It was this time last year that I started panicking about internships. USC and Viterbi had their career fairs, recruiters had their info sessions and it was time to apply to summer internships. Already? I, as a freshman, had only taken two months of an introductory computer science that I was seriously struggling in. How did I have enough experience to be hired by any company?

The truth is, companies understand that you’ve just started your college career and still have lots to learn. Some companies have programs specifically for freshmen and sophomores where they focus on mentoring and learning just as much as the work you’ll be doing.

I applied to a total of 15 internship programs and got 3 phone-interviews. After the interviews, however, I was left feeling deflated. The recruiters talked about all of the things I needed to do to be a better applicant, which included more experience. The process seemed backwards – I looked at this potential opportunity to gain more experience.

I was so confused. I felt as though I was expected to get some kind of software engineering internship at Google or Amazon or Facebook. I also feel like when you get to college, others expect that too. I was worried that I wasn’t living up to someone else’s expectations of me and what a CS major should be. (If you ever feel like this – you’re doing something wrong!)

Several weeks passed, and I received the weekly newsletter from the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future. I scrolled down the email to see that Unruh Institute of Politics was offering several USC students the chance to work on a presidential campaign. It has always been at the top of my list to work for a presidential campaign, and this opportunity just came out of nowhere.

I was hesitant to apply because I knew I would be applying to the program with political science and public policy students. I only had a little experience in the political sphere compared to these students – but I applied anyways. And a couple weeks later, I was accepted! 

I accepted the offer and flew to Iowa for three months this summer. And it was the most amazing time – but more on that later. The experience was fulfilling and unique and I was able to mold the internship specifically to my major. It was really encouraging to see how much computer science and data analytics play a role in the political landscape.

The overall point I’m trying to make here is that you shouldn’t be stressed or anxious about internships. You should definitely be alert: continue to apply to them, search for additional opportunities, and utilize the career services that you have at your disposal. But don’t worry if you’re not getting any follow-ups or interviews.

 Also, it is important to be open minded. Viterbi is all about the real world experience. The mission statement for Viterbi is as follows: “The USC Viterbi School of Engineering is innovative, elite and internationally recognized for creating new models of education, research and commercialization that are firmly rooted in real world needs.” If you are willing to be open minded, you’ll realize how much engineers are needed in all different realms from politics, to policy, to medicine and more. If you choose to look outside of the typical companies and industries, you might even find an internship that you can make your own, just like I did. And you’ll shatter any and all expectations for your college career.

Mahima Varanasi

Mahima Varanasi

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @mahima On campus I am part of OWN IT, a women's leadership team who plans an annual summit based on amazing women helping each other out. Outside of Viterbi, I am involved in political campaigns.