I thought i’d begin my blog with a topic in which i believe there wasn’t a lot of information available to me, and that’s camp america. I struggled to find information on packing, what to expect, a typical day/experience of a previous camp america individual and general tips and advice. I did camp america (americamp) in 2016 in the sunny state of Florida. I had an unforteggatble experience in america like no other with many ups and downs… mostly ups and stories that will never get old.. but ill save that for another post. Anyway here is my top 10 tips for a camp america / americamp experience.
Seems silly but if you are reading this unsure on whether to go or not, or if you’ve applied but not yet interviewed. DO IT! Trust me! This will be one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences you will ever have. The people you meet, the stories you’ll have to tell, the lifestyle you’ll have while your there is something you can’t match. You may not appreciate it at the time but trust me when you get time at home to reflect you’ll agree that going was the greatest decision you ever made. Many companies do all included trips to do camp america, the one i went through however was AMERICAMP. This company was absolutely amazing, not only does it pay the highest to their workers, they organise everything from background checks, visas, help with flights and finally free biscuits how could you resist???? I highly recommend them the people are super friendly and are very good at replying/ keeping in touch with you through every stage of the process. You can visit their page at https://www.americamp.co.uk/
2. Wifi/ Sim cards
This is the biggest question i had, sadly for our generation wifi is a big part. My camp did not provide wifi when i arrived, we had to organise wifi ourselves to the mobile home in which we were staying, which meant we did not have wifi for 3/4 weeks, yes 4 WEEKS! I didn’t bring a sim card adaptable for use in the US as i was reliant on the fact that we would have access to the internet, i was very wrong. I was wifiless unless we were out in cafes/shops or built up the courage to ask someone for a personal hotspot, a touchy subject especially when you barely know anyone just yet, however most people were nice enough to agree. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to get a sim card BEFORE you get to the US. It makes contacting home and assessing the internet so simple and so easy, many phone companies will do certain deals abroad especially for the US. If you want to leave your sim card buying until you get to the US pay to unlock your phone at your nearest phone company branch or a carphone warehouse. This means you’ll be able to put any phone network sim card into your phone without any fuss or hassle. I tried to do this in america and had huge problems even accessing my phone with the american software, so please please do this in your home before you leave!
3. Games – Come Prepared
When i arrived at camp and was first given my schedule in which i had to follow daily of activities (your camp will probably be similar) I noticed there was an activity called ‘organised games’. When asked what this was it was where the counselors had to make up activities for the kids to take part in during this time. I obviously knew a few form when id been on activities weeks with my school such as ninja but my knowledge on quick games like that was very low. So i would highly recommend coming up with activity ideas that you can do in an organised game time slot, or even while waiting for lunch, or to see who gets to go first to lunch. You can search online there’s hundreds and maybe make a small book of them to take with you everyday. These little games can completely turn the mood in the room and they get everyone involved and communicating. These games are also great at the start of weeks when you may have new kids in your group who will be nervous and wont know the other kids. Rather than singling them out. This is a great way to involve them and get them to communicate with the others. Examples of these games include: Chinese whispers, ninja, charades (charades became my favorite), drawing charades, human knot, splat, musical chairs and headbands. There is plenty more online so highly recommend looking these up.
4. Trainers – do not and i cannot repeat do not buy yourself a new pair of trainers for this experience
You will be working with kids all day, playing / falling in the mud due to endless water fights and capture the flag games (your inner kid will take over). The chances your camp will be pretty muddy is extremely high and well mud and your newest, brightest pair of nikes, funnily enough don’t mix. If your camp is in a state in which is likely to bust out into random showers of rain (like florida) even more so. I remember it had been pouring down since 1pm and the kids were due to be picked up by their parents at 6pm, i had to literally wade through the water to return them to their parents for the night.. i mean maybe id even recommend wellies!! Nevertheless bring your oldest, most overused pairs of trainers that you can find – notice the use of plural, definitely recommend more than one pair and you can easily pick up another cheap pair from Wal-Mart while you’re there.
