Camp America: The Truth

This is something I get asked ALLL the time, is camp America good? Should I do camp America? Is it worth the money? So I thought I’d answer a few questions for anyone who is considering paying this company a sizeable fee in return for spending their summer working in the USA. Whilst Camp America probably have an in detail FAQ’s page I feel like I can give you some really honest answers that aren’t tailored to make you think a certain way, in reality, it’s a business and whilst I loved my experience, they are out to make money.

What is Camp America?

So the first clarification that needs to be made is what Camp America actually is, it is not a place, or an employer or something that you will be physically doing. Camp America is a company who will assess whether you are suitable to work in an American summer camp, they will then attempt to find a job that suits your skills/ abilities and then will guide you in the process of visas, DBS’s and finally getting to your assigned camp, which ever state that may be in. People often use the term ‘Camp America’ to describe their summer working in the US, but in reality, this is not an actual place or job, they are just the people who get you there.

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Is Camp America the best programme to use?

There are a tonne of different exchange programmes which are all really accessible online, so it gets a bit confusing figuring out which one is going to give you the best experience- Camp America, AmeriCamp or Camp Leaders, the list goes on. Since I have only used Camp America I can’t give you a complete review of the alternatives but I can tell you how I made my personal decision and whether I think it was the right one. Some programmes such as AmeriCamp offer higher salaries, however, doesn’t include flights. Some claim BUNAC works out cheaper than Camp America, but in reality, if you’re main goal of the summer is making money, working in an American Summer Camp is probably not the way to go about this. I chose Camp America because it was the most established company and must be the most popular for a good reason. Also, about 90% of my friends who had used Camp America had good reviews, so had faith.

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Was I pleased with Camp America?

Okay so my personal opinion of Camp America wasn’t great, it wasn’t by any means awful and I did get there in the end, however, this may not have been the most convenient programme for me. One reason for this may be due to my late application, I started filling out my application in September 2015, returned from six months travelling in March 2016 to find myself quite far behind and many other applicants already placed. The interview process was absolutely fine, very informal and the biggest piece of advice I could give you is to be yourself. It took longer than I expected for my application to then be processed and made live, after a few days I was put on the ‘Ready Steady Go’ programme which meant I could go to London to get my visa without having actually been offered a job yet. There were a very limited number of days available to make a visa appointment and they were all within a week meaning the price of train tickets almost broke the bank, this was one of the ‘hidden costs’ I had heard about. Now the worst part for me was that there was a list of forms and documents that were necessary for the visa appointment, one being the DS2019 which Camp America were to send to me by post. Two days before my interview and one non- refundable £90 train ticket later I was growing concerned that it hadn’t arrived yet, when I spoke to Camp America they told me I was going to have to rearrange my appointment once the form had arrived. This was of slight annoyance to me since I couldn’t make the one alternative date left and Camp America had allowed me to book my original date even though I technically would be unable to attend. When I spoke to them on the phone they told me it was unlikely I was going to be granted my visa and it was up to me whether to chance it. Thank God I did, one of easiest processes I have experienced, massively exaggerated by the company. Within seconds I was told that it was no problem and just to send the form to the embassy once it had arrived. The main problem with Camp America that many people complain about, besides the ridiculous number of spam emails, are the aforementioned hidden costs. Travel to and back from the US Embassy, travel to and back from Heathrow airport, cost for doctors to fill out medical forms, cost to travel to New York (where your return flight is from), this can total to £500+. I do not regret using Camp America and I understand that having a late application will have done me no favours but there were several issues I was best please with.

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Should I do Camp America?

Probably the least complicated question, are you the right person for Camp America? Will this summer be a waste of your time or just generally not enjoyable? So there is a certain type of person who is suitable for this role, don’t get me wrong I saw some girls get to camp too embarrassed to say their name in large groups who left camp a new person, but if you are really super- don’t like to get out of your comfort zone, shy this probably isn’t the job for you. At the camp I was placed we had a week of training and weird ice breaker activities to force us all out of our shells and then we were thrown into the deep end faced with 500 impressionable children whose parents had spent a lot of money to ensure they had the best two weeks possible. For some people a week isn’t quite long enough to feel totally comfortable standing on a table signing at the top of your lungs dressed in some ridiculous outfit. It’s time to forget your high school reputation and make as big a fool of yourself as you possibly can. Like I mentioned earlier, camp did some girls so well, they really benefitted, however, there were some people who by the end of the ten weeks were still too embarrassed to join in singing grace and barely cracked a smile, if this could be you, you have to put the kids first and question if you would really improve their summer. Another, obvious thing, if you don’t get along with kids so well you’re probably not best for the job, if your easily irritable, unsympathetic, or just struggle to see things from a child’s point of view this probably isn’t the most productive way to spend your summer. Lastly, if you’re very high maintenance or slightly OCD, I wouldn’t apply to work in a summer camp. Although the conditions are different at every camp I feel like mine was a pretty good general representation. The rooms were old and dusty, our clothes were constantly dirty, one week we had no water due to a burst pipe, there isn’t a crazy selection of food, the same meals are served every week and you will get bitten by mosquitos, a lot of them, you won’t have time to look perfect every morning and you can cross a solid eight hours of sleep every night off your schedule. But what you can expect? All the cheesy things they advertise, a sun tan, new friends, belly laughs, cool evenings, bonfires, new favourite songs, dance routines and of course soooo many tears before you have to say goodbye.

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