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Swim Instructor and Lifeguard
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I wanted to do something productive and exciting with my summer; a placement was the answer to this! I am always keen to gain new life experiences so working in an American summer camp for three months allowed me to broaden this. Furthermore, I wanted more examples on my CV to demonstrate my transferable skills and gain competence in these which a placement could permit me to do.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

I applied through Camp America, essentially a middle man company that sets you up with various American camps; I had to firstly fill out a comprehensive online application, detailing what skills I had which could make me suitable to work at a camp (e.g. I am a qualified lifeguard) and why I wanted to work at camp. Then I had an interview with a Camp American staff to get me formally on its website. You can get hired through your application online ( I had a skype interview for one camp) or you can attend recruitment fairs where American camp directors fly over and you can meet them in person and get hired on the spot. This is how I got hired by my camp. Then there are various documents to fill out required by your Camp, including having to go to the London embassy to get your visa, which makes you eligible to work in the States. Eventually, your flight is arranged and before you know it you're flying out for the summer! There are associated fees with getting your visa and the Camp American process.

Main responsibilities

My main responsibilities were very simple; I taught children of all abilities to swim, and also I was a lifeguard, supervising children for their safety. I also assisted in cleaning at times and playing games with the children.

Typical day

I would wake up at half 6 every morning, have breakfast. I would leave our dorms at half 7 and travel a 15 min journey to camp on a yellow school bus no less! We would have a morning meeting, then greet children as they arrived and sign them in! I would then go to the swimming pool and at half 9 swim lessons would start! For the rest of the day, I would alternate between teaching and lifeguarding until 3.15. Then there would be clean up. At 4 children staying for extended day and who had opted for swim, would have swim lessons until 5. Then we would head into the sports gym and play games with the remaining children/clean up until 6-6.30 before heading back to the dorms. There, we would relax or go meet up with Americans or go to the cinema etc before curfew ended at 11! Fridays are special days where lifeguards host games outdoors.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all my fellow staff members; I met a lot of both British and American nationalities and have consequently made very firm friends and amazing memories. Being able to get an insight into a different culture and live amongst it for three months was highly enjoyable Moreover, although very new at first, you begin to love the unique Summer camp spirit and all its associated enthusiasm. Also being to visit places on days off was amazing!

Challenging aspects

Without a doubt, it was the long hours; on average you worked 10 hour days with little breaks. This coupled with 11 weeks of these days is very draining and intense, and thus at times was very hard. Sometimes, the children at the camp could prove troublesome so you had to be prepared to think outside the box to deal with kids such as these; things like this, further made you feel drained.
Working with Americans also, light heartened as it sounds, you have to prepared for their ignorance outside of their country - I genuinely got asked whether Big Ben has a water slide! The pizza heavy diet was also a shock!
Indeed, knowing you were working incredibly hard but not always seeing tangible results, such as earning very little money, was difficult at times.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I wouldn't say I really utilised any skills learnt from my course, as my placement was very hands on and with children etc. However, my hard work ethic and motivation I have for my degree very much came into play with my camp role to ensure I was performing my job well.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

Yes, I know that I do not want to work with children or in an aquatic environment (although this was the case before my placement but rather I am even more assured in my choice). However, I would be open to working internationally, such as America, now having become accustomed to working alongside and for Americans and enjoying this overall experience.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

I would be prepared to know exactly what you're signing up for; you are working with children for long hours, for little money and it is not easy work! Indeed, make sure you save up some money before you fly out as this really helps when you travel during or after your placement. Camp is not for everyone and you should be motivated and hardworking, and understand the pragmatics and realistics of what you will be doing.

Other comments

This type of placement of is very unique to the usual type of placement, as most probably it's not the sort of placement you'll choose to lead into your future career or to try network necessarily. Rather, it's getting that life experience, making friends and memories, and gaining a whole host of general and transferable skills.

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Form completed: 17 Aug 2017

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