These are really unprecedented times!

I know I am not alone in having my academic and professional summer plans canceled, and with this, myself and many of my peers have had to get creative with the ways we are building our resumes this summer. It’s often thought that having a summer internship is key to a professionally successful summer, but I’ve found that there are many ways you can build your skills as an engineer (and person) without a 9-5 job. Here’s a list of some ways you can have a productive summer, without a summer internship:

1. Summer Classes

Especially as a freshman or sophomore, taking summer classes is an excellent way to knock out core credits. USC offers many courses over the summer (Viterbi offers an excellent study abroad summer program), and USC’s Articulation Agreement is exceptionally useful in understanding how credits from community colleges and other universities transfer to satisfy USC’s requirements. Though taking a break from school to take more classes doesn’t sound appealing, taking summer classes is a great way to get ahead in your course plan and create time during the academic year for things like minors, extra classes, or a smaller load.

2. Undergraduate Research

Though undergraduate students leave campus in May, research projects in labs don’t stop, and there’s a need for undergraduate research assistants that you can fill. With the help of USC’s many summer research fellowships and grants, there are lots of opportunities to do research at USC during the summer. This is what I spent the summer after my freshman year doing, and it was a great, worthwhile experience.

3. Jobs outside your major

Freshman year is the hardest time to secure an internship in engineering, so it’s okay to get creative and look outside your major. Outside of my time with the Smith Research Group the summer after my freshman year, I worked as an Educator at the California Science Center. This job, though related to science, helped me build my communication and interpersonal skills. Experiences like this are very valuable and can help you grow as a person.

4. Independent Projects

Especially this summer, myself and many of my friends have turned to independent projects as a way to continue our development as engineers. From building personal websites to learning new programming languages, there are so many ways you can independently learn a new skill and add to your resume without anything more than the help of the internet. Working on independent projects also shows that you’re self-driven and passionate about what you’re doing.

5. Volunteer

Giving back to your community is always a great way to spend your time. During the busy academic year, it is difficult to set aside much time for volunteering. Though there are several opportunities, summer is a great time to volunteer at food banks, animal shelters, local hospitals, and more. If you can’t leave your house, there’s also lots of opportunities for virtual volunteering that you can participate in.

Internships are great opportunities to gain professional experience and learn more about your field, but in unprecedented times like these, it’s good to think creatively and know that your growth as an engineer and person doesn’t have to be put on hold.

Good luck with your pursuits, and fight on!

Christina Najm

Christina Najm

MAJOR: Environmental Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @tina.najm On campus I conducted undergraduate research in wastewater treatment technology through the environmental engineering department and am involved in Alpha Omega Epsilon (a social and professional sorority for women in STEM), the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and the Society of Women Engineers.

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