In 2005 I spent 12 weeks working at a summer camp in New York. French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts was tough going – I went through every emotion imaginable during the summer, and it was definitely a life changing experience.
- I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
- It inspired me to travel.
- If I’m ever feeling a bit shit I have a bank of thousands of funny camp memories to cheer me up.
- The work changed me for the better.
- I proved to myself I was capable of a lot more in life.
Working as a camp counselor is pretty much 24/7. You’re never really off duty while you’re there. I had to deal with everything from kids pooing on bunk floors, to rogue thunderstorms terrifying the little ones to homesickness and very sadly the death of two co counselors while we were at camp.
Day to day
I had to wake up at 7am and get 12, 13-year-old girls up, washed and at breakfast for 8am – however hard that sounds, it was harder. Then I had to teach five lessons a day of visual arts and radio, with an hour’s break and a lunch hour thrown in somewhere, and then get the kids to dinner and join in or help host the evening activity. After that it was time for a dance up at the canteen and I would DJ while the kids scoffed pizza and ice cream before being hustled off to bed by their counselor. Then, this was where the fun really began: trying to get the kids to sleep.
The kids changed every three weeks: the phrase ‘you win some, you lose some’ definitely comes to mind here. For the first three weeks and the last weeks the kids were angels, it was everyone in between that was problematic. A few hours later they’d be asleep, then I could go to sleep ready to start it all again the next day.
Days and nights off
I got two days off every three weeks and could go shopping in the nearest city Binghamton, or the nearest town Hancock. I also got to go to Niagara Falls one day, Ithaca, and New York twice too. The kids got two days off too where we would take them to the cinema or hold fun days at camp like Carnival or Do Nothing Day, which they loved.
On nights off we’d go to the local bar and get steaming drunk before rolling into bed as the sun came up. Towards the end of camp when everyone was running out of money we sat around the lake drinking beer and eating crisps – they were always the best nights, chilling out under the stars with no cares. There were a few occasions where we went to the local waterfall Skinner’s Falls and camped out there for the night with a bonfire.
The pay wasn’t great. I think I ended up with about $1200 for the summer, but I got free accommodation and loads of free food for the 12 weeks. It costs about £800 all in all to do it and there are loads of companies offering great deals – AmeriCamp looks pretty cool, but I went with CCUSA.
Working as a camp counselor is definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I think about it a lot and would recommend anyone to do it.