OK, so having worked at 3 summer camps in the States over the years and having unforgettable times, meeting unforgettable people and seeing unforgettable things – I want to impart onto you some of the hard earned knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years…
1) If it’s your first year ever doing summer camp then I can stress strongly enough GO THROUGH AN AGENCY. Yes they will charge you (exorbitantly at that – around $500 AUD i think), yes you’ll initially begrudge the fees but I promise you – you won’t regret your decision. From visas, to flights, to people at the airport waiting to pick you up, to having courier services from JFK airport to your camp direct – they are professional, efficient and helpful. At a time when it’s pretty scary to be moving to the US for 3 or 4 months, they ensure you can concentrate on making friends and having fun while they take care of the red tape. I recommend BUNAC and CAMP AMERICA – both have been in the industry for decades, google them and you’ll have a host of resources.
2) Choose your own camp if you have preferences: This is a huge tip, which most people never hear. Do you want to work on a special needs camp, ADD camp, disadvantaged kids camp? (incidentally, I have worked on all 3 of those cams and true, it’s more tiring than other camps but it’s also much, much more rewarding). If you feel you want to work on a wealthy camp, or a day camp, or a city camp then do your research, identify the camp you want, contact them and explain you are with an agency but you would like to work with them. Explain to Camp America/BUNAC your situation and they will, very easily, hook you up with your camp of choice.
3) Want to work on camp with your mates? Believe it or not, this is very easy – in fact, lots of the camps love it because it means you’re much more likely to stick it out if times are tough. 2 or 3 of you can work at the same camp no problem. One thing though, my mates and I never did this, we went to our own camps, made new friends and met up after camp – i’d recommend that as often when you travel with existing friends you lose the incentive to throw yourself into meeting new people, naturall – up to you.
4) Do you want to do something specific throughout camp – art, sport etc? There are generally two types of counsellors at every camp: General counsellors – where you are with the kids throughout the day at their various activities and participate in all events whether it’s swimming, football, arts and crafts. The other type is a Specialist Counsellor – where you are for example a football specialist, you deal with all the different bunks of kids throughout the day and tutor them all on football.
5) Choose a flexi-ticket return flight: This is essential… ESSENTIAL! You can either book a fixed date flight home or a flexi ticket for an extra 100 quid i think, where you can come back anytime within a couple of months at a weeks notice. Choose the flexi ticket. I promise you will make the most amazing friends and you WILL want to travel around the US, eat super-sized macdonalds and take photos on Liberty Island and you’ll regret not having the flexi ticket when all your new friends do! I made this mistake the first time, i certainly didnt make it again.
6) Don’t have experience? Don’t worry – they will still employ you i promise. Remember though – that football coaching you did with the U12′S, when you helped the kids with homework, you old babysitting job – get these on your CV, make them sound infinitely more impressive and before you know it camps will be fighting to give you a job!
7) Too scared to make the jump and sign up? DON’T BE! Everyone is in the same position as you and within a week you will laugh at your hesitance and be glad you didn’t miss out on this awesome experience. Sign-up and go!
Camp is a great way to experience the US, you’ll meet new friends, improve kids’ lives, live in a new country, all of which will change your mentality forever. Ever since I went on a few cheap holidays as a kid I knew traveling was the lifestyle for me, and know I’m finally living it. Happy travels!!