This summer, I traveled back into my adolescence. I wore knee high socks and mismatched outfits, I made string bracelets, I jumped up and down at the thought of dirt pudding for dessert, and I wore a fanny pack (fanny pack Fridays, duh). I played every sport possible, I listened to Ariana Grande on repeat, and I let thirteen-year-old girls call me Weenie Piscopio for 26 days straight. This summer, I worked at a summer camp.
My campers and I at the top of Cascade Mountain in Upstate New York!
For the second year in a row, I worked at a sleepaway camp that I attended as a kid. For nine weeks, I was in charge of someone’s child. I held the most terrifying amount of responsibility in my hands—caring for the most precious thing in people’s lives. I’m always terrified of it, yet every summer, I find myself going back to this magical place that is camp. I get the same disappointed and unenthused look every summer from people—how could I possibly be working at a summer camp when I could be looking for an internship at an awesome magazine and pursuing what I want to do with my life?
Well the truth is folks, there’s no better way to spend the summer. I’ve said this for two summers in a row—I’ve written an article for Her Campus two years counting trying to explain the feeling—yet no matter how hard I try, I just can’t make others understand how being a camp counselor changes your life. Rather than fetch someone coffee, I learned more about myself than I would have if I worked in an office.
When you’re an intern, you want to impress the head honchos above you, and are so nervous about making a fool of yourself. As a camp counselor, I dance around my cabin in my snapback, staff shirt, knee high socks, and Birkenstocks, and just be. Of course my campers make fun of me, yet they looked up to me in awe at how I didn’t care how weird I was and how goofy I looked. In all honestly, I was amazed too. Camp brings out the best version of you—the one who doesn’t care what others think.
I was in charge of 26 campers and eight staff for the first three weeks, and despite how that stressed me out, I never faltered in my confidence in my ability. I didn’t question my decisions in tough situations, and I went with my gut instinct. I was responsible for a daily schedule, getting the girls to places on time (trust me, it’s like herding sheep), communicating with the Head Staff above me constantly and then relaying information to my staff, being a friend and a role model to the campers, and most importantly, being responsible and aware. I was on the clock 24 hours a day, every day, and my enthusiasm always had to be there.
Were there times when I was stressed or exhausted to the point of tears? Of course. I had my moments where I knew, and still know to this day, that this is the most challenging job I will ever have in my life, yet it is so rewarding to see the progress your kids make. To see a girl climb to the top of the rock wall or make it to the top of the mountain you’re hiking and know that you’re the encouragement that got her up there is like no other feeling in the world.
So for all those students out there feeling the pressure to get internships so they have “experience” for their future career, take a chance. Do something exciting. Step outside the box. One summer at camp will have you second-guessing your major, your future, and what you’re meant to do in life. It’s been an eye-opener for me and has messed with my head way to many times. But isn’t the point of life to open your eyes to new opportunities? There’s just something you can’t get standing in an office building that you can at a camp, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Yet, standing on a mountain in the Adirondacks, walking up the bunkline at night and seeing a clear sky full of stars—now that’s something.
Photo credit given to the author, and Southwoods Summer Camp Facebook