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I worked at Seacamp Association full-time (more than 10 years)Pros
I have worked at Seacamp on and off seasonally for almost fifteen years. I love it so much, I can't stay away. I am always itching to get back to camp. Coming back always feels like coming home. Indeed, once you work here even one season, you are forevermore known as a member of the Seacamp Family. This is an honor that most former campers and staff acknowledge proudly and a bond that is cherished for a lifetime, returning regularly for wedding, funerals, reunions and casual visits. For someone who has not spent a lot of time in camps, this may sound rather over the top, but those familiar with camps will tell you that camp is a unique and life-changing experience; not just for the campers, but for the staff as well. Far from being an exception, Seacamp is a model for residential camps the world around.
I could write a book about why Seacamp is amazing, but I'll just hit some of the highlights. First and foremost, you are going to meet some of the best people you will ever know. Every year I am blown away by the high quality of the staff. The honor of working with these individuals is a strong draw for me every year. Most of the staff consists of highly gifted budding marine biologists, fresh out of college. Over the years, I have seen these individuals who got their start at Seacamp move into incredibly impressive careers in the marine sciences all over the world. For those of you who are interested in networking for your future career and resume building, a good reference from Seacamp can go a very long way. The network of Seacamp Alumni, like the ocean, is vast and deep. What do you want to do? I promise you, Seacamp has a connection. Beyond that, the individuals that make up your seasonal cohort will become your friends for life. The bonding that takes place in this environment is intense. At this point I've lost track of how many Seacamp weddings I've witnessed over the years. I promise, you will absolutely love your coworkers.
As far as networking goes, while working at Seacamp, I've also had countless opportunities to work with professionals in the field. Local institutions will often invite Seacamp science instructors to join them for various projects. While working at Seacamp, I also worked hand in hand with Mote Marine Laboratories, The Dolphin Research Center, The Turtle Hospital, Key West Aquarium, Bahia Honda State Park, The Florida Keys Marine Lab, and more. I've assisted with other center's large shark tagging projects. I participated in a major shark dissection project for a book that was being published, I've participated in sport fishing photo shoots, I've attended countless science speaker nights featuring an amazing variety of professionals, researchers and professors from around the world... The opportunities really are endless.
Seacamp will proudly tell you that they have the best staff training program of any summer camp in the world. There is no doubt that this absolutely the truth. You will receive a solid month of round-the-clock training. To say it is intense is an understatement. You better prepare yourself. You need to be physically and mentally ready for the challenges, as it is no joke. You will swim. And swim. And swim. If you weren't in shape already, don't worry, you will be very shortly. You will be trained in boat operation,water safety, skin diving and scuba. You'll also receive training in your area of instruction, be it windsurfing, sailing, scuba or science. You'll be trained in company policy, in managing group dynamics and in working with young people. You'll also work hard to maintain the property. In the end, you'll walk away with a small pile of certifications and new skills that will serve you forever. You'll also have shockingly blonde hair and tan skin.
All of this amazing training with these fantastic people are just the start. I haven't even mentioned the job itself. You get to teach the topic that you are undoubtably the most passionate about in the world, to the most eager students you can imagine in one of the most scenic and beautiful locations in the country. Driving the boat out over the stunning blue water, the light dazzling over the rippling water, watching the kids laugh and smile with anticipation, eyes on the lookout for dolphins and sea turtles, warm wind threatening to steal my sunhat... All of this before we even get in the water. And this is just the morning! I still get to do this again in the afternoon!
Beyond the fact that you get to do the obvious, teach kids about the ocean, you will also learn to be a master teacher. You'll learn to work closely with others. You'll learn to be a mentor and a friend. You'll learn to be silly and not to take yourself so seriously. You'll learn how to work hard and play hard.
In your small amount of time off, you'll have endless options to explore. The keys have so much to see and do. You might borrow a Seacamp boat or windsurfer, go to a museum, go on a night dive, head to a beach, do some kite boarding, kayaking or wake boarding, hit up one of the hotel pools, spend the night in Key West after partaking in a booze cruise or one of KW's many finer establishments. There's not much time off, and so the staff makes the most of what they have. Don't worry if you don't have a car. The staff is never exclusive. It's an incredibly inclusive environment. Everyone is always welcome.
