As promised in my recent blog post about the role of camp in building strong careers (both in and out of camps), I’ve compiled a couple of counselor interviews for our 2017 #GhanyJobsWeek campaign. Thanks so much to our generous counselors who took the time to so thoughtfully provide answers to my probing questions.
For any of you out there considering a camp job, their testimony will lend a lot of insight into what camp is like and how it plays into future job prospects.
And at the bottom of this interview, you can download my FREE e-book, “6 Reasons Why Being a Camp Counselor is a Great Career Move.”
So first I give you Georgia, an Australian national who has come to camp for the past four years (and will be back for a 5th this summer) because our camp is just that awesome! (And Georgia is just that awesome, too!)
This year she’ll be our Head of Senior Camp.
Elizabeth: What age did you first come to camp and how many years did you come?
Georgia: At the ripe age of 21, I traveled across the World to the banks of the Greenbrier River to be a Counselor at Camp Alleghany for Girls. I was extremely proud of becoming a Four Year Figoro Flip Flop last year (you’ll have to apply to work at camp to learn about that!) and I can’t wait to start my fifth year this summer!
Elizabeth: What drew you to the camp world, never having been a camper?
Georgia: From a young age, I was always intrigued by American summer camps, particularly after watching The Parent Trap!
In Australia, we have week long camps during the school year. It was always something I looked forward to and never wanted to end. However our camps in Australia just didn’t compare to the ones I had heard of in America. I just had to do it! I’ve always loved being outside and doing as many activities as possible. And being able to travel and work in America is definitely an added bonus!
Elizabeth: What was your favorite thing about camp your first summer and why?
Georgia: Everyone that attends Alleghany gains so many new experiences and friendships. Even if it’s your first time or your fifth time, you’re constantly making new friendships that will last a lifetime. This is definitely something that makes me want to keep coming back. The bonds I share with people at Alleghany are ones I’ll cherish forever. I love that I have made so many friends from all over the world that we can all share the memories of such a special place.
Elizabeth: What was coming to camp like as an NCCC? How soon did you feel like you grasped the “camp culture” and what was that like?
Georgia: First of all, I hardly new what NCCC meant (see above) and that there would be so many other “groups” of campers/counselors with such mysterious names as “Tinges” and “Maroons!” What did it all mean????
When the Junior Counselors (JCs) got their “Purple taken,” was this going to happen to me? Luckily I only wear pink! And all the songs. And the chants. Last Supper anyone? Some would say I was confused.
When I first crossed The Barge (editor’s note: the river vessel that brings everyone into our camp) I literally had no idea what I was doing, where I was or who I was with (sorry Whitney, I know I seemed strange) and I didn’t know how long it would take for me to “fit in” to this well established camp.
After my first sleep in the tent (and getting over my serious jet lag), I knew when I woke up, I was definitely in a special place. Waking up to the fresh air, the beautiful mountains and the sounds of the Greenbrier River was all too easy to fall in love with.
My first summer was completely different from the most recent summers I’ve worked. I was still working out what song to sing when and how appropriate it was for me to start a big chant at every meal.
However, I knew I fit in and was a part of a memorable experience. I was so lucky I made great friends and had such encouragement and support from the other counselors and directors. I’m a part of the ever growing ‘Ghany family and I couldn’t be more thankful for it!
Elizabeth: You’ve held a few different positions as a camp counselor. Have you wanted more responsibility over the years? If so, why? What motivates you about more responsibility?
Georgia: When I’m not working at Alleghany, I’m busy managing a retail store back home in Australia. Throughout my life, I always strive to do the best I can at any role I undertake. I’m highly motivated and always want to further myself, therefore I am determined to take on many leadership roles within any job I seek.
There are so many opportunities for growth in leadership at camp, why wouldn’t I want to have a crack at furthering my skills (true Aussie coming out there)? I had the pleasure of taking on the responsibility of Junior Camp in 2015 and I look forward to being a dedicated Head Counselor of Senior Camp this coming Summer!
Elizabeth: You were Head of Carnival / 4-Year Celebrations one summer. What did that entail? Was it a healthy challenge — like did you learn something new about organizing, creativity, presentation, or anything like that? Recall any anecdotes from that summer?
Georgia: Being the Head of something I didn’t have a lot of experience in was a challenge I was always willing to tackle. I had experienced the carnivals in my previous year at camp and was looking forward to making it an enjoyable for everyone. I was able to add some creative ideas to the carnivals — one of them even involved a game of Cricket from our native UK, so we’re able to bring our own stamp to what we do at camp!
I was only in my second year at camp when I was organising the 4-Year Initiation. The initiation itself I believe ran smoothly and was an organised success. The only slight problem some people had was that it was only my second year! However, letting the campers know that sometime the counselors need to know more than the campers do is a-ok and I would have a special initiation when my time would come!
