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  • Writer's pictureGrace Schneider, Southern Illinois University

Flying Into the Unknown

I finally got on a plane! Not only did I fly for the first time ever but I flew by myself to the other side of the country, to a state I’d never been to, to meet a group of people I’d never met in person. Sounds like something our parents would warn us about, “don’t meet people off the internet.” Spoiler alert: I survived and returned to my university, unharmed, and brought back with me an experience of a lifetime.

September 2021, I was nominated and accepted into the National Millennial and Gen Z Society. Soon after, I was sitting in an introductory Zoom meeting with hundreds of members, listening to the founder, Bill Imada. He mentioned that this organization has taken multiple trips to meet with big-name companies and that the next trip would be next month in Boston.

When I told my parents about the organization and the trip, I said to my Dad, “It sounds like it would be really cool to go to, but obviously I couldn’t do Boston. Maybe I can make one of the other trips after I graduate.” My Dad’s response, “Well, why couldn’t you go?”

The simple response kept ringing in my head. Our family hadn’t traveled much, and trips were usually impractical, especially in the middle of a school semester. So this simple question, “why couldn’t you?” was the last thing I expected. I began thinking in terms of “why couldn’t I do this?” and I realized that this was more possible than I realized.

My friends, professors, and SIU were all very supportive and accommodating when I told them about the trip. The SIU Communication Studies Department directors helped me secure some funds to help support me financially, making everything smoother for me.

Boston was surreal. Looking back on the trip as a whole, it’s a fusion of memories blended together because it was so busy, yet every individual experience is so defined. I had the amazing opportunity to meet with companies like GBH, SharkNinja, NBC Universal, and some inspiring entrepreneurs. The trip itself was a great opportunity, but the people that I met and the bonds we formed over a span of 3 days were even more impressionable.

This was so much more than just a trip. Boston was an opportunity to build my confidence and learn more about myself. It was a fresh reset in a new city, surrounded by new people. I was able to rediscover how I feel about life, my career, and how I want to interact with my peers.

It was finding my passion for people again, truly appreciating the support system I have through SIU and NMC, and proving to myself that I had the confidence and determination to do something that seemed impossible. If I took nothing else from this trip, it was learning the power of the “pivot” (credit to Mr. Bill Imada); and, when faced with doubt, to always ask “why couldn’t I?”


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