Meet Neo, a curious camp job seeker who wants to work in the USA 🙂

Right now, everything on the camp job web sites may look something like this:

By the end of this page, we hope you’ll be an international camp hire kung fu master! Shall we begin?

So, Neo has just unplugged from the “real world” job search and is excited about bringing joy to the lives of campers and the world. Great! And it’s going to cost you.

There are 3 separate kinds of costs involved as an international hire, and I’ll explain them in more detail below. These 3 costs are:

  1. Participant costs (what Neo will pay to participate in the Summer Camp program through his agency, for example, YDP, a subsidiary of InterExchange.)
  2. Camp fees (what camp pays to the agency, in this case Interexchange.)
  3. Camp Zion specific costs

I’ll endeavor to explain what makes up these costs and roughly how much to expect of each, and hopefully that will clarify a few things. Fingers crossed!


1) Participant costs:

This participant fee is the same regardless of what actual camp Neo ends up working at, and these costs are related to Neo’s enrolment in the YDP program.

  • VISA appointment (embassy fee which is usually around $160 USD)
  • Pre departure meeting
  • Staffing costs for the agency
  • Interviewing for the Dept. of State by the agency
  • Screening and background check
  • Insurance for VISA Dates

Some agencies will also include booking flights to America for the participant and add that to the camp fee to the agency. That is not the case for Neo’s agency, so Neo is responsible for his own travel to and from America.

Looking quickly at round trip flight options from Johannesburg (where Neo is from) to Sacramento at the start of May and end of August it looks like about $1400.

So, as you can see it is not cheap for an international participant to work at Camp Zion.

The costs to Neo to come and work in America this summer would be that $600 + $1400 flight = about $2000.


2)    Camp costs.

These are costs incurred to camp to have Neo work for us this summer. We pay these and they involve:

  • The agency fee to camp for placing Neo (in this case this is $750)
  • Neo’s Pocket Money/summer salary (in this case $2050)
  • As outlined in the contract Camp Zion agrees to pay $2800 for a counselor for a summer. That $2800 is made up of the agency fee and the salary for that individual.
    • Agency fee + summer salary = $2800
    • $2800 – agency fee  = summer salary
    • N.B. for some agencies the agency is fee is up to $1400 as it was for me my first summer so my salary that year was $1350 which didn’t cover the costs of my flights!
    • So for Neo this year, his agency fee is $750
      • $2800 – $750 = $2050 (Neo’s salary for the summer)

As you can see, the amount Neo will earn this summer ($2050) is essentially the same as his costs (roughly $2000) so by working at camp this summer Neo will essentially break-even – neither make money nor lose any. So, one certainly doesn’t come to summer camp to make money, though fees improve a lot when returning for a second year. Summer Camp is a labor of love 🙂

However, that salary ($2050) doesn’t take into account the money Neo can earn at camp by arriving early and working in pre-season for, say, family camps and other groups or working the groups after the summer ends. The rates of pay vary for those (check out whatever camp you’re looking for with those opportunities) but all that would be money that Neo earns that is his in terms of profit.

Of course, every camp is different. They may cover certain costs (like cover Neo’s entire flight!!!). Other’s may not be willing to cover any fees. It simply depends. All of these things are for Neo to investigate and talk to the director about before signing any papers with agencies or camps.

The other piece of it, too, is that if the participant/staff member doesn’t have the money to pay for their flight at the time (say Neo doesn’t have $1400 available to him at the moment or the $160 for the embassy fee) then camp Zion may be able to pay for the flight for him, with the understanding that that amount would then be deducted from his $2800 at the end of the summer so his equation would look like this:

  • $2800 – $750 – $1400 = Neo’s end of summer salary ($650)

So, either way Neo is paying for it, it’s more a matter of when the participant pays for it (now or later).


3)    Camp Zion specific costs

The third and final kind of cost are the costs Camp Zion asks our staff to undertake for things such as:

–        First aid trainings

–        CPR training

–        Lifeguard trainings

These are costs that Camp Zion will pay in full, usually in the form of reimbursing that staff member when they arrive at camp. It may in fact be easiest for camps to reimburse staff rather than provide direct payment (though that is still an option if needed) and many camps, especially Camp Zion, really value staff getting these certifications before arriving at camp.

Okay. Ready for the journey down the rabbit hole? That’s the long and short of it. Understand?

I knew you would 🙂


Check out specific agency fees on their home websites for more information.