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!”

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.

A summer job that changes lives

Over the five years that I worked at camps in America I built up an endless array of memories that without fail always bring a smile to my face.  But my one stand out memory comes from my first summer as a lifeguard and general counsellor at Mateo Day Camp in San Francisco.

On this particular day we had taken all the children on a trip to the local water park; the excitement levels were at fever pitch and it was a typical hot sunny Californian day so the weather most definitely matched the mood in camp.  I was in charge of a group of 10 kids along with my co-counsellor Karli and we all headed straight to the biggest water slide with a reputation for offering the best views of the Bay area.  Karli stayed at the bottom and I headed up to the very top with all of the kids in hot pursuit.  One by one they went down until only Harry remained.  Harry had gone a peculiar shade of green and was visibly shaking. “I can’t do it” he said, “I am terrified of heights”.

I spent 3 hours that day in the blazing hot sunkar and me attempting to coax Harry down the slide, I would even have been happy to turn back and go down the steps but he was frozen in fear.  I kept calm and tried to distract him singing songs and sharing stories of our favourite things until eventually Harry turned to me and said, “I think I can do it, if you will be right behind me”.  He did it.  Not only that but he did it with a smile, and wanted to go on again because he loved it so much.

Three weeks later I got a thank you card from Harry’s Grandma who was overwhelmed by how I had managed to get Harry to conquer his fear.  The gratitude touched me as for me, I was just doing my job.  And that’s the thing about being a camp counsellor, you won’t always know the many different ways in which you will impact a kids life but you will, just by doing your job.  After that day at the water park Harry went on to conquer another fear that summer…he learnt to swim in the deep end of the pool.  It may not sound like a big deal but his family had been trying for 2 years to do that and every time his fear gripped him and overwhelmed him.  When I am facing tough times, or don’t feel brave enough to try something out of my comfort zone, I think back to Harry and ask myself, “what would Harry do?”

If you would like the opportunity to make a difference this summer visit and learn more about the summer camp locations and jobs available to you

Alternatively just get in touch and start a conversation…you never know where it might lead…