Mandatory Fun: The Value of Downtime at SSP

Given the previous blogs describing the difficulty of the assorted challenges we face at SSP, some readers may be wondering whether there is any time for fun activities or downtime. My answer to this question is… sort of? While I can say with certainty that SSP is not all lectures and problem sets, finding time between these tasks is a challenge we all face. Nearing two weeks into the program, the struggle to balance assignments is apparent in my hard-hit sleep schedule, and a new appreciation for breakfast. However, this only makes the impact of time spent with everyone here more valuable, as it emphasizes the value of our time with each other. Time to relax and enjoy different activities is celebrated, as demonstrated by this past weekend’s festivities. With no problem sets due until Monday, we were free to enjoy the day, and what resulted was an enjoyable evening of connecting with each other. Origami was made, movies were watched, and karaoke was sung. I had the delight of getting to learn about my peers, such as their lives at home, the books they read, and even how they would respond to seeing evidence of alien life. The bizarre discussions at SSP highlight the uniqueness of each individual, and is a sign of how incredible everyone here truly is. We have enough pianists to perform a concert, enough tennis players for a full team, and enough poker experts to run a casino out of business. Yet the talents of each individual contribute to the success of the group as a whole, as what makes us unique also is what makes us come together, sharing our diverse lives with each other. 

(The thrills of Origami Night, including one of the folds I’m most proud of. In the left photo, from left to right: Ellie, Tia, Katheryn, Gosha, Eva, Myself, and Alice.) 

Furthermore, the smaller moments at SSP act as a way to continue connecting with each other, using whatever time we have. Often, breakfast turns from a time to fuel up for the incoming three hour lecture into a time to complete the daily wordle, mini crossword, and an assortment of other puzzles. While I’ve only recently discovered the thrill of word games, I’ve found taking on these challenges with my friends is another way to get to know each other, despite it being so short. The small moments we share, during meals, evening problem set work, or even during the brief breaks during each lecture, all are chances to get to know one another, and to form the lasting friendships SSP is known for. We take what time we have to help each other out, to solve problems together, and to have as much fun as we can, so that the experience of SSP is one we will forever remember. 

(A slightly disgruntled Andrew waking up from some regained sleep to our lecture break shenanigans.) 

While only ten days at SSP have passed, the time I’ve so far spent here feels much longer. The work I’ve completed over the last week and a half has been much more difficult than any normal class, and the things I’ve learned fascinate me beyond any book. But perhaps the most valuable part of SSP is the people I’m becoming friends with, and it’s without a doubt that within the small moments I share with everyone here, I feel at home at SSP. 

Hello! My name is Mateo, and I’m a student at Oak Park River Forest High School in Illinois. I love competing on my school’s Science Olympiad and Chess team, and also playing Tennis and piano outside of school. In my free time, I enjoy reading Science Fiction novels and spending time with my dog, Champ.