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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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

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..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

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I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

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9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

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13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

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Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

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Cover Image Credit: Favim

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To My Little Sister, Don't Wish For Time To Move Faster, Soak Up The Stage Of Life You're In

Live in the moment and you will come out having no regrets.

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To my best friend,

Time goes by quickly, do not wish it away. Enjoy living in the moment you are in right now because you will never get it back. Stop wishing you were in college already because you have so much to live for right now.

I know all you want to do is get away from home and start over, which is normal because I wanted to do the same thing at your age. But as your older sister, and as someone who has gone through that stage already, I am here to tell you that it is not all rainbows and sunshine 24/7.

With the time you have left in high school, enjoy every second of it because eventually, you will come to miss it.

Graduation is just around the corner for you and it honestly freaks me out how fast time is going. And it only goes faster in college. As kids, all we wanted was to be in high school and be able to drive on our own and once we hit high school, all we want is to be in college. With almost being in college for two years, I can easily say that all I want is to be a kid again. We have been wishing our whole lives away since we can remember. Enjoy today.

I see so much potential in you and I am beyond excited for what the future has in store for you.

Many times, you have been the one to give me advice even though I'm the older sister and this shows how caring and loving you are. Life is going to treat you so well and it already has.

There is one piece of advice I must give to you though. Make sure to thank mom and dad and tell them you love them as often as possible. I know they can get on your nerves and may make you angry at times, but they have given us the best life. You will learn in college just how much they love us and how much they have given up just to make us happy.

You have a good head on your shoulders and I know life is going to turn out to be exactly what you wanted. Just don't wish it all away. Some of my favorite times were when I was a senior in high school.

I'm always looking out for you so don't ever think you are alone in this crazy world. Remember, I am just one phone call away.

I love you so much sis, you got this.

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