I’ve honestly had the most amazing summer working at Camp Iroquois Springs. I was a camp counselor specialising in Horse Back Riding and I got placed by the amazing USA Summer Camp! If you’re interested in starting your American adventure, I honestly would recommend going through these guys. The staff are so helpful every step of the way, and they are just as happy as you are when you get placed at your dream camp! (For more info, visit www.usasummercamp.co.uk)
Camp was such a life changing experience and one that I will never forget. I’ve met friends for life, with whom I share the most amazing memories with which I could talk endlessly about. But for now, I’m going to share with you the 5 main and most important things I learnt whilst working at a camp, which I hope are useful to you!
- BELIEVING IN YOURSELF – Prior to camp, I tended to struggle in believing in myself and believing in my abilities. But when you are put in a situation where you are in a new country, completely out of your comfort zone with a brand new set of people, you’ve got to have some confidence to get by every day. During orientation, it’s key to set yourself goals for the summer and what you want to achieve, because once the children arrive it’s game on. I didn’t honestly think my children would love me, or I thought I would terrible at my job, but you get so much confidence, honesty and motivation from your co-counsellors and general leaders that you start to think ‘you know what, I can do this.’ After my first evaluation with my GL, I never really doubted myself again all summer. I believed that I was doing a great job, and I believed that I was doing the best for my kids and that they appreciated everything I did for them. I came away a different person, knowing that I had done the best job that I could have done and others believed that too.
- WHAT EVEN IS SLEEP?! – Going about day to day activities on 2-3 hours’ sleep is honestly easy as pie after working at a summer camp. I had the Upper Senior Girls, so aged around 13-14, so they were relatively easy to get to sleep. But it was always the case of once you got off OD or from a night off and you got into your bed, you were wide awake and couldn’t sleep. Waking up at 7am every day too becomes second nature; a ‘lie-in’ is now a thing of the past! Long day and a lack of sleep become so normal; you do forget what it’s like to not feel tired! But if you keep pushing through it, it’s honestly so worth it. Don’t give up!
- GETTING READY IN 15 MINUTES IS A PIECE OF CAKE – As I stated earlier, the girls I had were aged 13-14 and in my bunk there were 18 girls and 4 counsellors including myself… so you can imagine what shower hour was like! It was honestly like being in the army; so regimented and the girls were timed in their showers. Most of the time, us counsellors were left with 10 minutes to shower and then get ready. Most evenings this was fine, but when it got to banquet nights it was a nightmare and such a rush. The positive though, is that we still managed to make ourselves look #onfleek in 10 minutes! It is honestly a skill you will acquire, and you will only see it as a skill when you return home and you manage to get yourself ready for a dressed up occasion in 15-20 minutes, when previously it would have taken you hours.
- THE FRIENDS YOU MAKE ARE FRIENDS FOR LIFE – It’s such a cliché but it’s honestly so true. You live together at camp in such a close proximity, and you learn about each other’s lives so quickly it makes you feel like you’ve known them forever. When you come back from a day off, your friends feel like you’ve been gone for weeks and they want updates on everything that happened that day. Nights off with your best friends are also made for campfires and songs and long walks by the lakes. It’s such a reality check when you fly back home to find your camp best friends not there by your side anymore. It’s taken me so long to adapt to that; I miss them being around all the time! From going to camp, I’ve made such good friends from all over the world who I regularly talk via social media. I’ve even already booked to go and see some of them abroad! So in your camp experience you will make friends from everywhere, and I mean everywhere. From the United States, to New Zealand, to France and even to South Africa; camp seriously has an amazing mix of cultures!
- LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SERIOUS – This is the main thing that I learnt from camp, which is why I’ve saved the best till last. At camp, you get to act like a child every day. Yes you have to act like a teacher to the campers, but they want to be your friend too. But you don’t want to be too strict with them. There will be activities where you have to be out of your comfort zone and be silly for your kids; so step up and do it! I did and I would have regretted it if I hadn’t of done it. In your first year, it’s hard I’m not going to lie, because honestly, you have no idea what you’re doing and how to impress your kids. But it’s really simple. The kids love it when you act on their level too; it shows them that you can be relatable, so acting all silly when they do and sitting with them, laughing with them about their boy talk or just general girl chit-chat goes a long way. Life is too short to always be serious, and before camp I was such a serious person. Camp has changed me for the better as a result, as now I have way more fun than I did before camp!
So these are just my personal 5 reasons as to what I learnt from camp. There were so many more that I could have listed and I could honestly go on forever about camp. Your experience will be different than mine, just as mine has been different from somebody else’s. That doesn’t mean you will learn these things too. If you’re anxious about embarking on this adventure, take the leap and do it. It will be one of the best decisions that you will ever make, and I guarantee that you’ll have the best summer of your life.
(New York skyline. Photo Credit: Shannon Westwood)
I did my road trip around the USA after an amazing summer working at Camp Iroquois Springs. I was a camp counselor specialising in Horse Back Riding, and for those wondering, I was placed by USA Summer Camp who were absolutely amazing throughout the process! For more information on USA Summer Camp, check them out on their website! www.usasummercamp.co.uk
Camp has been such a life changing experience and I honestly wish I had done it sooner and not held back! After camp, my friends and I embarked on a road trip around the North-East and honestly it was pretty impressive. 13 states in 15 days; every North-East state bar Maine, and included some interesting places like Salem, the Howe Caverns and Niagara Falls. We drove throughout the whole trip which I was sceptical of at first, as I had it in my head originally that I would have travelled by bus. But honestly, driving was the best decision we could have made. If you’re heading off to a summer camp or just travelling around the US in general, here are my top 10 tips for making your road trip a true all American adventure.
