The summers of my adolescence were always spent away at camps. Day camps, arts camps, Girl Scout camps, and any other sort of away-from-home sort of operation I could weasel my way into. There was something that just felt right about having the freedom of being away from your parents while also having the security blanket of the structure of a summer camp.
By the time my senior year of high school rolled around, I had decided I was too old for summer camp. I distinctly remember thinking “summer camp is for twelve-year-olds!” With a false sense of empowerment from finishing three years of high school and with the air of entitlement, I told my mother I had outgrown summer camp, and that I would be spending the rest of my summers doing adult-y things. Whatever that means.
The other day, I had the opportunity to Skype with a good friend from home who had just started his first year of college. When he was describing move-in day, and getting his mom to leave without hurting her feelings, and the struggle of figuring out where all his classes were, all I could think about was how long ago all of that seemed. Sure, it had been a year, which is a pretty long time, but it seemed like it had been an eternity since I started school. I really missed the feeling of everything being brand new and exciting.
We talked about programs, classes geared towards first-year students, and campus activities, which unearthed a notion that I hadn’t thought much about since I left Clark in May; college feels like summer camp for adults.
I don’t necessarily mean that we’re all sitting here making macaroni art and singing campfire songs. That would be completely ridiculous, although some days, it seems preferable to real day-to-day life.
The first year of college is like summer camp because it just seems so surreal. Everything is exciting. It’s a new experience. Classes for first-year students are especially interesting, to ensure that you have a smooth transition into collegiate life. There are so many clubs, and activities, and general goings-on that it seems more like a fun-time festival than an academic endeavor. There is just so much. It’s unlike anything I had ever experienced, save summer camp. There’s still serious academia, after all, that’s what we’re all here for, but there’s an underlying feeling of fun and excitement.
I feel like, for me, the summer camp magical feeling about college has disintegrated a little bit. I love Clark, and I always will, but the feeling that everything is perfect and exciting and fun has faded. This does come with trade-offs; I now know what I’m doing and where I’m going, I feel acclimated to my surroundings, and I feel more confident in my capabilities.
So for those of you just kicking off your first year, enjoy the magic. To the high school seniors who are even a tiny bit anxious, don’t worry – no matter what happens, everything will work out. And for everyone else, I hope you never forget the true magic of summer camp.