CSSSA and COSMOS under the sun

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Every summer, a little over a thousand students are selected to take part in state-funded residential programs such as California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) and California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). For four weeks, these motivated students take part in specialized, intensive courses.

COSMOS allowed aspiring scientists, engineers and physicians to work closely with renowned professors from the UC school system, where they learned college-level material along with attending seminars and participating in advanced lab work.

The program was held on four UC campuses (UCD, UCSC, UCSD, and UCI) and had a total of 36 unique STEM subspecialties, called clusters, ranging from quantum mechanics to biomedicine to marine biology.

“My cluster was the Sound for Virtual Reality cluster, in which we utilized 3D sound and spatialization in conjunction with iOS development, and we had to build an app in just four weeks,” senior Anita Shen said. “It was definitely challenging, but I am sure everyone was happy with their results.”

Similar to COSMOS, CSSSA took place at CalArts Institute and also offers several departments all centered around the arts including creative writing, theatre, dance, animation and visual arts, allowing students to fully immerse themselves in their respective art. Along with attending their core discipline, students could choose electives they took interest in, both of which students could receive college credit for.

“CSSSA is really different from school because you’re people who share the same love for art as you, so you automatically feel a sense of support just being there,” senior Karry Lee, Visual Arts attendee, said. “There would be screenings at night for different departments and everyone would go regardless of what field they were in.”

Despite the curriculum, these camps weren’t just all work and no play. Nightly activities helped students bond across all disciplines and clusters, and students had the opportunity to explore the campus and adventure in the nearby city at the end of the day. During the weekends, outings to the fair, beach and museums along with unscheduled free time gave students freedom to do what they wanted.

“When you live with one another for 24 hours a day, you really get to know your cluster mates. We encouraged each other when projects got stressful and laughed at the same jokes,” Shen said. “It’s like meeting 18 best friends!”

In the end, these residential programs were an opportunity for students to connect with others through a common passion for art or science. They discovered both their interests and themselves with their newfound independence.