I had wanted to do Camp America for 4 seasons but for one reason or another, either I was too young at the time (my birthday's at the end of August), wasn't a student when returning from camp or for health reasons, I was only able to apply for Summer 2012. I applied in late October 2011 for a Campower position, paid the deposit and arranged for an interview. This was all done relatively quickly and smoothly, despite a little hiccup where the interviewers weren't available in my area so I had to go to Devon (hour and a half drive). The interview seemed more like an informal chat where I talked about my skills/experiences and asked questions about how likely it was that I would get placed considering it was something I had wanted to do for so long. My interviewer was lovely and said that she thought it would be highly unlikely that I wouldn't get placed. So far, so good. My CRB went through completely fine and I was ready to be placed mid-January. I was aware that there would potentially be a delay in being placed considering a lot of camps don't properly start hiring until April time. I had one interview with a camp around February time and looking back I was slightly sheel-shocked, didn't ask enough questions and generally it did not go well. Needless to say they decided to go with someone else.
No worries though. I decided to learn from this awful interview and wrote a list of questions for when the next interview came along. Only it didn't. Until the last week of April. Now I have 2 part-time jobs which both require 4 weeks notice which meant that I had until the middle of May to be placed. The interview at the end of April, in my opinion went superbly. I asked all the right questions, I got on well with the interviewer who would be my superviser in the summer and the camp looked amazing. But still I didn't hear anything back from them. I thought, again, that's fine maybe they went with someone else and decided to wait until the cut off point (middle of May) to see if anything came about. By this time the orientation appointments in my area had come and gone and the closest was either Manchester or London (I live in Cardiff). I phoned the main office in London to see if this was normal and whether or not I should have gone to an orientation even if I hadn't been placed. The woman told me that camps can place you the DAY before you are due to start the programme and that the orientation is so important to attend. Too late. By this time my deadline for work had gone so I told them I would be going home for the summer and to organise a transfer for me. The next week I got an email telling me I had been placed with a camp I had never spoken to, for a position that was not disclosed to me and that I had 3 weeks to sort out my visa and to pay almost £800 on top of the £179 I had already paid as the first and second deposit and the CRB check. I again phoned up the London office to see if this was normal and was told it was and that I should contact the camp directly to find out what I was going to be doing. This I did immediately and to this day the camp has not got back to me. I also found out a few days later that my Embassy appointment was for 9am. I looked at both coach and train times and tickets and the only train that would get me there for in time for the appointment was £99 one way. I was also told I would have to see my GP and get them to fill out a medical form which would cost a further £50. I again phoned up the London office to see if I could possibly change the appointment for later that day and also to see if the appointment would ensure I got my visa in time (it was 8 days before I was due to start the programme). I was told rather rudely that it was not possibly to change the appointment time and that people from Scotland have managed to get to London for 9am and also that it was 'probably' enough time to get the visa. At this point I had serious concerns, mainly as it was right in the middle of my exams and I was required to do all of these things when I should have spent the time revising.
Another downfall was the flights. It was advertised that the flight was 'free'. However, if you wanted a flexible option it would range from an additional £120-£360. I also spoke to several people on the Camp America forum who said that they would be flying out on the 1st June and wouldn't be until the 15th June which would leave them 2 whole weeks before the kids arrived to set up camp and get to know each other. This was obviously a major concern as I didn't and wouldn't know anyone and would be the 'outsider' as it were. Eventually I decided that the stress of this; combined with the extra costs which related to 'optional' extras such as baggage insurance, getting a flexible flight etc; messing work around; having to pay to get to London in rush hour; and the lack of communication wasn't worth it and I withdrew from the programme. I had also, in the massive amount of times where it looked like I would never get placed, decided with my friends to go to Thailand instead for the summer for a fraction of the price.
Overall, if you are spontaneous and don't mind dropping your whole life on 3 weeks notice to go to America for 3 months and have a lot of money spare for the cost, then this is the programme for you. However, if you, like me, would rather know in advance what your summer will be like so you can make arrangements then this is not. It seems like there is always one more hoop you have to jump through and one more payment to be made before you are allowed to go. I have heard a lot of better things about some of the other camps and am considering BUNAC for next summer as I would be eligible as a third year student and the rate of pay is better. Failing this I would simply take a road trip, which would most likely cost less and would give me more time to travel.