It’s been a year or two of the vacation at home (a la the “stay-cation”) and you’re itching for real time away. But money is still tight and a plane ticket plus the hotel stay are out of the question. Well, you’re not alone. Many Americans are opting for Family Camp. The trend is even reflected on TV this summer. NBC’s new dramedy “Camp” is about the Little Otter Family Camp (stolen lobsters, boat races, teen love, evil camp rivals) and USA Network’s reality competition series “Summer Camp” (16 sexy twentysomethings on a lake vie for $250k). And while President Obama didn’t go with his daughters to camp this summer (he’ll probably spend some time at Camp David), more than 11 million children and adults will attend camp in the US before school begins.
Camp has become a $15 billion industry that employs more than 1.5 million adults. The latest industry trend is to hire international staff to expose campers to different cultures. The American Camp Association reports nearly 20% of camp positions are filled by workers from other countries. Not-for-profit organizations like InterExchange specifically recruit young people (18-28 years old) from abroad to work at US camps. To hire one 21-year-old international camp counselor costs a camp approximately $2500 (that includes their J-1 Visa, round trip airfare, orientation, and screening). Like the American counselors, the internationalists work long days and nights, and receive free housing and meals, but they do not receive a salary. Based on a 9-week (63 day) schedule, that 21-year-old globetrotting counselor receives a stipend of $1100. With one day off a week, that’s about $20 a day.