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"Camp Farwell really did become my home away from home. You can tell when you have found that special place when upon your return to the UK you start to feel home sick for the first time all summer."
Performing Arts Counsellor
Camp seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. I was in my first year at university and wanted to do something unforgettable with my summer. I had always wanted to work with kids, and the idea of gaining experience by spending my summer working with American children on a summer camp seemed ideal. Not only would I be able to gain childcare experience but I could have a new cultural experience in the process. The idea of meeting new people from all around the world drew me to the program even more, I have always loved travelling saw this fantastic opportunity to firstly work with children for 9 weeks and then chance to travel the US after my placement.
I realised I wanted to apply for camp the summer before I went to University after returning from travelling around Australia. So I pretty much applied as soon as the application opened Sept 2011, even made a cheesy, and yes slightly cringey video in the hopes of getting placed. The application process was really simple I submitted my application in September, added a video later that month and was placed as a performing arts counselor in October. I got a direct email from Camp Farwell (which I nearly missed because it went into my junk), they offered me a skype interview and it just went from there. Four years later I’m still going back!
One of my favourite things about America (other than camp of course) has to be the fact that there are so many diverse places to travel. I have been returning for the last 4 summers and still have so many places and things to tick off my American bucket list. I mean don’t get my wrong, I like everyone else found myself captivated by the bright lights of Las Vegas, lost in the wonders of the Gran Canyon, and thoroughly entertained whilst watching a show on Broadway in NYC but the US has so much more to offer, the hidden gems you find along the way are sometimes the most memorable of all. From the Eastern beaches of Miami to Western Californian coast I found a love for America and all its diversity.
For me, other than the whole incredible experience as a whole, one of the best parts of working on camp has to be the fact that you get to act like a big kid again. This is seemingly a totally acceptable form of behaviour and in all honesty, loved by everyone around you (especially the campers!). From being dressed up as a minion by a group of 6 year old campers to running around playing quidditch to win house points, the opportunities to make an utter fool out of yourself are endless. And the best bit is, the more you embrace your inner child the more the campers seem to love it.
Embrace the messy look, take full advantage of the fact that on a summer camp nobody cares what you look like. Even the most picture perfect of consellors realise within the first day that their straighteners and extensive make up collection can happily stay packed away until its time for travelling. I spent more time with paint on my face than I did makeup. Camp is an opportunity to leave the real world behind, a place where you can be completely yourself, you’ll get lost in you own camp bubble and it really is the best place in the world to be. Oh and you should definitely take silly outfits with you, campers love it (and secretly so will you!).
Time to get yourself out of bed, followed by getting your campers up! They all lay pretending the ear shattering sound of the wake up bell hasn’t woken them (the fake snores are always a good giggle in a morning). A second bell goes at 7:15am breakfast will be served in 15 minutes! Time to play cheesy music until everyone is out of bed. Now time to throw on the first pair or shorts and vest you find and head for breakfast.
Third bell’s gone, just enough time to grab a cup of tea.It’s time to sit down with your cabin and wait eagerly for breakfast (please be pancakes!). The whole camp stands to do a quick grace, a song list is given to a cabin and the jukebox begins to play (9 out of 10 ‘build me up buttercup’ will be played). It’s our turn for breakfast, (we may be the second table but still),The breakfasts at camp are always amazing, muffins, croissants, pancakes, waffles, bacon, cinnamon rolls and every cereal under the sun. Definitely a great start to the day! There’s a bell for seconds (best thing ever!) Time for round two. Time for the morning announcements before we go off on our way.
Time to get back to the cabin, pick up clothes and make the beds ready for cabin clean up inspections. The campers get really competitive about this! They are graded every day and the cabin with the best scores goes first for the ice cream party at end of session. This is of highest importance! So you won’t find a thing out of place as you wonder through the cabins.Now, time to get ready for the first activity.
The first period of the day, is ‘just for you’! Everyday 6 activities run every morning, one in each department. For this hour everyday the campers choose any activities to take part in. It could be anything…circus skills, hug a pony, paddle board, yoga, mud football, tie dye, zumba…the list is endless. Staff all choose random things they could teach or if the older campers simply want to chill or read a book in the sun then that’s cool too. Best bit is, if you’re not assigned to teach you can join in!
My timetable changes every week and my rota goes up Sunday night but here is an example. First activity period I have ‘Musical’ so I go to the pavilion and meet my incredibly talented cast for ‘Hairspray’, the choreographer and vocal coach. The first 10 minutes is spent getting warmed up vocally and physically. Then its time to start working on our end of season performance, creating routines and learning harmonies. The campers have 4 weeks to create the show, and every year they amaze me! The parents come watch at the end of the season and the cast really do us proud.
