One foot in front of the other, don’t look back, stay focused, keep your eyes on your target. All of these are popular phrases we hear throughout our lives; timeless advice that encourages us to be persistent, dedicated and to face our fears. In many ways, when campers scale the daunting Rockwall, they hear and learn many of the same principles. Climbing the wall can be used as a metaphor for camp, and camp prepares kids and teen for the real world. Campers may think they’re just doing anther camp activity, but a lot of foundational and character work happens on the wall as well.
There are some things at camp that are easy, and some things that aren’t. Climbing the rock wall is hard work. It takes muscles and skills you aren’t used to using, it is unfamiliar and can seem overwhelming; f you’ve never done it before, you may feel like it is too much, too hard, or too scary. Camp can bring about many of the same feelings. In the beginning, it can feel like it is too much to take on or that you struggle to get a hold on this new and unfamiliar experience. You may lose your footing, have a slip-up, or even make a mistake that sends you a few steps backward. All of this uncertainty is part of the learning process, and with encouragement from friends, campers slowly begin to embrace the newness of climbing, and of camp and find the courage to step out of their comfort zone.
Another way climbing the rock wall is like camp is that as you go through the process, you learn things about yourself. As you get further and further up the wall, you learn that you are stronger, more capable, braver and more determined than you did when both feet were on the ground. You learn that instead of focusing on climbing the whole wall, you simply focus on the next move. Camp is the same way, as you spend your days at camp trying new things, you uncover parts of yourself that you never knew. You discover strengths and passions that you never knew existed, and you learn to enjoy the moment instead of worrying so much about the big picture. A lot of these principles are true for life as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you step out of your comfort zone, and when things feel overwhelming, focusing on the next right step can help any problem seem more manageable.
When you finally make it to the top of the rock wall, there is a sense of accomplishment that can’t be put into words. It makes you realize that with hard work, persistence and a good support system, you really can do anything. Finally making it to the top proves to yourself that ever when things look challenging or even impossible, you are strong and capable, as long as you put your mind to it. Most of the time, campers who make it to the top are eager to come down and climb again, this time with a new perspective and confidence. Similarly, most campers find themselves ready to come back and try the adventure of sleep away camp once the summer has come to a close. They are excited to take the journey again, even if it means there will be days and activities that are hard, even if it means they may make mistakes or feel frustrated, they know that the end result is worth all of the hesitation and fear, and the sense of accomplishment and the self-realization that comes from taking the journey.
Climbing the rock wall can be a life changing, eye opening, pivotal moment for many campers. It may be the firs time they’ve faced a fear, or it may be the boost of confidence that they need as they navigate the teenage years. Climbing the rock wall is more than just a fun summer camp activity, just like camp is so much more than a place to go when school is out. Climbing the rock wall builds strength, character, self-confidence, teamwork and encourages campers to face their fears, and the goal of Camp Weequahic is to do the same thing.
Camp is a lot of things. It’s fun and it’s gorgeous and it’s exciting. But it’s also very big. It’s acres and acres of land, its gigantic trees and sprawling landscapes and giant lakes. It is set against giant mountains and has a unique way of quickly reminding everyone who enters about how small they are in the grand scheme of things.
Camp has a funny way of putting things into perspective for both campers and staff, and it can be a humbling experience. It’s interesting how one camper who is considered “popular” at school enters the camp experience completely equal to the quiet and reserved student who doesn’t say much at school. Status at school and at home means nothing here and puts everyone on the same playing field from day one.
Take Max for example: Being the star athlete was how he defined himself at home. He was the fastest and strongest on his team, and everyone knew it. But when he got to camp, he met some other guys who were equally as talented, some even more so, and it challenged Max to find other ways to define himself. He did a lot of soul-searching that summer, and learned about the deep and foundation character traits that defined him, and learned that being a great athlete was just a part of who he was, not all of who he was.
Life lessons like this are learned all the time at camp. Campers can learn humility in other ways as well. One of the best ways to learn to be humble is by serving others. Campers see first hand how to serve others selflessly every day as they watch counselors and staff work hard for them. Campers also act as Big Brothers and Big Sisters and learn quickly what a big responsibly it is to have people look up to you.
Camp is such a unique experience, and many campers leave with a deep appreciation of the experience they were gifted. They understand that so many kids across the country don’t have access to such an innovative, hands-on, safe, fun and diverse camp experience, and they leave camp truly humbled and grateful for what they have.
Character building and life lessons are built into the foundation of Camp Weequahic. Campers learn a lot about themselves here and develop a deeper and more genuine understanding of themselves and the world around them, all while they jump, dive, sing, run, play, act, create, dance and swim the days away.
