When I started university in 2012 (unbelievably six whole years ago) I was eager to spend my summers working in an American summer camp. I spent my first summer of university working in a hospital to save up enough money to afford a three and a half month adventure in the beautiful US of A the following summer. Once I’d saved up enough money, the scary part began. How do you know where to start? How do you actually get placed in a camp? How do you get a working visa?
Do your research
If you are thinking about applying to work in an American summer camp then I definitely recommend doing your research first. You need to apply through an agency, there are lots of different agencies to choose from, but possibly the top two are Camp America and Camp Leaders. After researching both companies and reading reviews of people’s experiences of both, I opted for Camp Leaders. I really could not fault Camp Leaders in any way, they really support you from the get-go by providing excellent customer support and offering competitive and affordable fees. If I had to go back and choose again, Camp Leaders would one hundred percent be my first pick.
After filling out all the various paperwork and making an application video, the next step was getting placed in a camp. Your application is online and so camps’ have access to your profile and can contact you and arrange an interview if they are interested. This is a common way of getting placed, however I got placed through a camp job fair.
The fair was in January in London- it was pouring with rain and I had all my sketchbooks with me as I was thinking of being an art counselor (these were quite sodden by the time I had queued and made it into the hall where the camp fair was). There was so many people there, which was really quite daunting- I definitely had moments of doubts and questions about what I was doing. I think what helped me through the process was that I’d done my research beforehand- I knew which camps I was interested in and the sort of ones I thought I would be suited to. The important thing is not to panic and not be disillusioned if you don’t get placed right away. I got placed on my third interview- I warmed instantly to the interviewers and ended up as a Yearbook counselor- something that I hadn’t necessarily considered going into the camp fair but what turned out to be the most amazing job. If you don’t get placed at the fair, it is by no means over- there are still plenty of other opportunities to be placed- either at another job fair or online so try not to be disheartened.
Apply for your visa
Once placed, it’s time to apply for your visa. Now, I think this is potentially one of the most stressful elements of the summer camp application process. The key here however, is to leave yourself plenty of time, make sure your passport is in date and read the J1 visa online form carefully. Your agency will provide you with a crib sheet of advice as some of the questions aren’t all that clear. The online application is generally quite straightforward though- just make sure you read everything carefully and don’t apply in a rush! For the actual embassy meeting- make sure to arrive in plenty of time and that you have all the relevant documentation with you.
After your visa’s been approved you’re pretty much all set! All that’s left is to arrange things like travel insurance, make sure you have all the things for the summer and communicate with the camp about arrival timings etc. The agency you apply with will most likely arrange flights, so you don’t need to worry about booking them. Then you are all set for a summer of a lifetime. Camp was hands-down one of the best, most tiring and most rewarding things I have ever done in my life so far and would so recommend it to anyone. You do need to like working with children and be willing to work hard but it’s one of the funnest, most gratifying jobs you can do and you leave with a summer full of unforgettable memories and life-long friends.
So my advice if you’re thinking of applying? Do it, you absolutely won’t regret it.
Check back next week for more posts on the camp experience and post camp travel, and let me know if working in a summer camp is on your bucket list- I’d love to hear from you!