Counselor Files: Amy Llewellyn

Amy (more commonly known as Amy Vid) has spent her past two summers at sunny Camp Chinqueka, a girls sleepaway camp in Connecticut, and is already looking forward to a third! Find out what she loves about camp, and her advice to people thinking about applying for summer 2017.

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1. What is/was your role at camp?

I am the Video Counselor at camp. My role is not only to take video as an activity and teach the girls all I know about video and video making, but also to film all the amazing and fun stuff that happens daily at camp. Once I have filmed it, I then put it all together into a bunch of fun videos for the campers to watch at the end of their time at camp, and throughout the year when they get a little camp sick and want to reminisce –  or have a laugh!

2. Why did you decide to work at a summer camp?

I decided to work at a summer camp for a number of reasons. First, I was looking for a new adventure / challenge. Second, I love travelling (I haven’t spent as long as a year in England since i left university!) and third, I LOVE kids. I was considering going into teaching as a profession, but wasn’t sure whether or not it was for me. I decided a summer camp would give me a good insight into working with children whilst being an adventure for me too.

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3. Which agency did you apply through, and would you recommend them to a friend?

I went with Camp America. I would recommend doing your research and finding the best agency for you as each one will work differently. Camp America was best for me as they were so helpful, the application was easy to fill in and they organise everything for you from booking your flights to meeting you at the airport and making sure you have a smooth journey to camp. If you’re more confident / independent, there are other agencies out there that do less and cost less! Check all your options…

4. What is the best thing about being a Camp Counselor?

The best thing about being a Camp Counselor is the feeling you get when you know you have changed a child’s life for the better. Whether it be from a letter they send you after camp, a message begging you to come back next summer, or just seeing them grow and develop throughout their time with you at camp – and of course the mass amounts of fun you have every single day.

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5. What is the worst thing about being a Camp Counselor?

That it only lasts for 3 months of the year and cannot be considered your permanent job! Although if it were, you would be truly truly EXHAUSTED.

6. What is your favourite camp memory?

My favourite camp memory would have to be the moment when a camper who had been terribly homesick during her time at camp (and I had  tried my  best to comfort / distract over the session) said to me so flippantly and with a genuine smile on her face ‘when i go back to sleep away camp..’. It was a great feeling knowing I had helped change her mind about camp!amy

7. What are three items that you could not live without at camp?

  • Bugspray
  • At least one fancy dress/ silly outfit
  • English teabags & chocolate.

8. Do you have any advice for people applying to work at a summer camp?

Whilst the application may seem long and difficult, it is totally worth it!! The application has to be difficult because remember, you’re about to spend your summer being responsible for so many parents’ pride and joy – their whole world – it’s a big deal! Be the best Counselor that you possibly can, be the Counselor that campers are still raving about to their friends/family at Christmas, that gets letters and messages from campers begging you to return to camp. And make the most of it!

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19th & 21st January, 2017.

fair4Over the past week, I attended not ONE but TWO Camp America recruitment fairs (my first ever fairs, how exciting!). I had the BEST time finding fab new Counselors to work at Camp Awosting this summer, and I wanted to tell you all a little bit more about my experience at the fairs…

The first fair I attended was the Manchester recruitment fair held on Thursday 19th January 2017 at Old Trafford. As we arrived (I travelled to the fair with my Camp Directors and other camp staff), queues of eager young people were already beginning to form outside. All I can say is that I’m glad it wasn’t me – Manchester is hardly known for its tropical climate at this time of year!

At the fair, more and more previous camp staff began to arrive to catch up and help recruit newbies for the summer! It was great to catch up with everyone and for me one of the best things about summer camp is how you can go for so long without seeing a camp friend but you instantly pick things back up when you see them again. It’s a strange relationship, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Anyway, back to the day! The crowds came rushing in, eager to bag themselves a job working at a summer camp. There were so many different camps at the fair, and lots of choice on offer. It was clear to see who had done their homework prior to the fair day, as
they already knew which camps they were interested in and their location at the event. Good on you, guys!

The thing that shocked me about the camp fair was just how many parents (and even GRANDPARENTS) were in fair2attendance!! A lot of Camp Directors I spoke to on the day said that was a HUGE turn-off for them – I mean if you can’t make it to the fair by yourself, what are the chances of getting to America by yourself in the summer?! A camp recruitment fair should be treated like any other job interview. Would you take your parents to your part-time job interview at New Look? I should hope not. (By the way, we didn’t hire anyone who was walking around with a parent – sorry!).

We had a great day at the fair and managed to hire some great staff for next summer, including Counselors for Fencing, Woodshop, Arts and Crafts, Drama and Martial Arts. I am SO excited to work with them in the summer! Congratulations to all who managed to get hired at the Manchester camp fair!

