Welcome to the Bubble: Experiences of Liminality and Communitas among Summer Camp Counsellors

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Summer camps provide a special time and space for youth growth and transformation. This growth is possible, in part, due to the physical and social isolation that contribute to the liminality of traditional residential camps. Camps act as a sort of ‘bubble’ in which alternative realities, norms and identities emerge. For many campers and camp counsellors, the community and personal relationships that develop at camp produce feelings of acceptance and belonging. Positive camp experiences do not occur by happenstance and as such, youthful camp counsellors often feel immense pressure to deliver on the promises that camps offer. This article explores the challenges faced by counsellors as they seek to create and maintain this liminal space. This paper discusses camp counsellors’ own reflections on their personal struggles with social isolation and the need to be accepted, effects of gossip in the close-knit community of camp, a lack of private time or space, and the emotional demands of caring for campers. The article concludes by suggesting how we might reconsider camp counsellor experiences and offers strategies to support counsellors as they navigate and negotiate camp experiences for both themselves and their campers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Youth Development
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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