Last April, Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), launched its annual “Chem Camp.”
This three-week-long summer enrichment program aims to develop students’ skills in and appreciation of chemistry through lectures and laboratory experiments. Around 35 schools participated.
I know what you’re thinking—why would anyone want to join a camp about chemistry, which is synonymous with misery, cluelessness and boredom?
That was my initial thought when I got a letter saying I was one of two students in my batch selected to participate.
Adjusting to the 7:30-11:30 a.m. schedule was difficult because I had been used to waking up later than usual since summer break started.
It also felt like everyone was 10 times smarter than I, because of my difficulty grasping the concepts discussed. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the next three weeks.
Funny enough, after a while, I began to see chemistry in a whole new light. It was especially fascinating when we learned about scientists’ and inventors’ creations, which are products of their hard work and dedication.
Another enjoyable aspect of the camp was the laboratory activities, which were equal parts fun and educational. We did challenging experiments such as titration and synthesizing aspirin, as well as exciting activities like ink chromatography and making tie-dye shirts.
Our mentors, Sir Elliard and Miss Val, along with lab assistants Sir Kurt and Sir Gian, were very helpful in making us understand the scientific portion of the experiments, while cracking a few jokes along the way to make the class lively and entertaining.
It was also fun when I started making friends with people from other schools. During the first few days, I did not really talk much to other people, preferring to stay with my school partner, Amber, because I was too shy to interact with others.
Chem Camp gave me the opportunity to open up, thus revealing a facet of college life I wasn’t prepared for: being separated from the people I’ve known for more than 10 years, and being thrust into a whole new environment. I had to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to make friends. It was difficult at first, but the people I’ve met are really worth my efforts.
The program ended with words from past Chem Campers and AdMU College of Chemistry’s Henson Lee Yu. Certificates were handed out, and we were given a chance to sign each other’s lab manuals with sweet messages. We were then led to Gonzaga Hall and treated to free lunch to celebrate the last day. The moment was bittersweet; after all, this was going to be our last meal together as Chem Campers.
I felt like the camp has allowed me to challenge myself; it also gave me a glimpse of what college life might be like. I was able to learn many things, not just about chemistry, but also about life. I learned how to look past stereotypes, how to stop being shy, and how to start reaching out to others.
But I think the most important lesson I learned was the redefinition of chemistry. Chemistry is not just about a change in matter; it’s about effecting change for things that matter. So take that curiosity, satiate it, and use it as a catalyst to bring about positive transformation in society. Simply put, make your knowledge a solution.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Chem Camp. It’s an experience I will never forget because of the people I met, the activities I joined, the lessons I learned, and the special days (like Uniform Day) I attended. I highly encourage people to join Chem Camp, and I hope future campers will have as much fun as I did!
(Hi to the Chem Campers who made my day, especially Amber, Camille, Chiara, Sandro, Gabbie, Erwin, Monica, Eunice, Dyane and Hanna.)