Jewish Camp vs. Summer Internship? For me, The Decision Was Easy

This post is the final installment of Foundation for Jewish Camp’s summer blog series “Because of Jewish Camp.” Visit the FJC blog throughout the year for ongoing reflections from camp parents, staff, and alumni exemplifying the ways that Jewish camp impacted their lives. Tell us your camp story in the comments, on Facebook, or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JewishCamp.


Jewish Camp vs. Summer Internship?
For me
, The Decision Was Easy
By Rachel Philipson

When you’re in your junior year of college, summer internship hunting is no joke. You’re told that landing the right summer internship is the key to future employment – the stakes could not be higher. During my junior year of college, I watched my friends scramble to secure internships; connecting with people on LinkedIn, asking their parents to put them in contact with their colleagues, and sending emails to all prior employers. Inevitably, my friends would ask me what internships I’d applied to and which future employers I’d heard from. I’d reply, “I’m going to camp this summer,” and they’d respond, “Aww, that’s fun! You get to be a counselor!”

It never seemed worthwhile to correct my friends or try to convince them that the important work I did at camp was so much more than just “fun.” It wasn’t their fault. They just didn’t understand.

Some might consider it a sacrifice that I don’t have the same two lines on my resume as many of my peers, but my 14 summers at camp were a gift. I understand that internships can help you develop valuable skills, but I also know that camping offered me just as much in the way of professional development as any internship – and perhaps more personal development than I would have found anywhere else.

Unlike a summer internship, the work I did at camp wasn’t just 9-5. It was a 24/7 job. You were never ‘off’ at camp, especially when I worked in the programming department. There was always more work to be done – more creative programs to think of, more in-depth perspectives to be brought to hobbies, and more children to be engaged in the activities camp provides. I developed the skills necessary to thrive when fully immersed in important and meaningful work. I learned to think strategically, remain calm under pressure, and collaborate with a team. The work was challenging and engaging, and my contributions were respected and appreciated. I can’t imagine better preparation for full-time employment.

Professors, family, and friends commonly said to me, “internships are the link between college and careers,” but my experiences at camp showed me that not just any career would do. At camp, I had the opportunity to see how my work positively influenced the experiences of my campers. It was rewarding in ways I can’t possibly quantify. I learned that having a career wasn’t just about getting ahead, but serving something larger than myself. This perspective has enabled me to lead a meaningful professional life, and to continue to place value on the often intangible but always essential joy of helping others.

As I returned to campus for my senior year, my friends and I caught up about our summers. They shared stories of mean bosses and tedious jobs in which they weren’t being challenged. I realized how truly blessed I was to have found a place that accepted my energy, allowed me to be my best self, and needed my overwhelming love.

Since entering the ‘real world’ after graduation, I know I would not be as successful in my current position had I not gone to camp. I am constantly tasked with thinking on my feet, developing strong working relationships with colleagues and donors, and problem solving – all skills I learned at camp. Camp was absolutely the best thing that happened to me, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. Internships may be the link between college and careers, but camp was the link between me and the best version of myself: someone who is thriving both personally and professionally.

Rachel Philipson is a Development Officer, Campaign Leadership and Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. A Boston University graduate, Rachel grew up in Upstate New York and attended Camp Seneca Lake for 14 summers.