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It has been a year now since my trip of a lifetime to America! I started my journey on 13th June 2019 and returned home on 25th August 2019. A year later and I am still so grateful that I took the opportunity to do what I did. I wanted to talk about this as it was probably one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I did things I never thought I would do and it really pushed me as an individual. So I hope you enjoy reading my CCUSA Summer Camp Review!
I wanted to put together an honest review to show what it was actually like so you can make a more informed decision.
So a quick overview: I live in the UK so I flew over to Camp Jotoni a special needs camp in New Jersey for 10 weeks over summer in 2019.
CCUSA summer camp review relevant post: Christmas in New York: 4-day itinerary for first-timers
CCUSA Summer Camp Review: Overview
- About CCUSA
- Before Camp – application process, job fairs, sorting my Visa, Important things to pack, things to do before camp
- During Camp – The reality of camp, camp life, what I did in my spare time
- After Camp – post camp travels, tax forms and the reality of returning home
- Cost of the Program and Wages
So when I started looking around at the companies that could get me to America I came across CCUSA:
“CCUSA offers 3 major types of programs – Summer Camp Jobs, Working Adventures and Volunteering Adventures – where you can experience an amazing adventure in one of several countries around the world. “CCUSA
They offer top-notch service and were helping me every step of the way throughout my application. There were always on the phone helping me fill in the application to the best of my ability. They also ask you to check in throughout your time at camp. CCUSA also offered a 24/7 hour hotline while you were at camp if you needed it.
CCUSA have worked with camps over in America for the last 30 years and they got 100% placement record for summer 2019. They help you find a camp that suits you and your skills.
CCUSA act as your designated J-1 visa sponsor so they help you through every step of the process when getting your visa.
Before Summer Camp
So I started looking at working in America around Christmas time of 2018. I paid the deposit in January 2019 and I had my place confirmed by March 2019. I received my visa in April 2019 and then I was set to go in June 2019.
The application process was very long I have to say. I couldn’t do a CCUSA summer camp review without talking you through the process. I think in the end I had filled out an application form, had a phone call, had two Skype interviews and I had to upload a video about myself and my interests.
As soon as I paid the £49 deposit I knew that I had to continue with the process.
So, to start off with, I started filling out the application form which included all my details and a section about my skills. This section was important for lots of camps as they require you to have a certain skill set to work for their camp. Eg. there were dance camps and swim camps.
I received a phone call pretty soon after starting this process where a member of the team ran through a series of questions about why I wanted to work in America and to talk about the application form.
The next part included a skype interview with a member of CCUSA where we talked through my application and added any relevant information.
CAMPS CAN CONTACT YOU AT ANY POINT THROUGH THE APPLICATION PROCESS!
Up next was my video. I spoke and what I was currently doing (studying), my interests and my achievements. This is what camps would look at to see what type of person you were and whether you would be a good fit for the camp.
To my relief, I was finally contacted by a camp!!
After being placed
I was contacted right before I was due to attend the job fair (which I mention later). Therefore, the next step was to have a skype interview with the director of the camp. This was a very chilled interview where I was asked a couple of situation questions as well as questions about myself.
A few days later I received an email to say I had been offered the place! I was so excited!
The next step of the process included sorting out my insurance, buying a police form, sorting my visa, sorting my flight dates, going to the doctors to get a medical form, and sorting my DS-2019.
Camp Job Fairs
So the job fairs were held in selected cities around the UK including London and Dublin.
Due to receiving interest from a camp before the job fair I never needed to go. But I had friends who did go and who actually got placed at the fair. So it is definitely worth going if you don’t have a place by the time the fair comes around.
You can get a list of all the camps that will be going to the fair so that you can think about the one’s who you feel you fit in with the best. Camps are after all different sorts of people so select ones that you fit in with. This could be sport, religion, specialist activities such as art, PE or music. Of course, there are also multiple special needs camps like the one I went to. The CCUSA London Job fair was the fair that I was originally looking to go to. I believe they run fairs in Liverpool, Leeds and some in Ireland too so make sure you find the one that is closest to you.
YOU CAN GET PLACED ON THE SPOT!
Sorting my Visa
Sorting out my Visa wasn’t as difficult as it first may seem. CCUSA was there to help me along the way and gave me a list of everything I needed to take to the interview. I was fully prepared and had all the documents necessary. I had my interview in London. The actually process once you step in the building is very organised and I think I was out within an hour so it didn’t take much time at all.
