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'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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I Wonder If You'd Be Proud of Me

Or if you even think of me at all.

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I wonder if you'd be proud of me.

My first thought when I wake up in the morning is whether or not you still think of me. I think about if I am wearing the right outfit if I were to see you that day. I think about if I am saying the right thing for you to want to want me again.

Throughout my day, I think about whether or not you're happy. I wonder if the feeling in my heart of missing who I thought you were is making its way to you. Sometimes I think about what I did to make you hate me as much as you do.

Sometimes when things get really hard, I think about picking up the phone to call you. Time keeps passing from the last time I saw you and during that time I've painted a picture of you that would probably only disappoint me in the end. Your phone number still sits in my phone and I go to your contact, wanting to call, but knowing that at the other end is not the person I used to know.

I wonder if you watch me. I wonder if the posts I make, pictures I post, and articles I write are viewed by you and whether or not you care to even search my name. I wonder if you ask people about me or if you care to know the person I am today.

Without you, I have changed. It has been two years and though time will only continue moving on without you, I wonder what would have happened if I didn't make the choices I made to make you react in the way you have.

When the sun shines bright on the flowers blooming around campus, I think of your jokes and sarcastic wit. When the rain pours from the sky and keeps me imprisoned within the walls of a building, I think of ways I felt imprisoned by you. When clouds form shapes in the sky that I can make stories out of, I think of the way life could've been.

Sometimes I write to you. They are the letters I can never send because I have to remind myself that though we knew each other once, you do not know me anymore. The picture in my mind of who you are now is someone who'd love me with open arms, but I know that there's no truth in that. It's only my wishful thinking out to break my heart once more.

I wonder if you hear me when I try talking to you. I wonder if the words I tell God are making their way to you as you go on living the life we always talked about when times get tough. I wonder if you're talking to God about me.

As I watch the sunset, I think about the last moment I was with you. As that chapter ended, I was only wishfully thinking that walking away would save me from further pain. In the end, I don't know about how life would've been different had it not happened.

When my picture of you gets too bright and I share it with others, I am reminded of reality. The screaming, crying, pushing, shoving, and hitting touches my skin once more in the form of flashbacks that push me further down into the depths of a depression. I am reminded of the hundreds of suicidal thoughts and letters that I've written once before.

No matter what, my heart still yearns for a hug. A hug where I can bury myself into your body and feel safe. A hug where I forget every worry in my mind and focus solely on the love.

I wonder if you'd still love me if I changed myself to be the person you've always wanted me to be. I wonder if you'd forgive me for walking away, even if it was for me to change to be a better person. I wonder if you'll ever even read this.

Days like today, I want to go back in time. I sit on the benches around campus and look up at the sky, down at the cars passing by, and listen to life move on all around me as I remain stuck. I hear people talking, see them laughing, and wonder if there's any way I could one day feel as alive as they do.

The truth is that I was never enough for you. No matter how much I changed, kept notes of what you liked so I could be like that, or just kept my head down and moved silently, nothing was ever enough.

No matter what, though, I still yearn to be loved in the way that I picture you should've loved me. Closure does not exist. You were the ones who were supposed to hold me down. But now I am nothing to you...I was always nothing to you.

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