Each year more than 14 million children and adults attend summer camps in the U.S., according to the American Camp Association. I attended camp for the first time when I was nine years old. My best childhood friend Caitlyn had told me about all the amazing times she had there: dancing in the talent show, almost winning the basketball tournament, and getting the courage to do a backflip on the blob. After she raved about all those great times, I made up my mind up: I absolutely had to go to camp, too.
When I arrived, I jumped out of my mom’s Suburban with my bright pink trunk, excited yet nervous at the prospect of having something new and fun to do everyday. Little did I know that my camp dream would turn into my worst nightmare.
After four days I was homesick, bored of the constant camp chants ringing in my ear, and tired of ants crawling into my cabin and biting me at night. And then I got sick. This sickness carried on for ten days, and because I was unable to digest solid foods, sleep, and drink fluids, I ended up having to take a trip to the town doctor. During those ten days in the Infirmary, no one asked if I wanted to call my mom or gather belongings from my cabin; no one would even change the movie in the Infirmary from “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Repeatedly watching a movie that features three chipmunks with squeaky high-pitched voices singing top 100 songs did nothing to make me better. This experience has led me to establish a firm belief that summer camps are simply not worth attending.
First, let’s look at the price. Many summer camps make campers pay a hefty attendance fee. For example, at my camp, a two week session cost $3,500. This fee was supposed to pay for a camper’s food, lodging, laundry, activities, and dances. These “amenities” that the fee paid for were subpar; at my camp showers were limited to three minutes in order to conserve water. Furthermore, we couldn’t take an individual shower, and we were required to wear a bathing suit and shower with the other campers.
And then there was the food. The food that was supposed to be nutritious and healthy ended up being one of the causes of my sickness. Biscuits that were more like rocks, meat that was never identified, and grape juice that was a little too purple all made my stomach turn queasy.
As campers become older, camp begins to be a serious waste of time. Though their summer “non-camp” responsibilities begin to increase, campers spend weeks swimming, hand building ceramics, and attending dances. Although waiting in a 20-minute lunch line might have taught me about ‘patience’, it had very little ‘real world’ application. Instead of getting college applications ready, preparing for the upcoming school year, or working a summer job, campers spend their days making friendship bracelets and riding banana boats. All in all, summer camp is a waste of time and money and should not be attended.