I had my first real experience away from home in 2006. I was seven years old and scared of being without my parents. I decided to go to a camp for the entire summer, the same one that my mom went to when she was my age. Completely submerged in a foreign world, I was nervous and worried how I would fit in. I soon discovered it was never about fitting in, but what I took out.
The first thing I learned at camp was the responsibility and maturity it takes to live with people apart from my family. I learned this through sleeping in a small area with seven other girls for an entire summer. With no privacy, I have learned how to communicate and respect people and their belongings, as well as understand what my bunkmates liked or disliked. Shortly after I arrived at camp, I learned that I have to work as a team to live with other people. During bunk chores each morning, each person was assigned a different task , such as hanging up the wet towels to dry, sweeping the floor, or cleaning one of the two bathrooms in the bunk. At the end of the week, the bunk that was the cleanest wins a small prize. I understand that to reach this goal, every member has to put equal effort into it.
Camp has impacted my character tremendously, and I now see people differently because of this. Everyday in our society we are unavoidably and subconsciously judged by physical attributes such as our wealth and clothes. Growing up on an isolated island, with a small community, everyone already knew all of these things about me and it took away my opportunity to be my own person. Going to camp changed all of that, everyday we wore the same thing. Blue shorts and a white shirt. I was not given the chance to be judged because of that. This gave me the courage to open up to people because I knew that they would like me for my personality first. When I was younger, I never understood why we had to wear the same outfit and have no individuality with personal style, but I do now. I realized that before, I was one of those people who judged others on first appearance. Through camp, I learned that there are many different kinds of people and backgrounds, and there is no list of characteristics someone needs to have to be a friend.
My camp likes to expose the campers to the great outdoors, to completely remove ourselves from the outside world. We take numerous trips throughout the years that start off small, such as day hikes and on-camp overnights down the lake in a tent. But, as we get older, the trips get longer and more strenuous.Last year, I took a trip that changed my view on life. It was the hardest thing I have accomplished both physically and even emotionally. I spent an entire week canoeing the Allagash River in Maine, with just eight other girls in my group. I learned so much more about who they are as a person because of how they act when it is just them and the elements. There were no electronics, no showers, no mirrors. In retrospect, I learned more about myself too. I learned that I am better at steering the canoe, than being in the front because I see myself as more of a leader. I also learned that sometimes you have to set your own desires aside to help someone else. Nearing the end of the trip, our emotions got the better of us, and we got into arguments over little things, I had to learn to problem solve and be mature about it. This summer, our final, most challenging trip was hiking Mt. Washington. I remember my first year of camp and hearing about this trip for the first time. I was scared and nervous, and it was still six years away. My feelings never changed until after the Allagash trip. A nine hour car ride, seven days, and fifty-six miles of river can really change a person. I have a whole new appreciation for the environment, my surroundings, and a new understanding of myself and my peers.
I sit here, winding through the seven years I have had of hardships, challenges, accomplishments, teamwork, friendship and laughter. Camp has shown me that I should see a challenge I may face in life as another trip, another time to experience something new and come out learning a trait about myself that I never knew before. Above that, camp has shown me what it means to be a friend, and what the term “teamwork” is about. I look back on all the things I have done and accomplished through camp and I realize that I never would have had the courage to do these things had I been on my own. Camp has made me into the outgoing, independent, and adventurous woman that I am today. Camp has given me knowledge, allowed me to grow as a person, and in my character. I will carry what camp has given me for the rest of my life and hopefully one day be able to pass what I have learned on to others.