This blog is split up into following sections for ease of reading.
Arriving in America
The Summer Camp
Typical Camp Day
Required Skills and Qualifications you will need
You may just have started university and thinking ahead about what you plan to do in the summer when university year finishes. Well this is the right time to start thinking about next year and almost certainly to start sending your application to various organisations, attend interview have medical etc. A lot of work needs to be done so find some time between lectures and hatch up your plan of action.
The process starts with:
Application, Interview, Medical , Successful interview and where your job will be.
Arriving in America
- Arriving in America Day 1
- Day 2 working Breakfast during which you will be told the plan for the day by your program supervisors and will include short sightseeing trip of New York followed At around midday of how you will get transportation to your camp.
- After few hours you will arrive at a city closest to the summer camp grounds where you will be met by the camp director and taken to your camp.
- Upon arrival at camp you will be meet by other fellow camp counsellors and given the program itenary.
The Summer Camp
During the first few days you will begin to see a trickle of other camp counsellors arriving from all over the United States but also from around the world. Most summer camps employ both domestic and international Camp counsellors.
About Summer Camps, some are for specialised children for instance for autistic children and some can be mixed. I have worked with special needs children and although you can categorise them as children the special needs individuals can be old and working with them is both challenging and at times fatiguing. This is why I can only emphasise the importance of going to summer camps fit and healthy. Specialised camps like the one I have described above should only be considered for individuals who have tough disposition and advise against it for the faint hearted. Some of my colleagues and including myself have left camps with minor injuries, after all summer camps are outdoor environments with a lot of physical activities so be prepared for this!
There are and always will be incidents or injuries and it is vital to make sure the camps provide health care. For Serious injuries cases you can be taken immediately to local Hospital in nearby towns or city but be aware journey times to some hospitals could take hours Especially if your camp is in the mountainous regions as mine had been. The camp medics are usually just nurses who have limited Capacity to deal with injuries and you will be sent to nearest hospital. As a camp counsellor if any of your campers require hospitalisation then usually the head or group leader will drive them to the closest Hospital.
A typical cabin set up at Camp has 8-12 boys or girls(depending on age) living with 2-3 staff members. The cabins are modern, but staff must understand that they will be physically in the same room as a group of campers during the summer so that privacy is at a minimum.
Counselors arrive prior to camp for orientation, a program where staff learn the “ins and outs” of Camp life. During this time staff are assigned to the age group and cabin unit where they will live during the summer. This is also a time when counselors are given many tools and ideas to use when dealing with camper issues during the summer. Every counsellor in charge will be given details information on each camper, their medication instructions, past reports and behavioural aspects all summarised in the reports. It is very important to understand and remember each individual campers characteristics so that you they will have a smooth transition when living together with other campers and a new boss who will be expected to be most understanding with them.
Some campers with behavioural issues will need to be monitored closely as they tend and will test you to your limits to see how much they can get away with. So be tough early and remain calm and get support from your colleagues wherever and whenever you can. The reverse is also true where you should think about your fellow counsellors and help each other out. Examples of the latter are offering to change or swap duties and days off are frequent hurdles one can expect.
Most counsellors have dual roles. They are counsellors living in cabins with the boys and specialists teaching in one or more of our activity areas. Counselors work under two distinct supervisors, the Group Leader, who oversees all aspects of a particular age group, and the Area Head, who oversees the activity area in which a counselor is teaching. Area heads can be experts in waterfront activities such as at the pool or at the lake, Horseback riding experts, go-kart experts etc depending on the camp type.
The pools are a subject of contention in my opinion. If a pool is not serviced and kept up by professionals who monitor the water quality you end up swimming in green water. Camps that don’t have natural lakes generally have a pool and as is the only water area to stay cool during the hot summer months are used twice daily, one in the morning other in afternoon or early evening.
Group Leaders and Area Heads are teachers and coaches who have tremendous experience working with kids. They provide their staff with a wonderful set of resources for dealing with problems.
Counselors come to camp with a true love of children, a high level of patience and a solid work ethic. A lot of the counsellors come from different parts of the world with the general makeup comprising of 50% American and 50% rest of the world. The camps I had worked in were run professionally and getting along with European and American staff was always challenging.
Working with kids is one of the greatest experiences in the world and comes with tremendous rewards. However, working with children can also bring stress and frustration. Staff members must understand that kids don’t always say what they mean and since they are away from their parents, they will, at times, express their frustrations toward you, the staff member (authority figure). Working in summer camps can give you a great feeling of satisfaction as you help kids grow, but this comes only with a lot of hard work.
A Typical Day at Camp ⛺️
On a typical day at camp, a counselor gets up with the campers at 0700am.
