Advice Column, Education, Parenting, Tween & Teen

Gap Year: Benefits of working at a summer camp

  • Sugar Bay
  • Category Advice Column, Education, Parenting, Tween & Teen

Making a career choice at the age of seventeen and committing to it for a lifetime is a pivotal decision that comes with a lot of pressure. However, times have evolved and we are no longer restricted to working one specific profession for the rest of our career. During a staff training meeting held at Sugar Bay Resort, young adults were given a career guiding lecture by the Director, Zoe Ellender, who said,

“Unlike in the past, you no longer have to serve in one position at one company until you retire and get yourself a golden watch for your services. These days, you are allowed to change your career choice as many times as you want to. The diversity in occupation allows for a variation in skills, which plays a significant role in creating outstanding résumés.”

Her encouraging discussion with the youngsters opened their minds to realize that it really is okay to make the wrong decisions and start over, as nothing goes to waste. She also explained the importance of taking a gap year and not rushing into a career choice, especially, if you are doubtful.

Ellender shared her story of how she spent her college years working long hours to obtain her Law Degree, and one day realized that it simply wasn’t for her.

“I looked around one day and realized that everyone around me was miserable. All we had to deal with as lawyers were people’s problems. This wasn’t a happy environment,” said Ellender. 

Soon enough, Ellender realised her dream to run an American-styled kids camp, a place that was happy and safe for children in a way that also nurtured their development. Ellender quit her career as a lawyer, and her husband Nicholas, who was an engineer at the time did the same. Together, they worked to build their dream, which is now a running success sixteen years on.

Members of her audience were given the opportunity to share their experiences. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Sugar Bay appealed to me as an ideal place to work, build experience in working with young people and at the same time learn to be responsible, develop myself and gain life experiences. Sugar Bay is a great place to learn during a gap year. On both my previous visits, the counselors were true role models and I was inspired by them to be the happiest and most positive version of myself that I could be. They were always super positive and uplifting. They are also easy to relate to and I have been able to do so in my short time here. I feel Sugar Bay can be a great place for many adults.” 

– Emilio (high school graduate – Sandton)

“I had left school and always wanted to take a gap year, but didn’t know what to do. I ended up applying to varsity and got accepted for B. Com. Marketing which was something I was excited to do. However, two years into studying, I found myself extremely bored and unmotivated, with no interest in continuing. So, this year, I set out looking into summer camps in America, and while doing this, I came across Sugar Bay. I sent my application and got accepted. Before arriving at Sugar Bay, I found it extremely hard to step out of my comfort zone and was very scared of change. After 3 weeks of being at camp, I have seen my confidence grow; my ability to approach change has grown and is also still growing with every passing day. I wake up every morning excited to take on a new day working with the children at camp. I feel that the children and the counselors are the reason why I have grown while working at Sugar Bay. I am loving every day here and I am extremely happy I have found something that interests me.”

– Rourke (high school graduate – Johannesburg)

Many youngsters between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six join Sugar Bay during their gap year as a camp counselor often in pursuit of becoming a camp counselor in the United States, or as an opportunity to learn more about themselves and what passion and skills might warrant a future career. The two-week staff training program allows young adults to not only gain experience working with children, but they will also be trained in Emergency First Aid and CPR, as well as be introduced to child psychology, theory and practice of teaching, activity instruction and leadership training. The significance of this experience is that it allows young adults to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses while preparing them for making important career decisions.

For more information about being a camp counselor at Sugar Bay Camp, and about the application process please visit, or email

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