An emotional journey where she learns and unlearns, where she finds herself, where she was away from home but still not alone. This internship offered her many things and the best she had were the memories to cherish for life.
I got the Indian Academy of Sciences Summer Fellowship to work on a project in IISc Bangalore for 2 months. The accommodation was arranged for us 5 km away from the college in a pseudo jungle named Jalahali. To reach that place, I and my dad spent half an hour in an auto. Finally, we reached there and thankfully the guest house was totally ironical to the surroundings. Both boys and girls stayed in the same building with the boys at the ground and 1st floor, and girls at 2nd and 3rd floor.
I still remember the moment I met my roommate. It was 6 am in the morning and she opened the door while stifling a yawn. When I reached my department (Chemical Engineering) for the first time, I was filled with trepidation to enter my professor’s room. This was the first time that I was meeting such a dignified professor, and I had no idea how he would receive me. I did not know if he would even remember selecting me! When I entered his room, it took him a moment to place me and then there was a tiny smile, which given his history, is actually a big deal. The first 15 days of my project went in reading one paper after the other, trying to imbibe the topic inside me, get a handle on it and then start the experiments. Finally when I did start, I was startled by the results. It was nothing like what I expected. I used to spend 6 hours continuously on one experiment, trying to change one after the other the parameters involved. I’m telling you, experimental work is hard! Of course, once you get what you want, the joy is something that cannot be put into words. But until then, it’s an uphill ride where you cannot get frustrated. But it was a lot of fun, I learned a lot just by observing the other Ph.D., M.E scholars in the lab. They weren’t bookish or serious in any way. All of them had such a good understanding and were genuinely helpful even when I asked them a very trivial question such as, ‘where are the gloves kept?’ The best part of the stay was after returning back to the guest house, we had cards and carom boards with us and we used to exploit all games possible with them. I can safely say that I became a pretty good carom player at the end of two months.
It wasn’t just about the games, though, it was more about the silent bond that started building between us. There were over 300 people in the guest house, but like any major clan we started forming our own comfort groups with whom we can share anything. Every weekend we used to pick a place in Bangalore and roam. Best weekend was the visit to Wonderla. Of course the day next to that we all looked like Zombies. Finally the day I got my first result, believe it or not, I had actual tears in my eyes. Maybe it was not even that arduous, but only I knew the amount of time and mental stress that I had to devote to reach that point. Since then it went pretty well.
The best thing about IISc was not the facilities, it was not the beautiful-beyond-words campus, it was not even the cool weather, rather it was the down-to-earth character of the professors. They all were probably one of the most distinguished in their own fields, but when you see them walking in the corridor, they never fail to smile at you. It’s only till the second that you talk with them you fear them. Once you start talking, everything melts away and you feel like you’re talking about your career goals with your best friend. And let me tell you, they will tell you that the campus is filled with snakes (don’t worry, non-venomous mostly), but I couldn’t find even one. I even went to the snake lake there. Although I didn’t stay for more than 5 mins because I kept hearing this strange rattle noise.
Overall those were probably the best 2 months of my life. I’m not saying this because it is said generally by everyone. Being a girl who barely ever left Chennai her whole life, it was a totally unearthly experience. My last day was very funny. I had my bus at 10:30 at night. Till 7 I was in the lab trying so hard to get one result. By I-don’t-know-what stroke of luck, I got it and I jumped up and down before dashing out. We had this sweet tradition there of writing letters to friends. So I got a bunch of letters, I wrote a bunch of them too.
I wasn’t emotional till the time I was taking my bags out. But then when I had to sit in the cab, something hit me hard. I’m someone who takes a lot of selfies, so while taking the last selfie, I started getting teary eyed. After lots of hugs and goodbyes finally I left the place feeling extremely happy, and sad, at the same time.
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