If you're looking for a relaxing summer in the Florida Keys, this job is not for you. If you like a challenge, and are ready for the opportunity of a lifetime, then I look forward to working with you. See you soon on Big Time, Big Pine!Cons
As much as I love it here, you need to know that the challenges are mighty. This job is not for everyone.
First, your skin may never recover. You can not possibly ever have on enough sunblock. You will become intimately familiar with a large variety of hydroids. Heat rashes are very real and uncomfortable. The mosquitos and no-see-ums take no prisoners. Welcome to the tropics. Prepare to be perpetually uncomfortable.
Next, your living quarters will be much smaller than you are used to. You will have few comforts and live closely with a large number of people. Say goodbye to your privacy. Some of my survival tools I have employed over the years: Be prepared for a summer without air conditioning. Large fans are a must. You can't have enough. Get a nice set of twin sheets and a soft blanket. Invest in a twin size memory foam mattress pad. Your bed is your sanctuary; make it comfortable. Be strategic with how you store your clothes and belongings. I find stackable wicker baskets works best for me. Buy a couple floor mats. Put one by your bed. Make sure your feet do not have sand on them before you put them on your bed. Don't sit on your bed with a wet suit on. Make sure you keep the doors closed. You don't want the mosquitos, deer, or anything else in your room. Insist that the room stays immaculate. Be fair and assertive with your roommates.
You'll also need to be ready for extremely long days with very little time off. It is mentally and physically exhausting. You'll need to pass some swim tests, so be in shape. Also, invest in a good pair of snorkeling fins. They will make all the difference. Your job will be physically demanding and you're going to be doing manual labor as well. You're going to have very little down time or alone time. You'll likely need to use a good bit of your time off just to sleep. My first summer I was so tired one afternoon that I laid on the floor and cried because I had to go to the reef and I was too tired to stand up and walk to the boat. (I did get up and go. As soon as I got the boat up on a plane and the wind hit my face, I was fine. It was an amazing dive.)
Additionally, you can say goodbye to any and all modern conveniences (This can be a pain, but it's also so nice to unplug). You will not have wifi access on property. Computer access in general is hard to come by. There is no TV, no air conditioning, no gym, no pool (all of our training is in the ocean). There's also no laundry facilities. The local laundry mat closed last year, so this has become particularly inconvenient. However, it was pretty nice to take the ride down to Key West, drop off my clothes, then grab lunch on Duval while I waited.
I'd encourage you to bring your own laptop. I also bring my own supply of nice markers, pens and other office supplies. It's just easier to have exactly what you want and need. Also, if you can, bring a bicycle. As you're rushing from point to point, those few minutes you save really add up.
For all of this really hard work, you will be paid very little. Your compensation comes through things like food, housing and certifications. I've been able to come back year after year because as a teacher, I am not dependent on my income from Seacamp. Most of the staff are at a point in their life where they have minimal expenses and can make it work.
There are two refrigerators for staff use. I don't trust them. We jokingly call the food in the dining hall The Sysco Diet, which is not a compliment. However, over the years, I've seen the food get better and better. This last summer was the best yet. The kitchen staff are happy to meet any dietary special needs. There really isn't any need to buy your own food, except for the occasional pint of ice-cream.
Finally, there is little room for you to do things your own way. Seacamp is a tightly run ship. Fifty years of experience has created a very large book of exact policies and expectations that you are to uphold. You absolutely need to do things by the book every time. You will be trained and you will rely on that training to guide you to make the right choices. And there may come a time where you are called on to handle a very serous situation. You can face boat problems, severe weather, evacuations, child abuse reporting, injuries, bullying, and any number of other serious problems. You won't always have a superior telling you what to do. You need to act in place of the child's parent. This is a very serious responsibility that not all are ready to take on, and it should not be taken lightly.Advice to ManagementAdvice
Try to anticipate the needs of the staff and help them to meet their needs. Be patient and understanding. This job is incredibly stressful. Approach everyone with kindness and do everything with love. Hear people out and consider new input. Fifty years of experience is invaluable, but so are fresh ideas.RecommendsPositive OutlookApproves of CEO
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