You do get time off right??

Everyone knows being a camp counselor is a full-on job and if it is something you are considering then you have probably prepared yourself for the long, intense hours you will put in (let’s be honest, those who are looking for an easy way to make a buck or two wouldn’t be considering a role at camp!).  But it’s OK to still wonder about days off.

Counselors perform the best when they are well-rested and energised so aside from the legal duty employers have to give you scheduled hours/days off, you can be sure that your Camp Director will want you to take some precious time away from the children.

We asked Alice, a returning counsellor at Long Lake Camp, to give us the low down on how days off worked for them.

“Scheduled weekly days off started at 10pm the night before and ended midnight the following day, which was a great time to relax, unwind and do whatever you wanted! Camp operated a nightly bus to the local town and dropped off staff and then it would pick us back up and take us back to camp in time to ‘sign in’ at midnight. It was always so much fun and a great opportunity to get off of camp for a few hours and unwind and have some drinks with friends and also make new ones too! If going out at 10pm for a drink in town wasn’t your thing then you could go up to ‘the loft’ or to the dining hall to hang out with friends back at camp.

On days off I would always have a bit of a lie-in and head off into town for breakfast with some friends (luckily, we could borrow a friend’s car!) Breakfast at the diner was always a great start to a day off as it was nice to enjoy some good food. I explored nearby towns such as Lake Placid, Lake George and Old Forge which were all so beautiful. Nearer to camp there were some beautiful treks up mountains and the surrounding areas. The beautiful ‘Rich Lake’ was also a great spot to hang out with friends nearby to camp. A cinema in Tupper Lake was an easy to reach place to go to the cinema and the pizza restaurant nearby was delicious!

Camp also operated a small mini bus that could drop you into Long Lake town if you wanted to just relax and chill on the beach or get some food at the local restaurants and shops. If you wanted to just relax at camp on your day off then you could join in with camp activities such as jewellery making or even sports at the waterfront so there was lots that you could do to keep busy and unwind after a busy hard weeks work. Many days off my friends and I used the camp’s tennis courts to play sports which was always lots of fun.

You would also be given an hour off a day for some free time and I usually used this as a precious time for a quick nap to refuel before heading back to work – depending on our work load that day I would gage whether it was a well-deserved hour break!”

Life as a camp counsellor…is it really 24/7??

For residential camps it really is all systems go 24/7…sure the kids do sleep (fresh air and exercise is sure to mean even the most hyper sleep soundly) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t occasions when a camp counsellor is called upon in the middle of the night.  It’s one of the less glamorous sides of the job and thankfully for most, being woken in the night is a rare occurrence.

Staff really are the heart and soul of a camp so making sure you stay energised and rested will be a priority for camp management.  For most camps there will be a designated area for staff to hang out away from children and there will be certain hours in the day where staff will congregate and catch up socially.

Here is an example from Long Lake Camp:

“At Long Lake there are a few spots for staff to hang out; there is the loft, which is above the dining hall, the campers aren’t allowed in there so was a space away from the kids – if you weren’t required in the cabin counsellors could even sleep in there if  they wanted to so they weren’t woken up by the bell or the kids! There is also the F.A.B, which after the campers are in bed (which was 10pm) was a place you could hang out , there was TV’s to watch films or play video games and computers if you wanted to make travel plans etc. On camp not everywhere had WIFI but the loft and F.A.B did so counsellors could also use the WIFI to call home etc.

Counsellors have between 10pm- 12am if you aren’t on OD (On Duty, which means you watch a bunk until one of there counsellors signs in, you would do this once a week to share it between the counsellors) so counsellors have that time hang out, the camp put on a bus to the local hotel so you could go there for drinks or just hang out somewhere on camp. Counsellors at Long Lake get a period off a day (1 hour) so you could possibly go into town if you had a car or knew someone who would drive you. You could also use this time to do an activity on camp, for instance photography, the lake or sport. Though for the most part periods off are spent sleeping! It’s a good time to catch up with sleep as the campers aren’t supposed to be in the bunk during activity periods. Sleep or having long luxurious showers where you can take as long as you like to wash your hair – free time is definitely your chance to do things without being rushed!”

 

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!”