As for carnivals, Fourth of July has always been awesome because I can pretend to be an American for a day and be very patriotic (I still love you homeland). And as for Christmas in July… it’s just like Christmas at home for me! Aussie Jingle Bells always is a good time! However, ultimately being in charge of the slippin’ slide is definitely a highlight going on my resume! That’s one tough slide to conquer! Elizabeth would remember vividly after her Song Challenge loss!
Elizabeth: After that you moved up to Unit Head. What did that role entail? What new skills did you gain from that job role?
Georgia: By taking on a new role, I had to adapt very quickly. I went from organising two major activities at camp, that the campers wait excitedly for, to also solely being in charge of the eldest girls in Junior Camp. I’ve always loved a challenge and this was one I believe I handled to the best of my ability. When your job is fun and you love the people you’re with, how can it not be?
Throughout the term, I made sure my main focus were the campers and counselors I was in charge of. I was constantly making sure they were happy and stress free. This ultimately made my job easier and a lot more fun.
Furthermore, this role benefited my skill-building to help me work under pressure and to come up with creative and new ideas for the Start-Ups (editor’s note: an age cohort of campers). Even though I was only a Unit Head for one term, I believe I grew as a leader and made it a memorable summer!
Elizabeth: Then came the next summer and your new role as Head of Junior Camp. How were your responsibilities different? How did that impact your skill-building as a counselor? And how did it affect your overall sense of what being a camp counselor can mean to your overall job(s) scope?
Georgia: Overseeing Junior Camp differed from being a Unit Head because I was in charge of a larger group of people. I believe a Head Counselor could also be called a “help” counselor as you are constantly providing assistance to those in need 24/7, whether it is advice, conflict management help, rules reminders, or a listening ear!
In many ways it is similar to a Unit Head in building your skills to be a better counselor. However the main skills you must have are efficient time management and great communication skills. I thoroughly enjoyed this type of position at Alleghany and look forward to working on those skills as the Head of Senior Camp this year.
Elizabeth: From your summers holding these jobs, did you use any of these skills in jobs during the out in the real world, whether volunteer or for pay?
Georgia: Everything I’ve learned from Alleghany, whether it was from Staff Training or just a normal day at camp, I’ve always put towards my managing skills at my retail job. Being a Head Counselor means you’re a leader among a team. This is exactly my job back home as well.
Camp Alleghany allowed me to work with different ages, personalities, and nationalities. This makes my home job so much easier as I’m am prepared to adapt to anyone I need to either work alongside or manage. Alleghany is also a job where you have to be a quick thinker, sometimes deal with tough decisions, and be prepared for anything, just like most jobs these days. Alleghany is definitely a great stepping stone for further employment in that place we seem to call “the real world!”
Elizabeth: This summer you’re coming back as Head of Senior Camp with a Head of Junior Camp under your belt! (Great job, by the way!) How do you feel that the previous experience will help you this summer?
Georgia: Even though I haven’t spent much time on the dark side that is Senior Camp (just kidding!) I do know the campers extremely well! The majority of them have either been my campers, in my Unit or in Junior Camp the last four years with me. This will help me a lot because I’ve already seen most of these girls grow throughout their time at Alleghany and already have strong connections with them.
Having been a Head Counselor already, I definitely know what is expected of me from the get go. I can be more efficient with my time so I can be spending it making memories with my favorite ‘Ghany girls. I can’t wait to see how I fit in to the Senior Camp life! Bring on Crab Soccer!
Elizabeth: Besides fun, friends, and all the good stuff that’s a given at camp — what do you most wish to accomplish from a job and experience point-of-view at camp this summer?
Georgia: Having previously had a Head Counselor role, I hope to adapt quickly to the Senior Camp lifestyle and make this summer an exciting one. I hope to accomplish all of my short and long term goals for myself, the counselors, and the campers while helping others achieve theirs too. Overall, I’ve already learned so much from Alleghany that I can take the skills to any other job I have throughout my working life. I can’t wait to see what more I can learn to make myself a beneficial employee to Alleghany and future employers.
Elizabeth: And now you can tell us something awesome and fun about your upcoming summer…
Georgia: I’m just waaaaaaay too excited and can’t wait to be back doing what I love… cheers and chants in the Dining Hall! I know, I know Senior Camp, you think you’re too old for them. I’m not too old though! The Last Supper and Aussie Cheer will rise again!
Get me back in the river pronto! Can’t wait to see you all and create the best memories yet. I should probably book my flights first though… I’ll get there, even if I have to swim! Summer 2017 at Camp Alleghany for Girls, I’ll see you soon!
Thanks so much for reading my interview with Georgia. I hope it inspires you to read my FREE e-book titled, “6 Reasons Why Being a Camp Counselor is a Great Career Move.”
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls