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Martian Diaries

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Growing Up at JPL
By Clara Ma

Clara in 2009, 2013

Dear Fellow Martians,

The other day as I was getting ready to submit the abstract for my final presentation, it struck me how quickly these past few weeks have gone by. My internship will be ending in just 18 days, and I don't think I will be ready to leave.

I am currently working on a project for JPL's Mars website, developing content and designing a page using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code that I knew nothing about before I got here. I have learned a great deal as an intern this past month, but really I have been learning from the scientists and engineers at JPL since the very beginning of my journey.

Just a few days ago I was helping to escort a tour with a really smart, funny, and humble engineer named Bobak, and one of our stops was at the Mars Yard. Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of my first visit to JPL is being there in the yard surrounded by rocks, dust and dirt; listening attentively to Jamie, an engineer, explain Curiosity's various systems and functions. Being back at the Mars Yard made me acutely aware of how much had changed since I was that little girl with braces in the pink blouse and corduroy pants. Now I am older, taller, and I would like to think a little bit wiser.

There is a strange feeling I get when I have to leave a place that is really special to me. Not only will I miss the people I love, but I will miss the person I was at that time and place because I know I will never be the same way again. For me, JPL is one of those places -- it captures me in moments of my life, placing me among the vicissitudes of my fluctuating goals and dreams, but also reminding me of what's truly important.

I was 12 when I first came to JPL. I am 16 now, and this time as an intern I get to make a small contribution to the people that have already given me so much. It's nowhere near enough, but I'm glad that I've gotten the chance to start. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be back here again, and even more so to have this platform to share my experiences.

As always, thank you for listening.