The Pursuit of Happiness: Monsters, Polaroids, Grasshoppers, and Root Beer Floats

Author: Sri S.

6 months ago while I was applying to SSP I prolly would’ve never thought I would ever be writing a blog. Well I guess I’m here now. Even tho I probably gained the freshman 15 in 2 months, lost hundreds of hours of sleep, fought off countless bloodsucking grasshoppers at 1:30 am, and felt like I was the stupidest person in the room during every lecture, I truly believe this was one of, if not the best summer of my life. This blog will be dedicated to recounting the entire experience: the good, the bad, the great, and the ugly. 

The journey all started on a burning hot summer day as I stepped of the plane into El Paso, Texas. I wearily walked around looking for fellow teenagers who looked like me. Luckily I spotted a few of them right away (shoutout to Jayden, Kim (fire teammate), Isbaah, Arjun, Gautam, and everyone else who I met at the start). After going to the dorm and settling down we ate dinner and the program started. 

Bus ride to the dorm: Jayden, Me, Arjun, Velvet, Rachael, Ashley?, Bailey, Vicky, Isbaah, and Kim. Left to right and bottom to top

First week in and I was already eager to take a flight back home. Not only did I feel out of place intellectually, but I also didn’t feel like I fitted in with anyone. I called my parents and (in my own subtle way) gave them the hint that I wanted to get out. After some reassuring words from them (and no real choice but to stay) I stayed (am I glad that I did). After that week it got a little better, kinda.

This is the chapter in my summer called Pink Eye. 

If you know anything about pink eye then you probably think I did some questionable things to get it. But I still don’t know how I got it – probably the airport? Anyways that’s beside the point. For the entire week I didn’t think too much about my bloodshot eyes. Everywhere I looked I got comments from everyone about them but I still didn’t really care.  It also doesn’t help that I’m red -green colorblind so I couldn’t even tell I had it most of the time. Anyways after a couple nights of nyquil and morning eyes filled with pus and I finally seemed to put the dreaded eyes in the past.

If you think thats the end of the eyes – think again.

A week later and it started. First it was my roommate, Rajat. Then my teammate, Velvet. A week later my friend Kavish. The bloodshot eyes started spreading like wildfire. Eventually the quarantines also started. One by one they had to isolate themselves for days while attending school online. COVID 2.0. Thankfully the pandemic eventually died down with no casualties. The next couple weeks went without much drama, other than a couple hundred bugs flying in the night. 

The next chapter in my summer is called sleep.

If you know me (which you probably don’t) then you know that I like to sleep anytime and anywhere. On the floor at the museum, in class, while hiking, in the cafeteria, name it and I have probably slept there. Anyways I had a pretty bright idea to buy a 12 pack of monster energy drinks for the cheap price of $18. Every morning I started to wake up at 8:20, pop an energy drink and go to class. Even that couldn’t keep me from losing consciousness from time to time. 

Anyways you know how I talked about wanting to leave in the first week. Well after week 3 I dreaded the time to leave. Even though I still felt like one of the stupidest people in the lectures, I learned to ask for help from my many genius classmates. 

Since this blog is getting quite long ill end it off with probably the best chapter of the summer: Endgame.

The start of the endgame starts with the Orbital report. If you don’t know what that is then don’t worry. TLDR: A huge report talking about everything you worked on during the summer. Even longer story put short, we spent around 12 hours working on the report for the entire day (had a monster energy drink through the whole thing) and turned it in mere seconds before midnight. What ensued was a mix of joy, sadness, and pure relief. We celebrated with some pizza and took some crazy polaroids. 

Picture 1: Moment we turned in our final report. Me, Dr. R, Kim, and Velvet (left to right)
Picture 2: Picture of all of us celebrating: Saahil, Me, Abhi, Gautam, Hyde, Rajat, Arjun, and Kavish (left to right)

After a late night of talking about life we slept quite late (following silent time) and woke up at around 11am. Skip a day and we had our talent show. As i’m typing this the talent show just finished and let me tell you. The talent show made me realize how much I’m going to miss everyone here. I gotta say our “I Want It That Way” karaoke was something to see. But even more amazing was just how fun we all had. I genuinely felt at home. We still have 1.5 days left and I know i’m going to be so sad the moment we have to leave. Anyways even though i’m going to be sad I’m happy it ever happened. Thank you to Mrs. Martinez for being a mom for all of us, Dr. Rengstorf for teaching us how to calculate a 6×6 Jacobian matrix, Dr. Anderson for teaching us about hedgehogs, Lara for being the goofiest and funny TA, Benji for being a child trapped in a finance bros body, Katherine for being a big sister to all of us, and Joel for being so helpful during problem sets. And finally I would like to thank all of my amazing friends. I would list them out but there are probably too many people. Anyways if you’re thinking about coming to SSP or applying, please do because it will be one of your favorite summers ever (genuinely). I can truly say that this summer has made me happy beyond what I ever thought was possible. 

Some random pictures from the entire program below!

Lara and me mid orbital report night  (Left to right)
Josh and Me
Dean sleeping!
Sunspot Observatory (in no order): Me, Feodor, Isabella, Dean, Rajat, Ari, Kavish, Josh, and Vivian

About me:

Academically I enjoy studying Astronomy, programming, math (sometimes), and economics. Other than that you will probably find me working out, listening to music, playing video games, and hanging out with my friends. I have started to enjoy traveling and hope to maybe study abroad during college. Still have no clue what I want to study in college but I hope to figure it out in the next 4 years.