Especially in the Northeast, there is a magical thing called “sleepaway camp” that many people have only heard of in books and TV. They are havens of fun and excitement that thousands of kids partake in every year (granted they have the funds available). I’m not talking about the weeklong sports camps or church camps that are a little more popular, but the 7 or 8-week programs that kids go away to every summer.
And what’s maybe even better than going to sleepaway camp? Being a counselor at one. The ideal time for this is college age, from 18-22 for the most part. You sure as heck don’t make much a ton of money from it, but the experience is, in a word, priceless. If you’re a little bit older it’s still okay, there are always summer seasonal positions for sports program heads and unit leaders. However, the real cream of the crop here, I think, is being a counselor. Here’s why:
Complete responsibility with utter lack of responsibility
Where can you say that you’ve been where your word means law and you are responsible for the care and keeping of other human beings, but you don’t have to cook, the cleaning is minimal, and someone else does your laundry? I mean, you hardly even have to put effort into choosing your clothes (besides on your days off, but we’ll get to that soon) because you probably can’t fit too much of a selection into your counselor clothing cubby anyways.
Role model teaching
It is SICK to know that lessons you teach kids will stick with them the rest of their lives. I remember my favorite camp counselor from over ten years ago PERFECTLY. That’s saying a lot, because I hardly remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Your kids look up to you, and you suddenly turn into this all-knowing, mondo-mature mix between a parent and an older sibling.
After working at summer camps for three summers I can safely say that I can go to almost any US state, and many countries outside of the US, and have someone to hang out with or show me around. Summer camp counselors come from all over the place, and are by nature super friendly and ready to have fun. Not to mention, the crazy situations that you get into often times forge unbreakable friendship bonds that will last you a lifetime.
Summer camp is the perfect place for summer love. There is a definite end point at the end of the season, and hormones are always buzzing like CRAZY because you’re in a place full of attractive people your age. It is a breeding ground for exciting encounters and young love, and stories you will probably tell your grandkids about…though probably not your spouse.
Speaking of stories, how could crazy things NOT happen when you’re in the kind of ideal scenario for chaos to break out? That crazy camper who ABSOLUTELY refused to shower all summer, so you had to pick them up and dunk them in the lake, then cover them in nice smelling lotion so that their parents wouldn’t know on visiting day. That magical 4th of July where you finally got smooched by like, the hottest guy ever. That time you saved a camper’s life by being ready with an epi-pen when they ate peanut butter on accident. The kind of stuff that may seem horrible in the moment, but afterwards enriches your life and makes for a pretty good tale later on.
For the most part, being a camp counselor is a 24 hour/day, 6 days/week job. But for one glorious day, you and your exciting, awesome, fun friends get to go wherever you want to (especially if one of you has a car)…maybe you go cliff jumping, maybe you go to the beach. Maybe you go to a new city. Who knows, it’s really up to you. But chances are, you’ll find someone at camp who wants to do the same thing on their day off, and you’ll get to go together.
I know I’m not the only one who loves when the whole camp gets together and sings campfire songs, roasts marshmallows, and generally just loves each other. There is something really cool about getting around a blazing camp fire with a couple hundred of your most favorite people, and being an important part of some long standing traditions.
Okay, maybe you have to sleep in a bunk with ten 13 year olds. Maybe the shower pressure is bad and you never have hot water. If you can get over that, please take a minute to look around. Most summer camps are held on extremely picturesque grounds in beautiful areas. This is a rare thing, and a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Playing all day, every day
How many people get to say that their job is to professionally have fun? Not a ton. As a camp counselor it is your JOB to be fun. You are fun sun up to sun down, giving high fives, piggy back rides, eating birthday cakes, making friendship bracelets, being the toothfairy (I hope I didn’t give that away for anyone), telling silly stories, being in skits and plays, and belaying kids up climbing walls. There is never a dull moment, and I know that sounds crazy…but really, there isn’t.
Picture a whole week of one half of camp competing against the other. Everything from cleaning the bunk, to soccer games and artwork. This is a huge event in camp that is anticipated the entire summer. And you get to do some CRAZY stuff, like paint your whole body in your team’s color and wrestle for a greased watermelon in a lake, or go through a climbing obstacle course. Counselors often times get to compete, too.
Going to camp itself
For me, the experience of camp was really worth every minute. Just being there, being around the people, and doing the things you are able to do at camp is honestly a unique experience that I feel lucky to have been a part of. I would suggest it to anyone thinking about it, on a heartbeat. The places you go, people you meet, and things you do and see will make you glad that you gave it a shot.