8 Reasons Why College Is A Lot Like Jewish Summer Camp

8 Reasons Why College Is A Lot Like Jewish Summer Camp

There's a little more alcohol, and a little less singing around a campfire- but the resemblances are uncanny.
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Before college, I had never really lived away from home, and I definitely had not lived in a dorm on an Ivy League campus. However, I had experienced a different kind of not-like-home experience: Jewish Summer Camp. I have spent at least 2 weeks of summer for the past seven years at URJ Camp Newman, a reform Jewish sleep away camp in Santa Rosa, California. For the past three years I have spent the whole summer there, including this past summer right before college when I was a counselor. After going straight from camp to college, I have noticed that the two experiences aren’t very different.

1. Living in a tiny double/triple/quad is like living in a cabin

Ok, maybe living with 1-3 roommates in a small room isn’t exactly like living with up to 15 little kids in a tiny, overheated cabin, but there are definitely similarities. First of all, in both situations you share your room. Unlike the comfort of my house, I come home to a place where someone might be listening to music, sleeping or crying about homesickness (let’s hope that’s at camp and not my roommate). Also, in both situations you have very little space to call your own. For half of the summer, I only had 2 small shelves and some under the bed storage in the cabin. In my dorm, I have a few drawers and an armoire. And on top of just storage space, the area you do own becomes sacred. When you only have half of a small bunk bed, or half of a room with just a Twin XL and desk separating you from 12 screaming kids or the reality of midterms and papers, you learn to OWN those square feet.

2. Your RA is like a counselor

Besides your RA just being there for you like a counselor is for there campers, literally by being just down the hall or living in the cabin, RAs also have the responsibility of organizing activities for the hall. On the night before classes started, my RA brought craft supplies for us to decorate our planners and notebooks with together, which reminded me a lot of countless hours I spent at camp making friendship bracelets with my campers. Unlike camp, RAs also provide things like condoms!NSOP edition: OLs are also kind of like camp counselors, from giving you a tour on the first day to making you participate in icebreakers. Once my OL even told us to drink water because it was hot, something I said a lot this summer to campers.

3. The food options are limited, and everyone finds their own way to make it work

At camp, you eat at the same dining hall for 3 meals a day, every day of the week. Because of Barnard first-years’ crazy meal plan, we have to eat almost all our meals on campus and because of our proximity to it, most of the time at Hewitt, Barnard’s simple dining hall. Just like at camp, where I ate tater-tots 3 days a week and pancakes, waffles or bagels on the other four days simply because it was there, I eat potatoes and pancakes, waffles or a bagel almost every day for breakfast in Hewitt (in college you can have them TOGETHER #freshman15). Because the dining options are so limited at camp, everyone learns how to make the best of it: like putting salad bar fixings in a sandwich or putting pasta in the tomato soup on grilled cheese day. Similarly, in college we all figure out what combination of food works best for us, whether it be eating an omelette 3 meals a day because of the crazy menu and hours at JJs or eating a Diana Pizza and curly fries in the same meal. And just like camp, when we finally do venture away from the dining hall we enjoy it more than we would if we were just at home.

Bonus: Hewitt has a kosher section, which often brings more observant Jewish students into the dining hall, practically recreating dining hall memories from Jewish camp, and also making finding a nice Jewish boy easier at an all women’s college.

4. Everything you need is within walking distance

Sprain your ankle? At camp all you’ll need to do is limp down to the infirmary to get a wrap, some ice and maybe an otter pop. Need a book written in French about music in the 18th century? Walk over to one of Barnard or Columbia’s many libraries and someone can help you find it. At camp, everything is centralized because it has to be: campers can’t just leave camp whenever they want to, so all activities and resources have to be available for them near where they sleep and eat. College is the same in many ways. While we are (kind of) adults living in New York, we paying to study and live on our tiny campus, so everything from classes and libraries to gyms, social events and even health services are all readily available to us right here at Barnard.

5. Everyone is connected



At Jewish summer camp, your summer crush might end up being your brother’s counselor's ex-girlfriend’s cousin, or someone could end up being your own distant cousin that you find out about because you run into them at a family reunion on the last day of camp (true story- happened to me). No matter what, even if you meet someone new, there is no doubt you have tons of connections with them or even have met them before years ago. Although most people you meet in college are new, I have met many people from my hometown with whom I have mutual friends, and many people I meet here once end up showing up again for some reason. That random OL you went on a neighborhood tour with? They might live in the suite you are trying to get into for a party.

6. There are traditions that people outside of the community don’t understand.

NUTS? Yom Sport? CIT Countdown? Does this all sound like nonsense to you? That is probably because you most likely didn’t go to camp with me. But to everyone at my camp, these are important traditions we all dress up for and look forward to every year. At Barnard, traditions like NSOP, Big Sub and Midnight Breakfast might sound like a bunch of nonsense, but by the end of the semester are something all students look back at fondly (or so I hope- first year here).

7. There are lots of Jewish opportunities

At camp, the Jewish opportunities are obvious- you live with a bunch of other Jewish kids, participate in Jewish programming and celebrate Shabbat every Friday and Saturday. At Barnard, we have the Columbia-Barnard Hillel and Kraft Center, which host programs, seminars and services we can go to throughout the whole school year.

8. It’s a lot of fun, and the memories will last forever

I have been attending camp since I was 12, and I have memories from that first year and every year since that I will cherish forever because camp made such a profound impact on my life. And while I may only be a first-year at Barnard, and I am definitely still adjusting here and finding my place, all the opportunities I have here to take amazing classes, join clubs and explore New York City show me that by the time I graduate I will have memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Cover Image Credit: The Community Voice

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To The Girl Who Had A Plan

A letter to the girl whose life is not going according to her plan.
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“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” - William Ernest Henley

Since we were little girls we have been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We responded with astronauts, teachers, presidents, nurses, etc. Then we start growing up, and our plans change.

