If you want to know what something is really like, you’ve got to talk to someone who’s been there. And when it comes to overnight camp, only a camper can give you the inside look. While the website or brochure may seem informative, it does not always give a true picture of what the experience is like. Your child may wonder what the activities are like, what some of the best memories will be, and if there are any tips that some campers could generously pass along. We had the chance to get the scoop from a few campers and found out first hand what to expect at camp.
Having references for the camp is helpful.
Local camper Hap H., who attends Camp Strongriver in Mississippi, shares, “I originally found out about the camp from my mom who went there as a young child. She then told my sister who also went, and then I went,” says Hap. Hap did not have many worries because he went to camp well-informed. “They were welcoming and friendly to people who have not been away from their families before, and if you have a problem, they are very supportive,” he adds.
Every camp has their own set of activities.
“We do things that you never get to experience in Baton Rouge like kayaking and climbing mountains that you have never seen,” says Julia P., a local camper who attends Camp Merri-Mac in North Carolina. While at camp, Julia took up guitar and also started diving and learning how to knit. “My camp in particular was a Christian-based camp so I connected with God a lot and we sang all the time,” she adds.
One of Julia’s favorite memories was going on her first climbing trip outside of North Carolina and Virginia and reaching the top of the mountain. “Seeing everything and being with all my friends really inspired me because you see what God has put in front of you and you really start to understand the blessings you have. It opened my eyes up more to the world,” she shares.
The camp Hap attends has ropes activities, docks, archery, and horseback riding, and campers can also roam around the camp. There was also a little playground in the center of the camp. “We have morning activities like fishing, soccer, yoga, running, blueberry picking, and feeding and grooming the horses. After that, we eat breakfast and then go to the cabin for 10-15 minutes before we got ready for the afternoon activities,” he shares. The owner of the camp then details the day’s activities and reads a Bible prayer. The campers enjoy getting to go out on the farm, playing in the rapids, going on a canoe trip, or tubing in the river. “We also have a nighttime ceremony where we play ‘Brown Cow’ where you get a jug of milk and sing a goodnight song and then go to bed,” he adds.
Teamwork is emphasized.
“They have friendly competitions at camp like ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Clean Cabin’ so whichever cabin is the cleanest gets a piece of candy,” says Hap. If you prefer to relax, you can do those friendly competitions and are not obligated to participate in too many other activities.
The camp wants you to be free of distractions.
“You cannot bring iPhones and watches or anything with a power cord; it has to all be battery-operated,” he shares.
However, Julia assures that you do not have to lose touch while away. “My camp let my parents email me, and they would print it out and give it to me, so that is a way that we keep in touch. I also write them letters back,” she adds.
Ask questions and be open with staff about any questions or concerns.
“A lot of people were anxious at first not knowing what to expect because there is always room for curiosity about what is going to happen, but camp has a warm, open environment and the counselors are really good people to talk to,” says Julia.
You will meet a lot of new people.
Going away with a friend can make a difference, too. “Camp offers a get together where you can invite friends to watch a video on the camp. The activities they showed on the video really caught my eye. I thought it was something I wanted to try out, but only one-third of the people go with a friend,” says Julia. But, you will meet people from all over. “It is a really cool experience with a wide mix of people,” she adds.
Chris M. will be attending Camp Rockmont for the fifth year this summer and shares that making friends at camp isn’t hard because everyone is really friendly. “I go up to people and just say ‘Hello, My name is Chris. Where are you from?’” For Chris, this simple question has led to a lot of friendships at camp. It’s as simple as introducing yourself. And don’t worry, the majority of the campers are in the same exact boat you are. They are all wanting to meet new friends and have a fun experience at camp, but they just might need someone else to make the introduction first.
There is a lot of support at camp whether it is your first time or third time.
While being away from home was an adjustment for Hap, he felt that the staff helped him transition well. “Being homesick is natural; just know that you are not in it alone,” says Hap.
“Remember the staff want you to succeed, and your parents are at home cheering you on knowing it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Julia.
However for Chris, he was surprised to find out that he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what was going on at home. “By the time I got settled into camp and was used to everything, I didn’t miss home as much,” he adds.
“I always bring a journal so I can write down really memorable things or funny things that happened and then flip back a year later to get a good laugh,” says Julia. Also, most camps provide a packing list so you won’t forget important items when packing for camp.
“Remember to bring books and writing supplies. I bring a lot of chapter books to help last all summer. At camp, we have a lot of free time and during that time, we get to write letters to our families. We will also receive letters from our families each day,” Chris adds.
“Camp is just an awesome experience that everyone should get to have. I think the main thing about going to camp is that even though it seems nerve-racking at first to leave your parents and go somewhere where you do not know many people, know that it is going to be okay and that you are about to build a relationship that is going to last forever with your counselors and fellow campers. Even though you feel like you may be a little homesick at first, it is going to be worth it,” Julia shares. ■