What’s Your Favorite Memory from Summer Camp?

Do you ever have a song or smell trigger a specific memory or time? That happened to me the other day at the Cardinals game when the song “Blister in the Sun” blared over the loudspeakers.

Instantly I was transported back to a summer camp I attended in middle school called the Summer Enrichment Program at the University of Virginia. Looking back, I think it might be construed as “nerd camp,” but nobody told us that.

SEP was a 2-week camp on the UVa campus. We stayed in some old dorm suites (I’m not sure if Tuttle is still standing), attended classes, and played lots of games and social competitions. We were supervised by college students.

I can’t recall a specific memory that I relish more than others, so I thought I’d just share a few snapshots. I’m feeling nostalgic!

  • I loved eating at the school cafeteria, as I wasn’t accustomed to having so many choices. Chocolate milk came out of a drink dispenser! I even tried to have a side of ice cream next to my cereal for breakfast before my counselor chided me.
  • We played a lot of 4-square, as the sidewalks outside the dorm were the perfect configuration for it. Camp is also where I learned about ultimate frisbee, which I’d end up playing casually for many years.
  • Even as a kid, I thought it was odd that we would receive letters from home. Even though I had never been away from home before, I was like, it’s only 2 weeks! But I learned that some kinds experienced homesickness.
  • I discovered both the largest cockroach and the largest centipede I’ve ever seen in my dorm room.
  • I took the exact same architecture course 2 years in a row because at the time I wanted to design my own house based on inspirations from Frank Lloyd Wright and Thomas Jefferson.
  • I briefly had a camp girlfriend, a situation I fell into largely because I was told a girl liked me. I think I spoke with her once, requested a dance (there’s a party in the middle of camp), and then asked her to be my girlfriend after the dance (it seemed like the next logical step). I’m not sure if we spoke again after that, yet I’m pretty sure I still know her name. Anyone know a Katie Pittaway?
  • Every year there was a challenge issued to each suite. I’m not sure what to call them, but an example is where you’re given a limited number of materials and have to protect an egg inside those materials so it survives a drop from the roof. I LOVED those types of challenges.
  • As a kid, I perpetually felt like everyone already knew each other. I had friends in some situations and not others. There was a camp counselor–I can’t remember her name–who recognized that I didn’t actually want to walk or sit alone, and she was so incredibly kind to engage with me in those situations. Her kindness has made me try to reach out to similar people in social situations.

Most of all, I remember the feeling of walking around the UVa campus. I’ve been back as an adult, but there’s something truly special about being on a vast, old campus like UVa as a kid. At first every step was a novelty, but that evolved into this sense of satisfaction from knowing little details about the campus, like the numbers painted on the steps or the fastest way across the Lawn.

If you attended summer camp as a kid, what was it like? Do you have a favorite memory?