Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Thought Bubble
Thought Bubble
Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media

Lessons I’ve Learned From Campers As A Camp Counselor

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Part of my summer was spent as a camp counselor for Camp Kesem, a free summer camp for children whose parents have been impacted by cancer. This was my first time attending a summer camp, let alone being a camp counselor. I never went to summer camp growing up, so I was likely as nervous as some of the new campers. My cabin’s age group was middle school girls, which was incredibly intimidating. As we all know, middle schoolers can be terrifying. They truly tell it to you as is, no sugar coating allowed. Needless to say, I was unsure of what to expect. 

Let me start off by saying how truly transformative this experience was for me. As cliche as it may sound, there are truly no words to describe my experience as a camp counselor other than life-changing. In the span of five days, I learned more from these kids than I had in a whole year. It made my heart full to know that these kids would someday be our future leaders. They inspired me to create a better future for them too. I realized how much we can learn from those younger than us. Camp Kesem kids have also had to navigate a parent’s cancer diagnosis, which has forced them to step up to a unique set of challenges. Even though I was new to camp, the campers welcomed me with open arms (and pranks) and I felt at home. Here are the top three lessons that these kiddos taught me that you should follow too.

Don’t wallow over the small stuff — regroup and reframe!

The hopscotch you spend an hour drawing off gets ruined by the rain? Draw another one. The boys cabin teepees your cabin? Prank them back. Someone spills paint on your art? Make friendship bracelets instead. For every bad situation, even if there isn’t a solution, there is an alternative. Even if the alternative is not great, you always have control over your perspective. When one of our campers’ hopscotch got washed away, she took it as a challenge to find a new creative project, and made a fishing rod out of a branch and string. She taught me not to fixate on things out of my control, rather focus on my energy on what I can do. 

Laugh and make those around you laugh

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did at camp. First of all, kids are SO FUNNY. Like, under-ratedly funny, and they don’t even realize their humor. Even though I was nervous when arriving at camp, the campers immediately made me laugh, which made me forget all of my other problems. It made me realize the importance of laughing EVERY DAY. Make jokes and reminisce of your favorite funny memories. Laughing with those you love is the best pick-me-up. No matter how stressed or down you are, make yourself laugh and make those around you laugh too. Embrace that inner child in you who couldn’t stop giggling at the littlest things. That’s the best kind of laughter. 

Be unapologetically yourself (find that safe place)

As a middle school girl, I remember feeling so insecure about my appearance, my interests, my culture, etc. Even if you can’t let your guard down at school or struggle with your insecurities, find that safe place where you can truly be yourself. For many of these kids, Camp Kesem is their safe space where they can be unapologetically themselves. Each individual is loved and appreciated for their differences and unique quirks. It is important that you find a place or people that you can be completely yourself around. Everyone needs that escape and unconditional acceptance where they can geek out on whatever they are passionate about. 

These are a few of the MANY lessons I learned from these campers. If none of these lessons resonated with you, I’ll send you off with this, pay attention to those younger than you. You can learn just as much from kids as you can from the elderly. Every day do something for yourself that reminds you of childhood joy. Everyone deserves to experience that no matter the challenges they face, take that advice from our Kesem family. 


Cola (my camp name)

Hi, my name is Namitha and I am a sophomore at VCU majoring in Biology. I believe writing has the power to move people and make the world a better place. I love watching shows, specifically murder mysteries. In my free time, you'll find me at the mall, gym, or napping on my couch.