Important things to take
You only have a certain amount of luggage so make sure you pack the right things! Pack accordingly to the weather. I ending up taking a few jumpers even though I knew the weather was going to be very hot all summer so this was a waste of space for sure!
If you need help check out these tips for packing smart!
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TAKING MONEY!
You won’t get paid for the first few weeks because you won’t have a social security number set up. I took $400 which was the right amount. Although you are not paying for accommodation and food. On your first few days off you are going to want to travel around a bit and try the food around you.
I felt like taking a notebook was a great ideas I loved writing at night about everything that had happened.
Despite not hoping on the trend myself, Crocs were a massive hit at camp as I have heard it is the same across all camps.
A torch can be handy when you have to do night time toilet trips if the toilets are not in your cabin.
So I know some tell you to wait till you get to america till you buy shampoo and lotions and things like that but I bought them with me and honestly I saved so much money because the prices of Shampoo in America was insane!
A must-have that I actually forgot to take was food from home. They don’t have Cadburys chocolate in America and I didn’t realise how much I would miss it! So make sure you do take some of your home comforts.
Things to do before Camp
Join the chat
On your application portal, you can see a list of everyone who is going to be working at the same camp as you. This is a great way to get to know the people you will be working with. It is also helpful to discuss the sorts of things you should be packing. It is nice to know that you can talk to people in the same boat as you.
Talk to previous counsellors
There will most likely be people returning to camp who have been maybe once or even a couple times before. Hopefully, they will be in the chat too and you can ask any questions you need to settle your nerves. In my case, having people were had been before helped massively. Speaking to them and hearing them talk about camp and how much they loved it really helped me lose the nerves. They can tell you if there was anything massive that they had forgotten to take the first time around.
During Summer Camp
I could go on and on about the experience and what camp was like for me. Of course, everyone will have different experiences at different camps. For some people, it is totally not their thing!
The truth about Summer Camp
If I’m doing a summer camp review then I have to talk about the ups and downs of camp. Along with all the usual workplace drama that you get. I 100% believe that the good times outweigh the bad. When I was doing my research, it turned out not all camps were hunky-dory and that camp drama is very much relevant in all camps. Not everyone will be your cup of tea just as you might not be theirs but that’s just life and you move on.
And that’s all I have to say on that topic.
One of the perks of the job is that you get to work with international staff which is amazing. I was working with people from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and more! You get to hear all the different accents and every bodies story it is such an experience.
One thing I didn’t even think about is how I was going to travel around. So one of the biggest money spends is Ubers. Walking for miles in the summer heat was sometimes a bit much so an easy way out was Ubers. Occasionally, you can get lucky and one the American staff will offer you a lift.
You will miss your family lots and sometimes I really did struggle. But you just get on with it, remember why your there and your good to go another day. What I found the most helpful was receiving letters and gifts from my family and my boyfriend. When it’s unexpected it really brightens your day.
Camp life – a typical day
So us international staff lived on site in the cabins during day camp. Then when the campers slept over, we had to sleep in the cabins with the campers in case there were any problems.
So a typical day at camp would mean waking up at 8 am and getting ready for the campers to arrive at 9 am. We were on a rotation so you either did activities in the morning and pool in the afternoon or visa versa. The activities included art, PE, nature, sensory and dance. Lunch was at 12 pm and the day finished at 3 pm. So that was day camp.
When we were on residential where the campers slept over, the day would carry on so 3 pm till 4 pm was pool time, then it was free time till 6 pm when we had lunch. From 7 pm till 8 pm we had an evening activity so something along the lines of a talent show, karaoke or a disco.
We also took the campers to the cinema and to get ice cream on the Saturdays they were at camp.
During the sunny days, we had a few storms which was a bit of a nightmare when the activities involved being outside. The activities would change to watching films and more free time in the case.
How I spent my free time
So during the 10 weeks of camp, the first week was training so it was only for a couple of hours each day. 3 weeks were just day camp so Mon-Fri 9 am – 3 pm and the rest was free time. The other 6 weeks was ‘residential‘ where the campers would sleepover for 1 or 2 weeks so every 2 weeks we would have a Saturday off, we got one Sunday off and every 4 days we would have a night off so your day would end at 3 pm and start at 8 am the next day.
So we had 3 full weekends and a couple of full days off here and there to make the most of America. As soon as your time off starts you cannot wait to get out of camp.
One of the first places I went to in New Jersey was Washington Rock. It was about a 15-minute drive from camp and had the most amazing views.
