My American Summer Camp Experience 10 Years On

This year marks an important anniversary in my photography journey. 10 years ago I had the opportunity to go and work abroad at an American summer camp. I’d originally planned to go the year before but backed out due to being a “scaredy cat”.

After applying to USA Summer Camp I had a small interview over the phone and landed my number one choice of being paid to take photographs. I was going to be working at a Jewish summer camp called Nah-Jee-Wah which was part of NJY Camps located just over the border to Pennsylvania on the outskirts of a tiny town called Milford. Spoiler Alert! I’m not Jewish.

At the time I wasn’t being paid to be a photographer and was halfway through my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Games Design. Being paid to take photographs felt like a bit of a rockstar job and it was fair to say my somewhat already oversized noggin (ego) got inflated by this role and I was lucky enough to just fit in the plane.

I packed my entry-level DSLR and lens’ into my bag surrounded by all my clothes which my mum had sewn name tags into. Rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for sure!

The highly extroverted photographer you see now is not the way I’ve always been. Trips like this and sink-or-swim experiences have moulded my character over many years. So the previous introverted version of myself boarded a plane for the summer with no idea of how one summer was going to put a fork in my future road.

The next 10 weeks were a rollercoaster of emotions. In the first week, Michael Jackson left the world his legacy and then my little toe almost left with him due to a freak slip-and-slide accident. With the toe reattached I took some fantastic photographs for the camp website. I gained a massive admiration for teachers and parents as I came to the realisation of children maybe being the devil incarnate. Immersing myself in the culture I found myself wearing a kipper and singing songs in Hebrew on a daily basis. I made a lot of friends who I wished I’d kept in touch with a little more over the years. Then to round off the trip I spent a good few days wandering New York with camera in hand admiring and experiencing.

All kidding aside, I learnt so much about myself and photography in such a small period of time. Once I returned I tried to leave my degree to study photography and then within a year, I photographed my first wedding.

Now 10 years later I’m due to photograph one of my fellow Nah-Jee-Wah counsellor’s weddings. What an awesome way to tie off an experience on its 10th anniversary.


USA Summer Camp Journal Share

I’m a passionate writer and believe journalling important moments in life is incredibly beneficial to your character building. It’s sometimes hard to see how far you’ve come when you forget where you’ve been. Anyway here is a peep into my journal, I’ve wrote many upon many of lines of text about this trip, most of them partially removed from the experience as the original transcript was too misanthropic and got destroyed in a rage deleting spree.

“My nights off were spent by the lake eating junk food, using the camps dial up internet to update your Facebook profile or down in Milford grabbing a slice at Joey’s Pizza. A popular Milford hang out for all counsellors as it seemed everyone was of age to drink when at Joey’s.

To get to the local town was a bit of a task in itself though. We got let off from our duties at 9pm if you weren’t watching over the bunk. You then had to find a means of transport to get into town. You had two options, grab a ride from a friend or go in Milford’s one and only taxi, a larger than life (literally) American behind the wheel of a people carrier. The guy was raking it in.

I seem to remember the most unusual ride I ever got was in the back of a CLC counsellors SUV. This car was like a monster truck compared to the cars in the UK. The boot space alone was probably the length of a Ford Focus. Anyway, word had spread he was giving lifts, so his friends invited their friends who invited their friends. This resulted in a catastrophically illegal number of young adults lay like sardines in his boot.

Whilst I preferred the risky life of possible taxi driver kidnappings and being smooshed in tight spaces for the eventuality of pizza. Other counsellors enjoyed different nights off. Some ventured deeper into the woods to enjoy possibly more illegal recreational substances with a guy who I dubbed the camp Al Capone.

There were a lot more rumours of what others got up to but I’ll save the speculation for now.”


Thinking of Working Abroad at a USA Summer Camp?

Are you thinking about going to work on an American Summer Camp? It’s a great experience but I obviously have a grand perspective of the whole saga. If you have any questions then feel free to reach out and drop me a message not matter how silly it may sound in your head.

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