Continuing our working abroad series, we have spoken to Natasha about her experience working at a USA Summer Camp.
So why did you decide to work in at a USA Summer Camp?
Well, I love all things America and I was obsessed with US TV from a very young age. Saved by the bell being one of my favourites. I loved American culture and camp is a massive part of that! I’m also very sporty and a qualified coach so it was a great fit!
Why did you decide to go back and work for the next two summers?
I knew I would be going back to camp after the first few weeks in my first summer. I loved the people, the activities, the camp views, the days off and of course the kids were awesome! Who knew teaching would be so much fun!
What was the application process like?
I booked through Camp America and I didn’t actually speak to a member of staff once! I did everything through their website. The only interaction I had with them was when I had my interview before my first summer and when I met them at the embassy. I’ve been working with Camp Leaders on a few projects now and they are amazing to speak to. If I was to go back to Camp I would use them or Camp America again.
The most intense parts of the process was the interview, which was about an hour with a local representative (not at their office), the VISA interview (which took 4 hours to get to London, 2 hours to get into the embassy and the interview itself only took 30 seconds!), and the anxious wait to be placed at camp!
Was the Camp America programme expensive?
Honestly, I thought it was quite reasonable. They took care of everything including my flights for the first year and all I had to do was turn up. Plus, I GOT PAID!!! All worth it in my eyes for amazing memories! It’s cheaper as a returner too as you don’t have to have an interview, you don’t have to go to the embassy again (you can mail it in) and I could look for my own flights! Money saved!
What were the kids like and what was your role?
Most of them were amazing! You are always going to get the odd camper who will test your patience but I was pretty lucky with most of my campers I got. They leave you presents and letters at the end of camp too. Some I still have! If you are a truly amazing counselor, their parents will slip you a tip at the end of summer! Dollar, dollar bills ya’ll!
I was a fencing instructor…yes, like swords and everything! I also teach some of the “specialist activities”. Basically, anything which needed a responsible adult to look after the kids and the equipment. So, not only did I do fencing but I did Archery and Riflery too. Yes, Riflery! Ohhhh America!
What did a typical day look like at Camp?
It was very long! Most mornings we had to be up at 7:30am to raise the flag. Then, it was time for breakfast which was typically bacon, eggs and pancakes or French toast. You can opt for cereal, toast or bagels too. Breakfast was good!
The next 3 hours till lunch were activity hours so the kids would go to their activities and all the counselors would go to teach. Or you would take your campers around the activities, get them involved and look after them.
Around midday it would be time for lunch. This is usually hit and miss. Just really an excuse for all the counselors to get a much needed tea or coffee before heading back to activities. Some camps get a rest hour at this point….oh rest hour! Cheeky nap time! You’ll love a siesta!
After lunch, it’s time for more activities. It’s very much like school! After, all the activities all the kids come back to the cabin or they play outside with the other kids. Every evening there’s an evening activity.
Did you get much time off?
When I was at the day camp we got every evening off and weekends! No such thing at residential camps! You work 24/7 and only get 1 day off a week. At my last camp it was the same thing but they gave us an evening off too which was pretty amazing and well used. It was all about planning and waiting for post camp travels anyway!
Would you recommend working at a USA Summer Camp to others and why?
YES! Not only will it be the best experience and summer of your life but there are other positives you can take from working at camp. I know some counselors who have gone on to go through the ranks and now even LIVE in America, working at the camp full time. If you don’t go through this route, it’s a great job to add to your CV and a great talking point. I’ve also met some amazing friends from my years of working at camp!
What was the hardest thing about working abroad?
Being away from my friends and family with no internet/Wi-Fi or a phone to call them on. You can only access the internet at certain times and your phones get locked away till your day off. So if you’re addicted to social media, camp is like rehab! Plus, the lack of sleep! I like sleep, I missed sleep!
What are your best memories and experiences of working at Camp?
Most of them are from days off and post camp travels. Basically, all the friends I made and the laughs we had. I had some great memories of camp too. For example, protesting for ice cream with my 10 year olds, creating and performing the Disney evening activity sketch night, riding horses, Camp dance, Prom and becoming Prom Queen!!!!! A dream come true!
Have you had many opportunities to travel before/during/after camp?
LOADS! I’ve seen 23 states in America and most of that was travelling after camp. Check out my blog post on the best ways to travel after camp.
What must pack items would you recommend?
Sun cream or as the American say “Sun screen”. More socks than you think to pack. These tend to disappear in the camp wash. Some nice clothes for your day off. Some treats from your home country or items you can give away as prizes for activities etc.
What advise would you give to others who are heading to a USA Summer Camp?
Keep an open mind! Going to work abroad for the first time is super scary. Try to take it as it comes. Try to stick to the 10 day rule. Some counselors don’t give it enough time and end up going home thinking it’s not for them. Stay 10 days! After that time you will have settled in and made some friends. Plus, once the kids come it’s a different atmosphere and you’ll love it. Try to do everything. Do all the activities! Try all the food! Meet new friends! Most of all….have an AMAZING summer!
Camp truly is a unique but fun experience that both Natasha and I would recommend to anyone who loves working with children and travel. What is your experience with working abroad? Did you find this interview help? Leave a comment below, as always we would love to hear from you!