The next stop was a trip to London, which involved hiring even MORE fab staff for summer 2017 and catching up with old camp friends (yay!). The London fair was held on Saturday 21st January 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth II centre. We thought there was a long line in Manchester, but then we got to London! WOW!!!!! The line was already HUGE a couple of hours before the fair was due to begin, and it just kept on getting bigger and bigger as the day went on.

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I spent most of the day chatting to people, finding out their skills and talents and giving advice (helpful, I hope!) to those who needed it. After attending a fair and spending time chatting to potential Counselors, my top tip would be to stick to what you have chosen to do. For example if you come to the fair wanting to be a lifeguard, stick with it!! Many conversations I had with people would go like this:fair6

Me: ‘Hi, can I help you? What kind of role are you looking for?’

Them: *looks at the list of roles available* ‘Well, I was wanting a role as a Lifeguard’

Me: ‘OK, cool! Unfortunately we’re not hiring any lifeguards today, but I know that loads of camps are!’

Them: ‘OK well I can see you are looking for support staff… or woodshop?’

Me: ‘Yes, do you have any woodshop skills? Any experience with making things out of wood or using tools?’

Them: ‘Urrr well not really, I helped make a box in D.T. at school six years ago’

Me: ‘OK I’m not sure you have the right kind of experience here but if you want to be a lifeguard, stick at it! It’s a highly desired qualification to have, and there will be a camp out there for you!’

No lie. Don’t just settle for any job – find the right one for YOU! London was another success for Camp Awosting as we managed to find a new Assistant Nurse and a Sailing and Sports Counselor. Welcome on board!

After a long exhausting day at the fair, it was time to go and get ready to go for drinks with the camp family. We went to a piano bar near Embankment called Players Bar. When it was first suggested, I was skeptical as to what piano music involved (I had visions of slow jazz in my head) and whether that it would be the place for me on a Saturday night. But it was AMAZING! It’s quite a small bar with a piano in the corner, and a live singer/pianist playing all great singalong songs – from Oasis to the Backstreet Boys. It was so good to catch up with them all, and we had a great night!

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I loved attending my first ever camp fairs, and hopefully this will be the start of many more! Thanks to all who read and shared my ‘Camp Fairs Survival Guide‘ – I hope it was useful for you! I know there are still more fairs coming up over the next month or so, so if you haven’t already been placed – don’t worry! Here are some dates for your diaries:

Camp America Fairs:

Saturday 18th February 2017 – London

Camp Leaders Fairs:

Saturday 4th February 2017 – Manchester

Sunday 5th February 2017 – Glasgow

Alternatively, many people (like me!) get hired online. If you didn’t manage to get yourself a job at camp fair, or weren’t able to attend – don’t worry! Check out my blog post about how I got hired online with Wildpacks back in 2014.

Congratulations to all who have been hired, and good luck to those who are still looking!

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Counselor Files: Jess Toogood

Jess (more commonly known at camp as ‘DooWop’) is 22 years old and works at Camp Conowingo, a Girl Scout camp, in Maryland. She has worked there for the past three summers and when asked about returning in 2017, Jess says ‘summer number 4, I’m coming for ya!’.

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Here is what Jess has to say about her summers spent in the USA…

1. What is/was your role at camp? 

I have actually had a different role every summer I have been at camp. My first summer, I was a Unit counselor, looking after the girls each week, taking them to their activities and keeping them safe. I was also High Ropes trained my first year so I helped up on the Ropes Course when my girls were there.

My second summer I was STEM Manager (Science Technology Engineering & Maths), ‘teaching’ STEM to the girls. I was also Kayak, Canoe and Archery trained so would run sessions in those areas as well.

My third summer I moved back into units but this time as a Unit Leader. It was the same role as in my first summer but I was also supervising the UC’s and would be their first port of call if they had any issues.

This summer, I will be the CIT/JC Unit Leader, training up the next generation of counselors

2. What is a Girl Scout camp? 

A Girl Scout camp is very rustic. For example, we only have 4 flushing toilets in the pool house that the girls can only use when they are at the pool. All the other times, they either have to use a latrine or a port-o-potty. So it’s not for everyone, but I love it. We also have cookout every Wednesday where the girls plan their meal and then cook it over a fire. We’re also all about inspiring the next generation of girls and hopefully open their eyes up to several possibilities that their futures hold. We run sessions such as STEM, Nature, Sport, Archery and Rockwall, as well as giving the Unit Time to plan their own activities relevant to the theme of the session.

