Summer in Room 304
“Same old, tired, lonely place …”
The lines of my favorite song played in my mind as I sat waiting for someone to open the “high-tech” doors to the research section of the National Institute of Physics (NIP) building at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. I still remember that day—my first official day of internship—like it were yesterday. I remember asking myself why I was even there when the truth was, physics will not make it to the list of my top five favorite subjects.
I had agreed to be an intern in NIP simply because it was the only one with available slots. When Sir Fortaleza (faculty member, Philippine Science High School, Clark campus) asked me if I were interested in the internship, I remember half-shrieking and half-asking: “Physics?!” Who could blame me, though? The lowest mark I had on my card last quarter was my grade in physics, so I thought “Jazmine” and “physics” would never blend. Little did I know that I would thank Sir with all my heart, for if it weren’t for him, I would never have had the time of my life in NIP.
I remember looking around every few seconds, searching for a familiar face, only to find a bunch of nerds discussing their exams. I remember feeling something weird and fluttery in my stomach as I told myself that I would probably be put in the theoretical physics group (I listed it second when we were asked about our preferred group). I knew only a few of us were interested in theoretical physics; I knew most of us would find it a bore and a waste of time. We were told that since it would involve only equations, pen and paper, the experience would not be any different from our regular school work. For a while I thought the same way, but something about that area of physics appealed to me. I still have not figured out if it was the cozy, air-conditioned room, or the geeky, friendly people in it, but something told me that I would have a well-spent summer in the theoretical physics group.
As I walked the final block back home after my last day of internship, I knew that indeed I had spent my summer right.
Up to now, I still miss my days in NIP. I miss waking up early to catch the 6 a.m. trip from Malolos (Bulacan) to Manila. I miss arriving at least half an hour before our expected arrival, like almost every single day, and waiting for my schoolmates so we could walk up to the third floor together. I miss opening the door to Room 304 and finding the same old nerds who were always busy being nerdy.
I still miss spending hours listening to the lectures and not understanding almost everything, or burying my face in my hands in frustration while trying to figure out the second derivative of trigonometric functions. I miss being given permission to write on desks using a white-board marker. I miss smiling at my group mate whenever our instructor told us that he would be treating us to a Venti cup of chocolate chip frappuccino at Starbucks.
I still miss those summer days when I had to brave the sun’s heat in going to and from the secluded NIP building. I miss wearing a jacket so that I would not get sunburn. I miss falling asleep on my way home as the sun set. Maybe it’s because I had fallen into the routine. Or because I liked the daily calculus lessons, knowing that these would help me get through my math class on my fourth year in “Pisay.” Or because I have become attached to the persons in NIP, or because those days are simply unforgettable.
In less than a month, I learned a lot of things—things far from what I expected I would learn. When I thought I would spend the whole summer not getting it, I was actually able to understand some of what the NIP people were saying. When I thought I would learn about operating machines in a physics lab, I learned about patience, how to solve for derivatives and integrals, and how to use these in various physics problems. When I thought I would have a hard time being with physics nerds, I saw how much we are alike.
When I thought I would gain only self-pity because of how smart the NIP people are, I gained treasured memories that I would not mind playing in my head over and over again, as well as pleasant friends whom I really want to meet again. When I thought I would not have fun with anything related to physics, I found myself actually considering taking a physics course in college. When I thought I made the wrong decision and should have just spent my vacation lounging at home, I experienced my most memorable summer.
And if anyone asks me if I would like to experience it again, I would say yes in a heartbeat.
Jazmine Day L. Vallejos, 14, is a senior at the Philippine Science High School (Central Luzon). She is news editor of the Quantum Chronicles, the school’s official publication in English. This piece was submitted to YoungBlood by her father, Noel Vallejos, without her knowledge.