One of the things that I have wanted to do since I was 12 was to be a counsellor at a American summer camp. Today I threw caution to the wind and adopted Nikes slogan and I just did it. I’ve been contemplating attending for a while now but when looking for detailed information I have never been able to find anything in detail, or articles which are more than one-sided on the experience of attending.
Because of this one of the main things I hope to contribute to this blog is a run-down of Summer Camps including both pros and cons of the experience.
After doing some research into three different program options, attending some of the information sessions and comparing the programs on paper, I finally decided that I should apply with CCUSA. I found that their information session was the most informative, I was already anticipating on organising my flights through their program partner – STA Travel annnnd it had one of the cheapest program costs—all of which were rather appealing!
NB: I am not working for or endorsing CCUSA. I just found out of the three program options that I found it best suited me. Everyone is different and I encourage you to take your time in reading about different programs on offer, speaking to different people and attending the information meetings before making your mind up.
CCUSA does most of the paperwork online, as well as assisting in your American J-1 Working Visa sponsorship. Supplying the Federal Police Check documents (you just need to provide the correct information and take it to a station), providing a form for referees to fill in (which you then need to hand into CCUSA and a face-to-face interview.
Apart from asking a lot of stock standard questions, they do include questions regarding skills you possess (particularly ones in which you hold certificates or qualifications). They also ask you to write a short autobiographical essay to get to know you, which will assist in camp allocation. I can imagine a few peoples faces will screw up when the read the word ‘essay’ but don’t fret! Its only 3000 characters (not words) – this means you need 3000 letters, spaces or other characters.
To ensure you’ll fit into the program (and not crazy!) every person applying for work through CCUSA has a scheduled meeting with a staff member.
It’s not scary and the staff won’t bite (I actually think I ended up laughing for half of my interview!). They ask you questions in relation to your profile – if you say you’ve danced before they’ll ask you to elaborate into what types, and for how long. If you say you have certifications, they’ll ask you if you’d be willing to teach in that area… nothing to hard! They’ll also try and get a gauge on you as a person to ensure you’ll be able to fit into the rush that is camp life.
This is probably the easiest stage so have fun, smile and don’t forget to be honest!
CCUSA, Camp America and a few other organisations offer job fairs for camp directors and staff to hand-pick applicants. I actually found this terribly daunting! Considering I have only had three jobs (one with my parents and one I managed to fall into with the thanks of a field trip during a uni course) the prospect of having to talk to about 20 different camps staff or directors about myself scared me.
Armed with my camp application (submitted through the website) and a smile I shuffled between the packed room to the camps I had mentally short-listed that I wanted to speak too and then almost every other camp. DON’T be panicked if you don’t get a job on the day! A lot of people think it’s the end of the universe and end up crying but that’s not true.
Only a small handful of camps can attend the Job Fair and a company such as CCUSA works with hundreds of camps.
I found that not to many camps at the job fair were interested in me because I was 19 (turning 20 in a week) and had no expert qualifications (camps are ALWAYS looking for swimming instructors/life guards so if you have these qualifications you’ll have no problem finding a job at a camp!)
I found it rather dejecting being rejected by so many camps in a row, so I recommend to mentally prepare yourself for it. Remember it is not the end of the world if you don’t find a camp at the job fair, you still have 4-months until camp and camps tend to hire up until the last minute!
I was lucky and managed to get offered a job at the job fair. It was not the position I was originally looking for (I wanted to be a General Counsellor as that was where my experience lies, and what I feel most comfortable doing) but it was at one of the three camps I had done prior research on, and thought suited me as a person.
I didn’t leap at the job, but instead I spoke to my interviewer (who was at the Job Fair), three friends and also my Mum. They gave me some good questions to asked and actually really supported me in my decision to talk to the camp again, and eventually take the job.
As a radio specialist counsellor I have a lot more responsibility, and the prospect of not doing well scares me! I work at a radio station already, but the type of work there in comparison to the type of work I will be doing at the camp is very different. Even my Journalism studies have not yet covered a whole lot of radio work yet. But I’m taking it in my stride and hopefully something good will come out of it!
Can I just put it out there, but consulate visits are a pain in the butt! Well, at least some of them are.
On my recent trip to the United States consulate you need to check yourself in on their computers, get your passport verified by security, put your bags/papers through a scanner, have security store your bags, go through a metal detector, have security run a metal detector ‘wand’ over you, sit and wait for everyone else behind you to go through security, be herded into the elevator, re-line up to have your passport checked again and to be given a number and thats before you even get to speak to a consulate officer!!! I was then told the photo I uploaded on the consulate website (you have to fill in certain forms online before making an appointment time) was not good enough and that I would have to fork out an additional $24 for new passport photos.
Yep, you could say I wasn’t a happy chappy having to go through entrance procedures again after getting the new photos! But at the end of the day, I got my visa and that made me a happy chappy.
The process to the UK Consulate ran a lot smoother, no security was involved as I only had to submit my biometrics into the system. I now have to send off supporting documents to the consulate in Canberra with a return envelope. A much simpler process than what I encountered at the US consulate!
Just remember to be prepared with all the correct supporting documentation and leave a decent amount of time. My appointment was at 9:45am but I didn’t leave the consulate until after midday, however my UK consulate appointment was at 2pm and I was out of there by 2:05pm.
The pre-departure meeting is mandatory and a condition of the J-1 Working Visa needed to enter the US to work at camp. This meeting really just goes over the nitty gitty details (things such as tax, social security numbers, what to expect, what if something goes wrong….) and also gives you the opportunity to extend overseas insurance, buy program T-Shirts, US Sim-cards or calling cards and for the company to ensure they have all the relevant forms filled and signed by participants.
It is a long meetings at 3-hours, and considering it goes over the ‘fun’ stuff it drags on a lot, but remember: this is just one step on your way to heading to camp! and in the words of CCUSA having ‘the best summer of your life!’