It was your average cloudy Sunday afternoon in Wales. The thought of going back to my Monday - Friday job in the same routine was depressing, so I found myself uploading an Application Form to Camp Leaders in the hope of getting a summer job, working on a Camp in America. The process was long and tedious; I had a lot to do from applying for a police background check to getting a medical form sorted. However Camp Leaders were behind me 100% and made the process a lot easier; I definitely advise going through this Organisation. Looking back on it I ask myself one question “was it worth it?”. When the answer is a resounding yes and it brings a cheeky smile to my face I know it was worth it!
After a successful interview I was offered a job as a Cabin & Activity Counsellor at Camp Carolina. Once I knew I was going I could not contain my excitement! Before I knew it, it was May and I had quit my job and I was about to board the plane to North Carolina, USA. The thought of the unknown was scary but deep down I knew I had to do this. I would be lying if I said I didn't have nerves and the thought of not seeing my family and friends for 4 months was hard but they kept encouraging me to go.
Arriving at Camp
When I arrived I found myself unpacking my bags in an empty wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere. I looked down at my phone and saw I had no signal or internet connection and it was the only time in my life I truly felt alone. The first meal at camp was an experience that I will always remember. The noise was one which echoed and left a buzzing in my ears. You could tell groups of friendships had already formed and I felt like I was in the loneliest place of all. There were people in the same boat as me and after a few awkward minutes I found myself interacting with them. The next couple of days were a lot easier and I soon found myself making new friends who have turned into life-long friends. Words can’t describe the bonds you make with certain people at Camp because you are around them 24/7 and you have to be a social person because you get very limited time to yourself.
Pre-season was the time to knuckle down and learn the certain skills that were needed to work with the children - talk about information overload! It’s hard to pay attention when you’re tired because the lack of sleep takes its toll and the days were long which didn’t help. Part of my contract involved me learning to be a White Water Rafting guide, this was the hardest but one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Words can’t describe the thrill you get finding yourself half way down a river hitting the gigantic waves of the dangerous white water. If you haven't tried it you honestly don’t know what you are missing. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that was presented to me by Camp Carolina. It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, as the 6.30AM wake up calls were not the best along with the 10 hour days. On the plus side I believe this prepared me for the tough summer ahead.
Just before the First Session I was told what tribe I was going to be in and as a group we began to bond even more. It was then I realized I was around such an excellent group of people. I had only just met them and they were already helping me through the experience and I was helping them. It felt like I had known these people all my life and already I regarded some of them as my best mates!
First Session at Camp
The First session arrived so quickly and there I was coaching team sports to a variety of children of all age groups. Every day was different and, of course, like any job you have to be able to adapt to certain situations that might arise, for example some days the children would be difficult but I can truly say that I never once had a serious problem with any child. My role would change at night and I found myself doing a range of different activities from reading to the children, telling a story about an experience I had in my home Country or even playing card games. It was such a varied role working at Camp and I had to take the rough with the smooth. If I didn’t like an activity we were doing as a tribe, I had to smile and get on with it for the children’s sake.
First Session for me was a massive learning curve, you are still getting used to certain people at Camp, the long days and even the food. Getting a reward for my hard work in the first week off my Head Counselor was a highlight in my Camp Experience. It’s always nice to get high five or even a pat on the back especially when someone notices the hard work you have put in! This spurred me on and gave me the energy I needed to have a successful time at Camp.
As we made our way into the Main Session which was when Camp was at its fullest, Camp became hectic. The work load seemed to double but so did the enjoyment factor. For me this Is what I had looked forward to for such a long time and by this point I didn't want my experience to end. I found myself acting more like a kid and I could notice the smiles on the children's faces more. I felt this was me at my best as I was used to the sleeping conditions now and the Camp routine which I think helped me to perform at my best. At the end of this session I got to read some of the comments the children left behind and this brought a tear to my eye. As quick as it started it ended; Main Session 2013 was over and done with!
Third Session was upon us and I often wondered where all the time had gone. I noticed that some staff started to slack a little and the tiredness did creep in. By then I had made some really close friends and a simple chat with a hug could solve the problem and bring you back to normal. This is where I realized you had to be a strong willed person to succeed, this job is not for the faint hearted.
Looking back the facilities at Camp were incredible, nothing like you would find back in the UK. Right from the water front down to the skate park and up to the golf range, it is a truly breath taking place. So many of the older children were talented in a lot of areas and I believe this is due to the skilled staff that have been hired over the years at Camp Carolina. It was an amazing feeling to play a part in a young child's development. When you see a child cry at the end of a session because he doesn’t want to go home you know you have done a great job. Getting to meet the parents at the end of each session was also amazing and you could tell they were so grateful for your hard work.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity that Camp Carolina have given to me. After a tough start to Camp I often thought I was going to give up but if anything I think I excelled. If you are thinking of applying to work at a Summer Camp the chances are you have already convinced yourself you want to go. Just remember; it’s a job not a holiday, your leave from Camp is your time to act silly. While at Camp be the best you can be. Never take yourself seriously because everyone there is there to have a laugh. The laughs for me helped me get through the experience. For me it was the best feeling yet to have had an impact on a child’s life. “Would I go back and do it all again?!” YES!!
This article was contributed by camp counselor Robert Reid from Wales.
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