Everything a Brit goes through when they work at a US summer camp

Guide, Life

No, it’s nothing like Beaver Falls

As cliche as it sounds, summer camp is one of those things you can’t really explain to anyone that didn’t do it. Your mates from home and uni will probably tease you into oblivion the second you open your mouth to try and talk about what you consider the best summer of your life. And you still talk about it, romantically and nostalgically, all these years later. Even though you’ve spent summers at Glasto, or travelling in Thailand, or something.

Even your parents will eventually get sick of you showing them pictures of people they’ll never meet while you crack up and remember all the in-jokes, stupid nicknames and day off stories that made your summer.

Going to camp as a Brit is a unique experience, you’ve been airdropped into a place with history, traditions and people that have known each other for years and years and years. At times it’s overwhelming, a 12-week rollercoaster of emotions that barely stops for breath. Brits that survive it all know that no matter where your camp is, from Rochester to Ramah, Copake to Columbia county you’ll go through the same key experiences.

You’ll procrastinate filling out your application

Maybe it’s because you have a lot of uni work, maybe it’s because you can’t really be bothered to fill out the 50,000 questions they ask of you, but whatever the reason this will be the longest part of the process. You’ll have to pick pictures that you think make you look hireable, and fun, and also like you can be trusted around children. Not easy.

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There’s a really cringey recruitment fair that feels like speed dating

A lot of tables. A lot of overly stretched grins. A 10 minute date with someone that’ll be your boss for three months. No pressure right?

The agency makes you take a pic that will haunt you forever
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You’ll forget all about camp until you realise you haven’t sorted any of the paperwork

Remind me again why I need to buy different shaped passport pics for SEVEN pounds. And why do I need to put my laptop in a locker in Gould’s pharmacy before I go to the US embassy? Also, why do the US government need to know every time I’ve left the country for the last 10 years? Overkill much?

You’ve made it to America and immediately regret your decision

After a tearful goodbye at Heathrow Terminal three, you wave goodbye to your parents, get through security and spend the time before the flight scoping out the people wearing Camp America T-shirts. You’ll convince yourself they’re all really weird and definitely on your camp. You end sitting next to one of them on the flight. Seven hours later,(six of which were spent overthinking), you touch down at JFK and meet everyone from your camp. They seem alright.

Orientation is where you start to think this is going to be pretty good

The kids haven’t arrived yet, it’s just the staff. The jokes start flying, there’s probably a Scouse guy who loves the word “banter”. The Americans are overwhelmed. They’ll bus all the Brits to Walmart. The Brits will buy all the trail mix in the store, no-one buys anything they actually need.

The camp director gives ‘The Talk’

If you get caught drinking, you will be deported. If you hit a kid, you will be deported. If you touch a kid, you will be deported. If you do drugs, you will be deported.  You think how terrible getting deported sounds. You promise yourself that you won’t get deported.

The kids arrive and all hell breaks loose

They can smell a first time counsellor a mile away, they can smell your fear. You try not to let it show and refuse to believe that a 15-year-old can get the better of you.  It takes probably a week before they will listen to you and another three before they respect you.

These guys didn't like me for at least two weeks

These guys didn’t like me for at least two weeks

The food slowly gets worse and worse

Oh great, it’s tacos again.

You begin to live for the days and nights off

Never has putting on a nice shirt felt so freeing. The second you leave the camp gates, you feel like a real person again, free from spontaneous chanting, able to leave the table without waiting for all your kids to finish their tater tots. It is truly liberating.

Someone gets fired

We don’t talk about Steve any more.

Everyone’s Instagram game is lifted

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July the fourth rolls around and you get really into it

Maybe it’s because we don’t have an Independence day but it feels nice to get really into the ultimate American festival. You’ve never saluted a flag before, but now it just feels right.

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Colo(u)r War is a Red Bull filled haze

It doesn’t matter if you had a position or were just frantically supervising the kids as they attempted to run off and join events for kids three years younger, Color War is a time when no-one sleeps, no-one eats properly and you lose your voice 20 minutes in shouting football chants that you’ve had to make PG.

11863379_1159415660741363_5854090399927008193_nOne evening, you’ll get dressed up fancy for some reason

Apparently it’s a camp tradition to get dressed up and take pics by the beaut lake. These pics will be your next three profile pictures. You’re looking tanned and the combination of long days, questionable food and running around the hundred acre site means you’re looking fitter than you have for a very long time. These will be the best pics you take at camp. They might even make it on to your Tinder.

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You realise there’s only two weeks left

How has it gone this quickly?

Everyone starts hooking up

Didn’t Zac have a girlfriend from home? I thought Garf was getting with the other Scottish one? Did you hear that half of Senior unit are getting with each other? Camp goggles are real people.

It all ends.

Through floods of tears, you say goodbye to the kids, your new American friends, and the Brits you’re not good enough friends with to go travelling with, but will still miss a bit.  You can’t believe that this perfect experience is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday that you were messing around in the Rec Hall with people you barely knew. Three months later, this amazing little world is crashing down around you. You leave America older, wiser and with more custom T-shirts than you have any idea what to do with. As your plane takes off to return you to grey horrible England, you look out the window and think: “This was the best summer of my life”

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