Sneak peek into the life as a CERN Openlab Summer Student
It was a mix of bewilderment and awe when the first email came declaring that I was selected for the Openlab Summer Student Program. Little did I know that the journey would end in a mix of sadness (I never wanted to come back) and infinite memories (intricacies that even pictures cannot capture.)
“Intelligent Workload Management of Database Replicas” under the supervision of Prasanth Kothuri and some jargon followed describing the project. Honestly I was scared and doubted if I could handle such huge things at such an important place. Well, turns out my supervisor actually guided me through the project from its fundamental details to the top level big words used. He made sure I understood every aspect of what I was working with and how it affects the bigger picture in its own way. He defined the word – ‘mentor’ in the perfect sense.
27 countries, 40 students – none of whom I knew, sounded extremely intimidating on Day 1. Different cultures, different habits and different levels of tolerance. As much as I was looking forward to know-it-all about every country, I was apprehensive if it would work well and if we would get along. In no time, Hotel Business Park was bursting with laughter, bubbling with high spirits, celebrating birthdays every week, international cuisines every day and witnessed random parties. The bond I made with them in only two months seems now like we have known each other since forever.
Weekend trips were something everyone would look forward to, after all it’s the heaven on Earth – Switzerland. A day around the castles in Annecy, the cold weather in Chamonix, swimming in Geneva Lake, camping in Jura Mountains, hiking down Mont Saleve were some of the most amazing weekends I have spent back to back! The serene surroundings at CERN never made me feel like it was “work”.
While I am mentioning trips, the most memorable was the one to Zurich taken by the Openlab team to ETH Zurich, Google and Open Systems. We got a chance to interact with people outside the field of research working on business side of the Tech industry at the two fancy companies while we realized the need for top-notch education and opportunities ahead at the University. Not to forget, sightseeing Zurich and further extending the trip to Bern was the icing on the cake! We also went to a half day trip to EPF, Lausanne to know the university closely and later went around the city discovering delicious pizzas and gelatos. Kristina, Petya, Kostas, Alberto and Fons were constantly harassed by our mischiefs. The boat party and treasure hunt held in the very start of the internship introduced us to the subtle beauty underlying in Geneva and made us realize the need for team spirit.
Working in the IT-DB team was no less fun! The first Barbeque held to welcome us was the perfect icebreaker. Playing games, going BBQ shopping, eating together with people you see at work was the best way to bond. Over the weeks, quick chit chatting at the corridor or at lunch made me realize how life is working full-time at CERN. I was totally fascinated. After I gave a presentation to the team demonstrating my work, I realized the entire experience significantly amounted to my personal learning and growth. Graciously the journey ended with another joyful BBQ organized by the team! The CERN goodies presented to us by the team still remind me of this amazing experience back home.
If I had a Time Turner, I would want to live every moment of this journey, again and again. Now I only wait for another opportunity to pack my bags and come back to CERN!