5 things you will learn working on summer camp

Family Camp

Working on summer camp is a great learning experience, both professionally and personally. Professionally, you learn so much about working with children, and about how to work in an intense, tiring environment. When it comes to learning things about yourself, there are hundreds of different experiences and lessons that people learn during their time on camp – but often when the four or eight weeks come to an end, many staff have the same comments about what they have learnt about themselves.

You learn confidence

Working on summer camp gives you a great confidence boost, and shows you that you have always had self belief within you. On summer camp, it is part of your job to sing songs in front of 100 children, dance and make fun of yourself, all of which boosts your confidence. Even more so, being able to run sports sessions or teach classes, day in day out, and see the difference it makes to the campers really releases your inner confidence.

You learn to work in a team

On summer camp, you will be part of a big team, all working towards the same goal. Summer camp is only successful if the whole team bonds together and work to give the campers the best summer ever. We place a big importance on teamwork, right from the beginning of our training week, and this continues throughout camp. You will learn how to work with your managers, plan classes or sports with other people, use your strengths to help others, or run a big event for 100 campers as a team. There are opportunities for teamwork at every corner on camp.

You learn how to work with children

Spending all day, every day with the campers means that after working on summer camp, you will have learnt a thing or two about children and what it’s like to work with them. From how to comfort them when they’re sad, to how to grab their attention and keep them occupied, summer camp teaches you all about the many different ways we can work with children. Spending all day with children also puts you back in contact with your inner child, and you find yourself playing and singing as if you were one of them.

You learn to really challenge yourself

On camp, you find challenges pop up on a daily basis, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Every day, you face something new. For some people, it is being away from home for the first time, for others, it is pushing shyness to one side and being outgoing. Every challenge that you face on camp, teaches you something about yourself, but more importantly, you see that you are able to be overcome whatever challenges are thrown at you.

You learn how to have a lot of fun!

Summer camp is a hell of a lotta fun. Working on camp reminds you how easy it is to have a great time! Seeing the campers day in day out, having the time of their lives, reminds you of how much fun you can have. Summer camp can reignite your inner child and change your attitude, so that you leave expecting (and finding!), fun at every corner.

5 Challenges of Summer Camp Work (and why they are worth it!)

Saying goodbye after camp

Working on summer camp is a whole load of fun and new experiences, but it is not without its challenges. There are lots of things that challenge us on summer camp (the possibility of being covered in gunk is one of them!) – here are the most common challenges, how to overcome them, and why they are worth it!

Responsibility

Undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of working on summer camp is being responsible for children. As the majority of our monitors and teachers are young people, they may never have had experience being responsible for another person before, never mind a tiny kid! Whilst supported by our coordinators, the staff are first hand responsible for looking after the campers – this can involve watching them brush their teeth, teaching them to put their clothes in the laundry basket, and making sure they are eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This may be daunting, but it is definitely one of the most rewarding areas of camp. To see your group of campers, sleeping soundly, knowing that you helped them to get through all the small, complicated parts of the day, makes you truly feel like you are making a difference to their camp experience.

We help staff to cope with the responsibility of being a surrogate parent to their campers by firstly giving them a comprehensive training week, to equip them with tools and skills which will help them. When camp gets started, we also have daily meetings with the coordinators, who having been staff members themselves, once were a camper’s surrogate parent too, and are able to offer first hand advice.

Working in the heat

The south of Spain gets hot in July and August… very hot! Sometimes temperatures are in the high thirties, meaning both campers and staff can get tired and sunburnt. Of course, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives – being able to spend lots of time outside, at the beach, in the pool, is the perfect summer camp environment – nobody likes the rain!  We also make sure to have lots of water activities for our campers – water balloons and sponges are very important and are used very frequently. Nonetheless, it can be an adjustment for those of us who are used to the Irish wind and English rain to get used to constant sun. Staff are often seen carrying litre water bottles around to help with the heat, as well as constantly applying suncream – the heat can also result in monitors and teachers spending 90% of their time off in the pool or at the beach!