- SAVE THE MONEY THAT YOU EARN – dollar dollar dollar. I saved most of my wage and was stingy throughout the summer, but it’s totally worth it at the end! Having that extra money to be able to go that extra mile on your trip and see more destinations was awesome. Plus if you have leftover dollars, just convert them back! Win-win situation!
- GO IN A GOOD SIZED GROUP – my road trip consisted of 7 and we had two cars (one which was a rental), so maybe a group of 4 is a good size to start with because it’s an even number plus you wouldn’t have to fork out for 2 rental cars and more fuel cost! Having said that, the bigger the group the more personalities and more ideas of cool places to visit that you may not have originally have thought of.
- PLAN PLAN PLAN – Plan way before your actual trip the sort of areas you want to go in – it saves you time and stress by mapping out your route weeks before the trip actually starts, and it means you can feel at ease knowing what direction you’re going to be travelling in
- CAMPING IS ACTUALLY PRETTY FUN – I hated camping before my road trip, but honestly some of the best nights that we had were in our tent camping in national state parks (some of them even had warning signs for bears, which is always a positive!) But seriously, it saves SO much money and chip in as a group for your tent and whaddaya know, Bob’s your uncle
- GET TO CAMPSITES LATE – although driving in the dark in a foreign country is pretty hard, it’s worth it because getting to campsites late means one thing (in most cases)… free entry. State park/campsite offices usually shut around 4-6pm, so arrive 8pm or later and you’re pretty much guaranteed a free night.
- MAKE FREQUENT WIFI STOPS – seems like an obvious one, but being on the road for a while and in such close proximity with people will cause tensions to rise. Making frequent wifi stops means you can delve into your own personal world for a while, catch up with home or be up to date with the latest news. It’s also a good chance to look for accommodation for that night/future nights and you can contact these places if advanced booking is required
- BUY A COOLER – it was honestly the best thing we did! We bought milk, orange juice, meat for a BBQ and sandwich fillers, which meant we could have cereal in the morning for breakfast and could also make sandwiches for during the day, which equals saving money on buying food out. I personally tried to buy more fruit and salad stuff, because healthy food in the USA was a lot more expensive than fast food, so I took that chance to try and detox a little whilst travelling
- TALK THINGS OUT – tensions will rise on a road trip at some point. The best thing to do, no matter how bad the situation is, is to talk it out as a group. Get it out in the open how others in the group are feeling. It may not resolve the situation, but at least people’s feelings are known, so the situation can hopefully be prevented from reoccurring in the future
- COMPROMISE – when travelling you’ll have in your head all the cities and sights you wanna see. C., New York City, Nashville, Chicago, maybe Salem or Pittsburgh… You have to remember the rest of your group will want to see specific places too. Be sure to all talk together when travelling to a city and talk about the day plan. Not everyone will want to see historical sights in DC ALL day, and not everyone will want to spend a full day at a campsite. You just have to give and take, compromise where you can; even in a city split off into two groups and arrange a meeting point and time, and keep in touch with occasional messages via Facebook or What’s App. It gives the group dynamic a better feeling and honestly, will make your trip more enjoyable. You never know, you could end up doing something that you used to hate, but because you’re doing it with your best friends you end up coming away absolutely loving it.
- MAKE SURE SOMEONE HAS A CREDIT CARD – honestly, people will tell you time and time again. AMERICA IS THE LAND OF CREDIT CARDS. I didn’t believe it, but honestly having one out there was the best decision I could have made. You can only get a rental car with a credit card, some toll roads accept credit only (as well as some parking lots). It’s just that extra bit of security and it gives you something to fall back on should you run out of money. Make sure to only use it in an emergency though, you don’t want a HUGE credit card bill to come home too!
I would ALWAYS recommend road tripping, if it’s possible, across America rather than taking the Amtrak trains or Greyhound buses. You see so much more of the country and get a real feel for the sheer size of America’s beautiful landscape. One thing I’ll never forget from my road trip experience this summer was driving through Vermont; I had never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life, and that is something that I would have never experience from being sat on a train. It is hard work, I won’t lie to you. It will be tough, you’ll be tired and you may end up wanting to kill people in your group. But when you get home and look back on your adventure, or when you get back to the car rental place and pass over those keys, you just stand there and think ‘Jeez, we made it. We did it.’ You will miss it instantly! I moaned how tired I was throughout my whole trip because I was the only person that could drive the rental car. But if someone asked me to do it all again tomorrow, I totally would. Honestly, the memories you have singing ‘Country Roads’ whilst crossing the West Virginia state border, getting lost in the dark in the middle of a random forest, and driving up the wrong side of the road, (in our case!), are ones you will hold forever. I could talk for hours about other top tips that I’ve experienced through my road trip across the North East this summer, but I hope these 10 have helped!
(Randomly driving through New York state. Photo Credit: Shannon Westwood)
Happy road tripping!