3. Do you need to be a Brownie/Guide to work at a Girl Scout Camp?

Absolutely not, no.

4. I heard that at Girl Scout Camps, you all have nicknames as the campers can’t know your real name. Is this true? 

That is true! We use nicknames jess1so we
aren’t a ‘best friend’ to the girls. The camps didn’t want something too professional such as ‘Madam’, or a name with too much power such as ‘Mom’, so we all have nicknames. My nickname is DooWop which my brothers gave to me but others range from things like Red and Ringo, all the way through to everyday nicknames such as Coco.

5. What is the daily routine like at camp? 

Our daily routine is pretty standard. Depending on how far away from main camp you are and how slow your kids are at getting ready depends on what time you get up, but you just gotta make sure you’re down at the dining hall for flag at 7.45. Breakfast finishes at 9 and then it’s into sessions. Lunch is 12.30 and then rest hour is 1.30. Sessions carry on at 2.30 until flag at 5.45. Dinner then happens and there are 2 more sessions before bed. Each session is an hour and a half long. On Thursday’s we have all camp activities, ranging from a Beauty Pageant to a 4th of July Carnival to Campers vs Counselors Capture the Flag.

6. What is your favourite thing about working at a summer camp? 

I absolutely love the people that are drawn to camp. My best friends are people that I met at camp and even though they are majorly long distance friendships, they are some of the best friendships I’ve ever had. Also, the feeling of making a kids summer is completely unlike anything else.

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7. If you could change one thing about summer camp, what would it be? 

Make it last all year round.

8. What are three items you couldn’t live without at camp? 

  • CROCS – I love my crocs a lot and every year I get asked by new internationals what is something they should definitely pack and when I say Crocs, I always get laughed at. Then when we hit week 3 or 4, they’re getting their own pair!
  • Camera – I am a picture fiend and will always take as many photos as possible until it annoys someone. Also, how else are you gonna keep your insta feed popping?
  • Head torch – or a ‘flash light’. This is especially important for us ’cause we have no electricity on our campsites and aren’t allowed phones in front of the kids, so when you have a homesick camper you want to be able to see them! Also, no one likes going to the toilet in the dark…jess

9. What are your favourite ages campers and why?

I LOVE the older kids (15+), they give me such joy and I feel like I can make the most difference with them. Younger kids are nice and all but there’s only so many times I can sing Frozen to keep them happy.

10. If you had one piece of advice for people thinking of applying to work at a summer camp in 2017, what would it be?

DO IT! As cliché as it sounds, it will be the best summer of your life and you will meet some of the most incredible people and experience some incredible things.

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The A-Z of Summer Camp: Part Two

Following on from Part One of the A-Z summer camp glossary, I have created Part Two (letters N-Z). Find out what happens during rest hour, how to play Tetherball and what goes down at a camp social. If you missed out on Part One, find it HERE!

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Newcomb Ball

Newcomb Ball is basically an easier, child-friendly version of volleyball. The aim of the game is for one team to throw the ball over the net (volleyball net) and for it to land without anyone catching it. If the ball is missed,  the team that did not catch it must lose a player. The game continues until one of the team has no players left. Pretty simple!

Night Sky

As most camps are in the middle of nowhere, the night sky at camp is INCREDIBLE! The lack of light pollution means you can see the stars SO clearly, and I always try to look up and take a moment to appreciate the sky at least once a week.

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The U.S. is home to 59 protected areas known as National Parks, which can make great post-camp travel destinations. You may have heard of parks such as Yellowstone (Wyoming), the Everglades (Florida), the Grand Canyon (Arizona) or the Rocky Mountains (Colorado). Visiting all the National Parks in America is definitely on my bucket list!

O

Opening Day

Well, this one is pretty self explanatory but it’s a crazy, hectic day so I thought I would explain in a bit more detail. Opening day is the day the kids arrive at camp, and most camps have 4 of these throughout the summer (one every 2 weeks). The campers come tearing through the gates as soon as they are opened, and are eager to check in as quickly as possible to bag themselves the best bunk in the cabin. Opening day often involves lots of greeting parents and carrying trunks, so make sure you look presentable and dress for the occasion (no high heels).

O.D. (Officer of the Day)

Every day at camp, a Counselor is assigned Officer of the Day (or O.D. for short). Its the O.D.’s job to make sure the day runs to scheduele – so playing the bugle or ringing the bell between activities is often their job. The O.D. is also often responsible for saying grace each day at meals, or making any important announcements on camp. It can be a stressful day making sure camp runs like clockwork, but you normally only have to do it once or twice over summer. Phew!

