So I arrived back home in the UK a few weeks ago and am settling back into the swing of things, i.e. leaving the student life behind and working! I’ve had so many people ask questions since I’ve been back and say that they’re thinking of doing Camp America that I thought I’d help ya’ll decide whether it’s for you or not. I’ll break it down into its pros and cons in order to help you weigh it up, discuss if I think you should do it then see whether I’d do it again! We’ll start with the pros…
1) You basically get to go to America for free. With Camp America I paid about £650 which included my flights, visa, and some goodies (that I never received:(). When I left camp I was paid $1200 dollars which is about £800 so you get paid slightly more than you put in.
2) You meet great people. I honestly met some of the coolest people at camp. Every type of person you can think of is at camp and they all have their own little story. I made friends that I’m still in contact with and it would be great to see them again.
3) Experiencing a new culture. We share the same language but that’s about where the similarities stop. The people are different, the way they fill up petrol confused the hell out of me, tipping, taxes, different words, not getting my sarcasm, the list can go on. American culture is very different indeed.
4) The Family feel. Obviously I can only speak for my camp but you really feel like the admin staff and oldest counsellors are either your part time parents or older brothers/sisters whilst the kids are your part time younger brothers or sisters.
5) Learning about yourself. I think everyone questions themselves through camp and their abilities to teach or do activities. However, you soon get over that and come out stronger and better for it. You also learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, you learn that you can do things you didn’t know you could and you will surprise yourself at how much you didn’t know about yourself.
6) The kids. Yes some days they annoy you to the point where you want to get the next flight home. But then the moments where you see them succeed, improve, come out of their shell or when they write you a really nice note far outweigh the annoying moments so much that they become irrelevant. The kids at my camp were great and I honestly miss them.
7) You try new things. I personally tried sailing, canoeing and paddle boarding for the first time whilst at camp. I also learnt how to make a fire, make smores, tie knots and chop wood. There’s also a lot of public speaking as well which you get used to.
8) Never experienced anything like it before. Before camp and since I left camp I have never experienced anything else like it. There’s not really any other comparison apart from other summer camps obviously.
9) Travelling after. A lot of people apply to Camp America purely as a way to travel around the country. Your visa allows you to stay in the USA for a month after camp. I stayed for 3 weeks and went down the east coast. It was qualityyyyy.
1) You get paid peanuts. We counsellors worked out our hourly pay rate and it turned out to be 63 cents. Now that’s depressing. Don’t forget though, your accommodation and food is all paid for. But still, that figure depresses me.
2) Overworked. So as I was at an all-girls camp I didn’t live with and look after the kids 24/7, but even I felt drained the whole time. It was a 7.30am wake up every morning and duties finished at roughly 8pm. But then of course people hung out and you stayed up till like 12. Managing your sleep is so important. I don’t know how the female counsellors stayed alive.
3) Awkward dinner time. This is a bit of a random one. However one of my clearest memories is meal times in the canteen. You’ll sit with kids and every week you’ll get a new table of kids. A couple of those weeks you’ll have a table that will just not talk. You’ll ask them a million questions and they’ll either make a head movement or give you a one word answer. It was kind of demoralising, but you have to remember kids are shy and they’ve just met a big new adult so it’s kind of understandable.
4) On top of people the whole time. Living with and seeing the same people day in day out can get a bit much. There were fallings out and arguments. It’s part of camp life.
5) It’s a long time. Personally I was fine with being away from home for so long but other people really missed home and it affected their daily lives. You will talk about home sickness in the campers but don’t forget it could affect you. I guess you find out if this thing is for you or not. Towards the end of summer the time starts to drag as you just want to get travelling.
Should you do it?
Yes absolutely. I think it is such a unique experience working at a summer camp that if your heart is in it then you should try it. You will learn so much about life, yourself and other people that it’s such a valuable experience and will genuinely build your character and improve your skills. I personally think the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Would I do it again?
Now this is tricky. I loved it but I’m still undecided whether I would do it again. I’m swaying to the yes side. I’m definitely not doing it this year but in a couple of years, potentially yes. If I was to do it I’d go back to my camp. The worry I have is that it will not live up to what my first experience was like. But then again it will be a different experience and could be awesome. As a returner you also get paid a considerable amount more money and get fancier accommodation. Looking over photos and talking to camp friends makes you nostalgic and want to do it again. So I think we shall see in a couple of years.