Spotlight on…video counselors

Here we find out from Jenny, a two time summer camp pro, what life is like as a video counselor

“My role as  a video and bunk counsellor meant that I was primarily making camper films. This meant me working with kid(s) to create a film that they wanted – this ranged from voice over films to short films often based on films/books that were already out. I would work with them from writing the script until editing. As well as this the video team filmed all the performing arts nights, chamber music nights, rock nights, events (such as July 4th), bunk shout outs… Our camp ran a tech week and a parents weekend and during these we would film all the plays, musicals, dance shows, circus shows and the variety show.

All this filming was a team effort – we distributed the shows between the video staff so different people would do credits, titles, colour correcting and tweaking the audio when needed. For the 3rd session I was doing video diaries, for which I had to create eight videos for the different departments around camp. This involved me going around camp, to rehearsals for shows, or music lessons and even out on the lake! Filming the kids having a great time and from that I then edited the footage and created the video diaries.

As well as having a specific job role I was also a bunk counsellor which means you live with a group of children in a bunk (some camps call it a cabin) and you look after them. You have to count them when you go to morning/afternoon meetings, whenever you go to the dining hall, you eat with them, get them to clean their teeth etc  Most importantly you are one of first people they should come to if they need anything.”

First impressions that make forever memories

We asked Alice, a costume designer for Long Lake Camp, to describe her first impressions of summer camp:

“Arriving at camp was all kinds of emotions – exciting, nervous, overwhelming, overpowering and crazy! I was extremely nervous on the run up to going to camp and I even remember getting quite emotional saying bye at the airport to my family as I just didn’t really know what to expect! It was also the first time I had flown solo on a long-haul flight so that was quite daunting too!

On the first day arriving at camp we had a quick welcome chat with the camp director and then in the first 10 minutes I was told who I would be bunking with and I went with a bunk mate to the cabin! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming which was so reassuring and I was definitely getting more excited now! My bunk mates had worked at this camp before, so I knew If I had any questions they would help me out, I was also bunking with a newbie too who was also working in the tech department so that was comforting too. That night the whole camps staff relaxed and chilled by the bonfire which over looked the beautiful lake which was a great chance to introduce and get to know other staff members! I felt so overwhelmed that I finally arrived at camp and the fact that I didn’t know anyone felt like it was my first day of school! It was nice to know that it wasn’t just me that felt like this. Camp was beautiful, and I will always remember looking at the lake for the first time that day remembering ‘wow’!

Leaving camp after 10 weeks was really sad and I had made such amazing memories and friendships over the summer. It was so special, and I felt so proud of myself for doing something for me that summer and going out and doing something that felt so rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. Now after going to camp for two summers I still feel a sense of achievement and I still remember how nervous I was on that first day of camp!”

From ukele to filing…unexpected things I learned at summer camp

“Camp is a hive of creativity and talent from the kids to the counsellors that go there. I have learned many different skills that don’t only pertain to the jobs I was doing but also relate well to professional skills that are relatable to any job sector.

Before camp I was one of those kinds of people that couldn’t organise a meal in a McDonald’s. Once I started to work as a Unit Leader, that had to change. All the paperwork that came with the role was easy if organised so I learned quickly how to organise it all and prioritise my days task to ensure I got everything I needed to done. Now I don’t know how I have managed to survive as long as I did without these skills.

You will also learn to organise time and tasks with any job at camp, not just if you are a unit leader, because the kids get to choose their own schedules and book lessons with you and as you may know, children are forgetful. This means you have to keep a schedule and make sure you do as much as you can to keep the kids to their schedule too.

Communication is another thing that you will definitely learn at camp. I considered myself a really good communicator before camp, and I was, but when in an environment where communication is limited to purely verbal, you hone those skills and really get a knack for making sure that the right people have the right information at the right time. It’s really refreshing constantly talking to people instead of firing an email or texting!

Besides the boring but helpful skills of communication and organisation, I learned lots of different skills from other counsellors such as juggling, ukulele, a few piano chords and an increased knowledge of musical theatre. All of these things are less likely to come up in any job interviews, but they are fun things to have for parties at least!”

Josh, Long Lake Camp

Preparing for summer camp interview

Arranging to speak with a Camp Director is so exciting but can be quite daunting too.  It’s a big deal for you, but it’s also a big deal for the camp too.  They are trusted by the parents to find staff they can rely on to provide the BEST care possible for their children so a good Camp Director will do a thorough job of talking to all potential candidates to be sure they are hiring the right people for them.

