My name is Gretchen and I’m from Osakis, MN. I’ve been coming to Clearwater Forest since I was five years old (Grands Camp!) and still love every second of it when I return. I took a summer off after my first year of college and came back to volunteer for Endless, rather than working the whole summer. And this past summer was my first time officially on summer staff. Working at Clearwater for the summer has taught me so many useful life skills that I can apply to my career after graduation!
Camp teaches you a lot about independence, whether you realize it or not. I remember it was so weird the first time I went to camp and didn’t have my parents there to help me if I needed it. At camp, there are plenty of opportunities to foster your own independence. For example, when it comes to choosing a camper’s choice activity, you don’t have to do what your friends are doing! Choose to branch out and pick an activity that will make you happy and you might just make some new friends in the process.
In a career setting, there isn’t going to be someone there to tell me what to do all the time and I have to figure things out for myself. I think it is important to remember how helpful being independent is and what a useful trait it will be as you get older. I know I will face a lot of hard decisions when it comes to planning my career and I need to do what is right for me, so using the independence skills camp has helped me learn will be super necessary!
Problem-solving is a huge deal at camp. Often, campers can be faced with a dilemma and need to figure their way out of it. For example, tipping your kayak over is a tough situation to get out of. This can only get worse if you weren’t paying attention when the counselor was teaching how to get back in the kayak (guilty!). At that point, you need to think the situation through and try to figure it out for yourself or ask your friends for help and figure it out together! Using creativity to solve problems is a helpful skill in any career. In my future career, I can only imagine the number of issues I will inevitably run into. However, my view is that no matter how many hurdles I come across, what really matters is how I solve them!
At camp, you do so much work as a team, both as a camper and as a counselor. It is important to rely on your fellow counselors to help you get through the tough weeks. No matter what, you know that you’ve got a group of people that have your back if you are stressed! As a camper, I learned a lot of teamwork skills when I was playing games with my cabin group and other friends. Especially games where we had to come to a decision together before completing a task. That was such a difficult thing to do sometimes.
I rely on the teamwork skills I learned at camp a lot now when working in groups to finish a project. You don’t realize how useful those skills are until you face them every day in school or work.
Camp can be a stressful place sometimes. As a camper, I remember not getting along with all my cabinmates all the time. Kids can be mean to each other, whether they realize it or not. I learned that sticking up for myself was a really critical part of becoming more confident in myself and building the conflict resolution skills I would use outside of camp. If I was in a disagreement with a fellow camper, a counselor would always help us work it out. Now as a counselor myself I get to see both sides of the story better.
Working out conflicts can be hard, especially when going into a new job or internship. At my internship right now, there is another intern that I don’t see eye-to-eye with often, but I still need to work with them every day. I find it helpful when confronted with something I don’t agree with to lean on the skills I learned at camp. It’s very important to be patient and try to see the other side of things.
Remember to Have Fun!
To me, this is one of the most important life lessons to remember from camp. No matter how boring something may be, or how hard, there is always a chance to make it fun and exciting. Everyone knows that reading a staff manual can be dry and uneventful, but during staff training, we made a game of it. For each topic in the manual, a humorous example featuring a staff member was provided. Some examples true and some not. I remember the worst part of the day was that it was 90 degrees, so we jumped in the lake and finished reading the staff manual from there!
In the workplace, you can’t just jump in the lake to spice things up, but I find it important to remember that no matter how boring, with some imagination things can be entertaining. I work at a coffee shop right now and you can imagine it gets pretty dirty with coffee and espresso grounds. To make cleaning go by faster, we turn up the music and dance it out as we clean! Clearwater does an amazing job showing people how to find fun everywhere.