Following on from ‘12 Things to do Before Camp‘, I have compiled a glossary of terms to get you familiar with the lingo used at summer camp. When I first arrived, I had absolutely no idea what ‘Gaga’ was, or exactly what a lake scrub involved. Part One of the glossary includes letters A-M. Read on and be clued up ready for your arrival at camp next summer!
You will hear this word all summer long, and long after camp has finished. You will even become part of your camps ‘alumni’! Alumni is a term to describe former campers and staff. Many often pop in to visit camp during the summer, so you will usually get the chance to meet many camp legends!
American Camp Association
The ACA is the national organisation of camp professionals providing education programme, conferences, and accreditation services for summer
Trying my hand at Ceramics!
camps. Basically, it’s like the camp version of the dreaded Ofsted (for all you teachers out there).
Camps offer so many different activities and you will usually get to try out many of the different activities on camp at some point during the summer. My advice is always ‘try anything once’. Make the most of all the activities available to you!
Activities on camp beginning with ‘A’: Arts and Crafts/Archery.
You may hear people refer to the ‘camp bubble’. Being at camp, where you don’t have an internet connection on your phone and texting back home costs a fortune, often makes you feel like you are in a bubble. You have no idea what is going on back home or on the news but you have to ask yourself, do you actually care?!
Most camps are often run like clockwork, and the sound of a bugle horn is played throughout the day to signify that it’s time to wake up, call to flag circle or meal times. Each different occasion usually has a different bugle tune. You will get used to the sound, and will be sick of hearing them by the end of the summer (especially the 7.25 wake up bugle!).
Friendship bracelets are a HUGE thing at summer camp. The kids (and staff!) love making them in their spare time, and your arm will soon be filled with brightly coloured string bracelets in a variety of patterns. The chinese staircase, candy stripe and the ‘V’are often popular choices, but watch out for the tan line on your wrist at the end of the summer! Although summer ends, the bracelets live on long after.
Camps are often located in woods or on a lake, where insects love to nibble on you (especially in the evening!). Insect repellent is a must for camp, especially during campfires and outdoor games.
I’m not 100% sure whether this is a thing at most camps, or if it just exists at mine. Blue juice is a fizzy drink that is bright blue (as said in the name), and sends the kids WAPPY. The older campers tend to avoid it, as it tastes disgusting and they have learnt their lesson over the years, but the younger campers LOVE it. They usually end up with a blue justache (a juice moustache) and a crazy look in their eye after drinking.
An American term for a bunk bed. Kids LOVE the top bunk, so I usually choose a bottom to keep an extra camper happy (plus I don’t have to risk breaking my neck every time I want to get in/out of bed!).
Camps have two types of canteen; clothing and candy. At clothing canteen, you will find various camp merchandise from t-shirts to camp water bottles and fridge magnets. Candy canteen is a pretty self-explanatory thing, where campers (and staff, yay!) can get candy (sweets) and soda (American term for fizzy pop!) to perk you up for the afternoon after rest hour! Read on to find out what rest hour is…
Many camps involve the staff living with a group of campers in a cabin. The cabin is usually a wooden building, with bunk beds in and a bathroom. Basically a glorified shed – home sweet home! I like to take decorations, such as bunting, flags and photos, to decorate the cabin with to try and de-shedify it.
Campers often receive parcels from their family/friends during the summer and this is known as a care package (Counselors can receive them too – I’ll let you all know the address ready for next summer!). Their families often send things such as stationary sets, games, toys etc. Many parents also try and sneak candy into the care packages, and they have been known to go as far as hiding it inside tampon applicators!!
Camps often have traditional campfires which involve singing campfire songs and playing games (also know as ‘skits’). Campfires are one of my favourite parts about camp.
Activities on camp beginning with ‘C’: Canoeing/Cheerleading/Ceramics.
The dining hall is my favourite place on camp. Apart from the fact I love to eat, the dining hall is where everyone comes together and is full of happy campers singing songs and chants (and squeezing in some time to eat of course!). My camp eat ‘family style’ where you are assigned tables for a week with a mix of campers of all ages, and the Counselor serves the food to the whole table (around 10 people). I love when I get assigned a table with campers who I don’t really know, as it gives me the chance to find out all about who they are and where they’re from!
