For the past two years I’ve spent my summers working at a children’s summer camp on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. When most people think of summer camps movies like The Parent Trap and Camp Rock spring to mind, but my experience, although amazing in its own way, was nothing like you’d expect. Of course, there are many camps in the USA that fit this stereotype but I found myself sleeping in a tipi, helping out in the local Lakota community and learning the history of the Lakota culture. While at camp I’ve had the most rewarding moments of my life, mixed in with all the stress and tears, but a summer at camp will be the most memorable one you’ve ever had. In five simple steps you could find yourself having the best summer of your life next year.
Step 1: Sign up to an agency
It can be overwhelming when looking at all the different agencies to go through. First, look at the options online and make sure to look up reviews and compare prices. There is a fee for signing up to the agencies but signing up to one is crucial for getting a J-1 visa. Your agency will connect you with camps in the US, provide help and support and be a sponsor for your visa. Some examples of popular agencies include: Camp Leaders, Americamp, and Camp America.
Step 2: Choose your camp
Choosing your camp is the most difficult step in this whole process but there are many ways of finding a camp that’s right for you. Whether you’re looking for a stereotypical summer camp, or something a bit different, there are more that 12,000 camps in the US. I found my camp when the camp director saw my profile on the agency website and asked me for a Skype interview. Many people find their camp in a similar way, or by attending camp fairs. Important factors to consider are: the size of the camp, the location, the job role you’d suit and if you feel a connection to the camp.
Step 3: Getting a visa
In order to receive a J-1 visa (the visa you need if you’re getting paid at camp) then you need to go for an interview at a US embassy. Sadly, the closest US embassy to Newcastle is in London. There is quite a lot of paperwork to complete before arriving at the US embassy, which your agency will assist you with, and another fee to pay, alongside the cost of return transport to London. The J-1 visa allows 30 days after your final day of camp, which many people, including myself, use for a road trip at the end of summer.
Step 4: Book your flights
Some camp agencies will book your flights for you for an extra fee but most people will have to book their flights by themselves. It’s important to not book your flights until after you’ve received confirmation of your visa, as you won’t be able to get a refund on flights if your visa is declined. I recommend using websites like ‘Skyscanner’, or ‘Kayak’ to find the best deals on flights.
Step 5: Pack your suitcase
It’s now time to pack your suitcase and head to America for the summer of a lifetime! Landing in America alone can be terrifying, but after a few weeks you’ll never want to leave.
Last modified: 16th October 2019