We asked our very own camp veteran Shane about his camp experiences over the past 2 summers, what made him want to go, fall in love with it, camp life in general and everything he has gained from the time there.
My choice to go to camp was very abrupt, a close friend had gone to a Summer Camp in Pennsylvania the Summer before I went, and after hearing her stories I was really interested in the whole experience. She then showed me a video that her camp had posted that showed all the best clips from the Summer. Everyone, from the campers and the staff, looked so happy to be there and I knew then I had to do this programme. That night, I paid my initial deposit and never looked back since! I always knew I wanted to work with young people, so the Camp USA programme was the perfect way for me to do this but also spend my Summer in a healthy and fun environment.
I’ve worked in two different camps. During the Summers of 2017 and 2018, I worked in a small camp in upstate New York that specialised in helping young children with dyslexia with their reading and writing, while also taking part in the various activities. I worked in a larger camp in 2019 which was just about activities, the camp is in Massachusetts. Both camps vary in terms of their philosophy, the amount of staff and the range of activities that are on offer, but they had the similarity that the staff and campers contributed to making my Summer’s as great as they were. It doesn’t really matter what size the camp is, if you have 20 co-counsellors or 200, you’ll still make friends and have a great time!
There is only so much hype that videos of camp and even the American movies can create about the experience. It really is a lived experience; it’s a completely different world when you arrive. You feel like you’ve stepped out into a movie set, the whole place is so relaxed and the picturesque. Even when the campers come, and its so busy and loud you can still take time out of your day to appreciate your surroundings and appreciate the opportunity. Another aspect of camp that exceeded my expectations, is how rapidly you can forge friendships and bonds with other staff members and your campers. From an eight-year-old boy to the fifty-year who works in the admin building, you can talk to just about anyone and about anything! The feeling of belonging is so heavy at camp and really makes the camp into a little wholesome, community. Spending my Summer working in a Summer camp met every single one of my expectations and more.
Summer 2019, I was employed as a General Counsellor, my roles included ensuring that all the campers in my bunk were happy and content with their new environment. I was assigned the seven and eight-year-old boys because this was their first time away from their parents, I had to take extra care to ensure they were settling in and adjusting to their new home. This was a great role as it gave me a great advantage of getting to know my campers so well which makes the job so much easier. In the other camp I taught ceramics five times a day, the groups would rotate, and it was always refreshing to see the different campers come in and have a different perspective of the brief I would provide. It was much easier to get to know all the different campers this way and see their different personalities through the projects they produced.
Camp is very structured but that’s nothing to discourage people, the structure is so helpful! Wake up was roughly 7 am and then we would head to breakfast. Breakfast was always such a great time, there was a lot of energy in the room and always great food! After this, we would return to our bunks for a quick fifteen-minute cleanup session and then everyone would gather in the theatre room for morning announcements. What I loved so much about this was seeing a camper’s face when over six hundred people would sing happy birthday to them, or when they announced the sports scores, but the best part was sing. Sing was essentially karaoke, the songs could range from The Beetles, Oasis, Disney to Lady Gaga, it was the best way to start the day and my favourite part of the day, singing classics with over 600 other people! After that, we would head off to our activities, every day would be different and give us the chance to try out the different activities. The activities could range from being on the water toys, tennis, rock climbing. Arts and crafts and so much more! This was a great way to unwind, get to know the staff running the activities and seeing your campers enjoy themselves! Evening activities were always action-packed and always delivered in the sense of having a good and memorable time! These could range from watching a production from the theatre, lip sync battles, dry paint fights, and even teaching the campers how to play G.A.A. One thing I can guarantee about camp is that you go to sleep satisfied after your day.
I learned a lot about myself in terms of my capabilities. When you’re given the role of a counsellor, you must step up and face it head-on. Throughout my first Summer, I was constantly reassured by my co-counsellors and higher staff that I was doing a good job, this acknowledgment pushed me to do better and be a better counsellor and ultimately, made me realise I was doing a great job in this role. I didn’t always need the reassurance from other people I work with to know I’m doing a great job; I could see it from when my campers wanted to tell me about their day or their desire to walk beside me to and from our activities. You’re given the job of a counsellor and role model for a contracted time but that job doesn’t just go away, from my first Summer, I’ve learned I am capable of not only the role of a Camp Counsellor but any task given to me from the things I’ve learned from Camp.
I think the Camp Experience attracts young people to book onto the programme because it looks action-packed, it’s a job that allows you to work outdoors and then the aspect of travelling afterward, and all of these aspects are credible but you get so much more than that. I noticed a huge change in myself, and each Summer I go over, I come back with a new sense of myself. The best way to captivate it is that it’s an awareness of my own capabilities. I’ve grown so much since my first year stepping onto the plane to chase this experience. I am so much more responsible, confident and approachable. I’m able to approach any day-to-day issues with a calm complexion and find a healthy and rapid method of resolving the issue. These are all tactics that I’ve learned from Camp. Camp really has shaped me as the person I am.
Camp is a big step, a huge step but you won’t regret it. The best advice I can give to someone considering going to camp is that it’s a blind leap of faith, but I can assure you that you’ll be cushioned in your fall. You will have a Camp Director that will look after you, a group of strangers that become your closest friends and a group of children that stare at you with complete awe. You become a part of something bigger than a Summer in Ireland could offer. I think everyone should experience the joys of Camp at least once in their lives!