From Camp to the Fast Track- Dom
A job at camp is more than fun and games. It provides opportunities to build important life-long skills. Read more to learn about Dom's journey from Watia to Ashton Martin.
When were you at camp and what your most recent role was?
It was a pleasure to be a part of the Watia family, for three summers, beginning in 2016 when the camp was first established. Starting out as a cabin counselor in Eagle Creek provided me valuable experience which led to being appointed as Boys Village Director in my second summer. Finally, in my third summer, I was given the opportunity to be the Assistant Program Director.
What you are up to now?
Since finishing my final summer at Camp Watia, I have graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Six months of traveling followed, including trips to Canada, Turkey, UAE, and various places in Europe. My travel experience finished with a volunteering trip to a village in Nepal where I became an English schoolteacher with a friend - we first met at Watia!
Two years ago, I started my professional career as a Sales Planner within the Global Sales department at Aston Martin headquarters. I love this job as I communicate with people from around the world, learning about each unique culture. Also, who doesn’t like fast cars!
During my first summer away from the US, I was grateful to have the opportunity to travel back to visit Watia. The trip reminded me what a special place Watia is for both the campers and camp staff. It really does hold a place in my heart!
How did working at camp prepare you for the “grown-up” world?
Landing in Asheville, back in 2016, was the first time I had traveled to another country independently.
Throughout my time at camp, I grew massively in confidence. The thought of having a cabin full of campers to look after can feel daunting at first, but as soon as parents have left and you have 12 little campers smiling up at you asking to play GaGa ball, the nerves are instantly replaced with excitement for the week ahead. Every single day you have new experiences, feeling like a camper yourself. Despite only playing the guitar to a couple of friends prior to joining camp, I began to play during closing ceremonies which I could never have imagined was possible beforehand. It was clear to see the confidence I had gained.
Being a Counsellor was the first time in my life that I had other people depending on me. This encourages you to develop a sense of maturity that I believe is still with me to this day. Both the camper’s enjoyment and safety are in your hands for the whole week. Campers quite often copy the words you say and your body language, meaning you quickly learn how to be at your best even if you don’t feel 100% that day. This resilience has benefitted me greatly in my professional career.
Something else - maybe not as exciting but equally as important in the ‘grown-up world’ - is timekeeping. At any given time, Watia has 100+ campers enjoying paddleboarding, fishing, basketball, the giant slide - and the million other fun activities available at camp! - all at once. Good punctuality helps the place run like clockwork.
After a successful first summer, I was keen to use my valuable knowledge to help new and existing Counsellors be the best they could be. This was my first experience of both managing activities and managing people. Learning how to communicate with children and adults effectively as well as increasing team morale. I developed a calmness under pressure as other staff members began looking to me for guidance and inspiration.
What advice do you have for a new staff member?
Make the most of Vespers activities, this is a unique time for you to really connect, on a deeper level, with the campers. In everyday life, many children do not have an opportunity to learn about the importance of morals and respect. Vespers sessions give the little ones a chance to share with the group their wildest dreams, deepest fears, and creative views of the world. It can be a very interesting listen!
The most rewarding aspect of camp is the relationship you develop with parents, camp staff, and most importantly the campers. They really are what camp is about! Whatever the weather, putting the extra effort in to chat with a camper - whether they are homesick or just need a little more encouragement to reach the top of the rock wall - could make their week! It is important to make every single day count, as many campers are only able to experience the magic of Watia for one week a year.
Camp Watia truly changed my life while putting a smile or two on campers' faces along the way!