Camp Counselor: More Than an Internship

This guest blog post was written by all-star former counselor and year round Staff Coordinator, Elly Wallace.

Many people will tell you that the key to a successful future in the workplace is a solid internship related to your field of (potential) expertise.  While that may be true for a lot of people and a lot of careers, a job as a camp counselor can give you the skills to succeed in not only the workplace, but in all aspects of your life.  We’ve come up with three major things a summer camp job has the potential to provide, but like anything else, you get out what you put in.

Confidence

One of summer camp’s greatest qualities is its appreciation for individuality.  The most notable counselors are the ones who sing the loudest, dress the craziest, and are willing to participate in any and all activities that his or her campers come up with.  At camp, it’s hard to feel embarrassed.  It is surprisingly easy to step out of your comfort zone and into the uninhibited summer camp lifestyle.

Selflessness

While being a camp counselor can give you a great deal of self-understanding and important life skills, the most successful counselors are those who are not at camp for themselves, but for the campers.  Camp teaches you how to put the needs of your campers, or of any group, above your own.  In order to deal with confrontations, homesickness, shower hour, and anything else that comes your way in the bunk, you have to know how to prioritize.  As camp counselor, you are truly a surrogate parent for your campers and, while their problems may seem small to you, to them they are big and should be treated accordingly.

Leadership Ability

At camp, campers do not judge your ability to show them how to kick a soccer ball, make a friendship bracelet, or ride a zip line.  We find that campers instantly idolize a counselor’s ability to do anything, giving you a solid platform to develop and transform your leadership skills from the get-go.  You’ve been hired as a camp counselor and specialist in a specific activity; your accountability is already there.  This gives you the time to focus on building your character, integrity, commitment, enthusiasm, and open-mindedness.

Interested in working at PFC? Check out our staff page!

Guest Post: What PFC Means to Me

This guest post was written by Alli Lowenstein Cahill, who grew up at Pine Forest and returned last summer as the Intermediate Girls Division Leader. During the year, Alli works as a teacher in New Jersey.

I think that camp is one of the biggest gifts in life.  When I think of how Pine Forest has shaped me and how it has impacted me, I think about the past, present and future.  I am extremely proud to call myself an “old timer.”  I have spent thirteen incredible years at Pine Forest.  From being a camper in bunk Fern all the way up to Cliff as a waitress, to a counselor and member of the athletic staff, to having the awesome responsibility of caring for the Intermediate girls this past summer, every next year brings more joy.

When I think of past summers I remember the sounds of Purple Haze, campfires with Aunt Blanch, biking to NY, Sing in Hughie Hall, inter-camp competitions, the Friendship Tree, the long walks up to Lauri Field, pizza burgers and candy at canteen, Sparky in the kitchen, loud chants in the dining hall, and so much more.  Camp helped shape my character by showing me the real meaning of friendship and community.  There is a reason why we cry so much on the last few days.  It’s because Pine Forest Camp is and always will be our home away from home.  When I was going through the normal growing pains that every child experiences, I remember the way that camp always made me feel, so safe and comfortable.  It taught me how to be adventurous and to try new things.  It taught me cooperation, sportsmanship, and how to play fair.  It taught me compassion and understanding, acceptance and tolerance.  It taught me leadership skills.  It taught me vulnerability and how to handle it.  It taught me the real meaning of laughing out loud.  Camp is a truly a gift.

I always dreamed of becoming a teacher and having summer off so one day I could go back to Pine Forest and bring my own children with me.  That dream came true this past summer when I became a member of key staff, Intermediate Girls Division Leader.  It is definitely one of the most rewarding roles I have ever had at Pine Forest.  The Black family is near and dear to my heart and I would not want to work for anyone else.  They are so special.  The campers, counselors, and staff members are nothing less than magnificent.  I actually got to scream “shorts and longs today girls” instead of hiding underneath my covers.  Every day brought new adventures with my campers and counselors, and I cherished every minute.  I had so much fun planning the night activities for the Inter girls.  I love the traditional ones such as The Mostest, Statues, Bunk Feud, and Counselor Hunt, but I also started adding some new ones like World’s Greatest and Cupcake Wars.   It was an amazing summer and I look forward to so many more.  There is no better honor and privilege more rewarding than being able to impact the life of a child.  Camp is truly a gift.