Outdoors

The majority of time at camp is spent outdoors – from outdoor electives, meals or evening activities – which means camp can suck in the rain! Luckily the weather is beautiful 95% of the time. I love spending my summer outdoors soaking up the fresh air and catching a few rays!

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Porch Supper

At least once a week, many camps will eat one of their evening meals outside rather than in the dining hall. The kids love being able to choose who they get to sit with, and the staff can also choose their favourite bunch of campers to hang out with (just kidding – we don’t have favourites… right?!). Porch suppers usually include yummy food from the BBQ and at my camp, porch supper means ICE CREAM SUNDAES for dessert! Best day of the week, hands down.

Activities on camp beginning with ‘P’: Photography.

Q

Quiet

This is where the letter begin to get a bit ropey, so I apologise in advance (just wait for X, Y and Z!!) Basically once you’re at camp, quiet will be a thing of the past. You are rarely ever on your own at camp (yes, even when you’re on the toilet), so make the most of the peace and quiet you have in your life now before you go!

Questions

Campers LOVE to ask questions about your personal life. Tell them about your family, your friends, your job – but give them the PG version! And make sure any photos you take to camp with you to decorate your bunk are PG too – they don’t need to see a photo of you and your friends sloshed in Vodka Revs on New Year! When it comes to the opposite sex, they less they know the better. If they even get a slight hint that there is a boy/girl in your life, you will be HOUNDED every single day for the rest of camp for every tiny detail – and nobody has time for that!!

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Rest Hour

Trust me when  I say that rest hour is the BEST hour. After lunch during the hottest part of the day, campers and counselors all return to their cabins for rest hour. Rest hour is time to chill, nap, read, write a letter, listen to music… but most importantly BE QUIET! The younger campers hate rest hour as they are hyped up on sugar from lunch but as they get older, the campers start to realise they need it just as much as us OAPS (counselors!).

Routine

As I have said before, most clocks are run like clockwork and have regimented routines. Personally, I think this is perfect – I know where I need to be, and what time I need to be there. Even after you leave camp, you will find your stomach starts to rumble at 8am,. 12.30pm and 6pm on the dot because your body is in such as set routine!

Road Trip

Day off road trips are one of the highlights of camp. You can take a car with a bunch of your friends and head off to wherever your heart desires – the beach, a city… the possibilities are endless! My favourite road trip of 2016 was when we went to Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island, and stayed the night in a Motel (my first ever Motel experience!). We spent the day on the beach followed by a night of cocktails and karaoke – perfect!!

Activities on camp beginning with ‘R’: Rowing/Ropes.

S

Socials

Socials at camp are like the English version of a children’s disco. The campers dance to the American versions of the Cha Cha Slide (known as the ‘Wobble’ or the ‘Cupid Shuffle’) and generally chase the opposite member of sex around the dancefloor.

Socials as a Counselor often involve a patrol/duty, which can be anything from dance floor duty (a job that involves dancing?? Sign me up!), door duty or bathroom duty (boo!).

Shower

Camp showers… where to begin. The lines are long, the water is lukewarm (if you’re lucky) and the pressure is awful. Summer camps aren’t exactly spas (sadly!). My advice would be to learn how to wash your hair and body within 3 minutes prior to camp, and never go in there without shoes on.

S’mores

A s’more is a traditional campfire treat popular in the U.S., consisting of a marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of cracker/wafer/biscuit placed over a campfire to go all gooey and yummy!

State Park

America is covered in State Parks, which make great locations for days off or road trips after camp. They can range from beaches, to woodlands or mountain ranges. State Parks tend to be smaller than the previously mentioned National Parks, but make great picnic and sunbathing spots for you and your camp buddies!

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Days off spent at Hammonasset Beach State Park

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

ESSENTIALS!!!! As July begins in the U.S., the temperatures start to increase and high factor suncream and sunglasses are vital! Make sure the campers are covered in sunscreen too!

Songs

Each camp will have their own songs that are sung at various points throughout the summer. For example; my camp has a song we sing at the beginning of each campfire and a song we sing each night before bed (taps). You will learn campfire songs, songs to sing in the dining hall, tribal songs, spirit songs… the list is endless!! Camps love to sing (and so do I!), and they also love to learn new songs so don’t be afraid to teach a new one. Unfortunately, the songs don’t stay camp… I often find myself humming along to songs once I’, back home  – and it drives me CRAZY!!!

Special Events

Camps will have special events throughout the summer where the usual scheduele may be interrupted- these are normally GREAT days! As the 4th of July is a HUGE deal in America, camps will usually do something special to celebrate (don’t forget to pack your American flag gear for the day!). We also go on Tubing trips, visit the local Theme Park and take our senior campers away on a Senior trip for a few days. I was lucky enough to have the chance to go on Senior Trip last year, and we took the campers to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for the week! If the camp has a brother/sister camp, they will often come together for co-ed activities/competitions, which are always great fun!

