Chemistry Camp 2007
Five days, 13½ hours of tutorials, 9 hours in the lab and 6 hours of examination. I must’ve swallowed more chemistry during the past week than I did studying years twelve and thirteen combined. Indeed, it really does feel like I’ve learnt more than I can absorb during the New Zealand Chemistry Olympiad Training Camp, and while it’s all very interesting, to think that there’s little chance of the material being of any use to me (unless by some miracle I find myself on a plane to Moscow) is somewhat disheartening.
In fact, my organic reaction vocabulary must have doubled in that time. How long it’ll stay that way is arguable, because I could barely remember all of it for the three-hour theory exam that was on the last morning. Because when you have an acid chloride and benzene… hey, why does it always come back to you after you leave the exam room? Aluminium chloride catalyst, stupid! Easy marks. I could be kicking myself for weeks.
As for the rest of chemistry, well, my vocabulary there’s probably increased in equal proportion with organic chemistry, but those concepts (with the exception of weak acids and bases, which I never understood during year thirteen chemistry and, after Olympiad training, still don’t) are somehow more easily swallowed.
When I went to Maths Camp last year, I could at least take some comfort in knowing that I was, if nothing else, the second-best ten-pin bowler of the country’s top twenty-five mathematicians. No such opportunity was available here—it was chemistry, from start to finish. Even after dinner.
Yep, by comparison, this camp was rather intense. Not harder. Just more intense. Most free time was better spent completing unfinished problems, and socialising time was relatively little. The flipside is that I now have a large store of chemical concepts to refer to, if I should ever need them, and somehow, the deeper you go into a concept, the more interesting it becomes.
As for the practicals, they were all fun, except when I learnt that we weren’t allowed to discard titration results without justification, and disconcordancy doesn’t count as “justification” (it’s times like these when I miss NCEA), or when I demonstrated a certain clumsiness in the handling of certain equipment (several times, with several different pieces of equipment—on the bright side, my only breakage was a test tube), or when I wasted half my sodium thiosulfate in the final exam after forgetting to dilute the bleach sample. Organic synthesis was more enjoyable than I expected, identifying inorganic unknowns becomes more fun when you know what you’re doing, and even the parts that didn’t go so well were fun—I wouldn’t mind doing them again at all.
As for the result of the camp—the team of four hasn’t yet been announced. In the meantime, let it just be said that there is conflict, between my desire to eliminate the anxiety of waiting and my desire to keep away from the truth. Before the camp, I thought I had a decent chance; now, my only ray of hope is that maybe, just maybe, everyone else did as poorly as I did.