As some of you may know, I spent my last summer working in a Camp in America. To hear more about my trip, you can look here where I talk about it a bit more or here for photos. As it’s coming around to that time of year again now, when students are planning their trips to Camp America, I thought I ought to finally share my well-earned wisdom. Now I am by no means an expert in these matters, but I must admit I gained a lot of experience while there. So, I called out to some of my camp friends and asked them for some of their top advise for surviving at a Camp in America.
Pack a Book. Oh, and some cards.
There won’t be many times that you will take a break, and everyone will decide to do something a little different in each of their breaks. But I can’t suggest having a least one hard book on you at camp enough, so you can take some down time. I read whenever I could at camp, it’s really good when your waiting for people to turn up to your activity when you’re working alone. Plus, some camps have a really big no-no about electronics, even kindles are questionable. If you have a book, then you always have something to do. Likewise, for cards. If you and your Co’s (Co-councillors) are stuck inside for a bunko day (rain and stormy day) then a game of cards is so much fun! It’s also great if you’re working out on one of the fields with some of the guys, a game is a great way to pass the time.
Don’t Hand in Those Electronics
On the same note, at the beginning of camp, you will likely be asked to hand in your electronics for safety and security. I did this, and really regretted it. By all means, you phone or laptop should be handed in. They put it in a safe and it will be secure until you leave camp or at least until the kids leave. And you really should put these things in there. If a kid gets hold of it then you can get in a lot of trouble; or you know, they might break it. But, if you have an iPad, kindle, iPod or tablet, keep hold of it. Keep it safe and out of sight, in a backpack maybe. Now you may not want it for internet or connection, but there will be some time that you run out of books or you’re sick of the music that’s on repeat in camp. These are the moments you will want it. And if you hand it in I can guarantee you that the camp official will be unlikely to give them back to you without the managers approval. Something about having approval to get something back that is yours really gets me. Oh, and also the likelihood that you’ll get the approval, especially if it has a camera is very low. Just do not use that camera in the bunk! Especially if the kids are there! Be smart about it!!
Take Zip lock bags with you or buy them.
I learnt this trick really late on and really regretted it. If you know anything about camp, you will know that you be living in the wilderness, and that means animals! Bugs, mice, rats, birds, you name it and it will be there. That means no opened food! Trust me, you don’t want to wake up to a rat in the rafters above your bed or have children waking you up because someone saw one in their bunk somewhere and now they’re scared (I speak 100% from experience). It’s just not worth it. So, make sure that you have some zip lock bags to put any extra food in and seal it. If they can’t smell it, they won’t come, right? Plus, they’re really useful for sneaking some extra deserts or snacks from the dinning hall. Just remember to put them in another bag as well though! Kids will see them and try and sneak them! They’re also really useful for loads of other things, so keep them handy.
Along with the food, I would recommend bringing snacks from home. Again, I didn’t do this and really wish I had. There were times I really fancied a Dairy Milk Bar or a twirl, and they just weren’t there. Some people craved them so much that they got their parents to send them snacks from home! But don’t bring too much chocolate, it WILL melt in a week. So, bring crisps or gummies. Things that will last abit longer. Old style sweets is a particular favourite. Now some people may point out here that Cadburys does exist in the states but let me tell you. The recipe is so different. It doesn’t taste the same at all. So just pack a couple of bags of your favourites. Plus, they’re really fun to share with friends from other places.
Don’t forget to try the American sweets too though. Some are super yummy!
Take your breaks and make the most of them!
So this may seem like an obvious one, but its so easy to forget. If you’re working at an overnight camp breaks are so important. Often your working so hard in the day, you barely even notice that you haven’t had a break at all. But you must be super strict about getting some time off. I often covered for Co’s or worked extra hours during my own time, but remember that you aren’t being payed to do that. So, don’t! Your time is your time and you need to take it. After a month in camp you will certainly need it! But also use it wisely. I had a few friends who liked to nap in their free time, and there were some days I needed that too. But, some of my favourite ways to spend it was on the phone home to my family, sunbathing with my friends, reading a book or having a nap. You must do something to relax otherwise you’ll go mad. Don’t run off to do this job or that. One of my friends even made good friends with the nurse and spent most of her frees either reading or napping in the only air-conditioned room at camp! Find what you like.
Sun Cream your face. A lot!
