I will never forget my very first week at camp. So many moments throughout the day seem to bring a smile a to my face as they make me think of the special place I’ve spent my summers. I started camp as a Challenger, which is older than most first-year campers are. Regardless of my “late start” to camp life, I learned so much that first year as a camper. As I returned year after year, I continued to learn so much! Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of camp.
I started my freshman year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) this past fall. Most people would expect getting adjusted to a new school five hours away from home would be a little tough at first. For most people, college is their first time living without parents and sharing space with strangers. My transition into college was a very smooth one, though! It felt familiar, as the transition was one I was used to. What prepared me the most for this new lifestyle was, without a doubt, my time at Camp Cedarbrook.
- Learning how to pack
Packing for camp taught me to distinguish what I really needed from what I wanted. It’s impossible to fit an entire bedroom or wardrobe into a suitcase, so I had to learn how to pick and choose what was important.
- Being a pro at ice breakers and name gamers
It’s important to learn everybody’s names quickly at camp! We play all sorts of fun games the first few days to help remember them. A lot of these games came back during college orientation, and fortunately, I had plenty of practice.
- Surviving in a top bunk
Some people love top bunks; others hate them. Most campers at Cedarbrook get a chance to sleep in a top bunk and learn that it can actually be quite fun! When I walked into my dorm room on the first day and saw a top bunk, I actually was happy, thinking, “It’ll be like camp!”
- Being away from home
Being at camp is a great chance to learn about independence. Learning how to deal with homesickness at camp makes it much easier to deal with being away from home while in college.
- Embracing the weather
Camp Cedarbrook runs rain, shine, and anything in between. Campers are encouraged to embrace the weather and be grateful for it, whatever it may be. Walking across a college campus to get to class in the rain is miserable for most students. But for me, it’s a chance to wear my “camp rain boots” and hum my favorite camp rain songs!
- Developing my faith without my parents
I was thankful to be raised in a Christian home with parents who strongly influenced and encouraged my faith. Going to camp was a chance for me to learn about God on my own. It was a little weird at first, and the thought of “owning” my faith was a little foreign, as it wasn’t really something I talked about often outside of home. Being at camp helped me make my relationship with Jesus my faith. In my first couple of weeks at college, I was fortunate to find an amazing Christian Fellowship group on campus and do a little church shopping. It was weird to “pick” a group and find a church on my own, but it was a great chance for me to realize what I valued the most in Christian groups.
- Dealing with a bug in the shower
Camp Cedarbrook bathrooms are kept beautifully clean, but being in the middle of the woods means that sometimes, bugs get in the shower. And as a camper, you learn that a bug in the shower is not the end of the world. There’s an occasional bug in college showers as well. At first, this was a terrifying thing for many girls on my floor. I was never too fazed by it, though, thanks to my years in camp showers!
- Keeping in touch with friends from home
At camp, you learn how to keep in touch with friends and family from home. It’s important to maintain important relationships by letting people know what you’re up to. But there does not need to be constant contact in order to do that. In college, it’s hard to find the balance between old friends and new friends, but I’ve definitely used the letter-writing skills I learned at camp while in college! Snail mail is a great way to keep loved ones up-to-date without the immediacy of virtual communication.
- Making the most out of meal times
At camp, I learned that meals are about so much more than eating. Meals at camp are a time to sit together with a cabin group, talk, laugh, get to know each other better, and enjoy food and company. At college, the same has been true for me. For some people, the dining hall is where they simply consume food. For me, it’s a place to build relationships. Whether it’s a breakfast with a few friends from my floor to catch up or a post-rehearsal dinner with some friends from choir to get to know each other better, I try to make the most out of the opportunities that meals bring. “Family Dinners” don’t need to end out of the house.
- Living with strangers
This is definitely one of the biggest things I gained from being at camp. It’s a little crazy to have to live with five to seven girls who you probably didn’t know before arriving! Going to camp and knowing nobody can be extremely terrifying. But it’s also a wonderful experience. It allows you to meet so many people, as you don’t have a comfortable clique to resort to! Coming to college and living in a hall with 44 other girls, including two roommates, freaked me out at first. But as soon as I realized that none of them knew anyone else either, it became a lot easier to imagine getting to know them. I’ve gotten to know every one of those girls as well as many of the other people on our floor. As with camp, everyone comes from very different backgrounds. You learn to accept people for their differences. You also learn how to become friends with people who are completely different from you. Getting to know girls at camp most certainly helped me get to know so many people on my floor and make so many great friends.
My freshman year has been incredible. God has blessed me in some outstanding ways and I’m so excited to be in this new chapter of life. Camp Cedarbrook most definitely helped me adjust to this new lifestyle. I can list a dozen more that didn’t even make this list so contact me if you’re interested in learning about more or getting more details on any specific ones ([email protected]).
I hope this helps in the “Should I send my daughter to camp?” decision or in the “Is camp worth it?” debate. For Cedarbrook, it most definitely is!
Hannah “Tula” Kraus is now in her second year of college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Originally from Syracuse, New York, she attended Cedarbrook for the first time when she was 13 after much persuasion from her mom to try it out. She never missed a summer after that first one, coming back as a camper, CILT, and, most recently, Pathfinder Counselor. While she loves school, the most valuable lessons she’s learned have been learned at Camp Cedarbrook.