Trip to St. Louis: First Day Listen, Second Day Learn, In the Future, Lead

In the morning, we headed to the parking area where Mr. Goode and Dr. Berbrick are waiting with two vans. Inside the van, I hummed along with music from the radio, discussed about the corn field and their production in America with Jake Swick, my roommates, and chated with other cohorts. It was a long five hours drive with an hour break at the Calver’s, I am so pleased have two awesome drivers, who drove for long hours. Since they drove for us, I was able to enjoy the scenic of St. Louis. Thank you Mr. Goode and Dr. Berbrick for driving.

As soon as I enter the hotel, I was amazed by the size of the room. There were huge two queen beds and a nice size table with a comfortable chair and couches. Other cohorts are living in the same floor with close numbers, which allowed us to hang out and visit other cohorts rooms. I was already amazed by this St. Louis trip, because the traveling is paid, and hotel is paid too. Everything is paid, and we can have great opportunities to network with Alumni, visit science centers, and meet Mr. and Mrs. McKearn.

After enjoying the hotel’s comfortable couches and beds, we departed to join the dinner at Mr. and Mrs. McKearn house. On the way to their house, I saw that the size of the house in the street was increasing spontaneously. Then, here comes their house that was huge in size, but not overwhelmingly huge. Instead, their house was huge and sophisticated at the same time. I was nervous to walk in, and checked my tie and suits. Somebody rang the bell and we went into the house with Mr and Mrs. McKearn’s welcoming face.

Not only the outside, but also the inside of the house was amazing. They had comfortable couches and chairs to relax, tasty cheese and salami to start outs, and interesting jokes and stories to tell us. Since a lot of previous McKearn Fellows were saying how nice they were, I raised my expectations pretty high, but they jumped over my expectation  nicely and casually. After their talk, it was our turn to explain the research and who we are.

I was little nervous when we introduced ourselves and performed the elevator speech, but thanks to the practice and we made it. I feel like overwhelming amount of practice is the right practice, because my mind was blank and hollow during the pitch, but my mouth moved automatically and created the sentences as usual. I think everybody did great job in the pitch.

It was really interesting to talk with Mr. and Mrs. McKearn Fellows, and I am so greatful to join this program. Due to the fact that I am international students with no permanent residency, it is such a difficult procedure to join the organizations outside of NIU, which usually require citizenship and permanent residency. Therefore, McKearn Program is the one of the few programs that I can join, and this program provides valuable experiences and opportunities. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. McKearn.

On the second day of St. Louis trip, we were wearing black suits and slacks/skirts under the shiny sun with temperature of 87 degrees. It was hot and humid, but surprisingly, I got used to the temperature after few minutes of walk. In contrast to the outside heat, the cool air welcomed us in the Danforth Plant Science Center, as if the air conditioning was saying “you need to cool down, come down, and be ready for this invaluable tour and talk.”

The Science Center was simply interesting. It is difficult understand the technical term and experts’ instrument, but the presenter and scientist break those down into pieces, which made it easier to understand. My favorite machine was the microscopy that shows the 3D model of the plant by electronically cutting the plant and formulate the model like MRI. Unlike textbook, the model shape was similar to the spider web, but instead of plain web, it was spherical. Thank you so much for the scientists who took time for us and explained what they are doing.

During the tour and presentation about plants by Ms. Bernds, the public relation manager, I faced a single problem. I cannot ask any question about plants. I was able to ask question during the explanation of machine, because it was interesting for me due to my major, physics. Even though plants are interesting, I was not sure if the question came into my head is appropriate or if the question has already been said.

However, when I was talking with Mr. Joseph Matty, the associate vice presidents of NIU Alumni Association, he advised me, which opened up my eyes. He said “do not ask a question if you do not have a question. You should not come up with the question. It should naturally come into your mind, from your curiosity.” It was amazing and shocking phrase for me. I always try to formulate great questions to ask, but I was not paying attention to the curiousness of the topic.

For me, physics is interesting, teaching is fun, and public speaking is enjoyable. But I do not pay enough attention to other perspectives, which forced me to formulate the question from my head not my mind. Also, during the presentation by Ms. Bernds, Dr. John McKearn said “It is great that you follow your passion. But, also pay attention to the outside of your passion.” His quote made my goal. It is important to pay attention and become interested in other subjects even if it is out of the person’s interest. And it does fit for me, because the most important factor to learn physics is the curiosity. Without curiosity, you can’t ask great question.

Since my brain was spinning around and steaming up with the hot temperature and hot topics, I was already little exhausted when we arrived to Biogenerator. However, when vice president of Biogenerator, Mr. Bolten begins speaking, the fatigue was blown away. If I would naively summarize what he has done to reach a prestige position, I would say “He worked hard.” Mr. Bolten was working hard and is working hard for his entire life. He ask questions until he understand the concepts, he say “I don’t understand” when he doesn’t understand, and he always study many different subjects because it is interesting. They are the fundamental steps to take to become successful, and they are simple and easy. But, it is difficult to continually do.

I might ask question, but only one or two. Mr. Bolten asked questions for an hour. I might afraid to say “I don’t know this.” He say it every day. I might become interested in the topic, but does not last so long. He finishes the book. It was very apparent that what I should do, what I could’ve done, and what I wasn’t doing right. I was doing the right thing, but not with the right amount. Mr. Bolten’s phrases expanded my tiny world, and pushed me into the next step.

Through the trip, I learned not only the scientific facts and truth, but also the knowledge to be successful in the life. Be curious about anything around me, ask questions and work hard. Although I am still in the progress to become a leader, I am getting ready by meeting many successful leaders and hearing the story from them.

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