The Twenty Something Guide to Summer Camp

Alternatively titled, everything I know I learned at summer camp

Public Service Announcement: Again with the bias, but working at summer camp is the best part-time job. This might be exclusive to my summer camp (because obviously, we’re the greatest one ever).

Dear Twenty Somethings,

Wow, a Wednesday post? I didn’t want my open letter to get in the way of what I wanted to talk about this week. So here is another post, even though it doesn’t have the same fun alliteration that The Twenty-Something Truth Tuesday has (and even though you ‘re probably already tired of reading my posts).

Moving on, let’s get to my favourite subject – camp. If you know me (or have read my post about “real” jobs) knows that I love working at a summer camp. It’s hard to explain it to anyone who has not worked at one or been a camper. Judging by the response on my last post about “real” jobs, it does resonate with camp people and they too echoed that sentiment- from the outside looking in, you don’t really get it. Hence, I’m here to help with this handing dandy “Twenty Something Guide”.

 

So what’s it like working at camp?

What a loaded question!

Every camp is different ( the one I work at is obviously the best). Beyond that, every camp position is different. Activity staff may not have the same experiences as a counsellor. Each with their own pros and cons. However, if I had to describe working at camp in a few words,  I would say it’s rewarding, fun, challenging and a worthwhile experience. I work at an overnight camp, which means that I live and breathe my job. You live with the staff or campers (depending on your position), eat meals with everyone, and are seconds away from your job. Kind one giant slumber party, which is actually really fun. Where else can you live with your best friends so close? As an added bonus, it’s much easier to wake up and get ready when you live seconds away from your meals and the rest of your job.

Like any job, it can be a challenge.

You basically live on minimum sleep and work six out of seven days. Honestly though, who needs sleep when you’re having fun? I’ll admit there are times when I have been stressed at camp or overtired and have had a cry or two. The best thing is the support that you will get on those days. A sympathetic smile or conversation with a co-worker, or a sweet gift from a child who knows you might be having a bad day are all around. All the stress is worthwhile and you really learn how to manage self-care while also taking care of kids around you.

The best part of the challenge is that it’s rewarding.

There’s no better feeling than having a homesick camper sad to leave because they ended up having a good time; the feeling you get when you convince a very reluctant camper to try something new; the feeling of love you get when they give you a hug after you comfort them. The impact you have on the lives of your campers, and the unconditional love you get back, is well worth the challenge.

 

What’s your favourite part?

I think I have it down to three things.

First of all, I love the connection I make with the campers.

I consider most of them my children. Like any good camp mom, I have a collection of cute (and sometimes ridiculous) things they have made me – silly putty in the shape of a “heart” that ended up looking like a strange uterus; an insanely long gimp “bracelet” that is so large it basically doubles as a leash; a construction paper “glider” that doesn’t get far off the ground; actual cute friendship bracelets that I try to keep on- the list is endless. I especially love my pre-teen campers (who at this point are becoming teens!) Even when they like to cause me trouble and call me old, they still manage to sneak hugs and love and ask for words of advice when they need it.

Secondly, I love the people who I work with.

This difficult summer really reminded me of how they are endless supporting and loving. The bonds I’ve created with them really have stuck with me and gotten me through some rough times. The only hard part is leaving them at the end of the summer. I also absolutely love the people I work for. They’ve helped me grow into a leader and taught me so many lessons on how to be an adult and a kid at the same time. With all their advice and support, I know I can turn to them whenever I’m in need. Beyond that, they’ve inspired me to dream about becoming a camp owner or director one day.

Finally, we have two insane camp-wide events that I absolutely love called the All-Day and the Second Month All-Day.

They’re the kind of events that you just have to be there for. My lovely friends have described them much better than I ever can, so I’ve linked them above for a better understanding (honestly, give them a read. These girls are gems.) They are both all-day competitions where teams compete in a series of events and games to become winners. We spend an entire week for each one prepping for the day, creating banners, props and decorations for the dining halls, and assigning campers to events that they will compete in (a real-life brain teaser to be honest). It is a competition but in the end, it’s always glorious to watch other teams in their elements (shoutout to Team Japan in the final relay event for a moving fire build). It’s hard to fully describe it but I get way too into it and it’s truly a fun experience!

Where can I find a job like this?

Camp is not the job for everyone but if you like children, it’s the perfect part-time job. There are many different ways to find camp jobs. You can search your area for local camps, check for job postings on typical sites such as Indeed or LinkedIn, and you can also see if your area has a camp association with a job board. I’m not going to specifically mention my camp name for privacy reasons (or in case they don’t want to be associated with me, although I’m quite the catch ;)), but if you live in Ontario I suggest you fill out something like this.

Here’s some (unsolicited) advice

  1. Do your research! There are tons of articles out there about working for summer camps, the types of camps that exist, and my personal favourite, lists of what it is like to be a counsellor.
  2. Enjoy it! In the end, camp is what you make it. The amount of effort you put in will be what you get back.
  3. Treat it as a learning experience. There are so many skills that camp teaches you and even if you don’t stick with the camp world, those skills translate to other industries. Don’t be afraid to talk about where you learned those skills as well. Despite the naysayers, camp is a real job.
  4. Don’t say that camp is not a “real” job.

Truthfully yours,

Sam

PS. What’s your favourite camp memory or favourite part about working at camp. Leave your answer in the comments below!

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