6 Steps to Surviving a Job at a Summer Camp

It’s that time of the year, and like many university students I have found myself once again in a camp counselling role, for the third year running, for four weeks this summer. Here are some of my tips on getting through it (some of which were lessons learned the hard way!)

1.Know what to expect

Summer schools and camps often come with brutal schedules. Split shifts, overnight shifts, and overtime are common. It’s really important to discuss how much you will be expected to work during your time at the camp and how much time off you can expect with your employer in advance. If your employer will not guarantee any time off, it is a bad signs. It is also useful to keep a time sheet to keep track of your hours once working, which will help you to make sure you are being paid above the national minimum wage.

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep is necessary. You do not want to be looking after 20 teenagers while tired. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will also get progressively worse over the course of the camp. Don’t do it to yourself!

3. Use your time off wisely

Often in a camp environment you can become very close to your colleagues, due to the closeness in age as well as the nature of the work. There will often be occasions for drinking alcohol. You may also take the opportunity of time off to go drinking with other friends. This will never end well; ultimately it is unprofessional and means that you are not able to give the kids the support they need, especially in an emergency situation. This goes double if you are residential.

4. Be Prepared!

Always plan the day ahead in advance, and try to find out what is happening before it does. Know where you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to be doing and who you are supposed to be doing it with. This is vital to ensuring that summer camps run smoothly.

5. Keep professional boundaries with your colleagues

This is a very tricky one, and relates closely to point (3). There can be a high degree of cabin fever, especially in a residential setting, and it’s important to give each other enough space and time to oneself, even when you get on with them. Apologize for mistakes and say thank you for any help your colleagues provide. Remember, however, that even if  you get on well, you are still colleagues and there needs to be certain boundaries in place. Be mindful of how you behave, how you speak to them and what you tell them.

6. Take a step back

Working at a summer camp can be extremely stressful. It can also be exhilarating and an opportunity for a lot of personal growth. It can make you feel anxious and burnt out, and other days can be absolutely wonderful. In the midst of this it is important sometimes to get out of the camp environment and find things to do which take your mind off of work and the things going on at the site. This is a very important part of ensuring your emotional well-being and helping you to make it through your contract.


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