As a student at University, I longed to travel the world and experience the sights and sounds of different countries. America drew me in with its bright lights of NYC and historic towns. So I went about looking for ways to get over there and explore. To start with I thought about the Disney Program (where you could work in Disneyland for the summer) but then remembered my dislike of rides. I then came across Camp America and decided to apply. 6 months later I was on my way!
The following year, I shared my tips on getting a USA Summer Camp job with some friends who then got themselves jobs and headed off to work at camps. I am by no means an expert on working at or with summer camps but here is some advice and information for those hoping to get a place at a USA Summer Camp.
Don’t forget to read about a typical day working at Camp America.
Funds – It is costly to apply and process your application so make sure you save before you think about applying. You will end up about £600 out of pocket; covering your visa, flights, insurance, DBS check etc before you go. However you do make around this much back depending on your role at camp, just don’t expect to earn a fortune.
Do your research – Most camps are on the East Coast and vary greatly. I was fortunate to be based in Long Island with lovely and polite children and parents who tipped well, but friends have ended up at religious camps or camps with difficult children and not enjoyed their summer as they had hoped. That being said, working in these camps can be a thoroughly rewarding experience but do your research before applying for individual camps.
Choose a company – There are various different companies based in the UK and around Europe that offer opportunities for you to get positions in USA Summer Camps. Camp America is the company I went with as they have a great reputation and made the whole process incredibly easy and stress free, plus flights are included in the cost. However, it is probably one of the most expensive programs and salaries can be pretty low at camp depending on what role and what camp you are based at. Friends of mine have used Camp Leaders who have similar perks to Camp America but also have a lower starting wage. When I went to camp back in 2011, Americamp had only been around for a year but since then they are building up their reputation as a popular choice. Costs to apply are relatively low (around £200) whilst wages start higher than most (£800+) however flights aren’t included, hence the low costs to apply.
Create an amazing portfolio – For the majority of these programs, you are asked to set up an online profile on the company website. Include an engaging photograph of yourself to show you are a happy and friendly person – no sulky, grumpy faces! Think about the skills that camps want to hear about, include those skills like horse riding, archery, football etc – Camp will love these. But also think of the personality traits needed to survive a summer at camp. Time Management, tidiness, team work, energetic, enthusiastic and willing to give anything a go – these are key traits you need to talk about in your portfolio. Some companies allow you to include a video for your portfolio which I would greatly advise you do. If I am honest, I didn’t do a video and was fine to get a position at camp but it won’t hurt! Again, think energy and enthusiasm!
Get emailing – Now this one is a bit random and isn’t a well known thing to do but I gave it a go and it worked! I used the company website to find a list of the camps that would be attending the recruitment fairs in the following weeks. I browsed the camp websites and directly emailed those camps that I liked the look of, expressing interest and attaching a CV. A camp emailed back, set up a Skype interview and then asked me to come along to the recruitment fair which was a few days later. I went along, met briefly with the Camp Director who offered me a job!
Attend the Recruitment Fairs – Through January to March, Camp America and most other companies, run Recruitment Fairs in the UK’s major cities. Book a place for the fair and arrive early as queues form around the building! Bring plenty of copies of your CV and if you haven’t managed to email camps directly then make sure you have a list of camps you like the look of. Once in the main recruitment hall, head to the camps you like the look of that have the shortest queues – you don’t want to end up waiting for hours to speak to somebody. Most camps will have a list up on their stall of the roles they still have available so make sure you know what type of role you can do.
Be flexible – If you really want a job at a summer camp then you need to be flexible about what type of camp you want to work for, where the camp is and the role you will have. Sport leaders who run football and basketball are full of applicants so be happy to take on roles that you may not even have that much experience in! I am a dance teacher and took a drama instructor role as the dance instructor role was already taken. A girl from my camp was a fishing instructor and had never fished in her life!! Talk about learning on the job.
Persevere – Friends of mine didn’t get a role at a summer camp until June, a few weeks before they were due to leave. Keep using the company website to find vacancies at camps and email them directly. Often, people drop out before they leave or during their first week or so at camp, so don’t give up and persevere with the job search.