 

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Cabin fever

Everybody always talks about the ‘camp bubble’ – working and living on camp you tend to forget about the outside world, and your morning, noon and night revolve around camp life. Sometimes, this can be a big challenge – your brain can feel like it really needs a rest from thinking and talking about camp constantly. Luckily, this challenge is easily remedied in many different ways – taking a quick phone call from home in your break lets you briefly escape, as does making an effort to have a conversation with someone about something other than camp (sounds simple, but you wouldn’t believe how much you talk about the campers and that days antics over anything else when on camp!). Getting off site always gives some respite also – whether it be going for an ice-cream, a coffee, or some tapas on your night off, you really appreciate the outside world like you haven’t before. The funniest thing is, that after one of these breaks you find yourself looking forward to seeing the campers and other staff members again!

Tiredness

Camp is a 24/7 environment, filled with energy and excitement, and anybody who has worked with children before knows how tiring it can be. A definite challenge of summer camp work is feeling tired, and knowing you have to keep going. Different people cope with this in different ways – many staff swear by a nap in their time off to recuperate, and having a full day off on the weekend also comes in handy to catch up on some rest. We all look out for each other on summer camp too – working as a team and supporting each other only makes the work easier, and so helping out a very tired teammate can really make their day easier. But ultimately, the thing that makes the tiredness both worth it, and also helps it disappear, is the campers. Sometimes you feel ready to fall into bed, but you see the campers excited for Capture the Flag and you feed off their energy. You may feel your eyelids dropping, but then a camper asks you to sing a song and your energy lifts. Even something as simple as a hug or a smile from the campers helps you to forget about the tiredness and focus on having fun with them.

Saying goodbye to the campers (and staff) and returning to the real world

At the end of each fortnight of camp, emotional scenes are aplenty – campers and staff alike cry as they say goodbye to their new found friends, and to their monitors and teachers. It’s often difficult to find a dry eyed staff member during departures, as many hugs and tearful farewells fill the camp. It’s definitely a challenge of summer camp that after two weeks of caring and helping the camper, you say goodbye, not knowing if you’ll see them again.

Once all the campers have left and camp has finished, it’s time for another goodbye – this time to the staff with whom you have worked and spent almost every living minute with for the past two, four or even eight weeks.  Emotions always run high as staff say their goodbyes, and thank yous to those who have made a difference to their camp experience. After spending so long with the other staff members, it is a bit surreal not to see them first and last thing every day – the separation anxiety we feel after summer is a real challenge! However, it only stands to the great bonds the team has and the real friends we make.

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Making a difference

Ultimately, every challenge on summer camp is worth it because we make a difference to the campers who attend our camps. By being their surrogate parents and taking full responsibility for them, by helping them stay cool and play games in the pool, by pushing through our tiredness to make evening entertainment the best ever, we really help the campers in many different ways. There is no better reason than that to work on summer camp!

TESTIMONIAL: Maria Jimenez

The first time I went to TECS I was a 10 year-old junior camper. As far as I can remember, TECS has since then been part of my summers: 3 years in Family Camp, 2 years abroad, and 1 year in Little Village. Not only have I learnt English there, but I have also made lots of friends and I have the greatest memories of those summers.

When I was 17, I felt as I had been a camper for enough time, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to leave TECS camps, since they were an essential part of my summers. That’s when I decided to become a crew member.

Although in this position you don’t get paid (with money), there are plenty of things you get out of it. The most motivating thing about being a crew member is seeing yourself reflected in your campers. You will do whatever is needed to make sure they have as much fan as you did when you used to be a camper.

I’m not going to lie, working for kids is exhausting; it requires a bunch of energy and enthusiasm, but it gives you the biggest satisfaction you can get. When a kid comes and says ‘I love you teacher’ (yes, they will constantly call you teacher, although you’re closer to be a camper than a teacher!) and hugs you, gives you a drawing of you they’ve done themselves, or you see them smiling and having fun as you used to do, you’ll feel it was worth it.

Another thing that I loved about being a crew member is the way you connect with kids. You are not a camper anymore, and far from having fun, you have lots of responsibilities now, but neither are you a monitor. This position of ‘something in between’ lets you both work and be like a big brother or sister for the kids; someone they can trust, have fun with, and respect at the same time. That is something you can take great advantage of; during those two weeks, they will sometimes by angry, upset, sad or homesick, and you will be the most similar thing they have to their parents. Unconsciously, a bond between you and the kid starts to grow, and finally, the entire camp feels like a huge family!

Working on a summer camp is a great experience which I would definitely recommend to almost anyone. You make friends from all over the world, become more mature and responsible, you develop your English and, of course, you become a crucial part of a child’s summer. You will always get more out of it than you ever expected.

– Maria Jimenez