CampChat: First-Time Campers Banish Their ButterfliesPosted on July 3rd, 2015
By Rosie Elysa Gurman, URJ Camp Newman Counselor
Of the 1,400 campers we welcome here at Camp Newman every summer, around 400 of them are here for the first time. Soon they may call this place their new home away from home. But for now, these campers of all ages have a lot of questions going through their minds. Where will I sleep? Who will be my cabinmates? Will I even like camp?
We sat down with some first-time campers to hear what they were thinking about before their first day, and how they feel now that they are 72 hours into camp life.
What made you decide to come to camp?
Campers told us that they come to camp for many different reasons. While many sign up after seeing a camp promo at their temples, many are compelled by other things. For Meadow, from Chalutzim (our fifth and sixth grade session), it was her sister coming before her. For two Shane and Ollie, both first time campers in Gesher (for seventh and eighth graders), the motivation came from their siblings as well.
“A lot of my friends came to camp and said it was awesome,” said Natalie, another Chalutzim camper. “And we get to be with friends and not our parents!”
Isaac and Nate, also from Chalutzim, shared that they too wanted some time away from their parents.
Were you scared about coming to camp for the first time?
Lucy, Jolie, and Jessica from Mechina (for third and fourth graders), along with Isaac and Nate, shared with us some fears they had before coming to camp. Like many campers, they were mostly nervous about bedtime. This can be a time when campers feel homesick the most as their busy day comes to an end and they have time to lay down and let their thoughts wander.
However, the boys agreed that bedtime wasn’t as scary as they thought. They even shared that cabin time – a small bonding program planned by counselors inside of the cabin right before bed – was their favorite activity so far. It’s also a first night tradition at camp to make a cabin brit, or rules. But the boys said that even making the rules was fun because their counselors made it into a humorous game.
What are you looking forward to at camp?
Since being at camp, all the first-time campers agreed that their initial butterflies have flown away, and that they now look forward to the rest of the session. Ethan, Meadow, Jessica, and Jolie were excited to go swimming and use the waterslide, Nate, Isaac and Lucy were excited for adventure mountain, and Shane and Ollie were excited for sports like Frisbee, Gaga, and mountain biking. Ethan said he was most looking forward to not just making friends with his fellow campers, but also with bonding with his counselors and making life long connections with his camp role models.
It is clear that these first time campers, along with many others, are having a blast at camp. While homesickness can happen, these campers were unanimous about one thing – there’s so much to look forward to with making new friends, doing activities, and having Judaic experiences, that the excitement has quickly chased away their fears.