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Senior Trip 2016

Activities on camp beginning with ‘S’: Swimming/Sailing/Sports.

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Tribes

Tribes are a HUGE part of camp life. At my camp, everyone is placed into one of three different tribes (Maricopa, Arapaho or Seneca), but other camps may have Colour War (everyone is in a colour team) rather than tribes. I am a proud MARICOPA (the yellow tribe), and I love a bit of friendly competition with my sister tribes! Its all about who can wear the most of their colour, cheer the loudest and have the most tribal spirit!

Tetherball

Tetherball is a game where two players hit a ball tied to a string or rope that is fastened to a stationary pole – a bit like swingball but without the bats! The campers love a game of Tetherball in their free time, and love it even more if they can beat a Counselor!

Traditions

Traditions are a huge part of camp life. Each camp will have their own traditions that will be repeated year after year after year. For example it is traditional at my camp that each summer, the senior girls will perform ‘Candlelight’ during the second session of camp. Candlelight is a synchronised swimming routine in the lake, performed at night whilst holding candles. It is a beautiful tradition that goes waaaaaaay back, and it means a great img_2657deal to all involved.

Travel

Camp provides a great opportunity to travel – not only after camp, but long after camp finishes too! If you have read my ‘Planning your Post-Camp Travels‘ post, you will know that you have 30 days on your visa after camp ends to explore the U.S. In addition, you meet so many people at camp that so many windows of opportunity open up for you! After camp this year, I’m going to Australia and have so many people I’m looking forward to catching up with and visiting with there!

Tan

A summer at camp = a top class tan! Your friends will all be super jel when you go back to England at the end of the summer a beautiful shade of mahogany. We all know life’s better with a tan, right?! Even if it is one with dodgy watch and sock lines!

Taps

Previously mentioned with camp songs, Taps is a song often sang at the end of the day by many camps. If you have ever been a Girl Guide/Scout then you will be familiar with the song! It is also played by the military at dusk. The words go:

‘Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.’

Ticks

Ticks are something to watch out for at camp, especially if your camp is located in the woods/forest or there are lots of bushes! Many ticks carry Lyme’s disease, which can be spread to humans from the bite of an infected tick. Although it is unlikely, I have known two people get Lyme’s disease while I have been at camp! Make sure to check yourself in the shower for ticks, and look out for any ring shaped rashes on your body. If you’re unsure, speak to your Camp Nurse.

Activities on camp beginning with ‘T’: Tennis

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USA

The home of summer camps. The American Camp Association (2017) reports that there are more than 14,000 day and resident camps exist in the U.S, with 8,400 resident (overnight) and 5,600 day camps. WOW!

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Visiting Day

Many camps have visiting days at the end of each session (for my camp, at the end of every 2 week period). Parents come and collect their kids and take them off camp for the day. Many campers often do not have visitors, so they normally go on some fun trip to distract them for the day!

Vacation

A ‘vacation’ is the American term for a ‘holiday’ – often referred to as a ‘vacay’. Camp is definitely NOT a vacation – and I think this sometimes shocks people when they arrive! Camp is super fun but HARD work and LONG hours – you get to enjoy 30 days of ‘vacation’ after camp though, and its totally worth it!

Activities on camp beginning with ‘V’: Video

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Waterfront

The Waterfront is the place to be on camp – and this is coming from a Counselor who has never worked there (and I hate to admit it!). On long hot days, the lake is always the first activity to get sign ups and I am always slightly jealous of them being able to jump in for a quick dip to cool down! I spend all my free time down at the Waterfront and in the lake, and I’m always the first Counselor in line during free swim (with my tube of course!). The Waterfront is also often the place to see killer sunsets too!

Activities on camp beginning with ‘W’: Waterskiing/Woodshop

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Wow, that was a challenge -if you can think of a better camp-related word, I’d love to hear it! Going to a summer camp in the U.S. is a great opportunity to get out and explore! I know some staff who like to stay on camp on their days off to relax and catch up on some sleep, but I love nothing more than getting out and going on an adventure! Finding a new lake to hang by or a new diner to eat at is one of the best parts about camp – make the most of it!

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Yanks

A ‘Yank’ is a term used by us Brits to describe the Americans. Why? I have no idea! I even Googled it and I’m still no wiser!

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Zipline

Camps often have Ropes as an activity on camp, which often involve a Zipline. As a former Ropes Counselor, I can vouch for how fun it to throw yourself down the Zipline so make sure you try it if you are given the opportunity! Camps also often have some kind of climbing wall, and low/high ropes courses.

