That’s right. I realised that after all these weeks of getting other people to answer questions about their experiences as camp counselors, I hadn’t actually turned this on myself. So here are my own answers…hopefully this will tell you all alittle bit more about me and why summer camp is so important to me.
Also, I didn’t realise until now how hard these questions actually are to answer, so a massive thanks again to everyone who has taken part in this interview series so far!
1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?
I work at Camp Sloane YMCA… this summer will be my 5th (hello 5th year watch!)
2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?
Throughout uni I had always seen the posters from BUNAC and other agencies around and had always meant to apply, in fact I think I even started an application in my 2nd year but never actually finished it. Then in my 3rd year at uni, I knew I wanted to do something awesome with my summer after graduating so just bit the bullet and applied. I wanted a way to travel the USA, meet new people and spend the summer outside in the sunshine!
3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?
I’ve now applied through 4 different agencies for a variety of reasons – My first year I went with BUNAC who were amazing as they organised absolutely everything for me such as my flight and even my first night’s accommodation in NYC. It was great to have that safety net, and it meant that I met loads of other people who were going to my camp as we were all on the same flight and could travel to camp together the next day.
My 2nd year I went with camp leaders as I was going to be travelling when I needed to get my visa and they made the whole process sound super simple when I spoke to them before I left the UK. I chose Camp Leaders again in my 3rd year as they’d been so great the year before.
For my 4th summer I went to camp with CCUSA Australia, as I was living in Sydney at the time of my application and this made the most sense. I absolutely loved CCUSA and the entire thing was heaps simple and easy.
This year I’m using 3 Adventures to get to camp, as that is my camp’s agency of choice and so far they’ve been brilliant and super helpful the whole way through.
So I’m afraid I’m probably not that much help when it comes to recommending an agency. You just have to find out about each of them and get a feel for who you like the most.
4. What is/was your role at camp?
I started out working in the office and teaching Media in my first year (this also included doing all the camp’s photos, videos and social media too), and then in my 2nd year I returned as a camp counselor, living with the kids and continuing with all the media stuff. My 3rd year saw me get promoted to Media Director and I’ve been running the media program ever since. I am in charge of making sure the program and lessons run smoothly, taking a whole heap of photos to put up online so the parents can see what their kids are up to, making promotional videos about camp and filming daily life, as well as the running of all our social media channels.
5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?
Camp by far exceeded my expectations. To be honest, my first year feels like such a long time ago now, that I can’t remember having never been to camp, let alone what I thought I expected way back in 2011. But what I can say is that that first summer was one of the best times of my life. I don’t think I had ever felt so at home in a place before – everything just seemed to click for me and it all just fit perfectly into what I wanted my life to be. I could never have predicted then how much of an impact summer camp would have on my life and how much it would become the only thing I wanted to do. I made some of the greatest friends of my life that first summer at camp (and have continued to do so every year I go back), met some of the most awesome kids who I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow up as they return to camp every year that I do, and have been able to be an integral part of camp’s growth over the last 4 years.
6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?
A watch, a camera and some itchy bite balm (or just something to stop bites itching!)
7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?
Anyone that has ever been to camp, even for just one summer, will agree when I say it is just too hard to pick one favourite memory…pretty much everything is a favourite memory. Maybe when my first ever campers decided that they wanted to call me ‘Rooster’ so made a beautiful sign and hung it on my bed as a surprise when I came back to the tent one day. I think I still have that sign somewhere. Or when a bunch of us ate far too many cakes and frosting at the all girls’ ‘un-birthday party’ and were so hyped up on sugar that we spent the evening playing leap frog and pretending to be aeroplanes on the office lawn. Or the time I reached the top of the hard side on the climbing tower. Or that time we invented a new game called ‘noodle polo’, that basically involves sitting on a foam noodle in the diving section of the pool and trying to throw a ball on to the diving board. It’s much harder than it sounds, especially when someone is also fighting you for the ball! Or, more recently, the time I visited camp in the winter and we walked across the frozen lake.
I could go on…
8. What is/was your favourite camp food?
Marshmallow Mateys (it’s a cereal, basically just like Lucky Charms), chicken fajitas, pulled pork sandwiches, pizza and chocolate brownies (but the super delicious gooey ones, not the ones with the weird strawberry stuff in the middle).
And as for American food. Give me a Mucho Mango drink and some Pretzel M&M’s and I’ll be happy.
9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?
‘GIMME A 1!’ And then a whole bunch of banging hands on tables.
10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?
There are too many.
‘Solutions not problems’ is a goodun. Or ‘What are our options?’
11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?
After my first summer at camp a whole bunch of us travelled in a big group. We spent a night in New York, then got a (looong) bus to Toronto, flew to Miami, then Washington DC, before I went to Providence (Rhode Island), to see some family, and then back to NYC for a few days. My second year I didn’t do a lot of travelling, as I’d just done a round the world trip before camp so was kinda ready to go home, but I did go up to Portland (Maine) then Providence and New York again.
After my 3rd year I was in NYC for a few days after camp and flew across to Los Angeles with two of my best friends before we hopped on a plane to Australia for the rest of the year. I didn’t go anywhere after camp last summer, but am planning a bit of an epic road trip across the USA for after camp 2015!
12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?
Oh wow. I don’t even know where to begin. Like I said before, I could have never predicted how summer camp would affect my life. The ways in which camp has changed me are huge. For one thing, it has made me a far more confident and outgoing person – before camp I absolutely hated talking in front of large groups of people, but now I can get up in front of 300 staff and campers and make announcements or run all camp theme days without even thinking about it. I have more belief in myself and my skills, stemming from the way in which I have been allowed pretty much full creative control of how I run the Media program, something that really didn’t exist before I got to camp.
Camp has made me realise that I love working with kids, I love working outside and with a whole load of other people all the time. It has inspired me to find work in an area that I love, and it is the driving force behind this blog – I am super passionate about telling the world how incredible summer camp really is.
13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?
Everything! The friends you make, the kids you meet, the way you feel a sense of family in this home away from home.
But if I had to pick just one, I think that the best thing about summer camp is that it is a place where you can just be yourself and you will always be accepted for who you are, without judgement or ridicule. You can be as silly and outrageous as you like. You can just be who you are, your ‘essential self’.
14. What’s the WORST thing?
How tired you get sometimes, and that if you love it like I do, it is all consuming, and you want to be there every second of every day, meaning that you basically spend the 8-10 months between when you leave camp and when you go back the following year, just waiting for summer to come around again.
15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?
To believe in myself and my abilities. To be proud of my accomplishments. That I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to. And that kids are awesome!
Also, I’m pretty sure I could survive in the wilderness now. Well, I know how to make a pretty sweet fire and can put up a tent. I’d probably need someone to give me food though.
16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?
Stop thinking about it and actually do it. You never know, going to summer camp could completely change your life.