A summer at camp! For first-time campers, it sounds exciting — and, as with all new experiences, maybe a little bit scary. Just like the first day of kindergarten, the first ride on an airplane, or many of the other firsts in a child’s life, going away to camp for the first time comes with a mix of emotions. Excitement and nervousness are close cousins, after all!
What is it that makes “firsts” a little scary? It’s the element of the unknown: When I go to camp, what will my day be like? Who will my friends be? Where will I sleep? What will I eat? How will I find my way around? So to help our first-time campers minimize their pre-camp jitters, we maximize their pre-camp preparation. The more knowledge they have about what camp will be like, the more ready they’ll feel when it’s time to get on the bus!
We start off with home visits. During the fall, Dan and Jane hit the road, visiting with every new camper and family in their homes. It’s a great opportunity not only for us to get to know new campers but for parents to get to know the people who will be responsible for their daughters’ summer experience. Home visits are the time when Dan and Jane can answer all the questions about each camper as an individual — how we can meet her unique needs and interests. It’s a really important step in helping campers and parents feel comfortable with camp.
Of course, Jane and Dan are an important part of each girl’s camp experience, but the people who are really important are the friends she’ll make. That’s why we give new campers a head start on getting to know their bunkmates. In February, we match up returning campers with first-timers through our pen pal program. Nobody knows more about what it’s like to be a camper at Bryn Mawr than our campers themselves, and our returning pen pals love to answer questions and get to know their future friends, bunkmates and summer sisters. It’s always exciting to see pen pals greet each other like old friends when they arrive at camp — even when they’ve never met face-to-face!
Many times parents have more questions than campers, something Dan and Jane understand completely as parents (and, as of a few weeks ago, grandparents!) themselves. In March, we send out our parents’ guide to camp. This book is jam-packed with information about camp — how it’s structured, who’s responsible for what, how to communicate during the summer, what the important policies and procedures are, and much, much more. Often the information in the parents’ guide, in addition to providing some reassuring knowledge about how camp works, makes parents think of additional questions, which we are always happy to answer!
Finally, in May, we host our Open House at camp. This is one of our favorite events of the “off-season” — probably because it’s the one that feels most like a day at camp! New campers and their families are invited to Honesdale to meet key staff, talk with Dan and Jane, take a tour of the facilities, get a sneak peek at any new programs or buildings, enjoy a tasty meal, do an art project or try out the ropes course, and maybe even meet a future bunkmate. Parents and daughters alike have the opportunity to ask all their last-minute questions, and we have lots of our senior staff members there to answer them all.
We also make sure new campers and their parents know that there’s no wrong time to ask a question — and there are no wrong questions. We’re available all year long to talk about camp and what to expect. The more you know, the more ready you’ll be to have an amazing summer at Bryn Mawr!