Twenty-three girls. Four cabins. Two weeks. One village. Going to a sleep-away camp for eight years of my life has been a wonderfully fun experience for me, and over the past two years, it has also been very eye-opening. You would think that attending a large, public high school would mean that I have friends from all different walks of life, but that’s not really true. I make friends with people who take the same classes as I do, and who come from families similar to my own and whose ambitions are close to mine. The only diversity I have experienced in my friends from school is racial and religious diversity, and although race and religion are what come to mind when most people think about diversity, those differences are less noticeable to me than the difference between a person who is planning on going to college and a person who is not. Making friends at camp is a different story. Spending twenty-four hours a day with girls I don’t know allowed me to make friends without thinking about their probable GPAs, ACT scores, or class schedules. Going to camp has resulted in my best friends being unlike me most ways, which has unexpectedly made our friendships stronger.
One of my closest friends is a girl who is in the cosmetology program at her high school. My high school also has a cosmetology program, but I couldn’t tell you one person who is in it. Saying someone takes cosmetology is the equivalent of saying someone is dumb, or not willing to work hard. But the girl I know from camp is in that program, and she’s one of the funniest people I know. She also has a job, which makes her a harder worker than most of my friends (and myself). Another two of my good friends are brothers from Stockbridge, Michigan, a place that we people from Ann Arbor would only think of as home to hunting, drinking, and conservatism, if we bothered to think of it at all (although that description isn’t altogether incorrect). I remember an incident from the summer of 2011 when the younger brother, who is two years younger than myself, said he felt uncomfortable around gays because he always wondered whether they were thinking about having sex with him. This comment upset me so much that I had to remove myself from the conversation before things got heated. It really hurt because I liked this kid so much, and I had never really been friends with someone who did not share my liberal views. I didn’t know how to handle it. I got past it, though, and we are still friends. I allowed shared political views to not be an important part of our friendship, and let the base of our relationship be our mutual fondness for making fun of each other.
I do a lot of things- National Honor Society, Executive Board, field hockey, and more. But camp is much more than just doing something. I put my whole heart into the experience. Although the friends I make at camp are so different from me, I like them even more than the friends I have that are similar. My friends who are like me do not teach me anything. They are smart, yes; funny, yes; kind, yes. But they do not force me to expand my horizons or change my prejudices. That is why I value my camp friends so much. They give me something that most people don’t: food for thought.