Working at Camp is a Real Job
Hello my name is Andrea. I am 28 years old and I am a camp-a-holic. Since I was 8 years old I have spent every summer of my life at camp. I have never been to a summer music festival, I have no idea what other people do in the summer, and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
As an adult, when you tell someone you work at camp, they often ask “ When will you get a real job?”
But what is a “real job”? And what makes my job any less real than yours?
Do we have to wear nice clothes, shower daily, and sit behind a desk all day to make it real? If those are your standards than I guess camp doesn’t count.
To me, a real job is one where you work hard, are challenged daily and make a difference. But what if we could do all these things, plus enjoy ourselves, learn and grow from the experience? That’s what you can get by working at camp, which is why jobs don’t get much better/ more real than camp jobs.
Working at camp teaches many valuable life skills, including Respect, Resourcefulness, and Responsibility.
As a camp staff you are responsible for the safety, education and well being of children. You are their parent, their big brother/ sister and their friend. You are their role model, confidant, and their world while they are at camp. There is no greater responsibility than taking care of someone else’s child.
Respect is one of the most important thing campers learn at camp. In the morning, campers must share the bathroom, share food at breakfast, and be quiet during announcements. Any parent knows that getting one child ready for the day is hard. Camp staff in their teens are responsible for getting groups of 10-12 kids up and ready each and everyday. This cannot happen without winning their respect, and showing incredible leadership skills.
To be responsible for kids, while making sure they are having fun and following the rules, requires a high level of resourcefulness and great interpersonal skills. Like all situations involving kids, each day brings new challenges, and staff must work as a team to become excellent problem solvers. Staff learn to balance the fine lines between their own needs, the needs of others, and explaining those needs to young children. When its pouring rain and freezing cold on trip, camp staff need to make the best of the situation.
Camp staff are responsible for other peoples children. We make sure they are well fed, that they sleep enough and wear sunscreen.
We take them on canoe trips, we teach them to swim, we help them make friends. We are literally shaping them to become the best possible version of themselves while having the best experience of their lives.
And here’s an added bonus; as a camp staff you will grow too! I know that I am more confident, more independent and more capable because of my time spent at camp.
So before looking for a “real job”, consider what you might get out of working a summer at camp.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here are some testimonials from our end of summer staff questionnaire
“Working at camp has helped me grow tremendously. I learned to be more patient, outgoing and work as a team.” – Tamakwa Counsellor
[From being a Tripper at Tamakwa] I grew mentally stronger (rain on trip definitely puts life into perspective), and I feel that I am more confident after spending a summer amid the welcoming people at camp. – Vetran Canoe Tripper
Working at Tamakwa is a privilege. It’s a chance to escape the responsibilities and expectations of university and the real world. It’s an incredible opportunity to work with kids and embrace the wilderness. Tamakwa is a place where people admire me when I make pancakes and can properly set up a tent. It’s where I am seen as a hero when I am fearless of bugs and can give a motivational speech on a tough portage. Camp Tamakwa has changed my life and I can only hope that I am changing lives there in return. – First Year Canoe Tripper
Tamakwan kids have taught me so much about inclusion and really treating friends as family. I so respect the way Tamakwans treat each other and remain loyal for years to come. It’s always an amazing experience to have someone younger teach you so much, and this summer definitely did so for me. – Activity Leader
Working at camp definitely changed my outlook on life, I found the transition back to reality quite difficult and I want my brother to experience that hence bringing him along, I found that life isn’t appreciated enough and Tamakwa really allows you to be yourself without the influence of technology or other distractions. –First Time Tripper
I noticed the responsibility that goes along with being a counselor has impacted me at home as well, making me a much more responsible person overall. It also made me more unselfish, because at camp, you must put all of your camper’s before yourself. This carried over to home, where I put friends and family before myself as well. – First Year Counsellor
Working at camp has made me gain confidence in many areas. I experienced a real sense of responsibility, I met people from different places/backgrounds, I gained independence from organizing and doing something by myself. I cannot adequately answer this question to say how much it did for me. – First Time Counsellor
If you didn’t think it before, I hope you now realize that working at camp is one of the most rewarding, challenging, exciting, and meaningful jobs out there!
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