My SSPerience

As the scheduled date for my blog post swiftly approached, I began reflecting on what I should talk about in this text. Many of my fellow SSPers have already crafted detailed descriptions of the day to day life on campus, and written touching reflections of their experiences in this program – some of these to a standard I won’t even aim for here. As a recent applicant myself, I remember scouring the participant blogs in an attempt to learn as much as possible about this incredible, seemingly out of reach opportunity. With that in mind, I concluded that it would be most fitting to write a brief text I wish I had read before coming to SSP, in the hopes of perhaps soothing future SSP participants. 

I must admit that the routine and the workload is, indeed, just as intense and demanding as advertised. Long (frequently unfruitful) lab sessions and challenging class activities are a foundation of these unique 39 days. However, you never feel alone or discouraged here. Though the faculty may push you to do your very best, hardest work, they are always here to support you when you are tired, and to reward you for your efforts. As an international student, I arrived at SSP with a series of small setbacks. I frequently felt behind on my classmates and unsuited to be here. Even on my worst days (those when I was tired, homesick, or actually sick), the one thing that kept me going was the incredible community and support system that I have here – composed of faculty, TAs, and amazing classmates. Though all of this may sound a tad bit cliché, it is nothing short from the truth. I have had late night study sessions with professors, informal therapy appointments with TAs, and many, many recomforting conversations with the friends I have made here. At no point have people judged me for my questions (even the silliest ones), and at no point has anyone ever denied to help me understand something (a special thank you to my overwhelmingly nice lab mates and dorm hallway buddies). I remember that what I feared most before coming to SSP was being met with a competitive, critical community of students and teachers. If you are at all like me, please let me reassure you however many times needed that this could not be further from the SSP community. 

Alongside this amazing group of people, I have gotten to experience another important aspect of the SSP experience. Before coming here, I remember hearing an alumni talk about how this program is filled with contradictions. At the time, this seemed quite random to me, and I did not give much thought to it. Having been here for almost a month, however, I can say that this is the best description one can give to this program. The contradicting highs and lows that I have experienced since arriving here are many: I feel completely dumb when first faced with the lectures and practice sets, but also feel so smart for being able to understand them after however long it takes me to do so; I sometimes feel so homesick and distant from my family, but I also frequently feel like I belong here and like this group looks after me just as much as people back home do; while I sometimes feel completely unprepared to be on my own at college next year, at other time I surprise myself with how responsible and mature I can be when challenged with the many bumps in the road my journey here has had. SSP is made up of highs and lows – though I am happy to say that the highs are much more frequent and long-lasting than the lows. 

Today marks the end of my fourth week at this five-week program. In true contradictory SSP fashion, the upcoming end of this experience is bittersweet. Going home and enjoying a relaxing rest of my school break sounds truly wonderful at the moment, yet I cannot imagine how sad leaving all of this behind will be. I could easily go on and talk about how hard not seeing my SSP friends every day will be, and how less stimulating school work will be after having performed this level of research here. But, instead of doing so, I will enjoy my limited time on this program and join my friends downstairs to partake in our many interesting and unpredictable fun conversations about life, SSP, college applications, and cooking ramen in an automatic kettle. 

Hey! My name is Carol, and I am a rising senior from Brazil. I have spent a few years living around the world, and love to travel and be around an international community like that of SSP! Besides my interests in STEM, I love political science and environmental studies. In my free time, I am usually baking vegan recipes or going on walks with my dog!