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?

5 thoughts on “What’s Your Favorite Memory from Summer Camp?”

  1. I attended, and then worked at a summer camp for YEARS. Even worked there for 2 full years as an Assistant Director. All that to say, boiling it down to just one memory is hard.

    But here’s my crack at it. As a 8 year old, one of the electives we could take was learning to water-ski, I’ll never forget the excited look on the counselors face when I not only got up on skis, but stayed up for what felt like 5 laps around the lake (probably was actually just 15-20 seconds before making a spectacular face-plant). I think I was the only one in my group.

    Fast forward 10-13 years, and I was the counselor teaching waterskiing to a bunch of 8-10 year olds… and no one was getting up on skis. Till this one. last. girl. She yelled “hit it.” The boat took off. and BOOM, she was out of the water and waterskiing away. She stayed up for what felt like 5 laps around the lake (was probably actually 15-20 seconds before she pulled in on the rope and fell backwards into the water), but you just couldn’t wipe the grin off my face as I sat in the water watching her zoom away behind the boat having the time of her life.

    • Joseph: This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing. I like that you made the connection between your experience and the girl’s. I’m also impressed you were able to get out of the water–I’ve tried it, and I’ve never been able to.

  2. I went to a week-long horse camp once. I went with my best friend George, who was a year younger than me, so they had to bend a few rules to get me in with his age group (they wouldn’t let him go up, but would let me go down), so I was the oldest guy in camp (6th grade, so like 11, 12??). But, I was still just about the shortest! Ha! Around day two, and after almost getting bucked off of 2 horses, they decided that I didn’t need to ride anymore… So, George and I spent a lot of time with their naturalist going on hikes to lakes that nobody knew about and watch the bass jump up and catch dragonflies. We also caught a rattlesnake!! On the last night of camp we all slept out under the stars on the basketball courts. It was in August during the meteor showers and we watched meteors that started at one end of the horizon and flew all the way to the other. It was amazing. I also had a camp girlfriend… I don’t remember much, except that she was always trying to steal my hat. Also, I noticed on the first day that all the kids were buying Slim-Jims at the camp store. They were selling them for $.10/ea, so I bought them all and resold them for a quarter, or 5 for $1.00. It was awesome!! Hahahaha!

    • Ben: You caught a rattlesnake?! That’s impressive and scary. How did you do it? Thanks for sharing your camp memories. 🙂

      • It happened to be going through the camp, so we got a box and came up behind it and put it over top. Then we slid a flat piece of wood under it, took it to an empty fish tank the naturalist had and dropped it in. It was a jeuvenile, so it was less than a foot long.


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