Travelling After Camp: Florida (Orlando)

When planning my post-camp travels last year (see my blog post for tips on travelling after camp), I decided that I wanted to go to Florida. Sadly the land of Disney World had never appealed to my parents when I was younger, meaning I had never had the opportunity to visit the ‘sunshine state’ before. My sister was travelling to America after I finished camp, and it was decided that we would meet in Orlando and spend 10 days seeing the sights Florida had to offer.

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I mean, if you don’t tag yourself on Facebook, were you ever really there?!

I booked my flight from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT, to Orlando International Airport via Expedia. I flew with JetBlue airways, and the flight was just short of 3 hours. The flight cost $185 (around £150), and I booked 3 weeks before I was due to travel. The best thing about flying internally within America is definitely the free drinks on board – Europe, take note.

The first stop was Orlando, where I had to sit and me and ria1.jpg
wait a couple of hours for my sister’s flight to arrive (FYI, the WIFI at Orlando International Airport is top notch). It was great to see her after a few months apart, and we caught an Uber to our hotel in Kissimmee, south of Orlando. It had just started to rain when she arrived, but the rain never lasts long in Florida right??!

We were both on a budget (she was a poor third-year University student and I was living off my camp wage), so we stayed at the Rodeway Inn, Maingate, and booked through Booking.com. 4 nights cost us $165 and although it was very basic, it provided us with everything we needed (bed, bathroom, TV, safety deposit box). The only downfall was the breakfast, which was included with the price of the hotel. The choice was either a tiny bagel and cream cheese (with only 1 toaster available for the whole hotel), or a sachet of porridge.

Anyway, back to what we actually got up to. After checking in and catching up, we decided we were hungry (NEWSFLASH – we’re always hungry). We went out for something to eat and Ria (my sister) got to experience her first slice of American pizza – SO greasy but SO good!!! We went to bed early ready for our trip to Universal Studios the following day. Weather update: it was still raining. There were reports that it was no longer just a tropical storm, and it had been upgraded to ‘Hurricane Hermine’. Fab-u-lous.

We awoke early the next day and caught an Uber to Universal Studios. TOP TIP – BUY YOUR PARK TICKETS IN ENGLAND! It’s a lot cheaper to buy the tickets in England for some reason. As we were only in Orlando for 5 days, we decided to only visit both Universal Parks (Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure) and one waterpark (Wet ‘n Wild – now closed and replaced by the new Volcano Bay). We could buy a two-week pass in England for unlimited access to all three parks from American Attractions cheaper than we could a 3 day pass in America. Make sure you check out all the options available!

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On the first day at the parks, we decided to visited Universal Studios. The best part for me BY FAR was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and visiting Diagon Alley. It was SO life-like, and I actually felt like I was going shopping for all my Hogwarts supplies. We went in Ollivanders to pick out a wand, drank Butterbeer and tried on robes at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. The 3D ride in Gringotts bank is SO COOL.

We visited the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch – the biggest Hard Rock Cafe in the world. The food was yummy, and the cocktails were even better! After all of this we needed a well deserved lie down – having fun is EXHAUSTING!!

The next day we went back to Universal, but this time to visit Universal Island of mexican.jpgAdventure. Riding the Hogwarts Express between the two parks was definitely one of the highlights, and I loved the Jurassic Park River Adventure. The dinosaurs look so real, and we both got soaked!! (see below for photo evidence). Ria loves Mexican food, so we visited Antojitos for lunch – anything to keep her happy! Weather update: mostly cloudy. Where is all the Florida sun that I have heard so much about?!

The next day we laid in and missed breakfast (shame!). The weather was horrendous, it was literally raining sideways. I had never believed anyone who has ever told me it could rain sideways, but now my eyes have been opened. I decided to avoid the weather and take Ria on her first American ‘Mall’ trip. This was Ria’s first experience of Macy’s, M&M World and Bed, Bath and Bodyworks and many more! She We were in our elements, as there is nothing either of us can do better than SHOP!

On our final day in Orlando, the sun FINALLY decide to shine. We were catching the Megabus to Tampa later on in the afternoon so we decided to spend the morning at Wet ‘n Wild, the water park belonging to Universal. We are both huge kids so LOVED running around the park and racing down all the slides. It’s a shame the park has now closed but the new water park, Volcano Bay, looks AMAZING! A perfect excuse for another visit to Florida if ever I heard one…

After a 5 days in Orlando, we set off on our journey exploring the west coast of Florida. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of my post-camp Florida adventure!

