My Fellow Counselors: From Strangers to Family
The first two weeks of camp provided a great opportunity to explore my surroundings and get used to what's called “camp life” – the bug bites, the early morning wake-up calls, the lack of privacy, and cafeteria-style food – before the kids arrived. The second week was an orientation for all counselors and it is during this time you grow a special bond with the other counselors. You may all come from different backgrounds and have a different story, but you are all gathered together for a single purpose: to have the best summer of your life.
I can honestly say now that these people become your family. You share everything with them, you have good and bad days with them, and you end the summer closer than ever. You start dreading the day you have to say goodbye. Most people think that camp is all about the kids, and while that’s true to some extent, the unbreakable bond that develops between you and your co-counselors is one that no one else will truly understand.
The Campers: Learning From Each Other
We had a choice of the age group we wanted to work with for the summer. I was almost certain I wanted to work with eight- or nine-year-olds, because they would be super cute and hopefully not have any attitude like the older girls. However, as orientation went on, I learned about the awesome trips that the older girls went on and the activities they were involved in; that age group seemed like a better fit for me.
I took a leap of faith and chose the 12-year-olds. I expected they would be a lot easier to look after, as they would be more independent. That was mostly the case, but there were still times where I had to give them a hand: sometimes helping them fix their hospital corners on their bed, tidying their drawers before inspection, or sitting on their bed at two in the morning until they fell back asleep because they were homesick.
Anyone who has been a camp counselor will agree that it is exhausting and doesn’t come without its daily challenges - counseling 39 girls isn’t easy - but in the end, it’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world! You will learn a lot about yourself in the seven short weeks the campers are there.
"In the end it’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. You will learn a lot about yourself in the seven short weeks the campers are there."
I learned patience from being woken up three times during the night on multiple occasions, having to escort girls to the bathroom five or more times during one evening activity, and having to explain over and over why one could not just skip an activity.
I also never thought I was capable of waking up at 8:15 a.m. and not getting to bed until 11:15 p.m. or so and still being completely functional, but camp showed me that I was. Once you get into the camp routine, it all seems to come naturally.
On the day of their arrival I was nervous, intimidated even. I had no idea what to expect. Would they be different to the average 12-year-old Australian girl? Would they be anything like I was when I was 12? Would they like me?
Three Special Campers: Lifelong Friends!
I remember the first three girls from my bunk who arrived: Sami, Jamie, and Aly. They flew in from Florida and had arrived a day earlier than most of the campers. The moment they arrived and we introduced ourselves, I knew I no longer needed to be nervous. These girls were hilarious, goofy, outgoing, and sweet. They immediately wanted to know everything about you, what accent you had, and they were so excited for the summer ahead.
"I can honestly say now that these people become your family. You share everything with them, you have good and bad days with them, and you end the summer closer than ever."
These kids have been attending camp for years, since as young as seven or eight, and the friendships they made over the years are so strong it’s hard to even describe! That first night, these three talked for hours about how they couldn’t wait to see their friends the next day, friends they only see for two months each year. But in those two months, they make memories that last a lifetime and a connection that ties them together for the 10 months until they meet at camp again.
Courtney is a former Australian participant on our Camp USA Program. She worked at Camp Towanda for the summer. She first traveled internationally when she was 14, and since then, has been to New Zealand, back to the USA, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, the USA again, the Caribbean, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Malaysia. She has a strong desire to see and experience everything this world has to offer.