Summer camp was more than just braiding friendship bracelets and swimming in the lake. It was a child’s first true test of independence, a summer away from mommy and daddy’s overprotective eyes. As a little girl in high pigtails and a tie dye t-shirt, my expectations of summer camp went no further than playing sports, making art projects, and eating chocolate ice cream every night for dessert without my parents yelling at me. However, no one could prepare me for how much my eight summers at Camp Pontiac would teach me as a emerging adult. Not only did I make best friends that I consider family, but I learned how live without my parents helping me solve all of life's problems. Although it’s been years since I was a camper, the lessons, memories, and unbelievable people Camp Pontiac brought have traveled with me to college, and shaped my freshman year experience. Here are the ways that going to summer camp helps prepare students for the college experience, a transition that may be challenging for people not used to living without Mom and Dad.
Easier Transition into Dorm Style Living.
After living in a bunk with 32 other girls, transitioning to dorm life was a breeze. At summer camp, you share every living moment with the girls around you. You are never alone, and that was my favorite part. This aspect of sharing one's living space leads to college students knowing what to expect of the subpar communal living conditions freshmen encounter. Shower caddies are not a foreign concept, and students are not alarmed upon discovering they will be sharing bathrooms and showers with all of their hallmates. After summers of eating side by side in a crowded dining hall, ex-campers are also used to the hustle and bustle of on-campus eating. We know to get extra excited for Taco Tuesdays and stay away from the weird fish dish being served in the corner. Communal situations are not always the cleanest, and campers are okay with that as it's fun and similar to the cabin conditions they grew up with!
You’re Not an Absolute Slob.
When picking a roommate for your freshman year of college, look for someone who went to camp. Believe it or not, they’re usually cleaner than most people! In camp, children learn the basics of living independently, such as making their bed every day, changing sheets, folding laundry, sweeping and dusting the floor, and keeping their overall area clean and organized. Voila, the perfect roommate! Even at a young age, sleep away camp teaches children that when living with other people, your cleanliness and mess affects more than yourself, and in order for the bunk to live in a happy environment, everyone must stay clean! This transfers over to college life, and students are aware of the importance of keeping your area clean in order to avoid a tornado of unfolded dirty sweatshirts, messy textbooks and folders, and unopened bags of chips around the tiny dorm room.
You know how to live without your parents.
There’s nothing like the first summer living alone, without nervous parents watching your every move. Yes, there are counselors to keep everyone sane and protected, just as freshman dorms have RA’s on every floor. However, camp was the first transition in my life where I learned to be self-sufficient and started to figure out life’s everyday problems by myself. If you get sick, there are no parents around to bring you to the doctor and make sure you take care of your health. It’s all up to you to go to the camp infirmary, which later on turns into the college campus health site. Camp is the training wheels for the “figure it out yourself” stage of life. Former campers are used to being independent, and when leaving the nest they are less afraid of being on their own on a big college campus.
Making longtime friends
The first year of camp is very similar to the first year of college. Everyone is new and foreign, and everyone feels alone at one point or another. This is normal, as friendships are not formed over night. However, as the days go by and your stuck on camp grounds with nothing to do but socialize, lasting friendships bond. Some of my favorite days of camp were rainy days, where we were all stuck in the bunk with nothing to do but play jacks and talk for hours and hours on end. Nowadays, this is different, with mom and dad just a text or phone call away. However, the students that went to camp are used to starting fresh and making friends on their own. There’s no one I trust and love more than the girls I grew besides with for eight years. They are the first people I turn to with news and advice, and I thank my camp friends for being my rock. On the other hand, I truly don't know if I would have made the amazing college friends I have today without going to camp. Long lasting friendships don't form overnight. However, it's important to remember everyone starts out fresh, so don't be shy.