Camp Counselor Spotlight: Andy from Gold Arrow Camp
We’re back in California with a camp director blog from Andy, from Gold Arrow Camp. A traditional sleep-away camp in the High Sierra mountains – if you’re thinking that camp on the west coast sounds like a great way to spend your summer then take a read through Andy’s blog!
Tell us a little bit about your camp?
Gold Arrow Camp is a traditional resident camp in the mountains of central California. That means that kids come to us and live with us for two weeks and that we do a lot of the old school type activities like horseback riding and sailing. We don’t do any competitive activities, instead focusing on individual growth, friendship, and teamwork.
How long have you worked in camping?
This is my 14th summer in camping, and my 4th year full-time
What’s your favourite thing about camp?
My favorite thing about camp is the connections I’ve made with people from around the world, literally. I have friends on 6 continents because of camp. Camp allows us to make those lasting durable connections because we’re working and living together in an environment free from the distractions of modern electronically centered life. Without a phone to distract me, I can really build friendships. Also s’mores.
When was your camp established?
What’s your favourite special event or evening activity at camp?
Our closing assembly, which we call Appreciation Campfire, is particularly special to me. It’s the last night of camp, and campers and staff members sing songs, recite poetry and share the meaning of camp to them. At the end, there’s an emotional high note with counselors lighting candles and sharing what they appreciate about their campers from that session. I love it so much.
What’s the most popular meal at camp?
That’s a great question. I think it would depend on who you ask. Chicken pot pie is a favorite, but pretty divisive. Calzone night is popular, along with pizza, hot dog and Mac n cheese day, and it’s hard to argue with the day with have burgers, chips (crisps), and watermelon. We also have a salad bar that I love, and monkey bread breakfast is popular.
Why do you hire international staff?
There are several reasons. One is that international staff are a captive market for hiring. I’m not competing against swimming pools that need lifeguards or McDonalds. J-1 applicants are looking to work at camp, so I can easily find people that are already eager to work at camp. The second reason is that we really enjoy and value the cultural exchange that takes place when you hire internationally. In a world that is increasingly provincial and seemingly conflict driven, it’s really important for kids to meet people from other parts of the world. It’s easy to fear or hate people from a place, but if you know someone from there, that’s a lot harder because you know a PERSON who lives there, that you like. The third reason is for the impact international staff have on our campers. My daughter was in a cabin with an American, an Englishwoman, and an Australian. When I went to Australia on a hiring trip, she was thoroughly unimpressed. I couldn’t teach her about hemispheres or weather or anything like that because, in her words “Dad, Koala already told me all of that.” How many other 7 years olds have a friend in Australia AND England AND Iowa?
What qualities do you find the best camp counsellors have?
The best camp counselors are patient, hardworking, and selfless. This is a lot of fun, and a big adventure, but at the end of the day being a counselor is an incredibly hard job. The rewards are incredible, but the work is hard. Counselors who know that, and who are willing to give of themselves are the most successful.
The J1 visa is a cultural exchange visa- what would you recommend your camp counsellors visit in the surrounding area to your camp when they are on their days off?
Another great question. Yosemite National Park is within a day’s drive of us. I think it’s also great to just go “to town” and experience America where it isn’t designed for tourists, to see how Americans shop, eat, and recreate. Also, really embrace what your camp does for cultural exchange. We take our staff (all of them, not just the international staff) to a minor league baseball game. Really lean into that kind of thing.
Also visit a Wal-Mart Supercenter just so you can say you’ve been there. Even as an American I think it’s an insane store.
What would be your words of wisdom to new camp counsellors?
This is going to be life-changing if you are willing to let it be. Embrace camp. People want you to be there. Camp is the most authentic part of my life. Everyone there is trying to be their best self. They’re trying to make a difference. They’re literally trying to change the world, a little bit at a time. Embrace that. Sure, it’s overwhelming, but that’s part of the fun!