It’s been a week since we heard from the lovely JC about her first ever summer at camp in Connecticut, and now it’s over to Nick, who has spent 2 summers at camp so far, and intends on doing more!
1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?
Camp Cayuga, Pennsylvania. I’ve done 2 summers so far and plan on doing more!
2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?
Honestly I can’t remember, as soon as I heard about it when I was around 12/13, I knew I had to try it out. Now I’m a bit older I can see that it was because I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and camp allows you to teach and learn so much more than you would expect.
3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?
I use CCUSA and have never had a problem, the staff are all really friendly and helpful. They’re even going to transfer my application to Canada for this summer because that’s where I’ll be during visa season.
4. What is/was your role at camp?
I was a counselor. I spent the day teaching various activities, my main ones were climbing, boating, badminton, gaga and GCCing (when I would look after the younguns all day). The in the evening and during meal times we would be in the cabin group with ‘our’ kids. Over my 2 summers I’ve been a counselor to 60 kids, ranging in age from 7-13, I remember them all fondly, though some more than others!
5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?
In every way, it exceeded them in many. The people I met and the things I learnt to do especially. Who knew I could have so much patience when a kid wouldn’t get up in the morning, who knew I could tie-dye so well? Not this guy!
6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?
Bug spray, which you have to buy out there because the British stuff doesn’t cut it; aerosol sunscreen, easy to apply and top up so the kids used it as much as I did (when I wasn’t ‘borrowing’ theirs that is); and a raincoat, the Poconos are rainier than you would expect.
7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?
That’s a tough one, but one moment that springs to mind is when I was reunited with a camper who was in my cabin the year before. I had been waiting for that session all summer so I could see these kids again so when one of them arrived and noticed me, all he could say was, “I didn’t think you were coming back” and then we hugged, he had a tear in his eye and I had one in mine. Then when he had to leave early he had his Dad bring him down to the lake so he could say goodbye to me properly. All very emosh but it reminded me how much of a positive impact I can have on the campers’ lives. Also winning Counselor of the Month was pretty special, it made me feel that all the hard work was worth it and appreciated.
8. What is/was your favourite camp food?
Camp food is the thing I struggle with the most, but my favourite was when the chef made a beef and vegetable pie from the leftover beef from the night before. All us Brits had seconds, if not thirds that night, we were so happy to have real food.
9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?
Although I was never on team Italy for the camp Olympics, I’ll always remember: Ravioli, stromboli, a pasta pizza pie, the winning team, the green team, I-T-A-L-Y!
I also loved the chant we did before every meal, as it brought the whole camp together. Can’t really put it down here though as it required a lot of table slapping.
Oh, and I can’t forget the camp song, that could spontaneously erupt in the dining hall and we sang at every campfire.
10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?
Not really a saying but after every flagpole announcement, we would all go “YEAH + something related to the announcement.” For instance, if the announcement was about laundry pickup, we would go “YEAH CLEAN CLOTHES, YEAH HYGIENE!!” What can I say, the little things make me happy.
Also, we lived for QPT (Quality Porch Time) which would occur when the kids were in bed and all the counselors would come out onto the porch and talk/gossip/banter and eat snacks. It meant we could wind down and relax without exerting too much energy, which was a precious commodity by week 6! And I forgot about the ability to call counselors out to do something stupid and/or embarrassing during mealtime: endless fun when you were in the right mood.
11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?
I wasn’t able to travel very much, none at all this year in fact, but last year I did Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Washington DC is probably my favourite city in America, if not the world.
12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?
It allowed me to be comfortable with myself, you don’t have time for self-doubt when you’re teaching children not to worry about the exact same thing. I now have more self-confidence, especially when leading groups, and it affirmed my desire to become a teacher.
13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?
Without a doubt, the people: you can have such a positive effect on the kids without really realising, you become their role model and sometimes their confidante; they trust you and love to embarrass you! But also the staff, you become unbelievably close with them, considering you probably didn’t know anyone 9 weeks previous if it’s your first year. My co-counselor and I were practically telepaths by the end and it was amazing to know we had each other’s back, no matter what.
14. What’s the WORST thing?
Having to plunge the first stall when you had specifically said 100 times not to use it for anything but number 1’s, no toilet roll or nothing. Did they listen? Of course not!
15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?
Camp has taught me to go with the flow, how to laugh at myself, and just be OK with making a complete idiot of myself!
16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?
Honestly, there’s only so much reading things like this that can prepare you for the mania that is camp, and even then it will be different from your expectations. If you enjoy working with kids, just do it, there’s no greater feeling than getting someone over their fear of roller coasters, or getting pied in the face over and over knowing it’s a sign of affection, or seeing their gratitude when they say goodbye and they tell you that you were their favourite counselor they’d ever had. Camp is a special place, filled with special people and must be experienced to be believed.