A few years ago, I had the chance to work at an American Summer Camp as a Ranch Instructor teaching horse riding. Summer camp was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done, I was only 19 when I went, but I learnt so much about myself and life in general it was worth it all.
Before I went I tried to research as much as possible but couldn't find many first hand accounts of people actually going. When I did go to camp, I was kinda shocked at some of the things and wish I'd been more prepared! As Summer rolls round again I know lots of us Brits will be looking forward to leaving here to have a summer in America so I thought I'd make up a guide for all those going to a Summer camp this year!
Don't take many toiletries with you. I took a load of shampoo, old t shirts, and various toiletries with me when I really didn't need them and wasted luggage space! It's likely that your camp will take you to a Walmart or Target in your first week and you can buy one bottle of shampoo that is big enough to last your whole summer (I even had leftover toiletries). You can save a lot of money this way too as stuff is much cheaper. And make up wise - don't bother. It's way too hot to consider wearing make up so just take a couple of essentials for your days off. I'd advise emailing your employer to ask if there will be opportunity to head to a store to buy things before you go.
Take tea bags and spray deodorant. There are no English tea bags in America. No matter what the label says, it is not English tea. You will miss tea. I also hated the deodorants in America and could not find a spray deodorant anywhere so I'd advice to take a couple with you if you can.
Do take lots of fancy dress. When I got my packing list from my camp, I saw 'Fancy dress' and took a couple of funny hats and colourful socks. Wrong. When they say fancy dress, they mean full on outfit, competition worthy fancy dress costumes. You don't have to spend a fortune but take a few fancy dress outfits with you - I suggest at least a cowboy/girl outfit (super easy to make with things you've probably already got), wigs and face paint.
Take old old shoes. I made the mistake of buying brand new trainers for camp. They got ruined and I ended up buying nicer, new pairs for half the price over there anyway. Take a couple of old, light trainers (old Converse types are ideal), one sturdy pair or one pair of walking boots, then some flat shoes for days off. Sorted.
Take decorations for your room. I never get homesick but in America, it hit me hard. I barely spoke to my family because of the time difference and I remember crying every time I spoke or text my Mom because I felt so far away from my family. If I was to go again, I'd take cards, photos, fairy lights, teddies, anything to decorate my room and make it a bit more homely. It would have been much more bearable if I had bothered to make my sleeping area more like my home - I was there for four months!
Tell your bank before you go. Nothing worse than your bank account being frozen whilst you're in America. Especially when you are on a working holiday as you get little time off to try and sort it all out! Save the hassle and just tell your bank where you are going and the dates you leave/come home to ensure you have some kind of back-up money over there.
Throw yourself fully into camp life. It's a bit of a shock to us British people when we go to camps because we just don't have anything like it in our country (we should though!). The only way I can describe camp is like joining a cult, and I feel bad saying that but I can't think of any other way to describe it. This sounds horrific but it is that much of a culture shock and you have to remember you are joining a group of people who are so used to the summer camp set up and the tradition is deep rooted within their heritage. Their grandparents and great-grandparents may have been to this camp! Now, you can either be awkward and not get involved because you don't get the 'cult' or make pals and become a part of the group and make lifelong friends. These people at camp are your family for the whole summer so embrace this camp culture because it's really special. It seems weird at the time but I guarantee you will be upset when it comes time to leave and will have all the crazy dances and catchy songs stuck in your head for months after.
Ever since leaving camp I've been wanting to go back. It's an experience I will never ever forget and hopefully I can sort out a placement to go again! I will definitely be following my own advice above though haha!
Have you ever worked abroad? How did you find it?