We are all pretty good at hearing things. As I write this, I can here my neighbor’s mower, Mac barking at a squirrel in the yard (again), and Mr. Nichols typing away on his computer. But, while I hear those different noises, I’m not listening to them. In fact, I’m doing my best to listen to my own voice as I write this short Friday night Campfire idea for you all.
Most of the time, when we listen, we are spending more time preparing what to say rather than truly understanding what the person in front of us is saying. In this fall of a Presidential campaign, there is a lot of responding and not a whole lot of understanding. And, I think, that’s a problem. A ‘YUGE’ one.
We all have the challenge of being a little ‘too long on mouth’ and ‘too short on ears.’ They do outnumber the mouth, you know. In fact, I’d even add the eyes to the mouth as listening instruments since 80% of communication is body language. What does that mean? Well… we should all listen a lot more than we talk.
Have you ever been around a really great listener? They make a difference to you. You leave their presence being more comfortable, attended to, valuable, and jazzed up. It’s such a big effect, some companies test applicants by putting them in a room with a bunch of other applicants and tell to speak about whatever they’d like. The company then hires those who show themselves the best listeners.
We do something similar in our interview process for staff and a lot of that during orientation. Our staff give up their personal time to listen to our campers. And, they are listening both with their ears and their eyes. So many times, our staff will pull one of us aside and say something like “could you keep an eye on….” That means, while things might seem great, they are concerned about a camper. Listening a campers body language and interpreting it is one of the most important skills a camp counselor can develop.
Sometimes, with great friends, not saying a word and just being together is all that needs to be said. We see that (sometimes) at camp. Most of the time, our campers and staff can’t stop talking and laughing with one another. But, every now and then, just being with one another is enough.
I’ve seen our campers sit quietly next to buddies at campfire or reading next to each other on their bunk porch before bed. In fact, I’ve had some of the best talks in my life with a friend on the basketball court when very few words were spoken but so much was said. That’s camp!
Back in the world, though, with all its distracti….
Oops, sorry, I just got a text….
As I was saying, back in the wor….
Sorry – another text…. Annoying, isn’t it?
When we are really listening to someone, the distractions may be heard but should never take our attention away from the speaker. It’s a skill that takes practice and one that is very important to develop. If you want to be a good friend, a good camp counselor, a good student, etc., learn to listen. It’s more than worth the trouble for you and those around you.
I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to Camp Weequahic this year. Connor’s best friend attended the camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car at drop off and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. Last week, when we picked him up, I was 100% sure we had made the right decision. The excited, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was….different.
I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to email, chat and FaceTime all of his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.
Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer tryouts at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two, and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth, and boost in confidence that spending just a few weeks away could create.
Any parent that is even thinking about sending their kid to camp should stop thinking right now and sign them up. Not only will you enjoy a few kid-free weeks of relaxation, but when your kid comes home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at everything they’ve learned, and more importantly, who they’ve become.
Camp Weequahic changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!
Did you know that there are certain things, certain scientifically proven things, that are shown to create and increase the hormones in our brain that make us happy? This isn’t just some fluffy stuff we made up, it’s proven by really smart scientists who know their stuff!
The amazing thing is, that most of the things doctors and scientists recommend people to do to be happy can all be done at camp! No wonder kids who spend their summers at Camp Weequahic are some of the happiest kids around!
Stop and Smell The Roses: Well, any flower will do, really. A study done from the Human Emotions Laboratory at Rutgers University found that “flowers in general are a powerful positive emotions inducer.” In the study, people exposed to floral scents were three times more likely to have immediate associations with happy and positive memories. Lavender can decrease anxiety and depression and jasmine can have a calming effect. Lucky for campers, the grounds are a hot spot for beautiful fauna, and sweet smelling flowers can be found just about anywhere. There are many distinct smells at camp, including sunscreen, bug spray and s’mores. But the soft scent of flowers will definitely boost your mood anytime.
Exercise in the Morning: Exercise plays a huge part in your mood. When we are feeling slow and lazy, our mood tends to reflect that. When we are active and moving about, we tend to be happier. Exercise releases endorphins and proteins that make us feel happier. Getting active first thing in the morning is an excellent way to prepare your brain for a great day. At camp, kids have plenty of opportunities to start their day with a run, a swim, yoga class or a game of football. Getting an early start is a great mood changer, and can be the first step in a happier day!
Spend Time With Happy People: Everyone has had that one friend or acquaintance who is negative all of the time and who complains a lot. It can be mentally exhausting to be surrounded by all of that negativity, and it’ll eventually take a toll on your personal happiness. Scientists say surrounding yourself with happy, positive people will make you a more positive and happy person. It’s hard to be down and depressed when you’re around people who are hungry for life, laughter and adventure. And, what do you know, camp is chock full of happy people. Both the campers and the staff are having the time of their lives, and their mood, vibes and happiness are totally contagious.
