Author: webdev-swl

Expectations vs. Reality

Everyone’s seen those Instagram posts that show perfectly posed photos, with outfit on point, hair in place, and the perfectly selected photo, contrasted against ones that have none of those features. Overseas work-travel experiences are no different. There are your expectations and then the reality of it.

Going overseas for a work-travel experience is a big deal, and one that you begin to dream about and plan for many months in advance. All this time means that you’ve got a while to imagine every single detail and even obsess about them all. When you spend so much mental effort into picturing these things, you develop expectations.

Unfortunately, when there’s a mismatch between your expectations and reality, challenges arise for everyone involved. In the summer camp context, this means for you (and sometimes your friends, family, and partner back home), your camp directors, and the campers you’re working with. Sometimes the mismatch is good – the experience and everything it encompasses is way better that you expected! (A candid photo can turn out really awesome!) But other times, it’s a little bit, or maybe even wildly different than you thought it would be. In order to avoid this, it’s best to appropriate manage your expectations before you depart for the experience, and also learn techniques to work through the mismatch if it occurs.

Setting expectations:

Before you leave, do as much research as you can, including research on the camp itself. Check out the website and any social media accounts your camp might have. Look at the maps online, learn the daily schedule, read all of the different materials your organization provides you – and do this ahead of time! Don’t let your mind make up ideas about what it might be like, when there’s information available about what it actually is like. And remember to ask questions. The staff working at your camp are there to help you prepare for the experience. It’s all about setting appropriate expectations.

If there’s information you can’t find, don’t let your mind dream up an idea and get the best of you. Allow for some flexibility so that when you do get that information, whether that be when you first arrive at camp or if someone from your camp answers your questions, you won’t have a pre-developed idea of something. Because guess what? If you’ve never done it before, you can’t know what it’ll be like. Part of the fun is experiencing it for the first time, without any preconceived ideas.

Expectation mismatch:

When reality doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t be negative. It’s way easier said than done, I know. But try your very best to stop the negative thoughts from repeating in your mind. Take a deep breath and stop for a bit. Reframe your thinking and don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Yeah, it sucks – things aren’t what you expected. But the great part is that, while it’s not what you thought it would be, it can be so much more. Even the things that aren’t so great have the potential to teach you lessons and develop different qualities that you may not have been able to otherwise. When your expectations are not met, you’re uncomfortable, but you can learn so much about yourself when you are uncomfortable. Ultimately when your expectations and reality don’t match, it’s an opportunity for you to face a challenge and be successful.

Hopefully these few tips help you prepare for your work-travel experience! If you have other ideas about how to set appropriate expectations, let us know. We’d love to hear them!

The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

It was almost 10 years ago, and for most people, the impact of a decision made 10 years ago would have faded by now, but that’s not the case for me.

I was a bit nervous, I’m not going to lie. I was traveling to a different country to live and work with people from a range of backgrounds. I would be surrounded by people 24/7, for three months. Not only that, but I was going to be working with kids too, and I was expected to give them an incredible summer experience! How would that even be possible, if I’d never been to camp as a kid? I didn’t know what I was doing. What was I thinking?

I could have let my hesitations and fears take over at this point. I could have decided to stop right there and stay home for the summer. I could have worked at a fast food joint or at landscape company. You know what, I could have just stayed in my comfort zone and been happy as can be…

But then I wouldn’t have had the summer experience of a lifetime. I wouldn’t have gained new life-long friends or learned so many life skills that I still use to this day. I wouldn’t have positively impacted hundreds of kids and been a part of memories they still think about 10 years later. I wouldn’t have changed the lives of so many others, as well as my own.

Going to camp significantly impacted me, to this day. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s a simple as that.

The Origin of GetSETraining

If you’re wondering where this idea for GetSETraining came from, its origin is back in the summer of 2010 at a summer camp in Pennsylvania.

