Louise Barry Photographer

Wedding + Portrait photographer, Leeds, UK.

Working at American summer camp

In 2014 I had the best summer of my life.

 I went to work at an American summer camp on the outskirts on New York City. It started with an application early October 2013, a very long application form. It had to have every detail about me, study, jobs, personal hobbies, interests, things I was good at, experience with children etc. I even had to make a promotional video about myself, film myself talking to the camera and explain why the camps viewing the videos should choose me! Cringe! The main thing I focussed on was my photography degree, obviously I would have gone out there to do anything but I wanted to teach photography. Months went by and people kept asking how my application was going, but I hadn’t heard anything back and I was getting a little deflated.

I honestly can’t remember whether I went to meet the Camp America rep before or after the long period of waiting time, but at some point I did. He wasn’t very nice and made me feel even worse about getting a place, he said he didn’t think I had enough strengths and not to get my hopes up and to edit certain parts of my application (idiot.) I tweaked parts, added certain things and played the waiting game again.

I remember waking up one morning, it was a really nice day, I was lying in bed checking my email on my phone and *PING* ‘Congratulations, you have been chosen to work at an American summer camp, please follow the link to see your chosen camp.’ I was so excited but at the same time rather nervous to see where I would be working, THEY choose you, you don’t get to choose where you would and wouldn’t like to work, I followed the link, NEW YORK, yessssss. I ran downstairs and told my mum, I’d never been so excited and nervous in all my life. Skype interviews followed, emails back and forth, saving up for spending money, a solo trip to London to get my working Visa. I left my full-time job and was doing the most exciting thing I’d ever done and I was doing it all alone.

June 23rd 2014 arrived, my Dad drove me down to London and from there I flew to JFK airport, New York. On the plane I considered how stupid it would be ringing home and telling them I’d changed my mind, what would the chances of my mum or dad paying for a flight home? We stayed in the overnight at a hotel, there were so many of us, all going to different camps across the state. In the morning we all went into separate groups, these were the separate groups for our camps. I was stood with a girl called Brittany, she was Scottish and so friendly, I instantly felt calmer around her. The coach trip took 4 hours from the city to the camp, through nice areas, not so nice areas, all the time thinking ‘when are we going to stop, where the heck is this camp’, it was getting darker too, something I’m not particularly fond of. We pulled into the camp grounds and no joke, me and Brittany both said to each other ‘I’ve changed my mind, I want to go home now.’ Of course we seemed like we were joking but we definitely weren’t. That soon changed when we saw the camp in the daylight and got settled in our beautiful surroundings and met everyone we were going to be working with. That’s definitely the highlight of working at a summer camp, the people you meet, there wasn’t one single person I disliked at that camp. Obviously there are people you get closer to and people that you talk to more than others, but it’s a lovely atmosphere and everyone is just amazing. You’re all in the same boat so you know how everyone else is feeling and that the one thing every one wants is to be made to feel welcome.

 

I had quite a busy time at camp, I was a counsellor for the first half, looking after groups of 14 teenagers 24/7 (with the help of other counsellors), I helped in the camp office towards the end of camp, I photographed the goings on in camp through the day and night, and I taught photography lessons during the day too. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, it was the total opposite of that, and if you’re thinking of applying because it’s a holiday to America, it really isn’t - it’s hard work. The days are long, hot and sweaty.  The pay isn’t incredible. You’ll miss your family and friends. But the positives completely outweigh the negatives; You’ll meet people from all across the world, you’ll visit amazing places on your days off, you’ll be completely immersed in the America camp lifestyle, singing camp songs, learning camp dances and be a total idiot for 4 months. You’ll get to travel after camp, wherever you want and with whoever you want. Best of all you’ll make the most amazing friends, you’ll get to know them inside and out and because you spend every day and night with them for such a long time, they’ll practically become family and you’ll miss them dearly when you leave.

 

I’m still in touch with the 2014 Camp Eagle Hill team and even some of the campers too. I’ve met up with them since camp in Liverpool and London and will no doubt be in touch with them for a long time to come.

I can’t encourage anyone enough to apply to work in an American summer camp. It was no doubt 100% the best thing I’ve ever done and if this blog post can encourage at least one person to sign up I’ll be happy.