My Dietetics Journey
It’s funny to look back and reflect on a LONGGGG journey of reaching one big goal - to become a Registered Dietitian and find work in a job that is fulfilling, helps others, and can share/integrate my passion for nutrition and sciences. Though looking back from the start, this was not always my dream. I entered UMass Amherst majoring in Communications and hoping to one day work on a movie set or in Production (and ya know… eventually marry an actor and life was going to be perfect…). Though after only one semester into this fairytale, I realized that this wasn’t fulfilling any desire I really had. I kept thinking that I wanted to LEARN about and be extremely passionate about something. And don’t get me wrong - many of my friends majored in Communications and have started amazing careers and learned a ton, but I had that feeling where something was missing, and this path wasn’t right for me.
After endless phone calls freaking out to my family and friends, my mom mentioned going into Nutrition - as this had been a subject I was really interested in throughout high school. I didn’t even know Nutrition was a major - and what do you even do with that?? For those who may not know, the Nutrition major is science-HEAVY and we are required to take chemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, management courses, statistics, and many specified nutrition courses - it wasn’t a walk in the park. There were also many different paths within this major I could choose - whether focusing on pre-med, or community nutrition, or going down the Dietetics career track that I had chosen. Once completing 4 years of the undergraduate degree - you can apply to a Dietetic Internship (1200 hours of supervised practice program - that requires rotations in clinical nutrition, outpatient/community nutrition, and food service management).
My passion for the nutrition field and the science of nutrition started mid-way through high school, when I struggled with major GI issues and had a lot of trouble tolerating and digesting food. Every time I ate, I would have this awful pain. It caused an awful relationship with food and I was so unsure of how things I ate were affecting my digestion. I went through all the testing, elimination diets, etc and was basically told I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and to try and find what was triggering these symptoms. I cut out gluten (for no scientific or good reason), and actually found major relief after doing this. I found this whole process fascinating. It made me want to truly understand how our digestion works, how it is impacted, and how to really heal our gut from potential triggers and upsets that can happen. I must note that I am STILL working on these GI issues, but have found amazing resources and a true passion in pursuing this area due to my own personal experience.
Once I decided on the nutrition path - I got really gung-ho about making the most out of the 3.5 years I had left. I wanted to absorb as much information as I could and get as involved and integrated in my major as I could. I joined my school’s nutrition club - then became a leader in this club less than a year after for the remainder of my undergrad. I joined a bunch of different programs and tried to get work experience as early as possible. I was a TA, peer advisor, ran a Nutrition Athletic Advising program as a counselor and then student director, worked at our school rec center as a nutrition advisor, and eventually got a job as a dietary aide just to polish off the resume. As stressful as this was at times - I look back and am SO thankful to myself for pursuing this dream and for making the most out of my college experience. By the end of 4 years I felt extremely confident in myself moving forward and had a lot to look back on that I was proud of. Side note - I did enjoy college too… and went out every weekend with friends and some weeknights too.
Finally came Junior/Senior year - when it all became REAL, time to think about internships! I researched a lot of different programs (I think allaccessinternships.com was the site I had used) in finding what internship programs were in the locations I wanted. I searched in Boston (close to school/friends), NJ/NYC (close to family), and Philly (close to family). I wanted my internship to be somewhat close to home. I applied to 5-6 programs (some had 2 locations or 2 paths you could take), and spent months working on my DICAS application (the online application, similar to a Common App for colleges). I had EVERYONE close to me read every personal statement, every line of my resume, and every entry explaining my work and volunteer experiences. If you are planning to apply to internships, and are still in undergrad - I HIGHLY suggest keeping a running log of the things you do in undergrad (even the time, hours, weeks you spent doing them) as this is very specific on the application. My other huge advice for the application is to take some time and understand yourself. Reflect on your strengths, your weaknesses, your amazing abilities that have gotten you to the point that you are now. It was eye-opening to finally pride myself in all of the hard work I put forth in getting to this point, and it was humbling to write it down and show programs what I had to offer and what I would bring to the program. I also think that confidence is key - and will always show through an application or tour if you have that instilled in yourself.
When Match Day finally came - April of my senior year, I remember my boyfriend, Brad taking me on a hike to get my mind off the 7 PM time where my results would show. This turned out to be the best and worst experience ever. Unfortunately, April in Massachusetts can still be extremely cold and STILL be covered in ice … so this “relaxing hike” actually turned into a full-blown anxiety attack when we were on top of a very steep road trying to climb down from the top of the mountain. I remember thinking there was NO chance I would make it home by 7 to see my results, and that I couldn’t handle the amount of stress I was under. I think I blacked the rest out of my memory because I don’t even know how he calmed me down and got me home in time (sorry, Brad), but the next part is why this was the best. This horrific experience really did make the time fly by. When I finally got home and opened my laptop, I remember taking 10 deep breaths, calming myself down, and waiting patiently for the clock to turn. When it finally did, my shaking hand had to press re-fresh and I saw Massachusetts General Hospital and immediately started crying. I then face-timed my entire family (who were all at my Grandmother’s because… well they usually are on Sunday’s) and going downstairs and telling my 8 roommates that I had matched. It felt like the biggest weight off of my shoulder, and I was so fortunate to have gotten one of my top programs. It was the most amazing and humbling feeling to know my hard work had finally paid off.
Fast forward a few months later - and I had started my internship in Boston, living with my college roommates and ready to experience the next big journey. My internship was the most amazing and stressful experience of my life. I would not change a thing and have made the best group of friends, met the most amazing mentors and preceptors, and developed relationships I will never forget. I could dedicate a whole post to the internship (and absolutely will, if you’re interested!), but can only say that it taught me SO much about myself, my career and goals, and allowed me to form some amazing connections and experiences I never would have dreamed of.
I am still at MGH - now working in the MGH Cancer Center and covering a maternity leave since August. I have continued to learn and grow as an entry-level professional and finally passed my RD exam. I hope to continue learning and growing and eventually find my own specialty and path that fits my goals and dreams. I couldn’t be happier with the steps I took to get here, understanding that EVERYONE has their own journey, but I hope you liked a glimpse into mine. It all works out the way it’s supposed to, and at the present moment, I wouldn’t change a thing!