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Cabin Counsellor/Activity Instructor
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I believed it would be a summer job like none in the UK and I had many recommendations from people who had done something similar. I also wanted to provide the children with a memorable and happy holiday.

How did you find your placement/internship?

I got given the contact details of an American summer camp agency called makemysummer through a contact who had worked at a different camp. The agency then recommended me to Camp Cayuga.

Application process

First I showed an interest with the agency. They then arranged an informal skype chat to see if I was suitable for the role of a camp counsellor. Following that I filled in an application form and the agency sent it to camps for me. These camps got in contact with me and arranged video interviews where I was asked how I would handle some typical cabin situations and which age category I would most want. After getting an offer and signing the contract there were various other forms to complete- the majority of which were for the J-1 visa (including a visit to the American embassy in London) which is necessary to work in the country.

Main responsibilities

I was responsible for looking after children (in particular the 5-8 year old girls in my cabin) and supporting them through the small details such as deciding what to wear and making sure we all cleared up after ourselves in the dining hall and the bigger issues of homesickness and first loves. I also had to lead fun, interesting activities and always put the campers first.

Typical day

We’d be woken up by the bell at either 8 or 8.50 depending on what schedule we were following. There’d then be 20 minutes for everyone to get dressed and then we’d head into “the Quad” for flagpole where the USA flag would be raised and notices given out. After a thought of the day from the camp director we’d have breakfast, cabin clean-up, activities sign-ups and then 1st period. There would either be 5 or 6 periods a day depending on the wake up, with lunch and rest period in the middle. Each day I had a different timetable of activities which kept my summer exciting and varied. My main acitivities were Climbing Wall, Bunjee Trampoline, Arts and Crafts and Keyboards. Proceeding dinner each night we lowered the flag and there was an evening activity. These could be anything from being chased by campers or getting turned into wrestlers and “fighting”. Each age group then had different curfews and all counsellors had rotation time or porch time from 10.30 until our curfew at 12.30.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I enjoyed seeing the campers improve at the activities they loved most. For example, I witnessed a 10 year old determinedly climb to the top of a rock wall in 41 seconds that took him about 5 minutes the first time. It was also great to have the campers earn your trust and live in a different country for a significant amount of time. I was also able to form strong friendships with other counsellors and then travel for two weeks once camp had finished.

Challenging aspects

The most challenging aspects for me was dealing with severe homesickness and not losing your patience when you’ve asked a simple instruction over 5 times. Furthermore it was a struggle only having a day off every 6-10 days so we were all tired most of the time!

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I used logical thinking when making decisions and other ideas which relate loosely to economic theories such as supply and demand and game theory. In addition I used the business side of economics when approaching parents and helping out in the main office.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

Before I went to camp I was considering becoming a maths teacher. I discovered that I would love to teach and inspire children but there is more politics and paperwork behind teaching than I first thought. Therefore I am still undecided.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

If you get a job at a summer camp, you will obviously build up ideas of what camp is like in your head prior to your arrival. However, just like when you started at University the reality will be very different. You also need to understand that you have to put the campers first. Another piece of advice is if you have any issues with co workers, try to resolve it as quickly as you can and talk to that person first. I would additionally advice that you sort your visa out as soon as possible.

Other comments

If you want an amazing, unforgettable summer where you will make a difference to a child’s life- work at an overseas summer camp!

Form completed: 26 Sep 2017

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