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What Makes Summer Camp USA Special
February 14, 2020

What Makes Summer Camp USA Special

Young campers jumping together into a lake. They each have letters drawn onto them that spell out together, "Lifeguards."
Photo credit: Anna Karolczak-Young, previous winner of our #USNZCampCounselor Photo Competition!


The U.S. Camp Counselor Program is one of New Zealand’s most popular exchange programs, allowing post-secondary students, youth workers and teachers an opportunity to share Kiwi culture and learn about American history and culture at the same time. Annually more than 900 Kiwis travel to the U.S. to live and work as summer camp counselors throughout the United States. For more information, check out our Exchange Visitor Program page.


What Makes Summer Camp USA Special – By Mathew Dwyer

(A version of this story was originally published on the IEP NZ website)

Whenever I’m asked to pick my favorite part of camp, I find it so hard to answer. How are you supposed to pick a favorite part of such an amazing experience? So, rather than tell you about just one thing, I’ll tell you about all of my favorite parts, which to be honest is most of camp!

The Kids
They’re the reason why you’re there, and the reason that you will always want to go back. Working with kids over the course of a summer is extremely rewarding, and being able to see them grow over the course of a summer is amazing. It’s even better if you go back year after year, and see the same kids grow, learn and improve their skills over the years. One of my favorite ever memories of camp is helping a camper who started the summer afraid of the water pass his swim test, and then be able to play on the inflatables in the lake.

The Counsellors
You will meet some of your best friends at camp, and the great thing is that they will be from all over the world! The first week that you spend at camp will be just the counsellors, and it’s weird to say that it will be one of the best weeks of camp. By the time the week is over, you’ll feel like you’ve known the other counsellors for years, and they’ll feel more like family than co-workers. And once camp is over, you’ll have places to stay all over the USA and the world!


An female standing in a group of students with white swimmers' caps on, with a couple of them having hands raised in question.


The Meals
I’m not going to tell you that the food at camp is amazing, though it’s definitely not as bad as a lot of people think it will be. What makes meals at camp awesome isn’t about the food though, it’s about the chants and singing. Pretty much every lunch and dinner when I was at camp there was at least a chant or two, and sometimes we would end up still standing on the chairs singing half an hour after the food had been cleared away!

The Activities
Camp is amazing — a chance to play sports and do activities all day every day. When I was a general counsellor, I got to play and try every sport on camp, including things like lacrosse and roller hockey that I had never done before. When I was a baseball counsellor, I got to play or coach baseball or softball pretty much all day every day, which was basically heaven for me!

Colour War
The Colour War is a hard one to explain to people. Basically what happens is the entire camp is split into two teams (for my camp the red and white teams), and the teams compete against each other for four days. Both kids and counsellors are put on teams, and they compete at absolutely everything, sports, trivia, and relays, really anything you can think of. Each team will also put on a play, write and learn team songs, and build a backdrop based on the team name. It really is the most amazing time, but very hard to describe until you do it!

So those are my favourite parts of camp, and as promised they cover almost everything! There is very little at camp that you don’t love while you’re there, and that’s what makes the U.S. camp counselor program such an amazing experience!