When you’re working in the heat, its really easy to forget to keep applying suncream, but I guarantee that if you do this you will burn! Especially your face. Now if you’re working in the high sun with sun glasses on you get that gorgeous ring look around your eyes. One of my friends became so well known for it she was called ‘The Raccoon’ for months. Seriously though, it looks ridiculous and takes forever to go away. Just ask her. So, sun cream! It’s really important so please don’t forget it and burn yourself in the first week – like someone I know *cough*me*cough*
Invest in Flip Flops.
Talking of heat, no matter what job you will be doing you will live in flip flops. You will shower in them, walk in them and even run in them (if your me). So, get some flip flops and invest. Now I don’t mean buy £60 flip flops, but I mean get a few pairs and expect to throw them away. And bear in mind, if you buy Primark ones for 50p, they are great, super soft and comfortable, for a week. Then they will flatten, stone will go right through (it really hurts!) and you will have to throw them away. So, my suggestion would actually be to buy a good few pairs, depending on how long you will be there for. If your there for 3 months like me, I genuinely suggest getting one for each month. Their cheap and light, and you won’t be bringing one of them back. So, either invest in sturdier ones you won’t mind binning, or buy lots of cheap pairs. Oh and don’t bother with if they’re pretty. No one cares at camp.
Cosy socks and good trainers.
When you aren’t in flip flops, you will be in trainers and actually a lot of camps require the kids and the councillors to wear them at all activities (I rarely did after a while despite working with horses!). So, make sure you take A LOT of comfy socks that you can survive in. Warning, most will be lost, so over pack. Also, a really reliable pair of trainers are a must. I had two to interchange because they got so smelly after a while, and I did end up throwing them. So, I would suggest an old and reliable pair of trainers that you wouldn’t mind throwing away afterwards.
Now I might even do a whole post on what to pack so I’ll leave it there for packing and clothes.
Don’t pick the bug bites!
I know they’re so irritating and it’s so tempting to just scratch them, but don’t! Honestly. They scar really badly when you do and you will be left with lovely purple scars and scabs all down your arms, legs, face and, and well anywhere they can get too. I still have the scars now. So, it’s not really worth it. Maybe pack an anti-itch cream. You’ll need it!
What you see on the tag is not what you pay!
Well, most the time that is. Unlike in the UK, America is super weird about TAX’s and tipping. Everything is added to the price after you get to the till. So, for everything you buy round the price up. Now I still don’t get the rule, but my friend had a theory, add 2×10% to everything. So, it its $2, it’s now $2.20. If its $40, now its $42. If it was $500, now its $520 – don’t spend that much in one go unless planned! This seemed to work well enough. It’s not accurate but it gives you a better idea. It’s just important to remember that the price will always be higher than you think it is. Now for tipping, just do the same thing. Round it up. Now that 2-rule don’t really work here, but make sure it’s ALWAYS at least 10%, usually more like 15%. America is a really big spending country so be prepared for that outside of camp.
Get a sim before you go!
I can’t tell you how many problems this caused for my friends. Luckily, I had the sense to get a sim card before I left, but some of my poor friends actually struggled with this so much. They go through the whole process in America finding one that worked for them and it was super expensive! I would suggest doing you research first too. Personally, I found that Three did a really good sim only deal for me, but just look for what works best for you. I would even go into Carphone Warehouse or somewhere similar and ask them. They’re really helpful and know what they’re talking about!
Make friends with your Co’s!
Take it from me, your Co’s will become your best friends if you get involved with them. You will laugh with them, dance with them, fight with them (against the kids) and even sleep beside them. You will become so close with them that you will be best friends in weeks. If you don’t make an effort with them you’ll be miserable. My Co’s became some of my best friends and I really miss them. But we had the best summer together as friends. These guys be your greatest allies against the kids when they’re being brats and the best shoulder for you to cry on when things get tough. Honestly, you’ll need them. So, dive in and make memories with them.
So that’s probably some of my best advice. There is so much more for me to share, but I thought I would share with you some of the most useful advice I could have needed before going. Honestly, camp is hard. You won’t sleep nearly as well as back home and the children can be really handfuls, especially when you get a really difficult one. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things. Watching that kid that was a real nightmare, leave with parent that won’t recognise his polite words and huge smile is worth it. Knowing that you have made friends you will never forget. It all worth it.
Thanks for reading guys. As ever, leave comments down below on you best tips or let me know when if you’re going to camp or even if you’re thinking about it. I’d love to here. Until next time x