Aerospace Career Exploration

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While in descent on the airplane, my thoughts buzzed like honeybees. I’d never been away from my family this long.

Alabama
Ryan, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, Inc.

While in descent on the airplane, my thoughts buzzed like honeybees. I’d never been away from my family this long. I didn’t even know that much about space. Yet here I was, in Alabama, about to spend two weeks at the U.S. Space and Rocket center; a place so different from my Minnesota home it was like a separate universe. What on earth made me think I could do this?

Getting off the USSRC bus, stepping onto the Aviation Challenge campus, my nerves bubbled away, slipping onto the pavement. True, I was most excited about the next week, the Advanced Space Academy, but surely this place would contain my jitters until then.

My two-week journey would contain one week of the militaristic Aviation Challenge, a campus on the far side of the USSRC grounds. The next week would be more centered around the main grounds of USSRC and would be focused on space exploration, Advanced Space Academy.

The first days of my voyage were difficult to say the least. I knew close to nothing about military aviation or anything military for that matter. I struggled to find what it would be that I would enjoy about this week. I also had to overcome a bad batch of homesickness, which I had never really encountered. Not to mention figuring out how to get along with these 11 other girls from all over the country. My outlook didn’t look bright.

However, as the week progressed, it turns out there was no time for jitters or unpleasant thoughts. Every day, I woke up and thought “I’ll have to know something about what we do today.” Every night, I’d think “There was nothing that could have prepared me for today.” There was something about spending every moment with the same 11 girls that slowly ate away at my fears. I took courage from knowing that this was every bit as new to me as it was to them. We helped each other conquer our greatest fears and when we couldn’t, we made sure that we adapted for each other. When we broke down (and let’s face it, everyone did eventually) we did not suffer alone. Our mindset went from “How am I going to get along with her?” to “How is the team going to get around disagreements?”

Much too soon, graduation came. We had become such close-knit friends that it was a grand relief knowing we didn’t have to say goodbye to each other yet. We did, however have to say goodbye to the other teams of our level, Mach III. During frightening 3-hour pitch-dark missions, not only going against the terrain, we had to protect ourselves against our own counselors, who are “the enemy”. We had to ensure that our team survived and do our best to ensure the other two team’s safety. Special bonds were made that night that still exist today.

Boarding the bus again, we made our way to the main USSRC campus, settling into our compartments that we were not only dissimilar in structure from our Aviation Challenge bunks but instantly we understood we had entered a different kind of camp. One that required a bit of character we’d gathered over the past week.

nstead of eating as a team, moving as a team and thinking as a team, Advanced Space Academy threw us in a new mindset. This involved gathering all you knew, all your creativity and every last drop of focus and putting it into one project or accomplishment. It allowed us to retain individuality while working as a team, because after all, we weren’t navigating the skies anymore; we were blasting off into space.

During graduation, it wasn’t tears that slipped onto the pavement, but bubbly laughter. We reminded each other to be courageous and not fear never seeing each other again because most of us were confident that we would. Besides, though the character we’d accumulated together, we would always be together, even across the continents.

Courage, Confidence, Character! In just two weeks, we all had grown into accomplished Girl Scouts, with these skills engrained in our mindset, our next destination: not even the sky can limit us.