The Fever Dream

The last Friday before departure. Relief. Sorrow. Delirium. It was just a cacophony of emotions.

It was, after all, report submission day. Everyone was typing away furiously in the SBO from morning to right before the papers were due at 7:30. Even when we were kicked out of the computer lab midafternoon, there were still people tapping furiously away on their phones trying to squish in as much into their final OD reports as humanly possible. It was quite a sight to see. My own team worked right up to the deadline of the paper, trying to add as much detail as we could. As such, some normal tasks had to be sacrificed; I learnt that speedrunning dinner is best when you grab two slices of pizza and stack them on top of each other. Some other groups had much more calming dinners, having finished editing most of their report before dinner.

SSPers Hard at Work in the SBO Computer Lab

In the end, however, regardless of how we got there, every single group submitted an OD paper. After endless days of sleepless nights, scrambling to finish Psets, OD code assignments, astrometry, and photometry, it was a moment of exultation to see our final OD reports, a culmination of everything we learned at SSP, come out of the printer one page at a time. 

Team Celebration at Completion of the Final OD Report (Photo Credit: Ariella)

While the actual completion of the final OD report was a satisfying moment in its own regard, it was not the only celebration that occurred. While us SSPers all know how to get work done, we also all know how to have a great time. Right after the last team submitted their OD report, we all headed off to Dairy Queen. It felt like we were in a fairy tale as we experienced a beautiful sunset, garnished by a cloud – a cloud that represented all of us, having risen up to all the challenges of SSP. It simply felt so relaxing to have not a single worry about an upcoming assignment for the first time in weeks. Instead, we all got to enjoy our Blizzards (or in Matthew’s case, he got to enjoy splitting his banana split).

Sunset During the Walk to Dairy Queen

Of course, the fun didn’t end there. After getting back to the dorms, we were given free reign where we could truly goof away without a single worry. While we all thought there would not be anything particularly exciting for the rest of the day, there was quite a surprise coming for us. Deciding to go play sand volleyball in the dark, a small group of us headed to the sand volleyball court where we were quickly interrupted by a series of fast moving bright dots in the sky. Sasha’s first reaction of “Santa’s Sleigh” probably encapsulated the fever dream we were in the best. However, being students of science, that conclusion was quickly eliminated, being replaced by the conclusion that the fast moving dots were simply newly launched Starlink satellites. Taking the moment to redeem himself academically, Sasha explained how the dot lagging behind all the other dots was simply the second phase rocket. It all just seemed so coincidental that we would be lucky enough to catch a sight of Elon Musk’s satellites on the day we finished our OD Reports.

“Santa’s Sleigh” (Photo Credit: Alison)

Having been distracted long enough by Elon Musk’s creations, we decided to take advantage of all the sand in the volleyball court, and gave Tyler his deepest desire of being buried with Sasha on top of him. Finally getting the chance, Evan got to demonstrate just how profound his gravedigging skills were. We now all know that Dragos and Evan would make the perfect team to get away with murder.  

Yet, the day didn’t even end there. On the way back to Arnett, our small group all chose to run through, sit under, or lay under the sprinklers to clear away all the sand residue (although Tyler’s choice of an alternative water source was a little more dubious). Being no strangers to late nights, a bigger group of us gathered in the Arnett lobby enjoying ourselves until the early hours of the next morning.

Late Night Shenanigans

As I laid in bed, I started to feel a tinge of sorrow. Yes, it was so satisfying to have completed the main objective of SSP, but it felt like the completion of the final OD report was heralding an era away. Yes, it was a ton of work. Yes, there were many sleepless nights. Yes, we constantly felt like dumpster fires. But, it was just so much fun. From experimentally determining the density of graphite rather than Googling it to counting the number of hairs on a 1cm³ square on Tyler’s head, SSP was full of spontaneity. Spontaneity that we all did as a group. The group setting and craze we all constantly carried from the lack of sleep was an equalizer, allowing for all of us to truly bond.  

However, like each era in history, the era of SSP must come to a close. Perhaps, however, that might be for the better. The opinion of wanting SSP to last longer can be said to be ubiquitous among all of us, yet upon reflection, the finite end of SSP is perhaps for the better. Time is what motivates us. The finite end of the program is one of the most important aspects of the program that has helped build the amazingly integrated and supportive environment. When there is such a finite end, people are motivated to act – it has often been said that it is time that makes life truly amazing. The monotonous, long lasting nature of school makes people act slower and take less risks. However, the brief time that each of us had at SSP after going through all the effort of applying made SSP so much valuable to us and as such, every single one of us threw ourselves at the program, not wanting to regret a thing. In such an environment, we got to see the true selves of each other fostering new connections unlike any others.

Even in acceptance of the importance of time, the sorrow of such a wondrous, transformative experience of SSP disappearing is not alleviated by any degree. However, I can go into the final days of SSP without a regret.  I have always been an introvert – I still am, but SSP has shown me how that nature of mine doesn’t have to define my experiences. Each instance among the diverse range of conversations and interactions I had with others has helped evolve myself into a slightly more extroverted and open individual. That transformation that SSP has given me will forever stay as a part of me and for that I am grateful. It is, after all, the summer of a lifetime. 🙂


Hello! My name is Gilbert, and I am a rising senior at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, Canada. My primary interests are in STEM fields, however, I also enjoy writing, playing piano, playing table tennis, and collecting Pokemon cards (it’s called an investment).