Summer Camp USA: A Day in the Life

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You’ve probably read one of these type of blogs before, especially if you’re flying off to the USA this summer ready for the most epic experience at summer camp. You want to be prepared for what’s in store for you, and I admire your enthusiasm. You want to know exactly what to expect day-to-day at camp, because it can’t be all fencing and booby traps like in The Parent Trap surely?

Read the words of wisdom and occasional top tips from a three times Summer Camp Counsellor (and Activity Instructor) at a rustic Girl Scout camp in Long Island, New York – me, Sophie, BUNAC’s kooky Junior Marketing Executive.

Let’s get you ready for Summer Camp USA, shall we? I hereby present to you a day in the life of a Camp Counsellor. 

1) Wake up 6:45 AM Morning has broken honey, time to get ready for a jam-packed day of being a big kid. It’s a tough life, isn’t it? I personally think it’s always easier to get out of bed at camp than it is at home, probs because someone will remind you what’s for breakfast. When Mondays mean ‘muffin Mondays’ and Thursdays are about the French toast, sleep don’t mean a thing.

Soph's Top Tip: I usually had to teach canoeing or kayaking in the first activity block after breakfast, so to save me time in the mornings sometimes I would go to sleep in my bikini. I loved this trick, but it’s not for everyone. And yes it’s 100% hygienic.

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2) Wake up your kids up 7:05 AM The timing might be a bit specific, but when you have to be at breakfast for 8 AM in the dining hall you need to allow yourself about an hour to get the campers awake, washed and dressed. Trust me, it will take them AGES to do all three, especially if they’re young children. How many people does it take to find a pair of water shoes? Your mind is gonna be blown.

Soph's Top Tip: How do I usually wake kids up? We slept in platform tents, so I would knock gently on the wooden post and sing something like ‘It’s a beautiful day’ by U2 to get them in the mood. I’ve personally never bashed pots and pans together but if that’s what you’re into then go for it.

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3) Break-FAST 8:00 AM If you want Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops or Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal for brekkie you better get to breakfast pretty sharpish before all the good cereals go. You can bet that your campers will already know which cereal they’ll have on the walk to the dining hall, and they may even have arranged a friend to swap cereals with just in case they don’t get the one they wanted. Yes, breakfast is strategic at camp and you better remember it. How meal times are co-ordinated entirely depends on the camp, (some will be buffet style, others there will be orderly queues).

Soph's Top Tip: The camp kitchen will also usually serve a variety of hot food too as well as cereal, and you know the best thing about meals at camp? NO ONE will judge you for having seconds or third helpings. Literally NO ONE. I see you eyeing up that last lovely looking waffle. Go on, EAT IT.

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4) First activity 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM YAY! The first activity block of the day! If you’re an Activity Instructor at camp you’ll be teaching or assisting with the lesson either individually or with another activity instructor. If you’re a General Counsellor you’ll take the kids to the activity and join in with them in the lesson, depending on what your camp’s protocol is. The list of camp activities that fill these activity blocks are endless and again depend on what facilities your camp has. Traditionally speaking, though, these activities might be kayaking, canoeing, swimming, archery, ropes or a wide variety of sports and team-building games. These blocks are where the jokes happen, this is what camp is all about. Cue hilarious memories and camp competitiveness!

Soph's Top Tip: Apart from when you have time off, you will be responsible for your group of campers 24/7, and it’s the day-time activities when the majority of relationships are built and when trust is formed between counsellors and campers. You’ll watch them improve their skills, confidence, and you’ll beam as they bond with other campers. As a counsellor, always get involved, enjoy yourself and do the best you can to make sure your children are having the time of their lives! This is the best job in the world, so make the most of it.

5) Second activity 11:00 am – 12:15 pm Much the same as the first activity, if you’re an Activity Instructor you might be teaching the same activity as the first block but with a different group of kids. If you’re a General Counsellor you’ll be moving on elsewhere to a new activity. Keep up your energy: hang on in there! Lunch is nearly coming, and boy are you STARVING.

Soph's Top Tip: You know what you can do that will solve like 99% of your problems, including your exhaustion when you’re at camp? DRINK SOME H20. LOADS OF IT. AND SOME MORE. A lot of people at camp (campers and American staff alike) will have Nalgene water bottles, and you should get on the trend and drink two of them a day. Water is a life-saver… but genuinely though. 

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6) Halfway through the day happiness – it’s LUNCHTIME 12:30 – 1:30 PM I love lunch time. You’re midway through the day and you’re catching up with staff members and campers that you haven’t seen since breakfast. SO much has happened in just a few short hours! Miss you guys already xoxo.

Soph's Top Tip: Drink coffee. You’re gonna need it. Drink more water as well. At all meal times try and sit at a different table  so you can interact with as many different campers as possible. No one likes a clique at camp y’know. 

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7) And chiiilllll, it’s rest hour 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
After all the non-stop excitement, adventurous activities and belly-laughter both you AND the campers need a bit of rest (but let’s be honest, it’s mostly you.) Rest hour does exactly what it says on the tin! It’s a bit of down-time where you might just have time to take break from all the fun and write a cute postcard home (using colourful paper that you took from the arts and crafts room). Trust, the paper is really good quality.
Soph's Top Tip: Put a sweater on – look I know you’re thinking this isn’t much of a top tip but I find changing just one element of your camp outfit will give you a fresh mind for the afternoon. Energy fully restored, water refilled, legs rested, you’ll be ready to take on ANY activity that the rest of the day brings. Come at me, camp. I’m ready. 

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8) Third activity 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM 

9) Fourth (and last) activity 4:45 PM – 6:00 PM

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10) What’s the time Mr Wolf? DINNER TIME! 6:15 PM – 7:30 PM And honestly you couldn’t be more ready to devour every scrap of food on the table, but try to keep your table etiquette intact because the campers are looking at you. Often camp dinners will be themed and require everyone to be dressed as a character in fancy dress costume that they probs made in arts and crafts the activity block before. So come pirates, mermaids, Disney characters, Harry Potters, astronauts and all - there are no rules at these theme dinners, only awesome food and awesome fun. 
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11) Evening activity 8:00 – 9:30 PM  At my camp, evening activities were split into ‘all camps’ and unit times. All camps brought together all campers of all ages in a joint Olympics event, colour war, treasure hunt, huge talent show, Capture the Flag (after you play this awesome game your life won’t be the same again). Anything goes at these event themes, and often the madder the event is the more fun it will be. Unit times are just for your unit of campers (which at my camp was up to 30), and were usually a calmer affair in s’mores and camp fires and singing about Percy the polar bear. 
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12) Chill time and sleep 10:00 pm onwards Realistically (and especially if you have older campers), lights out at camp will be around 11 PM. To help put them to sleep, you’ll read the campers bed time stories (they LOVE it if you make the stories up rather than read them from a book) or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you might play them the Ukulele. Yes, seriously. Fingers crossed that after all that fun and excitement the campers are going to be out like a light, but… probs not.
Soph's Top Tip: this was one of my favourite parts of the day at camp, not just because sleep (at long last) was nigh, but it was when the camp counsellors in your unit could hang out together as we waited for the campers to fall asleep. Cue ripping open packets of marshmallows and laughing about everything and nothing with your best friends until you eventually decide to call it a night. Then, wake up in the morning and do it all over again. 

This summer will be the best of your life, so take as many photographs as you can because one day, like me, you’ll look back on all the days you spent there and cherish them forever. Apply online or call us on 0333 999 7516 for your last chance to get there in summer 2017.