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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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

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Everyone Should Experience Working In Fast Food Or Retail

Working in fast food was definitely not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but I'm so glad I did it.

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I know these jobs aren't glamorous. In fact, most days I looked forward to clocking out before I had even clocked in. I always secretly rolled my eyes when an angry customer droned on and on about how entitled he or she was. Though I can name a lot of bad things that happened on the job, it wasn't all horrible. As I reflect on my time working in fast food, I realize how much having that job really taught me and how grateful I am to have had that experience. I really think everyone should work in fast food or retail at some point, and here's why:

You make some great friends from work. I get it, sometimes your co-workers are royal jerks or flat out creeps. You see your name on the schedule next to theirs and immediately try switching with someone else. I've been there. However, I have worked with some amazing people as well.

Every time I worked with one girl in particular, we laughed for entire shifts. One night, we were singing the national anthem at the top of our lungs without realizing a customer had come in (to our surprise, she applauded our terrible screaming). Another coworker and I turned up the radio on full blast when business was slow and had dance battles. We made the most of our shifts, and I still talk to some of these people today.

You learn how to deal with difficult people. It's the age-old story: the uppity customer thinks twelve dollars for a meal combo is outrageous and Where is your manager?!

My friend and I were once called stupid and a customer said he would never come back to our restaurant to eat ever again. At the moment, we were scared out of our minds because we were both pretty new to the job. As time passed, we became more patient and tolerant and knew what triggered these particular customers. Dealing with these adversities definitely helps in the long run, particularly when it comes to doing group work with people who seem unbearable.

Your people skills increase by a landslide. I had always thought that I was great with people before I had a job. However, when I found myself in situations where I had to talk to strangers, I would grow nervous and stumble across my words from time to time. Working in an environment where communicating with others is a driving force helped me not only with improving my public speaking, but also made me more outgoing. In situations where I once backed into the corner to avoid having to talk to someone, I now take charge and initiate a conversation.

You establish a connection with regular customers. My favorite customer was named Jack. He was the sweetest old man who came in every Wednesday and Friday and bought food for himself and his wife. I quickly memorized his order, which impressed him. We shared pleasantries every time he came in, and my coworkers and I looked forward to seeing him.

Establishing a relationship with people who come in a lot helps immensely when it comes to working. It also provides a sense of accomplishment when you memorize an order. Not to mention, the customers start to like you and typically leave a generous tip!

You have stories to tell for a lifetime! Sometimes bad things happen at work. Once I was holding a hot pan and burned my arm— I still have the burn mark on my arm to prove it. My point is, it sucked at the moment, but now I look back and laugh.

One time I asked my coworker how to make soup and she replied, "Slowly, but beautifully." It was so nonchalant that I cracked up for hours. There was also a time when a customer asked me for outlandish toppings and condiments that we didn't offer. The craziest story, though, was the drug deal that went down in our public restrooms. My coworker and I obviously could not leave our station and follow these people into the bathroom, so we were pretty much defenseless. Nobody got hurt or anything, so it made for a great story.

Working in fast food was definitely not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but I'm so glad I did it. It made me more independent and outgoing and gave me memories I'll never forget.

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