What’s up (get used to that phrase, as American’s LOVE IT)! I’m Dunc, and I am the UK Director for CCUSA, which means I get to oversee all the programs and everything associated with them, which includes some fun stuff and then also some not so fun but serious stuff!
I first went to camp when I was an 18 years old and haven’t looked back since, so you could say it is in my blood, as I haven’t worked in any other industry since that first summer many years ago. CCUSA placed me at America’s BEST and most amazing camp called Camp Wah-Nee (Connecticut) which I attended for 8 summers – when we say we will place you at the perfect camp, I can speak with hand on heart to back this up as this truly was the PERFECT camp for me!!! I have also worked in a couple of other camps associated with CCUSA, in South Korea at a winter camp which was a trial camp, and then for the past 7 summers working at CCUSA’s very own American style International Summer Camp in Croatia called Camp California.
I had a few different roles at Camp Wah-Nee, as I started off as a specialist counselor in my first 2 summers, then I was a General Counselor for my 3rd, before being a Group Leader for my remaining 5 summers at camp. In South Korea I was a General Counselor, and in Camp California I help lead a Teenage Program for Water Sports.
The whole concept of summer camp is AMAZING – I mean what could be better than doing what you love, in the sun, working in great surroundings, and with the most amazing people that share the same outlook on life as you – it is paradise? So, favourite thing about camp – I should technically say meeting my wife at camp, but I feel this is too cliché, so I have to say that it is being accepted and welcomed into your second family/summer family. The people you meet at camp WILL become your new best friend’s for life (you might even meet your future partner there …. BONUS), so it really is a life changing experience. However, these friends won’t just be people your own age, these will be from the kids in your bunk/who you teach, right up to the senior management at camp who will become your new summer Mum and Dad. The diversity of the staff at camp will have a huge impact also, learning new cultures not just from the campers, but from your fellow counselors from around the world like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, South America, and Europe as well America … the list goes on. The great thing about this, is now you have friends from ALL over the world, so if you do go traveling around the world afterwards, you have friends to pop and say hi to, and even couch surf if staying with them! J
The biggest surprise you will find is the attachment you have with EVERYONE at camp, you become part of this new camp family. You will MISS everyone when camp comes to an end, especially the kids from your bunk and the co-counselors and come the last day of camp, there will be tears – not just from the kids who have to go back to doing chores at home, but from YOU also, because you WILL miss camp when you have to return to normality and leave the camp bubble that has just given the BEST summer EVER! Yes, you may be sitting there thinking ‘that is NOT going to happen to me’, but let me tell you, it will happen, as you might never see these guys again – hopefully you will by returning the following summer to reunite with your summer family once again.
When you first arrive at camp, you WILL feel nervous and apprehensive, I mean you have just traveled thousands of miles not knowing anyone, and your comfort blanket of home/family is nowhere to be seen, but DO NOT worry, just take a deep breath and remember you are about to experience the BEST summer EVER. Just remember when you arrived at University or started a new job for the first time, it is new and different, so make sure you arrive at camp WITHOUT any expectations, as this is going to be completely new to you. Over the first few days of pre camp or camp orientation, you are going to meet friends, find out how camp works, rules and regulations, set up your specific teaching areas, settle and make your area in your bunk as homely as possible, meet more friends … you WILL be ready for when the kids coming running off the buses by the end of the week. It is daunting though, but if you are feeling a little homesick or wondering what you have let yourself in for, give it time and get INVOLVED in everything, speak to EVERYONE, and will you fit into your new family like a perfect glove!
Camp will throw so many new things at you and potentially put you out of your comfort zone, but just get involved – you don’t want to be known as the person who just sits on the side lines and doesn’t get all those ‘high fives’ from the kids who thought you were amazing in that show or activity. I could rattle of my favourite activities from camp but we would be here all day as I love my sports and anything different, but pretty much every camp will have some kind of ‘ALL camp’ activity known as Colour War or Camp Olympics, but my camps Colour War brought the definition of ‘INSANE’ to a whole new level for me. At my camp, Colour War was a 5 day schedule where everyone on camp was split into 2 teams – the white team and the red team (camp colours), but colour war was ‘broken’ by an amazing show unknown to everyone on camp apart from a few who led each team – this could from a celebrity turning up at camp, staff jumping out of a plane and parachuting into camp, fireworks, red Indians riding through camp on horseback, local fire engines with sirens blazing turning up at camp going through camp. Over these 5 days, the two teams (counselors and campers) would compete against each other in every activity you could possibly thing of – Sports, Lyp Sync, One act plays, relay races, tug of war, Dance Off, Art competitions, set designs, speeches … the list goes on. Every activity is worth points, and then at the end of the 5 days after the final sign off, the winning team is announced. It is intense, it is fun, and yes there is one winning team, but afterwards everyone reunites as one family again.
If you haven’t been to camp before, you are probably thinking what do I need to pack, and to be honest the best source to go to is people who have already been to camp before, so make sure you join the staff Facebook page to ask this very question, as every camp is different. However, a few things to 100% take include 1) 1 set of good clothes (dress for girls and shirt/chino’s for boys) as you will find your camp will have a banquet/awards ceremony where everyone dresses up, 2) torch or flash light, as you will need this whilst being ‘on-duty’ at night and getting around your bunk in the middle of night when the kids all fast asleep (hopefully), and 3) Rain jacket – yes it is going to be hot and sunny, but there will be the odd occasional shower or storm at camp, and you still need to be moving around, so pack that rain jacket or you will look like a drowned rat!
When you are on camp, you will be a celebrity, especially to your kids in the bunk – I mean the kids hear the American accent all the time, so when someone turns up with a different accent they automatically love it. Now the kids usually believe anything you tell them, so be careful what you say to them. My first year at camp, I had another counselor from the UK in my bunk, and he was returning for his 3 year, and he said to me on the first night you will need to introduce yourself and give them an interesting fact about yourself, and I couldn’t really think of one, so he said let’s make something up that is really bizarre. We came up with a little ‘white lie’ that I was the World Record Holder for the most ‘keep me ups (football keep me ups) with an orange whilst standing in a shower cubicle’, and as you can imagine the kids were amazed. However, little did I know that a few (not just one but a few) had written home to their parents telling them about their counselor from England who was a world record holder, and on visiting day (my camp was just one 8 week session, so the kids were there the entire summer) in the middle of the summer when parents/families came to visit their kids at camp for the day, several of the families brought their video cameras wanting film me doing my ‘keep me ups with an orange whilst standing in a shower cubicle’ ….. which I naturally obliged! :D
Remember you get your 30 day grace period after camp to travel, and this is something I would 100% recommend taking advantage of. If you were like me prior to going to camp, that you wouldn’t travel as you didn’t know anyone and didn’t want to travel by yourself, but remember you will meet your new best friends for life at camp, and I GUARANTEE by 5 weeks into camp you will have about 3 different travel options with friends – from road trip to Miami, few days in Boston, hit Las Vegas etc etc. HOWEVER, one thing to 100% jump on is if one of your American counselor friends invites you back to stay with them in their home town. Not only will you experience the true American home life, but you will get free accommodation, food, get your laundry done etc, so not only do you see home life but you also save money. Now one step further, if your American friends invite you to come to their college/Uni ….. HELL YEAH … …. You 110% need to jump on that, and experience College life American style ….we are talking Frat/Sorority Parties, HUGE campuses, American Football College games with tail-gating at 6am with around 60,000 people there. You will love it, and with your quaint British accent on campus, everyone will want to speak to you and ask you if you know the queen!