Jo McCreery talks about her experience of working for two months at an American Summer Camp in Greely, Pennsylvania, this summer.
I was a tennis instructor and I can’t stress enough how much experiences vary depending on the camp and what you’re hired to do, but I guess the best way of giving you a flavour of what it is like would be to take you through a typical day in the life of a camp counsellor. I was a bunk counsellor with two other Americans and we were in charge of nine girls, all nine years old, although the age range at the camp was from 7-16.
We would get woken up early at 7:45 so we could pack in a whole day of activities and after breakfast, once the bunk was clean (not one of the highlights of the day, trying to get 9 year olds to sweep the bunk) we would all make our way up to the flagpole where the Americans pledged allegiance to the flag. They really do make a big deal of this and God forbid it should touch the ground!
After that I left my bunk and went down to the tennis courts. This was the bulk of my day, 9-5, and I really loved it because not only did it mean that I spent the whole day playing tennis and games with loads of different groups of kids that I got to know, but I was outside, active and soaking up the sunshine.
After tennis coaching was over I returned to my bunk and then it was time for evening activities which were basically games (some based on TV shows like Extreme Makeover or Deal or No Deal but most entirely original) designed to be a fun way of getting the kids tired before putting them to bed. This is also prime time for counsellors to be silly and fun with dressing up etc. I feel I need to stress this; camp is entirely devoted to fun. It’s what they do and they do it well! Then, as long as it was your night off, you pretty much had the run of the place and my fellow counsellors and I all spent many nights by the beautiful lake, relaxing after the long day.
That’s the basic outline of a day as a counsellor. It’s really busy and tons of fun, but it doesn’t entirely explain what I got out of the experience. This is namely a chance to get truly immersed in American culture, like the raising and lowering of the flag pole and traditional/ cheesy songs sung around the campfire (I warn you now if you can’t handle your cheese this is not the place for you, but I loved it!)
I also made so many lifelong friends from all over the U.S and the world. Everyone says it but the Americans really are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. They all want to hear you say “trainer” instead of “sneaker” and learn about our culture because most of them have never left the U.S and all they know about England comes from Harry Potter films and One Direction! I did actually briefly make myself very popular among my nine year olds by telling them that I was a close personal friend
of Harry Styles although I couldn’t bring myself to carry that lie on all summer!
It’s also a cliché but it is really rewarding working with kids! You may be shattered and annoyed having had a really bad day but when one of your campers tells you that you’re their favourite counsellor it makes it all worthwhile!
Then, once camp was over, my visa was still valid so I travelled, though not for as long as I would have liked, seeing the fantastic sights of Washington D.C, Philadelphia and New York. These are some of the places you think about when you think of America so it was great to see them with friends I had made at camp.
I got the job through Camp America which was a fast and easy way to get hired, get the visa, book flights and get to camp. They pretty much sorted everything out for me so I’d really recommend them and the experience itself.