This was my first time doing a work-travel opportunity and working on a J1 visa in the USA, while our other co-founder, Renee, had already been working at camp for a few seasons and had some great experience under her belt. During my first few years at camp, Renee was always a strong leader for me. She used her experience and wisdom to not only help myself and others get through personal struggles and challenges working with campers, but she also inspired many to be better people overall. It has been clear that she always wants the best for others, and wants to help them succeed personally and professionally.

In the summer of 2014, I moved into a leadership role at the camp where Renee and I worked. This change meant that we were working quite closely together on a regular basis and got to know each other much better. We found out that our leadership styles and professional interests aligned quite well. While we originally began working in the camp industry to provide campers with a fantastic experience, our focus has now shifted to staff and their success.

Most staff at summer camp are 18-25 years of age, and are currently in a newly recognized life stage called “emerging adulthood”. This stage is incredibly important as it is when many young people are gaining greater independence by having experiences separate from their family lives. During this time, they are really discovering who they are now, and who they want to be in the future. Renee and I have always had a passion to support staff members during this experience.

Over the years we have seen more young people struggle with the experience of being a staff member at summer camp. In this role they are not only responsible for themselves, but also the many campers in their group. They have to negotiate new social relationships and discover who they are as an individual in a group of staff, apart from who they are as a family member or student. It is a challenging time and more emerging adults are struggling with this experience and process of exploration. This is especially true for those who are engaging in a work-travel program and leaving their support network to travel overseas for this incredible experience.

As Renee and I both travelled to a different country to work at a summer camp, we understand the hardships that come with this, but also the life-changing experience that it is. We have personally experienced it and worked with hundreds of emerging adults who take part in the J1 cultural exchange program. We firmly believe in the importance of preparation for this experience. As we want to support summer camp staff ahead of time, we formed GetSETraining to help young people during this work-travel experience. We hope that with our guidance and support, emerging adults will be able to successfully navigate summer camp work and bring their newfound skills and experiences home.

We’re here to help you! Let us know what type of support you’re looking for in this experience!

When You Grow Up

So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a classic question that so many young people are asked, in one way, shape or form. Maybe it’s “what do you want to be?”, “what do you want to do for work”, or even as simple as, “what’s next?” For some, they have an answer and for others, they have no idea. Regardless, a work-travel experience like summer camp can make you think differently and approach your experiences in a whole new way.

When I went to camp for the first time, I had an answer. I wanted to be a secondary school physical education teacher. In fact, I was going to a five-year university program to get my bachelor’s degrees in Education and Physical Education. I did follow through with my formal education and graduate the academic year after I first worked a camp, but my work experience drastically changed my path and ultimately, what I want to do.

I met so many incredible people who came from countries I’d never been to and had experiences I’d never even dreamed of. This made me put my idea of what my future would be on hold. I decided to travel to Australia and live, work, and travel there for 6 months. The friendships I made at summer camp deepened and the connections I made there took me across Australia. I stayed in friends’ homes and saw how they lived and interacted with the world. It made me question my own ways of doing so. This experience shaped me in so many ways – I began to understand what I really value in life and what’s most important to me. For me, it’s having positive relationships and challenging myself to be better, both personally and professionally, every day.

Long story short, I went back to school – twice. I continued on to get my Master’s degree, which focused on youth development at summer camp. I am now working on my Doctorate degree, with a similar focus, but broadened to emerging adult development. As a Canadian, I never would have imagined living in the United States, but the people I met and the connections I developed at camp made me aware of the PhD program at the University of Utah. I can very easily say that without going to camp, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

All the while, my focus has been learning and development, and how to promote these for young people, but my path, is drastically different than I imagined. So many of my life experiences stem from summer camp.

None of us can predict the future, but I challenge you to think about where a summer camp experience might take you. When you make new friendships and connections, how will this shape your life? Where will you go? To a new state or country? How will working with kids change what you want to be when you grow up? Maybe you will realize it’s not for you, maybe it will reaffirm that yes, a teaching career, actually is for you. Or who knows, maybe it will show you opportunities you never even knew existed.

“Oh, the places you will go” – Dr. Seuss

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