Five Top Tips For Being A Camp Counsellor

This Summer, I spent eight incredible weeks as camp counsellor in upstate New York. Camps Baco & Che-Na-Wah are set in the Adirondack Mountains and are co-ed, meaning the girls and boys do most things - such as eating, sleeping, and general activities - separately, but mix for events regularly throughout the Summer.

As a first-timer, I didn't fully know what to expect. I went through Camp America, who are excellent at preparing you and answering any queries (check them out), but ultimately, as the UK really has nothing that compares to the US camp experience, if you've never been to one before, it can seem quite daunting!

Having done my Summer in America, here are my top five tips to being the best camp counsellor!

1. Don't think you're too old to embrace everything
As I'm 23, I was one of the oldest camp counsellors and coming from an office job background, I'll admit I went in thinking I would never fit in. I soon realised the kids see all camp counsellors as the same age and nothing gives them more enjoyment than the staff making fools out of themselves. I dressed up as an animal cracker (yes, I know) and performed to the whole camp towards the end, and didn't feel even slightly embarrassed! 

2. Be in the moment
My camp had no signal or wifi at all, except for the occasional bar that would last about a minute if you were lucky. I remember when I found out I'd barely be able to use my phone a couple of months before leaving the UK, I nearly cried. Looking back, I am so grateful the camp was like that. You are so busy enjoying yourself that taking photos, texting and being on social media just aren't necessary. Take in the view, chat and laugh with kids as much as possible and live entirely in the present.

3. Expect the unexpected
This is a major one, particularly for our camp. With kids, there's always a huge element of unpredictability but the weather was also a big factor in how our schedule went. Our programme director sometimes wrote two or three schedules a day as we could go from sun to rain to heavy storm and back again. We had a storm so bad at one point that the gravel shifted on all our pathways. Be capable of adapting, have ideas for rainy days in the bunk, and if you're leading an activity when the weather turns, make sure the kids have supervision inside before you leave them to go back to your bunk (if that's how your camp works).

4. Keep yourself healthy
It's easy enough to forget about your health and wellbeing when you're a camp counsellor, teaching activities and responsible for a group of children, but it's important you don't. Take time out to go for a walk, hit the gym, catch up with friends who are also on an off period, or just read in your bunk. Simply put, if you're unwell, you can't do a good job of caring or coaching. Getting a little rundown or homesick is common, but just ensure you're not overdoing it.

5. Go the extra mile
This isn't to say that you need to be a saint, but I always tried to do little extra things to make people's day. I remember I fixed a girl's bracelet and seeing her smile made me so happy. Look out for your fellow counsellors who might be missing home or feeling overwhelmed, give that kid that's really struggling in your activity some extra words of motivation, make birthday cards for those in your bunk and make parents feel welcome on visiting day. Not only does it reflect well on you, but it's rewarding and a little goes a long way!

So there you have it - my top five tips for being a camp counsellor! If you have any questions, or want any more tips, feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to help. Equally, if you're considering applying (do it), I recommend Camp America, who will guide you every step of the way.


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