Camp Counselor: Why It’s Just As Important As An Internship
Reasons to consider becoming a summer camp counselor just as strongly as taking a summer internship
By Chantel Burkes, Houston Community College
November is now here and with it comes the thoughts of the holidays, final exams, gaining spring internships and how you want to utilize your summer. Most students in the throes of college are looking to score something that they can place on their resume to help them towards their future job and if they were not looking for a career with children, they would never look at summer camp as an asset. Seniors specifically are looking for career defining internships and would never consider the prospect of camp, but freshmen, sophomores and juniors have the opportunity to gain valuable skills they might miss out on in beginning internships and summer jobs.
Traveling Lends You Confidence
Becoming a camp counselor can provide you with the opportunity to stay in a new part of the country that you haven’t been to before. Traveling this way provides numerous growth experiences. Various counselors come from numerous countries and states. The experience usually begins in the airport with every new counselor meeting at a specific area of the airport. As a counselor, this destination is the beginning of your independence and will make you grow stronger from the minute you enter the airport. You must get on and off your plane in the appropriate places and find your luggage. That sounds easy enough, right? You must then go to the specific area your camp designated as the “meeting place” and find the person who is supposed to meet you at the airport. So, the job will fall on you to gather your bags, find your way to your meeting terminal and find your camp in the sea of other camp groups. You will have to learn to gain your legs quickly, just as you would in a new internship. Even if you are driving or traveling via an alternative mode of transportation, you will have a destination and new experiences and expectations from the moment you leave. This new experience will help you become more fearless in new situations and let you know that you can be confident in unfamiliar territory.
Independence Begins The First Hour You Arrive
When you first arrive at camp, there is no one to lean on just yet. You will most likely jump right into learning the ropes with your fellow beginning counselors the day after you arrive and all you are thinking of is the enormity of the situation. Everyone will have to learn the ropes of summer camp, just as you would in a fresh internship or job. You will be in charge of numerous children in your cabin, a group of children during activities and the entire camp in between activities. You will also be in charge of teaching or assisting with an activity or have a group of kids to oversee. No one else can do the job you have been assigned for that day and it is your duty to be as independent and confident in yourself as you can so you will be able to handle a multitude of problems. That multitasking will ultimately help you in the rest of your college learning and contribute to your capability to handle tasks in your future internships and careers.
Responsibility Is The Fuel That Keeps You Going
Just as you would in a new job or internship, you are responsible for your tasks and time management during the day. Most counselors will be teaching an activity or overseeing kids during the day and you will need to know times and the schedule for camp that day. You will be responsible for your camp lessons during your activities, making sure you know your schedule and where you are supposed to be every lesson, which kids you are supposed to have, and what you will be teaching them. During the evening, you are responsible for the bedtime of your cabin, making sure everything and everyone is safe, and any other duties you have been assigned to that evening. When specific counselors have nights/days off, you must pick up extra responsibility and be completely confident in their abilities, just like you would expect them to be when you are off on your free time. Everyone is responsible, everyone is dedicated, and every counselor is a piece of the puzzle.
Partnership Will Never Tear You Apart
Unlike formal internships or a summer job, you will have a concrete team. This team is the wall you will have to fall through to hit the ground and every single person is there to keep you from falling. You will learn how to interact with every counselor and upper staff member to make sure you know how to handle your job properly and confidently. Staff training will prepare you fully for your job and all of the team building, childcare lessons, discussions, and walk-throughs will make sure that you know how to handle your job. All you do in staff training will come full circle when the children arrive and you are on a team in a specific cabin. While the collective whole is a brick wall, your co-counselors will be your bungee cord and harness for the summer. You will be the ultimate team for your campers. It will not matter what country you are from, your differences in beliefs, or how unprepared and nervous everyone is. Your cabin will need a solid team to decide the cabin rules, which prizes to grant your kids for good behavior, how you will handle punishments, what to do when conflicts arise, and what area each counselor will have an extra handle on. You and your team will bounce off each other and become the ultimate partnership. You will have the experience of building a team quickly and efficiently, working as a team and creating an environment that will help you strive.
A Resume Is The Reason That No One Uses
Yes, it is true that a lot of counselors come to camp for the resume aspect. They want to be able to be able to learn certain skills and responsibilities that will help them in college and their future careers and that is perfectly fine. However, that is not the reason they will use when they remember camp or think about coming back for the next summer. You’ll remember your ups and downs, your struggles and successes, your newly found strength and newly discovered weaknesses. It is perfectly fine to be thinking of your future and how successful your resume looks, but sometimes you need to look at the experience as a whole. You can just as confidently make a mention to your time management skills, responsibilities, confidence and skills learned as you would do normal jobs. The difference between the two, however, is monumental and concrete.
The beginning of counselor hiring begins in December and January, right along with the publishing of summer internship deadlines. Too often college students get caught up in the perfect grades, pressure of multiple internships and thoughts of “real life” and what they will have to do to get there. Becoming a summer camp counselor may just be the step someone needs to give them a new outlook on their potential careers and the newfound confidence to seek it out.