Camp Woodland Blog

Camp Friendships – Empowering Girls at Camp Woodland

This is a must read and be warned, you may tear up too! Thank you Natalie B for taking us back through your camp memories.  A true testament of summer and lifelong friendship.

On the morning of June 21, 2003, I started off my summer where I believe many new campers do: standing in the doorway of my cabin, pillow clutched in one hand and stuffed animal clutched in the other, absolutely terrified. Excited, yes, but terrified. At eight years old, circumstances hadn’t yet mandated that I have the abilities to make my own friends; my mom would set up play dates for me, and I would follow along blindly with a smile and the promise of delicious snacks at my playmates’ houses. I had the luxury of getting along with others in a way that only a little girl who isn’t yet sharply individualized can.


First Summer at Camp – 2003

But that changed when I arrived at camp. Suddenly, I found myself in a situation where compatibility was defined not by a mutual elementary school classroom, but by our very lifestyles, interests, and behaviors. Camp is unique in that it is capable of bringing out the essence of someone’s personality within six short weeks, and it is upon those intrinsic characteristics that we form our friendships. As such, my fears were not unfounded. It is no small pressure to be assessed in your most natural state of being for the first time in your life. What I didn’t know then was that this is camp’s most valuable quality: it makes every memory more real, every relationship stronger. Not to mention that the environment still allows for malleability—still allows for acceptance and patience and growth. Being as oblivious as I was, though, my fear was very real and very present.


Cabin Unity Campfire – Summer 2007

As it was, if someone had told me then that I was standing within ten feet of the girls whom I would soon count among my lifelong best friends, my look of skepticism would have been painfully evident. But it was undeniably, irrevocably true. Even now, after knowing my four closest friends—all of whom I met on that first day—for eleven years, it’s hard to believe that girls who are so fundamentally different can intertwine so closely, as if they are separate parts of one person. However, the situation I found myself in is not remarkable at camp: the connections happen all the time, every summer; friendships are forged in the seemingly unlikeliest of circumstances and prove to last a lifetime.


Counselors in Training – Summer 2011

The core problem was this: I believed—and I think we all did—that the friendship we fostered for the past eleven years was one based on chance. And in a shallow sense, it was. If the five of us hadn’t chosen to attend the same camp during the same summer, everything might have been different. But we attribute the success of our friendship more to the functions of the universe and fate than we do the very thing that allowed us to bond in the first place: camp.

The truth is that Camp Woodland didn’t bring us together, at least not on an emotional level. Camp opened its arms to each of us as individuals, and then proceeded to give us the tools, within mere days and weeks, to embrace diversity. So that ultimately, the young girls who were unexpectedly set apart by lifestyles, interests, and behaviors quickly learned that individuality makes us invaluable, that tolerance makes us versatile. These were important lessons to understand when it came to being a seamless addition to the fabric of the larger community. In short, we became friends because we learned to live with and love each other. I don’t think there is another place on earth that can produce the same phenomenal outcome.

Fast forward to now, my freshman year of college, which found me in a similar position as that first day of camp: standing in the doorway of a new environment that I was required to mold into a home for myself (sans stuffed animal, but equally as terrified). And maybe if I had never realized what eleven summers at Camp Woodland taught me about diversity, I would have found myself stuck in the belief that, after eighteen years, I had never been able to form my own relationships because circumstance had done it for me. Instead, I put a smile on my face, walked into my dorm room, and started making my own bed (like any true Woodland girl would) with a tranquil conscience. Because I know that camp hasn’t afforded me the privilege of making friendships for me; rather, it has given me the indispensible skill of mastering diversity and nudged me into taking my first step into a new world for which I am ready.

And if I stumble, I know my friends will be there to help me through. I have Camp Woodland to thank for that.


Junior Counselors – Summer 2013


-Natalie B, Freshman at University of Wisconsin