By Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Who knew this experience would have such a lasting impact on me? I did not. But, here I am, full of excitement after attending the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan.  The auto show gave me a completely eye-opening glance at the world of cars, but I’m also leaving Detroit with so much more.

The Diversity Team at General Motors selected 12 lucky and exceptional college journalism students to attend the show and expose them to automotive journalism, career connections and possible jobs in an ever-growing market. I was one of these students, and initially I was skeptical about going because of my nonexistent knowledge and interest of cars and the auto industry. I didn’t know what to except, but I am leaving with so much more than I could have imagined. In just three days, I had the pleasure of working and meeting with inspirational journalists, writers, mentors, designers and top business people from around the country. I was able to learn their stories and gain advice for my own storytelling path.

This NAIAS experience was much more than just covering the auto show and meeting many people in suits. It was about finding new roads to travel on that can open my career (stealing Chevrolet’s tag line—don’t sue me, please). It was also about meeting amazing people who care about my work and want me to succeed, and feeling determined about the success that is yet to come my way. In the short time stamp, all of us students and mentors connected and made some great friends that were special for many reasons. The most important one is that we all have a common goal: to tell stories and make it in the field of journalism. I felt completely comfortable to be myself with my peers and mentors because having the same goals and experience let us get along seamlessly and we were able to share so much. I felt authentic, without any need to put up walls or filters. We were all surprised with how well we clicked, considering the short amount of time we had together! I had intellectual, genuine conversations which were moving, encouraging, satisfying and extremely motivating that I will remember—they are hard to come by these days. The right crowd makes all the difference, and we fit so well together. Each of us held different talents and skills that completed the circle to produce successful stories, and we hope to create more circles by working together very soon.

News projects, portfolio content, experience and laughter was produced on this trip. Newfound knowledge, new scenery and history were also weaved in the mix with an exciting scavenger hunt and fancy dinner buffets. All this encompasses the entire experience into a warm basket of goodies that I’ll carry in my backpack for the future. This trip has had a lasting impact on me, and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to NAIAS and intertwine myself with people who can help shape the person I am becoming, and who I can help in return.

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