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"Why I can’t stop going to Summer Camp" by Sophie Mullender


For anyone who knows me, they’ll have (unfortunately) listened to me ramble on and on, and on some more about Camp America. ‘Why are you so obsessed?’ They may ask to my face. ‘Can she get over it now?’ they may say to others.

Regrettably to all parties involved, the answer is a simple: no.

Working in America for three summers has been an opportunity that is impossible to sum up in a matter of words. I mean really, I’d need a novel published whilst I discuss it, and I’m completely happy for this to happen…anyone?

The thought of spending a summer away from home was initially daunting back when I was 19 and was off to Maryland to work at Camp Sonshine. However, the thought of leaving my family was overridden by the thought of all the new adventures awaiting me. I’ll be honest; the first week I was there I was on the phone begging my mum to come home. I couldn’t do it, it was too difficult, I wasn’t cut out for it. It is mindboggling to look back at that moment and realise that that was the time that I as a person, changed dramatically, and I am so thankful for everyone for not letting me come home.

Before I knew it, I was besotted with every single one of the children at camp, (maybe not every), all the camp songs and all my new friends. The summer ends, and you await your mum at the airport thinking ‘Aaah this is amazing! I had a wonderful time but thank goodness I get to eat skips again and use a toilet where I can’t see the persons calves next to me.’

Oh no, how very wrong I am. Your feet hit the ground and you’re already processing your second application form whilst asking all your camp friends if they are doing the same. You feel as though you are explaining a crime you just committed to someone; telling your family ‘It just happened! I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing.’

That spur of the moment decision led me to my favourite place in the entire world. I will never forget getting placed at the recruitment fair, and asking my director: How many counsellors does your camp have? As I got up to leave.

Fifteen, he replied.

FIFTEEN?! FIFTEEN?! My last camp had 200!

I am not ashamed to admit that the first thing that went through my head was ‘Well if I don’t like five of them, I only have 10 left..’

Clearly it all worked out for the best as I am about to embark on my third summer there.

Summer Camp is without a doubt the happiest place in the world. You wake up to a kid yelling at 6am ‘MISS SOPHIE, MISS SOPHIE IS IT TIME FOR BREAKFAST YET?’ in their utterly irresistible accent and you turn over on your bunk, look outside at the sunrise overseeing the lake and wondering how it could get any better than this. I am thinking these thoughts whilst I have a seven year old screaming in my ear…obviously we can see how passionate I am about that bloody lake.

Your day begins with you and your co counsellor deciding on a flag cheer for the day. This normally involves me saying to my campers ‘Pick a song, we’ll see what we can do.’ Whoever was the least tired would normally make up the song.

Here is an example of a Cabin A chant:

Original Song (Hard Knock Life) Therefore you must sing this in the tune of Oliver. Got it?

It’s a hard knock life, at camp! It’s a hard knock life at camp!

We have to sweep the floors, we have to make the beds, it’s a hard knock life!

That is what is different about camp to ordinary life. That, and a million other reasons. How can we be so excited with all this energy at 7am?

How is it perfectly acceptable to dance on your table at breakfast to Taylor Swift?

You spend your days singing songs which make you infinitely happy. You gladly let your children paint your face with permanent marker without a second thought. Your heart melts into a million little pieces when your camper tells you that you are the best counsellor ever. The ultimate compliment. ‘You’ve lost weight!’ Or ‘You look gorgeous!’ Just don’t add up. When you do everything in your power to keep your children feeling enthused, entertained, loved and safe for 24 hours a day 7 days a week, that’s when you need that compliment and it means everything and more.

There is simply nothing I love more than being around children in a fun environment. They become everything you wish you could have the opportunity to be all the time. They are that drive and fire that only can come out of you at the weekends because, unfortunately, real world calls.

That’s why us counsellors dance on our tables. That’s why we sing at the top of our lungs. That’s why we have dance-offs. That’s why we push each other into the lake. That’s why we cry at a moments notice when we think about leaving. Camp brings the magic out in us that has been waiting all year round to arise.

However, it isn’t just the campers. It’s them people that see you at your worst, them people you scream to the rooftops when you hear you’ll be co counsellors with next week, them people you talk about your travels with at snack-time, at weekends, on off duty. The counsellors.

I find it’s difficult to explain a camp friendship to someone who hasn’t been to camp. These people become your life so quickly, and you need them through the sweat, blood and tears of camp. You need them when a kid is being difficult. You need them when you lose your MacBook Air. You need them when you break your finger. But, the worst? You need them when you have to leave them.

It’s that special friendship that relies on time-difference. That friendship which involves a countdown on your phone and multiple face-times just laughing your head off. I could never explain how difficult it is to have best friends in multiple time zones, but I also couldn’t explain how incredible it is. These people were brought into your life by fate. Brought into your life because you all have the same adventurous spirit. You all want to impact someone else. And of course, they all have impacted me.

We never realise how lucky we are to have friends who live around the corner when we make friends who live 10,000 miles away and we’re blessed to see once a year.

Camp has made me stronger, independent with a more robust zest for life than I ever thought possible.

I don’t know how I’ll ever let that go.

Oh, by the way, are you thinking of doing Camp America and want some advice? Ok.

WHAT ARE YOU WASTING YOUR TIME READING THIS FOR? GO GO GO!! for your chance at a life-changing summer.

If you have any questions about being a Camp Counselor, feel free to contact me by email: [email protected]. Thank you!