Baptism by fire


“What is Indiana Jones?”


And that’s pretty much how my first week of SSP ended, my gosh has it only been a week?

It goes without saying that SSP is intense. Super Stressful Psets, Somehow Still Problemsetting, our acronyms say it all. Over the course of 5 hours, you are introduced to a variety of fascinating and useful topics, from how telescopes work to spherical trigonometry and learning to code with vpython. Then, you’re thrown into the deep end with an applications-focused problem set that is due in 18 hours. 

That baptism by fire sort of method of SSP was at first very foreign and uncomfortable for me. I mean, how was I expected to submit a problem set full of proofs and applications questions from content I learned just hours ago? But in hindsight, SSP has been very enjoyable. Spending hours on psets have helped me realize a few things:

  • Collaboration is key. Every member of SSP is a dedicated, hardworking, intelligent and kind person, reach out to them for help. They’re always open to help. On the other hand, always reach out your own hand to someone else in need. It can be a great experience for both of you.
  • You can’t always do everything perfectly. *Gasp* As somewhat of a perfectionist myself, this was very hard to absorb at first. But listening to the reasoning from one of our TAs, this unfortunately is the better way to go. What she said was (not verbatim of course), when you’re an adult and in the real world, what is more important is that you complete tasks by deadlines even if its not your best work than not submitting anything to present something perfect and LATE.
  • Appreciate the little things in life. This past week, I’ve found nothing more satisfying that the little confetti that appears on my Canvas page every time I submit an assignment. It may only be a temporary delight as I have to go back to working on the next pset, but its a satisfying pause nonetheless.
  • Some iconic content from our third Astro learning session (I believe), thank you Dr. Domingue for showing us what science truly is.
  • Points aren’t everything. In SSP, we are graded on a one point basis. We have no tests or quizzes. Yet, even in such an environment, I’ve surprisingly found myself motivated and constantly working for improvement, to take advantage of this amazing opportunity and learn as much as I can with the time I have. And although my psets are generally not very good, considering the amount of time and effort poured in, it is certainly the most satisfying one point.

And arguably most importantly: SSPers are pasta experts. Cavatelli, orecchiette, bucatini…they know it all (I shamelessly admit I looked up an entire wikipedia page dedicated to different types of pastas to get those names) I didn’t even know spaghetti was a type of pasta until SSP. 

With that said, SSP isn’t just about engaging lectures and challenging problem sets. The TAs and faculty understand the importance of rest and wellbeing. We have built-in play/rest sessions within our work/play block, and I personally really appreciate that time. I’ve also learned about more browser-based games in the last week than I think I have in my entire life (goodbye coolmathgames). From mafia to gartic phone, Jeopardy, and, I think SSP does a great job of balancing between the academic rigor, but also giving us the time to relax and just have fun with our friends.

On a sidenote, I think I’ve also find my favorite desktop app — Stellarium. I mean just l👀k at that.

As the first week comes to a close, I want to thank my peers, the Team 12 “The Pasta-roids”, our TAs and Academic Directors for making the start to SSP so difficult yet enjoyable. Hats off to a successful first week and see you guys on Monday!

Quick mandatory intro: Hey y’all I’m Ryan. I’m a sophomore from Connecticut and I’m part of Team 12 “The Pasta-roids” (our campus theme was pasta) of the University of Colorado Boulder (CUB) campus this year. You can often find me struggling through a pset in front of my computer, on Google reviewing content we learned in class, or lurking on Discord trying to find helpful hints.