All year I look forward to the month I spend at Camp Wyonegonic, on the shores of Moose Pond in Denmark, Maine. I sail, ride horses and hang out with some of my best friends. It feels like a second home to me, but I remember the night before my first day at camp, I didn’t know a single person and was terrified. “Will people like me? Will I fit in?” But it turns out that all that emotional spinning was unnecessary. I made friends with lots of really cool girls – who I’m still close with two years later! It was totally normal for me to have anxiety about being away from home for the first time and about bunking with complete strangers.
If you are going to camp for the first time this summer, even if you’re feeling more confident than I was, here are some of my best tips for making friends and breaking the ice with total strangers:
1. Find a fun activity everyone enjoys It can be awkward when you first meet your bunk mates. Don’t worry! You are all sharing the same room for a month and by the time camp ends, you’ll be like sisters! Find a fun, easy, icebreaker to get your cabin mates talking. In Cabin 8, we played Spit and Spoons, two fast paced card games that everyone could play. Nail art and friendship bracelets are also fun. So bring a pack of cards and couple bottles of nail polish. You’ll make instant friends.
2. Ask questions Asking girls who are returning to your camp questions about their favorite activities, fun events, and other things they think you should know about at camp is another good way to break the ice! Hearing about another girl’s experiences at the camp gives you something to keep in mind when you choose your activities and can get the ball rolling with lots of new people.
3. Sign up for things that you like to do, but be open to new things If you’re into acting, sign up for the play, or if you love swimming, try doing free swim. Try to mix it up and don’t be afraid to try anything! I love horses and I made friends with girls who took horseback riding too. You will find quick common ground with kids who share your interests but remember not to limit your friends just to the ones in your activities – you can surprise yourself by liking something new and making friends with different interests too. And finally, you might even make a friend in an activity that isn’t your favorite – sometimes that can be a bonding experience! 4. Do some research If you know anyone who has gone to the camp, or if your camp has a pen pal program, take the opportunity to ask what the girls at your camp like. They might like to make lanyard bracelets or take photos, whatever it is, give it a try! I remember an older family friend who went to my camp told me that the girls at my camp made a lot of friendship bracelets. I looked up some basic stitches online before I went and was able to connect with girls by trading and making bracelets.
5. Put yourself out there It’s okay to be shy because the whole experience is new! It’s probably the first time you’ve been away from your family for such a long time, but the best way to meet new people is just to put yourself out there. Just a “hey” is a super easy way to meet new people, and start conversations that in some cases can lead to awesome friendships.
If you have questions about camp or anything else, direct message me on instagram @julia_abate17 and look out for future installments on sleep away camp!
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