11 January 2018

Chris is a J1 specialist at work, travel and volunteer organisation BUNAC. A J1 is a type of visa that BUNAC arranges for people like to you legally work in the USA for the summer.

Chris spent his summer working at an all-girls summer camp in Wisconsin, where he led wildlife expeditions.

He tells us his story.

Bunac summer camp kayak instructor working abroad and getting paid in the USA

Being a boy at an all-girls' camp

Before heading out, the one thing I was incredibly apprehensive about was being a male at an all-girls' camp. However, once there I realised there was nothing to worry about at all. In both my years at camp there were three boys that worked there and we all got on really well. Being a boy at a Girl Scout Camp also makes you a bit of a celebrity on camp, so for anyone else about to embark on a similar experience, be prepared for your on camp fame!

Girl Scout Camps are all based around the development of the girls - it’s so rewarding! For one to two weeks of the year you become an extremely influential and idolised individual in this young person’s life.  In the role I did at camp this was even more prevalent, as you would see the girls develop and progress across the 5 - 18 day trips, and appreciate the sense of achievement once they’d completed their wilderness expedition.

A BUNAC kayak instructor doing paid work abroad on an American summer camp in the USA

My job as a wilderness expedition leader

I would lead kayak, canoeing, hiking and biking trips around Wisconsin and the surrounding states. We'd be away for a few days or a couple of weeks at a time. My role was managing the expeditions, teaching the girls wilderness skills and encouraging them to get the most out of their wilderness trip.

A BUNAC American summer camp in the USA

Other camp activities

There were a lot of other activities at the camp, including archery, kayaking, canoeing, arts and crafts, games, and so on. Some activities took place outside of the camp, and they included horse riding programmes, trips to Wisconsin Dells (the water park capital of the world), Mount Rushmore, The Badlands and Madison (the state capital).

The camp accommodation

At my camp they had several different kinds of accommodation. There were yurts (more like glamping tents – they even have a sky window so you can look up at the amazing American night sky), wood cabins (like the ones in "The Parent Trap"),  and platform tents (slightly more rustic - this is a tent that’s put up for the whole summer - it has wooden floors and permanent beds).

BUNAC accommodation for people doing paid work abroad on an American summer camp in the USA

Who can get a job like this?!

Chris hands over to Lisa Freeman, his camp director.

"As a Camp Counsellor you must be confident in decision-making, risk management and safety, outdoor skills including campfire cooking, fire-building, sleeping in tents at primitive sites, hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking, swimming, and obtaining a lifeguard certification. All of these skills, along with nature activities, art activities, teambuilding, archery and working with girls 24 hours a day for 7 days straight, is the counsellor's main focus. Counsellors are responsible for developing the girls' courage, confidence and character while maintaining selflessness and always putting their campers needs ahead of their own."

Kayaks on an American summer camp in the USA

The best thing about camp

Camp is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have! But it’s also a chance for you to just be yourself, away from judgement and where you'll undeniably have more fun than you’d have in any other job.

Without a doubt one of the best parts of camp is the people you meet and the amazing experiences and memories you make while there. The experience is unlike any other - the connections you make with your fellow counsellors and camp staff will stay with you long after you leave camp.


This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the BUNAC website. For more information about their summer camps, and how to apply, visit the BUNAC summer camps page.