I always knew that I wanted to do a J1 at least once during my summers in college but had never really considered the summer camp alternative. I then heard about the USIT Camp USA programme and decided to look into it- mostly for the reason that it seemed easier to organise than the typical J1! I went to the job fair in Dublin last January not really knowing what type of camp I was looking for. At the fair, I found a stand for an organisation called The Fresh Air Fund based in upstate New York- a non-profit organisation that organises sleepaway camps for kids from New York City. After my interview, I was offered a job straight away as a lifeguard/swim teacher. My summer was sorted!
The camp I was working at was in a small town called Fishkill, New York. It was about a 2-hour journey from Manhattan. The camp was for boys between the ages of 9 and 12, all from New York City, and they would come for 12 days at a time. Staying in wooden cabins was surely a culture shock at first but I quickly adapted to the peacefulness of living in a forest beside a lake with some of the best people I’ve ever met.
As a lifeguard, I spent nearly all day every day by a lake or in the water. The kids would come down for about 45 minutes at a time in groups, according to their villages (i.e. the age group they were living with). They’d have a swimming lesson during the day or a free swim in the evening. For a lot of these boys, this was the only opportunity they had before in their lives to learn how to swim, so I loved being able to give them that opportunity and see how happy they became when they had progressed up to the deeper section or were originally terrified to get into the water and were now able to blow bubbles in the water.
When I wasn’t at the waterfront, I was usually acting as a general camp counselor with the kids from my own village- 10-year-old boys. In my cabin, there were 12 campers, myself and 3 other camp counselors. Every night before bed, we played card games on the cabin porch and then usually told the boys some bedtime story to get them to sleep. Usually, after the kids got to sleep, we would stay up and chat for a while.
We got every second weekend off when we spent it in different places like Long Island and New York City with the staff from the camp. As we were spending so much time together, everyone bonded so quickly and it’s great to know that I’ve friends living all over the world now. We got a day off and a night off every week where we usually spent it at the local waterpark, at the local mall or the most exciting one, at Walmart. Although it seems like very long hours we were working on the camp, it usually didn’t even feel like a job. The days flew by and so did the entire summer. Time flies when you’re having fun!
After two months at camp, I spent two weeks travelling before I flew home. I got the chance to go to Chicago, Washington DC, New York, Boston and Cape Cod. After a number of rooftop bars, a free Khalid concert, numerous iced coffees, a 12-hour train journey and an unexpected stop off in Atlantic City Airport, to say I had a memorable two weeks travelling would be an understatement. When it came to the time to fly home to the reality of final year and the Irish weather and leave behind the summer of a lifetime, I was feeling quite nostalgic, but I will always have the memories of my time at Camp! Plus I may even go back this summer!
Want to have a Summer as unforgettable as Lauras?
Begin your Camp USA adventure for Summer 2020 here!