Getting to and arriving at camp was one of the scariest, most nerve wracking and exciting parts of my first summer in America. My flight to Boston was the first flight I ever took by myself and it was the first time I’d been to another country without my parents. Being a nervous flyer, this was somewhat terrifying to say the least- especially given the length of time (three and a half months in a country I’d never been to) and not knowing anyone beforehand.
The seven hour flight was filled with thoughts such as, what if I don’t make any friends or what if no one likes me (I’m an excellent player of the ‘what if’ game) but also an excitement about exploring a new country, having the funnest, most energetic job around and finding out a little bit more about myself. The journey to Maine was not uneventful, one cancelled flight later and my baggage deciding to go walk-about, I arrived at camp a little disheveled with nothing but my backpack. I now always carry my toothbrush and a spare set of clothes in my hand luggage- just in case!
Luckily, I was greeted by the loveliest area directors who found me some spare clothes, bought me a toothbrush and all the basic necessities I could ever need. As I arrived much later than planned, they had also made my bed which made my first night at camp so much better than it potentially could have been! Orientation bunks can be a little scary, I was with ten others- most people had arrived a week before and already knew each other but within a couple of days I started to settle and form friendships within and outside my bunk. There are lots of socials, staff games and activities that makes it easy to make friends and get into the swing of camp life.
I’m not sure anything can prepare you for the arrival day of the campers. Chaotic. There is so much excitement, squeals, laughter and campers everywhere. What’s more, it is truly incredible how much stuff they manage to bring. One of the campers arrived in the bunk with two of the most enormous suitcases I have seen in my life for a 3 and a half week stay. One suitcase was filled with an army of cuddly toys and friendship string (do not underestimate the power of a friendship bracelet!) and the others were filled with duvets, cushions, photographs and things that reminded her of home. Times this by the ten other campers in the bunk and you can imagine how much stuff was in a fairly small wooden cabin!
Something I didn’t anticipate was how exhausting camp would be- the days are really long and you have children in your care almost 24/7. It’s therefore so important to unwind on your days off and make sure you relax in your hour break each day! Whilst it is tiring, it’s also so rewarding to see campers grow in confidence, make new friendships and learn new skills and you truly make life-long friendships with the other counselors.
It is also one of the funnest jobs you could possibly have- in no other job have I dressed up as a minion and run around avoiding capture from excitable ten year olds. Or had a ‘spa night’ where my nails have been painted various colours- the majority of the vanish ending up on my hand, my hair coloured with those questionable chalky pens and had temporary tattoos inked on my legs, arms and in one instance, my face. I’ve probably never eaten quite as many carbs as when I worked at camp but you are so active that luckily you burn most of this off!
It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes the camp experience so special and to really put it into words. But there is something lovely about being in the countryside, having a break from the internet (it’s incredible how dependent you are on technology, which you don’t fully appreciate until there’s no signal and a very limited WiFi connection!) and being surrounded by friends who you feel like you’ve known for years by the time camp finishes.
The camp fires, trip days, Olympics breaking, watching sunsets on the lake, stargazing on the basketball court all play a part in the camp experience but really it is the friendships and memories you make that last a lifetime.
I honestly can’t recommend working in an American summer camp enough, if you’re thinking about applying then I would definitely advise going for it- it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.