I awoke early in April, as many people have in the last two months, to the news that my summer internship had been canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Understandably, the first few days passed in a blur of panic and confusion, as this opportunity I had looked forward to since December was replaced with the fear of not knowing what I was going to do while (presumably) quarantined at home for three months of summer. But once the dust settled, I realized that there were many things to be grateful for even with this rather unfortunate turn of events.

First, I now had an opportunity to build valuable skills during the summer that I may not have been able to – I’ve spent the last few weeks building up my data science skills, learning new coding languages, and brushing up on reading literature in a field of my interest: climate issues. Viterbi’s upcoming series of free online courses for students who have unexpected time on their hands with many internships being shortened or turned remote will also undoubtedly prove very helpful come June.

Second, prior to this cancelation I had never had cause to realize just how large the network I have built in these three years at USC has become. I reached out to old professors, industry connections, and alumni, to enquire about possible openings, and in the process, was able to have some very insightful and interesting conversations with people doing important work in fields I have a lot of interest in. The resilience and the strength of the Trojan family really shone through in these last two months; whether it be through USC alumni I connected with who were glad to provide me with referrals and advice, through my peers who have provided an unending pool of support,  or through the faculty here at USC and Viterbi who have been more than willing to support me in gaining professional opportunities over the summer.

This Trojan network has been crucial in helping me figure out what I am going to be doing instead this summer: environmental research in two different capacities! In true Engineering+ fashion, I will be working on two independent research projects supervised by different faculty: one as part of the Political Science Department where I will be conducting research on urban policies and their environmental consequences, and the other as part of the Environmental Engineering Department where I will be modeling the climate impacts of environmental policies here in Los Angeles. Crazy as it sounds, I wonder if in some way this was meant to work out the way it has: working in both a policy lab and a technical lab, both of which align so closely with my professional goal of eventually working in environmental and climate policy-based action, will undoubtedly be an exciting experience, and one I can’t wait to get started with.

Despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought and the uncertainty I know now faces many of my peers, this has also served as a reminder of my support system here at USC, and has surprisingly led me to a new adventure: hopefully one where I am able to further my passions for interdisciplinary learning and environmental action. So if you too are facing a similarly difficult situation: keep trying, keep reaching out to your support system, and persevere and fight on (tongue-in-cheek, I know), because things will eventually fall into place as they are supposed to.



Sheetal Madnani

Sheetal Madnani

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Guangzhou, China PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @sheetalmadnani On campus I have been involved with Model UN, Freshman Academy, and interning abroad through the Global Fellows program! I also conduct research in environmental policy and climate mitigation, and am involved in climate advocacy through the LA Mayor's office.