When it comes to camp, it’s all about the kids and the joy that they experience during their summer away, but have you ever wondered what camp is like from the other side? What is it like to be an adult working in the land of children? Speaking as a pro, it’s difficult to put into words what exactly the camp experience is like for a staff member, but that never stops us from giving it a try. So sit back, relax, and take a journey to camp with us through the eyes of a camp counselor.
As a staff member, the buzz of camp excitement starts long before the campers arrive. Weeks before camp officially starts, you make your way to camp to begin your rigorous staff training. You nervously meet dozens of your new coworkers whose names you’re desperately trying to remember to no avail. Each day you spend learning enough information to fill an encyclopedia and each night your spend getting to know the relative strangers that have quickly become your camp roommates and friends. Your head is spinning, your smile is growing, and yet you realize that the best is yet to come. Your anticipation for the campers to arrive grows every second until you think you are going to explode. Just when you think you can’t take it any longer, you hear the roar of the buses coming down the driveway and you know that the day you have long been waiting for has finally come.
Once the campers arrive, there is no looking back. In the blink of an eye, you transform from just a normal summer employee into a parent, teacher, coach, therapist, and cheerleader. You go from zero to hero overnight and you happily dive right into the camp lifestyle. Before you know it, your normally bare wrists are covered in friendship bracelets and you have become the master of goofy camp songs. In the blink of an eye, you have become a completely different person than you were a month or two ago, a person who is confident and joyful about even the most menial of tasks. Each day, you enthusiastically coach campers on the soccer field, rehearse skits with your bunk, and belay campers as they crawl up the rock wall. You get lots of hugs and feel the love of your campers and coworkers alike. You discover that tie-dye is fashionable for every occasion and Otter Pops can fix even the greatest catastrophes. You relish in the moments when you and your bunk share those indescribably special moments in which you and your campers can be truly open with one another and share laughs, love, and tears. You go to bed each night with good memories dancing through your mind and a vague campfire smell lingering in your hair.
Each new bunk of campers that arrives presents itself as a new opportunity to build strong bonds and truly be a role model. Your campers become a part of your family and seeing them succeed feels like winning the Olympic gold. You work hard to make sure that every camper feels cared for and special, even when they wake you up well before sunrise and keep you up late into the night. You happily giggle along with your bunk as you subtly push them to be more cooperative, independent, and adventurous. In your days off, you find yourself wondering what your campers are doing in your absence and worrying that they’ll forget to put on their sunscreen without your constant reminders. You put every last ounce of effort into making sure that your campers know you will be their number one fan even when things get rough.
As the summer trudges on, you continue to devote all of your energy to putting smiles on your campers’ faces, but sometimes to no avail. The days are long, often sweaty, and exhausting. Personal space is a distant memory and you might not remember when you last got a full night of sleep, let alone your most recent shower.
But then, just when you feel like you are ready to give up, it happens- your homesick camper asks to stay at camp for another session or the kid you’ve been working with at gymnastics all week finally masters their back walkover- and you realize that it was all worth it. All of your tireless work is immediately validated and you’ve gained more willpower than you had previously thought one person could possess. You regain the pep in your step, start smiling a little bigger, and laugh off the idea of needing a shower because you are at camp and at camp, some things are more important than taking a shower.
You head into the next days or weeks feeling at the top of your game. Each day has its challenges, but you use your positive attitude to make it through. You are confident in your ability to make connections with your campers and you find support in your fellow counselors. You spend your downtime enjoying all of the opportunities that camp has to offer and you let your inner child come out every chance you get.
And just when you start to really get the hang of things, you sit back and realize the summer is coming to a close. For every laugh that you shared over the summer comes a tearful goodbye and every smile is replaced by a lasting memory. The end is emotional and tough, but as you watch your summer home disappear in the rearview mirror at the end of the season, you realize that as much as you left your mark on camp, camp has equally left its mark on you. As you get back to your normal, everyday life, ordinary objects and events throw you back into memories of camp and you can’t help but burst into a smile and or the occasional camp song.
Camp is an unparalleled experience for children and adults alike, and one that is so overwhelmingly positive that it is difficult to explain. To truly understand what camp is like, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!