All Work and No Pay

My school decided early on that all incoming Grade 10-11 students must undergo an internship with a minimum of 80 hours as a requirement for graduation. To be frank, I wasn’t excited at all for “a chance to experience working in a field of science”. A job with no pay? Really???

I did a 3-week internship in the Aquatic Biology Research Lab at U.P. Diliman Institute of Biology. The personnel were really helpful and kind, and I managed to learn new things from them. My intern-mates were also really fun to be with as I found out. I managed to be friends with one batch-mate and two students from Mindanao. We all shared more interests than I thought possible and we helped each other out when needed. At the final day of the internship, all four interns including me were given a sample of benthic macroinvertebrates (I’ll explain later) from different families. Overall, it was nice and chill, and I’d recommend it to anyone else who’s interested in aquatic Biology.

I actually didn’t manage to show up on two days of the internship. I couldn’t attend the first day because of an overlap with a vacation, and the third day because of a passport renewal appointment, and a loose bracket. (The vacation’s a future post in the works. Stay tuned.)

The second day was when everything started for me. Mom accompanied me going to the building, but it was a little complicated because the main road to the building was closed. It took Google Maps to show a long but scenic route. (I found out 2 weeks in my internship that there was a shorter one that would have saved my legs and feet.) Once we got to the building, I saw the lab and all the people inside. I was left alone by Mom after she told the supervisor I had ADHD.

I was given an orientation about benthic macroinvertebrates. There’s Google for all you readers, but I’ll give the gist on what they are. They’re a diverse group of sedentary invertebrates that are bottom-dwellers, and their presence and/or absence is used to monitor the quality of water. I was tasked to sort out all the benthic macroinvertebrates from their samples. If you guys know those Hidden Objects games, then you already have a grasp on what I was doing throughout the first week. That went on until lunch, where I managed to talk to the other interns. The afternoon was fine. The personnel managed to point out certain animals I mistook for debris like leeches. My batch mate was kind enough to let me ride with them going to SM North EDSA to get on the train going home.

The following days until the end were honestly very repetitive. Commute, work, lunch, work, commute, then repeat all over again. The commute going to the building was quite long. A train ride, a jeepney ride, and a walk altogether took 1 hour and 30 minutes. Also, peak hours inside a train are no joke. You can get squeezed to the point where you have to fight to get in or out. Woe behold the people in the middle section who have to get off, because not getting out in time is a fear all the riders have. Lunch was the only thing that was different every day. We explored as many cafeterias near us as possible and ate as much food was possible. I had two lunches per day, which Mum was quite happy about with me.

Also, I was introduced to the process of elutriation during the first week. Basically, it shrinks the sample size by removing as much debris as possible to make sorting easier. Imagine rinsing out a piece of clothing and removing all bits and pieces of dirt from it, and then doing it for 4 cycles. My arms were aching by the time I did all sample bottles.

The work I was doing differed per week. The first week was dubbed “Where’s Waldo”. The second week got the name “Who’s Waldo”. The third week was a mix.

The second week was spent identifying the animals that we sorted out from the week before. We started identifying to order-level via dichotomous keys. I wasn’t so bad there. When it got to identifying up to family level, I realized I was the worst out of all the interns. Woohoo, right????? Thankfully, the personnel simply told us the features to look for to identify certain families and didn’t judge us so much.

The third week was a mix, honestly. The first day was a continuation of last week. The second day was spent wrapping centrifuge tubes full of samples with parafilm to preserve the ethanol and the animals submerged inside. The third day was the main event: fieldwork. The personnel simulated what they did when they collected samples from different water sources. They evaluate the site and check if it meets the criteria for an optimal reference site. Then they use physical and chemical measurements to analyze the site. Lastly, they start collecting the samples using either leaf packs or a D-net. The last step was honestly tiring. The afternoon was spent learning to use a software program used in Statistics. The next day was spent answering an exam and preparing a presentation for the final day of the internship. And the last day of the internship was spent mostly on the culminating activity. Lots of labs had students from different regions of the Philippines, and everyone’s presentation was nice. We all got certificates and remembrances from our lab.

It was the little things during the internship that I remember fondly. The playground near a building, the time everyone gathered around a laptop to watch an anime on the cells of the human body, the card games played during break, and all the confessions that happened over lunch tables. I also liked the times when someone had a birthday and everyone was invited for food.

This was definitely quite an experience. I really hope I can put this in my future CV.

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