Editor’s Column: The Perks of Being a Camp Counselor

Kimmy Cunningham

So I did not work in New York this summer. I did not work in D.C. or L.A. or any other acronym. I also made less than a quarter per hour. In fact, I slept on a cot, had every hour of every day planned and woke up at 7:00 a.m. all summer. No, I was not in prison, I was one of the few, the proud, the camp counselors.

Last semester, I felt as though everyone was stressed about whether they would work in New York or D.C. or whether they would work for Barclay’s or Credit Suisse. I decided to set my feelings of anxiety aside for yet another summer and return to the camp in Fairlee, VT, where I worked the previous summer. This summer, however, I really paid attention to the perks of my job.

There are two aspects to being a counselor at my camp: daylife and nightlife. Daylife is the actual job counselors are paid for. I worked in the Landsports Department and even took over the department halfway through the summer. Between writing reports, taking inventory, making announcements about activities, organizing sports events with other camps and being energetic and enthusiastic for four hours of activity periods each day, I would say I learned a great deal about time management and patience.

Another part of my daylife was being a counselor in charge of the CITs (Counselors In Training). These girls are sixteen years old and essentially undergo an intense leadership program throughout the summer in which they both have more responsibility at camp, but are also awarded more privileges than other campers. After having undergone this training as a camper, becoming a counselor was incredibly rewarding.

While the tent and department aspects of camp are certainly noteworthy, the nightife is probably the element that draws such a large counselor staff each year. My job during the day lasts from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. After that, counselors gather up a hill at a place known as Base Camp. Here, we stack 12-foot-tall piles of wood for the fire, enjoy a delicious Longtrail Blackberry Wheat and play the camp’s traditional drinking game, “Whale’s Tails”. There are about 50 counselors at Base Camp every night, creating the perfect summer atmosphere. Although I look forward to school each fall, I am never quite ready to leave camp.

At the beginning of each summer, I always say that I will get a “real job” the next summer. However, by the end of camp, I know that I will absolutely return. I know that counselors in years past have had similar sentiments. Thus I began to question how they coped with eventually ceasing their time at camp. Nearly everyone told me that they had taken a gap year after college. A few had joined the Peace Corps, where they could help with community development and use the skills needed for being a camp counselor in an entirely different environment. Many others traveled west to become ski instructors or Outward Bound leaders.

Upon hearing these plans, I realized that sometimes college students try to grow up a bit too quickly. At twenty-one, we are not in danger of ruining our careers by taking a year or two off after school. The subsequent years after graduation are an excellent time to pursue something that may not be lucrative, but incredibly rewarding. Therefore, while I will certainly try to find a job for next year, I have come to love the idea of a gap year. And I definitely know where I will be next summer.