Although summer camps don’t exist in my own culture in the way that they do in the US, I entered into my current situation with a range of expectations which were driven by a variety of sources. Friends and family members have previously worked as camp counsellors, and camps are, of course, widely represented in popular culture (particular thanks can go to The Simpsons and The Parent Trap – both versions – for feeding my worst nightmares). In addition, the agency which placed me provided me with information regarding what I was letting myself in for, and a friend I made at the job fair I attended who used to do my job offered further (read: terrifying) advice.
The first “session” of camp is over. Some campers will stay for another session (some will even remain here throughout the summer) but many will now go home. A new wave of staff have arrived, wide-eyed and excited from various corners of the world. I’ve spent almost a month away from the UK (the longest period of time I’ve spent out of the country – I hope you’re all enjoying the fabulous weather which has undoubtedly ensued).
My expectation that I would eat, sleep and work has definitely been met. Days of the week don’t matter here. I could be in any country of the world: although I can see a few US flags, there are many others also hung in the dining hall; the weather has been similar to home – it rained for almost two weeks, which meant the cost-per-wear of my new rain coat has reduced significantly; I rarely see a TV, haven’t checked the news online and am pretty much institutionalised. It’s very much like my previous life on the road as an event manager – the rest of the world stops existing, I am in a bubble.
I’ve made new friends, struggled with language barriers and a lack of resources as well as an as-yet unidentified insect which stung my toe (if you’re out there and I find your species, I will end you). And I’ve been reminded that you can come half way across the world and still find someone who knows your local pub in your small Sussex village, and someone who lives in the same town and worships at the same church as your own godparents (I no longer believe in six degrees of separation, I think it’s more like two).
After some consideration, I’ve decided that the following things really matter:
- Integrity – as with any job I’ve done, it still matters that you show up on time, do your best and show the best parts of yourself. As much as humanly possible
- Respect – for the people around you, their feelings, their role and their rules
- Communication – though some supposedly-international hand gestures are not as widely-understood as you may have thought
- Teamwork – though, as usual, about 20% of the team do 90% of the work
The second session here sees the camp double in size, and I found the beginning hardest this time, so I’m trying to prepare for a difficult week. To keep me entertained, I’m going to ask the campers questions provided in the comments. Your question might be simple (I asked a few campers this session how old they thought I was, and I nearly cried when one answered, “fifty-two”. Not impressed) or complicated, but must be appropriate for kids aged from 7 to 17. Let me know what you’d like to ask and I’ll put the answers in a future post.