“When I’m going through something difficult or challenging in life now, I like to think back to challenging moments in my life I’ve overcome. I talk myself up. A lot of times, camp is that moment I think about. Sometimes when I’m super overwhelmed or stressed with school, I think back to how strong I’ve become because of camp – and I use that strength.”
When Catherine first began attending university – studying Health Sciences at one of the biggest post-secondary schools in Ontario – her mind went back to her time at Tims Camps.
Slightly overwhelmed by her new environment, she thought back to how she felt as a first-time camper at nine years old, homesick and terrified of the challenge ahead.
And, as she often does in difficult moments, Catherine then remembered how she went on to thrive at camp – ultimately spending six summers there. That gave her confidence.
“When I first entered university, it was like being nine years old all over again,” she recalls. “I was completely away from home, but this time in a much bigger pond.”
“But I thought if nine-year-old me could go to this completely new place with hundreds of new people – away from everything I was familiar with – and I could make friends and have a worthwhile, meaningful experience, then I can do it again.”
“I went into university with all the memories of camp in my backpack and all the tools I needed to tackle this new environment.”
Preparing now to complete her degree – and raising a fluffy new Samoyed puppy – Catherine looks back on how she overcame a serious case of homesickness to thrive at Tims Camps, discovering reserves of resilience through the multi-year program that have continued to guide her growth.
How did you first find your way to a Tims Camp?
But my parents signed me up. I was so mad at them. I said, “There’s no way – you can’t force me to go!”
I thought it was going to be the worst experience of my life. It ended up being the complete opposite.
Do you remember your first impressions of camp?
It was bittersweet – I was the crybaby of the group for sure. I remember being very homesick. The second I got on the bus and waved goodbye to my mom, I remember crying silently. I was so homesick.
But when we were at camp and I was surrounded by the campers and counsellors, all of that faded away. I ended up loving all the outdoor activities, like canoeing and hiking. I had never gotten any of those opportunities before because my family couldn’t afford it.
At camp I was homesick, but as soon as I got home, I was campsick. I definitely knew I wanted to go back.
Do any memories stand out?
Overnight camping ended up being my favourite. It was the most difficult part of camp but also the part that forced me to grow the most. That was challenging not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. You really had to learn to be independent, to step out of your comfort zone, and to rely on your counsellors and cabin.
When I’m going through something difficult or challenging in life now, I like to think back to challenging moments in my life I’ve overcome. I talk myself up. A lot of times, camp is that moment I think about.
Sometimes when I’m super overwhelmed or stressed with school, I think back to how strong I’ve become because of camp – and I use that strength.
What would you tell someone nervous like you were about attending camp?
What I would say to a kid is just to give it a shot.
When I was nine, I was so adamantly against it and I never expected it to be something that I carried with me through my entire life.
It’s definitely shaped me into the person I am today.