Ever thought about working abroad? Participating in a programme like Camp America? Here is my experience of Camp America and some helpful tips for the summer of a lifetime.
My Camp America Experience
The Application Process
During my first year at university, I got taken in with the whirlwind of living by myself in a new city with my new friends. I decided I wanted to challenge myself with something new. I’ve worked with children before and thought going to America to work with children would be difficult and out of my comfort zone, but something I would love to do.
I applied in January, filling my application form with my skills. My application was followed up by an interview and a DBS check to verify I was allowed to work with children. I was so nervous for this, but it was very relaxed and I had nothing to worry about.
I went to the London recruitment fair where hundreds of applicants turn up with the hope of getting hired. The room is set up with lots of stalls for each camp. The idea is that you go around and have a 5 minute interview with any camp you’re interested in. Don’t be disheartened if you do not get hired straight away! I was super nervous for the process with so much competition, but there are so many opportunities at each camp and so many camps out there. Recruitment fairs are optional and your application will be sent around to camps anyway online, so do not worry if you have missed them! Just make sure you do your research on the camps you want to go to before you go to one, this will enable you stand out from the competition!
Luckily, I got hired by my first choice camp; Camp Ocean Pines. It is a small intimate camp in Cambria, California, where there were 12 counsellors plus managerial staff and around 80 children attending per week. It focuses on helping the ‘awkward kid’ to make friends and learn to accept themselves in a no-technology zone. What appealed to me about this camp was that I loved working with children anyway, and I was the awkward child when I was younger, so I thought I could really help them out. The interview at the recruitment fair was intense, I was third in line of a huge queue for my camp, but I did my research and was hired on the spot. The only condition was that I had to become a lifeguard. As soon as I left the recruitment fair I booked myself onto a lifeguarding course and became qualified. There was a Facebook group set up for all the staff and that was it. I went down in April to London to get my Visa and then I flew off to America in June for three months!
Leaving everyone at home was so emotional and I was so nervous to be going to the other side of the world by myself. What if I didn’t like it? I travelled with two of the other British counsellors going to the same camp as me which began to make me feel more comfortable and excited for the summer ahead.
My Camp Experience
When I arrived at Camp Ocean Pines, I was in awe. It was such a picturesque location and everyone I met seemed to be so lovely! There were 6 American counsellors and 6 British counsellors split evenly between male and female. What followed was 10 full days of staff training which helped you learn how to deal with children and the situations they put you in (something I was especially nervous about before I went but they teach you everything you need to know!). I bonded with the other staff members and made some best friends for life! The environment was so friendly and your encouraged to be 100% yourself. Camp cared so much about each person individually and their personal growth as well as growth of the children which made you feel really appreciated.
The children were there for a week or two weeks at a time. After spending every hour of the day with the rest of the staff in training, all my hours were now spent looking after my 7-9 year old cabin of girls and with one hour off a day (if that), and one day and one evening off every two weeks, it was a lot of hard work but super fun! The amount of handwritten notes, friendship bracelets, and drawings I got given was amazing. During the day, I got to teach activities to a range of age groups and genders, such as kayaking, archery, baking and dance! It was like I was being paid to be a big kid for three months and to hang out with my friends. The evenings consisted of fun activities like live Pokemon Go, Double dare – which involved doing challenges and getting slimed and campfire- all of which involved not taking yourself too seriously and singing some funny songs!
It was a whirlwind of fun and it was over before I knew it. I began to realise that who I was out in America is who I wanted to be at home: more free willed, less stressed, enjoying being myself, and helping out others as much as possible. Everyone I met became like my second family, and it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to them. We all went down to the beach on our last night all together and all said goodbye to our new family.
I then used the 30 days left on my visa to travel around. I travelled for three days visiting some of my friends houses and meeting their families! American families are so hospitable and love hosting you, so use all the connections you have! I did a Camp America Trek afterwards called Wild Western, which travelled from LA to San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park, The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite and San Francisco. I went completely by myself and met a new group of people, all of which had also been a part of Camp America at different camps across the country. I made some amazing friends there as well, and we camped at each location and explored. Honestly, the beauty on the west coast of America is unparalleled, and I would definitely recommend the trek to anyone who is interested. Some of the locations I got to visit were places that have been on my bucket list since I was young, and Camp America gave me the opportunity to do this! After the trek, I travelled to LA and then travelled home!
I loved my experience so much that I’m going back again to the same camp this summer. Only some of my friends from camp are going back, but I’m going to travel afterwards to see them again. Every summer is going to be different, but there is nothing better than an environment in which you feel 100% accepted for who you are. I felt healthier, more energetic, happier than I had ever been in my life before. I brought back with me a brand new mind-set and sometimes parts of life get in the way of this mind-set back at home. I cannot wait to go back out there this summer, travel some more, and meet some more amazing people and get back the mind-set where I am at my happiest! I would recommend Camp America to anyone and everyone.
My Top Ten Tips for the Ultimate Summer
- Get out of your comfort zone- It’s the only way your going to push yourself and enjoy the experience to the fullest! When else do you get paid to be a big child again?
- Travel as much as possible- Book a trek, hire a car and drive with your friends from camp afterwards! Do as much as possible to make the most of your time out there!
- Don’t worry about the cost- It does cost a bit to travel out there (around £700), but for 3 months food and accommodation costs and flights, this is barely anything! You earn pocket money when you’re out there as well which you can use to go travelling!
- No matter how cliché it sounds, enjoy every second because its how you find yourself and who you want to be.
- Be friendly and learn as much as you can from the people you’re with- everyone is from different backgrounds, there were some counsellors from Arizona, Texas, South Africa, England, California etc. Everyone has different life experiences so learn as much as you can from their outlook on life!
- Don’t overthink the application process!- As long as you can work with children and are passionate you will get hired somewhere! The skills on the form you fill are not super important as the camp you end up going to may ask you to gain extra skills such as lifeguarding anyway!
- Treat your friends!- The friends you make will become your friends for life! I made some amazing friends, we bought each other gifts throughout camp so we could remember each other when we got home and just to cheer each other up if we were having a bad day!
- See the best in the kids!- Working with children 24/7 will get exhausting and some children will be harder to deal with than others! Remember they just want to have fun too and try and send them back to their parents being taught some life skills like their manners! Seeing that change in a child is amazing!
- Put your heart and soul into the summer- You only get out what you put in so put in everything and you will have the most amazing summer!
- Enjoy yourself and have the time of your life!
If you’re interested you can start your application here: