A couple of weeks ago I got a super lovely message from a girl called Ally, saying how much she liked the blog and that she too has worked at summer camp as a counselor and is just as obsessed with it as I am – she even has her own Youtube video series about camp! When I asked if she’d like to take part in this counselor interview series, she jumped at the chance!
1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?
I work at Camp Wah-Nee in Connecticut, and have done two summers so far 🙂
2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?
Ever since I was a kid, I’d wanted to go to camp. I love the outdoors, I love the structure of so many different activities, and after seeing films like The Parent Trap and It Takes Two, camp was a no brainer. Since we don’t really have anything like this in Australia, working at one overseas became the dream.
3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?
I applied through CCUSA, and had a fantastic experience with them. I initially chose them because I knew they had a 100% placement rate as well as the lowest fees, but the support and community I found with them was what I love most. Any time I had a question or needed visa-related advice, they were there to help and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.
4. What is/was your role at camp?
I’m a General Counsellor for a division of about 17 girls. I live with my campers, take care of them pretty much all day, and attend every activity alongside them. For me this is ideal, because it means I get to try everything too 🙂
5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?
Camp 100% met and surpassed every expectation I could have had. My first year was probably the most magical experience of my life, just seeing and doing everything for the first time, surrounded by the most incredible people. It’s hard work, but it’s by far the best work in the world.
6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?
- A waterproof watch (as a GC, you need to stay on top of what time your kids need to be where)
- Decorations for your area (making that space feel homey and welcoming is probably the best tip for avoiding homesickness)
- A water bottle (the days are long and the sun is hot, don’t let yourself get dehydrated!)
7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?
It’s truly impossible to pick just one. Generally anything involving a campfire, the night sky or lake sunsets will stand out to me, because moments like that just don’t happen in regular city life. On one of the last nights my first year, my co-counsellor and I woke the girls up in the middle of the night and surprised them with a stargazing trip. We took them down to the basketball court; all lay in a circle and started up at the bright constellations above us. We ended up playing music, sharing stories, crying and just reminiscing on what had been an incredible Summer.
8. What is/was your favourite camp food?
Stir-fry! Or Pad Thai. Or the vegan nuggets! Our camp food is SO much better than I was anticipating (especially having a plant based option for each meal) and I end up feeling healthier there than I do at home. This year I became really close with the cooks and head of the kitchen, so they would offer to try new vegan recipes and save me leftovers of my favourite foods.
9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?
“You walked, you travelled, you took too many steps!” or “If you came here on a visa clap your hands”. Basically anything that we chant during the big sports tournaments, or the silliest dining hall songs that get everyone up on their benches. I’m also a big fan of our camp’s alma mater.
10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?
BTW – a “Big Time Wow” or “Win with class, lose with class – no matter what”
11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?
My first year I travelled through California, Oregon and Washington which was gorgeous, and this past year I took a road trip through Arizona, Utah, Vegas, San Fran, Yosemite and LA. After two weeks at home, I then ended up going back to New York for a month and even got to visit my camp in the Fall (which was all kinds of beautiful).
12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?
I honestly can’t even think about who I would be today if it weren’t for camp. For starters I’d probably be less annoying because I wouldn’t always start stories to my friends with “one time at camp…”. This is so much more than a job, more than a trip, it’s a family, and it’s a second home. I feel like my truest, happiest, best self inside of those gates, and am so grateful to have such a sacred, safe little bubble away from the rest of the world. Camp reminds you of what is important – connecting with others, trying new things, immersing yourself in nature, being kind and having fun. I hope I can bring these values throughout the rest of my life.
13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?
The people. Hands down. Camp people are the greatest people you will ever meet. My co-counsellors feel like siblings and with the amount of love and pride I have for my campers they could be my kids. It’s crazy how fast you become so close to those around you in that environment, and there’s nothing else like it.
Getting to skip Winter for an extra Summer each year doesn’t hurt either.
14. What’s the WORST thing?
15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?
The impact each of us can have on one-another. With our words and actions, we have the power to inspire and empower or totally defeat and deflate another person. There is such power in that, and I think too often we get careless or simply not conscious of the way we treat others. Camp is incredibly humbling in how it reminds you that not only are we taking care of these children’s safety and wellbeing, but we can have a life-long effect on a camper (or fellow counsellor) that will help shape the rest of their life. This holds true year-round, and it’s something I hope we all choose to use in a positive way to help the world.
Camp also helps remind me to be present. Never am I more ‘in the moment’ than when there, free from any external distractions. You aren’t worrying about the future or planning for tomorrow, you’re just living in that instant, feeling whatever it is you feel. That’s something else I’d like to trickle into my life for the other ten months.
16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?
Get ready to embark on the greatest adventure of your life.