The responses I got this year when I told my classmates I would be working at a camp for the summer ranged from “Oh, that’s nice,” to “You should really be doing something better with your time.”
This societal pressure against spending another summer at camp has frequently made me question whether returning to camp for another summer is the right decision. After giving in to these pressures in 2020 and 2021, I returned to camp in 2022 and 2023, and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Camp has provided me with deeply meaningful friendships, many networking opportunities, valuable people skills, and it has had an enormous positive impact on my mental health.
I first came to camp in 2013 when I was eight years old. In that first summer, I met five people who would go on to become some of my closest friends in the world. The six of us truly live the camp saying “ten for two,” waiting all year until we can spend these magical eight weeks together. We spend time together outside of camp, but it just isn’t the same. Camp facilitates the strengthening of these friendships. The competitions we participate in, trips we go on, and general tomfoolery we engage in bring us closer together in a way that I have not seen beyond camp. These relationships are worth infinitely more than any resume-padding internship.
Though it is not the reason that I return to camp each year, it is not lost on me that camp is a unique networking opportunity. The Manitou alumni network is extensive, with accomplished individuals in every field one can imagine. One of my closest friends at camp is a fellow pre-med college student. He is two years older than I am and has been a fantastic resource for me. We speak during the offseason about classes I should take, internships I should apply for, and much more. He will also be a valuable connection for me when we are both physicians one day. Camp also employs multiple doctors and many nurses, all of whom have been willing and able to provide me with career advice. One of the camp doctors this year was a Brown alumna who works as an ER doctor when she’s not at camp. We had many discussions about navigating the medical world, and our relationship has opened the door for future career opportunities.
Camp also has also given me people skills that are applicable during the school year and that will be very valuable in my future career. This year I had the opportunity to help lead a team of close to 90 campers and counselors in our camp’s main competition. I gave multiple motivational speeches to the team before competitions, organized a staff bonding event, and helped manage campers who often had conflicts with both their peers and other counselors. In this role I grew comfortable leading, speaking to, and organizing a large group of people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. These skills are necessary for any job whether it be a doctor, businessperson, or camp counselor.
The most significant factor that has driven my decision to return to camp year after year is the impact that camp has on my mental health. The school year is immensely stressful. The pressure to excel in my classes, while maintaining a social life, competing on a sports team, and still finding time to eat and sleep often gets to me. Frequently during the year, I find myself wishing for a break from all the action. Camp is that break. When I’m at camp the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Anything that happens beyond the camp's gates is completely irrelevant. This creates an environment where I get that break I badly need. Camp has a larger impact on my mental health than anything else in my life.
Ultimately, returning to camp has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and if you’re struggling with the idea or returning to work at camp — know it can be more than worth your while.
This blog was written on behalf of Project Real Job, whose purpose is to support camps in their efforts to recruit, hire, and retain staff.
Nate Meyer is a Sophomore at Brown University studying biology and public health on the pre-med track. He started at Camp Manitou for Boys in 2013 and just completed his ninth summer. At Manitou he is a cabin counselor who teaches Lacrosse and Guitar, and is involved in Manitou’s main event: College League. During the school-year he competes for the Brown Squash team and works in a lab in the LIfespan Health system. In his free time he enjoys playing guitar, reading, and playing with his 5-year-old Portuguese Water Dog named Bogey. Nate can be reached at: email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Camp Fire Alaska Camp K