By Greta Hallberg, For The Miami Student
I got paid to have fun this summer.
This summer, my job description included singing and dancing, tubing with kids, playing kickball and making too many friendship bracelets to count. My coworkers are my best friends and my boss is more like my mom. I got paid to have fun this summer. I got paid to play.
Yet somehow, my three summers at a church camp changing the lives of kids doesn’t feel like enough on my résumé. Acting as a cowboy in a skit isn’t a transferrable skill to my future journalism career. Playing capture the flag isn’t preparing me for sitting at a computer all day. While I’ll rock the tie-dye shirts I made to class, they aren’t exactly office attire.
With a competitive job market awaiting us at graduation, we are told that we need a summer internship if we want to be successful. But I didn’t even apply for the perfect internships landed by my peers and friends in exciting new cities. I chose instead to work in a small town in northern Minnesota on a lake. Here is what I learned that will be valuable at my future job:
I learned how to be patient with people.
I was assigned to teach kids how to make tie-dye shirts for every session of camp. There’s a lot of prep work involved — soaking shirts and mixing colors. While trying to set up for tie-dye, anywhere from 20 to 90 kids asked me when I’d be ready for them to get started. It would be easy to get angry answering the same question over and over. But my job description demanded that I treat kids with love, so I would smile and tell my campers it will be another 10 minutes.
Once our craft for the day is finally set up, we have the real challenge of helping 9-year-olds make a T-shirt. Kids swarm the arts and crafts area. It’s chaotic — shirts and hands and rubber bands everywhere. I’m asked infinite questions about T-shirt size, colors and if they really have to wear gloves. Most kids need help designing the shirt. It would be infinitely easier to wrap the rubber bands around the shirts myself, but part of being a camper is learning a new skill. So I teach kids, one at a time, how to pinch the center and twist the shirt into a perfect spiral.
I spent six afternoons getting chemical burns and turning my hands permanently purple. (It’s been over a month and I still have dye in my nail beds.) I answered the same questions week after week. It’s intense and you feel pulled in a million directions sometimes, but I had to practice keeping my cool and responding kindly instead of snapping at impressionable kids.
I learned to fake it until you make it.
Most of our program at camp repeats week to week. I play the same games, watch the same skits, eat the same food, and make the same crafts. I have the same discussions and hear the same messages. I sing the same songs and do the same dance moves.
There are times when it feels like I can’t make another bracelet or my fingers will fall off. There are times when I’m convinced that if I eat lasagna and garlic bread again I will turn into pasta myself. There are times when I don’t think I can muster the energy to laugh at the same jokes and get excited for another game of volleyball.
The work can feel monotonous after a while. It gets tiring to do the same thing day in and day out. It’s important to remember that for each new session of camp, it’s these kids’ first time making friendship bracelets, eating lasagna, hearing the jokes and playing volleyball. Since it’s a new experience for each group of kids, I have to dig deep within myself to find enthusiasm and the last stores of energy I didn’t know I had.
I’m going to have to do this in the real world too, we all will. Our jobs will get repetitive and we’ll be tired. We won’t want to give the same presentation again or look at the same spreadsheet or whatever else it is that our positions entail. Just like I’ve learned to do at camp, I’ll need to fake the energy and get the job done.
There’s more. I could fill up the entire paper with stories of camp. It’s been a valuable experience that taught me about how to work with people. From any summer job or experience, you’ll learn important skills that will translate to a professional setting. Internships aren’t everything. You have the rest of your life to work in an office. You might as well get paid to play while you can.