Go Outside: Being outside and connecting with nature can do wonders on your mood. Getting out and about has been proven to increase concentration, reduces stress, and (surprise!) can boost your mood and overall happiness. The fresh air is good for you, the Vitamin D you get from the sun is beneficial, and the ever-changing scenery of the outdoors is an excellent way to get your brain working and help you to focus better. A large portion of a camper’s day is spent outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring nature, and this helps them to feel energized and excited.
Teachers and parents have said time and time again that they can just tell the difference between kids who go to camp and kids who stay home. “There’s just something different about kids who go to camp. It’s their confidence, their mood, their overall happiness” is something heard quite often about campers. And it makes sense! Spending the summer at Camp Weequahic is the perfect formula for happiness, and gives a whole new meaning to the term “happy campers”
There are many things campers notice when they arrive at camp the first day. They notice the cabins, all of the new faces, the baseball fields, ropes course, tennis courts and acres and acres of open space to run in, play in and explore in. But one of the most breathtaking and exciting parts of camp is the lake. With “so-clear-you-can see-right-to-the-bottom” waters, the lake and sandy shoreline is a popular place for campers to spend the majority of their summers.
When it comes to watersports, campers can try a variety of different options while at Camp Weequahic. Campers can relax and learn the art of fishing, or work their muscles on a standup paddle board, or they can get their heart rate up as they experience the speed and thrill of wakeboarding and water skiing. The lake doesn’t just offer a location to try new sports; it serves as the backdrop for the time in their lives when kids will remember they tried something new. It will be the place they fondly remember as the spot where they faced their fears, tried something new, and had the time of their lives.
The lake also serves as a great place for reflection and peace. A quiet stroll along the shoreline can be a great place for a confidential conversation between friends, a quiet place for journaling or writing letters back home, or simply a place to connect with nature. Warm, sunny days heat the water to a comfortable 80 degrees during the day, making it easy to run, splash and play in the crystal clear waters all day long. (Don’t worry, sunscreen is readily available and lifeguards and other professionals are always around!)
The lake is a central part of camp, and it brings campers together in a variety of ways. Camp Weequahic would feel incomplete without all of the activities, events and life lessons that are centered on the lake. Self-confidence, friendships and trust are all built on the lake. Campers who come from a part of the country where they don’t have access to such a beautiful part of nature really connect and enjoy everything the lake has to offer.
The lake is so much more than just a body of water in the middle of camp. The lake is a place that campers really connect with, and where lifelong memories are made.
It was midway through the fifth week of summer camp that I suddenly realized I didn’t know what day it was.
…Or what week it was.
And you know what the craziest part is? That didn’t make me feel stressed at all! On the contrary, I hadn’t been so happy for months.
After all, who has time to balance a calendar when you’re spending all day and night away from the computer, playing games in the sun and making new friends?
Summer camp has a way of making you “live in the moment” — so much so that losing track of time is totally normal. In fact, it’s pretty much expected by campers and counselors alike.
After a long school year of classes and homework and tests, let me tell you: it’s an incredible feeling to just let it all go.
“Live in the moment” may be a common piece of advice, but truth be told it’s a difficult nugget of wisdom to follow without practice. Back home, the phone was always ringing, the deadlines were always looming, and the stakes always felt high. It wasn’t until I started spending my summers at camp that I started to understand what “living in the moment” really meant.
…It didn’t mean throwing my phone in the lake, or not worrying about grades. It meant simply being okay with my best try — and to keep my mind on the task at hand, rather than always worrying about the next one.
Camp is the perfect place to practice living in the moment, because there is simply less to worry about. In fact, living in the moment is pretty much the default at camp. There simply isn’t much to worry about, and it’s hard to think about the past or future when the present is packed with activities, sports, campfires, and all the rest.
So you see, losing track of time at summer camp is pretty understandable!
However, that isn’t to say that anybody is disorganized. Far from it; if anything, camp will improve your time management skills and help you get used to staying on schedule. The big difference is that everybody is in it together, and it’s not the end of the world if somebody is late once in awhile. Nothing encourages being on time quite like the thing you’re rushing to get to being a ton of fun!
There were many days that I spent on my feet running around for 12-15 hours straight, and yet it always felt like there just wasn’t enough time in the day. The saying that “time is relative” is definitely accurate at summer camp. If time is crawling during an SAT prep test, then it’s flying when you’re at camp, taking a first shot at wakeboarding!
Honestly, the only calendar any of us worried about was the end of camp, when we’d all have to pack up our things and embark on our journeys back home. Leaving camp is always bittersweet, but we all left with a profound new outlook on life. We had learned what it truly meant to “live in the moment,” and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. Thank you camp!
