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When I first told people that I planned on going to a Star Trek convention, I was met with a few different responses — most of which included me being called a nerd. But I’ll proudly agree. I admit that I am definitely what you would call a nerd.

I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and seen each of the movies more times than I can count, and I’ve dressed up as a hobbit for Halloween. I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek and frequently greet people with the Vulcan salute. I even named my cat Spock, and I plan on continuing my nerdy traditions by dressing up as a Starfleet officer this Halloween.

So when I heard that the annual Star Trek Convention would be held in Las Vegas this year, I immediately jumped at the chance to go. I’ll admit — I only recently became a Star Trek fan after seeing J.J. Abrams’ take on the classic series in the 2009 summer blockbuster. After seeing the film seven times in the theater and watching episodes from the original 1960s series, I realized I was hooked. I couldn’t help but be drawn into the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I took delight in the acting talents of William Shatner and the almost laughable special effects that the show used. I bought my convention ticket and headed to Sin City, unsure of what to expect.

As I walked into the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center, I knew that I was in a place like no other. The walls were decked with banners that displayed the faces of the crew that I had come to know so well; Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty, displayed around the convention center with as much pride as any country’s flag. I was entering a different world, a microcosm where Trekkies were not the nerds, but the coolest kids in school.

Here was probably the only place in the world where I stuck out by not being dressed up in Star Trek attire. Klingons, Vulcans and Captain Kirk look-alikes surrounded me. Standing there in jeans and a t-shirt, I’d never felt so out of place. These people were not just avid fans — they were Trekkies. They were the kind of people who spoke Klingon fluently (in all three dialects), the kind who made their own Starfleet uniforms and insignias, the kind who owned their own pet Tribbles and had bumper stickers on their cars that said, “My Other Car is a Starship.” They intimidated me; it was hard not to feel like a pathetic “newbie” when standing next to a 6-feet tall woman painted green from head to toe.

I wandered around the convention center aimlessly, trying to look as cool as I possibly could at a Star Trek convention. There were lines of people who had paid to get their picture taken with stars from the original series, as well as actors from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Voyager” and “Deep Space Nine.” People who waited were clutching headshots and Sharpies in their hands, obviously filled with excitement. It was like it was 1963 and I was watching a mob of teenage girls waiting to greet the Beatles.

I made my way to the vendor’s exhibit hall, thrilled by the possibility of taking home my own cardboard cutout of Chris Pine or Zachary Quinto, stars of Abrams’ “Star Trek.” Table after table was covered with Star Trek and other sci-fi memorabilia that would make any nerd swoon with delight. I was tempted to buy a pair of my own Vulcan ears, but resisted, opting for two t-shirts instead.

After browsing the vendors hall, I made my way to the Gene and Majel Rodenberry Theatre, named for the show’s creator and his wife. I grabbed a seat next to a young man in a blue Starfleet uniform and his wife, in matching attire. It was surprising to see how diverse the crowd was; people of every race and age were represented. I saw a fair share of families with babies and toddlers dressed up in outfits to match their parents and grandparents, proving that the Star Trek fandom knows no bounds. I had expected some of the “old-school” Trekkies to be resentful of the sudden influx of younger fans, but it was quite the opposite. The older fans were excited to share their passion with the younger crowd and recount tales of the time they bumped into Leonard Nimoy at a restaurant, or the time they re-enacted Pon Far in their backyard. Teenage girls who squealed at the sight of Zachary Quinto chatted with middle-aged businessmen who were making their umpteenth trip to Star Trek convention. It didn’t matter if you were a newly converted Trekkie or if you had been watching the original series since you were a kid. Everyone had something to contribute, regardless of age or experience. People came to Las Vegas from across the country and across the globe to experience this.

Seeing the lengths that people went through to come to the convention made me realize that it was more than just an opportunity to see the stars of Star Trek or to get an autograph. It was a chance to unite with fellow Trekkies from across the world and celebrate the thing that connects them all — their love of Star Trek. It is a show that is more than just a fantastical journey through space — it is a show that presented the world with an optimistic view of the possibilities that the future holds. It is a glimpse into a future utopia where beings from across the universe coexist in peace. I think that this is what draws people to Star Trek. It isn’t the sci-fi adventure stories, but the ideals of hope and peace that the show so greatly embodied. These people get together every year to share stories, to reunite, to meet like-minded Trekkies and to show that people from every corner of the globe and from every walk of life can not only coexist in peace, but live and thrive together.

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