It’s coming to that time. People are starting to pack their bags, board those planes and make their way to camp for the summer. The first lot of my friends head to camp in under a week to begin our Spring season and it’s totally killing me that I’m not going to be there for another 38 days (damn you, PGCE!). But anyway, you’ve got your place at camp, you’ve sorted your visa and you have your flight details – what else do you need to do before you can officially leave and head off for the best summer of your life?
1. Organise your paperwork/passport.
I’m a mega organised person so I like to put all my paperwork in a nice plastic folder that I’ll keep in my hand luggage for my journey. In it I always put my passport (duh!), DS2019 form (DO NOT LOSE THIS), SEVIS form (the other bit of paper you had to take to the embassy), my Police background check (I don’t know why but I’ve just always taken it with me), my insurance details (most agencies will provide you with some sort of Insurance ID), my flight details, my contract for camp (good to have just in case they ask for any details at immigration), my camp’s contact details (give this to people at home as well so they can send you fun packages!) and my money.
Also, make sure you’ve completed all paperwork or trainings your camp has asked you to do – get these done as quickly as you can (and definitely before camp), and start the summer with a good reputation!
2. Sort out your money
Leading on from number 1, you are going to need some money to take with you. Yes, you will be getting paid, but all camps do their pay schedule slightly differently, so you might not be getting any money from camp for at least a few weeks. I would definitely advise taking some dollars in cash, just so you can buy some food & pay for your subway/bus/train etc to get to camp – around $50-100 should be fine. I’d also recommend getting a global cash card that you can load money onto and use in the States – I’ve got a Monzo card which is free to use abroad, but there are other options too like Caxton or Revolut. I’d also advise checking what your UK bank charges to use your normal card abroad – some are pretty reasonable, but others are totally extortionate (let them know you’re going to be in America too, so they don’t try and block your card if you do use it).
3. Stop/pause your other finances
Make sure you’ve cancelled or postponed any direct debits you have going out of your bank each month, like a gym membership, phone bills, or streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. It’ll be a bummer if you end up paying for things you’re not even using!
4. Check on your health (& other appointments)
This is super important. Going to the doctors or anything like that is crazy expensive in America, and even with medical insurance you’re going to have to pay it all first and then claim it back months later which is a total hassle. I’d advice you to make an appointment with your GP for a simple check up (and to stock up on any medications you need), and do the same with your dentist – there’s nothing worse than toothache at camp.
I always like to get my haircut right before going to camp too, as starting the summer with nice hair is the best way for it to then be vaguely acceptable by the end. A final thing for those of you need help in the eyesight department – make sure you have enough contact lenses for the summer. I actually buy my lenses from a (super cheap) company that ships worldwide so I order mine to camp, but I know that some people have specific lenses they have to wear.
5. Go through your travel plans
It’s vital that you know how you’re getting to camp once you arrive in America. Either your camp or your agency should have given you details on this – print these instructions and pop them in your handy plastic folder with the rest of your paperwork. If you don’t have these instructions yet, pop your agency an email and they’ll be able to help you out.
6. Join your staff Facebook group
Most camps will have some sort of private group on social media (usually Facebook) where everyone who’s going to be working at your camp this summer will be able to introduce themselves, or ask questions. These groups are a great resource as they’ll be full of returning staff who can answer pretty much any question or worry you might have – remember it was their first year once too! I’d also recommend asking if anyone is flying or travelling to camp on the same day as you and you’ll usually find that there’s a big group of you who can organise to meet and go together, making the journey way less scary and heaps more fun!
7. Sort out your phone
You might be relishing the idea of being without your phone for a few months, in which case, go you…it’s amazing! For those of use who still want to keep some contact with the outside world (my excuse is that I do all my camp’s social media), it’s a good idea to work out how you’re going to use your phone in the USA.
I’d recommend getting your phone unlocked from its network (just give them a call and they’ll usually do this for a small fee – it can take a few days though, so make sure you do it in advance of your travels) so you can either get a global or US sim card to put in it. Most agencies will send you out a free sim card or give it to you at their orientations and these are usually great for what you need. Or you can wait until you get to America and buy a sim-only plan from a network such as AT&T. Another option is to just buy a second phone in America, either a GoPhone from AT&T or something called a TracPhone.
This year I’m going to use the SIM card that CCUSA provide, from J1 SIM, as it actually looks like a pretty good deal at just $25 per month for unlimited talk, text and data. If you’re on Three, you can use their Feel at home package and use your phone in the USA just like you would in the UK for no extra cost (although bear in mind you can’t call or text American numbers, which for me is its main downfall).
8. Pack your bags!
You can check out my packing tips in a few different places (this post, or this one, or in this video) but really I have one main tip… don’t overpack! Pretty much everything you need you can buy in America, so just buy and pack the essentials. And you absolutely will buy things out there this summer, so make sure you leave some space to bring it all home again! It’s also important to check the weight allowance for your baggage on your flight (it’s usually 23kg), as there’s nothing worse than being that person who has to empty their bag at check in to try and avoid the extra weight charges!
And that’s it. You’re ready to go. Are you excited? I know I am.