The International Counselor Exchange Program

... makes possible the placement of several hundred students and young people from all regions of the world, ages 18-30, to serve as counselors in American summer camps.

The program's goal is to create opportunities that will facilitate a healthy interaction between international counselors, American children and American camp staff, with the ultimate aim of nurturing friendships and better understanding between peoples from different cultures. The ICEP is an official J-1 visa exchange program under the auspices of the US State Department.

All ICEP Counselors are at least 18 years old and are carefully selected based on their camp-related skills, experience leading children, ability to communicate in English, and enthusiasm for participating in an international exchange. Each applicant submits the ICEP application, an autobiographical essay, a 2 page photo collage, 3 letters of reference, and copies of all awards, in addition to completing both a personal interview in the home country and a phone interview with the ICEP New York staff.

We have 21 representatives in 15 countries who help us to publicize the ICEP opportunity, organize information sessions for interested students, prepare counselors for their arrival in the US, and maintain contacts with ICEP alumni. Each of these representatives has participated in camp or is a professional educator.

We work with children's summer camps throughout the United States who incorporate international counselors into their camp program in order to enhance the diversity and educational experiences of both its staff and campers. We strive to carefully match each camp and international counselor based on each camp's needs and the counselor's skills.

Becoming an ICEP Camp Counselor

(After counselors arrive in the US)

Transportation to the United States must be arranged in such a way that all ICEP counselors can arrive in time for one of the orientation conferences in June, in New York before the camps start. At this conference the counselors are given a background into American camping and American educational methods with children, suggestions for making special contributions as international counselors, and a full review of the summer program for participants in the ICEP. Time is provided for questions and discussion that will help to prepare every counselor for her or his leadership role with American children, who may be rather different from the children with whom the counselor is accustomed to working in his or her own country.

Besides, we have noticed that counselors who interact with us and other counselors for a couple of days before camp feel more relaxed and comfortable about looking forward to their summer experience. The sharing of ideas and emotions during the ICEP orientation conferences have been mutually enriching experiences for the counselors and the ICEP staff.

Every camp has a staff of counselors who take care of cabin groups and help to lead the daily activities of the children. This staff may vary in size between the different camps, ranging from 15 to more than a 100 counselors.There is usually a head counselor who is responsible to the director of the camp, and who supervises the work of all the counseling staff.

A general counselor is responsible for a cabin or tent, usually with six to ten boys or girls. The counselor sleeps in the cabin with her or his group of children, takes them to meals and supervises them in some of their daily activities.

A specialty counselor is responsible for organizing and teaching a particular part of the camp program, such as handicrafts, tennis, sailing, gymnastics, swimming, track & field, music, evening programs, etc.

Often there will be five or ten international counselors among a much larger group of American staff at the camp. International counselors, in addition to carrying out the ordinary responsibilities of a counselor, can make important contributions to camp life by teaching the children songs and dances from their own country, giving talks and answering questions about life in other parts of the world, and just by speaking informally with the campers and even other counselors.

ICEP's entire focus on International camp counselors centers on their ability to lend a flavor to the life at camp that no other native counselor could. This makes you, the international counselor, a cultural ambassador from your country, and give you the opportunity to spread the richness of your heritage among American children here in the US.

International counselors can make a better contribution to their camps if they bring articles from their own country that will be interesting to the campers, and will help them better organize engaging educational activities. Please think creatively. Former counselors have suggested these items: Songbooks, preferably with translations, tapes of national songs, and dances. Also helpful are: Short stories, jokes, coins, stamps, maps, photographs, color slides for use with a projector, games, costumes, etc. (from your country).

Also, don't forget necessary items for personal comfort/protection: good old clothes, a raincoat, swimming suit or trunks, at least 1 or 2 pairs of sneakers, a flashlight with extra batteries, mosquito repellent, a padlock, a alarmed watch and/or an alarmclock. etc.

How to Apply

Most ICEP counselors are undergraduate students, graduate students, teachers, social workers, or youth leaders. The most important requirement is the ability to work with children and exhibit a genuine interest and enthusiasm for the work of a camp counselor.

You must also be:
At least 18 years of age when submitting the ICEP application;
Strongly committed to working with children in a camp setting;
Highly proficient in the English language, including the ability to attend an interview in English as part of your application;
Skilled in specific activities that you can teach to children at camp, such as music, arts, waterfront, outdoor activities, horseback riding, and sports
Available to arrive in the US between June 1-20 (preference will be given to those who can arrive earlier) and able to remain at camp until mid to late August
Enthusiastic to share your culture with others
Open-minded, patient, flexible, and willing to work very hard for 8-10 weeks during the summer
Willing to live in an outdoor/wilderness setting

Contact the ICEP representative to find out about information meetings or get more information about the application procedures in your country.

Pick up an ICEP brochure and application from the representative. If we do not have a representative in your country, you may download the forms and instructions you need here.
Schedule an interview with your ICEP representative. All applicants must attend a personal interview, conducted in English.

Complete all application forms and attach the essay, 3 letters of reference, photo collage, and awards or certificates. Submit your complete application to your ICEP representative who will mail it to the ICEP office in New York City. Please do not submit your application directly to the New York office unless we have given you permission to do so.

Once all your application materials have been received, ICEP will review your applications and schedule a time to interview you by phone. We like to chat with our prospective camp counselors to get to know you better and determine language skills and what kinds of camps you might serve best.

The ICEP staff will notify you of the status of your application, either directly or through the ICEP representative in your country, within 10 days of its arrival in the New York office.
If you are selected, your application will be circulated among participating camps here in the US. You might then get phone calls from the camps for similar reasons and to determine how you will fit into the summer camp structure.

Contact / Enquiry


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