Camp America: The Summer of a lifetime
By Emma Tattum, Egwyl Editor
It’s that time of year again! The Camp America application process is here!
Fancy spending your summer in America? It’s a lot easier and cheaper to do than you think! Camp America is a company that helps you with your application to work at a summer camp in the USA. The application process does take a lot of time and patience but, it’s worth every minute. I was placed at a camp in Oklahoma and I had the most amazing summer but, leading up to my departure date, I had so many questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’ve put together some key information, advice and top tips so ensure that the lead up to your summer goes smoothly.
My placement process happened all online. Although the application may seem long, stick at it! Because it’s all vital information that will play a massive part in getting you placed in America. Once your application is complete, you’ll be sent a list of local interviewers to choose from and a date. This interview is your chance to prove yourself as a worth applicant. The interview is around 30-45 minutes and you’ll be asked questions such as, ‘As a member of staff, what would you do if a child was homesick?’ and ‘Why do you want to do Camp America?.’ In the build up to my interview, I was really nervous but, from the second I arrived, I was put at ease and it felt just like a chat. Most interviewers have been through the CA programme themselves so they know what it feels like. You’ll know by the end of the interview whether or not you’ve been accepted and the excitement starts then! After that, you just follow the step-by-step messages that CA will send to you and then you can look forward to your departure date.
- You must be at least 18 years old before June 1st
- Available from May 1st– June 20th
- You must pass the relevant police checks
- It is a requirement to get your GP to complete a medical form
- You WILL need a J-1 visa, which means going to the US embassy and filling out online forms.
What to put on your application
When camps are looking thorough your profile, they look for skills before they look at anything else. Make sure that you write as much as you can whether you’re a media student, in full time work or just left college, everyone has some sort of skills so, this is your chance to show yourself off. I added images and a video to my application and it was a really good way of showing off your personality to camps. You will be asked to chose from a list of camp preferences, these are: Private Camps, Day Camp, Single Sex Camps, Girl Scouts, underprivileged Camps, special needs, Jewish and Christian camps. Be honest with your choices. I know from experience that when you’re filling out your application the excitement can take over but, slow down and think first. Try to be flexible with dates. You will be asked to chose a start and end date that you will be available from. All camps work on different schedules but, the earlier you’re free, the better your application will look to camps.
What to Pack
This is the part that I really struggled with. I kept saying ‘“I’ve got a few weeks left yet I’m fine’ and then it came to only having two days left! [Tip: Don’t leave packing until the last minute!] You really don’t need to pack much at all. At some point you’ll all make Wal-Mart or Target trips to get the essentials so, you can always pick up stuff once your across the pond. Here’s a quick checklist of what you should take with you:
- T-Shirts – You’ll go through so many of these at camp. You will be given your official camp shirts but, it’s always good to have a few spares and they don’t take up much room in your case.
- Messy Clothes – A really cheap outfit, I bought a couple of cheap shorts and t-shirts for around £10. Don’t buy something expensive because they WILL get destroyed on Mud Runs and Colour Wars!
- Trainers – These are VITAL around camp. You’ll be on your feet for pretty much most of the day so, make sure they’re comfortable and take at least two pairs, including one that you don’t mind getting muddy.
- Shorts – and lot’s of them! I stupidly took 3 pairs of jeans and only wore them once and that was on the way home! Most camps will have a restriction on the types of shorts you can wear, so just ensure that they’re not too short.
- Flip Flops – these will be needed for the pool or lake at camp. Only bring 1 pair from home, they’re really cheap to pick up from Wal-Mart.
- Rain Coat – believe it or not, it does rain at camp! Something I learnt the hard way! Either bring one with you or again, pick one up from a store when you get there.
- Nice Clothes – All camps work on different schedules, at mine, we had most of the weekend off so, we all went out. So, take some weekend clothes, you’ll be glad to be free of Camp clothes for a couple of days!
- Sleeping Bag – it does take up a lot of room but it is definitely worth it. Even if your camp supplies bedding or you were planning on buying it when you’re out there, I would definitely recommend you take one with you. It comes in handy when you’re having outdoor movies and game nights too! [Tip: Buy a cheap one and then you can throw it away and save room in your case for your journey home]
- Sunglasses – You WILL need these! No doubt about it. [Tip: Take a pair in your carry on luggage, so you’ll be prepared when you arrive]
- Photos and Home Comforts – At some point, you will miss home and it’s not always easy to make a call home so, it’s really nice to have some photos, letters from home and some comforts to look at if you’re having a down moment. [Tip: British Sweets and Chocolate ALWAYS goes down well with the American staff too]
Some other little things you should take are:
- Travel Adapter, Bug Spray, alarm clock, notebook
- Make sure you have ALL of the relevant documents. You will be sent a list of all the documentation you need to take with you nearer to your departure date. Any letters and documents you get between being placed and your leaving date, Keep them in a file, just in case you’ll need them.
Best thing about working at camp
You can act as out there and as silly as you like and it’s never seen as weird. Getting into camp spirit and forgetting about all your worries back home is what it’s all about. You wake up everyday in the amazing sunshine, take a stroll past the lake and safely know you’re about to have an amazing day. The kids will make you smile so much on a daily basis and although you will have challenging moment, knowing the kids having a great time will make up for those moments. I was asked to say ‘Banana’ and ‘Hamburger’ because apparently my accent sounded really funny! You get to act like a big kid all day everyday and it’s brilliant.
Favourite thing about America
Staff road trips. There are so many places to see and the food is amazing. At my camp, we had from 9am Saturday to 8pm Sunday off so, we made the most of it. We went to pizza restaurants, Shopping, nights out and even a rodeo! You might only get these opportunities so make the most of it.
My Top Tips
- Don’t worry if you feel out of place during orientation week. If this is your first camp experience then it’s very likely that you’re going to have a down moment during the first few days. It’s a new environment, new country and new people but, give it time and you’ll feel at home before you know it.
- Learn to be patient. There will be times when you have 12 kids all screaming at you at once because it’s midnight and they don’t want to go to bed and all you’re thinking is ‘LET EM SLEEP!’ You attitude is very important; you have to remember that although you’re having the best time, you’re ultimately there to work.
- STAY POSITIVE! Every member of camp staff faces difficult moments throughout the summer buy you have to approach everything with a smile. It’s all part of camp life. The positive times will always counteract the tough. Trust Me!
- Book a flexible flight back from the US. This may cost more but, things can change during camp. You might make friends and want to go travelling so, it’s good to be able to have that opportunity there .
If you have any questions about the Camp America programme, feel free to leave a comment or tweet us @EgwylMag. Let us know if you’ve been placed too!