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by Monique Vieira, Round Lake High School, Class of 2015
I awoke on the morning of my speech with a horrible feeling of dread. Hours before I even had to get on the bus, there I was freaking out about how many ways I could possibly mess it all up.
What if I choked up mid-thought?
What if I looked up to make eye contact and just suddenly forgot everything I was going to say?
What if I lost my place somewhere in the middle and accidentally blurted out, “Oh, right!” when I found it? (Spoiler alert, I did.)
“Oh God,” I thought, “Why did I ever agree to this?”
So I went through my morning routine a nervous wreck. And I got onto the bus an even greater nervous wreck. And by the time I actually set foot in the building where I would be presenting my speech, I’m sure they would’ve needed to invent an entirely new word to describe just how nervous I was. But before I knew it, it was my time. The few steps to the podium felt like miles as the fear of public speaking rushed through my head. At last, I placed my speech down in front of me and began to speak.
I remembered being in those seats a year ago. I remembered watching Scholars speak so fondly of their summer college program experience and wondering, “Will that be me next year?” Would I be as passionate in a year’s time as they are now?
Yet one year later, there I was. All eyes were on me, waiting to hear what I had to say about my experience.
“Why did I ever agree to this?” Suddenly the answer was clear. I wanted to inspire someone. I wanted someone to listen to me speak and think, “Gee, if it can happen to her, it can definitely happen to me!” I was up there to say the words and be the example I had seen a year ago. To show someone how great a summer college program could actually be: how it could change your life and open your mind in ways you never would have thought possible.
Part of the reason I was there speaking that day was because I experienced that change firsthand. Over the course of my three-week program at the Carleton Summer Science Institute, I experienced a complete 180 in how I viewed the world. When I first arrived, I was arrogant and stubborn, but all of that changed as the weeks flew by. By the end, I had learned so much, from the value of asking for help to being confident in myself without being presumptuous and so much more. In a way, it was thanks to my experience that I had the guts to give my speech in the first place. Without the lessons I had learned in going outside my comfort zone and facing my fears, I would have probably given into my nerves and copped out. But that was ancient history. I was there to share the story of my transformation, and that I did.
As I ran through my speech, the nerves that had consumed me all morning faded. My words felt like they were taking on a life of their own as I conveyed my experience. Once I was finished, a wave of relief washed upon me. I had overcome my fear and shared my message, and I could not be prouder of myself for doing so.