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Farm Animal Programmer
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I knew that I wanted to spend my summer abroad but being on student budget meant that I was limited in what I could afford if I simply went travelling, so I opted for a 'working holiday' - this also gave me the opportunity to learn so many new skills in a job I hadn't done before, as well as filling in what could have been a three month gap on my CV!

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

I used an agency called NYQUEST which I found simply through googling 'camp canada' - this agency were incredible and I could not recommend them enough! I filled out a lengthy application with this agency and paid a program fee along with some other minor expenses such as a police check and my eTA. Once the agency received and accepted my application, I became a member of the NYQUEST Camp Canada summer 2017 programme and they sent my information out to their affiliated camps across Canada. Almost immediately, I received word that this particular camp were interested in me as a farm animal programmer aka a specialist (although I had originally applied to be a general camp counsellor as I didn't think I had any specific skills...). Once I checked out the camp's information and their website, and once I cleared up a few questions and concerns with the agency, I accepted the offer and signed a contract! The whole process, although lengthy, was made incredibly easy through use of an agency, making them (in my eyes) worth the program fee.

Main responsibilities

As a specialist, I was responsible for the care of the farm animals (total of 30) including feeding and cleaning, as well as running sessions for the campers for five periods throughout the day. Alongside another specialist, we took all ages of campers and catered our activities to suit each group best. We were given almost complete free range with how we wanted to run the program. Although my main job was this speciality, whenever we didn't have periods we would join our assigned cabins and become general counsellors. In other words, there is no 'off' when you're at camp.

Typical day

7:30 wake up cabin (I was assigned to Junior girls, meaning eight 10-yr-old girls)
8.00 round up
8:15 flagpole - national anthem, announcements, breakfast
9:15 cabin cleanup
9:30 I would then leave my cabin to go to the farm and begin morning care
10-12 programme periods
12 lunch
1 rest hour
2-5 programme periods
5 shower time for campers
6 dinner
7 free play (often ran a farm activity)
8 evening programme
9.30 bedtime for campers
10.30 "off duty" unless specified otherwise - free time until curfew

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

Doing an international summer camp is a great opportunity to meet so many peers from around the world - I know have great friends from not only across the UK but from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Czech Republic, and so on... Because the nature of camp is so full on, even the shortest period of time becomes a lifetime and so your bonding is intense and your friendships feel like they've been there your whole life. Especially with my specialist being outdoors, camp offers an opportunity to really immerse yourself in nature and is incredibly wholesome.

Challenging aspects

Bratty kids! Although 90% of the time, you loved your campers like they were little siblings, these particular children were very wealthy and knew it, so their attitude became a little wearing at times.
The intensity of always being 'on' can be incredibly draining and you basically survive camp on coffee and adrenaline, not sleep.
From my particular experience, the management team were difficult to deal with as they are people who have spent their entire lives in the camp circuit, both as campers and as staff, meaning that they struggle to relate to life outside or life as an international staff.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I learned how to deal with homesick kids, squabbling kids, bratty kids, curious kids... the list goes on. It also enhanced many of my existing skills from my previous working experience, such as time-management, creative thinking, and independence.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

It opened my mind to the possibility of working with children in future, although not in a camp setting as this is very much an environment to enjoy as a young adult but probably not long term.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

My experience of using an external agency was brilliant - do your research, read reviews, and find a quality agency who can do the bulk of the work for you. Mine sorted my visa and health insurance, and communicated with me non-stop leading up to and during my summer placement. They were supportive, gave advice, answered questions, and gave me the resources that I could now use independently for future adventures.

Other comments

Camp life has major ups and downs. It is intense and quite an endurance test. But if you have the right attitude, it can be the best thing you'll ever do.

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Form completed: 18 Sep 2017

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