I drag myself out of bed, slapping the alarm iclock that ipierces the still morning air. I hastily put on my sneakers, which are still wet and muddy from the previous night's soccer game. As I grab my trumpet, I see that the weather has cleared, and it appears as if we'll be back to regular activities today. I hastily ran across the hill, and through the dryness of my morning mouth, I am able to play a sloppy version of reveille, starting another day at Camp Lawrence, Bear Island, Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
I was eleven when I was ready to become a camper. My sisters, although their days at camp had ended long before, filled me with encouragement prior to my first two-week stay. For four summers I enjoyed the traditional camp activities (swimming, archery, trips, etc.) and the not-so-traditional (annoying night watch, sneaking out of the cabin at night). Fortunately, the latter was not held against me, as I was accepted into the Counselor-In-Training program, which is a two-summer program for 15 and 16-year-old boys.
Over these two summers, we were steadily given more responsibility. We learned, among other things, how to work with people, plan activity periods, spend quality time off, deal with homesickness, and how to deal with the stress of being responsible for campers.
Because I was seventeen this past summer, I was a junior counselor, which means that, although I had the duties of a senior counselor and was not paid, I played the role of second in command in the cabin group.
However, it was my seventh summer at camp, so new counselors were able to capitalize on my experience. Some of the high points were being the leader of the camp's Olympic Committee, serving as a "co-Unit Head" when the normal Unit Head and his alternate had time off, and helping to lead a four-day mountain trip over New Hampshire's Presidential Range.
Another benefit is that, through a special program, many staff members are from overseas. This summer my co-counselor was from Australia, with other staff from England, France, Hungary, Belgium, Germany, and even a chef at our sister camp in Russia! The U.S. staff is also quite diverse. While most come from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, others were from Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois. Aside from providing a solid rivalry between U.S. and foreign staff soccer games, it also provided me with a chance to learn about other cultures. Many of the friendships I made with both campers and staff will last a lifetime.
Camp work can have its drawbacks. Because most camps are non-profit organizations, they do not offer the highest paying job. However, I have found that it looks better on a college application than a job as a fast-food cashier. Nor is it a "Nine to Five" job. You do not receive extra pay when a camper gets sick at three in the morning. Problems can arise twenty-four hours a day. In addition, being away from home (except for time-offs) can be taxing.
But these minor drawbacks cannot overcome the positive benefits. Most of the counselor's work is play, most of his "setbacks" are learning experiences. And who could ask for anything more than the camp's recreational facilities: a beautiful lake, tennis courts, ball fields, sailboats, windsurfers and more.
If you're fortunate enough to get a job at a camp, you can expect to have an experience you will never forget. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.