by Justine Hudock
Student Community Engagement, Knovva Academy
Aiden L. has got to be the most expressive of any delegate, ministerial candidate, Head of State… darn it, the most expressive of any teenager that this interviewer has ever encountered. Take that word both ways: he’s expressive (in the sense of eloquent, articulate, or demonstrative), and he’s expressive: notice the length of his answers? That’s all Aiden L. brainpower. His verbal IQ must be, how ironically, one of those completely unpronounceable, nearly mentally ungraspable, astronomically large numbers.
But, like Moby Dick or Crime and Punishment (just an analogy — don’t let your ego get away from you, Aiden), the length is what makes this interview. I said goodbye knowing enough about Aiden to be certain of his exceptional exceptionality, even among the unusual brilliance of our student population.
He likes: YouTube, podcasts, support animals, rocket trips to Mars, biochemistry, psychology, George Orwell, Percy Jackson, Netflix, and sea turtles. He dislikes insufficient responses, and avoids them at all costs.
Give Aiden a big round of applause for his performance at Model G20’s 2021 July Summit, A Healthier Earth and Beyond, and lend your eyes to his interview!
Justine Hudock: What’s your name, where are you from, what year are you in school, and what’s a silly, fun fact about you?
Aiden L.: I’m Aiden from Taiwan — pleasure to be here! I’m a rising senior, which means I’ll be in deep college application waters by the time this article is up!
JH: What was your title and country in the Summit? What did you find most interesting about designing for your country’s particular needs?
AL: I was the Head of State of India in the latest summit. I was actually quite nervous since India was one of the most impacted countries by the pandemic. In particular, the second wave in June saw heavy death tolls and exposed a lack of healthcare equipment such as oxygen tanks and hospital beds.
I wasn’t sure whether India had any leverage to strike international policies with any other countries. Thankfully, one of the best things for MG20 is the emphasis on collaboration rather than competition. Similar obstacles make it easier to relate and assist other nations. Starting this week, I collaborated with the UK on medical research centers, and created an international mental health hotline with multiple countries.
Also cool about MG20 is that domestic policies matter just as much. I had a lot of fun understanding India’s misdirection of resources towards politics instead of public health, and discussing internal improvements with my teammates. It echoed a sentiment that sometimes countries don’t lack resources, but rather efficient government and management. MG20 just goes to show that the removal of political agendas can make the world run smoother!
JH: What did you come to the Summit more interested in: global health, or space exploration? Are you leaving the Summit still more interested in that, or did you flip?
AL: Ever since February when the summit topics were announced, I’ve been dead set on space exploration. I felt it was a breath of fresh air from all the news and politics surrounding COVID-19. Ultimately, my aspiration for leadership trumped my curiosity for space. As the pandemic alleviates, I did value my opportunity to do a deep dive of this topic, whether it’s medical marketing, oxygen tanks, or vaccine diplomacy (Is your vaccine effective? Should we allow people with mixed vaccines into our borders?).
Thankfully, the K-Prize still gave me a chance at exploring space with the Mars colonization topic, which I had a lot of fun with researching and developing a pitch.
Global health is more pragmatic currently, but space is more ambitious. Both are equally important for human advancement, but if you would give me a choice to pick again, I would reside with the cosmos.
JH: To what extent does your interest in either Summit topic (or both) inform your path — perhaps toward a future career, or simply in how you consume and behave in everyday life?
AL: Oof… this can come off as insensitive, would it? I do have an interest in biochemistry, which is related to biomedical engineering. However, throughout these two years I’ve become desensitized to the news. As each country fights their own battles, it feels like a replay of similar events under slightly different circumstances. One interesting aspect that I saw from the pandemic, though, is that empathy and ignorance are both equally powerful consciences in human nature, and it’s interesting to see how this struggle manifests in different parts of the world.
On the other hand, space is a relatively unknown field, with new discoveries and advancements made every day. From the latest Mars rover, to navigating around space debris, to dreams of interplanetary civilization, there seems to be a topic for everyone to investigate. When people talk about the pandemic, there is a division of experiences; when people talk about space, we share a mutual mix of trepidation and wonder, at least from my perspective.
My greater curiosity about space and how the world will work towards the future could show that I’m more of a person that looks forward instead of dwelling on the past; instead of following experts and news, I feel more in control when others have equal amounts of knowledge around me. Psychoanalysis!
JH: What advice do you have for other students who may be interested in following a similar path toward worldly mindfulness — being aware of life on a global and time-transcendent scale?
