Final Act

SSP is coming to an end, and it’s a melancholy feeling. No more lectures from Dr. D or special
appearances from Dr. Kim’s cats. No more tricky psets waiting to be solved. No more fretting,
crying and worrying over code. No more staying up all night talking to fellow SSPer’s on the
discord pset-ing channel. No more chances to crush Work play block one in code names or to
talk for hours about astronomy, physics, and math. No more geeking out about SwRI code and
trying to figure out how it works. No more harassing Molly. No more puzzling QOD’s from
Dominick. No more trashing bioc**m.

Everyone says that SSP is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and before starting, I always
wondered how 5 weeks could change your life? I got my answer; SSP pushed us to the brim
and challenged us to the point where we need to stop questioning the origins of the base
equations. Google didn’t have the answers, just more questions; the lectures and notes held the
key but learning where and how to look was the trick. I remember looking at the very first Pset
and taking 3 ish hours to solve it with my peers and thinking, “I didn’t understand anything from
that.” Now that we are all almost done without the final OD report, I realized that everything
makes sense, and I learned so much even without realizing it. Scrolling through CANVAS and
looking at all the submitted assignments baffles me. Did I do all of this work in 5 weeks? Did I
really figure out how to predict the orbital path of my team’s asteroid? The answer to these
questions is yes, I did, but I guess I didn’t realize it, and that part of the magic is SSP. There is
so much work but, doing it amongst peers and teachers who are just as much in love with the
topic makes you forget that what you are doing is work, and you start to enjoy it.

But academics aren’t everything. The biggest reason that SSP was a life-changing experience
for me is that it allowed me to grow as a person. I learned the importance of balance when to
give up and that not everything has to be perfect. I learned how to pace myself and take breaks,
things you do not learn to do in high school. It also enforced the importance of teamwork and
collaboration. It taught me so many life skills that I would not have been able to learn otherwise.
It was refreshing to be in an environment that doesn’t encourage direct competition instead of
collaboration. To be in an environment where understanding and learning were prioritized over
getting the right answer and solving the problem. It was refreshing that I could just learn for
once and not have to worry about grades; I could solve the pset or write the code because I
wanted to, not because I wanted a grade or was forced to.

The environment, the people, the entire experience was metamorphic and a welcomed break
from the insanely competitive world we live in. I think I can say that without a shred of a doubt, I
am a different person than I was 5 weeks ago and that I like myself better now.

– Akshitha ❤️