#WeAreArity Wednesday: Mikaela Peters

Meet Mikaela Peters from our Data Science team.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

I used to work for NASA, so a bunch of the astronauts. They used to do that for interns where you could go listen to an astronaut talk.

So, Victor Glover – and ironically when I was just in Houston a couple of weeks ago, I saw him at a bar, and I was impressed that he recognized me because I had lunch with him one time.

Then there’s Ellen Ochoa. She was the director of NASA and was the first Hispanic woman to go to space.

Then also Sonny Williams. She’s pretty famous because of this hair washing video that she did in space. I think that’s pretty popular on YouTube.

It’s hard for me to narrow down which of those people is arguably the most famous. But I would say probably one of them.


What is your hobby?

It’s language learning and running. I don’t know which one is more of my favorite hobby. Running has been a longer, more consistent hobby because it’s how I stay in shape, and I think it has a lot of good mental health benefits with giving me time to think and spending time in nature.

And then for language learning, I like that there’s an end result and you see progress over time.


How many languages do you speak?

I speak Russian fluently, aside from English. I used to speak Spanish a lot better, but I don’t use it as much anymore – if I really need to use it, I can. I understand some Finnish, and I can say some stuff, but I am by no means anywhere close to fluent in it.

I also studied Arabic and French, and I know Armenian a bit. I tried Chinese, but it was too hard. I also tried German, and I thought German was really hard.

So, I can say a lot of random stuff in a lot of random languages. But in terms of fluently speaking, I only speak Russian. And then probably Spanish but pretty badly at this point.


How many different places have you lived in?

There’s actually this app called Places Been, and you can mark both countries you’ve visited and countries you’ve lived in. So, I’ve technically lived in four countries. I lived in the U.S. I grew up in Maryland, but I’ve mostly been in New Jersey. And then I used to intern in Texas, so I’ve been there.

Then I was in Romania, Kyrgyzstan, and Finland.

I’ve also visited a bunch of other countries. On this app, it says I’ve been to 43 countries.


Tell us about your worst haircut ever.

It was the time that I gave myself and my brother a haircut right before my aunt’s wedding. Oh my gosh. The one part I remember was cutting the top of my brother’s hair and thinking, “There’s too much hair here.” And then at the end I was like, “Oh no, now there’s not enough hair here!” I also had bangs, and I ended up cutting them. I guess I thought they were too long or bothering me, so I cut them halfway.

Then this all had to get fixed within a day because we were both in my aunt’s wedding. I was the flower girl, and my brother was the ring bearer. I know a lot of kids do this at some point in their life, but I happened to choose probably one of the worst times I could have to make that decision.


Who caught you and what was the reaction?

My grandmother caught us. My grandmother always says if they’re being quiet, they’re being bad. Then my aunt came home, and usually my aunt is the calmest person in the family, but she started yelling – she was so mad!

My grandmother’s a hairdresser, so I’m pretty sure she just fixed it. But I still looked a little bit silly. In all the wedding pictures, my bangs were very short.


What was your best class in school?

English class. One of the things I try to understand is I couldn’t figure out if this English teacher – I want to say seventh grade – actually thought I was very good at writing or if she had just liked my mom a lot and therefore liked me. But every time we got essays back, she would read my essay out loud, and she really tried to encourage me to go to a specialized high school for writing. I didn’t necessarily want to because I think I wanted to have a normal high school experience or something. But in general, I always scored the highest on standardized testing where writing was concerned. So, maybe it wasn’t just the teacher, maybe it was true.


Which song could you listen to over and over again?

Inspector Norse by Todd Terje – he’s Swedish. I don’t even know how I found the song, and it just kind of repeats in the loop for eight minutes, but it just really helps me focus. During Covid, I would try to do this meditation thing, and I would particularly try to do it to the song because it just really helps me think about nothing.


Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Kyrgyzstan. This is a place I studied abroad when I was learning Russian, and I have a lot of friends there. It’s kind of more of an “off the beaten path” kind of a place.

But even if you’re going there as a tourist, not even just to see your friends, they have a really beautiful lake called Issyk-Kul. People go there in the summer a lot, and the water’s very clear – it’s just really beautiful there. Then there are a lot of mountains, and you can go horseback riding and camp in a yurt. I’ve only stayed in a yurt once, but it’s pretty cool.


What do you do with the extra time working from home that you wouldn’t get to do working in person?

I spend more time with my dogs, even if they’re just next to me while I work. I also have time to take them for a walk in the middle of the day, which I wouldn’t be able to do, especially in the winter when it’s dark out by five. And then definitely spending more time with family and just feeling less burnt out.

I do remember when I had to go into an office five days a week when I was interning at NASA, just feeling generally really tired and low energy after work. And now I don’t have that feeling because I didn’t have to get ready and rush out of the house in the morning or feel like I had to rush home after work.


Tell us a little bit about your pups.

Their names are Harley and Diesel. I got them when I was in eighth grade, so they’re 15 now. They’ve been in my life for more than half of my life now. They’re my first and only dogs, so I’m very emotionally attached to them. Even though I come and go a lot, I’m still like the alpha because when I come back, they follow me, they sleep in the bed with me, and they’re always with me.


What is an easy way to do something nice for someone?

Write a letter. I think that’s something that’s very uncommon these days. But every time I’ve given my friends letters in the past, or even with people I don’t know very well, they always seem to really appreciate it. Just writing a thank you letter for something nice that they did for me.

You also don’t have to be near a person to write them a letter, and they can still receive it and be happy, especially if it’s a surprise in the mail. I think it’s an underutilized avenue of promoting a positive relationship with a person.

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