you are lucky enough to be placed somewhere with a lake, being part of the waterfront staff is also a highly sought after position. Sailing instructors, canoe and kayak staff and also being a speedboat driver are just a few positions that are offered at the waterfront.

If playing sports doesn't appeal to you, jobs such as music teachers, art and craft leaders and drama staff are also on offer at most summer camps. Many children will come to camp and want to be involved in drama productions and music shows; being part of the drama, music and arts staff is a fantastic way of helping the campers express themselves.

Rob Says… I held a number of positions, including lifeguarding, swimming instructing and also canoe and kayak instructor; all of which I found to be really enjoyable and rewarding. Getting to work outside for the majority of the day when the weather is hot was fantastic; and being able to help the children improve their skills at swimming and canoe/kayaking became a highlight of the job.

Role of a Camp Counsellor

Regardless of what activity you are tasked with during your time at the camp; you're more than likely going to be a camp counsellor too. Despite its name, this does not mean you will have to council young children in your spare time! A camp counsellor’s job is to be there for the children, whether that’s supervising them while they play a game or activity, or making yourself approachable when you think the campers may need some support. The campers idolise their counsellors, so making sure that you’re setting a good example is paramount. Having experience at not only coaching an activity but being able to talk through issues with upset or troubled campers will add valuable skills to your resume.

Rob Says… My role as a camp counsellor varied from year to year and depended on the age range of the campers I was based with. It can be lots of fun with young campers as they are still learning things for the first time. On the other hand, working with the older campers is also really enjoyable; they’re a lot more laid back and with them being older, you are able to participate with them in activities such as basketball and soccer.

Advantages of USA Summer Jobs

So you’ve read about the types of camps and job opportunities that are available; but what are the real benefits to hopping on a plane and spending a summer in a different country with a whole host of people you don't know?

Working at a summer camp is a great way of meeting new people from all corners of the world. Often camps will have majority American counsellors, but do try and encourage foreign staff to apply as it adds variety to the camp.

There are opportunities to undertake jobs that you’ve never done before. If you enjoy swimming, but have never had a job relating to this; being a swimming instructor or a lifeguard is an ideal position as it will allow you to be in one of the best locations around camp! Those hot days can get to you at times, but when you’re working at the pool or on the lake, taking a dip to cool down will relieve the stress and sweat!

One of the main reasons why people are interested in working in the States over the summer is the opportunity to travel after camp has finished. The J-1 student visa allows you to have a one-month grace period after your role at camp is finished, and it’s the perfect opportunity explore the country and do some travelling. With internal travel in the States being relatively cheap, it’s easy to get flights across-country to some of the USA’s best locations.

Rob Says… I was able to spend time travelling after my job had finished. Spending all of the five summers on the east coast, I had the opportunity to travel and explore as far south as Miami, Florida, right the way up to the northern state of Maine. Another summer, I was also fortunate enough to spend an extended period travelling around the USA on a 10-week road trip. Starting in the north-east state of Vermont, travelling as far west as the California coast and finishing off in Atlanta, GA, I was able to see some incredible places on the trip such as The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park as well as a whole host of incredible cities along the way!

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