Lucky for us, the Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) – a nonprofit dedicated to promoting education and cultural exchange – is a longtime partner of the Maine Camp Experience. While Maine summer camps get counselors and staff from a variety of places, CIEE pulls talent from all over the world to give both counselors and campers a culturally diverse summer experience. We recently sat down with Katie Harrigan, director of Camp Exchange USA, to ask her all about how CIEE works, how they screen counselors, and the benefits of having a mentor from another country. And CIEE knows Maine – their headquarters is in Portland!
How does having counselors from different countries benefit campers during their summer camp experience?
Summer camp is about exploring your world and understanding yourself as an individual, friend, member of a group, and member of your world. CIEE’s counselors have a unique impact on campers in that they are not only leaders and role models in daily life throughout camp, but they are also teaching campers about diversity, intercultural development, and even subtle traditions that they cannot get outside of the unique summer camp experience. That is what camp is all about! And CIEE understands that camp is an educational experience for all, both campers, staff, and international exchange counselors alike.
Tell me a little bit about how the CIEE Summer Camp Exchange works. How do you find your applicants?
CIEE works with our long-time partnering organizations around the world that seek university students and graduates interested in the quintessential American summer camp experience. Our key partners have over 45 years of experience recruiting counselors for American summer camps, and have visited camps in Maine and throughout the U.S. during the summer for as long as they have been in operation.
Many of our counselor participants are graduates, teachers, or students in early childhood education, psychology, and social work. They are particularly interested in shaping the development of youth, and Camp Exchange USA is an opportunity to do that with the added element of a cultural exchange. Our counselors come from around the world – from Australia, Germany, Ireland, South Africa Taiwan, and the UK.
What does CIEE look for in potential summer camp counselors coming in from overseas?
CIEE looks for candidates who have a breadth of experience in working with youth, and a strong, genuine desire to lead, mentor, and educate them. We understand that camp is fundamentally an opportunity to foster growth and youth development for campers, and we seek counselors who want to be a positive force in their lives. We also seek those that can be flexible, are outgoing, social, and will engage with youth in both an individual and group dynamic.
What sort of screening process goes into selecting staff?
Each CIEE Camp Exchange USA counselor has lengthy preparation from our partnering organizations, and attends a full, in-person interview. They also attend both a pre-departure Orientation before arriving in the US, as well as a Meet & Greet before coming up to camp for staff training. CIEE provides tools and resources in the five months leading up to camp to help them prepare for the intensive experience of being a counselor at camp.
Once accepted, CIEE matches successful applicants with the ethos and environments of those camps we work with. Camp Directors then either call or skype applicants to assess their fit for their unique camp environment. This year, a few MCE camps traveled with CIEE to Dublin, London and Manchester, UK to hire many of our counselors in person. This was an excellent opportunity to set expectations and prepare counselors for the specific realities of camp life, connect staff with one another, and set the stage for a successful summer ahead!
How many counselors do you place each summer? How many at Maine camps?
CIEE places hundreds of high quality counselors at camps, and because our global headquarters is in Portland, Maine, we have special relationships with our Maine camps. In 2014, about 45% of all CIEE Camp Exchange USA counselors were placed at MCE member camps. These counselors served as mentors, role models, and experiential educators to the thousands of campers served by MCE member camps.
Do counselors tend to come back to the same camp year after year?
While CIEE places many new counselors with camps each fall/winter/spring, most all MCE camps have a large percentage of returning International counselors who have been returning to camp for a second year, and in many cases 5, 10,15 to 20+ years!
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.