At camp, after training has finished and the kids have arrived, you usually get one day off per week. At my camp for example, we have a whole 24 hours off from your duties on camp starting at 7.30am on one day and ending at the same time the following day. Trust me when I say you will need it! Some people choose to stay on camp during their day off (a much cheaper option), but I like to get out and explore. Beaches, state parks, malls, cinemas, trampoline parks all make great day off locations. Although I love camp, it is SO tiring. In addition to your day off, you usually get a couple of nights off per week.
Day off fun!
If you’ve been hired already, there’s a pretty good chance you have already met/ spoken to your Camp Director. They are the big boss on camp, and are in charge of everything from the hiring and firing, to how camp is run. Stay on their good side!
Day camps are exactly what it says on the tin… camps kids go to in the day! They usually arrive around 8-9am and leave around 4-5pm. Many American staff often work at day camps, as they can go home after their shift ends, but I know many international staff who have worked at day camps too. The best part is you often get every evening off once the campers have gone home for the day!
Activities on camp beginning with ‘D’: Dance/Drama
Each evening after dinner, an evening activity takes place. Sometimes this can be a traditional campfire, a talent show, or a whole camp game such as Assassins. Evening activities can often get very messy (I find a lot of them involve chasing campers with paint), and are often very competitive! Many of them are themed, so I suggest taking a few random props/outfits with you to camp, and a couple of Primarni t-shirts that you don’t mind getting covered in paint!
I think out of all the things I gained from a summer at camp, friendship tops my list. Not only will you make friends with other Counselors, but with the campers too. Camp is full of so many different people, with different hobbies, interests and skills, and you will find yourself bonding with people in the strangest of situations (such as with your co-counselor when you are unclogging a toilet in your cabin). Friends are what make me want to return to camp year after year, and are definitely what keep me sane throughout the summer!
Wow does it get hot sometimes at camp! Cabins generally don’t have air conditioning, so I would 1000000% recommend getting a fan when you are out there (don’t worry, Walmart/Bed, Bath and Beyond have a great, cheap, fan selection!). I have a clip-on fan that I can attach to my bunk and it is the best thing I have ever purchased. Without it, I’m not sure I’d ever get any sleep on a night!
A flashlight is an American term for a torch. The campers usually get flashlight time as a privilege before going to sleep, and I recommend you have one too – finding your way down through camp to your cabin (in my case, down a steep hill covered in tree roots) after a night off can be interesting otherwise!
Fourth of July
The Fourth of July, or the Independence Day of the United States, is a huge holiday in
America. Camps usually have some form of a celebration day, and my camp celebrates by having a social (a disco). It’s a big deal to the Americans, and I love being part of the festivities. If you have anything red, blue or white (or even better, clothing with the American flag on), the Fourth of July would be your chance to wear it!
Activities on camp beginning with ‘F’: Fencing
If you are reading this in order (which I’m going to presume you are), you will have read about the camp ‘bubble’. Well, as you are unaware of what is going on in the outside world, gossip is usually the main source of conversation/entertainment at camp. Who is hooking up with who, who fancies who etc etc (yes, it is a bit like being back in primary school). As long as it is light hearted, I love gossip, but you can always stay out of all it if it’s not for you!
Gaga is an elimination game which is played in an enclosed wooden pit (usually hexagonal-shaped) full of sand. The aim of the game is to roll the ball at another player and hit them below the knee, and therefore eliminating them from the game. It’s every man for themselves! I personally think it’s crazy game, but the kids love it and if thats what keeps them happy (and more importantly quiet), then let’s play GAGA!
A typical ‘gaga’ pit.
Many camps often say grace (similar to a prayer) before meals, even if they are not religious camps. Some camps say spoken graces, however others prefer to sing grace. My favourite grace is to the tune of the ‘Addams Family’.
