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American Village in France
Four of the best summers of my life were spent in France working at American Village. This summer camp (with spring and autumn sessions as well) provides French children immersion in English while participating in traditional summer camp activities such as dodgeball, skits, capture the flag, tie dye and all camp evening programs. Prepare to reinvent yourself as a variety of characters (from Rihanna to conjoined twin aliens to vomiting bugs to robots), not sleep for more than 4 hours a night and make friends that will last a lifetime. There is no work visa required for this job.
You can apply to American Village here.
- American Village has a number of sites all over France located in small villages that are breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the sites are even in old castles (as pictured above)
- French children are adorable (that accent!) and you can work with kids, pre-teens or teenagers
- If you are a creative person, this is the perfect job for you as you will be creating signs, games, activities, sets, costumes and much more...
- If you teach English, or are curious about teaching English, half of the counselors are Language Counselors and give daily classes to the children connected with the daily themes such as Wild West Day, Hollywood Day, etc.
- Days off can be an adventure: we're talking hitchhiking, tasting local foods, exploring nearby (or far away) cities or simply enjoying any quiet corner at camp that is KID FREE
- But the #1 best part of AmVil are the other people you'll meet and all of the crazy, stressful, exciting times you'll have
- If you're coming from the US, be prepared to hand over some serious cash for your flight, but if you're coming from Europe it makes a bit more sense
- LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG hours, like 7am wake up, with the kids ALL DAY, meetings at 10pm and more prep for the next day or hanging out with your fellow counselors until LATE
- You can get moved around sites a lot, so if you plan on working with a friend, plan on not seeing them the entire summer
- Some directors are horrible, THE END.
- The pay isn't great, and that last time I did it we were paid on a card. SKETCH.
Granja Escuela Atalaya in Spain
Granja Escuela Atalaya (Farm School Atalaya) is a family owned and run farm near Albacete, Spain. It includes a former summer palace, animals such as a horse, pony, donkey, peacocks, chickens, dogs, goats and pigs, a vegetable garden, workshops for ceramics and aromatherapy, a wood burning oven, swimming pool and lots of land perfect for Spook Walks, night games and exploring. The camp runs English and Spanish sessions for children and counselors and campers stay in rooms with bunk beds, or spend the night in tents. If you speak Spanish and/or English, are interested in eco-friendly activities, and love exploring the great outdoors, this is the camp for you. I spent two amazing summers here.
To learn more about Granja Escuela Atalaya click here.
- The farm is a lush oasis nestled among mountains, desert sands and olive groves. At night the sky is so clear and I've never seen the Milky Way so clearly in my life; the closest village is charming and lies in the shadow of castle ruins
- Many of the counselors have been working at Atalaya for years, some of them having attended the camp as children
- The all camp games and activities at night are creative and entertaining, followed by a special session for older campers with age restricted activities
- Sports, the arts and the eco-friendly lifestyle meet here
- If you speak Spanish, or are looking to learn, this could be a great opportunity for you
- If you love animals, there are a lot of animals that need attention (and food!) on the farm
- Again, LOOOOOOOONNNNGGGG hours, but aren't all summer camps like this?
- Spanish kids are a bit more, um, active than French kids. They are tons of fun, but their energy is endless!
- You need to be an EU citizen to work here, or obtain a work visa. The camp was able to sponsor me for a work visa, which was amazing!
Excellencia in France
Excellencia is a boarding school during the year and offers French and English immersion summer camps when school is out. The facilities here are top notch including housing, a theatre, classrooms, an indoor pool, sports fields and more. Also, there are some champagne caves on the same street for counselors looking to experience the bubbly French way of life! I worked here part of one summer and was able to pick up quite a bit of French. You don't need a work visa for this camp.
To read about Excellencia, click here.
