By: Katherine Stiroh
After spending many summers at an all girls overnight camp in Pennsylvania, a veteran sleepaway camper turned counselor writes a letter to her younger self sharing genuine lessons and advice with all first time and future campers.
My first summer at camp was when I was going into 4th grade, and I was so excited to start camp after three years of drops-offs and visiting days for my older sister. I heard countless stories of her funny moments in the bunk with her friends and the cool things she got to try every day like biking, making smores, and arts and crafts. I couldn’t wait to start my own camp journey. Although I wouldn’t change a thing about my camp experience, if I could go back and tell my nine year old self a little about what’s to come – this is what I would say.
Dear nine year old me,
Right now, you’re sitting in the backseat of your parent’s minivan which is packed to the brim with your trunks full of color war tutus, stationary, and enough socks to last you a lifetime (but they won’t even last the summer). Your stomach is turning with the most emotions you have ever felt at once: excited to meet your new bunkmates and counselors, nervous to be leaving your parents and house for the first time, and anticipation to see the place that will become your home for the next seven weeks. These emotions are completely normal, and although you may feel overwhelmed, you will soon feel right at home.
After initially meeting your counselors, unpacking your trunks, and having your first camp meal it’s time to get to know your bunkmates. These are the girls who will soon be your best friends in the entire world. You will share everything and talk about growing old together and visiting camp summer after summer. Nothing can compare to the bond you have with the girls you spend your summers with and they will be there for you through absolutely everything.
With your new camp friends by your side, you will then begin a schedule full of activities and sports. TRY. EVERYTHING. Sign up for trips, join the intercamp sports leagues, and dance and sing your heart out at every chance you get. In the next two months, you will do things you never imagined yourself doing. You’ll try water skiing for the first time, you’ll be in the play, and you’ll dance and sing in front of the entire camp more times than you can count. Every unknown step and every chance you take will lead you to discover something new about yourself and the people around you.
Right now, it all might seem so new and scary and I know it’s hard to imagine yourself away from your parents for so long, but this is about to be the beginning of the most important and meaningful chapter of your life. Enjoy every minute and hold on to your friends as tight as possible. These summers will fly by and before you know it you’ll be wishing for just five more minutes in your summer home.
Seventeen year old you