I decided to work at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp because I wanted to spend a summer in God’s country, enjoying nature and teaching kids about the Christian life. I had several friends who were also working at FLBC for the summer, which only sweetened the deal. I looked forward to being able to spread the Gospel, explore my own faith, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, all while being paid to live and eat great food on Flathead Lake alongside some of my best friends. (Not to mention being able to hike in Glacier National Park on the weekends — hard deal to pass up.)
As a “hard science” major on a pre-medical track in college, some people seemed skeptical when I told them that I would be working as a camp counselor instead of working in a hospital or doing research the summer following my graduation. However, I felt differently, and believed that working at camp could strengthen my med-school application; I was right. As a student currently in medical school, I can confidently say that my time at camp – working as a backpacking guide and counselor – helped set me apart and greatly strengthened my application for medical school.
I’m confident that my camp experience helped strengthen my application because during my 45-minute interview, approximately 15 minutes was spent talking about my “hard science” experiences — research, job shadowing hours, MCAT, GPA and the like. However, for the remaining half hour, I told stories and answered questions about camp. This might sound strange for a medical school interview, but the experiences that you have at camp really speak to your character, which is what they are genuinely interested in when interviewing you.
By the time they interview you, the application committee is familiar with your “hard science” experiences and prerequisites that I mentioned above. When you’re there for an interview, they want to see that you are a well-rounded individual with the experience, compassion, perseverance, and leadership necessary to make it through the rigors of medical school and come out the other end ready to be a good doctor. Camp gives you the opportunity to further develop these characteristics, and puts you face to face with situations where those characteristics are tested every day. These characteristics can prove useful not just in the medical field but in all kinds of “real life” applications.
Leading backpacking trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Jewel Basin gave me an opportunity to talk to my interviewers about how I adapted to unforeseen circumstances and use my leadership skills to keep the group on track and safe while also ensuring the kids had a fun time. Small group chats and one on ones with struggling campers gave me an opportunity to use my interpersonal skills and help others feel listened to and comforted. On top of all these countless experiences I could draw upon that demonstrated the characteristics they were looking for, I also found out that one of my interviewers was on the exact same trail during the very same week I was leading a high school backpacking trip. We discovered this because of a unique situation; there had been a mule that died on the trail and was blown up with dynamite by the forest service so it wouldn’t attract wildlife. Unknown at the time, we were both within a mile of each other when that explosion took place. It’s a small world.
While camp doesn’t necessarily give you the “hard science” experiences, it gives you the intangibles that are just as important, if not more important during the application and interview process. My time at camp helped me further develop my leadership skills, grow in my faith, gain experience dealing with unexpected and difficult situations, develop my interpersonal skills, and most of all it gave me many fantastic memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. You receive so much from working at camp, but you are also able to give, which is one of the things I found most gratifying about my time as a counselor. I look back fondly at my summer at FLBC and view it as a pivotal chapter that was one of my favorite times of life. The only thing I regret about working at camp is that I didn’t work there for additional summers; however, I’m thankful for the memories and experiences that helped shape me into the person I am today… which also helped me get into medical school.
Collin Asheim is from West Fargo, North Dakota and attended Concordia College, Moorhead. He is currently studying medicine at the University of North Dakota Medical School. Following college graduation in 2018 he worked at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp as a counselor- leading backpacking trips, servant trips, and on site cabins. When he’s not studying, Collin enjoys hiking, reading, and travelling.