Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica, participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program here.
In February, I got an e-mail that I’d been hoping to receive for almost three months. It was from Estrategia Siglo XXI, a Costa Rican nonprofit organization that promotes science and technology, saying I’d earned a scholarship for United Space School in Houston. It made me extremely happy, and it began a long period of waiting for July 22.
In November, I was invited to apply for one of two scholarships to attend United Space School. I’d barely even heard of it, so I went online to find out what it was about, and I fell in love. It's a program that invites teenagers from all over the world to Houston.
Those teens attend lectures on different space-related topics, go on field trips to amazing places such as the Space Center Houston and split into different teams to design a manned mission to Mars. I'm a huge space geek, so I just knew that I had to attend.
But first I had to send in my information to see if I got chosen by Costa Rica's selection committee.
An essay, recommendation letters, an English exam and an interview later, I knew I was in the top six, but I was really nervous. I didn’t even allow myself to watch a video of the United Space School 2010 program I’d found online. I didn't want to know how amazing it was if I wasn't going to go.
After a long day of checking my e-mail over and over again, I got it. It was an e-mail with a subject along the lines of "results of the selection for the Space School scholarship." I was expecting something more like "Congratulations!" or "Sorry! Better luck next time." I read the most nerve-rackingly long e-mail of my life, but there it was: "You have been selected to obtain the scholarship and attend United Space School." I went crazy with joy; I was ready for everything and anything.
A few weeks later I got an e-mail from the Foundation for International Space Education asking us to join a Facebook group where we could introduce ourselves to the other students. The Facebook group was filled with people from every corner of the world. It was great to see the differences and similarities that I had with all of these young people and to get to know them a little bit.
We would also need to complete a few assignments before we could start school. We had two assignments every two weeks. They were all space-related, but in different areas: math, physics, chemistry, biology, even literature. They were great fun to complete - some were harder than others - but I learned tons with each one.
On July 9, I sent in the last two, with school finally getting closer and closer.
I got everything ready: a nice dress for the graduation, some Costa Rican-themed bookmarks to give to the other students, even a typical Costa Rican dress to wear on the night of the Culture Fair. I had everything ready, except for one thing: my host family. We knew we were getting assigned to families in the Clear Lake area; we just didn’t know when. A few days before leaving Costa Rica, I finally got an e-mail from my hosts. They seemed extremely nice, a retired couple ready to host me and another girl. This made all the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together; everything was ready for my arrival.
I flew to Houston on Thursday and stayed with a friend for a few days before space school started. I am extremely excited, ready to try new things, meet new people and learn lots. I’m ready to do my best in this program but also to have lots of fun and experiences to share with my family, my friends and the world.