Author: Isabella R.

A tangible veil of relief is now lifted off us, that final submission a proud and certain accomplishment that “We did it!” 

Yet now, after the almighty OD-week, at least I am more than ever aware of 3 things. 3 nights left in this boiling, grasshopper-controlled little home. 3 nights left with these incredibly unique and amazing people. 3 nights left until we all depart to our respective homes. SSP is described as “The Experience of a Lifetime”, and now I think I finally understand what these almost cliche words mean. Working 12+ hours a day, with the same 36 people, on the same problems and questions, SSP has built one of the most collaborative environments that I have ever experienced, and the learnings here are lifetime learnings, and lifetime friendships. It sounds like a lot of people, but these 36 people have truly become my closest friends and, as Josh said on Friday during the live interviews, they do truly hold a place in my heart. Looking back at these 5 weeks (I still can’t believe it’s been so long), I am truly thankful not only to the 35 amazing participants, but to Ms Martinez, for keeping us safe, always. I am thankful to the TAs, without whom this experience would have been impossible, the organization, dedication, mandatory fun, swing-dancing, volleyball tournaments: all these little things are what have made SSP so very very special. Of course, I am thankful to Dr. Anderson and Dr. R, who have literally shown me some of the coolest things I know. (amongst them a determined hedgehog, iron stars, and flat parallelograms). 

Richard Chuang, when he came to guest lecture, apart from the truly mind blowing life story of persistence and creativity, said something that spoke to me instantly: “You build trust by making mistakes together, laughing, and solving them”. Yesterday, OD Report submission day, was very much like it. From problems with orbit determination code, to formatting issues, to last-minute data reduction and learning to plot fancy graphs, I think everybody here had some little challenge that faced their team, laughing, and solving it: building trust. 

Not to mention chaotic, working on such an intricate and cumulative project in one day was intense, and dare I say a little stressful. At one point, the still too slow “Ticks and Tacks” of the keyboard was all I could hear, people trying to ensure that every written word was meaningful and put on paper. The best moment, however, was not when we submitted the report, but it was the little moments of abrupt laughter with my teammates, or passing around 1 charger with Team 9 that let our computers live that probably straining day. 

Later on during the day, Dr. R very kindly shared with us a countdown to midnight, cinderella-like, just in case we’d forgotten the deadline. Never have 55 minutes passed so quickly, so anxiously, yet so meaningfully. Ceremoniously, Teams would print out the front cover of their reports and walk on, together, to hand this paper to Dr R and the watching TAs. The round of applause we gave Lucas, Luis, and Alex when they gave in the first report was deafening. Ultimately however, there were 12 such rounds of applause, each just as powerful. 

Later, the faculty organized a little celebration for us, with music, pizza, and lots and lots of laughter. 

In our room however, when my roommate Prisha and I shared our positive thing of the day, as we’ve done all summer, it was not the end of the OD report that we loved most. She said, smiling, that her positive moment was working with Atharva and Dean, team members, friends, who she appreciates and values. My answer was quite similar: the fun, stressful, but overall trust building moments with Arielsie and Josh were probably my favorite part of the day.

About me:

Hi, I’m Isabella. I was born in Mexico, am half Russian, and have lived in Spain for the past 7 years. I love Harry Potter and chess, and I don’t like caramel, I’m afraid.  If I could be any other living creature, I’d be a bird (the flying does it for me).