Soup Bowl Ladies, Goodbyes, and Other Difficult Things to Face

*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yep, that’s a bowl of watermelon in chicken noodle soup. You’re probably wondering how we ended up in this situation. There’s a story behind it, but let’s start from the beginning, with the sentimental stuff. 

I’ve known since the start of the program that I wanted to write the very last blog post. I’ve been asking myself every day to think about what I’ve learned at SSP; I wanted to put it all together in a perfect bird’s eye view of the program. But now that we’ve reached the end (and the airport), I still find it hard to quantify everything that’s happened. 

Naturally, I turned to my SSP airport buddies for help. Here are some of the sweet, funny, and strangely cryptic things they said:  

1. Cherish the small moments. (Frances)

2. Five and a half weeks passes by fast (Maybeline). 

3. The people you meet become a part of who you are. (David and Carol)

4. Unexpected things can happen anytime, anywhere. (Celinda)

5. Even if you think you can’t do it, keep testing your limits. Oftentimes, you underestimate your own potential. (Lindsey)

6. Get receipts for your meal card. (Ben)

7. Don’t eat grapes in the cold room. (Faris)

8. Listen to Sanjay. (Jonathan C.)

9. Do not listen to Jonathan C. (Sanjay)

10. Bring more ramen and socks. (Erika)

11. Air conditioning is a blessing and a curse. (Derrick)

12. Don’t drink almond milk. (Colin)

13. Fake it till you make it. (Sophia)

14. B-Town sweatshirt is required. (Jonathan Y.)

15. A lot of things can and will change in just a week, so don’t take anything for granted. (Ryan Y.)

When I look back on what my personal experience was during SSP, I see it as a lifetime condensed. I feel like I’ve known the people I met here my whole life, and I’ve gained more real STEM experience over six weeks than I would have thought possible. So I tried again to think of what I’ve learned, and here’s what I came up with:

1. There’s always someone there to support you. 

I called SSP a lifetime condensed, and part of that means things can happen faster than you expect, whether those things are academic or personal. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, just look around—you’ll be surprised by the support system you find. 

2. People aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. 

Some people are naturally amazing together, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. Be a good listener as well as an advocate for yourself. It can take work to establish a good group dynamic, so just remember that the bumps along the road are all part of the learning experience. 

3. You’re probably doing better than you think. 

It’s easy to start doubting yourself when the material you’re learning is so intense. But don’t forget that the point of it all is to learn. Success isn’t about having the right answer all the time; it’s about having the courage to try again and again even when you fail. 

4. Make time to make friends. 

Stay focused and driven—it’s the Summer Science Program, after all—but make an effort to form relationships with people. When else will you get such amazing people living and working together like this?

5. Just keep marching on. 

On the first night of the program, my mom came and helped me unpack, and this is what she told me before she went home. Things can and will get hard. But don’t be afraid to face it all, and don’t forget that sometimes, you’ve got to do the bold thing. 

And speaking of the bold thing…

Props to Erika for facing down the infamous Soup Bowl Lady in the dining hall, who for weeks has been scaring us all with her insistence on using soup bowls for soup only. As Erika tells it,

Erika: *picks up soup bowl*

Erika: *attempts to put grapes into soup bowl*

Soup Bowl Lady: No. Soup bowl is for soup only. *picks up fruit bowl* This is for fruit. 

Erika: What’s the difference?

Soup Bowl Lady: The soup bowl is for soup. The fruit bowl is for fruit. 

Erika: *attempts to continue scooping fruit into soup bowl*

Soup Bowl Lady: *grabs soup bowl and puts soup bowl back in soup bowl stack*

Soup Bowl Lady: This bowl is for soup only. 

Erika: *reaches for soup bowl again*

Soup Bowl Lady: Stop. This is for soup only. 

Erika: I’m getting soup.

Soup Bowl Lady: *closely monitors Erika as she scoops one scoop of chicken noodle soup*

Erika: *makes eye contact with Soup Bowl Lady*

Erika: *scoops watermelon into soup*

Erika: *emerges victorious*

So that’s the story of the watermelon chicken noodle soup. But the truth is, when it comes to SSP 2022 as a whole, I don’t know how the story ends. In fact, I can’t help but feel that we’re actually facing a beginning; we’ve all learned and gained so much from each other, and all we can do now is keep going. All we can do now is keep marching on. 

About me:

Hello! I’m Janina, a rising senior from California. When not in the lecture hall or lab, I spend my time at SSP exploring campus and having late-night conversations with friends. I love reading, writing, music, and, of course, science.