Another popular term on camp is ‘camp goggles’. Apart from on your days off, you rarely catch a glimpse of a non-camp related human being (the 67 year old postman doesn’t count). You may get to camp and think that there is no way you would ever hook up with any of the male counselors but 4/5 weeks in, people suddenly start to see those around them in a different light. All of a sudden, ‘Dave’ from Photography is the hottest thing since the sunburn you got on your day off last week. Then you will leave camp, re-enter the real world and look back on your Facebook photos wondering ‘what the hell was I thinking?!’.
Activities on camp beginning with ‘G’: Gymnastics/Go Karts,
Boy does it get hot at camp! But not only hot, it also gets SO humid. Humid to the point where you have to begin to embrace the back sweat and frizz bomb hair, but at least you’re all in the same boat! You’ll sweat in places that you didn’t even know sweated… attractive, I know. But every so often, the heat and humidity causes a HUGE storm, which is super cool to watch.
A hat would be one of the essential items on my packing list. Apart from it keeping your head protected from the sun (obvs), it can come in handy for various costumes/ outfits. My personal favourite is a good old bucket hat!
Activities on camp beginning with ‘H’: Horseback Riding
The infirmary (also often known as the Health Centre) is the place where people go to get their daily meds (medication) or to go and see the nurse if they are unwell. Touch wood, I’ve never had a long term stay in the health centre! Here’s to hoping it stays that way…
Intermediates are the middle-aged kids on camp, and usually range from age 10-13. I LOVE the intermediates, and have always requested to be in an intermediate cabin. They’re old enough that you can have a laugh with them, and they understand my bad jokes, but young enough to still do as they’re told and go to bed on time!
LOL @ when the 12 year olds are bigger than you…
June, July… and August
This is where the letters start getting a bit sketchy (just wait until I get to x, y and z!). Camps mostly begin at the end of June, with training starting a couple of weeks before that. Most camps run for 8 weeks, and end towards the end of August. If you are thinking of going to camp this year, make sure you are available during these months!
Juniors are the youngest kids on camp, usually ranging from ages 5-10. There are pros and
cons to being in a junior cabin. Pros: you get to go to sleep earlier, they are super cute, they love you and make you presents at their activities (I’m really struggling here as I couldn’t think of anything worse!!). Cons: they are often homesick, they don’t understand sarcasm, they cry (I don’t do tears unless they are physically hurt), they sometimes have ‘accidents’.
To work and stay in America for such a long period, you just have a visa. The visa camp counselors apply for us the J1 visa, but don’t worry – your camp agency will provide you with simple step-by-step instructions on how to apply. To get a visa, you will need to visit the American embassy – either in London or Dublin.
Activities on camp beginning with ‘J’: Jewelry Making/Journalism
The campers are the reason we all go to camp. I mean lets face it, without them there wouldn’t even BE a summer camp to work at! There will be times over the summer that you will want to kill them (e.g. when they have sang ‘Sweatshirt’ 30930040320 times in the last 3 hours), but they will become YOUR campers and the love is generally unconditional. You are basically acting in place of their parents for however many weeks they are at camp, and its your job to make sure they shower, distract them when they’re homesick, check they have friends… the list is endless! It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Lake scrubs are one of my favourite things at camp. The showers aren’t always great, there’s often a line and the water is never that warm (plus you are normally showering with half the worlds bug population), so the alternative is a lake scrub. Basically, its like having a bath where you can swim at the same time, and fish sometimes nibble at your toes. Beats waiting in the shower queue! Sometimes the whole camp have a mandatory lake scrub after a messy evening activity.
As mentioned in the ‘Humidity’ section, camps often see some super cool storms. I have never seen lightning or heard thunder like I have in America. I love storms, and love to lay in bed at night watching the flashes or hear the rumble of thunder; the campers however don’t always share my views (especially the younger cabins!).
Sometimes if the weather is bad, and the evening activity has to be cancelled, we get MOVIE NIGHT! This is one of my favourite evenings at camp. Everyone brings their bedding/pillows/cushions/blankets/teddies to the hall and we all lounge around watching a movie, with the movie of choice usually being ‘The Parent Trap’ (for obvious reasons!). Someone pass the popcorn please!
Activities on camp beginning with ‘M’: Mountain Bikes/Music/Martial Arts/Mini-Bikes
Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two (letters N-Z) coming soon!