You will soon realize how much camp revolves around food, trust me when you get home you’ll find yourself sat there at 10:45 wishing a snack was being prepared for you! Morning snack is always healthy, so fruit or cereal bars etc
Time for second activity. This is usually my preparation hour where I head up to arts & crafts to work on props/costume ready for our performance. Everything from painting sets to try to make a bridge out of a few boxes. Camp teach you to use your imagination!
Swim time! Lifeguards are at the ready, time to get out of the heat and cool off in the lake. My campers and I spend most of it on the water trampoline but it’s nice to have a dip when you jump of afterwards!
Food time! We have amazing cooks at Farwell from all over the world. Three from America, and one from Mexico, Hungary and England. They prepare amazing dishes from all corners of the globe, from taco’s to roasts and even the delicacy of corn dogs. More announcements and everyone is getting ready for quiet time.
It would be bad if I said it’s the best time of the day…but it is definitely well needed and well liked by counsellors and campers. Time to grab the mail (best feeling ever so nag friends and family to send you chocolate packages) and head back to the cabin for a rest hour. Time to chill, take a nap, read a book, make your 100th friendship bracelet or just spend some time catching up with your campers.
Feeling refreshed, time for volleyball! I meet my 12 volleyball girls at the sports shed and head up to the court, equipped with water bombs, balls and speakers. One of the advance girls leads warm up then time for drills and game practice, with a through water bomb thrown in (literally) for laugh. Quick break to watch the horses go by and then for a practice match to get the girls ready to play against the counsellors.
Time for another snack break, see I told you so much food! This time it’s the fun stuff, poptarts, cosmic brownies, airheads, oreos…yum! Time to chill on the grass a little before the next activity.
Back to the pavilion for performing arts, time to meet the cast and my co director to start rehearsals on “The Wizard of Oz”. Quick warm up to get everyone ready to do a dress run, costumes and props at the ready (including Cali the camp dog who plays Toto). It’s amazing to see the kids develop, they take a basic script and turn it into a performance for their parents on family day. Time for feedback and a silly game. Probably park bench as the campers love it, I’ve never seen such random ways of getting someone off a bench!
Second dip of the day! The lake is open again and its my cabins turn on the banana boat. The campers excitedly giggling about the prospect of their counsellor falling off in the middle of the lake. A few laps and a couple of big splashes later its time to head back to shore and get dried for dinner.
More food! We usually eat in the dining room for dinner but on a Friday it ‘cookout’! Time to find a perch on the grass overlooking the lake and head up for bbq food: hamburgers, hot dogs, bean burgers, chips (secretly crisps), potato salad, Caesar salad, watermelon and pink lemonade! Cookout is the best day of the week! Evening activity is announced and the camp is told where to meet.
The bell goes for evening activity, it’s the time of day where the whole camp comes together to do something fun before bed.There are so many evening activities but here are a few personal favourites….Campfire – up to the cook field, sitting around the fire singing camp songs and reading the camp log. Scavenger hunt – counsellors dressed in onsies hide around camp, leaving clues behind, the campers have to follow the clues to find the animals hidden around camp and get there par print ‘signature’ first one back wins! The classic guess the show skit performance (Yes you will get dressed up too!).
Time to get ready for bed, grab a shower, brush you teeth, put on your amusing pj’s. The 8:15 bells sounds, time to fill our water bottles and get you ‘flashlight’ ready for bed. Or if you’re my cabin its time to switch all the lights off and have a flashlight rave and dance crazy around the cabin (great way to tire little ones out, though 15 year olds love it too!)
Third bell goes, the whole camp meets on the lawn, We all form a big circle and in Farwell tradition join together, state the thought of the day and pass the squeeze around the whole camp. You can either pass squeeze on or say something. This is the time of day when the cute little campers usually make a comment about how much they love their cabin and their counsellor. Time to finish off with a little song, called “quietly” back to cabins.
Time to get the little ones in bed, read a bedtime story and say night. Ensuring they have water bottles and their teddies to hand. At 9pm if campers are settled in their beds, it’s time for the me to go enjoy the rest of the evening at the staff lodge. Three counsellors are on night watch so if the campers have any issues they are there to help.
If you have older campers you can still leave at 9pm and head the staff lodge as the campers can stay up until 10pm. They’re usually pretty good but if they do start swinging from the beams (literally) then night watch are there to calm it down.
CIT’s (Counsellors in Training) go to their lodge in the evenings to let off steam and also eat silly amounts of snacks. Counsellors in training have to be in the cabin for 11pm.
You may be thinking this is early, but trust me after a 14 hour day where you don’t stop you’ll be welcoming an early night.Sometimes I even went to bed at 9pm! 7 hours later, time to do it all over again!
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