Summer Camp: It’s Not All Rainbows And Unicorns

I’ve become very aware that I talk about camp a LOT. That was sort of the reason I started this site – so I could gush about how much I love camp and everything to do with camp to my heart’s content, without pissing people off or getting too annoying.

But someone pointed out to me yesterday (thanks mum) that I only seem to write about the positive stuff that happens at camp. So I had a look back at my posts over the last few weeks and realised that she was right – while I touch on a few things that aren’t the greatest about summer camp (there’s a diary entry where I go on a rant about beds), generally speaking the overall idea that I put out is that everything is amazing.

And while I do genuinely think that summer camp is the greatest place and job on earth, and EVERYONE should apply, every job does, of course, have its downsides. I think it’s important for anyone considering applying to work at camp to be aware of these negative aspects, in order to truly make an informed decision about whether or not camp is right for them (and they are right for camp). So here are 8 things that have annoyed, frustrated or stressed me out whilst working at summer camp:

Summer camp crazy usa
Sometimes the stress just gets to you

1. The lack of sleep.

I’ve mentioned this before in a few posts and, while seemingly quite easily combated (just go to bed earlier!), somehow the phrase ‘oh god, I’m so tired. I was gonna go to bed early last night‘ gets thrown around a lot. So between the early mornings, and the late nights, there are definitely days when you feel like a total zombie and all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep.

2. The hierarchy.

Now, I can only speak from personal experience on this one, and I don’t know how other camps do it, or what their staff systems are like, but occasionally the way in which one staff member has more ‘power’ than another can really get on my nerves. I’m well aware that every company in the world has to have some sort of system where one person is in charge and then it goes down the ladder from there, but in the case of summer camp, I don’t just mean the job titles. Sure, we have a CEO, a Camp Director and a Program Director, then the Supervisory staff (section and activity heads), then the counselors and finally the Junior Counselors, but often these roles are just a title and your position at camp seems to be more about how many years you’ve been there rather than what your job is. A 5 year returner will always be able to ‘get away’ with more than a 1st year counselor. And occasionally I think that’s how it should be – after all, that long time returning staff member has shown great commitment to camp, but at the same time, rules are rules, and there should never be one rule for one person and another rule for everybody else. But that’s just me. Right, rant over.

3. The food.

I know, I know. I’ve definitely mentioned in a previous post that the food is awesome. And it is. For about a week or two. And then the 14 day menu rotation starts again. And again. And again. By week 8 you are screaming for some variety…something that isn’t an all carb diet. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some camp food that I adore (Marshmallow Mateys, pulled pork or BBQ chicken anyone?), but sometimes I walk into the dining hall for dinner, see what’s on offer and know that I’ll be ordering pizza that night.

4. The responsibility.

You are looking after people’s children. Their most precious thing in the whole world. That’s a HUGE responsibility, and you are to blame if anything goes wrong. It’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders, especially if you haven’t been in that position before. But not only are you responsible for your campers, you also have a responsibility to your fellow counselors and camp in general – you have to work hard and pull your weight, you have to run your lessons well and always be on the lookout for things that could be going wrong with your campers, it’s exhausting.

5. The stress.

With great responsibility comes great stress. Depending on your role at camp, you might be asked to plan an activity for your campers, or your section (age group), or even the whole camp. Planning lessons, and activities, being responsible – it’s stressful to try and stay on the top of your game ALL the time.

6. The physical exhaustion.

I’ve mentioned the lack of sleep – well that combined with running around all day in the sun, your carb heavy diet and the stress of looking after a bunch of children (who only sometimes listen to you) – it can be absolutely exhausting physically. Your legs hurt, you’ve had a stress headache for 3 days, there’s a blister forming on your heel and oh, what’s that? You’ve got to go and play a game of kickball. Day off couldn’t come soon enough.

7. The money (or lack thereof).

Everybody knows that no one works at summer camp for the money. We do it for the love of the job. But I’d really love the job even more if the money went up! There’s no way around it. Summer camp is probably the lowest paid job you’ll ever have,and while your pay will go up every year you return, or if you get promoted, you could still earn more over the summer by mowing lawns or working in a cafe.

8. The bugs (and bug bites).

You have to face it. There are bugs at camp. You are going to be living in the middle of the woods. It’s going to be hot, and then it’s going to be wet. And that’s when all the mosquitoes love to come out and play. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get bitten to shreds, be itching all day and night, and will still have scars on your ankles 4 years later.

Summer camp usa
It’s the end of camp – deliriousness sets in.

So there are my top 8 least favourite things about summer camp (and I really couldn’t think of any more!). But I think you know what I’m going to say next…

Summer camp wouldn’t be summer camp if it didn’t have all those things that get on your nerves. It comes with the territory. No job is absolutely perfect and there will always be times when you think ‘what on earth have I got myself into?‘, but summer camp has this sort of magic that, once you leave, it makes you forget all the stuff you didn’t like, and you can only seem to remember the amazing bits.

Hate goes hand in hand with love I suppose, and if I’m not going to get enough sleep, or I’m going to have no money, and be stressed out to the max, I’d rather do it with all my best friends around me, with kids who make me laugh on an hourly basis, in a place I love more than anywhere else in the world.




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