Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Next Episode: What's Next After Finishing My 2 Year Dietetics Program

It's been about a month since I finished my two-year post-bacc dietetics program. It is hard for me to believe that two years ago, I was secretly plotting my career change and escape from my pharmaceutical advertising job, getting ready to become a full-time student working towards obtaining her license to be a Registered Dietitian. I knew this transition would be difficult, but holy moly, it has been a busy two years. During this post-bacc program, I quickly discovered, I was so much more than a full-time student. 

I was also a full-time girlfriend ---> turned fiancĂ©. He put a ring on it last September and I'm keeping it and him forever. Thanks B!

I was a part-time server. 

I was a part-time volunteer at three different organizations in San Francisco. 

I was a full-time daughter, friend, sister, new godmother (the best), and struggling constantly to find balance in maintaining some sort of social life.

Everyone keeps saying, "I can't believe you're done." I can. I was pretty burned out at the end of these two years. Even though it was tough, I also can confidently say, I never looked back after taking the leap. 




When you finish your dietetics coursework, the next step toward becoming a Registered Dietitian is to land an accredited internship which can last anywhere from six months to a year. These internships are all over the country, at different institutions, and are highly competitive. In fact, only 50% of people who apply to dietetic internships get matched (it's a lovely match system, similar to medical residency). For example, 120 people may apply to one internship, which lets 6 people in. Ouch. Even worse, a majority are not free, rather, you pay for the internship. You pay to work for free (while of course, gaining invaluable experience). 

The internship application process, seemingly daunting, is more tedious than anything. It is essentially a big detailed job application, with letters of recommendation, a resume, tailored personal statements, and more. After numerous talks with my number one guy, I decided to apply to four internships, all of which were local to the bay area. I ranked them 1-4, putting my top choice, aka my reach school as number 1. 

In all honesty, I almost did not apply to my first choice internship. I didn't think I would get in because it is an especially competitive program. And though I had a 4.0 (I wasn't the only one), a well-written personal statement, and an interesting yet questionable background (Prior to school, I was a walking contradiction, marketing pharmaceutical drugs while studying holistic nutrition), I completely bombed (not intentionally) the GRE test required for this one internship. In fact, after receiving my scores this past February, I thought about not applying. I also was very candid in my personal statement about my desire to practice integrative, holistic nutrition, and I worried this would be off-putting to some programs; it was too important for me to not discuss my passion for holistic health to not write about it. I ended up applying; Brent told me to go for it, as did my advisors and mentors. 

On Sunday April 4th, it was D-day, known as match day. At 4pm PST, I logged onto the match website which was flooded with traffic of thousands of other dietetic students, to learn my fate for the next year or so.

Would I match or would I not match? If I matched, where did I match to? At this point, I was pretty confident I would match to my number two program, which accepted a lot of interns, was lower in cost, and would keep me in the city of San Francisco.I was coming off of being sick the previous week, and barely had a voice left from coughing. When I saw the results, well, shocked is a light term for how I felt. I was in disbelief as I saw I had been matched to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), my number one ranked choice; they accept ten interns and I was lucky to be one of them. Brent's reaction was my favorite. 

And in that moment, everything finally felt worth it. The two years of my life spent constantly revolving around exams and projects, studying, with my signature 'study bun' so fondly nicknamed, in place; two years of saying no to fun things to study 90% of the time, living frugally in this amazing but expensive city...it all clicked.

I am finally getting over the shock of my fate and have been feeling extremely grateful ever since. Quite honestly, though I am terrified to start my internship August 1st for fear of failure, I am trying my best to approach it with an open mind, desire to work hard, and succeed. I want to soak up every bit of this learning experience at this wonderful institution I am so lucky to have earned.

I think anyone who has gone through graduate school can identify with the notion that you truly do have to sacrifice a lot in order to persevere. And listen, I know my life is pretty damn good, but going from a steady career and paycheck to becoming a full-time student at 28 is definitely a transition. But if you're committed to the end goal, you make it work. The financial component of graduate school is no joke, and often left me feeling guilty for missing things, as well as embarrassed. It was and is all temporary though. And an important lesson, I learned, is to ask for help when you need it. A lesson I am still working on, is not feeling guilty for missing out; there have been a few friends, along with my big sister and Mom, who have been especially encouraging and understanding when it comes to this lesson, and I thank them every time they remind me I continue to be on the right path.


My fellow, favorite RDs to be outside of our classroom home for the 2015-2016 school year

And of course, I am so lucky to have had Brent by my side cheering me on and even throwing me a (total) surprise graduation party. I don't think either of us anticipated how much my schooling would change our lives, and he stuck by me the whole time and was so patient, supportive, loving, and generous. Can't wait to write my book, make millions, and move to Hawaii with you, B. 



As of August 1st, I will be a full-time dietetic intern at UCSF. There will be a steep learning curve, which I plan to embrace. And while, I know I will also be a full-time fiancĂ©, daughter, sister, and friend, I also know I will be one step closer to becoming an RD.

For more posts about my journey to become an RD:
Journey to Become an RD: My First Week of School
Journey to Become an RD: The Second Semester
Journey to Become an RD: 7 Things I Learned in the First Year of My Dietetics Program