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Internship vs. camp counselor

Written by Mica, staff at Tomahawk Ranch

Sometimes, I worry about the fact that thus far, I have avoided obtaining a summer internship. According to society, internships are the key to success. I have friends who have done five or more internships to help them stand out against the crowd of graduating students desperate for jobs. I often feel a bit awkward about my lack of experience in this regard. However, at the same time, I know that in denying the summer internship and working instead as a camp counselor, I am giving myself something even more valuable.

I chose a camp on a whim last summer and applied for a job thinking I was in for a fun experience hanging out with kids and hiking and such. On some level, I was also thinking about making a difference as a positive female role model, much in the way that my female role models were for me. I wanted to teach girls to love the outdoors, to have immense courage, to learn to step up in spite of fear. Camp has not only given me the opportunity to inspire others, but it also motivates me to be a better person myself.

This summer, I accepted a job as the Dance and Drama specialist at summer camp, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone who knows me in real life. In real life, I am quiet, reserved, and a bit awkward at times. However, at camp, I am the best version of myself. At camp, I can command a room of people when I want to. At camp, I am not afraid to use my voice, to speak up, to yell. At camp, I feel beautiful without makeup when my hair is a mess. At camp, I don’t mind getting up in front of 200 people and dancing or singing like an idiot. In fact, I rather enjoy it. There is nothing more rewarding than allowing your own freedom of self inspires a similar freedom in other people. When I dance like a fool and laugh, it allows those around me to lose their fear of judgment. So long as I am the biggest goof in the room, they can let loose and just have fun. That’s the thing about camp–it isn’t real life– it’s a magical place where in a single week we come together and learn to cooperate and collaborate in ways that allow young girls to be silly, happy, beautiful, and to just have fun.

When people ask me what the most incredible thing I have ever done is, I usually say studying abroad, traveling, or even hiking in the Grand Canyon. While all of these things were incredible, wonderful, and the like, I honestly think that working at summer camp might trump them. I have done so many amazing things, but nothing quite compares to the sense that you have made a real difference in the life of child. I am given one week to make that difference. My job is to take that single week and to make it the best week in the year for the girls that come to this summer camp. So while I have done many really cool things, the most incredible thing that I have ever done is work at summer camp. Because here, I have led by example and climbed a rock wall with a girl who was terrified of heights and as a result was able to witness the pride we both had in ourselves for reaching the top. Here, I have helped girls to find friendship and companionship in spite of perceived differences. I like to think with each act of kindness more will follow once they leave.

Most of the girls at camp come from places where they are well-loved, but not all of them are so lucky, and for those girls especially, I like to think that when they return home, even if they return to a place filled with bullies, misunderstanding, or loss, that they remember the week they spent here and that some of the magic at this summer camp spills over into their day-to-day lives.

A summer internship in the variety of cities might be helpful when I eventually attempt to start a career, but I don’t know if there is an internship in the world that could give me what my time at this camp has given me. Every day, I become more confident. Every day, I am inspired to be more than I am today. Every day, I am given the opportunity to have pure, unadulterated fun. Every day I wake up in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I want nothing more than to continue working with children in ways like this. I want to bring summer camp to the corners of the world it has yet to touch. Some days I think I want to inspire people through writing and other days, I think I want to start some kind of program that allows girls to obtain the kind of growth and self-realization that they are encouraged and allowed to achieve at camp.



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