USA Summer Camp: The Pros & Cons


Working at a summer camp in America sounds like the ultimate dream. Waking up to nice weather every day? What a concept! Meeting people from all over the world? Fabulous. Eating those monstrous portions of food that you’ve only ever seen in Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives? Sign me up.


If camp sounds like your calling, then here are a few pros and cons from my own experience which may help you take the leap and cross the pond.


Pro #1 The Culture


No, we did not salute the flag. Yes, people randomly broke out into song. No, we didn’t ever have to sing the national anthem.


Summer camp culture faces a lot of stereotypes. With movies like Camp Rock and The Parent Trap, I thought I knew everything about this culture even before stepping through the camp gates. For the most part, it really did meet my expectations exactly. However, other aspects that I hadn’t even considered came completely out of left field. Each camp is very different, but the culture I experienced was one of the most surreal things. I felt like I was in a cheesy Disney movie 90% of the time, but like . . . I wasn’t complaining. If you go in with a completely open mind, it is so easy to fully get on board and believe in the crazy camp culture that you just can’t experience at home.

Pro #2 The Friends

I was lucky enough to go to my camp the same year as nine other Scottish staff members. As is expected of a handful of Scottish people outside of Scotland, we gravitated towards each other pretty much immediately. Meeting them made being at camp a lot less surreal and a lot more like being at home.

Aside from this, everybody becomes so close. Spending every waking moment together, for eight weeks, tends to have this effect – it really is just like one big family. By the end of summer everybody feels so comfortable with each other, and you really do leave feeling like you’ve made solid friendships for life. I’ve already had my first meet-up with my best friends from camp - one of which actually goes to my university - and they’ll definitely stay some of my best friends for a long time.


Con #1 The Cost

Do not go to camp primarily to earn money.


The idea of camp was sold to me, by my agency, as this place where you can have the greatest summer of your life, while also earning money. Although this is technically true, it’s also, kind of, definitely not.

I can’t remember the specifics, but I’m pretty sure my costs to the agency for their ‘Flights Included’ option was £700. This seemed pretty cushty to ignorant ole’ me, especially when I got my camp contract through and noticed I would actually get a nice wage at the end of summer.

Little did I know that this did not include all the other steps in the process for getting to America. Before I even got to camp, I had to pay for a medical examination, a police certificate, the price of travelling to Belfast for my J1 Visa, and my personal favourite, the price of travelling to Edinburgh for a pre-departure meeting in May . . . the height of exam season. My pay from camp was already spent before I even got there.

Plus, Trump now taxes everybody and their dog, so he took $105 of that money, too.

If you view camp as a job and a place to earn money, then you’re not going to be satisfied on pay day. However, if you view camp as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you’ll leave feeling like you won the lottery.

Con #2 The Food

The food at camp is a whole different thing. Honestly, I was expecting it to be amazing. I was expecting the weight gain to hit me like a truck because the food was just too damn good. If you like eternal cheese and carbs, with some funny-coloured meat, then you’re set! But, I don’t think anyone likes bread and cheese-based food items this much. Not even me.

I think my body was genuinely in shock from the aggressive change in my diet, and it certainly did not appreciate the very sudden lack of fibre. Needless to say, I shovelled all the fruit and veg into my body as soon as I arrived home. And, much like everything else at camp, I do now miss their trademark cheesy bagels.

All things considered, my time at camp was easily the best summer of my life. You leave feeling like you’ve gained a new family, and no amount of money or crumby food will change that.

So if you’re considering applying to become a councillor at camp, do it!