Shooting for the Moon: How I got an internship at NASAFeatured

This summer, one of my biggest dreams came true. At 23 years old, I finally got my first internship - at NASA! Some may be thinking, "23 years old and only completing her first internship?" Yes, it's a bit unconventional, and that's okay. After high school, I spent four years at my local community college. I was constantly switching between jobs and majors, which caused me to move through my studies at a slower pace than most of my peers. However, that extra time paid off because I eventually rediscovered my childhood love for space and science, and my life changed. With this rekindled passion, I started seriously considering a career at NASA. I wanted to be a part of an organization that brings out the best in our nation and humanity. The first thing I asked myself was, "How have others been successful in getting there?" I centered my research around what others studied in college and what their paths were, so that I could do the same and hopefully get the same results. As a result, I switched majors and began blindly chasing a degree in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. This was the wrong approach. Engineering wasn't for me. I wasn't completely enjoying the coursework, but I thought that my only shot at NASA was to keep pushing through anyway. In hindsight, the first question I should have asked myself is, "Where do my true interests and passions lie?" It took about a year for me to learn that. When I finally reevaluated my situation, I realized that I would be much happier studying Computer Science, so I took a risk and underwent my third and final major change. Suddenly, I became so much happier and motivated. This is when I realized that it's better to create my own path instead of struggling to stay afloat in someone else's. On top of that, I learned that success isn't linear; it is a long and arduous journey. You eventually start to become familiar with failures, doubts, and uncertainty. It's important to not let the negatives weigh you down because once you start achieving your goals, it is so magical. I know this from experience: I was ineligible for NASA internships for a long time because of my GPA. Instead of viewing this as a permanent barrier, I took it as an opportunity to focus on and improve my academic habits. Once I got my GPA up, I applied. A couple different times with no luck, actually. To me, these were chances to gain more experience in my community and with other extracurriculars. Each experience turned out having its own way of propelling me to the next big thing, so I ultimately owe this dream internship to never quitting. Now that I’ve wrapped up my internship, I can say that the most important lesson I've learned is to be open to new experiences. For me, this was a summer of firsts. It was my first internship, my first time being on my own, and my first time living out of the state. After going out of my comfort zone, I gained so many valuable skills. I taught myself a new programming language, learned how to work independently within a large team, practiced time management, and built a number of professional relationships. From here on out, I'm focusing on letting this one small step become a giant leap for a lifetime career at NASA. Lessons learned in a nutshell: It's easy to give up, but don't take the easy way out. Stay true to yourself and keep your goals in the forefront of your mind. Be brave and embrace change as it comes. Create your own destiny.You owe it to yourself to reach your potential!--Kayla Dio Robinson is a Virginia Beach native. In August 2019, she completed her first summer internship at NASA's Katherine Johnson Independent Verification & Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. She holds an A.S. in Computer Science from Tidewater Community College and is currently completing her B.S. in Computer Science at Norfolk State University. In her spare time, Kayla enjoys painting, creating music, practicing astrophotography, and volunteering as the secretary of the Back Bay Amateur Astronomers club in Hampton Roads.
kuan's profile thumbnail
Thank you Kayla for sharing your story with us! If you have a good story to share, or know someone who does, let us know via DM.
kaylajdr's profile thumbnail
Thank YOU for allowing me the opportunity to share my story on such an empowering platform!
whitneycaneel's profile thumbnail
Kayla, your story is inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing!"This is when I realized that it's better to create my own path instead of struggling to stay afloat in someone else's." This couldn't be more true. I think more of us, than not, have felt that sometimes we have to choose a path that we think we should be on, rather that forging our own. I'll soon be 31 and I only recently figured this out myself. Your story was a nice reminder to create our own destiny- only then can we truly reach our goals!Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us!
kaylajdr's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading, Whitney! I am so glad you enjoyed. Best wishes to you!
sheenam7's profile thumbnail
Such an inspiring story, Kayla. Loved this: "I became so much happier and motivated. This is when I realized that it's better to create my own path instead of struggling to stay afloat in someone else's." More power to you!❀️
kaylajdr's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for reading, Sheenam! ❀️
Storm's profile thumbnail
Love this! We're actually connected on LinkedIn and I show you off to my nieceβ€”who has NASA aspirations!β€”every chance I get. Thank you for sharing your story with us! πŸ’•
kaylajdr's profile thumbnail
Nice to see you on here, Storm! & That's so sweet, I'm honored. How old is your niece?
Storm's profile thumbnail
She's 12 and hoping to be as smart, ambitious and powerful as you!
nadiadeala's profile thumbnail
This is so COOL! You're incredible. I love all the truth: success isn't linear, asking yourself "Where do my true interests and passions lie?" and not letting rejections stop you. Truly inspiring! What's next for you?
kaylajdr's profile thumbnail
Thank you, Nadia! It's always important to keep it real. Up next is a summer 2020 internship at NASA Langley in Hampton, VA πŸš€ Until then... back to school!
IsaCFritz's profile thumbnail
Already hit you up on the Twitter-verse, but just wanted to tell you again that you rock! I can't wait to see where you go. If you ever want to nerd out on spacey stuff, hit me up!
jessicagrayson's profile thumbnail
It is really lovely to see someone who takes time to navigate through the waters of figuring crap out. Many times, while still good, we hear of these fast and amazing jumps to success which is good, but not the only way. I wish I had read this at 23 :)
BelleTaylor's profile thumbnail
This is so inspiring and truly redefines "shoot for the stars"! Congratulations and can't wait to see where your journey ends up!