Being a summer camp counselor has well-known benefits for college students. From building leadership skills to practicing time management, working as a counselor is guaranteed to improve on the personal qualities that make a great student.
That being said, being able to point to a summer of camp counseling on your resume has some other lesser-known collegiate benefits that you should definitely check out if you’re considering diving into camp life. Depending on your school and major, you might even be able to get credits on your transcript! If all this sounds awesome, read on…
Proven leadership skills to highlight in program admission essays
Getting accepted at your top-choice school is only half the battle. Many specific major programs require you to apply from within the school, and they won’t just be looking at your grades; just like college applications, they want to see unique experiences that set you apart from the pack.
If you’re considering a major in outdoor rec, education, psychology, or any other field related to working with groups and/or children, having real work experience will set you far above applicants with only academic experience. Camp counseling isn’t just a job; it’s a key selling point on your resume!
A leg-up for qualifying for work-study positions
Work study can make or break the college experience. If you get a good position that’s aligned with your interests and declared major, it can give you a serious bonus when you enter the job market after graduation.
Unfortunately, work-study is highly competitive, and sometimes there are only a limited number of positions available. Priority goes to students who can demonstrate that they have the commitment to do the job well, and the time management skills to balance it with their course load.
So, who do you think is going to get the job? The student with zero work experience, or the student with glowing employer recommendations from their summer of full-time employment at Camp Weequahic? You do the math!
Internship credits for special programs
If you’re looking at a track that requires extracurricular engagement, be sure to check if they accept camp counseling experience for credit. It could be that your summer at Camp Weequahic has already earned you a bonus on your transcript without even realizing it!
Internship and work experience requirements vary depending on your school and program, but even if your school doesn’t have a policy about internship or work experience credits, sometimes all it takes is asking nicely at the advisor’s office to get a special exception. And if they do have a program for summer experience credits, be sure to explain to them why your time at camp is a good fit. I guarantee they’ll love hearing about it and be very impressed.
Meeting with academic advisors can be intimidating, but trust me — they want to help you. You just have to show them how!
Summer camp is already super fun. So as you can probably imagine, adding international campers and counselors to the mix turns up the fun-dial even higher!
…But international camp isn’t just the same camp activities and friendships with a few exotic accents thrown into the mix. The secret sauce that makes international camp so special to returning campers is the chance to learn something about people who are truly “different” — and learn something about themselves in the process.
1. Difference is the spice of life
Everyone is different and special in their own way — at international camp, they’re just a little more different! Meeting peers from other countries and finding common ground with campers from the other side of the world teaches international campers to value differences.
After all, no one wants to be around people who are exactly like themselves all the time! Learning to appreciate different cultures helps international campers grow into curious, tolerant, and fun-loving world citizens.
2. Communication is everything
Is talking about communication redundant? We sure hope not, because workshopping camper communications skills is a huge part of the leadership programming out here at camp! International camp is a chance for campers to put their communication skills to the test.
Especially when all the campers come from different cultures with separate languages, finding common ground and making oneself understood can become a challenge; every international camper learns the rewards of sharing a part of yourself with someone completely different.
3. Meaningful friendships
Friendship is at the core of the camp experience, and it’s what keeps campers returning year after year.
“Who’s going to be in my group this year?”
“Where will they come from, and what will they be like?”
Questions like these are at the top of any young summer camper’s mind.
…The best part is, once the summer ends, international campers return home with pen pals from every corner of the globe. Who knows — maybe you’ll even go visit some of your new friends in France, China, and Spain some day soon!
4. Tolerance is the international passport
In a world that’s more connected every day, learning to be tolerant of those who are different from you is an important lesson for everyone to learn — not just summer campers.
International campers learn first-hand how the differences between cultures can be fun and interesting rather than intimidating or alienating. Bridging cultures is the name of the game at international camp.
5. Curiosity is key
International campers know that the secret to making friends is to always be curious. Instead of assuming things about people from different cultures, international campers simply ask.
When it comes to making friends with campers from other countries, listening with a curious ear is the easiest path to a fun summer. Who knows what you might learn!
Always open to new experiences
The world is an adventurous place full of fun and opportunity for those who know where to look. International camp is an excellent first step, teaching campers not just the exciting things the world has to offer, but an appreciation for the things that make their own culture unique and interesting.
Every country in the world seems exotic from someone’s perspective — for international campers, the world is one big family!
When you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.
Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Weequahic is one of the most popular activities each summer!
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.
The healing power of nature
Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.
For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.
Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!
Connecting with the natural world
But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.
New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.
With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Weequahic may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!
The journey is the destination
Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.
Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.
Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!