Why Birthdays Are Better At Summer Camp…

So yesterday was my birthday, and I spent the entire day in bed ILL (as if having a birthday this close to Christmas and dealing with unwanted, re-gifted presents wasn’t enough to deal with!). If you are lucky enough to be a summer baby, here are ten reasons why birthdays are 100x better spent at summer camp…

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1. You’re at camp, which means you get to spend the ENTIRE day having fun. No work, no school, just a day crammed with activities, food and rest hour (the best hour).pizza-party.jpg

2. Two words: pizza party.

3. You don’t have to worry about your friends schedules when you are planning to do something for your birthday – they are all already there with you and readily available to celebrate your birthday!

4. Campers are the cutest and love to make you birthday cards during their Arts and Crafts electives! Make sure you drop lots of hints leading up to it, and watch the homemade presents and birthday friendship bracelets roll in. hat.jpg

5. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when 200+ people are singing happy birthday to you,
rather than just your Mum going for it whilst trying to force your Dad to sing louder. Camps often have birthday traditions, such as having to skip around the dining hall wearing a silly birthday hat or stand on a chair for all to see during the singing. Totes embarrassing, but everyone secretly loves the attention!

6. Care packages. There is no better feeling than seeing your name on the mailing/package list – ! The best kind of care packages are the ones that are sent from home, and include lots and lots of dairy milk chocolate.

7. At camp, its almost a guarantee you will have good weather on your birthday. Even if it rains, it never lasts for long!

8. If you are REALLY lucky, your birthday could fall on your day off – or you can at least arrange with your co-counselor that you get the night off to celebrate!

9. At camp, no one really cares what you wear or what you look like. At home, my birthday preparations often involve traipsing through Topshop for hours trying to find the PERFECT outfit, trying (and failing) to get my hair to do what I want it to do, and stressing about why only half of my false eyelash will stick to my face. Camp birthdays are much more stress-free, the kids will volunteer to do your makeup (LOL) and any outfit that is not your staff t-shirt will do.

10. At home, everyone knows your real age and knows you are actually bordering on being an OAP. At camp, you can trick the kids into thinking that you are only just turning 18 – if you say it enough times, you even start to believe it yourself!

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Camper Files: Jaimie

 

A new year brings a new camper to share her views on summer camp. Jaimie, aged 13, is from New Jersey and has been a camper at Camp Chinqueka for ‘four amazing years’. Jaimie is the first camper to take part in camper files who goes to go to camp with her sibling. Read on to find out about her experiences at camp…

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1. What is your favourite activity at camp?

Every single activity at camp is so fun but hands down, the best one of them all is  synchronized swimming at the waterfront. During my first year at camp I wasn’t so sure about this elective because not a lot of people went to it, but my new friend from an older cabin pushed me to try it out. It was an experience that I never imagined I could have. Even though I couldn’t dive yet or do a flip underwater the synchro counselor, Megan, helped me master other moves. The next day I signed up for a double elective and asked her to teach me as much as she could so I would be a pro synchro swimmer like her!

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Jaimie as a first year camper trying out Synchro for the first time!

We worked almost every day for the whole session! Synchro is the best because you can express yourself in a form of arts/dancing in the water. You get to create routines to beautiful songs that show how you are feeling in that exact moment. For the next four years, I bonded with the synchro counselors and even performed a routine with one! I signed up almost every day for synchro and always tried the hardest that I could, and I persuaded most of my friends to sign up for synchro too – even my sister, who hates the water! There is nothing better than the feeling you get when someone tries out something that you love so much! I’ve never been able to complete a flip underwater in my whole life and last summer, Jane Synchro worked with me every single day to help me get over my weird fear of flipping under water. Some days I would try so hard that I would forget that I needed to breathe, and I would come up gasping for air! Jane had to tell me to take a break of synchro so I could rest my lungs. Finally, after a month of failing at under water flipping I finally completed my flip! So far every year I’ve received the synchro medal or trophy and
jaimie9I feel that I am improving every summer! Last summer I even got to LIT for one of the sessions. LIT stand for leader in training and if you are an LIT, you get to basically teach the class alongside the counselor. If there is an
option to LIT at your camp I highly recommend you try it! LITing opened up a whole different perspective on synchronized swimming for me and this time instead of learning the moves, I was teaching the moves and demonstrating them. I even got to teach one of my routines to a class of junior campers! It made me so excited to see first year campers as excited to learn as I was.

2.What is your favourite evening activity at camp?

