Summer camp for grown-ups? What a concept. But that’s what Cornell Adult University offers. And their summer camps for grown-ups are amazing.
First some background
The first time I visited Cornell University I knew I wanted to study there.
I loved it: the gorges, the greenery, the smart students, the pedestrian-friendly campus, and the size.
I didn’t want to be at a small school where people would know too much about me. I wanted to be somewhere where I could pursue my sundry interests (cell evolution, Freud’s theories, Sembene Ousmane’s novels), take horseback riding for gym class, and never run out of options. I also loved that Cornell was the only Ivy League school that has four state-supported colleges and that lots of students came from New York City with their stylish shoes and fast talking. It felt less snobby to me than a purely private university.
Cornell was as amazing as I expected. I loved my three years in Ithaca (I spent my junior year abroad), appreciated the diversity at the school, and got an outstanding education.
Twenty-two years later we decided to go to summer camp for grown-ups
Twenty-two years later, our family spent the week in Ithaca at Cornell camp—an innovative program that combines summer camp for kids with summer camp for grown-ups. The grown-up programming is fantastic. We stayed in the dorms (they’re overairconditioned and the blinds don’t close all the way, my two major complaints), ate on the meal plan (danger alert: dessert options at every meal), and participated in all the camp for grown-up activities.
My 12 (“almost 13, Mom”)-year-old took a horseback riding.
My 11-year-old studied cartooning, which she liked so much that even though she was sick one day she didn’t want to miss a second.
And my 8-year-old, who was the happiest of us all, learned about architecture, spending his afternoons and evenings playing sports, and going back for seconds every night at the ice cream bar.
Our toddler was still too young to attend camp so she and I tooled around Ithaca, New York, checking out the playgrounds, exploring the suspension bridges, and having coffee with old friends. We got to see everyone at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can’t tell you how awesome it was not to have to cook.
An outstanding evening lecture
One evening James stayed at the dorm while our son enjoyed the evening camp, Athena read her book in her dorm room, and Hesperus and I went to hear a lecture by a Cornell professor, Sahara Byrne, about how social media influences every aspect of our lives, starting before we’re born (Beyoncé’s baby sending out tweets) and continuing after we’re gone (Facebook memorial pages, new technology that will allow us to send messages to our as-yet-unborn great great grandchildren).
“This is going to be so boring Mo-om,” my 12-year-old (who had wanted to come) complained. The lecture began. It was totally interactive, all about research on tweens and teens, and Hesperus was mesmerized.
“Boring?” I asked her when it ended.
“No, it was awesome.”
“She teaches classes about this stuff at Cornell.”
“I want to take a class with her!”
That, of course, was my secret hope—that at least one of our kids will want to go to Cornell, get accepted here, and have as good a college experience as I did.
My son wanted to stay two weeks (our next stop was to visit James’s family in Buffalo). We can’t wait to go back again. Want to join us at summer camp for grown-ups (and kids)?
Published: July 11, 2012
Updated: January 13, 2020