“I have an internship in the City. Actually, two. I rotate days between the offices.” This has been my response to the obligatory “what are you doing this summer?” question since it started circulating post-spring break. Sometimes the asker wants more, but usually, mentions of New York and having an office are sufficient.

Unknown to most people who ask, though, there’s approximately one month of my summer that is left unaccounted for by that answer. During that time, I am a camp counselor. No, I do not want to be a teacher. To be honest, I don’t think my future involves any kids other than my own. And so, this job will never be seen under the employment section of my Word-template resume. However, being a camp counselor has had a bigger impact on my life than anything else on that one-page list.

Don’t get me wrong; my internships were everything I wanted. I learned a lot. My bosses knew my name, and I never knew their Starbucks orders. Most days, I left the office feeling like I had accomplished something. Interning was a good experience.

But you know what’s better? Being responsible for ten lives instead of ten email drafts. Cleaning up an “accident” instead of a conference room. Teaching a child how to have healthy interactions with peers instead of teaching yourself the inner workings of Microsoft Excel.

It takes a lot to deal with children en masse. A lot of patience, a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of love. But all that effort is worth it when you get to see the world through your campers’ excited eyes. There’s nothing for them to worry about except what’s for snack, and I know that my co-counselors and I make that environment possible.

The job is actually very Penn in many ways. You always have to be on. When other people’s sons and daughters are in your care, there are no coffee or bathroom-texting breaks. You put a cheery face on with your uniform. And occasionally, you and your co-workers play a round of my-campers-are-more-difficult-than-yours.

It’s funny that the one paying job I’ve had this summer would be considered time off by many of my peers. And in a way, it’s the most selfish job I’ve ever taken. Some counselors might say they do it for the kids, but I totally do it for me. It makes me happy. Don’t tell my boss, but this is a job I would gladly do for free.

Being a camp counselor builds character, even if it doesn’t build my non-existent LinkedIn profile. Career Services would never give it a second thought, but they don’t know what they’re missing. It might not prepare me for future employment, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t prepared me for life.


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