Dear First Time Camper,
So, I heard you’ll be coming to camp for the first time- I suppose you might be a little nervous. You’re probably a bit unsure about sleeping away from home, living with new people for a week. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be homesick, or worry you’ll have trouble making friends. I get it, I’ve been there. We all have. Your apprehension is natural, yet once at camp you will find that it very quickly fades away as you fall into the routine of things and discover what fun camp can be.
Camp is an amazing environment in that while you spend your days making new friends and enjoying new and unique opportunities (such as riding a horse or climbing the alpine tower), you are free to be 100% yourself without fear of judgement; you can just let loose and have fun. If I could only offer you one piece of advice before you leave for camp this summer, it would simply be to embrace this. The sooner you do, the more fun you’ll have. Push yourself, try new things, and don’t fear what others will think, because honestly, no one is going to notice nor care if you sing a little off pitch or can’t swim as well as someone else.
That being said, you should definitely try to participate in any and all activities offered when you are at camp. Even if you’ve never done it before or think you won’t be good at it, you should give it a shot. You might surprise yourself and be super talented, or maybe you’ll fall in love with it and decide to make it a new hobby when you get home! You don’t have to always make bulls-eyes in archery or reach the very top of the climbing wall to have fun; trying new things and pushing your own limits is enough. Staying busy (as opposed to always opting to sit out of an activity) will also make it less likely for you become homesick, as well as prevent you from having to go home at the end of the week regretting your decision to miss out on a fun opportunity that you might not get to do again until next summer.
As with adventuring and experiencing new activities, meeting people and making friends is a fundamental aspect of camp, and though it shouldn’t be difficult, there are a few things to keep in mind that might make life easier. Firstly, if you are shy, don’t worry. There will, inevitably, be other people like you; not everyone is outgoing and that’s okay. Try not to close yourself off or be unfriendly, but you don’t have to get caught up in forcing friendships to the point of making yourself uncomfortable. It’s alright to take things slower; you will definitely become closer with everyone in due time. You can start out by talking about topics that most everyone likes (such as food) or find out what hobbies everyone has and if you have anything in common. Additionally, no matter if you are super shy or extremely outgoing, it is often easier to first befriend those you will be sleeping near, but you should still try to hang out with everyone, not just the girls you share a cabin/tent/bunk with. It will be in your best interest to continue to branch out and speak to others as well. The same applies if you came with a buddy- of course you will want to spend time with the person you are already friends with, but avoid excluding everyone else in the process.
As you will soon understand, three of the most valued times among campers are mealtime, rest time, and shower time. A busy day of climbing, swimming, boating, playing, hiking, and whatever else you are doing will leave you very tired, hungry, and dirty. Try your best not to be too much of a picky eater, as you need food to give you energy. Camp food is generally pretty good anyway, and you will be rather surprised by how much better everything tastes when you’ve been outside all day. You will likely discover that foods you don’t like at home are actually enjoyable at camp. Never skip a shower, you will be glad you didn’t! Again, the same goes for resting- take advantage of every opportunity. When given quiet time on your bunk, there is no shame in taking a nap. Come nighttime, when the counselors say lights out, actually try to go to sleep. Competing to stay up the latest is cool at sleepovers, but not so much at camp when you know you will be getting up early.
Finally, to offer one more piece of seemingly obvious, yet often unfollowed, piece of advice: follow the packing list and come to camp prepared. As someone who has never come to camp before, it is understandable that you might not know exactly what you need, which is exactly why the list exists. When in doubt, it is better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it. There are some instances, however, in which this adage is not appropriate, as you will not, for instance, need to pack 27 pairs of shoes nor 43 t-shirts. Keep in mind that over-packing will mean more stuff that you have to keep track of, so stick to bringing a few extras in case something happens, but don’t go overboard. If you do, by chance, forget to bring something, don’t be afraid to tell a counselor so they can get you what you need. The counselors are all very nice, and it is far less unpleasant to speak to them than it is to go a day without a water bottle. Don’t discount the importance of labeling everything, especially items such as swim towels, which often look alike and can get mixed up when left out to dry.
In short, camp is awesome and you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time, so long as you allow yourself to do so. Try new things, talk to new people, and be yourself. Everyone is happier when clean, well fed, and well rested. Come prepared, but don’t freak out if you forget something- just tell a counselor and they can help you. You are going to have the time of your life, and I can guarantee that no matter how hot and tired you might become during the week, you’ll be longing to go back within weeks. Good luck and have fun!
A Keyauwee Counselor in Training and Former First Time Camper