Welcome to the first post in a series titled ‘Camp Counselor of the Week’, where real life camp counselors answer questions about what it is truly like to work at summer camp. First up is Lily Belter, who not only worked a variety of jobs at camp, but was also a camper too!
1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?
I’ve been all over, I went to Camp Hi-Rock (gasp) as a day camper for 3 summers and then to Camp Sloane YMCA for 2 years as a camper – first as a specialty/PA camper and then as a regular camper – before working there for 3.
2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?
Honestly, it was close to my home and I’m pretty good at sports…I figured I could turn that into a summer job.
3. What is/was your role at camp?
Student Girls counselor/Athletics (2 yr)
A-Field Director (1 yr)
5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?
Absolutely — camp is about meeting new people and being out of your comfort zone. You learn about yourself and you learn about people.
Yes, you are out in the woods, it gets hot and it gets cold, there are sometimes bugs as big as dinosaurs, and sometimes you try to hug a skunk and it gets angry. You will wake up early and go to bed late and sometimes you’ll skip a shower just because…but you will see some amazing sunsets and learn how to make a killer fire. You will teach your campers how to make their first foul shot and watch them get asked to dance by that cute boy they like — and then they will make you a friendship bracelet and your heart will smile every time you look at it.
6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?
Besides the obvious (suncreen, water bottle, etc.)
- A good pillow
- Socks. so many socks.
- A watch. Preferably water resistant-ish that you won’t care if it you lose to the lake gods.
7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?
It might be the time I caught my camper making out behind the outhouse at 9am, or when I dug up rocks from the driveway just cause my camper was doing it, or when Vera tried to make a rainbow cake, or when my section woke me up at midnight to celebrate my birthday by telling me my camper had escaped, or when Vera hugged a skunk, or any square dance…this could take a while.
8. What is/was your favourite camp food?
Do fudge bars count?
9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?
“I’m alive alert awake enthusiastic! I’m alive alert awake enthusiastic! I’m alive alert awake, I’m awake alert alive, I’m alive alert awake enthusiastic!”
I’m also a huge fan of “form banana, form form banana…”
10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?
“Be child-like, not child-ish”
11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?
Funny you asked. I’m Amurican but my camp experiences brought me to Europe to visit my new besties in Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London, and Leeds
12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?
Camp connected me with people that inspire and amaze me everyday. Because of them I remember that life is good and beautiful. Camp opened my eyes to a new world — and the realization that life happens differently for everyone. That could mean travelling the world for 18 months, moving across oceans for a job, going to college or not — whatever feels right to you, it probably is! And if it’s not, then there’s plenty of time to try something else.
As far as “what I do” — I apply something very important that I learned at camp to my job everyday…”You must treat every day at camp like its someone’s first day …ever.” It might be the 15th time that you’ve heard that question today — but it’s the only time that person asked it. It might be your 36th game of the season, but it’s that 7 year old’s first time to the ballpark — ever. Like it or not, we make a lasting impact on other people and their experiences in everything that we do — make it your mission to give everyone the best experience that you can, if the next person ruins it at least you tried!
13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?
You get really tan. Oh and you get to be a part of the most amazing time in a kids life..
14. What’s the WORST thing?
You forget that the world is turning outside of the walls of camp. Wait that might be the best thing.
15. What’s the most important thing that camp has taught you?
As a counselor I learned that things get hard, and sometimes all you need is a friend who will walk with you down that path until no one can hear you scream — literally. I also learned that you will not always LOVE the people you work with but you have to work past personality differences and find a way to deal because camp is not about YOUR good time (thats just a bonus) it is about working with all sorts of people to create and unforgettable time for every camper.
I also learned that you will meet some of the most amazing people and create unbreakable bonds with those people — they become your forever friends.
16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?
Just do it. You won’t regret it. Unless you’re really not a fan of kids, then don’t do it — they’re a pretty big part of camp.