When I think about the future for my daughter Alexandra, I think about how lucky she is to be able to spend her summers at Pine Forest.  The campers, counselors, and staff members have opened their arms to her.  She thinks that Mickey and Lee are superheroes in a way that little kids see their teachers out of school.  It is magical.  She will create friendships that will last a lifetime.  I did.  I long for camp days.  Camp is truly a gift.

MVP: Most Valuable Position

You have likely heard that the key to a successful future in the workplace is a solid internship related to your field of expertise. While this may be true for some, a job as camp counselor also gives you the skills you need to succeed in the workplace and in life! We’ve compiled a list of five major skills a camp job teaches (which, to us, is way more important than bringing some big-shot executive coffee all summer!):

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Leadership Skills
At camp, campers do not judge your ability to show them how to kick a soccer ball, make a friendship bracelet, or ride a zip line. Campers instantly idolize a counselor’s ability to do anything, giving you a solid platform to develop and transform your leadership skills from the get-go. You’ve been hired because we know you’re skilled. Now focus on building character, integrity, commitment, enthusiasm, and open-mindedness in your work!

Confidence
One of camp’s greatest qualities is its appreciation for individuality. The most notable counselors are the ones who sing the loudest, dress the craziest, and are willing to participate in any and all activities that his or her campers come up with. At camp, it’s hard to feel embarrassed. It is surprisingly easy to step out of your comfort zone and into the uninhibited summer camp lifestyle. And hey, you might learn some new things about yourself along the way.

Selflessness
While being a camp counselor can give you a great deal of self-understanding and important life skills, counselors quickly learn to put others, children, before themselves. As a camp counselor, you are truly a surrogate parent for your campers and, while their problems may seem small to you, they are big, real, and totally consuming! By taking on the role of counselor, you are making a difference in these campers’ lives. They will quickly become your whole world!

Concrete Interview Material
As you interview for jobs, you will likely be asked a question that begins with “tell me about a time when…”. At camp, you are living with children for almost two months. You will undoubtedly leave with examples of accomplishments, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. You will also come home with many marketable skills for your resume that are applicable to almost every career path. These include communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to work well in a group setting. Another advantage of working at a residential summer camp is the expansion of your peer network. You are working with people from all over the world with a variety of different backgrounds and your peer network is a very useful resource when applying for jobs.

Perspective

Now, more than ever before, we need a reminder to put our electronics aside, take in a breath of fresh air, and be present in the moment. Camp gives you the unique opportunity to connect with yourself, with others, and with nature. You will find that the counselors benefit from unplugging just as much as the campers! Have you seen how bright the stars shine at camp? Become inspired!

Guest Blogger: PFC Counselor

My name is Adam Polikoff and I am a general bunk counselor at camp. This upcoming summer will be my tenth summer. I was a camper from 4th grade through 11th grade (8 years), and became a counselor for the first time last year!

What did you get out of your position?
My experience as a counselor showed me the integral role that I had in the summers of each of my campers. As the summer went on, I realized just how much what I did each and every day influenced the enjoyment of each camper under my supervision. During the last few days of camp, many of my campers and others in my division told me personally that I, along with many other counselors really made this past summer one of the best of their lives. Also, I learned how the job of being a camp counselor really brings many co-counselors together as friends. I have been going to camp for a long time, so naturally I did not expect to become good friends with anybody other than my original “camp friends,” but I quickly realized that I became close friends with many counselors who were experiencing PFC for the first time.

What makes a good counselor?
From my experiences as both a camper and a counselor, I have learned that a good counselor is one who actively keeps camp fun for his campers. In order to consistently do this, a good counselor genuinely enjoys the time he spends with his campers! Campers are happy when their counselor has a positive, upbeat attitude.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in your role?
One of the greatest challenges that I faced in my position was encouraging my campers to clean the bunk. Every day after breakfast, there is a period of time designated to cleaning the bunks for inspection. However, as would be expected, most of the campers showed no desire to actually clean the bunk during this time. Rather, they would choose to play games and sit around. One of the ways through which I attempted to remedy this problem was by providing certain small incentives to the person who cleaned the most or even to everybody upon receiving a certain inspection score. This turned out to be an effective strategy.

