Hey! I’m Aaron and I am the Northern Marketing Representative for CCUSA! My job involved mainly traveling around lots of Universities and talking about nothing but camp! I loved my job, sharing all of my camp stories and memories – but it also gave me some serious camp blues and just made me want to get back to camp ASAP!
My camp experience started way back (still feels like yesterday) in January 2014 at the CCUSA Camp Directors fair in London; where I was hired as a lifeguard by a small camp called Camp Herrlich. Camp Herrlich is primarily an underprivileged camp for children from the 5 boroughs of New York City. I hadn’t planned to get hired by Herrlich – I did my research on every camp before the fair, but I’ll admit, they weren’t my first choice. After talking to a few of the leadership team at the fair, I started to really like what the camp’s philosophy was and also the staff of which I was talking to! So before I knew it, I was walking away with a job and feeling pretty pleased with myself. Now even though Herrlich were not my first choice – it is hands down one of the best decisions I have made to start working here.
Herrlich itself is located about 100 miles north of NYC, which makes for some awesome days and weekends off where we can just ‘pop’ into the city! I still remember my first night in the States when I stayed in the International Hostel. That evening I went with a few people from the Hostel to Times Square for the first time. We walked up the stairs from the Metro and you are completely taken back by the lights and the sheer size of the buildings! I strongly recommend you go and see it for yourself if you can, especially at night!
My role at camp has changed over the 3 summers; starting as out as a lifeguard, then moving to be the Head Boys Counselor and this year returning for my 4th summer as the Resident Camp Program Director. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time working on the beach every day, but having flexibility and helping in a different activity or role every day is hands down better. One morning I could be helping down at the High Wall, and in the afternoon I’ll be hosting a killer Day Camp DJ Party.
At many of my information meetings/presentations I host at Universities, I often get asked ‘what’s my favourite thing about camp?’ Easy, the evening activities! At Herrlich, after 5PM all of the ‘day-campers’ went home and it was just the resident staff and kids on property, which made it a little more relaxed with only around 70 kids to look after (instead of up to 300)! We had evening activities such as Fashion Show, Counselor Hunt and the prestigious DJ Party! But my favourite of all was Murder Mystery. It’s one giant game of Cluedo. A group of staff members are given a script and a character that they have to act out. Each cabin will then take it in turns to interrogate (or it felt like it) you with questions of how the murder took place and how you knew the victim. It was great fun acting as a clumsy mob boy on a huge ship one week, or as an arrogant football player who was jealous of their rival the next! The killer was then revealed the next morning at breakfast from a short video of how it happened – chaos shortly followed the unveiling with cheering and also disarray of campers finding out their counselor is a murderer. I remember being the killer once – the kids really did judge me and thought I killed Ben from Day Camp; even if he was stood next to me…
The thing I miss most about camp, as well as the people, the kids, the camp property and all the activities; it’s also the weather! Working in 30 degree heat all day everyday just makes everything 1000 times better! Everyone is in a better mood and you also get a killer tan! Also, the best part about being a lifeguard and working on the beach for 2 years is that EVERYONE gets jealous that you don’t have dreaded sock tan! You may think, ‘but it’s also summer in the UK, what are you talking about!?’; well that’s true, but from what I can remember a British summer only lasted about a week until It got stopped being sunny and ‘summery’. Whereas in the US its 3 straight months of sun and heat. So the weather is probably up there, among other things, as one of my favourite parts about working at an American Summer Camp.
The biggest piece of advice I would give someone going to camp for the first time is expect the unexpected and be prepared to embarrass yourself! I had no idea what to expect when I first arrived at camp, but I quickly learnt that it wasn’t a place to be shy and introvert. We have a saying at camp that is; ‘You only get out what you put in’. This is 100% true and it’s a saying I go by to this day. The more involved I was in the activities, the more I enjoyed myself and the more I loved being at camp. Before you know it you’ll be walking down a fashion show catwalk in costumes made out of bin bags, paper plates and cardboard, AND LOVING IT. So don’t be afraid, just get out there and embrace the experience and opportunity that you have!
You’ll also learn that s’mores are one of the greatest things on earth! Get a good campfire going, toast your marshmallow to your liking, put it together with some chocolate and graham crackers and you’ll be in heaven! The chocolate may not be Cadbury’s but is still pretty good! S’mores are by far the best camp food that you will have; BUT when the kids are not on property, the Chef and kitchen crew are always able to whip up something far better than the same mundane camp menu, so look forward to that!
Now here’s the best bit about working at a summer camp with CCUSA, you can travel for up to 30 days and go anywhere in the US! My number one traveling tip would be to PLAN. It may seem obvious but make sure you have a day-by-day plan of where you want to go and what you are doing on each day! I had a ‘travel folder’ with all of my boarding passes, key dates and hostel addresses. It’s best to stay organised and prepared so you don’t waste precious traveling time, or miss your flight... Also, budget yourself! You don’t want to be halfway through traveling and only have $50 left to spend, it’s no fun living off bread rolls and slushies – believe me.
Personally, I haven’t traveled anywhere near as much as I would have liked, both because of finances and also University/work commitments. But as for where you should travel in your 30 period I have a couple of recommendations. NYC is a must, if you can stay in the hostel like I did before traveling to camp, then do it! Also I was a big fan of Miami and Washington DC. But one place that eluded me is the Grand Canyon. I have never been to the West Coast, but if I ever will or could, I would go straight there…followed by Las Vegas.
It’s hard to pick just one funny moment from camp; but one of the funniest and most embarrassing moments is one that not many people know about. I was on the basketball court doing my best Lebron James impression, all was going well until I decided to be Aaron from camp again. I somehow managed to knee the ball straight into my face! Everything went flying, hat, glasses and walkie-talkie scattered across the court like a crime scene. I still don’t know why I was looking down at the ball when kneeing it straight up towards my face, but it was pretty funny for the couple of people who saw! I eventually got up after crawling around in both pain and shame! I have also created a ‘Love is an Open Door’ music video in a blonde wig and a make-shift crop top for our Premier Night. The less said about that the better, it still haunts me. But the kids enjoy laughing at me for it so it’s not that bad!
I hope your summer camp experience will be as good as mine!