Most camps prefer to keep conversations as relaxed as possible so they get to know the true you and not the “interview-perfect” version of yourself.  Be reassured that camp staff are known for being friendly and approachable and they will be looking for you to display these qualities as well.

Here are some top tips for preparing for your interview:

  1. You have probably already visited the camp website but if you haven’t, now is definitely the time to do so. Get familiar with the location and general set-up of the camp and consider where you might fit best.  Watch some videos and try to imagine yourself working there – if there is something you particular like about what you read/see, be ready to tell the Camp Director as it will show them you have researched their camp carefully which indicates a real motivation to work at there.
  2. Ask yourself what aspects of camp life you are willing to be flexible on – for example is job role important to you or would you be happy doing any job at the camp? Is the age of the kids you are responsible for important? The camp may ask you questions like this and whilst it is tempting to aim to please by saying you would be happy with anything they can offer, if you know in your heart you really want things a certain way then be clear about it or you could end up unhappy in your job.
  3. Assess your motivation for going to camp and be prepared to answer questions on this. We all know that the opportunity to travel and spend a summer having fun outdoors is appealing but is that really the only reason you are applying?  We hope not.  You may be looking to increase your childcare experience, learn about different cultures, gain new skills or build confidence teaching – whatever your reasons, the camp will be keen to know what drives you to commit to this summer.
  4. It is very difficult to come up with examples when you are put on the spot in a job interview so spend some time thinking back through your previous work, education and recreation activities and try to find a few clear examples of when you have shown leadership skills, needed to work as a team, been a role model or acted under pressure. These are the main areas a camp will be looking for concrete evidence to support your application.
  5. Lastly, practice saying ‘hi great to meet you’ (or other similar greeting!) with a super welcoming smile on your face. Those first few moments after you are first connected with a camp often tell the camp everything they need to know.  All staff receive training so inexperienced staff can be hired safe in the knowledge they display a strong work ethic and desire to learn, but even the most qualified and experienced person will not find a camp job if they do not give off a happy and positive first impression.

If you have any further questions or concerns get in touch, we are always happy to help!  Good luck, you will be amazing!

An immense application for an immense opportunity

Applying for a job at Camp Augusta in the words of Ross Burton who worked there for two summers

“Camp Augusta has a rather unique application process; in terms of job applications it’s quite the monster! Not only does it take many hours of forms, personality tests, soul searching questions, and Skype interviews, but at times it was a personal challenge as well. To give an example the first question was “Who are you?”; I wrote about 500 words, I later learned that this was a little under the average for successful applications!

So is it worth it? 110% yes! You won’t find another summer camp experience that compares.

lake vera

Camp Augusta is situated in northern California within some of the most beautiful woodland and forest I have ever seen; it is wonderfully unspoilt and the wildlife is genuinely impressive, everything from skunks to mountain lions and from deer to bears. The camp sits on Lake Vera which provides the camp with a wonderful water-sports program. I had the opportunity to sleep under the stars in the fresh night air away from any city lights – the sounds and smells of nature is something sorely lacking from my life in the “real” world.

Staff put their heart and soul into getting a job at this camp but this effort is rewarded as Camp Augusta puts its heart and soul into its staff.   Staff training at Augusta is something special; at 3-4 weeks it is the longest training of any summer camp in the states. We learnt numerous skills in empathy, conflict management, psychology, education, one-to-one support, and communication. But also many simple fun games, and of course the skills sessions that we would be teaching over the summer.

Many staff members come to Augusta with skills ready to teach, and many come in with no prior experience in anything at camp apart from an enthusiasm to learn. In the course of training I learnt how to sword fight, shoot a crossbow, throw a bola, launch a slingshot, and make a friendship bracelet.

So, my final advice; take the plunge and try it out!  There are so many different camps out there but if you can relate to the philosophy at Augusta – and you will know within minutes of visiting their website if you can – then look at this immense application as an immense opportunity.  If you succeed you will lucky enough to have an experience that will change your life and training to take forward in all you do in the future.”

Ross Burton was once a physics teacher in secondary schools. Having quit his job to go to America for the summer he has returned to pursue a life of self-employment. He now tutors secondary school pupils in science, hosts science themed children’s parties, and occasionally appears as a T.V. extra. But mostly he is a professional circus performer; under the name Alexander Rossi he performs and teaches circus skills with specialisations in juggling, staff spinning, diabolo, fire, and magic.