Choosing Which Summer Camp To Work At
The general image of a summer camp is of a place where kids go to enjoy physical activities during the summer. It’s certainly true that many camps are exactly like that, but there are also now quite a few niche camps which provide a highly specialised range of summer programs to their guests. Some are purely educational without much effort to inject fun into the proceedings; some are religiously-oriented; some are dedicated to weight loss. In a few cases, there are even camps run by the military.
As you can see, then, a great variety of camps is available, and it’s not all about sitting round a campfire singing “Kumbayah”. Working in a specialist camp might allow you to enhance your CV and boost your future career prospects.
Camp LocationMost camps are in fairly isolated locales and you will be limited to opportunities for tourism or socialisation outside of the camp grounds while you are there. If you are absolutely desperate, for example, to enjoy the metropolitan life of New York in your evening hours, it is not completely impossible that you could find a camp close enough to make it possible. But it will be very difficult. Usually, after your work at the camp ends, you will have a month or so left on your visa in which you can travel around the country and be a tourist.
It’s worth pointing out that most recruitment of camp staff is done by organisations which operate many camps, often dozens or, in some cases, even hundreds. If all goes well, your name is usually put into a general pool and your details will be seen by recruitment officers at all of the individual camps. You may then receive a specific offer of a place at an individual camp. So you do not usually have much choice in the question which camp you will go to or where its exact location will be, other than the country it is located in.
If you have been to a particular camp before, it may be possible for you to return there. Otherwise, you are normally in a position of having to wait for offers. You can reject an offer of place, but then you just have to hope another one, and the right one, comes along.
Summer Camp CulturesYou should be aware that not all camps are just big fun-filled adventure playgrounds. Some have ideologies. And inculcating the ideology into the children is part of what they do. Patriotic-style camps are quite common in many countries. This may strike you as sinister, but remember, organisations like the Boys' Brigade and the Boy Scouts in Britain also had imperial and militaristic overtones. Religiously-oriented camps are also not uncommon, particularly in North America. If the camp does have some kind of distinctive ideology or ethos, it’s important to think in advance about whether it’s going to make you uncomfortable.
When you apply to large camp organisations, there will usually be a spot on the application form where you can indicate how you feel about, for example, faith-based camps. If you’re not comfortable with it, it’s fine. Just say that on the application form, and you shouldn’t be offered a position at those types of camp. If you are, you can always say no.
Camp Associations And CertificationIf you want to be absolutely certain that you’re going to work in a camp that is well run and has proper procedures for everything, your best option is to look for camps or camp organisations which are certified by the local camp association. In most countries, there is an association which creates standards for the summer camp industry as a whole. In the USA; for example, it is the American Camping Association (ACA). Not all camps will be certified. In fact, most may not be, and while there are undoubtedly good camps which are not certified, certification does give both parents and prospective counsellors greater assurance that the camp will deliver a quality experience to all concerned.
The web page of a camp organisation should be your jumping off point for finding out more about it. Almost all contain glowing testimonials from former attendees of the “I had a great time” variety. Of course, not much can be gleaned from these as you have no way of telling whether they are for real or not. More useful, if it exists, will be the website’s forum. There you will be able to interact with people who have really been there, ask them probing questions and learn what their experiences were like.