During my time in New Jersey, I was lucky enough to go to Asbury beach, Lavalette beach and I got to go to the Jersey Shore Boardwalk. I even tried fried Oreos!
One of the most exciting things was that I was only a 45-minute train ride from New York. I visited New York on three of my days off. I even managed time to get the subway to see Brooklyn. We visited Times Square, I rode around Central Park, and we took an open-top bus. I have to say, riding a bike around Central Park was one of the best experiences.
Near the end of the summer on one of my last days off, we all went to the Six Flags theme park. I was shocked at the speed of the queues compared to UK theme parks. They were going down within 5 minutes and sometimes you didn’t even have to queue!
The end of camp isn’t actually where it all ends. There are a couple more things you can do to carry on your time. I also received an option to work for another camp for an extra 4 weeks to see another part of America and carry on making money. There’s a couple of jobs you need to do involving tax and you can also continue your time in America.
Post camp travels
Despite not travelling after camp myself due to money, a couple of my friends stayed in America and continued their experience. Your visa lets you stay for an extra 30 days so you have a whole month to do some travelling.
The recommended thing to do is to wait until you get to camp before you decide or book any plans. If you wait then you can see if any of your new friends want to travel with you and then you can do it in a group. This will probably be less daunting and more fun.
Although if travelling alone is something you want to do then go for it!
This is something I really recommend you giving a go as I do regret not travelling after. You may never get the chance again so it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
So the program requires you to fill out a tax return form due to the fact you were working in their country. You do this when you are back at home. It is not something you have to so straight away. You will be contacted when you need to do this.
This can be complicated but there is a service called Sprintax which makes it really simple to do. If you are struggling with this then reach out to the other camp staff and see how they completed it.
The reality of returning home
Despite missing home a lot through camp, when it got to the end I didn’t want to leave. Due to working with international staff, I had made friends who lived all over the world. So it became a no brainer that the likeliness of us all seeing each other again would be quite low.
It’s a bittersweet moment begin back home with your family who you missed but you land home to rainy skies compared to the beaming sun in New Jersey.
Cost of the Program and Wages
- The program was £599 – including flights (it was £349 if you wanted to book your own flights)
- Medical Form: I got mine for free but your doctor can charge up to £60
- Visa: $160
- DS2019: to begin your Visa process and order your J1 Visa paperwork, £60 is required.
- Police check: £55 and paid directly to the Police Check Authority
So overall, I spent £842 which isn’t a lot considering CCUSA had got me a job, had sorted my flights, the visa was sorted and I was also earning in America.
This would be different if I had sorted the flights myself. but we figured out that if you sort your flights yourself then you were paid more in wages. I am not sure why this was the case.
I was paid after the first two weeks of being at camp as we had to sort out our social security numbers. My first paycheck was for $249.52. I received another 4 payments around the same amount sometimes higher so I had made approximately $1439 which at the time was £1080 I only spent £580 of this at camp on travels and food and I actually came home with £500.
My camp gave me a card on which I could use in America where they could put my wages on. I didn’t sort a travel card like some people did as I had enough cash and I just didn’t need one.
Hint: What I didn’t know at the time is if you chose to book your own flights you actually earned more money at camp as the CCUSA take less of your way. If you booked your own flights you could earn $1,625 – $2,000 and if you chose the flight option you could earn $900 – $1,300.
CCUSA summer camp review: My overall opinion
I was originally debating whether camp was the right thing for me. Would I last over 2 months away from home? Would I be able to travel on my own? I had so many questions but I decided to just go for it. If I didnt push myself right then, then I would proably wouldnt have had the chance again.
I had just finished my first year at university. I was about to have a 14 week-long summer with nothing to do so thankfully I was offered my place in America.
Honestly, I have to say that taking the opportunity to do what I did was the best thing I have ever done, I got to work with amazing people and make amazing friends. I was working the hardest I ever worked. I do not think anyone will ever be able to understand how hard we were working until you do it yourself. By putting myself out of my comfort zone and I got so much out of it.
It is a topic that regularly comes up in job interviews. I am so happy that I have something to show, a real achievement.
Please do let me know if you decide to try out and apply to work at a camp I would really love to hear about it! Listening to others’ camp stories is one of my favourite things.
About the Author
Thank you for reading my CCUSA Summer Camp Review. If you want to find out more check out my about me page. My name is Amber Page and I run The Unpredicted Page. You can find me over on: