When Arthella Vallarta received the call earlier this year that she would be an intern with Valley Water in Santa Clara, Vallarta knew it was an incredible opportunity for someone whose areas of interest as a graduate student within the Department of Geography included hydrology and recycled water expansion.
She applied for the position on a whim and submitted her application at midnight on the day of the deadline. Two weeks later, she received a call from the company for a phone interview.
Everything was set until Vallarta received an email from Valley Water on March 30. Her internship had been cancelled.
“My summer plans got disrupted by the pandemic,” Vallarta said.
Although Vallarta now had more time to start working on research for her thesis, whicha sseses recycled water in Los Angeles, she said the loss of real-world experience and networking was disappointing.
She was not the only student whose summer plans changed as a result of the pandemic.
Oziel Palma, a chemical engineering major and recent graduate of Long Beach State, was hired as a manufacturing engineering intern for Repligen Corporation in Rancho Dominguez.
“I started working there in March 2020,” Palma said. “It’s been so demanding the last four to five months.”
The company manufactures products for bioprocessing, a technology in which live cells are manipulated to produce certain changes that can be used in pharmaceuticals or vaccines.
Palma, who said he was hired due to demand, saw just how busy the corporation became as they processed orders for materials to be used at drug manufacturing companies that are involved in finding the coronavirus vaccine.
Despite the stress of his work, Palma realized that he enjoyed working in this field. He saw how his work could actively help others, a quality he valued as a former mentor for seven transfer students this past spring in the College of Engineering.
“Every morning I like going to work [and] working towards the greater good,” Palma said.
Still, Palma found himself wrestling with one decision as summer break quickly came to an end.
Attending graduate school was always Palma’s plan, but he could not decide whether it would be worth it to stay with the corporation or return to school at a time like this.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the spring or winter quarter,” Palma said. “This virus just makes the fate of that program, this school uncertain.”
Despite the challenges Vallarta and Palma faced this summer, students like third-year community health major Kelly Nguyen said she saw this summer as a blessing.
Nguyen’s summer proved to be an opportunity to take back much needed time for herself that had previously been tied up due to her morning and night classes and her job.
“I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of my physical and mental health,” Nguyen said.
Unexpectedly, this proved to be true for Vallarta as well.
During the summer, Vallarta started to eat healthier. She had more available time to spend with her mother and father and had gotten ahead on her research that otherwise would not have been started.
According to Vallarta, it was important to focus on the positives the summer brought and what she learned.
“It’s okay to feel unmotivated some days,” Vallarta said. “It’s okay to make sure you are okay mentally and physically.”
Illustration by Paris Barraza