For the past four summers, since June 2011, I have spent the sunny months between May and September living and working in a place I like to call my second home. That place is Summer Camp in the USA. Choosing to work at a summer camp all those years ago was the best decision I ever made and it has affected my life in more ways than I can count. The job you’ll have at summer camp is a job like no other that you have done before it or that you may find yourself doing after it. It is non-stop, all the time, never ending, exhausting, exhilarating, stressful, amazing, rewarding, life-changing fun. I could go on forever about the benefits of working at summer camp, but I won’t. Instead, here are my top 10 reasons why a job at summer camp is the best job in the world.
1. You get to travel.
The visa that you get in order to work at summer camp is called a J-1, and this allows you to work for your camp for up to 4 months. The greatest thing about this visa though, is that you are allowed to enter the USA 30 days before your summer camp contract starts and then stay for another 30 days after your contract ends. That’s 2 whole months that you could spend travelling one of the most interesting and diverse countries in the world. I’ve known people who have just travelled for a few days in the areas surrounding their camps, and I’ve known people who have used their full 30 days after camp to travel from East coast to West coast and back again. The opportunities are endless.
2. You’ll make the best friends you’ve ever had. And you get to live with them.
When summer ends you will be surprised at how quickly you formed such strong bonds with people whom you didn’t even know existed a few months ago. You have lived and worked 24 hours a day, 6 days a week with these people. You have laughed with them, cried with them, had spectacular days off together, and supported each other through having to lead a game of capture the flag with 45 screaming ten-year-olds. Some of these people will be your best friends for life, and you might even spend the next 3 years travelling the world with them!
3. You get to work with kids. And kids are awesome. They make you friendship bracelets.
That pretty much says it all. Children are amazing. Their enthusiasm and energy wakes you up everyday and makes you want to be the best version of yourself when you’re around them. These kids will idolise you…to them you are a super cool old person (you may have to remind them that you’re not that old though) who has interesting stories to tell or advice to give. Sometimes they will need your help, but most of the time they just want you to like them back and give them the attention they deserve.
4. You can be as loud and as whacky as you like. And wear ridiculous clothes. All the time.
Summer camp is a place where you are allowed to be whomever you wish to be. You can wear crazy mis-matching colours (in fact, it’s kind of a uniform, especially on Monday Funday!), run around like a child, jump up and down when you’re excited, and make up chants and songs and dances to your heart’s content. No one cares, because they’re all doing it too.
5. Meal times involve singing and dancing.
I don’t know about other summer camps, but at Camp Sloane, we spend the last 5-10 minutes of pretty much every meal (not breakfast…it’s too early for singing and dancing at breakfast) up on the tables, with the music blasting, singing away to the latest pop sensation. Where else are you allowed to do that?!
6. You can see the positive effect you have on the people around you.
You can make someone’s day (camper or staff member) just by stopping and smiling and asking how their day is going. You can teach a child a skill they didn’t have before; help a kid who’s terrified of heights reach the very top of the climbing tower, see the glee and pride on their face as their arrow lands smack bang in the center of the bulls-eye after a week of not quite getting it; watch a shy camper build confidence and make new friends as they follow your example. Summer camp is a place where you are actually able to make a change in someone’s life and be able to see it, and that’s something pretty special.
7. You will get a killer tan (especially if you work on Waterfront).
You will be outside. All the time. You will tan without even realising it. And everyone wants a bit of a summer glow, right?
8. You will learn how to problem solve and think on your feet. You will learn how to be a leader.
It has been said that young people should use their summers to get internships or work to save money for this, that or the other, but I honestly believe (and I’m not the only one) that a job at summer camp will teach you more about how to lead with confidence or how to find solutions to your problems than any summer internship in an office where you make coffee all day can ever do. Where else will you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a storm with a class of 20 kids and have to come up with a rainy day alternative to your canoeing class? Or you’ve planned a pool party for your kids but you suddenly find the pool has been accidentally double booked (it happens)…what are you going to do? Send the kids back to their bunks to just hang out for the rest of the evening? No, you’re going to run across to the Performing Art building and have the most epic impromptu dance party there’s ever been. Summer camp teaches you how to become a quick thinker who always has something up your sleeve…a useful skill for any future job your may have.
9. Your essential life skills will improve. Didn’t know how to put up a tent or make a fire? You will after spending two months at summer camp.
Summer camp is all about stepping away from your normal, comfortable life; getting rid of your gadgets and the things that keep you from really appreciating the world around you. It is about being out in nature and learning to use what’s around you to your benefit. Over the last 4 summers I have learnt to build the most epic of all fires, make s’mores and friendship bracelets, become a pro at putting up and taking down tents, learnt how to wakeboard and waterski, and, most importantly, turned a coat hanger into a retrieval device when someone loses yet another bracelet/necklace/other important item down the crack in the boards of their tent.
10. Your job is to be fun and have fun. All day. Every day.
And who could ask for more than that?
*If you’re interested in working at summer camp, or just have any questions about the life of a summer camp counselor, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and I’ll do my best to answer any queries!