An American dream holiday...

29th September 1995 at 01:00
Clare Dean reports on the struggles of British students who give rich young Americans the time of their lives as they take a break at Camp America. An expensive baby-sitting service for rich-kid Americans or a genuine opportunity to develop your talents as tennis coach or swimming instructor?

Working and living in close quarters with children more used to having maids clear up after them than sweeping out the log cabin you are sharing teaches patience and resilience, if nothing else.

How, for example, do you persuade them that the outdoor pool heated to 80 degrees really is inviting? Especially as the temperature itself is in the high 90s.

How, too, to convince them they really should go to supervised swimming lessons when they are more used to splashing around in their own pool in their own backyard.

Scott Preston, a 20-year-old from North Lincolnshire college, soon found his own winning formula - taking away their sweets.

If there was one thing that American children would do almost anything for, he soon discovered, it was their candy. Just the threat of withholding it was enough to make them act.

Scott was one of the 32 students from the college - and one of 7,000 from Britain - who this vacation crossed the pond to spend summer working in United States camps.

During the past two years nearly three-quarters of the students on sports science courses at the college have done their work placement in the US as Camp America counsellors.

As such they were expected to operate not only as coach, but also big brother, sister and confidante.

Keith Van Bergen, head of the school of sports, leisure and hospitality studies at North Lincolnshire College, said: "You can really see the difference between the students who do their placement in America and those who don't.

"Their confidence is sky high after the American experience. They have grown in confidence not just in coaching, technique and skills, but in everything. "

Scott, an HND sports science student, spent his summer at Camp Pine Forest, a family-run camp, voted one of the best in the US. There parents fork out $5,000 (Pounds 3,300) for an eight-week placement for their offspring.

"It's tiring, it's a 24-hour-a-day job, but I am having a great time," he said, taking a well-earned break from his post at one of the two pools at the camp in the Pocono Mountains in north-eastern Pennsylvania.

"I'm coaching at the pool and it is great experience.

"If I was in England I just don't think I would get as much coaching as I am here."

The downside for him was that a pool job meant losing your tan as you are in and out of the water so often.

He said: "Obviously dealing with affluent kids can have its problems, but here we have a strict routine. Everyone goes in the pool."

Camp America counsellors, minimum age of 18, are paid between Pounds 100 and Pounds 433 for nine weeks depending on age and experience.

Accommodation, meals and return flights are provided free.

Mr Van Bergen is quick to dismiss suggestions the experience is glorified baby-sitting for his students.

He is on the board of advisers for Camp America and said: "I think it is an incredible experience for them.

"If it was based in Brighton, 90 per cent of the counsellors would go home within the first week to 10 days because it is such hard work.

"But because it is 3,000 miles away they have to stick at it. It is more demanding than anything they have done before."

A short drive down the road from the camp where Scott was based, seven women students on sports science courses at North Lincolnshire College reflected on life in the all-girls Camp Timber Tops.

Their sentiments were not far different from those expressed by their tutor.

"The good times are really good and the bad times are really bad," added Elizabeth Wright, 19.

"The bad times are at the end of a really hard day, you are in the same cabin as the girls and you know there is no escape. The good times are someone learning to swim, cuddles and when you work together as a team. Then it is great."

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