I realize that this is little late, given that it is the 9th but September doesn’t officially start til after Labor Day if you ask me (I just made that rule up). I went home this weekend and got a lot of questions about my internship then I realized yesterday that it has been TWO MONTHS since I started. That’s wild to me. It feel so short and so long all at the same time. So I decided I would make a list of what I’ve learned and tips and such for anybody who may be doing this anytime soon (or anyone who just wants to read about what dietetic interns do).
- It is nothing like undergrad. There are no structured class times, no times where you can passively sit listening to a professor ramble on, no leisurely 4-hour long breaks. Very little direction is given. You have to be ready to be in the thick of it, contributing and working and participating. You’re lucky if you get an hour for lunch. And you can’t just grab coffee anytime your little heart desires. You gotta chug that goodness real quick in the car before you go in (my technique this morning).
- You will become some weird, dysfunctional-but-somehow-functional family with your fellow interns. Stick a group of ten girls together for 8 hours a day for 2 months and see how fast they bond. Seriously, I feel like I’ve known every one of them for years and it’s only been a couple months. You learn all each others weird little habits and probably know wayyy too much about their personal lives. Nothing is too much information when you’re spending that much time with one another.
- You will love your peers and then you will hate them and then you will love them again. To be clear here: I really do love them. But again, 8 hours everyday is a lot of time spent together and trying to do group projects with 10 people is like trying to herd a particularly rambunctious pack of wild but very kind and caring animals. It’s exhausting and there will be moments you want to punch someone in their beautiful face but you don’t and before you know it, you love them again and life is great.
- You will find yourself doing things you never expected. Waking up at 2:45am to work a 4:30am shift at a nursing home, prepping muffins for the old folk? Not exactly on my bucket list, but there I was, zombie-looking and (not) ready to go. Tasting thickened milk? Probably the worst thing I have ever experienced but I tried 5, count them, 5 different types. Scraping food waste off college students’ plates into a giant bucket? Yep, just did that this morning as a matter of fact. You learn to just go with the flow and take it as it comes cause there’s really not a whole lot that you can do about it.
- Carry band-aids. There is a lot of time spent on your feet and at least half of the interns have walked barefoot back to their cars at the end of the day because their feet are in so much pain. Blisters happen. Get comfortable shoes. Also- have Advil. Headaches are pretty much guaranteed. You’ll make friends quick if you’re the intern with the Advil. And weirdly enough, plastic spoons. Interns like yogurt. Interns also like to forget spoons to eat it with. We have a self-designated spoon supplier for those of us who don’t want to eat yogurt with our hands and she is very much appreciated.
- You will be tired. In college, I was usually in bed before midnight and could at least keep myself together the next day. Now there are days I am laughing so hard I am crying at 3:00pm over things that aren’t funny. Some days, I’m falling asleep on the couch at 7:00pm (but obviously manage to keep myself up for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy). You will go from being a college kid to an adult real quick. Sleeping until 7:00am will seem late to you. It’s terribly concerning. AND you have to put on real people clothes in the morning. Pro tip: do not put on pants until the last possible second before leaving the apartment.
- You learn that other people pick up your vibes pretty quickly so it’s really a help to everyone (including yourself) to try to be as positive as possible. This is tricky and I certainly have not been a ray of sunshine everyday, but it’s really easy to tell when someone is disinterested or mad or cranky so it’s worth it to at least try put on a happy face. You may know that what you’re doing isn’t what you’re going to do with your career and that’s fine, good for you for knowing what you want, but the work you’re doing is probably important to someone wherever you are so I say just do it and then you can forget all about it if you choose. (Again, this is MUCH easier said than done but it’s still worth trying.)
- You will think about how you’re doing all this work for free and you will become ENRAGED. I can’t even talk about this one, I get too heated……But actually, let’s talk about just how ridiculous it is. I am paying nearly $13,000 (not taking into account living expenses) to work over 40 hours a week. We are doing the same amount, if not more, work than some people with jobs out there and we get nothing to show for it (except for the rare internships that provide you a stipend- which is not mine). And while I’m at it, can I just mention that we don’t qualify for student loans because dietetic internships don’t count as schooling? And we are expected to work 16 (but usually more) hours outside of the actual rotation? And that it’s pretty much impossible to work any sort of side job when you’re already working 60 hours a week? But whatever. Hey. I’m not mad. Really, I’m not.
- You meet a lot of people. Like, a lot of people. Besides the intern class and your intern directors, you will go to rotations and meetings and trainings and education days. And they will reappear later at some other conference or meeting and you will have no idea where you saw them because everyone blends together in some sort of dietetics-professional jumble. But at the same time, it is extra super helpful to network with people who could possibly help you in your career some day.
- You will realize why you’re here. Somedays all I want to do is complain and sleep and curse the project I’m working on and then I start to wonder if I’m really going to end up in a job requiring an RD (and working in sustainable food systems and food insecurity, this is possible). But then I think about it and there’s a reason I’m here. I would be terribly unfulfilled if I didn’t get the RD after my name. And while I’m doing it, I can complain until I’m blue in the face, but really that’s not going to make anything better. I realize that this is just something those of us in this field have to do. And it’s certainly not all bad. You will learn more about real world nutrition than you ever did in undergrad and if you’re lucky, you will also become part of an awesome little intern tribe who can make you belly laugh on the days you want to cry stress tears. It’s not all bad, I promise.