Remember those summer days of playtime, adventures, and discovery? The outdoors called explorers and the day ahead was full of motion: climbing, swimming, camping, telling ghost stories, and roasting s’mores. Guess what? It’s possible to relive those glory days. Eye-opening personal growth and new friends that become lifelong mates are common side effects of interning abroad as a camp counselor or trip leader. In fact, it just might be one of the most fun ways of getting international work experience. The options are bountiful and the long-term skill-sharing is even greater, so start trekking through your own Moonrise Kingdom.
Why Intern Abroad as a Camp Counselor
Warning to those who prefer a more humdrum lifestyle: won’t find it here! Other than being plain fun, interning abroad at camps is not a mainstream internship option, so it will set you apart when entering the more formal workforce.
There are sure to be some fun opportunities to act as a camp counselor in your home country, but going abroad is extremely meaningful, as both the campers and counselors will benefit from the new international perspectives. Typically, there are other camp counselors from around the world, so camp counselors will get work experience in a global context, no matter the country they end up in. In addition, there’s the potential for various language acquisition skills and cultural immersion experiences, so why wouldn’t you want to go on an extended playdate abroad?
Getting to know people in an international environment is a unique opportunity from a professional point of view as well. Camp counselors stand to gain highly valuable conflict resolution skills and often practice discussion moderation. It also takes a real “self-starter” to excel in these sometimes challenging environments; another trait that comes comes handy in the real world.
Finally, consider the personal growth. Having experience as a trip leader or camp counselor abroad can communicate a number of ideal characteristics to future employers. Effective trip leaders and camp counselors are patient, willing to work in teams, understand that it’s important to consider different perspectives when approaching problems and finding solutions, and are inherently interested in helping others.
There are more countries with camp counselor and trip leader opportunities than there are names you’ll mispronounce during orientation. It’s a good idea to first identify what kind of activities and environment interests you, then choose a country and internship opportunity from there.
English speakers are highly sought after in language immersion camps, which are prominent throughout Latin America. In countries such as Peru and Argentina, camp leaders not only impart their linguistic words of wisdom, but also mentor youth and try to inspire environmental change. Basically, your job is to become someone’s BFF or temporary older sibling, serve as a role model, and teach colors, numbers, animals, and basic verbs in your native language. If you’ve ever thought about becoming an English teacher abroad, this is a great place to start!
In Europe, interns can expand their own language palette while soaking up local cultures. From sports coaching to education-focused programming, Belgium offers the chance to indulge in coffee and chocolate and learn about childcare practices. For those with a more sunny disposition, who want to kick back on beaches and tapas, check out camp counselor internships in Spain. In big cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, camp curriculum is focused more on education, while rural areas of Spain lead more active programs.
Consider trading in the flip flops for hiking boots and head to Australia or New Zealand for outback exploration through trip leader internships. The national language may be English, but these countries come with a completely new and outrageous slang vocabulary to play with, not to mention the sensational indigenous cultures and diversity of campers’ cultures.
Camp Counselor Internships
There are many different types of camps, depending on the location, culture, and social trends. Some countries, particularly those in less developed regions, focus more on community workshops and health programs, while others engage interns in sports and after-school activities. However, most organizations offer the following the form of international internships:
Camp Leader. Like the president of the school, the camp leader is the “Big Guy/Girl” of a camp. Camp leaders oversee other members of the camp community, organize activities, schedule excursions, lead songs around the bonfire, and make sure that everyone is happy.
Skills Teacher. Share your passion with the world. Whether you are interested in archery, canoeing, art, orienteering, or music, your talents will provide endless entertainment for the youngsters. Who knows, you might even foster a new passion in someone else!
Lifeguard. If there is a pool of water nearby, swim time is inevitable. Lifeguards at summer camps normally require the same certification as they would in neighborhood pools: swimming demonstration, water safety, CPR, and first aid basics.
Cook. This isn’t a call for fancy chefs; there’s no presentation to worry about, nor exotic ingredients to deal with. Instead, time in the kitchen will be spent preparing large quantities of grub that will energize and nourish groups of hyper kids.
Nurse. There’s alway a stubbed toe, scrape, blister, nasty bug bite, cough, or sprained ankle. Camp nurses don’t need doctorate degrees in medicine, but basic certificates in the field might be required.
Trip Leader. These internships are commonly available in camp programs with a focus on environmental topics, such as marine life, sustainability, or animal preservation. Interns might have to go on site ahead of participants to set up camp, and they will also have to undertake extra training to be prepared for all sorts of unexpected situations.
Benefits & Challenges
For some, particularly those who never had a chance to attend camp themselves, it takes an adjustment period to adapt to the lifestyle of living with others and being part of a team-focused environment. Facing it head-on will help to speed up and enhance that process, and it’s a great life lesson to learn once summer comes to a close.
Another big factor is realizing that you are, above all, a role model. Not only are you taking care of a group of younger people, but you are setting an example and influencing lives. Whew, talk about responsibility! Of course, there is training for emergency situations and behavioral management, but there’s no time to let down your guard at camp. Likewise, “that’s not my job” is not something that will come out of your mouth. Take charge, expand your skills, and don’t turn down adventure.
Don’t be surprised if these very kids teach you more than you taught them. Share skills, learn lessons, impart knowledge, and open your eyes to unique realities and situations. Camp is a transformative experience for everyone in the end. Expect to make new friendships, have your heart broken when saying good-bye, and walk away a different person.
There is a unique bond which occurs between people who share camp time and partake in silly community development exercises together. If outside games, new friends, worldly travel, and survival skills sounds like a good alternative to office jobs and research labs, consider a camp counselor or trip leader internship abroad and get ready for endless fun.