Teaching English at Summer Camps Abroad: Day in the Life of a Summer Camp Instructor in Europe

May 4, 2021

As the summer break slowly approaches (not that we are counting!), lots of teachers will be starting to think about their options to teach English abroad for the months ahead. If your school doesn’t operate through the summer months or offer any intensive courses, then a few options include traveling, perhaps visiting home, or for many ESL teachers, heading off to camp for the summer!

Working and teaching at a language summer camp in Europe is an experience like no other – every day is different, with new situations and experiences, and hopefully, plenty of new material and ideas to implement into classes come September! While summer camps are certainly good fun, they come with a huge amount of responsibility for the students attending, and often round-the-clock duties.

So, what is a normal day at a summer camp like? Well, the truth is that the word normal doesn’t apply, as no two days are ever the same, and one of the key skills you will put into practice as an ESL teacher at a summer camp, is flexibility, and adapting to unexpected situations at any time. Let’s run through a typical day at summer camp, and take a look at the duties and responsibilities you can expect.

07:30 AM

Rise and shine! Summer camps are notorious for early starts, as staff need to be up and ready before the students to make sure the morning runs smoothly. Lots of camps have a ‘house duty’ rota for staff, which means knocking on doors, making sure students are getting ready, and that no one gets an accidental lie-in!


Next up is breakfast. Mealtimes are a crucial part of the day for staff and students to chat and mingle. During the first few days in particular, it is vital to set the tone and help students (particularly those not part of a larger group) to quickly break the ice and get talking to as many other students as possible.

09:00 – 12:30PM

While all camps differ, the majority will offer structured English classes of some sort, most likely taking place in the morning (though not always). The key methodology for most summer camps is a strong focus on fun it is summer after all! High energy, constant interaction, and dynamic activities are the order of the day. Students should be moving around and expressing themselves throughout, so doing presentations, role-plays, games, and debates can be highly effective and ensure that the students are excited to get back in the classroom each morning.

Camp is supposed to be fun! Dynamic activities that require high energy will keep students interested and engaged

13:30 – 14:00PM

After lunch, students may have a short amount of free time to recharge, call home if they’d like, or just hang out on the campgrounds. While it is generally up to the students what they do during such free time, staff are usually required to be on hand if students have anything they would like to talk about, to answer any questions, or even just in case a referee is needed for a game of football!

14:00 – 16:30PM

Once classes are done for the day, every afternoon is different. Afternoon activities may take place on campus where a range of sports and creative activities can be done, or you can usually expect to be heading out on excursions a couple of times a week. But regardless of what you are doing, the key ideas are enthusiasm and involvement, both your own and that of the students. You might not know that much about badminton for instance, but just throwing yourself into everything and having really good fun is what summer school is all about. Students will always follow your lead!

17:00 – 18:00PM

Back to the canteen for dinner! The evening meal is always a lively time of day and is the perfect chance for everyone to catch up on what they have been up to all day and get excited about any evening activities. It’s worth mentioning that staff should remember to be paying attention to students as much as possible. It’s understandable to want to enjoy a meal in peace (particularly after a few weeks of hectic camp life!), but making sure no students are left out or feeling down during these busy periods of the day is important for student wellbeing.


Tug of war, games and many more

19:00 – 21:00PM

Once the canteen chaos is done for the day,  it’s time to get ready for evening entertainment! This will change from day to day and just some of the things staff can look forward to organizing are scavenger hunts, discos, quiz nights, team sports, talent shows – the list is endless! Feedback and ideas from staff are always appreciated in the summer so if you have an idea for an activity that you feel would go well, speak up!


The final part of the day is usually for winding down, perhaps some free time before the students head off to bed. This is another great time for staff to catch up with students, chat, play board games or watch some TV. Staff usually do a last sweep of the accommodation to make sure that everyone is in their room by curfew. However, it’s worth remembering that while you might not technically be “on” house duty, all staff are available to students at all times of both the night and day. Depending on your role, you might use the rest of the evening to prepare classes and activities for the next day, before heading to bed yourself.

Phew! That’s what a typical day at summer camp can look like! While there might be no such thing as a typical day, with each being different, bringing new experiences, challenges, and (sometimes) surprises, this is what the fun of summer school is all about and what makes it such a unique experience for staff and students alike.

So what do you think? Would you be ready to do it all again tomorrow? Let us know in the comments!

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