AL: Honestly, just consume all types of media on the topics you are interested in. It’s never been this easy to access knowledge in human history. Even just one Netflix documentary will probably give you more perspective and information (and more entertainment too!) than a cosmopolitan traveler in the 15th century.
If you do have time, then you can do field work and travel to places and interview people! Recently I’ve travelled to an island of Taiwan to see the extent of influence tourism has on sea turtle conservationism. Instead of reading about it on news articles, by interviewing local tour guides and scuba divers, I’ve gained more insight on the issue. Take a step further and immerse yourself if you can!
JH: Personally, what was your favorite part about the Summit?
AL: My favorite part about the summit was the meetings between ministers outside the summit. A group of people with a common goal makes the interactions more dynamic and flexible rather than a big conference where people take turns speaking.
JH: What else do you do outside of school that you really enjoy? Hobbies, academic extracurriculars?
AL: I enjoy singing and playing the guitar because it’s the serotonin burst whilst belting in the shower plus the coolness of producing your own background music.
I enjoy boxing and taekwondo because I can bring out the warrior in myself that I’m too insecure to show off in public.
I enjoy public speaking for the attention and feeling of control – LET ME EXPLAIN! When you can get past the fear and really think about it, you are communicating and performing in front of a crowd, wielding their collective conscience with your words, even if it’s for a few minutes, that’s one of the most influential things a human can be! (if you are a good speaker, of course).
JH: If you could invent one thing that would make life easier for people (perhaps related to global health or space exploration), what would you invent?
AL: The world would be better if emotional support animals were more common. I don’t have pets currently, but I’d like an organization established to just offer free animals of anyone’s choice weekly. No discrimination! From students to elders, as long as you are not heartless or abusive. Cute animals for everyone!
JH: What is one goal, personal or professional, you would love to achieve in the next five years? (Be creative! Tell us your wildest dream!)
AL: I’m pretty sure every Gen Z kid had a dream of becoming a YouTuber when they grow up. And I get it! Not the fame part, just the satisfying feeling of publishing something for the world to see that is created by you. I do have a YouTube channel since 4th grade, where I upload my travel vlogs for my own amusement (Aiden Lo on YT if y’all wanna check it out uwu). This year I’ve also started a biology podcast (“20-min bio w/ Aiden” – hehe) where I can share interesting scientific observations and interviews with conservationists and biologists!
Needless to say, I’m still chasing that one day something I create will make it big and affect other people. It can be a podcast, a book, scientific discovery… anything. That’s my goal for the next five years.
JH: What is your perspective on good leadership? What does it mean to evolve as a leader?
AL: A good leader is one who can delegate work effectively and stays on top of their own work. A great leader is one who can maintain a positive working atmosphere, be charismatic but respected simultaneously. Everyone can be a leader, but only a few can be great.
JH: Any college plans laid down yet? Do you have an intended major or minor? Dream school?
AL: Ooh! I’m into biology and general science, but I’m open to anything! I would love to take introductory courses such as philosophy, psychology, business, technology, and more in college. I feel that I know too little to start any concrete “plans”. I would love to study at Duke or UPenn.
JH: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
AL: I’m quite the doll lover. My sister and I have a hundred plushies combined in our bedrooms. My mom always brings up my age as if there’s a certain age where it’s a celestial rule you can’t touch any fluffy toys.
I’ve had my obligatory Teddy Bear since my birth and I still carry it every time I travel. To me, they are sentient because they bring comfort and joy to me as much as any pet or human does. That’s why I rotate them to make sure every one of them gets a chance to travel or an equal share of hugs from both of us. No preference!… maybe a little for the Teddy bear.
Class at school?
English in 10th grade and US History in 11th grade. The subject matters less than the teacher who teaches it.
Mr. Calhoun from English class always starts class with a philosophical or topical opener that gets the class to share, relate, laugh, or even cry. Then he segues into the topic or book at hand.
Mr. Holton from APUSH class is the definition of non-stop verbal jabs and burns to keep the class lighthearted, while introducing crucial current events and US history that he truly thinks are useful for our future.
The great teacher really makes the class! They don’t have to be the most put-together or organized — all they need is great technique and genuine passion.
1984 by George Orwell – classic, dark, exhilarating struggle in a dystopian future that has fantastic world-building (or world-imagining… eventually) and character psychoanalysis.
Pasta never gets old.
Red and black. Everything I own is red and black. The synergy just radiates voracity and force – something I need more of myself.
Something I still need to figure out for my senior quote. Thanks for reminding me!