Teaching on summer camps: What it’s really like

May 3 2024

Have you ever wanted a job that involves a lot of energy, loads of people, loud music and singing, games, sports – and free food and accommodation?! Then you should work on a summer camp!

Working on summer camps abroad

Working on summer camps abroad is a great option for many different people. Recent college graduates looking for a short-term gig in an exotic location, retrenched workers looking for new opportunities, even employees interested in pursuing a new career. Summer camps offer a range of positions to suit a variety of people.

But especially for teachers.

What do teachers do in the summer? 

For English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers in mainstream schools around the world, the major school holiday is in the summer – whenever that may be. In the summer months, many schools close for a number of weeks or even a few months. 

If you’re teaching in such a school, what do you do for the summer?

If you’d had a tough term teaching EFL classes, you might be tempted to take a break and have a bit of a holiday. Good for you – you deserve it.

But others look at these months as a time to earn extra cash. Many schools in Europe, the UK, the US and Asia offer summer school options to their students or international students. 

These are known as summer camps or English camps. 

Summer camp jobs

Summer camps are a great way for EFL teachers to earn extra money while having fun.

For the students, summer camps are the perfect way to immerse themselves in the language while living their best lives. Summer camps are generally multinational. This means they are multilingual, so the motivation is high to speak English for basic communication.

Some learners arrive at camp with friends or classmates, others with siblings, and some individually. However they arrive, by the end of the camp everyone has made new friends – regardless of their nationality, culture or first language.

Teaching on a summer camp: what’s it all about

So what exactly is the purpose of a summer camp?

In a nutshell, it’s all about FUN.

For the learners, it’s a chance to experience immersive language learning to learn English. Summer camps incorporate language lessons and interactive games and activities. This is active learning at its best.

Many students who attend summer camps learn English as a second or foreign language at school, in a community which doesn’t speak English as one of its languages. They have very limited experiences of English in authentic situations, which is exactly what camp provides. 

Through camp, the camp kids learn English while they practice communicating in English in very real situations. Immersion learning has been shown to be very effective when it comes to language learning.

What happens on a summer camp

Summer camps are busy, busy, busy! From the moment the campers are awake (and even before) until they eventually go to bed, there’s always some kind of activity going on. 

English lessons, arts and crafts, music, games, sports, talent shows – you name it, you’ll probably do it on a summer camp.

On certain days, the students are taken out on excursions to visit a local place of interest or tourist attraction. For travel-bugs this is one of the major perks of taking on a summer camp position. 

Imagine: you’re from Cornwall, but you’re teaching in Spain. During the summer you head to Switzerland to be a TEFL teacher on a summer camp. On excursion days you get to tag along to experience the beauty of Switzerland (without the hefty price tag), and you can hang out like a local in your free time. Winning!

Summer camp positions

On summer camps there are summer camp jobs for college students and summer camp jobs for teachers. 

College students without any teaching qualifications or experience are hired as Activity Leaders and Pastoral Care Staff. The EFL teachers take care of planning and carrying out English lessons for 3 or 4 hours a day, the Activity Leaders set up and organise extra-mural events for the afternoons and evenings. The Pastoral Care Staff ensure the well-being of the students by supervising them during mealtimes, bedtimes and in-between activities. 

Are summer camps a thing in the UK?

For sure, European summer camps and US summer camps like Camp America are well-known all over the world. There are summer camps all over Asia too. But the UK has its fair share of summer camps. International students – Young Learners and teens – from Europe and the East come in their droves to the UK to experience the great English summer 😉

What are the benefits of teaching on a summer camp?

Are you wondering why you should apply to teach on a summer camp? 

We’re not surprised – but let’s look at a few other reasons summer camp jobs abroad are a good idea.

  • Summer camps are short-term positions. They range from a week or two to 12 weeks. This makes them a great option for teachers looking to test the waters in TEFL or for teachers looking to fill a gap.
  • Summer camps offer a great way to put some of that all-important teaching experience on your CV if you’re a new teacher.
  • Food and board are provided. If on a residential camp, you don’t need to worry about food or accommodation, which means your salary can go even further.
  • You’ll learn leadership, teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Summer camps are hard work, but they’re serious fun. You’re bound to make hard and fast friendships with other staff members.

What qualifications do I need to teach on a summer camp?

To be an Activity Leader, all you need is a high school diploma and proficiency in English. 

To be an EFL teacher on a camp, you need a high school diploma and a TEFL qualification. Because they are short-term opportunities, a degree is usually not needed, unless it’s required for a work permit. 

If you’d like to apply for a more senior position, like a Camp Director or Academic Director, you’ll need teaching experience and preferably a higher TEFL qualification like the DELTA.

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