The word “together” has many different meanings at SSP. For starters, you’re simply with your fellow SSPers for at least eight hours of the day — and I say at least. There’s a good chance that outside of those mandatory hours you’ll find people chatting away over discord, working through a pset, or simply playing a fun game. But there are deeper meanings to such a word. Each person in SSP is in it together. Your struggles, triumphs, moments of victory and defeat, are all shared with one another; nobody can go through SSP alone. You may try at first, but you will be shot down. Quick. Not by an administrator or peer — but by yourself. The difficulty and amount of work you are assigned guarantees that you will need to collaborate with your teammates to figure out whatever problem you are working on. Whether you don’t know how to start a physics question or your python code gives you perpetual errors, you can turn to your teammates, and they will help you. Everybody needs each other to get through, and because of that they are more than willing to help. Accordingly, when one person makes a breakthrough the whole team makes the breakthrough, whether that be figuring out a daunting problem set, or understanding the mechanics behind a formula. Each victory, large or small, is shared between the group. Every person is there to lift each other to success.
The long nights spent working through a series of problems serve not only to bring you further to academic success, but to connect people in a unique way. Each person goes through the same rigor as the other, and because of that a strong bond is formed — a bond of respect, but also of friendship. While you experience victories and setbacks with one another, you also laugh, play, and smile with them. Whether than be in a game of codenames or in a late night, 2 AM discord call, the sociable and charming nature of each SSPer guarantees that you’ll feel right at home laughing along with them. I’ve never assimilated into a group as quickly as I did with SSP, and you can thank the fellow participants for that. SSPers are some of the most welcoming people I know. I remember when we got sent into our three person teams for the first time. Whatever social anxiety I might have had was instantly flushed away. My teammates were incredibly welcoming and charismatic, and made me feel right at home. I felt comfortable conversing and laughing with them right out of the gate, it wasn’t awkward or weird, instead being an amazing experience. I remember being exuberant coming out of that meeting, knowing that I was going to have a great time in the coming weeks, that I was going to make new, awesome friends. It’s not hard to see why this community is so amazing — we all share the common passion for astronomy. Even more, for many of us this is the first time we can be in a community that values such a thing as much as we do. I have never met someone who shares the same fervent wonder for space that I do, and the opportunity to converse with such people is one of the things that makes SSP special. SSP brings these like-minded people together where they can not only interact with people like themselves, but form bonds and friendships between one another. Therein lies one of the true values that SSP offers: community. A community of friends, an oasis of learning, a port where the fruits of the mind are exchanged. SSP brings these people together to enable such a wonderful experience. As the program continues, these connections will only grow stronger, the rewards only growing. The only sad thought is that it must end in five short weeks. Until then, however, I will be enjoying it to its fullest.