The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all facets of normal life ranging from mundane tasks such as grocery shopping to jobs and internships. Akin to everyone, I have found my summer impacted, especially my summer internship. This summer, I am doing a summer research placement under a professor in Chemical Engineering. When I got the opportunity, I was incredibly excited as doing summer research after my first year was a dream of mine even before I started university. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, my placement did not get cancelled and became a remote placement instead.
I was completely aghast when my placement became remote! It was predominantly supposed to be a wet lab position, something that cannot be carried out remotely. After I had a few days to mull over this, I started viewing this as a learning opportunity. Maybe I would learn essential skills! I approached the first day of my placement with some apprehension, however, I soon started learning skills that I probably wouldn’t have acquired had the placement been in-person. From writing literature reviews to developing image analysis algorithms, I am learning it all. In a situation like this, I believe the key is to approach it with an open mindset. I am approaching this summer as a learning opportunity. Apart from my research placement, I have been doing online courses, participating in COVID-19 hackathons and design competitions, doing work for the UofT clubs I am an executive in, all of which are helping me enhance my skill set.
A hackathon I recently participated in was held by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and participants were given 48 hours to devise solutions to curb the impact of COVID-19 in Latin America. Initially, I was very skeptical about whether I was qualified to be a part of the event. As a student with coding skills limited to MATLAB and Python and limited knowledge of Latin America, I felt intimidated. As I looked at the Slack channel with all the exceptional participants, I knew I was in for a wild ride. However, despite all limitations, and the mentally draining 48 hours, it was one of the most profound learning experiences. It brought me out of my comfort zone, taught me how to work with people I hadn’t met before and most importantly, I learnt how to use my engineering skills in the real world.
The design competitions gave me a chance to utilize my skills to eliminate COVID-19 in Toronto, a city that has become my second home over the past year. Being an executive of various clubs has helped me meet new people and work for the causes I am passionate about, such as youth development. However, the most unusual thing I did this summer is pursuing a course in finance. One might ask, finance? A student with a deep love for engineering embracing a course about finance and investment banking? All of a sudden, the concept of the stock market and shares changed from boring information that my family tried to educate me about to notions that altered the way I now regard my own financial decisions. The multidisciplinary knowledge I gained would probably help me subconsciously, more than I imagine.
To the 2T4s reading this, you might think, how does one get involved in university life and enhance their skills, especially when everything is remote? Don’t worry, I was in your shoes just last September. Well, except for the remote part. I started my first year at UofT Engineering as an over-excited frosh with just dreams and a desire to succeed. I have completed my first year having achieved far more than I had hoped for. Think about university life this way: it is a blank canvas waiting to be painted on with your dreams and experiences. Don’t be hesitant to explore the plethora of opportunities that UofT has to offer and you will have an amazing time!