Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Reflections Not in a Mirror

Here I am a couple of days after my time with the ILC and the VSA, still thinking about it all. I still can barely believe that I took part in such an amazing adventure, one that took place in little under a month. Most of my friends here in the Bay Area did not spend their summer being academically challenged, making new friends on the other side of the country, and making connections that will last far into the future. Hopefully they didn't spend any time in the hospital either - I recommend every part of our trip but that one. With that one exception, I would say that they missed out on an amazing opportunity to enrich not only themselves but the community they're in. After these three and a half weeks, I feel like I am a better person, one able to not only help themselves, but help those around them - one of the most important aspects of being a good person in general.

Our first few days were spent getting to know Nashville, taking in the sights around us as we got used to a place that was markedly different than home. After not too long though, we started the main reason we were there in the first place: the Vanderbilt Summer Academy.

And of course, my amazing instructor Jason.
The VSA taught me a lot both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I was taught the mathematics of cryptography along with 14 other students who had no idea what was going on most of the time. That was a good thing though, because we were able to work together to solve problems that none of us had ever seen before. It was awesome. None of us had an advantage of being smarter or knowing more than the others - we all had fun, worked hard, and figured things out as a team. This is one of the most important things I'll take away from the VSA, how to work together as a team and figure things out together. This skill will be one that I'll use for the rest of my life, I'm sure.

Outside of the classroom, I made new friends and heard about places I've never been. Many students were local (within a few states of Tennessee) but each of them had a different story to tell. It was amazing to me to see how similar, yet how different, everyone was from each other. Here we were, bright students from all over the country, talking and laughing and generally having a great time in our classes like we had been friends for much longer than a few days. I loved it. I'm still in contact with many of the friends I made there, and I'm sure I will be for years to come. VSA leaves me not only with newfound skills, but friends as well.

An awesome selfie in front of a life-size
mars rover at JPL
Outside of the classroom (this time in the hospital) I was better introduced to the people who run the program, one of whom left me with an amazing opportunity. Eric, Todd and Tamra stayed with me in the hospital for hours, and I'm grateful to them for their time spent with me. Eric was the one who gave me an amazing opportunity while we were there, however. He put me into contact with his friend, Kyle, who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For someone who wants to go into the aerospace industry, it was a dream come true. Yesterday I not only visited JPL with Kyle, but I was told of an internship opportunity that I could apply for that would happen next summer. And to think, that if I hadn't come to VSA none of this would've happened.

For everything that I was able to learn and do, I want to thank everyone involved. Don, for almost single-handedly putting the ILC together year-after-year; the staff at VSA for having the best summer program I've ever attended (and Eric, for such an amazing opportunity); Ms. Hansen, for coming along with us; the numerous sponsors who contributed money to the ILC to send not only our cohort but others as well back for the experience of a lifetime; and of course, my parents, for being cool with the fact I'd be spending three and a half weeks in a place I've never been. Thank you all so much, because the ILC was the best thing I've done with my summer. Ever.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You already got to go tour JPL! How marvelous!