- THE FOOD. If you like gourmet French meals, prepare to indulge, and gain a few pounds in the process
- The kids are a bit spoiled, but they are nice and they are willing to participate in activities and English classes which the counselors are in charge of
- The facilities are gorgeous and there is a river nearby. On days off you can visit famous wine caves or simply wander through the small town and its vineyards. This has to be one of the most beautiful regions of France
- Similar to American Village, but not quite as crazy, you will be relying on your creativity to come up with fun activities and games
- If you know some French and are looking to learn more, this is a great place for that as there is a French camp at the same time and most of the meetings are held in French
- The camp is newish, so there are a few bumps here and there that need to be worked out such as scheduling problems
- LOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG hours
- Not the best pay, but when you are getting paid to play dodgeball and dress up like a character, it isn't so bad
If you have any questions about these specific camps, just leave a comment below!
Have you worked at a summer camp abroad? Where was it? What was it like?
LongTerm volunteering for Habitat for humanity
In my last post, I talked about a grant from Lawrence University to volunteer in Costa Rica. The following summer, I applied for a different grant through Lawrence's Geology Department and proposed a longterm volunteering stint in Costa Rica. Was I a Geology student? No. Was my trip abroad related to Geology? Not really. However, the grant had so few applicants that they chose me! There are TONS of grants out there, it's just necessary to do a bit of "digging."
Habitat for Humanity abroad
Habitat for Humanity is a fantastic organization that not only builds houses, but also builds communities. Prior to volunteering with HFH in Costa Rica I had worked on a few local houses near my university. Here's how it works. Families in need contact Habitat for Humanity (or sometimes the organization reaches out to families or entire communities in need.) A Habitat employee then comes out and evaluates the family's current living situation and interviews them. Next, if the proposal is put through, construction begins. Families are required to be part of the building process, from participating in manual labor to providing lunches for volunteers. Groups of international volunteers pay to help build houses and visit touristic sites within the country.
The Costa Rican context
As a longterm volunteer, I was able to participate in a variety of tasks at HFH Costa Rica. I worked on 14 different houses in three different parts of the country, worked in the main office in Alajuela doing paperwork for house proposals, visited families interested in building a house and interpreted between Costa Rican construction workers and international volunteer groups.
I volunteered in the summer of 2009 after an earthquake had crippled several communities within the country. I worked on one woman's house that had simply crumbled into the rushing river below. Luckily, she and her two sons had miraculously survived, and she asked me to tell the volunteers her story, so that they would know how important their work was to her new life.
All of the houses that we built were earthquake proof. There were two kinds. One made with concrete panels that slid between metal shafts and one made with large concrete bricks. The paneled houses were the quickest to assemble. All houses were covered with tin roofs, which need to be replaced every 5 years or so. In the photo below, you can see what the houses looked like at the very beginning. At this particular site, we had to knock down an existing wall in order to clear the site.
While working on these houses, I formed relationships with the Costa Rican builders and families. I worked on the house pictured above from day one until it was finished. I was later invited to spend the night with the family who now lives there. For people who have so little, they are incredibly generous.
One of the sites was located near Heredia and had several houses. Each day, Costa Rican volunteers from the local brewery would come to the site instead of going to work to help build the houses. This site was truly spectacular, with so many houses at different stages, new faces each day, and everyone putting in a full day's work to help others. I worked at this site 2 or 3 days a week, since it was the closest site to my homestay in Atenas.
Another site was located in Puntarenas. We worked on two houses here. Although the houses were new, the community was the same. Despite having a new house, the families would still have to educate their children to prevent teen pregnancy, involvement in crime and drug selling. This is the reality. While Habitat for Humanity can offer a better home to live in, they cannot always provide a better community.
The last site was in Guápiles. This area had recently suffered an earthquake and the river that usually ran blue, ran a muddy shade of brown from all the debris. Here I helped assemble two houses, and interpreted for groups of American volunteers. I stayed at a small hostel near the site and was the only guest. I befriended the family that owned the hostel and the mother took me to a retirement home where she volunteered. I remember meeting a man there who was over 100 years old. The place was absolutely beautiful, and several of the residents were over 90. That site was a rainy one, but we got the houses built for some incredible families. With these houses, the families also gained a new school district, which they hoped would create opportunities for their children.
If you're looking to get abroad, find an organization you're passionate about, write some grant proposals, buy a plane ticket and GO! Volunteering abroad is an incredible experience. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and don't forget to share if you like this article!
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