Fish Camp, an Aggie’s first tradition, occurs every summer to welcome and orient incoming freshmen. To prepare for the camp, the staff usually spends the spring semester and early summer bonding and learning how to make a supportive and fun environment for the new students. However, COVID-19 has altered the plans for this semester.
To align with social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements, Fish Camp has changed its regular counselor bonding structure and moved all its training online via Zoom meetings.
Ryan Brown, Fish Camp head director and management senior, said while the transition was difficult at first, the staff has adapted and is working as well as they can with what they have.
“While this situation limits our ability to interact with one another, the cards have been dealt and we’re motivated to make the most out of the situation,” Brown said. “We are a relationship-based organization, and directors are working with chairs to develop creative ways to invest in these relationships virtually, and strive to make every director, chair, namesake and counselor feel like they have a family in Fish Camp.”
Suyash Gupta, public health senior and Session A Green Camp Comstock co-chair, said each camp has taken its own spin on the online format to make bonding as fun as possible.
“It has gotten really creative,” Gupta said. “Camps have been playing games, having show-and-tell and meeting each other over video conferencing, and it’s really entertaining to watch. Our main focus is to continue creating relationship building and getting our camp to be close, and also begin training our counselors through developmental programs.”
While the idea of bonding online seems simple, Rachel Schroeder, session B Red Camp Stavinoha co-chair and geology junior, said counselors might still feel isolated from the group.
“For our counselors, especially our first years, one of the hardest things is going to be feeling like they belong in our camp,” Schroeder said. “It can be really hard to connect digitally, especially when not everyone is as adapted to digital hangouts, so making sure that they feel like they have a family in our camp is going to be hard. The uncertainty of the situation is going to be challenging for our counselors as well, as the situation evolves day-by-day.”
With multiple political and scientific sources still debating how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, Gupta said the future of Fish Camp this summer is still unsure, but the staff is staying positive.
“As a public health major, I have a decent grasp on understanding the epidemiology and effects of this virus,” Gupta said. “I do think that the virus will last long. However, as we go into the summer, changes in temperature should have an impact on the infection rates. I hope that it does not have a huge impact on camp in August, but it is too early to say for sure. Whatever happens, our 24 counselors will be 24 leaders that will make the most of their experience.”
Though the staff is facing challenges and questions about the future, Brown said they are moving forward and are determined to keep the traditions alive and provide the best experience possible for the incoming freshmen.
“Fish Camp has made considerable changes in its time, but it’s always been rooted in the traditions and culture that have grounded it in the Aggie Spirit since its conception,” Brown said. “Those things may look different, but freshmen will continue to feel at home in Fish Camp because it brings out the Aggie Spirit in everyone and excites them for what’s to come at Texas A&M.”