Summer Camp Director Q&A - Part 1

BUNAC Summer Camp Exchange USA

Summer Camp Director Adam shares his journey from going to camp as a Camp Counsellor with BUNAC to now progressing to be Camp Director of a summer camp. His camp recruits UK staff every year to teach children a wide range of skills, find out what they look for in Camp Counsellors and get some top tips on how to make your summer camp experience the best!

What path did you take to be a Summer Camp Director?

Shortly after I had graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to spend a summer abroad before starting University. I spent hours perusing the internet looking for work opportunities abroad and I eventually stumbled upon the BUNAC's Summer Camp USA programme. After speaking with the BUNAC staff to find out a little more detail about the program, I decided getting placed at a camp in the USA was my number one priority. Shortly after I had completed my application BUNAC had connected me with the then Camp Director of Camp Sloane YMCA. I secured the job and I was on my way to the USA in just a few months. Shortly after arriving at camp, I realised that I had never really felt quite as much at home anywhere in the world as I did at camp. I made life long friends  and not only enjoyed the work, but whole heartedly believed in it. By the end of the summer I was ready to start it all over again, and fortunately I was invited back in a supervisory role. The next summer turned into the next 3 summers, after which I was certain I wanted a career in summer camping. For my 5th summer I was invited back as the senior programme director, a role which I held for 2 years before eventually being offered the position as Camp Director of Camp Sloane YMCA. Now I am the one calling the undergraduate students across the world offering them the opportunity that I was afforded. The path I took to becoming a Camp Director was commitment, passion and perseverance.

Why do you recruit staff from the UK?

Having an international staff has always been important to Camp Sloane YMCA. Exposing our camper population to other cultures, and backgrounds aids dramatically in their social development. Though I also hire staff from many other countries across the world, those from the UK usually make up around 30-40% of the overall staff. Of course the language barrier, or the absence thereof, is an asset for the British, but the culture of hard work and commitment they demonstrate is most valuable. The interest in child development also seems to be more popular in the UK, I can more readily find people willing to commit to live on a closed campus property, and spend every waking hour with children in the hopes of teaching them something. My theory is, because Brits grew up without being surrounded by the phenomenon of summer camp, when they get here they get the same rush of childhood excitement as our campers. Of course the trade off is also a great thing, as the British get to come to the USA and absorb our culture, and see many of the great things this this continent has to offer. 

What is your summer camp highlight from over the years?

I have worked at summer camp now for 8 years. Ask any camp person to tell you their one summer camp highlight, even from one summer and they will either laugh or give you blank stare. Each summer provides so many wonderful moments, its way too hard to choose just one. Between watching the campers grow around you, spending time with friends in ridiculous situations. Staring up at the stars from a floating dock, watching a thunderstorm roll across the mountains on a camp out. Inventing and playing crazy games, being a part of awesome theme days and color wars or being on stage with your campers singing, dancing, acting or all of the above. Summer camp will be THE highlight of your life. 

If I hold one memory most special it would probably be meeting my first ever summer camper Andrew. After his parents packed the car and left him with me, trusting that I was going to care for their most treasured possession for 2 whole weeks and return him to them a better person, I felt how powerful my position at camp was, and just how much responsibility I had laid in front of me. Andrew will be joining the Camp staff this year, and came back to camp every year I have. The feeling of pride seeing the young man he has become, and knowing that in part it is because of the hard work I put in during his childhood in rivaled only by parenthood.  

What is your top tip for everyone heading to summer camp this year?

Be honest with yourself and all around you. Don't try to impress by setting the impression you have certain skills that you don't. Chances are you are a great person and showing that will be your greatest asset. Remember every minute of every day that there is no such thing as a bad child, and remember that the kids who need the most love may ask for it in the most unloving of ways. Everybody is at camp to learn and grow together, sometimes that will be learning a new skill, sometimes that will mean learning how to live with other people, how to compromise and how to solve problems effectively. Remember you are there to have fun, but the key to having the most fun is putting others first in all you do. 

Never forget the power of your position, 

Oh and wear sunscreen......and bug spray....lots of bug spray! 

Check out Part 2 of Adam's blog and find out what they look for in BUNAC applicants for their summer camp job positions. If you think this sounds like your dream job, you can learn more about Summer Camp USA programme or give us a call on 033 3999 7516