What’s your favorite thing about your role?
My favorite thing about my role at camp is that it allowed for the creation of many bonds. I am very happy that I was able to leave camp with new friends. As I left camp, I knew that the time that I spent with my campers contributed to their enjoyment of the summer in a big way, and that satisfying feeling is one of my favorite parts of being a counselor.

Any advice for new counselors?
Try to keep a positive attitude around your campers even when you are tired. If you are able to remain positive and sustain an energetic mood, then that positivity and uplifting attitude will translate unto the campers and help them enjoy each and every day as much as possible.

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A New Worldview

Sometimes, with all that is going on in our lives, it is too easy to feel like the world is made up of just our friends, family and the people we see (whether in person or on social media) on a regular basis. We might gravitate toward and spend time with people from the same places, same culture and similar backgrounds and can often forget that the world is so much bigger with so much more to offer than we realize.

The great thing about an experience at camp is that whether you are a camper or a staff member, being at camp will definitely make you view the world differently! We are so excited to hire extraordinary, skilled counselors from all around the world. We have staff recruiting trips to London, Manchester, Budapest, Czech Republic, as well as Oregon, Ohio and Kansas. We have campers that represent 15 states and 3 countries. Camp gives you the benefit of coming into contact with people from many different schools, communities, countries and cultures.

Diversity brings so much to the camp experience and helps us see the world differently, but we also come to realize that we’re not that different from one another. These relationships help us to grow and teach us about getting along with others, and not just the people we see as similar to us. It’s just one more thing that proves how much camp can teach you.

It’s amazing to realize that there is so much more out there, and spending a summer at camp, with people from all over, gives us a greater understanding of ourselves, other people, our country, and the world!

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Best. Job. Ever.

Whether 2016 is the first time you’re considering a summer camp job or this is your 14th year, now is a great time to start securing the “best job ever” for the summer. So much more than what you think, being a camp counselor is beyond fun but a lot of work. What other job allows you to “play” all day while also building valuable skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life?!  As you think about this upcoming season, consider these reasons why being a counselor is the best job ever.

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The people you meet, the friends you make: You will form lifelong friendships at camp. Although 8 weeks may not seem like a long time, when you are living and working in a group setting and in close proximity to others, you create bonds that normally could take years to form. Many of your co-workers will be from other parts of the country or other parts of the world. The takeaway is learning about different cultures, having new and exciting places to visit, and realizing we all have a lot to offer as our world becomes a lot smaller.

Expense-free living: Camp provides food and housing and for some, a travel allowance. As a camp counselor, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time walking around camp with smiling campers, doing the activity you love, or singing songs around a campfire thinking, “I’m getting paid to do this?!”

Being outdoors: While many of your friends are behind a desk or making copies, you are spending every day (and most evenings!) outside. You can jump right in and learn a new activity with your campers, or help teach a sport you are passionate about all in the fresh air and sunshine. Have a period off? Why not jump in the lake?

The kids: They are the reason why you are here in the first place. Having the rare opportunity to make a major impact on a group of kids is probably what you’ll love most about your job. Being a role model and being looked up to by your campers is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have and it will have a long lasting impact on both you and your campers – probably more of an impact than you’ll even realize.

It’s a resume builder: Camp is the perfect place to gain experience in a lot of areas and looks very impressive on your resume. Being a camp counselor requires a lot of multitasking, responsibility, flexibility, adaptability, teamwork and many other challenges and surprises. You learn to live and work with a variety of personalities and that is a skill that you can bring to any workplace.

Learn about yourself: The opportunity to learn and grow from a camp experience is limitless. At the end of the summer, you will realize things about yourself that you never knew before. You’ll reflect upon all of your new strengths, which you’ll find could be anything from social skills to caretaking, to coaching skills and multitasking. Pat yourself on the back! You deserve it.

Those who know and love camp and whose lives have been impacted by their summer days working at camp cannot think of a better way to spend their summers. Sound good to you? Apply here today!