How to Make Friends With People You Don't Know at Camp

Start talking to the other campers and counselors on day one.
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More than 11 million people in the United States attend camp programs every year, according to the American Camp Association. Whether you're going to camp as a camper, a counselor in training or a full-fledged counselor, be observant and assertive as you open yourself up to new experiences and start socializing -- the friendships will follow.

1 Local Start

Instead of overwhelming yourself by trying to make friends with people from every corner of the camp, start with those who are nearest to you. Turn to the bunk or tent-mates you will live with if you are overnight camping. If you're at a day camp, introduce yourself to your group-mates. If you are a counselor in training or a counselor, start making conversation with your direct co-workers first. For example, if the supervision duties for your group are split between you and another counselor, start your social circle with your co-counselor.

2 The Same Boat

Chances are, you aren't the only person coming into the camp experience not knowing anyone else. If you're a shy person, or are feeling shy in this situation, keep in mind that there are plenty of other "friendless" people at camp, too. Knowing this can help you to relax and feel more at ease when meeting new friends. Get yourself out there and start introducing yourself to others who look like they may be nervous, too. Sitting in your bunk or a counselor's staff room texting your friends from school or pouring over a book won't show your co-campers or co-counselors that you have an interest in hanging out with them.

3 Assertive Action

Crossing your fingers and hoping that someone else will approach you might not work out in your favor. While it's certainly possible that another camper or counselor will introduce herself to you, acting in an assertive way and reaching out to others shows that you truly want to make friends. Find a happily assertive medium, rather than being passive or aggressive. A passive person sits back, acts shy or doesn't speak up, according to the article "Assertiveness" on the TeensHealth website. An aggressive approach includes "in your face" behaviors that are often domineering, bullying or mean. Assertiveness shows more confidence than passive behavior, while using a much more respectful and friendly tone than an aggressive style. For example, you might walk up to someone participating in an activity you enjoy and politely ask to join in, complimenting the person on her technique or style as you do so.

4 Conversation Starters

If your mouth comes up empty when you try to introduce yourself to a co-counselor or fellow bunkmate, think up a few conversation starters beforehand. Approach a fellow counselor and ask if he's worked at this camp before or what age group he's working with. Smile and respond to the other person's answer with some information about yourself. For example, if you ask, "Have you worked with kids before?" and your co-counselor responds, "Yes. Last summer I was an assistant at a daycare center near my house," keep the conversation going by saying something like, "That sounds like fun. I was a volunteer at my neighborhood's grade school summer camp last year. What age group did you work with?" If you are a camper, you can ask where the other camper is from, and try to find common ground to build a friendship upon.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.