So there we were—with microphones to magnify our voices for the world to hear and knots in our stomachs as the eyes of our crowd watched every move, waiting with small smiles for the interview to begin. Wait what?! Let’s back up.
First of all, I am part of the first all-girls team in the Shell Eco-marathon, a competition in which high school and college students design, build, and race prototype cars with a single goal in mind: fuel efficiency. Our car, dubbed the Iron Maiden (after the torture device not the band), has achieved 470 miles per gallon and 1st place in the diesel prototype category.
A few months ago Shell Oil gave us an opportunity of a lifetime—to travel to Aspen, Colorado to take part in something called the Aspen Ideas Festival while representing the Shell Eco-marathon program, promoting women in engineering, and recruiting new teams. The Ideas Festival occurs every summer and brings people together from all over the world to meet, present, and discuss ideas to make our world a better place, addressing topics from green technology and transforming education to politics and civil rights.
Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
It was an amazing experience to walk the same paths as so many leaders… so many great thinkers who are changing the world. We met with writers, university professors, CEOs of major companies, Emmy award winners, a Tibetan monk with a speech about happiness, an inventor helping the troubled people of Africa, and even signed an autograph for an Olympic gold medalist. And among those we didn’t get a chance to meet were Lance Armstrong and wait for it… Bill Clinton!
And as for the part I dreaded most of all (the interview) due to my fear of public speaking surprising turned out pretty well thanks to our awesome interviewer — the senior editor of the Atlantic magazine — and because I somehow managed to forget that the president of Shell Oil Company was sitting in the front row.
Aspen is something I’ll remember forever, not only because of the amazing people we met but because Aspen is simply an incredible place. Our week there was a week in paradise — a break from the constant raining of Washington State and a taste of independence. We rode bikes across the cobblestone streets in town and on one of the hundreds of trails Colorado proudly boasts. We rode gondolas up Aspen Mountain, catching a glimpse of the breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys below. We tasted the world’s best ice cream at a little shop called Paradise while listening to live classical music right in front of their doors. We saw thunder storms come and go in a matter of minutes (an unknown phenomenon to us Washingtonians where the gray skies usually never let up). And on the one day it rained we even managed to go swimming.
Aspen is a place of individuality, where anyone can be themselves, a place of art, where those odd statues of a man tying his shoe and the bear made of nails fit in perfectly, and most of all it is a place looking to the future — housing the Aspen Ideas Festival where brilliant minds make the most inconceivable impossible possible, sporting solar panels on the roofs of everyday houses, and so much more. Aspen is not just a dot on the map… it is a place with character and a piece of it will always remain with me. This is a place where I got over my fear of public speaking, a place of adventure and unforgettable memories, and a place where anything is possible.
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