Anyone that has worked at summer camp, even for just one summer, will tell you that they learned some pretty important lessons over those sunny months. And I don’t mean how to make a fire or a friendship bracelet… I mean the kind of lessons that stay with you for the rest of your life. The ones that will pop up time and again long after your summer camp career is over, in your jobs, your family, your future life.
1. How to ask for help, and when.
This is one I learned pretty early on, and a lesson I deem to be one of the most important. There are always going to be things you can’t do alone, and times where you struggle, but a lot of people have this notion that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I see it differently. Camp has taught me that knowing how and when to ask for help is actually a strength. Being able to recognise that you are struggling with something and to see that someone else might be able to help you by putting their own perspective on it, is a skill that we should all posses. Sometimes it is important not to struggle with something on your own, when there are plenty of people out there willing and able to help. There is also a lesson in here about when not to ask for help – figuring out when you can do things for yourself is important too.
2. The importance of a smile.
At summer camp you can make someone’s day just by giving them a big cheesy grin. It can be in passing, or it can be to signal the start of a conversation. It can be to a fellow counselor or other staff member or it can be to a child who’s homesick or struggling in one of their activities. A smile goes a long way in the rest of your life too. When you smile, you make the people around you feel good. And when you make them feel good, you’ll feel good too.
3. How to solve problems.
Throughout my 4 summers at camp, I have encountered more problems than I can count. From small things like how to get my campers to tidy up their mountains of stuff, to larger issues such as reorganising every activity on my all camp theme day because of rain, you name it, I’ve probably had to deal with it. At camp, and in life, there are always going to be problems that you can’t ignore, and it’s how you deal with those problems that matters. We have a couple of sayings at camp that will forever be stuck in my brain, and they really do help me to overcome any unwanted surprises and deal with any issues that crop up. The first is ‘solutions, not problems‘, and this reminds me to stop focusing on what I can’t do, and start looking at what I can do. The second is ‘what are our options?‘ (which we even have on tshirts), and this one helps me to realise that whenever anything goes wrong, there is always something I can do to fix it. I always have options.
4. That if you put your all into something you will almost always enjoy it.
This one is pretty self explanatory and it’s really a very simple lesson that everyone could benefit from learning. From the moment you arrive at summer camp, it is going to be a whirlwind of activities and training and games, and this is going to continue throughout the next 9 weeks of summer. If you throw yourself into absolutely everything you do with more enthusiasm than you’ve ever had before, you will soon find that you’ve forgotten all about any initial apprehensions, and that you have thoroughly enjoyed yourself.
5. How to work as part of a team.
This is something that I’m sure we’ve all been taught throughout school from day 1, but there’s something about summer camp that really seems to make it stick. You are thrown together with a group of people you’ve never met before and you have to figure out how to work together to make it the best summer possible for your campers. There may be people you don’t like, or people you just don’t see eye to eye with, but somehow you will find yourself learning how to come together to form a very strong team. You will learn to recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can help someone out when they’re struggling and vice versa.
6. That it’s also good to work alone sometimes.
You will learn that occasionally it’s easier to get a job done by yourself. It might be something as simple as putting up towel hooks in the bathroom, or something a little more taxing like writing up a plan for an all camp activity day, but every so often you will find that you get more done if you work by yourself and, without the distractions of other people, you can get through your to-do list fairly quickly.
7. How to have more confidence in yourself and your abilities.
If summer camp does nothing else for you, it will teach you to have more confidence in everything you do. Whether it brings you out of your shell from someone who always sits quietly in the corner, to being the person who is singing and dancing and making speeches in front of the whole of camp, or whether it simply teaches you what you are good at and how to go from strength to strength in that skill, your summer spent at camp will change you forever. You will have more confidence in your abilities, you will not question your own responses to different situations, and you will leave camp believing that your opinion is one that matters.
8. How to interact with people from all walks of life.
At summer camp you will meet and work with people from all over the world, with different experience and backgrounds. Sometimes it will be a a bit of a culture shock, especially with the American kids. It is important to understand that not everyone has the same opinions or beliefs, and not everyone grew up in the same way you did. You will learn how to communicate and interact with people whom you may never otherwise come into contact with, and that’s the beauty of summer camp – it opens your eyes to what else, and who else, is out there, outside the small part of the world you may have already experienced.
9. That children see the world more simply, and we should try to un-complicate our world and see it through their eyes.
One of my favourite things about summer camp is, of course, the kids. Children see joy where adults don’t. They have fun when we think we’re supposed to be serious and responsible. They run, they laugh, they play. The don’t care if they look silly (okay, maybe not the teenagers), and they are oh-so curious about everything. As adults, we could learn a lot from them – sometimes it’s pretty amazing to be able to get onto a child’s level and enjoy the day in the same way and with the same outlook they do.