In middle school, our plans were molded based on our friends and whatever was cool at the time. Eventually, we went to high school and this question became serious, along with some others: “What are your plans for college?” “What are you going to major in?” “When do you think you’ll get married?” “Are you going to stay friends with your friends?” We are bombarded with these questions we are supposed to have answers to, so we start making plans.

Plans, like going to college with our best friends and getting a degree we’ve been dreaming about. Plans, to get married as soon as we can. We make plans for how to lose weight and get healthy. We make plans for our weddings and children.

SEE ALSO: 19 Pieces Of Advice From A Soon-To-Be 20-Year-Old

We fill our Pinterest boards with these dreams and hopes that we have, which are really great things to do, but what happens when you don’t get into that college? What happens when your best friend chooses to go somewhere else? Or, what if you don’t get the scholarship you need or the awards you thought you deserved. Maybe, the guy you thought you would marry breaks your heart. You might gain a few pounds instead of losing them. Your parents get divorced. Someone you love gets cancer. You don’t get the grades you need. You don’t make that collegiate sports team. The sorority you’re a legacy to, drops you. You didn’t get the job or internship you applied for. What happens to you when this plan doesn’t go your way?

I’ve been there.

The answer for that is “I have this hope that is an anchor for my soul.” Soon we all realize we are not the captain of our fate. We don’t have everything under control nor will we ever have control of every situation in our lives. But, there is someone who is working all things together for the good of those who love him, who has a plan and a purpose for the lives of his children. His name is Jesus. When life takes a turn you aren’t expecting, those are the times you have to cling to Him the tightest, trusting that His plan is what is best. That is easier said than done, but keep pursuing Him. I have found in my life that His plans were always better than mine, and slowly He’s revealing that to me.

The end of your plan isn’t the end of your life. There is more out there. You may not be the captain of your fate, but you can be the master of your soul. You can choose to be happy despite your circumstances. You can change directions at any point and go a different way. You can take the bad and make something beautiful out of it, if you allow God to work in your heart.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Patiently Waiting With An Impatient Heart

So, make the best of that school you did get in to. Own it. Make new friends- you may find they are better than the old ones. Apply for more scholarships, or get a job. Move on from the guy that broke your heart; he does not deserve you. God has a guy lined up for you who will love you completely. Spend all the time you can with the loved one with cancer. Pray, pray hard for healing. Study more. Apply for more jobs, or try to spend your summer serving others instead. Join a different club or get involved in other organizations on campus. Find your delight first in God and then pursue other activities that make you happy; He will give you the desires of your heart.

My friend, it is going to be OK.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Beavers Photography

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Change, Change, Go Away...

Come again some other day!

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Change sucks.

I've gone most of my life convincing others (and myself) that "I love change!"

Or saying "I like to think I'm adaptable, so spontaneity is something I love."

To give you the cold, hard and honest truth: All of that is a bunch of shit. Aside from when I still wore diapers, I have never been more full of shit than when I say these things.

There comes a time in life when we grow tired of our own lies and until that point, nothing generally changes. Except, change sucks, right?

I like when the weather changes from freezing cold to invitingly warm.

I like when someone else changes my sheets for me and I don't have to jump and sprawl my 5'3" body to secure the fitted sheet onto the farthest corner of the bed (which generally ends unsuccessfully).

I really like it when the stoplight changes from red to green (because I have a need for speed).

I even like when someone asks to change seats with me on a flight because the reality is that there is no such thing as a good seat on a flight. If you're on the window, you can't get up easily (but you can rest your head) and if you're on the aisle, you can sit there and get up as much as you want, as long as you don't mind your elbow being taken out from under your head while you sleep every time the drink cart passes by.

The point is, these trivial changes are fine, expected and some can even be enjoyable.

It's the changes that we do not expect, the ones that go against our status quo and our life flow, that knock us off balance and send us into a spiral of confusion, excess chocolate consumption and challenge.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, I am a big believer that all stress is a result of something being different than what we want or expect.

Big changes are no exception to this stress.

The coolest, most amazing, incredibly awe-inspiring part about life is that change is possible. Everything around us, at all times, is constantly changing. Unfortunately, this means that we too are subject to this change.

So, what kind of change am I talking about?

Am I talking about the change in your pocket you thought you lost and then found? No.

After all, nobody likes to lose anything besides weight these days.

And to that point, our bodies are constantly changing too. Our hair, our face, our skin, everything physical about us. These are the types of changes I'm talking about. Our relationships change, our jobs, our friends, our understandings of life, all of this changes. These are the big guys, the "uh-ohs," the "I didn't want to learn another life lesson this week" kind of changes.

However, despite the fact that I am 21 and those of you reading this are a range of ages (which I am so grateful for), one of the many qualities that unite us is that we have all experienced change.

Individuals of all ages experience loss and grief. Death plays no favorites and spares no ages. Physical changes happen to all age groups too. Life changes that alter our emotions and mental states are constantly happening to everyone, at all times.

The last three years of my life have been laden with changes. More specifically, the last six months have mentally worn me out but there's a quote that I keep going back to that my mom shared with me over the summer, it says: "an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming."

If you want to rearrange it, you've got to change it.

My hope is that we realize that we don't have to love change. In fact, we don't even have to embrace it because some changes are just too tough. What we do need to do is hold on and keep aiming and acknowledge the fact that we all are constantly going through changes.

Whether we talk about those changes or not, they're present because they are a sure fact of this wildly amazing life we live. One of the few things that remain constant in this life is the fact that things will constantly change.

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