Alumni Spotlight: Ishmael Wooten


Ishmael is an ESL Tutor from New York. He attended Arkansas State University. He has also worked in various summer camps over the years. He is currently employed as an ESL Tutor at a New England private boarding school. There he assists and teaches students from Non-English speaking counties.

It all started a few years ago, when I completed my first summer camp. I found great satisfaction in my work there and decided that the next step would be to travel overseas and do something similar. I turned to this website, as well as another, to give me some insight on the situation.

There, I found out about The ECC, and the whole experience pulled me in. I read some reviews, as well as what the company has to say, and it seemed like it would be a fit. After the application process, I had my Skype interview with Ashleigh Poerio, one of the directors of the camp. During the interview, all of my questions were answered and i knew for sure this was the place for me.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

From the very beginning, you are given tips and information to help you on your journey and everything you'll need along the way. During the week long on-site orientation, you are given a handbook with all the information you could possibly need to successfully take on camp. You are taught different teaching techniques that work best for each age group. You are also taught different games that can be incorporated into your lessons.

When you arrive at camp, you receive workbooks for the students that are tailored to the different age groups and levels of English you'll find at camp. They are an amazing starting point and immensely help with the lesson planning process. That being said, you still do need to plan lessons on your own. It's best you don't wing all of your lessons and rely too heavily on your books.

Some camps have students that are extremely advanced, and you may need to create your own content for the students to learn. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have your camps where English really lacks and you need to figure out how to teach to students who have little to no prior experience with the English language. All in all, you receive an amazingly solid foundation and the organizational work you do need to do is done with ease.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Give camp your all in and out of the classroom. You will have an amazing time as a camp counselor, and whatever you put in, is multiplied tenfold. Always be lively and energetic. At some camps, you may have very reserved and quite children. If you are putting your all into it, the kids feed off of that energy and mirror what they see. If you're lazy and uninterested, the kids will be as well.

Host families are amazing. They go above and beyond to make your experience in their country and in their home as enjoyable as possible. I had the pleasure of staying with five amazing families throughout Italy and Austria during my summer at camp. Yes is the magic word when it comes to making your experience spectacular. Just be open to new things and connect with the families. They will do everything in their power to show you an amazing time. You will go to amazing destinations, eat amazing food and create lifelong bonds.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

This is a fun camp, but you do put in time and effort. Your day starts with your morning warm-up circle where you do stretches, sing songs and play games. You move on and start with class. You teach your lesson and there is a break halfway through the lesson. You then head to lunch which is basically an hour to eat and relax after your morning. After lunch, the day is halfway through.

From there, you start your camps afternoon activity. The camp is divided into teams with each counselor as a team leader. Throughout the two weeks, your team gets numerous opportunities to gain points. We do many activities that cater to all interests. We have athletic challenges, creative challenges and challenges that make the kids think.

Your camp will have a theme and usually these activities revolve around the theme in some way or another. Aside from the afternoon competition and classes, you will work on a final show. The final show happens on the last day and is basically a theatrical performance that shows off what the students learn in two weeks. Its fun for the students, parents, and counselors. After the final show camp is officially over.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I didn't have any fear of travel, since I had been out of the counties multiple times beforehand. I did, however, have a fear of living with people I didn't know. It was my first time with host families and I was slightly fearful of how I would be portrayed, being a young black male and all. After the very first day with my host family, all of my fears and doubts were wiped away.

The only other fear I had going into the whole thing was being unprepared. I didn't know just how much would be covered in orientation and I was fearful that I would be left hanging and not really know what to do. But like I previously stated, the orientation process is very in depth and I had all fears instantly quelled.

What's one thing I wish I had known going into camp?

Working with children isn't for everyone. They're like kids all over the world. They know how to push your buttons, they can annoy even the most level headed of people. It's just best to stay out of any program involving kids unless you have a true passion for working with children.

This is an amazing opportunity and you get to visit and explore a new country, but if you aren't really into it, then you'll be miserable and you'll bring everyone else around you down. You only make your job harder and the jobs of the other counselors and directors harder when you are the puzzle piece that doesn't fit. Before you apply, make sure you're doing so for the right reasons.