Written by Chunyang Ding
Good writer must know their audience, so let’s try something here. This message has been very personalized from your child directly to you, moms and dads.
ATTENTION FAMILY AND FRIENDS STOP YOUR CHILD IS DOING VERY WELL AT THE SUMMER SCIENCE PROGRAM STOP HE OR SHE IS BEING RIGOUROUSLY CHALLENGED BY THE MANY DIFFERENT ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL LESSONS HERE STOP LECTURES ARE DIFFICULT BUT MANGEABLE, WHILE HOMEWORK HAS BEEN SUFFICIENTLY CHALLENGING STOP THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF FUN AND MANY FRIENDS HAVE BEEN MADE STOP WE HAVE CLEARLY BEEN GETTING MORE THAN SUFFICIENT HOURS OF SLEEP PER DAY AND THE FOOD IS SATISFACTORY STOP YOUR CHILD LOVES YOU AND APPRECIATES ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR THEM STOP END MESSAGE
PS PLEASE SEND MORE SNACKS. MAYBE TO CHUNNY. HE’S A COOL KID TOO. THANKS.
(That last line was in jest. Sorta. )
In all seriousness, the Summer Science Program has been absolutely phenomenal in terms of the teaching as well as the academic direction – the introduction to new topics and ideas has been absolutely fascinating for me personally, as we have been exploring in depth some remarkable topics. From the theoretical coordinate systems that astronomers use to identify the stars, to the practical knowledge in operating a telescope that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, I’ve learned more in the first week than months at other places. But more than that, everyone here is so willing to interact and talk to about very interesting problems. Spontaneous discussions will spring up surrounding interesting puzzles and factoids that we’ve picked up in our respective places.
However, the academic side of this program is well known to everyone – to parents, teachers, and hopefully the respective colleges that we are all vying for. Instead, I want to comment a bit on the people here at SSP. One of the first things that I noticed when arriving here that all the people here are remarkably diverse in all ways, forms, and aspects. There were many international students, people of all different size, color, and style, but we were all unified by our curiosity for the natural world. From that basis, we became more knowledgeable about our common areas. The number of students who had stories to share about Science Bowl, Quiz Bowl, Science Olympiad, mathematics competitions, crazy classes, or any of the other infinitely amazing items that we are part of were amazing. I started to see the “6 degrees of separation” theory really come into play. Even before arriving, I found mutual friends with many of my current classmates, which more or less blew my mind. We were all already connected in so many ways, and this past week has only served to connect us even further.
I’ve always truly enjoyed being in an environment with like minded people, because when there is complete belief in the ability of your peers, you aren’t afraid to speak your mind anymore. You become open to discuss all sorts of fanciful ideas and abstract concepts, something that typically feels more constrained in regular environments. Rather than straining to make small talk, I’ve been opened up to conversations of all different types. Beyond the ability to talk about similar ideas, we are also able to better engage in discourse. Arguments are more logical and sound and just so interesting! There aren’t any wild or unsubstantiated facts flying around; it seems that everyone has done their research! This community is one that I look forwards to being surrounded by – for the next four weeks of my summer as well as (hopefully) for the rest of my life.
A big part of SSP is also the honor code here, which in short is to respect all people. Rather than having a lengthy set of rules, laws, and regulations, we choose to have a system where people are able to trust and confide in each other. An added bonus of this system seems that it helps make everyone here more human in a sense. When you first come to this camp, you become a bit dazed at how many geniuses there are in the same room where you are sitting. If you come to this camp with the mindset that you *must* be at the top, you will be sorely disappointed. I won’t say that we don’t have any kind of competition here, but it’s friendly and helpful, rather than jarring and deceitful. Soon, you realize that all of these people here are still human. We have our own flaws and idiosyncrasies, and that’s what makes this camp interesting! Because we are all in it together, we are able to form friends for a lifetime.
I’ve written far more than I should have, so I will simply leave off with a song that approximates what I’ve been feeling over the past week. I’m looking forwards to much more fun and learning here!
Chunyang (“Chunny”) resides in Bellevue, WA and is currently a rising senior at Interlake High School. He’s excited to pursue STEM related fields but also enjoys writing and discovering life’s little pleasures!