I’ve always been a really passionate learner. I think this is somewhat due to my educational experience, since I was essentially allowed to study things I was interested in. I know it’s also partially because it’s something that comes easily to me – especially in a classically American educational system, I can easily excel because I know how to play the game. I memorize quickly, read fast and retain information.
I also love talking about all the random stuff I know. My brain is like a sponge of random facts, mostly because I love being right. This sounds really obnoxious (which it is), and it’s definitely a trait that I’ve been trying to improve upon. In the past (my younger, foolish self), I would argue things I had started even if I believed my opponent was right – and I always loved having an opinion about everything.
Luckily, (I believe) I have been growing out of this. I’ve had to force myself to listen, especially this past year.
The reason I’m writing about this now is because my internship has made me do this even more. I’ve never been a science-y person and I never would have seen myself working at a science-centered museum. I’ve always been self-proclaimed “right-brained.”
And I’m here, at the National Air & Space Museum.
Why, you might ask. Why would you choose to work there if you have very little knowledge of the materials in the collection or background of all the information?
That’s exactly why. I always aim to challenge myself in my learning patterns and my knowledge. Did I know much more than the fact that stars were gaseous balls, the Wright brothers invented the first airplane and how to locate Orion’s belt when I first started here? Yeah, no.
So it’s very difficult for me to be right in a place where I know very little about the subject matter. Which means that I’ve had to change gears a little bit and put myself in the passenger seat. There are so many intelligent interns, researchers, curators and staff members here who know so much more than I do – there are interns studying gender roles in aviation, geology on Mars, galaxies that I’ve never even been aware of.
And that means I have a lot to learn from them and not a lot to contribute.
So it’s been a process of sitting back and absorbing all the knowledge I can – thank goodness for planetarium shows that dumb everything down for me and blow my mind more than a little bit. For conversations at lunch that show me that there are so many things I don’t know about. For casual bits of information that keep my intellectual ego in check.
That’s one of the biggest things I love about this internship – being in a social media role, that means I get to learn a little bit about everything, which was the main reason I started in journalism in the first place. When I first walked into the Air and Space Museum, I didn’t know the difference between the Apollo and Gemini missions. I can now point out command modules from every Apollo mission. I can identify different types of aircraft and the stories behind them (Vin Fiz? SpaceShipOne? Spirit of St. Louis? I got you).
It’s a new way of absorbing information for me, and I can’t do anything but sit back, shut up and be grateful.