This year marks 5 years since the best summer of my life and from when the travel bug bit!
At the start of 2010 having broken up with my boyfriend (such a cliche i know but it seems to be the best motivation!) i knew i wanted to do something fun this coming summer.
Making the Decision.
I looked online at working abroad, Australia was somewhere i wanted to go but at 20 years old and not knowing anyone who had been it seemed very far away and daunting. Then i saw the option of working at a summer camp in America for roughly 3 months and got the chance to travel afterwards!
Growing up with films like Parent Trap the idea of American summer camp seemed so fun and after spending years watching American TV shows it seemed like a dream to be able to visit. I’d been working full time for over a year so with some money saved my impulsive side came into action and i decided to apply!
The application process.
In January i filled in my online application on the Camp Leaders site who are an agency like Camp America (i can’t remember now why i chose this company over the other but either way both do the same thing). I didn’t have much experience teaching children or in any particular sports but i had done my Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh while in school and had ridden horses since i was 7 so i mainly talked about this and the skills i had learnt from these things.
I don’t think i expected to get anywhere and my mum thought of it as ‘another one of my crazy ideas’ (5 years on and she’s now used to these crazy ideas!). A few weeks later i had a face to face interview with a girl who lived in my area and had worked at a camp for the last 2 years, although every camp is different she told me things to expect, her experiences and basically wanted to check i was a sane normal girl.
The interview went well so the next step of the application is for your profile to go online for camp directors to see, they then contact you if they like you and will ask questions or offer a place. I was checking my emails every morning on my laptop (before the days of iPhones) and one morning mid February i had an email from Camp Greystone, they wanted me to join their horse riding program. I would have horses to look after and be teaching English and Western style riding to the campers whose ages will range from 8-16. This sounded better than what i could have imagined and the camp looked great on their website so i accepted!
Heading to America!
The end of May came around quickly and before i knew it it was time for these dreams to become reality!
A Facebook group had been created so all of us girls who would be working and living together could chat, arrange to meet at the airport and talk about what clothes we would bring!
Before leaving i started to get nervous- would i like it, what would the other girls be like, what if i had forgotten how to horse ride but despite this i was really excited and me and my friends had a big American themed party before i left!
The flights were arranged by the company we booked with, two other girls had also booked through Camp Leaders so we all met at Heathrow and boarded my first non-european flight for Detroit and then onto a small airport in North Carolina, followed by a short journey to Camp Greystone where i spent the next 3 months.
Time to work!
As i mentioned all camps are different, Camp Greystone was a well established camp where the children’s parents pay a lot for them to attend, other’s may be for lower-income families and therefore have fewer facilities. The one thing all will have in common is that you do have to work! As part of the program you will get paid to work (although not much), the days will be long and hard as you constantly have to be happy and full of energy for the campers and in most cases you will rarely have a day off as camp is a full time thing. Due to the weather being so good most activities will be taken outside and for us with very high humidity this took some getting used to but after a few weeks we adapted and gained some very dodgy tan lines! If you have a horse you know how hard they are to look after, my job not only involved taking the campers out on rides but cleaning the stables, feeding and cleaning the horses, painting jumps and so much more!
Meeting new friends.
I didn’t live with the campers in a cabin which is usually what the role through these agencies entails, instead i lived in a house with 15 other girls from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US ranging from ages 18-21 and it was as crazy as it sounds (!!) but through our love for horses and wanting to do something different this summer we all got on really well, we kept each other up when we were having a hard day (for most of us it was our first time away from home), we made each other laugh so much and without them it wouldn’t have been the same amazing experience, we met up a a few times after camp at home and I’ve met a few of them years later in Australia and New Zealand and remain in contact with them!
The other friends i made were the amazing horses and ponies we looked after and i legit cried when i said bye to them!
Camp wasn’t all work though, we got to ride our horses before camp started and after it had finished. We took weekly trips to Walmart (more fun than it sounds!), go out for a big american dinner, go for ice cream, to the cinema and lots more!
My camp also had some amazing activities for the campers and in the evenings once we had finished work we were able to use a lot of the facilities too- i tried water skiing for the first time, we had a pool we could go in, a lake and lake slide we could use,a gym and a running track (which we didn’t use as much as we said we would), we could go kayaking and even got some of the guy counsellors to let us on the ropes course when we should have been working and our manager saw (oops)!
As well as this the camp did nightly activities, because i wasn’t a cabin counsellor i didn’t have to join in but we all made an effort to go to the talent shows which were great to watch and we took part in the counsellor talent show by putting together a dance routine and re-creating one of Abba’s songs to fit in with our horse riding theme!
We also enjoyed a true American 4th of July, celebrated Christmas in July (soo american) and had fun at the carnivals.
Travel After Camp.
To be honest travelling after camp was one of the things that made me want to work at a summer camp from the start! If i had initially booked flights around the US to travel it would have been so intimidating but after living there for 3 months and meeting some great friends, a few of us made plans to travel together.
We got a flight down to Miami where we spent a week partying (although only in the hostel as we weren’t 21!) and sunbathing on the famous South Beach, then we went to New York and had the best 4 days.. because New York truly is the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, and then because i knew i couldn’t go to America and not go to LA and with the other girls not being able to go i headed to LA on my own for a week. This was my first time travelling solo, i was worried but having travelled with friends before it gave me the confidence i needed and of course after nearly 4 months i knew America wasn’t a completely different country than to what i was used to.
The great thing about travelling at that time of year as well (september) is that you meet lots of other people who have worked at a summer camp the same as you and i got to share and hear some other experiences which was great!
The agreement with the agencies is that you pay a certain amount (currently £549 with Camp Leaders and £599 with Camp America) and this payment is paid in stages, a small amount to initially apply, a bit more once your face to face interview goes well and your application goes live and the rest once you have had a place confirmed and this covers your flights, insurance, help from the agency.
As i said once you are there you also get paid, of course it’s not a huge amount as they cover your accommodation, food and drink (you barely have to spend any money while your there) but from what i can remember i figured that what i paid out initially is what i got paid back and what i used to fund my travel afterwards!
Overall i LOVED my Summer working at a camp in America- i felt i got to know the country well, lived in beautiful surroundings for 3 months and if you haven’t travelled before it’s a great way to start because everything is arranged for you and while in the US you know you can contact the agency you booked with if anything goes wrong, it doesn’t cost much considering you’ll get paid once you’re there, it gives you the chance to meet like-minded people from all over the world and is certainly going to get the travel bug going!
Have you done spent a summer at a camp in America??
If you have any questions on my experience please ask!