Camp Kippewa off-season is in full swing as we get ready for the busy summer, and hiring staff is a big part of this process. While we re-hire staff that has been at camp before, we are interviewing and talking with first time camp counselors!

But what is it like to be a first-year counselor? We asked a staff member who knows best: Emma Tinley! She worked at Camp Kippewa for the first time this past summer.

Why/how did you pick Kippewa?

When I first applied to camp, I knew I wanted to be at a sleep-away camp, but otherwise wasn’t too sure what I was looking for. After my first interview with Jackie, I knew Kippewa was it! It felt warm, welcoming, and personal and I fell in love with the scenery I saw on Google Earth (it is even nicer in real life!).

I loved the broad range of programs Kippewa offers, particularly the expanse of activities run at the waterfront. From the beginning, I understood the focus to be individualized for the campers and felt the support counselors would receive. Another thing that drew me to Kippewa was the size- big enough to offer lots of fun activities, but small enough to get to know the kids and other counselors really well. 

How were you feeling before coming to Kippewa? (Nervous, excited, etc?)

Before I came to camp, I had many mixed emotions… excited to travel to a new country and meet new people, nervous and unsure what to expect, and worried I didn’t have enough knowledge or experience to be a successful counselor.

When I first arrived in the U.S, I was worried about little things like having cash in the right currency, whether my phone would work, and getting on the right bus, but as soon as I touched down in the U.S I got a message from Kippewa letting me know they were on the way and if I needed any help, I could call them. From this point on, all the little things I was unsure of seemed pretty small and the reality of nearly being at camp made me so excited!

Above all the nerves that come with doing something for the first time was the excitement and thrill I got thinking about all the opportunities I would have, and how many new things I would get to experience. Looking back at it now- I got to create so many incredible memories, and any worry I had leading up to camp seems trivial. 

What was your summer like? Was it what you expected or were you surprised?

Summer 2022 was by far the most exciting and fun, yet challenging, summer I’ve ever had. It was filled with fun, challenges, lots of time outside, and huge personal growth. Many aspects of camp, such as the value and emphasis on traditions, the positivity and joy everyone shared, and the fun I had, were what I expected (even though most of my expectations were based on The Parent Trap)!

Traditions were such a huge part of camp, and helped build excitement and camaraderie among the campers, and also meant as first year counselors there were so many new and exciting things happening all the time, and there was always a new song to be learned or game to be played.

A few things which surprised me were the strength of the bonds I made with campers and other counselors, and the difference in myself between the beginning and end of camp. I felt so much more confident as a counselor, in teaching, and in being myself.

I was also surprised with how much I enjoyed being disconnected from the outside world, and every now and then had to make myself check my phone to let my family know I was still alive and well. I realized how much I value being present and living simplistically. 

What was your favorite part of being a counselor?

This is such a hard question to answer because there are so many different aspects of being a counselor which I loved! However, the thing I loved most was watching a camper set a goal at the beginning of a lesson or session and work hard to achieve it. The joy the girls showed when they achieved something was so fulfilling knowing you were a part of making that goal a reality, and the excitement they share with you when standing up on the skis for the first time or making an art piece they are really proud of made the role of counselor so rewarding. 

What advice would you give to first-time counselors?

When you are working almost every hour of the day, it can be tough to find a balance between looking after yourself and helping to look after the group of girls in your bunk. It is so important to ensure you have fun throughout the whole summer and don’t become burnt out, and I found a great way to do this was being open and honest with your co-counselors and yourself about how you are going, and not being afraid to use the support network of other counselors and the bunk life team. I found it important to take some time to myself in time off, and not try to cram everything in on the first couple of days off- there are plenty over the summer and you will get to do it all!

Another tip I was given and was so thankful for- bring some photos from home to decorate your bed- it helps to remind you of home and the girls love having a look through them to see what your life is like when you’re not a counselor! 

Anything else that you didn’t say above that you think would be beneficial for new counselors?

Camp is such an accepting, open and welcoming place. If you want to try a new skill, a new hairstyle or perform in front of a crowd for the first time- it is somewhere you can do it comfortably. Going into the summer with an open mind allows you to explore areas of your own personality, be supportive of those around you, and realize you are so much more capable than you previously thought. Camp is empowering, and if you soak it all in you will end the summer as a more confident, optimistic, and worldly person.

Do you know someone who would be a perfect fit for our staff at Camp Kippewa?

Share this blog with them to show what can be waiting for them at Camp Kippewa this summer and check out the Camp Kippewa website to learn more.