After breakfast we have cleanup followed by two activity periods. After lunch there is a short rest period followed by three activity periods. After dinner there is always an evening activity. Lights out for campers is anywhere from 8:30 to 10:30 depending on the age group. Most activities finish in the evening about 2200. staff members are on a team rotation, with one team staying “on duty” each night. The other staff are free to go out in the evening. Some camps may offer transportation to and from nearby towns. Many staff members choose to remain in camp and enjoy the use of staff facilities. All staff must be back at camp and in their cabin by around midnight.
Staff members work each day in neat athletic attire that is appropriate to the activity in which they are working. The days are usually warm and the evenings cool. Shorts and t-shirts are most often worn during the day but sweats may be worn some evenings (especially in mid August). Staff are given 2 staff shirts that are worn on weekends. Our camp laundry service picks up and delivers laundry for campers and staff once each week.
Usually staff members are given a Day Off in a week in their programs on a rotational basis. Some of these people usually arrange together and may leave camp grounds to go and sightsee as long as they return promptly for duty next day.
A Day Off 🏙
For one of my days off I planned trip to New York City on another occasion a group of us from the camp arranged a two hour drive to Niagara Falls. Just a word of caution, plan your trip thoroughly especially the time element and allow ample time for the journey return. The group I travelled with was very large, our day trip very ambitious and we barely made it back for curfew.
About halfway thru the summer season, usually after four weeks it’s parents day. This is usually when parents and relatives come to see how their kids are doing at camp and to make sure we haven’t lost them.
Once the 8 week period is complete, the contract with the camp is over and it’s goodbye camp life and most counsellors start their siteseeing tour and discover the rest of America for few remaining weeks before heading back to their home countries. Some camps do extend the summer vacation for children and these are aptly labelled “Dude Ranches”. The Dude ranches usually are a separate contract and better paid to try to entice the counsellors to stay a little longer but most foreign counsellors are eager to leave for reasons mentioned above.
Here are some Camp activities: water skiing🏄🏾♂️swimming🏊🏼♂️boating🚣🏼♀️horse back riding 🏇🏼basketball⛹🏻♂️planning plays🎭painting🎨🎖archery🎻🎯canoeing🛶and hiking🏕. Sometimes counsellors can be given additional responsibilities depending on their experience and background. My responsibilities included planning outdoor cookouts and barbecues and Hiking as I had Duke of Edinburghs award experiences and had Air Training Corps background. This may sound an easy task but creating real log fire and arranging catering for around 100 people can be challenging.
Required Skills and Qualifications you will need
- Excellent physical condition and stamina:
- Participating in physical activities and sports;
- enduring days of constant activities
- helping campers during activities.
- Strong observational and awareness skills:
- Being capable of monitoring the activities of several campers at the same time;
- identifying and responding to the individual needs of each camper;
- looking out for possible hazards or safety violations; and
- noticing emergencies as soon as they happen.
- Good interpersonal and communication skills:
- Being capable of conveying clear instructions to campers;
- explaining in a clear and calm manner safety procedures and rules;
- providing counsel and advice to campers; and
- being able to explain emergencies and injuries to medical personnel in a clear and concise manner when needed.
- Excellent teamwork, conflict-resolution, and leadership skills:
- Being capable of calling out infractions in a respectful yet authoritative manner;
- acting as a mediator between campers in case of conflict;
- being able to work as part of a team;
- assisting other staff members when necessary; and
- relaying instructions and responsibilities to teammates.
- Good stress management and decision-making skills:
- Being capable of reacting to emergencies in a calm manner;
- assessing emergencies according to established procedures; and
- requesting medical assistance for serious injuries.
- High levels of reliability, honesty, and integrity
Counsellors may lead Arts and Crafts activities and must assist children with manual dexterity deficiencies. They must break down steps in a way that campers can understand.
Some SPECIFIC DUTIES
• Assist in program planning based on pre-arranged educational/recreational themes. • Guide campers in participation of all activities.
• Supervision of campers and activities at all times.
• Adapting programs to include all campers.
• Providing emotional support and encouragement to campers.
• Work as part of a team.
• Assist in tidying up after activities.
• Be familiar with the special needs, medical conditions, dietary concerns, and/or behavioural problems of the campers and act according to directions provided by the Camp Medic/parent or guardian.
• Provide personal care, feeding, and toileting for campers as required.
• Be a positive role model to campers and be available at all times.
• Ensure that safety standards are maintained at all times
• Report any accidents/incidents to the Camp Medic and Director (incident reports) • Other duties as required
Summer Camps in United States are a fun environment, giving the individual a chance to see, live and experience the great outdoors. By working as a Camp Counsellor you will share and impart your knowledge and experience to your fellow colleagues and campers. I for one have enjoyed most of my experiences as a Camp Counsellor and looking back feel that I got more then what I put in. As a final advice and good preparation may I suggest that you carry your driving license with international endorsement a must, First Aid certificates if any and carry your medical history and blood type. If your the outdoor type have a very good pair of comfortable Boots.