Did you read last week’s interview with long time camper and counselor Juliet? If not, go ahead and read it…it’s a goodun! And then come back here to read all about Meredith’s experience at summer camp.
1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?
I went to YMCA Camp Chingachgook on Lake George for 9 years.
2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?
I decided to work at summer camp because I was absolutely devastated to find out that I had to stop going to camp when I turned 15. There was no other option for me. The counselors always looked like they were having the time of their lives and I wanted to be a part of that.
3. What is/was your role at camp?
I was both an assistant counselor and counselor over the years. The role is basically the same – living in a cabin filled with 10-12 girls for 1 or 2-week sessions. I lived with the 13 year old girls for 3 years in a row. They are a blast. I also teach swimming and rock climbing and lead “wilderness excursions.”
4. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?
Camp exceeded my expectations. By far. Camp Chingachgook is very lucky to have such an amazing location right on Lake George in the Adirondacks. The water and the mountains are incredible resources and we take advantage of them whenever possible. I also never expected to meet such amazing people there. The other staff members and the campers all know how blessed we are to have such a fun and nurturing camp to call home each summer, and that makes being there even better.
5. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?
- Speakers – nothing says dance party like being stuck inside during a thunderstorm. I also really like not hiding my love for One Direction from my 13 year olds. They love it. I love it.
- Sporty sandals (Tevas) – my campers like to call these “Jesus Sandals.” But who is the one laughing when we have to run places and my feet are experiencing not only excellent air circulation but unmatched traction?
- A hair brush – for the two times that I brush my hair all summer – when parents drop their children off and when they pick them up. I don’t need them thinking that I can’t take care of myself, let alone their children. Truth be told, not a lot of showering is done all summer, by anyone. Parents just don’t understand.
6. What is your best/favourite camp memory?
One of my favorite camp memories is kind of general – on the night before campers leave, we have a closing campfire. It’s bittersweet, but incredible to remember the moment all those kids arrived and to see how far we have come. Each session campers branch out, gain confidence, learn new things, and get attached to you. :’)
7. What is/was your favourite camp food?
This might be a little controversial, but I love macaroni and cheese nuggets. SO bad for you, yet so delicious. They’re so bad for you that I am not even sure they will make them anymore. It is literally a ball of macaroni and cheese deep fried. Truly incredible.
8. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?
I love Attitude Check. It’s got some complicated snaps and claps and rhythms that took me a full 3 summers to learn. After I finally mastered it, a little bit of the magic was lost when I realized that it isn’t actually a huge secret, and all the boy staff members know it too. It’s still a classic though. And I get really into it.
9. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?
“Cat taps.” After we sing taps each night, the senior girls repeat it while only singing the word “meow.” It is in remembrance of all fallen cat heroes.
10. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?
Right back to my third home at the sunny Cornell University.
11. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?
Camp gave me all of the confidence I have. I have never anywhere else felt as comfortable being myself. It is amazing to have the experience of living on your own before you have to worry about real world things, like bills, and school. I have also made the most incredible best friends. They are so supportive and have grown with me since we were campers.
12. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counselor?
The best thing about being a summer camp counselor is meeting so many awesome kids. I know that sounds cliché. But every single camper brings something unique and awesome to the camp vibe. I love that the only real rules are to keep everyone safe. And those make sense. Not like school rules. And I also love teaching kids things that they want to learn about.
13. What’s the WORST thing?
It’s exhausting, but you don’t even think about it while you’re at camp. At the end of the last few summers I have gotten really sick after coming home, and I think it is just from being really tired. But you’re having the time of your life when you’re there, and you don’t even have time to think about getting sick. So I guess the worst part is the end of the summer. Also cliché, I know. Not sorry.
14. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?
Camp has taught me that there are more important things in a child’s life than school and always thinking about the future. There are really significant life lessons and values that can’t be taught in school. Like the appreciation of nature, and the appreciation of people and things that come from different places than you. And the freedom to make good decisions and grow.
15. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?
It will make you a better person! Not even kidding. And hiring teams love to see leadership and experience working with people. Plus after experiencing it, you’ll know why everyone who has is so obsessed with it. And nothing is better than feeling like you’re in the loop.