You may have dreams of going to an American summer camp this year, but how practical is it? And how long does the process really take?
I went to a summer camp last year, and it was amazing. So I’m going to run through the process with you, because if like me you had no idea what documents you needed, how long it all took etc… now you can find out!
First things first, why did I want to go to a camp?
My decision to go came out of nowhere really, but not in the sense that I hadn’t thought it through and it was on a whim. I’d been saving money as often or little as I could for over a year with the plan of going travelling during the summer after uni because I was so done with education and needed a break before going into a job. Then when I was at home over Christmas 2016, I was doing a lot of research about travelling. It hit me that I wouldn’t be able to go away to backpack for as long as I wanted to because of my health condition (diabetes) and I wouldn’t be going anywhere with anyone else either, so I had to get on with it and do something for myself.
How did I sign up for the programme?
I told my parents that I found ‘Camp Leaders’, a travel company who send people to work at summer camps in America over the summer. One of my old friends from secondary school had told me about the scheme after I bumped into her at uni in my second year, so the thought had stuck with me since then. The programme could be organised by the company or you could book the flights yourself. With my diabetes, my mum insisted on me going through the company so that everything was in order and there was no chance of anything going pear-shaped. So that same night I signed up and filled in all of the details in order to progress to the next stage of my application.
How long did the application take to process?
The first part of my application went through in a matter of days. I heard back from the company quickly and was able to start filling in other parts of the online portfolio. One of the more timely parts of the portfolio was creating my own video where I sold myself on my qualities and why I would make a great staff member. I had plenty of content to show them but it was more editing it together and recording the voiceovers that took longer than I expected! See my showcase video below, it’s nothing spectacular and I have seen MUCH much better ones, but it did the job!
After about five days, I was told I had an interview with Camp Leaders to talk about what happens from now and whether I would make it through to the next stage. In actual fact, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get passed that interview stage, you’d have to abysmally and categorically mess up big time to not get through.
The man who interviewed me was so lovely and helpful, and he made me feel so excited about going to camp despite going it alone; he told me all about what I should expect, the kind of activities I would be able to get involved with and he even told me about some of his experiences which even then made the whole thing seem real. The documents I needed to fill out and send back were a program agreement, a medical form, an ICPC, a doctor’s note, confirmation of my VISA booking, proof of student status form etc… there was quite a lot. BUT it sounds terrifying written down than it actually is when you start obtaining them.
By then, I had decided I wanted to work as support staff, which means I would be more behind the scenes and keeping the camp running while camp counsellors took the classes with the kids. After this, I had to pay the remaining fees I owed and once I had done that, my application was changed to ‘Ready to hire’, which meant camps in America could look at my portfolio and get in touch with me.
I heard from a camp within a single day of completing my application, and we had organised my interview for a couple of days later, so my overall application process took from early January to late February. I was placed at a camp in Pennsylvania, two and a half hours away from New York.
After that, it was all about making a trip down to London to get my VISA. Of course, the train ride caused more expenses, but it’s a day in London so why not make the most of it!
What about flights?
When signing up for the programme, you could choose whether to book your own flights or let the company book them for you. I considered booking them myself as it would work out slightly cheaper, but with my health condition, my mum insisted that I let the travel company take care of it for me so there was no risk of anything going wrong. I do have a slight tendency to ‘wing’ things, and I think this is one thing that should not be winged. I left for Pennsylvania in the first week of June and came back in the last days of August. You may do it differently, but this was my first massive trip alone so I preferred everything to be done as easily as possible. Next year I’m definitely booking my own flights!
A year later, and I can happily say that going to summer camp was the best thing I’ve ever done. The things I’ve learnt about myself, the opportunities I had and the people I met have made me the happiest I had been in a long time. I’m still in touch with the friends I made over there, and the ones from England I regularly visit. It’s an incredible experience and I cannot recommend it enough.
What about you, have you been to a summer camp? You can see my camp adventures below if you need an inspirational push to go: