From a Teen’s Perspective: Into the melting pot thanks to summer camp

by Dylan Lanier on July 10, 2023

I’m halfway through a four-week journalism camp with kids from around the world. The academic education has been incredible, but equally valuable are the friends I’ve made along the way.

Summer camp is a unique social experience because it gives you a blank slate with a whole new group of people and forces you to build strong connections within a short period of time.

I love my friend back home, but we all have similar backgrounds. We’ve been to the same local spots, we’ve gone to the same schools. It can be easy to forget that our experience isn’t the only experience. Meeting people from a variety of new places has broadened my horizons tremendously.

For example, my friend Ben told me he hadn’t been to the beach in three years and that where he lived in Pennsylvania it wasn’t a common activity at all. This shocked the California beach boy inside of me, but also made me grateful for our prime location near the coast. That being said, he couldn’t believe that I had never woken up to a snow day, and we shared our perspectives on the other’s weather (I still maintain that ours is the winner).

That’s the nice thing about getting to know people at a summer camp — everyone is new. We’re all thrown in the deep end and have to make connections with people we normally would never have met. It’s a time where you can unapologetically be yourself; after all, you’ll be gone in a few weeks anyways, so might as well be your truest self from the get-go.

Having a time constraint forces a quick friendship-making process which I’ve grown to love. We don’t have the time to judge each other or get into fights — we all just want to have a great summer and enjoy ourselves. Things move at a rapid pace, and before you know it, camp is over, so we all decide to make the most of it while we can and see the best in each other.

In just days, I had a group of friends, and in a week, we had covered more conversational ground than I had with many of my classmates last year. I was able to get close with people like Ben because none of us wanted to waste a precious second of socialization. Instead, we mustered our courage, reached out to others, and trusted that we would find “our people.”

It’s certainly going to hurt when the program ends, but I’m excited to look back at all the unique memories I’ve made. It’s a great feeling to know I have friends all over the U.S. (and a few overseas, as well!) I’m proud of myself for building strong relationships even when it felt awkward or uncomfortable. My advice to anyone taking the leap of faith into summer camp: Keep an open mind and say hello to everyone you meet.You never know who could be a future friend.

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Photo is for illustrative purposes only

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