So you’ve decided working at a summer camp in America is for you?! Great! Here are some tips that might help you before you travel across the pond.
1) Don’t forget other agencies. Before you start the application process, don’t forget that there are numerous other agencies other than Camp America that help with summer camp placements and may give you a better deal. I personally used Camp America which is probably the biggest and most popular. However, there is also Camp Leaders, so take a look.
2) Research Camps. There are literally thousands of camps in America and they’re all slightly different. There are ones based on football, ones based on water sports, religious camps, all boys, all girls and co-ed camps. The list goes one. Basically, do your research and you will end up with a camp that is best suited to your skills and one that you will feel most comfortable at.
3) Go to a fair. I chose the camp I wanted to go to at one of the fairs Camp America put on throughout the year. Here, representatives from hundreds of camps are packed into a conference hall and you can go and talk to them about what their camps are like and if they need people with your skills. I thought this was great as you could talk face to face with the people you would potentially be working with over the summer. It’s also highly likely you’ll be placed if you attend a fair.
4) Trust your gut. Look around. At the fair I spoke first to the camp I would ultimately work for and they offered me a place! I got a great feeling from the camp, however, as it was the first camp I spoke to at the fair I was like “Great, thanks! However, you’re the first camp I have spoken to so would you mind if I had a look at a couple of others before I make my decision?” They were fine with that. I looked at a couple of other camps, but didn’t get that same great feeling that they were just right. So I returned to the camp I spoke to first and signed on the dotted line. Trust. Your. Gut.
5) Specialist Camps. So on your form and in your interview they’ll ask you if you want to work at either religious camps or disability camps. I have no experience at these and didn’t want to work at them so I said no. However, the amount of people I met on my travels that said yes either because they weren’t bothered at the time, thought it would look good on a CV or had no idea what they were getting into was huge. These people ended up being completely overwhelmed and one chap I met hated his whole summer because he literally had to wipe ass every day. Now, if you have experience in these areas, are fully aware of what you’re getting into and want to try it out, then great, you’re doing something I couldn’t. However, if you’re saying yes for the sake of it or to look good on your CV, re-evaluate your decision. A good tip is to talk to people who’ve been there and done it.
6) Stay on top of forms. There are so many forms that you’ll have to fill out that it’s worth keeping a folder to put them all in. Your visa forms are so important to! I lost mine and searched a whole day for it until it turned up in my car glove box! Staying on top of your forms and getting them completed as soon as they’re sent to you will save you time and stress.
7) VISA Days. Ah the lovely VISA days. A trip to London and the US Embassy. You’re going to need a passport photo so get one before as the only place you’ll get one on the day is a shop that charges a small fortune. The rest is pretty easy; just make sure you have all your forms with you (refer to tip 6)
8) Qualifications. Make sure your qualifications are valid for the whole period you’re working at the summer camp. My lifeguard qualification ran out half way through summer! I had to recertify while at camp which cost me $70 and was boring as hell. If I had of realised this before I left for America I could have recertified for free through my employer in the UK.
9) Don’t book a trek. So you’ll find out about these treks Camp America organise which you pay to go on once you’ve finished camp. Yes they look great and if you’re worried about what you’re going to do after camp they seem like a great idea. However, they’re ruddy expensive, you forfeit travelling with all your mates that you met at camp and you might not meet great people on the trek. Don’t forget there is nothing wrong with travelling on your own and I personally think it is the best way to do it.
10) DIY flights. If you think you’re going to end up down south and your return flight home is from New York, don’t worry. I purchased a flight from Atlanta back to New York for $90 which was much cheaper than the £250 Camp America requested to change my return fight to leave from the south.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! I haven’t really seen many other places cover some of these points so I thought I’d put them up for you! It’s a lot to take in but it’ll be worth it once it’s all done and you’ll be on your way to the summer of a lifetime!