Camp Stories: Aideen’s Lifechanging Summer
In her 3 summers spent at Camp Aideen learned so much about herself and what she wanted to do with her life. She told us how she developed and grew through the experiences she faced in Camp.
Why did you first decide to go to Camp?
I heard about the Camp USA program when I was a teenager and I knew straight away it was something I wanted to do. I’m passionate about sport and I worked as a gymnastics coach throughout college. However, I studied science at university, so I saw camp as a great last opportunity to work with kids and to do a job that I loved.
Which Camp did you go to?
I went to Island Lake Camp, on the border between Pennsylvania and New York. Island Lake is a large, family-owned, traditional camp for both boys and girls.
Did it live up to your expectations?
My first summer at camp went above and beyond my expectations! I was super excited flying over but I was also pretty nervous. I went completely alone, and I didn’t know what to expect. After a 7-hour flight and a 3-hour bus ride, I was greeted by dozens of new friendly faces cheering and welcoming us like old friends. Immediately, I could tell there was something special about the place. I made so many friends from around the world and formed such a strong bond with my group of kids that Island Lake really felt like my second home by the end of the summer. I had such a fantastic experience that I returned to camp for the next two years.
What was your job and what did that entail?
For my first two summers at camp, I worked in the sports department with around 15 other people. I mostly coached fitness and martial arts classes but I also helped out with a wide range of other sports. By the end of the summer, I was able to coach American sports I’d never had the opportunity to play in Ireland, such as lacrosse and baseball. I absolutely loved working in the sports department because we were a really close-knit team, who were always there to help with each other’s classes.
Last summer, I worked as the girls Group 1 Group Leader. This meant that I was responsible for all the girls aged 7 to 10 and all the staff that worked with these girls. My role included training all the girl’s group 1 staff during orientation week, dealing with any problems the girls or staff had and liaising with parents on a regular basis. The most fun part of my job was organising the daily evening activities. These could be anything from a bonfire or cupcake war with just my group, to a battle of the bands or colour run for the whole camp.
What does an average day look like at a Camp?
In theory, every day at camp is pretty similar, as it follows the same schedule. However, in reality, every day is completely different.
Every morning we were woken up by a new song playing over the PA system at 8.00 am and we went straight to the dining hall form breakfast. I’m definitely not a morning person but the huge selection of hot and cold breakfast foods made getting up early every morning a bit easier. After breakfast, we returned to the bunk to tidy up and help the kids get ready for the day. I taught 5 classes in the sports department, with a break for lunch, a break for a snack and an hour off for myself.
After dinner, we had a rest hour, which with the younger kids doesn’t involve much resting. Our evening activity was usually something more laid back and always lots of fun. A few examples of my favourite evening activities were messy paint twister, sports night and Christmas in July. After evening activity, we were either on bunk duty or had the night off to leave camp with friends.
What did you learn about yourself at Camp?
The most important thing I learned at camp is that I love working with people, particularly children. This changed my whole future because it made me realise that I could never work at a desk job and inspired me to become a physiotherapist in the future.
Did you change or mature in any way from your Camp experience?
I definitely matured and developed as a person from my camp experience. Firstly, as a camp counsellor, parents are trusting you with the most important thing in their world, their kids. This is a huge responsibility and you have to mature quickly to be up for the job. Secondly, camp is a really supportive environment and the people there encourage you to be the best version of yourself. During my second year at camp, my department head pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and develop my leadership skills. His belief in me really changed who I am today and helped me become a Group Leader the following summer.
What would you say to anyone considering a Camp summer?
As horribly cheesy as it sounds, camp will be the hardest job you’ll ever love! The hours are long, and you’ll be faced with a new challenge every single day but you’ll love every single second of it. It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else and it’ll, without a doubt, change your life for the better.