In light of the graduation season, I wanted to share my personal experience to the graduating class of 2016.
What I Wish I Knew as a Nutrition student: That not getting my ideal dietetic internship (DI) did not determine my fate. I had my heart set on moving to New York City to attend the VA Bronx internship. I had never lived far from home or studied abroad during college. Even when I went off to college, I never lived more than 40 minutes away from home. I wanted to explore a new city and the thought of moving to the “big apple” was exciting and liberating! On the evening of match day, I nervously waited in my living room. I was going to unveil the fate of the next 9 months of what would be the start of my RD career. The idea that the last four years of my life had led up to this very moment was daunting. “What if I don’t get in?” “What if I can’t find a job?” “What will I do this summer?” “What will my friends and family think of me?” “How will I face my classmates at graduation!?”
When I discovered that I did not match to not only the VA Bronx, but that I did not match anywhere at all, I was heartbroken! I luckily had a great support system of friends and family who helped me get through the disappointment. At the time, Drexel University was in their third year of offering the Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) program and they were taking applications for nutrition graduates who did not get matched. ISPP was my saving grace and allowed me to gain strong clinical and food service management experience at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in addition to many other experiences from various sites. Upon finishing my internship, I was fortunate enough to be offered a Food Service Management position from my food service rotation 2 weeks before graduation.
Although I did not get into what I thought would be my ideal DI, staying in Philadelphia was the best thing that could have happened. I landed an amazing job that opened many doors for me and I had the Drexel ISPP program to thank for that. So what if your school doesn’t offer an ISPP program and you don’t get matched? Trust and believe that if you worked effortlessly for your nutrition degree that it’s not you. It’s the unfortunate reality that there are simply not enough programs available for the number of future RDs that are graduating. For this very reason, I will never turn a dietetic student down should they wish to come shadow or intern with me.
Your next step post-graduation will be a big life decision. The best advice is to talk to those around you that care about you. Reach out to your program directors, professors, and department chair. Connect with other dietitians and nutrition students in the Academy. Join discussions on online dietetics forums or talk to a mentor in your dietetics practice group. They can help you by sharing their own experiences and guiding you in the right direction. People that love you will want what’s best for you but ultimately the only person that knows what’s best for you is yourself. Have faith that if you’ve made it this far that you already have a promising future ahead of you!
Nutrition students and dietetic interns, don’t hesitate to email me personally if you questions I can help with: firstname.lastname@example.org.