Nervous about joining us at teen camp this summer? Read Hugo’s story.
I’ve been running Teen Camp for the past thirteen years and every year parents have said to me, “I know my teen would really benefit from going to camp, but I also know there is no way I am going to be able to convince them to go”.
I completely understand that, I’m sure the idea of going to a new place, one where you don’t know anybody for two weeks (or more), is plenty scary and I have always admired the courage it takes to come to camp for the first time.
Over half of the campers coming to Odyssey Teen Camp this summer will be coming to camp for the first time. Almost all of those first time campers will show up with plenty of mixed emotions, and I think anxiety is at or near the top of that mix.
Yesterday I had brunch in NYC with a new friend, a 16 year old camper named Hugo, who came to camp for the first time last year. He told me that for the first two days at camp he didn’t have much fun. He felt lost, was having trouble making friends and feeling pretty unhappy. I asked him what our camp could have done to make those those first few days better, and while we came up with a few ideas, in the end he told me, “I just needed to go through that. I needed to experience the awkwardness, push through some shyness, reach out a little more, and give it some time”. He told me sometimes we all have to do that, and he was right. First time counselors experience some of the same feelings, but the fact that they have gone to college and experienced the feeling of being away from home may make it a little easier. A few years from now Hugo will head to college and he will have to experience that feeling of being in a new place with new people once again. He will probably be able to draw on some of his experience at camp this past summer.
I’m so happy Hugo ended up having a great time at camp, (most kids do). He talked about the games he played, things he wrote, friends he made, and how much he is looking forward to coming back again this summer. Each year I get to connect with new campers and each year they teach me something new. I’m looking forward to getting to know Hugo even more, and learning from him and the other campers how I can be a better dad to my baby daughter, and stepdad to my teenage son.
This year we will have four Open Houses at camp on Sundays in April, May, and June. I think it helps for potential campers to see where they will be sleeping, eating, and playing. This year, we’ll even have former and current campers at the Open House who can tell other teenagers what their experience was, and why they come back to camp. I’m guessing most of them will start with, “Well, I was really scared before I got there…”