Written By: Maisy Smyth
You’re struggling to pinpoint just one, aren’t you? It is something that’s said pretty often – “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER” was probably screamed at some point during the last awesome party you went to, the last time your team won the game or that time McDonald’s gave you fries for free because the chicken nuggets were sold out. While I’m sure those times were great, I’m going to explain why you’re probably yet to experience the best day of your life.
Mine was August 2nd, 2014. I know that because my iPhone shows the date I took photos on, but at the time I was having such a blast I probably didn’t know what day it was, let alone the date. Early in the morning, I stuck my phone outside the door of my tent to take a picture, and the view it captured still takes my breath away.
I was on a weekend off from camp and had gone on a hiking trip with some fellow counselors. We had driven into the wilderness of British Columbia, having booked no campground and with very few supplies. In the darkness of the previous night, we pitched our $20 Walmart tents at the side of a lake we found. We had absolutely no idea where we were. Fortunately, none of us were eaten by a bear overnight – something that was a very real fear for me throughout my summer in Canada – and we went on to have what I can categorically say was the best day of my life: swimming in our own private lake that morning, driving amid mountains, blasting out our favourite songs of summer and hiking a mountain, collapsing in exhaustion at the top, making a fire and dancing with sparklers late into the night.
I would never have had this experience if it wasn’t for the summer camping culture in North America, and the outstanding organizations, like NYQUEST Camp Canada, which enable people from other countries – like me – to get a job there.
I worked my first amazing summer as a counselor in the USA, in a camp where most of the staff was British and had gotten their job through NYQUEST Camp Canada’s southern equivalent, Camp America. I, like my fellow counselors, had attended Camp America’s job fair – an absolutely manic day on which I queued for three hours in the freezing London winter, only to find that all the camps I had shortlisted were recruiting a 25-year-old, male, kayaking, horse-riding, child-caring superhero. Even though I’m not a superhero (and I’m allergic to horses) I did manage to secure my summer job that day, but I know that many people are let down at American job fairs; they have so many applicants, they can afford to be picky.
In contrast, my application to work at a camp in Canada for the subsequent summer couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Around December while at university, stressing about essays and exams, I was overcome by the Camp Blues – a condition affecting approximately 98% of summer camp staff in the months following their placement. Sadly, the funding for my fantastic American camp, which was supported by a charity, had been withdrawn, and I knew that if I couldn’t go back there, then I wanted a new adventure. A few Google searches later I had found NYQUEST Camp Canada, written an application and was soon in correspondence with one of their incredibly supportive staff members, doing all they could to find me the job I wanted. In a matter of weeks, my summer was sorted. Getting emailed the job offer from my new Canadian camp gave me the same buzz of euphoria that I got on that freezing day in London, except I hadn’t had to leave my bedroom to do it.
NYQUEST Camp Canada is less well-known and has fewer applicants than American organizations, meaning they really spend time getting to know you and really do their best to find you a great placement. I was extremely impressed that, during the summer, they visit almost every participant – something that was not offered at my American camp. I was even more impressed when I emailed NYQUEST to ask them to make alternative arrangements for me to travel to camp because my flight from Heathrow had been delayed by four hours – I got a reassuring reply within ten minutes, despite it being 2 AM in Toronto! With thousands of applicants flying out over the summer, I doubt Camp America would have been able to provide such a prompt, personalized service.
Not only did it contain the best day of my life, my summer in Canada was the best season of my life so far. I felt far more integrated into the country than I did in America – my Canadian camp had far fewer international staff such that I really got to know the Canadians: staying at their houses, having parties and, of course, that hiking weekend.
So please, picture yourself at the end of next summer, flicking through your photos from the summer, being able to point to one and think, “yeah, that was the best day ever”. NYQUEST Camp Canada might be the perfect way for you to get there.