A Day in the Life of a Summer Camp USA Counsellor

Have you ever considered being a Camp Counsellor at Summer Camp? A 9 to 5 job, this ain’t!

Rise for 7.30am, and finish the working day at 9pm. Sound brutal? How about if I tell you that your entire time is spent on the shores of a beautiful lake, teaching an activity that you’re passionate about to eager American kids, with the best co-workers you’ll possibly ever have?

Introducing Summer Camp USA: the hardest job you’ll ever love!

Group of campers with their faces painted with flags.

A Typical Day at Summer Camp

The day begins to the distant sound of a camper playing the trumpet call, reveille. I fling open the cabin doors, for a face-full of warm sunshine. Within the hour, I’m swept into a stream of new friends, as we head to the flagpole for morning announcements. Announcements could be anything from what’s on the menu, to which kids had passed certificates or levels in classes, and also reveals any special events, like birthdays.

Soon after, I’m tucking into a home-cooked breakfast; seasoned with excited conversation about the day ahead. Waffles and gossip; this is definitely one of my favourite ways to start a day!

All of the Summer Camps in the USA run to individual schedules, honed from years of experience. Camp Counsellors, like me, are typically activity specialists. I’ve done a few different roles, like newspaper counsellor, lifeguarding, and then last year I was in Programming which is organising schedules and events.

While many Camp Counsellors choose to teach the same activity throughout their time at Camp, while some will opt to mix it up a little, and teach a variety.

Summer Camp USA Activity

The activities themselves are set spread out across a wide range of locations; you could be by the lakeside or a playing field, in a dance studio, a rifle range, or even an equestrian trail — the possibilities are endless.

Slip and slide at Summer Camp USA

Most camps run four 50 minute activity periods throughout the morning, with a 10-minute changeover time for the campers to move to their next class.

Lunchtime is preceded by another quick round of announcements, covering everything from certificate-passing in activities to the all-important question: ‘What’s for lunch?’

Lunch itself is a veritable all-you-can-eat feast, usually a camper-friendly main meal with soup, salad and pasta options, and dessert. I promise, you’ll never go hungry at Summer Camp!

Then it’s time to kickback for an hour, spend some time relaxing and taking in some shade after a high-energy morning, before pulling the throttle for an afternoon of activities; it’s typically just three more in the afternoon, followed by a final get together for any announcements.

Evenings at Summer Camp

Evening activities are excellent; you can enjoy everything from campfires to talent shows, or dances, skit nights and musicals. It’s a fun way to get to know people, in a relaxed and encouraging environment.

As the evening activities wraps up, campers will head back to their bunks to get showered and ready for bed, and at around 9pm ‘Taps’ plays out to signal lights-out. Depending on the camp and the age of the campers, there will usually be a period of ‘flashlight time’ when campers can read, write letters home and wind-down before hitting the pillow.

Camps vary massively with regards to time-off for counsellors, but generally the counsellors are split into ‘staffs’; one ‘staff’ will always cover the bunk for the evening, while the other counsellors are free to relax, hang-out and get off camp.

Lakeside campsite at Summer Camp

Most camps run these regular schedule days 5 days a week with Trip Days, Colour Wars, Blue and White Days and Olympics interspersed. (Feel like you just stopped understanding English? A few days in, you’ll be speaking fluent ‘camp’!)

To keep things interesting for the campers — and counsellors — camps run special events, theme-days of friendly competition so it’s hard for summer camp to get stale; one minute you could be teaching football, the next a helicopter might have appeared in the sky with The Joker leaning out, signalling the start of Olympics!

That’s the best thing about summer camp; just when you think things couldn’t get better… they do!

Today’s feature was written by Tace Bleasby who took part in her most recent Summer Camp from June 2011, when she visited Maine to work as their Assistant Program Director. Here’s a link to find out more about Working in the USA

Are you considering Summer Camp, or perhaps you’ve spent a summer over in the USA as a camp counsellor? How was it for you — do you have any experiences that you’d like to share with our readers?