Outside the Comfort Zone: How Camps & Teen Programs Push Kids to Develop

To be blatantly honest, I do not take many risks. I, like many people, struggle with the idea of change. Maybe it is due to a loss of control, maybe it is due to the uncertainty. Whatever it may be, I stick to my routine. However when I am able to push myself beyond my limits, I am able to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually. To this day, going abroad was one of the biggest risks I took, and I believe choosing to go was easily one of the best decisions I have ever made because it pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

In an article written in The Atlantic titled Traveling Teaches Students in a Way that Schools Can’t, Amanda Machado highlights how a trip to Ecuador changed her perspective on traveling: “That month in Ecuador did more for my character, education, and sense of identity than any other experience in my early life.” Going abroad had the same effect on me as it did for Machado. Traveling for a semester pushed me out of my comfort zone. With my newfound independence, I assimilated to the new culture and urged myself to try new things. While abroad, I was completely in charge of my own well-being. I learned how to manage a budget, be respectful of other cultures, have proper manners, and how to communicate with the locals.

I believe leaving your comfort zone to experience and learning new things ultimately makes you a more well-rounded person. There is no doubt that people are at ease when they are at home, or in other familiar situations. But as the saying goes – nothing ventured, nothing gained. My unfamiliarity in a new setting became comfort, and I found myself not wanting to leave. This same learning curve applies to many children and teens who experience and benefit from camps & teen programs across the country and the world.

In the camp world, campers are pushed to try new things and broaden their horizons, and for good reason. Individuals grow and learn the most when they are beyond their comfort zone, especially in such a supportive environment. One of my biggest comforts while traveling abroad was that not only was I with three close friends, but I had friends all over Europe. So, when I traveled on the weekends I got to see them. Fortunately, I, like many children, had that same comfort at camp. As the saying goes: camp friends are the best friends. The support I felt from camp friends and staff members throughout my time both as a camper & counselor allowed me to become more comfortable taking risks, which enabled me to grow as a person, and this is true for thousands of children who experience the benefits of camp each summer.

For those who have outgrown camp, teen programs provide an opportunity for middle & high-school aged students, in a similarly supervised and supportive environment, to step beyond their comfort zone and grow during the crucial period of adolescence. Whether this means traveling abroad, working on domestic or international community service projects, or taking challenging summer classes that expand a students’ academic horizons, these programs expose teenage students to new aspects of the world, and new aspects of themselves. During these programs they may discover experiences or activities that will develop into passions, or develop a new perspective on the world around them. These programs are invaluable for fostering teen development, and putting teens in a position to step beyond their comfort zone and grow in a supportive environment.

Trying new things, even for those of us who cherish routine, can be very rewarding and can in turn lead to an extremely positive and beneficial experience. Camps and teen programs encourage self-development and independence by placing kids and teens in supportive environments where they are forced to step outside their comfort zones. While overcoming fear and trying new things, campers are learning to deal with emotions that they have maybe never felt before, and as a result they are growing as individuals.

My experiences abroad helped me develop these skills further – however these skills built upon the foundation that was laid during my experiences at camp and on teen programs, which taught me skills beyond the classroom such as communication, manners, patience, and most importantly how to live in the moment and take risks.

Both travelling and camp teach skills that are not accessible in a classroom setting such as communication, manners, patience, and most importantly how to live in the moment.