Student summer in the States

3rd year BSc Psychology student Jim Davies writes about his experience working at a US summer camp.

The English University experience is famous for its long summers and they are the perfect opportunity to combine some valuable work experience with your travelling desires. After my first year at university, I decided to get outside of my comfort zone and board a transatlantic flight to take up a job on an American summer camp in Pennsylvania.

Summer camp in the US is an institution. There are hundreds of activity camps situated across America’s most beautiful terrain, most with a backdrop of dense forest fields and vast lakes. Summer camps vary in size and type and while many cater for the kids of the big cities such as New York, there are many other niche camps including special education and religiously affiliated camps. Each camp has its own unique style and personality but the main aim of each is to create a fun environment with a contagious positive attitude.

If you have a skill, no matter how crazy, there are loads of opportunities to share it at summer camp and become a “camp counsellor”, especially if you’ve had teaching experience before. Camps cater for all kinds of activities from skateboarding to cooking and tennis to water polo. Coaching tennis required effective communication with small groups of all ages. The position helped me to develop my skills in this area as well as grasping the hugely valuable skill of patience. Having not coached tennis directly before, the process of instructing and developing my own group’s tennis abilities throughout the summer helped me grow in confidence and also improved my playing style ten-fold.

Every day was completely different to the last but usually involved getting the kids in my bunk to meals and hanging out with them while teaching tennis in between, usually around five hour long sessions each day. Evening activities included cookouts, mini-sports games and lots of talent shows, all requiring plenty of counsellor enthusiasm and participation. The main every day responsibility however was to ensure the kids have an awesome, fun and safe summer. The lifestyle is exhausting due to the never-ending levels of energy that the kids have, but counsellors at my camp had an hour off each day, usually spent lounging by the lake, as well as a good number of days/evenings off throughout the summer to explore the local area. Visas last a lot longer than the usual camp contract, usually around two months, so there’s the perfect chance to explore some more of the US before whizzing back for the next university year.

If you are looking for a fun way to spend the summer and one that will help you develop confidence, flexibility and interpersonal skills, as well as making some awesome friends and have a unique summer experience, then head to the states. Even after my US experience, camp continued to benefit me. When mentioned in subsequent interviews, employers were interested in the skills I had attained at camp because I had worked continuously and positively throughout the summer. They also admired the independence that it took to go there.

There are many companies offering support with visa help and placing applicants at appropriate camps. I went with BUNAC who were helpful and supportive throughout my stateside summer.

Jim Davies is a 3rd year BSc Psychology student on the Streatham Campus, and is a student representative for BUNAC.

Andy Morgan

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