In the beginnings of my career in space, I was privileged to be able to attend the Space Studies Program (SSP) at International Space University (ISU). And I really mean privileged.
The program takes place in a different country every year and it starts with a series of core lectures covering all space disciplines at ISU: humanities; engineering; sciences; space applications; space policy, economics and law; management and business; and human performance in space. Participants get an overview of the principal topics in all the departments by world-renowned experts. Most of the lecturers stay a few days so… the best part of it? They join you and the other participants at breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything that goes on, so you don’t only get to ask them questions, but you also get to know them!
The second part of the program consists of departmental activities: participants choose a department (not their field of expertise) and they specialize a bit in it. In between the department activities, they also get lots of workshops, presentations, a robot and a rocket competition, a balloon launch, panels (including the oh-so-famous astronaut panel!), culture nights… SSP is a neverstoping program and sleep is a rare commodity.
During the last part of the nine-week program, participants work on the Team Project (TP). The TP actually runs over the whole programme, but it does not get full-time until the end. And what is the purpose of the TP? With a group of around 30 classmates (from around the world) participants need to develop a project on one of the proposed topics. It certainly ensures lots of stress, but also lots of learning. And it’s in this part of SSP that the three I’s of ISU shine with more force: international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary.
But ISU is not just a university, it’s a family. On top of the top-notch lecturers, you also get top colleagues. My classmates, who are excellent persons, are also great professionals, with very different backgrounds, and with a shared passion for space. At the end of the program, with so many shared experiences, they really became my family, and I’m happy to say they are STILL my family even though I finished the program three years ago.
Another thing about ISU: the network. During SSP, participants get to know so many people that their network grows exponentially. When you finish, you’re not just a lost student who is not sure where to go, you’re confident that with your new titulation and the network you get you will sure find your dream space job. I fully recommend the SSP program! For me it was a great experience and after a few years (I did the program in 2017 in Cork, Ireland) I can see it gave me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. If you want to check it out, information is available at the ISU website https://www.isunet.edu/ssp/ Lots of scholarships are available!
Marta Lebron works as a Marketing and Communications Officer for QinetiQ, an international engineering company which does work with a variety of projects including aeronautical design.