The InterExchange Camp USA program places international participants in two different positions at camp during their short stays in the U.S: counselor and support staff. Although these positions have two different sets of responsibilities, both roles are important to ensuring a safe and effective summer camp. Applicants may only apply for either a counselor or support staff position, not both. Please help your applicants determine the best positions for them before they fill out the paperwork.
Supervising another person’s child is an enormous responsibility. Therefore, working as a summer camp counselor is an extremely important job. Counselors must be patient, mature, and responsible individuals.
The ability to speak English proficiently is another critical skill for a prospective counselor. Strong English skills are a must when teaching an activity and in communication for all other aspects of camp. If a counselor does not understand or speak English well, he or she will be difficult to place and will likely be denied a visa.
Camp is an ever-changing environment, so the counselor needs to be open-minded, flexible, and have a positive attitude. The ability to handle stressful situations in a constructive manner is essential for a counselor. He or she must be prepared to spend all day with the campers and always act in a mature and responsible manner when around them and their fellow teammates.
Most importantly, an individual who wishes to be a camp counselor in the United States should genuinely care about the welfare of children and be interested in learning about life in the U.S. They should not view this experience as an inexpensive option for visiting the U.S.
InterExchange Camp USA only recruits applicants who are eager and excited to work with children. Applicants who possess specialized skills are much easier to place than those who are only qualified to work as general counselors. However, all applicants should be prepared to assume general counselor responsibilities. Applicants who are interested in working in a religious or special needs camp are also very valuable to the program.
Activity counselors must possess relevant certification or training in the specified activity and/or show strong teaching experience. Camps look for certified activity counselors because many states require these instructors to hold certifications. However, camps are often willing to train candidates who lack actual certification to develop their skills and gain experience.
Different camps will have different requirements for their activity counselors. At some camps, an activity counselor will do nothing but teach soccer all day. At other camps, a activity counselor will teach soccer part-time but will also teach another activity. There are camps where the activity counselors will live with campers in the cabin, and others where they will live separately from the campers. The same variation of duties holds true for general counselors. Both activity and general counselors must be flexible, patient, and willing to explore the different responsibilities that these positions entail. Camps classify whether a participant is an activity or general counselor.
Special needs counselors work with campers who face a wide variety of challenges including physical, mental, behavioral, and learning disabilities. The position requires patience, lots of energy, and most importantly, respect for the campers. Responsibilities may include bathing, lifting, and assisting with the overall care of campers. The types and degrees of disabilities vary greatly between camps. A special needs counselor should have a general interest in or prior experience working with this population. Many special needs camps will take counselors with no previous experience as long as they are open-minded and motivated to learn.
Support staff work in utility positions such as kitchen, laundry, and maintenance. They ensure that the camp is clean, the campers are well fed, and everything around camp is operating properly.
To apply as support staff, candidates must be full time university or post secondary students and have prior, relevant experience in the areas of interest. People who apply to work in the kitchen must understand that they will be cooking or washing dishes for 200+ campers and staff throughout the summer. They should have experience working outside of the home.
A support staff applicant must be extremely flexible and hard working. Camps often move support staff between jobs and may require them to work up to 12 hours a day (with a maximum of 60 hours per week). Due to the physical nature of the job, support staff receive a higher stipend than counselors. At some camps, support staff will be paid hourly (at or above minimum wage) depending on their state’s labor laws.
Support staff duties can include, but are not limited to:
- Kitchen help – This is the most common support staff job in camp. Duties may include: assisting the chef, preparing food, washing dishes, stocking shelves, taking inventory, mopping, sweeping, serving food, and taking out garbage.
- Dining hall – Dining hall work is similar to kitchen work in terms of responsibilities, but dining hall staff may have more interaction with the rest of the camp. Participants will primarily be responsible for setting up the dining room area for all meals, cleaning tables, sweeping, mopping, serving food, taking out garbage, and assisting kitchen staff.
- Housekeeping – Participants may clean cabins and indoor common areas, dust, make beds, and clean bathrooms. Someone who is not willing to clean bathrooms should not apply for housekeeping.
- Laundry – This is one of the physically easier, but more tedious jobs in camp. Participants collect, wash, dry, fold, and redistribute clothes for the entire camp.
- Maintenance & grounds – Maintenance workers fix broken equipment (plumbing, carpentry, electrical), mow and trim lawns and bushes, lift and move equipment, clean pools, clean bathrooms, take out garbage, and paint.
InterExchange Camp USA welcomes return participants. These applicants usually have a solid understanding of the meaning of camp. They integrate quickly and easily into the camp environment, and in some cases they can become effective leadership staff. Returning participants have much to offer their camp communities. Returning participants must understand that the commitment is as important as it was their first year. InterExchange Camp USA would like to ensure that their experience is as great as, if not better than, the participants’ first summer! If a participant wishes to return to the same camp exclusively, he or she should do so as a Returning Placement applicant and make arrangements with the original camp . If they would like to participate in the program a second time but would like to go to a new camp they should do so through the Camp Placement program. A second-timer who wishes to pursue a new camp placement must be as flexible about placement possibilities as the first time.
Restrictions on Returning Participants
In accordance with U.S. Department of State regulations and InterExchange policy:
- All counselors may repeat a second time.
- There are restrictions on the number of returners we can accept for a third year or more.
- All support staff may return as long as they are currently students and are not in their first or last year of school.
Important for Returning Participants
There are two important reasons that you should make arrangements for your returning participants in the fall and winter prior to your summer season, even before addressing other applicants.
Our program is first come, first serve, so if your applicants submit their paperwork too late, InterExchange may not be able to sponsor their visa due to the limits put in place on returning participants. Returning participants who apply early can be processed more quickly and this allows you to focus on recruiting more first time participants.
Second, you will have a more efficient process if you manage all of your returning participants before starting the application process with new participants. You can send out a quick postcard or email to all of last year’s participants, reminding them that they need to apply immediately if they would like to return to camp. Help them decide if they should come as second-year Camp Placement or as Returning Placement, then invite them to apply with the appropriate online application type. Once you have received a completed application from a returning participant, please submit their application to InterExchange so that we can begin the sponsorship or placement process.