One Summer Camp Changed My Life

One Summer Camp Changed My Life

The day my life changed for the better.
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Back in 2008, my parents brought up the idea of a camp called Saint Seraphim's to me and I shot it down. I had never spent more than one night away from home, and forcing me to go to some camp I’ve never heard of sounded ridiculous. So I told them that I’d go next year, that way I can push aside their constant questions and be left alone.

2009 came around and this time, my parents didn’t really give me a choice. I had said “next year” and they took me seriously. So, surprise!! We registered you for camp!! I thought it was a funny joke until summer came and I realized they were serious. Maybe if we just don’t bring it up, the topic will subside and there’ll be no mention of this place.

At last, I was forced to pack my bags and listen to my parents’ countless stories of their summer camps back in Russia. Eventually, the day came and my parents dropped me off in the middle of the woods. I didn’t understand what genius idea they had and why they thought it would work out. Who sends a shy 10-year-old girl to a place where she only knows two people, neither of whom are in her group?

But that day, the counselors found two other girls for me to tent with for the week. One of whom became the greatest friend I’ve ever had in my life. On the last day, I cried after saying goodbye to my new best friend. The week went by so fast and I loved every minute of it. Little did I know that 8 years later, she’d still be the closest person I have.

Throughout my 9 years of camp, I have grown immensely in my spiritual life. The clergy have taught me countless lessons through our Law of God talks and inspired me to be a better person. I have made so many incredible friendships and grown up with the people that have gone with me every year. My friends are my soul sisters, the people who keep me going at the worst points in my life.

I never thought that St. Seraphim’s would change my life the way it did, but oh am I so blessed that I have this beautiful place to call home for a week every year. It is such a blessing to escape reality for one week with other like-minded people.

Camp makes you stop and think for once. When was the last time you stopped to look at the stars at night? Named the constellations? Listened to the sound of the crickets? How often do you get to roast Smores and warm up by the bonfire on a chilly night while sitting under a blanket with your tentmates?

You get to see the true beauty our souls reflect. You see your tentmate's messy hair and no makeup mornings in oversized warm pajamas and drag yourselves up on a morning trek up the stairs that leaves you out of breath.

The moments I cherish are the ones when we grab tea and coffee together and stand on the porch of the mess hall, huddling together for warmth on a cold morning. Those are the times that I wish I could freeze and keep forever. The days of tubing down the river with your group and trying not to get carried away by the current. You can’t help laughing at how ridiculous your friends look during the camp Olympic games. And even though you are so embarrassed, these are some of the moments you’ll fondly look back on at the end of the week.

Before we know it, it’s Friday. We’re screaming our favorite songs at the top of our lungs on each other’s shoulders when YMCA plays at the camp dance. It’s times like those conga limes that run outside and back into the mess hall that you swear your heart could burst from happiness.

Then it’s church time and all you can think of is how beautiful the service is but how heartbreaking it is to think that our time is coming to an end. Those late night capture the flag games scared the life out of us, but now we look back and laugh out heads off when we reminisce about how crazy that night was.

This camp creates life-long friendships that don’t depend on how far or close you might be, because you know that the bonds you form with your best friends will never break. So thank you to the incredible camp staff for watching me grow into a college student who finished her first year as a junior counselor, when you remember the first day a skeptical little girl with messy brown hair walked through the mess hall doors on her very first day at camp.

Cover Image Credit: My own photo

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As we are all counting down the days to return to campus, students are looking forward to meeting new people and reuniting with old friends. And then, there is the freshman.

We have all been there. The eagerness and excitement have been slowly building up through months of summer vacation, all waiting for this moment. I understand the anxiousness, enthusiasm, and insecurities. The opportunity to meet new people and explore a new area is very intriguing. But let's be real, you are here to make memories and get an education. So here are a few pieces of advice from a former college freshman.

1. Don't be that freshman who follows their significant other to college

This is the boy or girl who simply can not think for themselves. The 17-year-old puts their own personal goals and interests aside to sacrifice for a six-month high school relationship. This will more than likely end at an end of semester transfer after the relationship has been tested for a month or two in college life. So if you want to really enjoy your freshman year, make your own decisions and do what is best for you.

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This is a statement you might have heard from your parents. As true as it might seem, this is definitely not a good way to start your college years. If you are not majoring in something you can see yourself doing, you are wasting your time. You can major in biology, go to medical school, and make the best grades. But if deep down you don't want to be a doctor, you will NOT end up being a good doctor. When it comes to picking your major, you really have to follow your heart.

3. Don't be that freshman who gets overwhelmed with the first taste of freedom

Yes. It is all very exciting. You don't have a curfew, you don't have rules, you don't have anyone constantly nagging you, but let's not get carried away. Don't be the freshman who gets a tattoo on the first night of living on your own. Don't be the freshman who tries to drink every liquor behind the bar. Don't be the freshman who gets caught up being someone that they aren't. My best advice would be to take things slow.

4. Don't be that freshman who starts school isolated in a relationship

I'm not telling you not to date anyone during your freshman year. I am saying to not cut yourself off from the rest of the world while you date someone. Your first year on campus is such an amazing opportunity to meet people, but people are constantly eager to start dating someone and then only spend time with that person.

Be the freshman who can manage time between friends and relationships.

5. Don't be that freshman who can't handle things on their own

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6. Don't be that freshman who only talks to their high school friends

I know your high school was probably amazing, and you probably had the coolest people go there. However, I believe that college is a great time to be on your own and experience new things. Meeting new people and going to new places will allow you to grow into a more mature person. There is a way to balance meeting new friends and maintaining friendships with childhood friends, and I am sure you will find that balance.

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Even though your two years older brother, whose going to the same exact college, swears that syllabus week isn't necessary--it is. Some teachers get their classes up and going right away, taking no time for reviewing the syllabus because you're a big college kid now and should've done that on your own time. During syllabus week, you'll either hop right into lessons or actually review the syllabus that you should've before but you know you didn't. Either way, it's beneficial to go just for the sake of learning where the class is, if not anything else.

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If, or rather when, the teacher asks the class to answer a question, just raise your hand and answer it. Stop stressing over whether you're wrong or not. It's far easier just to answer and let class move along instead of sitting there for an awkward five minutes of silence and paper shuffling. Another note, if you have a question, ask it. This refers back to the line of ten people that appears after class because they were too nervous to ask in front of a crowd. Not to mention you're all probably asking the same question. Moral of the story, if you have a question, ask it because at least one other person out of two hundred has that same one.

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If you need help, get it. Or even if you don't, get it anyways. Have them check over the outline of your paper or ask them what topics they feel will be touched on most during the test. Or even just go in there to have coffee with them. Office hours suck when no one comes in and many TAs enjoy getting to know their students. You're in college; you're supposed to be networking.

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