Camp Counselor of the Week: Joe Gurski

Last week we heard from Emma, who has just spent her first summer at camp in Maryland. This week it’s over to Joe, who is hoping to return to his camp for the 4th time in summer 2017!

Summer Camp Counselor

1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?

I worked at Camp Wise in Chardon, Ohio (about thirty minutes from Cleveland). I worked there for three years, 2014-2016 – and hope to be back for summer ’17 too!

2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?

I went through a bad breakup at the end of my first year of university, and after that I wanted to do something new and exciting with my summer instead of working and sitting in the house. I’m also the kind of person who likes to surprise myself by doing things I never thought I’d be capable of doing, and looking after a bunch of kids was one of those things.

3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?

I applied through Camp America. I’d recommend them because they helped me find a really amazing summer camp, and also so many other people who were hired through CA have turned out to be amazing staff members.  However, they take a hefty chunk of your wages and it really affects you when you’re travelling after camp.  I wouldn’t recommend returning with them, or an agency at all.

4. What is/was your role at camp?

For my first two years I was the video specialist (I made the end of summer video for the camp DVD, as well as created short videos with the kids that we showed on the last night of camp). For my third year I was a counsellor in the eldest village, which meant I got to travel the country with a group of fifteen year-olds which was a lot of fun!  We went to Niagara Falls, white water rafting, baseball games, and a bunch of theme parks – not a bad job at all!

5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?

Camp truly did meet my expectations, and then some. I was expecting a fun summer job that I would remember fondly, but it was so much more than that.  I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, I’ve had opportunities I would have never experienced without camp and I’ve grown so much as a person.

Summer Camp Counselors

6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?

  1. At least one crazy item of clothing you wouldn’t dare wear at home – I always find an excuse to rock some women’s maternity overalls at some point in the summer.
  2. A bluetooth speaker – you’ll want to play music everywhere you go: in the shower, down by the lake, beside the pool, or just hanging with your campers. You’ll need bluetooth because not having phones out in front of campers is a big priority (mainly because they will try and take a tonne of selfies when you’re not looking)
  3. “Wrinkle Releaser” spray – it’s a thing they only sell in America as far as I’m aware, but buy that crap on your first day off because it is HANDY.  You spray it on your clothes, pull at the creases, and it looks freshly ironed.  Perfect for big nights at camp.

7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?

This summer we started singing a four-part harmony song around the campfire on a night. On the last night of staff training week, we tried it out as a practice for when the campers arrive.  Everyone got so into it, singing their own specific parts and then everyone stood up on their benches, put their arms around each other and swayed side to side.  It was so nice!  It personifies what kind of people camp counsellors are.  We’re so much fun but everyone knows when and how to be sentimental, and we all value unity so much at camp.

8. What is/was your favourite camp food?

I never thought casserole would be a breakfast food, never mind that I’d like it. French toast casserole is DELICIOUS – it’s kind of like a sweet Yorkshire pudding for Brits who are reading.  Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.  It’s also really unhealthy.

9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?

When the head staff leading the meals says that they have announcements to make, the whole camp stands up and walks up to them, cheering “ANNOUNCEMENTS? Announcements announcements ANNOUNCEMENTS, a horrible way to die…” And it goes on for about three minutes, talking about selling people’s cows and other stupid things.  It’s such a long cheer that the head staff usually skirt past it by saying that they have messages (which also has a cheer) or something to say (which also has a cheer) or some information, which this year got a Beyoncé inspired cheer: “Okay Camp Wise now let’s get information”

10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?

I love “camp cute”, which is the way of saying another counsellor is only attractive when you have been away from civilisation for a long time. I also like clicking my fingers as a form of agreement or appreciation.

Summer Camp Counselor

11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel three times after camp, and go to so many amazing places: New Orleans, Myrtle Beach, Washington DC, New York (twice), California, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami and even got to visit my student friends at The Ohio State University.

12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?

I used to be very shy, enjoying time by myself and never really wanted to travel or experience the world outside my bubble. I’m now the absolute opposite, and I feel like it is all thanks to camp. The person you are at camp is definitely not the person you are at home in the best way possible, and every year I try to bring a little part of my camp-self back to the UK.

13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?

Colour War/Maccabiah.

14. What’s the WORST thing?

Colour War/Maccabiah.

15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?

Life is not all about getting a job and making money straight away. So many people say that they wished they did things like summer camp but now they are “too old” or “have too many responsibilities”, and yet some of them are my age or just a little older. Don’t put it off.  That need to travel and try something different doesn’t go away, and the longer you wait the harder it gets.  It’s never impossible to just leave on a plane and go somewhere and see something, and if it is, then do whatever it takes to make it possible.

16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?

There’s a niggly feeling in your head that everything will go wrong and you’ll hate it and you’ll regret it.  Even if it’s the worst experience of your life, it will not be a regret.  You’ll learn from it, and in 99% of cases it’s one of the best experiences of your life.  Don’t put it off any more, just give it a go.


If you’d like to take part in the Camp Counselor of the Week series, just get in touch via the contact page or on Facebook or Twitter.


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