I realised about half way through Year 13 that I wasn’t ready to study at University and heard so many amazing stories of people camp experiences and knew I wanted to travel.
After reading into how Camp America works I knew it was the perfect opportunity to travel, meet new friends and also learn a lot too!
Honestly I was pretty quickly convinced from all the reviews and photos online! I filled in an early bird application almost as soon as they were issued in 2018. I just knew I wanted to go and was so super eager to get the process started as soon as I could.
Camp America was an obvious choice for me as it is what most kiwis had used to work at camp as far as I knew. The website was so informative and easy to navigate too. Everyone who I made contact with too was also so super helpful and keen to help me out – I knew I was in the right place.
Crazily enough, I never really got nervous. I think I was just so excited there wasn’t even any room for nerves to take over. I never once doubted my decision. I think I was more nervous about the airport process, security etc.
But the Camp America website has all the resources and tips you need to make sure you have everything you need and be well prepared!
When I arrived in Nashville, other counsellors picked me up so I was immediately warmly welcomed and felt super comfortable. I spent my afternoon filling out payroll info etc. and then was toured around camp. I got a couple days to rest before we started staff training and everyday international counsellors were arriving from all over the world. It was so easy to make friends because we were all in the same boat and kind of latched onto each other for support!
I was a general counsellor. So I was doing everything from teaching rock climbing, zip lining, dance and drama, archery and even nature and survival. Aside from general camp activities I also had to plan cabin activities with my girls which could be anything from throwing watermelon off the climbing tower to going banana boating on the lake! Very quickly you realise you are basically parenting a bunch of kiddos who look up to you and want nothing but an amazing summer. I was with them 24/7 from the moment we woke up, every meal time and then going to bed. You also find yourself doing wacky crazy things on stage purely for their entertainment but at camp there is absolutely NO SHAME. There’s almost nothing that can embarrass you, you’ve just got to embrace it!
At my camp, every Friday we held a candlelight service which was a time for reflection and sharing your favourite memories of the week. This was always so sentimental for me as the kids get super emotional and don’t want to leave you. It makes you realise that some of the smallest and silliest things you did for them actually meant the world to them. It also makes you realise that some of them will genuinely remember you forever and really cherish those memories.
I also loved being able to jump up and sing and dance in front of everyone. The amount of confidence you grow so quickly is crazy. I turned up to camp thinking I was a fairly outgoing and confident person but never in a million years would have sung in front of a crowd willingly. But by the second week it was just like second nature to me.
Halfway through camp I was actually asked to step up to a leadership role as one of our staff members was unwell. This was one of the best opportunities I got given as I had to work at late notice under pressure and as a first year counsellor too! I learnt about the importance of planning and organising activities that everyone could enjoy and could actually work out well. I also learnt how leadership doesn’t just mean you do everything. Utilise your resources! There’s always people to help out, you don’t need to carry all the weight on your shoulders.
I think what I mentioned above I was definitely most proud of! Being a counsellor certainly isn’t easy and sometimes you feel like you’re not getting recognised for your work but when my boss asked me to step up to a higher role I felt super proud because I realised he actually saw something in me. At times I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough, but we’d make it through and have heaps of fun while doing it!
As a counsellor, your kids confide in you. I had some kids open up to me about some really heavy topics and experiences that they were dealing with that were actually really upsetting. It was hard to take in sometimes, and often you were left feeling a little lost for words but I think I learnt that you don’t have to fix everything; you just have to be there to listen and support them when they need it. It is genuinely a very rewarding thing to have these kids see you as enough of a support system that they want to tell you these things.
I think Camp America is simply an experience you just cannot get anywhere else! It is so challenging but equally as rewarding. You leave as a different person, but better in every way. I can’t think of any other job where you can have so much fun and also get paid!