I’m going to be really honest: working as a camp counselor was not what I envisioned for the summer before my junior year of college. I had lofty expectations of working my dream internship, but COVID circumstances made it impossible for me. So, I wound up back at my old summer home— the day camp I spent my summers at as a kid.
I spent nine summers as a camper there, transitioning to a sleep-away camp in the later years. The last summer I’d spent as a camper at this day camp was all the way back in 2014 (and I started sometime around 2006), so the level of nostalgia I felt shouldn’t have surprised me.
And yet, I was still thrown off by just how good it felt to be back with a sense of belonging I hadn’t felt in many other places. It only took a few days for me to unlock the stored memories of all the shortcuts around the campgrounds.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into the summer in terms of what I hoped to gain from the experience of working as a counselor, but I certainly gained more than I could have hoped for. Being the sole person in charge of a group of around 12 nine-year-olds is a big responsibility, and taking on that role allowed me to gain a unique set of leadership skills. I learned about setting clear boundaries, asking for what I needed as soon as I needed it from supervisors and stepping into such a unique mentorship role.
This summer, more than ever, it was important for these kids to be able to come to camp. Because of the pandemic, this was the first time most of them were seeing kids their age on a regular basis since March 2020. It was incredibly important for them to further their social skills, and I learned a lot from guiding them through that process.
Of course, the summer had its share of difficulties, with no shortage of campers who didn’t want to listen to directions and some ridiculously rainy weather. But the biggest surprise of the summer was actually the friendships I was able to build with my co-counselors. We had an all-in-this-together type of camaraderie, and I wouldn’t have made it through the summer (at least, not happily) without them.