Those Final Questions Answered

Some of you may be at camp already… if so, I hope it’s fantastic and amazing and everything you’d hoped it would be. I’d love to hear how you guys are getting on in your first few weeks at camp (just leave me a comment below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter)!

For those of you who are leaving soon or still have a week or so to wait, don’t worry, I know the excitement is almost too much to bear, but the day will come soon enough!

In the meantime, I’m sure you all probably have a few last burning questions or queries that I may not have answered/you haven’t read yet, or you have only just thought of. So here goes:

1. Where do I do laundry?

This is dependent on which camp you go to – some camps have a laundry service and you just throw your stuff in with the kids; some camps have laundry facilities on camp for your to use; and at some camps you will have to take your laundry with you on day off to a laundromat and do it yourself.

2. How do I get a US phone number?

First you’ll need to unlock your current phone (just call your network) and then you have a few different options – you can get a global SIM card or a US SIM card, or you can even just get a whole new pre-paid American phone. I’ve gone into more detail in a recent post.

3. What happens if I hate camp?

Well, I can almost guarantee that you won’t, but if you do, you basically have two options:

1. You stick it out and just battle through, trying your hardest to find things you do enjoy.

2. You quit, which means you will stop getting paid, your visa will be revoked and you will most likely have to pay for your flight home.

I’ve gone in to more detail about what happens if you quit or get fired from camp here.

4. I’m really nervous about my journey to camp. What if I get lost?

Your camp or agency will provide you with really detailed instructions on how to get to camp from the airport, and even though it seems scary now, if you just follow those instructions step by step you will be absolutely fine. It’ always a good idea to have your camp’s phone number saved somewhere and they can help you if you get stuck.

5. I don’t know what I’ll be teaching at camp yet, when will I find out?

If you’ve been hired without a specific position, don’t worry, that happens a lot! It just means that the camp director thought you were fantastic and wanted to hire you, but just isn’t sure exactly where you would be best placed. That’s what staff training is for – the supervisors at camp know exactly what to look for ad how to spot where our skills lie. You will know what you’re going to be teaching before the kids arrive, I promise!

summer camp staff training
Love a bit of staff training!

6. How much money should I take with me?

This sort of depends on how your camp deal with paying counselors. If you are going to be paid on a regular basis, then you really only need to take enough money to last you until your first payday. But some camps don’t pay their counselors until the last day of camp, in which case you will need to take enough money (or have access to it) for the whole summer. Personally, I survive on about $50 per week, but you can easily spend more than that! So use that as a starting point and then go from there.

7. Will my UK bank card work in America/Canada?

Yes, your UK debit card will work abroad. But depending what bank you are with you will most likely need to tell them that you are going to be using your card abroad (so they don’t block it). And you will also incur charges when you use your card abroad and take cash out of the ATM.

8. I’m trying to pack… suitcase or backpack?

This is a very personal thing and quite hard to answer. My favourite is a sort of duffel/suitcase thing on wheels (check out Eastpak) or a backpack with wheels (I’m all about the wheels), but if you’re going to be doing some major travelling after camp to places other than big cities (hiking/off the beaten path etc), then a backpack is probably the way to go.

9. Will I make friends at camp?

This is 100% not something you need to worry about because I can say with absolute certainty that YES, you will make friends at camp. When you live and work together with people for 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, it’s pretty much impossibly not to make friends!

10. What documents  do I need to take with me?

Now that you’ve sorted your visa etc, you need to make sure you take the following things to America with you:

  • Your passport (with J1 visa stuck inside).
  • Your DS2019 form (you should keep this with your passport/visa at all times).
  • Your SEVIS form (I never know whether you actually need to have this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry).
  • Your insurance details (you get medical insurance from your agency and they usually give you your details in the form of an ID card or just a bit of paper). You need these just in case you get ill or are injured.
  • Your flight details (just so you can prove that you have a return flight in case they ask at immigration).
  • A letter (or other proof) stating that you will be returning home at the end of the summer (just use the same one you took to the embassy with you).

11. I’m not 21, does that mean I can’t drink in America/Canada?

Yep, I’m afraid so. The drinking age in America is 21 so if you are underage, you cannot drink. Sorry. If you’re going to a camp in Canada though, the drinking age there is either 18 or 19 (depending on where you are). Yay.

12. What if the kids don’t like me?

If you have been hired to work at camp, I’m assuming that this means you have probably got previous experience working with kids. So you know how to handle them. I’m not going to lie, there will be some kids that you just don’t get on with for whatever reason, and you just don’t bond with them. And that’s fine. It happens. You still have a job to do, and you have to treat those kids in exactly the same way as you do the ones that adore you and vice versa.

13. I haven’t planned anything for travelling after camp yet, is that ok?

Absolutely! Personally I think it’s better to have absolutely no travel plans before you get to camp (ok, maybe have an idea of where you’d like to go), and just see what everyone else is doing. Lots of people usually plan and book their travels together about mid-way through camp, so my advice is to just go with the flow and see what everyone else is doing!

14. I’m going to have to wake up really early everyday, aren’t I?

Short answer: Yes. Well it depends on what you think is really early. At my camp we wake the kids up at 7:15, but the counselors have to all be out of the bathroom before the kids, so I usually get up at about 7:05, scramble to brush my teeth and make myself presentable and then I’m ready for the day!

15. How much time during the day will I get off?

To be honest, not a lot. This does entirely depend on your camp and how they run things though. At my camp everyone has rest hour in the middle of the day – you are still working but its a quiet, chilled hour to relax in. And then counselors might get an hour off in the afternoon if they are not on duty for what we call ‘shower hour’.

16. How does day off work?

Again, this entirely depends on your camp, but you will most likely get one day of per week, during which you could do any number of things. Most camps will drive you to certain places for your day off, or if you’re lucky enough to be friends with someone who has a car, you can go an do anything you want!

17. Will I be able to get online at camp?

Yes. The majority of camps will have some sort of internet facilities for you to use, whether that’s wifi or just a few computers in the staff lounge.

18. What is the food like?

If you’re not a fussy eater, the food at camp is absolutely fine. You’ll eat a lot of carbs (pasta, pizza etc), some great deserts and there should be plenty of fruit and veg available too.

19. What should I take with me?

So many things. I’ve written a full packing list here, and then there’s another post with a few random essential items you should take to camp that you can find here.

20. What sort of training will I get?

At most camps staff training runs for 5 or 6 days before the kids arrive for the first session. You will play a lot of team building games, be taught how to deal with certain situations that may arise (often through role play), learn about how to combat bullying, spend time writing up lesson plans for the activity you’ll be teaching and much, much more. It’s always a fun week and you can rest assured you’ll feel far more prepared at the end of the week than you did at the start! My biggest advice for your staff training week is to ask a lot of questions and to get involved with absolutely everything as much as you possibly can… just throw yourself into it all 100% and you’ll have a great time.

21. How does a day at camp run?

I obviously can’t answer this for every single camp out there, but you can find a ‘typical day at camp’ in another post.


Do you have any other questions about what summer camp is going to be like? Get in touch in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer any queries!


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