5. Do not overpack.. girls i’m talking to you
I stupidly made this mistake, I traveled with two pull along cases both packed with endless summer clothes for my 10 week trip. My camp was a day camp so there was more time that we had free to explore such as weekends and nights (well that’s what I told myself to justify the huge suitcase packed with bikinis and shorts) Unfortunately i was the only one who thought this, the first girl i met at my camp (who i feel weird calling girl- shoutout to hollie price you beb) had packed a reasonable rucksack, be the hollie not the Sophia. Basically long story short the only necessities are trainers, pajamas and a couple of outfits. The chances are your camp will have a specific uniform/outfit they’d like you to wear and will include shorts if not they may require a specific colour or length – maybe even email your camp about this prior to departure to be super prepared! I would also highly recommend a rucksack especially if you’re planning on traveling afterwards
6. Be yourself
Regardless of how cliché this is, its 100% true. First impressions count while meeting your co counselors and although nerves can take over to begin with you’ll be with these people for 10 weeks and you’ll soon become a family, so to bring that energy to begin with will be amazing. Be open, tell stories about your home, explain about your lifestyle. Chances are you’ll be placed with people from all around the globe who will be super interested in what you do and where you come from, your likes and dislikes. So be the person that starts those conversations!
7. Your Mood
This is a big one and it’s probably something that all camp counsellors will have experienced. There will be days when you don’t want to get up and run around with the children at 6am, there 100% will be. But you cannot and i cant stress enough how much you cannot let your kids notice your mood. Kids are extremely clever and they’ll easily be able to pick up when you’re not yourself and they will make your day 1000X harder for you, trust me. They will play up on the fact that you aren’t feeling 100% and make it so much worse. They’ll misbehave more because they’ll see you maybe aren’t paying as much attention to them, theyll see that you’re getting angry more easily and basically even if you feel like you want to nap all day long, you have to turn that around with a huge smile on your face and act like nothings wrong and trust me itll improve your day so much and possibly turn it round!
Now I did not get flexi flights when i arrived in the US. I feel as though everything im advising is everything i did not do, but only because i wish i did. At the time i was in a relationship and had plans to travel to SE asia afterwards instead with my boyfriend at the time, however this ended while i was away. So i was left with set flights, leaving the day camp ended and therefore had to leave to go home while the rest of the people i was close with were off travelling the US with their money from camp, not a great feeling. If i had got flexi flights i would have been able to change my departure date and maybe from a different state at a super low price. My flights to change would have been £700+ something i didn’t feel was worth. STA do amazing deals for flexi flights, you can even go in store to chat to them in person on what their different deals are to choose the best one for you. The flights may be a little more expensive than if you were to book them with sky scanner but they are like i said flexible, so in the long run you will save a lot of money! You can check out STA flexi flights here – http://www.statravel.co.uk/multiflex-pass.htm Another note on travelling around america, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this alone or with a couple of others there are many tour groups online in which do tours of america, these are slightly pricy however will organise all transport and most meals/ accommodation for you, I’ve heard CONTIKI being recommended for USA trips.
9. Throw yourself into the deep end
Literally!! You have to act like a total goofball, let your inner child be free. The bigger goofball you’re prepared to act the more the kids will love you and this can come with many benefits as they will be better behaved. Dress up, sing silly chants, go swimming with them, let yourself be the water balloon target. The more you embarrass yourself the better your experience will be. If you don’t have the confidence fake it, fake it till you make it!
10. Mix it up
Constantly mix the activities up because they can be repetitive and they can be boring, especially as some kids will be there all summer long. By week 3 archery will be more of a chore than an activity. Mix this up by adding water balloons to the targets, or balloons filled with candy. Basketball you can mix this up by doing different drills many online. Rounders change it to kick rounders. Kayaking, make it into a race or a rally kind of thing. Capture the flag you could add holi powder/paint to make it more exciting. Hide and seek you could change to sardines. Orienteering could be changed to find the pictures. Little things to mix the games up completely and will completely change the aspect for the kids and yourself. Also maybe asking what the kids would like to do. Often there is free time this could be their choice.
Buuutt most importantly enjoy yourself!!