My favorite evening activity at camp is probably Assassins. Assassins is a game where everyone wears head-to-toe black. We all receive a name of another camper on a slip of paper, and we dip our fingers in paint. Once the game starts we run around camp trying to find the camper that we have on our papers and try to swipe them with the paint! Once your have caught your person, they give you all their slips and you find the last person that they didn’t find yet. The winner is the girl who has the most slips of paper at the end. This is a game built on how many people you know at camp but even if you don’t know many girls yet at camp, this is a great way to make friends and remember girls’ names. This is
my favorite activity because I met one of my best friends (Claire) during this jaimie10.jpgactivity. We both had each other’s name and we didn’t know who the other person was so we asked around to see if anyone knew the person. Claire figured out who I was and sprinted over to the other side of camp to find me. As she was running towards me another girl quickly told me that that was the girl I had. I thought this was odd and I started running towards her too. As we both met in the middle we immediately swiped each other’s arms at the same time. For some reason, we both fell to the ground laughing about our odd situation. Ever since then she has been my best friend, and we hang out both at camp and during the year.

3. If you could add a new activity to the camp programme, what would it be?

If I could add a new activity to camp, I would probably make it bungee trampolining as the boys camp took our bungee trampoline!

4. What are three essential items you couldn’t live without at camp?

Three essential items that I couldn’t live without are:

  1. Bathing suits because we are in the water every day.
  2. My toiletries (for obvious reasons!)
  3. A big heart. A big heart allows you to laugh along with friends or at the counselors during talent shows, cry on the last night when you have to say goodbye to everyone, scream during watersports day to cheer your team on, and love every single girl at camp.
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Jaimie taking part in the lifejacket relay on Watersports Day.

5. What is the best thing about going to a summer camp?

jaimieThe best thing about summer camp to me is how everyone is family. No matter how young or how old, girls at camp can bond over anything. We win, lose, and go through the dreadful rainy days together. We cheer together, we sing together, we change together, we eat together, and most of all we love each other. The girls at camp have taught me more than what I could learn through a textbook and a calculator. They taught me how to treat others, and how to love and support other girls with an unexplainable compassion.

6. What is the worst thing about going to a summer camp?

Summer camp is an amazing place with hardly any bad parts, but the worst part for me would probably be the smell of living with eleven other girls in the same room in the heat! So I recommend bringing deodorant and an air refresher for the cabin.

7. What is your favourite camp memory?

Every year I make thousands of memories that will last forever. My favorite camp memory was something so small, but it made my time as a camper ten times better. A new girl in a few cabins below me was having an extremely hard time fitting in with the other girls in her cabin. She told me that they were outgoing and sporty, and she just wasn’t like that. She was extremely homesick and she was having a dreadful time. I tried as hard as I could to help her adjust to life at camp and I pleaded with my counselors to let her come into my cabin during free time so we could hang out and I could get to know her. She was having a horrible time and I was the lucky one who got to step in and become her friend. We hung out at free time and we did several electives together. In a few days, she was became more open minded, less homesick and she started to love camp! She made lots of friends and we still keep in touch. One day she thanked me for making her feel more comfortable at camp, and it made me so happy. But other than this I have many amazing memories of sunny tubing trips, color runs, winning watersports day, the Senecas winning in 2013, and many more!

8. What were you most nervous about when you first went to camp?

When I first went to camp I was so nervous about no one liking me for my quirky weirdness, and for my unique style. I was teased about that in school, and I was nervous that camp would be like school all over again. That fear was quickly shut down as soon as I stepped through the gate – I quickly learnt that this was a safe place to act like my weird self and people would accept me for who I am.

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9. Do you think going to the same camp as your siblings has this has affected your experience?

I have one sister who started going to camp two years ago. At first when my parents told me she was going to camp, I was furious, but when she went to camp that summer I realized that it wasn’t so bad. She was always off with her friends and I barely actually saw her. I realised that it was kind of nice to have her at camp, and to be able to walk to her cabin and hang out with her counselors. I introduced her to some electives that I enjoy and I taught her how to sail, a synchro routine, and we went on the ropes course together! She affected my experience because now I can’t go for as long, as that would cost too much for the both of us. Overall, I enjoy having my sister to experience the beauty of Camp Chinqueka with me.

10. Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about going to a summer camp?

If you are thinking of going to summer camp, I have lots of advice for you. First, come in with an open mind and be ready to try out many  different activities and to always be on the go. Next, make sure you’re okay with being a bit silly during activities (trust me, everyone at camp shows their inner weirdness!). In addition, take the top bunks (not near the bathroom), and if there is a window in the cabin get a bed near the window. Make sure that you know how to unclog a toilet. DON’T BE LAZY. Make sure you sing as loud as you can when we are cheering. And bring a lot of sunscreen. Other than that, you will have a blast at camp.

“You might leave camp but camp will never leave you.”

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