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Summer Camp Counselors

Becoming an ICEP Camp Counselor

(After counselors arrive in the US)

Transportation to the United States must be arranged in such a way that all ICEP counselors can arrive in time for one of the orientation conferences in June, in New York before the camps start. At this conference the counselors are given a background into American camping and American educational methods with children, suggestions for making special contributions as international counselors, and a full review of the summer program for participants in the ICEP. Time is provided for questions and discussion that will help to prepare every counselor for her or his leadership role with American children, who may be rather different from the children with whom the counselor is accustomed to working in his or her own country.

Besides, we have noticed that counselors who interact with us and other counselors for a couple of days before camp feel more relaxed and comfortable about looking forward to their summer experience. The sharing of ideas and emotions during the ICEP orientation conferences have been mutually enriching experiences for the counselors and the ICEP staff.

Every camp has a staff of counselors who take care of cabin groups and help to lead the daily activities of the children. This staff may vary in size between the different camps, ranging from 15 to more than a 100 counselors.There is usually a head counselor who is responsible to the director of the camp, and who supervises the work of all the counseling staff.

A general counselor is responsible for a cabin or tent, usually with six to ten boys or girls. The counselor sleeps in the cabin with her or his group of children, takes them to meals and supervises them in some of their daily activities.

A specialty counselor is responsible for organizing and teaching a particular part of the camp program, such as handicrafts, tennis, sailing, gymnastics, swimming, track & field, music, evening programs, etc.

Often there will be five or ten international counselors among a much larger group of American staff at the camp. International counselors, in addition to carrying out the ordinary responsibilities of a counselor, can make important contributions to camp life by teaching the children songs and dances from their own country, giving talks and answering questions about life in other parts of the world, and just by speaking informally with the campers and even other counselors.

ICEP's entire focus on International camp counselors centers on their ability to lend a flavor to the life at camp that no other native counselor could. This makes you, the international counselor, a cultural ambassador from your country, and give you the opportunity to spread the richness of your heritage among American children here in the US.

International counselors can make a better contribution to their camps if they bring articles from their own country that will be interesting to the campers, and will help them better organize engaging educational activities. Please think creatively. Former counselors have suggested these items: Songbooks, preferably with translations, tapes of national songs, and dances. Also helpful are: Short stories, jokes, coins, stamps, maps, photographs, color slides for use with a projector, games, costumes, etc. (from your country).

Also, don't forget necessary items for personal comfort/protection: good old clothes, a raincoat, swimming suit or trunks, at least 1 or 2 pairs of sneakers, a flashlight with extra batteries, mosquito repellent, a padlock, a alarmed watch and/or an alarmclock. etc.

Here are some quotes excerpted from ICEP evaluation reports that each counselor writes during the summer camp season.

“Interesting initiative, mixing cultures and people. I’m very attracted to the non-profit aspect of ICEP. The personal touch and people’s involvement is better. Thanks for all advises and kindness.” ~ Silvain, 1996 (France)

“ICEP is a good organization because it is not really a big one, and I think it can take care of all the counselors it has got.” ~ Laura, 1998 (Romania)

“I think that ICEP is a great organization, which allows people coming from all around the world to work in the US as a counselor. Moreover the hostel that you own in New York City is very friendly, we can easily meet a lot of new people with different styles & languages.” ~ Mikael, 1998 (France)

“You care about counselors from non-English-speaking countries which is very important” ` Simon, 1999 (Swiss)

“This program is really great and brings us an enriching experience. The first days at the student center are wonderful. I like the goals of the ICEP and the means used to reach them.” ~ Floriane, 1999 (France)

“Very careful of counselor’s needs during the year and most of all during the summer. ICEP staff seem to enjoy their work, don’t they ?” ~ Estelle, 1999 (France)

Positive/Negative experiences

“Hillcroft is like a family camp to me and I have been fortunate enough to share my summer with them !” ~ Kiran, 1999 (India)

“I like it very much, this camp. It is just sometimes hard to catch everything what is going on when you are here for the first time.” ~ Simon, 1999 (Swizterland)

“Negative aspects: in my camp there was no laundry and no e-mail, positive aspects: very good staff and a lot of different interests.” ~ Irina, 1999 (Russia)

“I met a lot of friends. I had a great time most of the time with the kids, but I didn’t have enough sleep. The camp is far away from every village and we don’t have any contact with other people than those from the camp.” ~ Luzia, 1999 (Swizerland)

“I am very pleased, I’m working at a good camp. I have felt that if some problems should occur ICEP would be right there to help me. I feel safe and secure in the hands of ICEP. To other counselors : make sure that you bring stuff from your own country, the kids love it. Bring a lot of your own games, they love new games.” ~ Nella, 1999 (Denmark)

“ The whole staff is generally nice to work with. A bench of different cultures brought out some positive aspects of society and life in general. However, the campers in my camp were sometimes uncontrollable. They have hardly respect for authority. Patience, calm and imagination are the most important things needed in dealing with the kids from that camp.” ~ Moses, 1999 (Ghana)

“Expect to work hard sometimes but have fun” ~ Katja, 1999 (Slovenia)

“Love children, follow the camp rules and be yourself” ~ Tatyana, 1999 (Russia)

“Just go there !” ~ Robert, 1999 (Sweden)

“Bring material from your own country (flags, postcards, pictures, books...)” ~ Stefan, 1999 (Swizterland)

“ Make sure that your English is good enough to communicate” ~ Allix, 1998 (France)

“Bring optimism and more summer clothes” ~ Ovidiu, 1999 (Romania)

““Find and talk with former ICEP counselors in your home-country who really know what’s going on !” ~ Heike Pichler, 1999 (Austria)

While some may see this program as an opportunity for a low-cost trip to the United States, it must be made clear that only those who are genuinely interested in working with children in summer camps should apply. However, for those who have had experience working with children and are interested in summer camps as an alternative education system, the counseling experience can be a very rewarding way to visit the United States. But it must be understood that visiting counselors carry full responsibility as regular members of the camp staff and that the hours are often long and the work hard.

International counselors participating in the ICEP are considered social and cultural ambassadors of their respective countries and hence carry major responsibilities and obligations in making sure that the summer experience turns into a mutually enriching experience that promotes international understanding between peoples of the United States and peoples from different countries across the world.


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