Sad story of my life: I never went to camp as a child. It felt like all my friends did – they would leave for four to six weeks during the summer and come back with ridiculous stories about cabins and counselors and all the fun they had. And I had been at home watching Bug Juice and Totally Circus (which also made me want to join the circus) on the Disney Channel.
Right before I started my freshman year of college, an older friend said something very interesting to me. He said: “Living in dorms is basically like an extended version of summer camp. But with more drinking and less laundry.” I explained to him that this metaphor was lost to me since I’d never actually been to summer camp. After he briefly mourned the fact that I had missed out on an epic childhood experience, he said, “Well, summer camp is basically being dirty all the time and vaguely annoyed by everyone around you, but you’re too busy to notice because you’re simultaneously having fun and trying to keep your head above water.”
Too true, sir.
After three years of living in dorms, I can tell you this: college is exactly like (how I imagine) summer camp. And so, I have some advice for all the college kids out there who never went to camp.
You will never feel clean. From fishbowl showers that never work right to sub par laundry facilities (and your inexperience with buying laundry supplies), you will legitimately never feel 100% clean. Just like camp? Camp showers might actually be better than most dorm showers.
Everything is completely overwhelming. Between classes, new friends, dorm rules, parties, learning Greek life and all the other groups of campus, sorting all of your belongings to fit in a minuscule space and adjusting to a new routine, it’s easy to feel like you’re trying to decide between horseback riding, water-skiing, volleyball, archery, rock climbing… You’ll wish that an awesome camp counselor had outlined your days for you. [Editor’s Note: Oh wait, so that’s why they make us sit with those guidance people before each semester? Oopsie! Guess those schedules weren’t just a suggestion…]
At first, you will love every single person you meet. Every new person is a potential new friend. Especially if you are going to school a long way from home, you will be super excited to meet anyone who is nice to you. This will happen before you realize that your next-door neighbor is a complete creep and that girl down the hall? She will sing obnoxiously in the shower every morning at 5am.
School cafeterias = camp mess halls. My freshman year, my entire class went to an orientation in a sleep away camp set in the Idaho mountains. It was my first experience eating camp food and let me tell you, it was nothing to write home about. However, the minute I got back to campus and ate at the cafeteria, I realized something: it’s all food you can cook over a fire and burn to taste “better.”
Your RAs, professors, and advisers are like counselors. Your RA will talk you down when you want to strangle your roommate. Your professor will cross their arms and refuse to give you an extension on that paper you forgot to write during the weekend of Toga. And your adviser will gently pat you on the back when you try to talk yourself into taking your first 400-level class. Regardless of how silly they might think you are, they will all still love you.
Even if you never got to go to camp, college life will show you exactly what you missed out on: constant over-stimulation, massive amounts of people your age converging on a small tract of land, ridiculously bad showers and facilities, uncomfortable mattresses, adults you look up to while also hating a little bit…
College is like summer camp for kids over 18. Except with more drinking, slightly less supervision and much better electronics.