In exactly thirty-eight days I will be moving 2,567 miles away from my hometown of Sacramento, California, to Buffalo, New York for an intense eighteen month nutrition program. To become a Registered Dietitian (RD), one must complete a Bachelor of Science degree (soon to be a masters), at least 1200 practice hours of supervised, unpaid work (internship), and pass a national examination. So, why exactly would someone want to go through all of that stress to be paid a somewhat average salary?
Fervor. Love. Passion. Sounds cliché, but it is what it is! Without a fire burning under the booty, I guarantee people wouldn’t go through all of this.
It all started back in November of last year. I was living at home because I couldn’t survive paying rent and other bills on my own with my income at the time. I was feeling pretty stagnant — like I had been moving backward in life, not forward. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted out of life, obviously. I knew there was so much more I had to offer even if I wasn’t sure how to do it or if i was good enough. On one particular night I was feeling extra down, scrolling through Instagram, admiring all the people with beautiful, adventurous, autonomous lives. Even though I knew 95 percent of it is staged, I longed for something similar. Mostly, I longed for a passionate career that gives me the ability to live off of my earnings comfortably, helping people and doing work I love.
That same night I reached out to a best friend from college. She and I went through the same didactic program at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo from 2012 until 2015. She knew she wanted to pursue dietetics all the way through to becoming an RD and applied to internships right after graduation. I wanted to become a nurse midwife and applied to nursing school. Neither of us got accepted. Discouraged and a little confused about what I really wanted in my life, I took some time off. She did as well, and in that time she enhanced her application with experience and improved grades. I worked in corporate “wellness” for almost two years, was eventually let go due to a “business decision,” left feeling broken and defensive and needing the next chapter of my life to begin ASAP.
Fast forward to the night I reached out to her, inquiring about the dietetic internship (DI) she had recently completed in New Hampshire (yes, she reapplied and got accepted in the second round match –woo!). Both of us are from California, born and raised. She from Southern Cali, myself from Norther Cali (kind of cute how we met at school in the middle and become besties). She made me feel a bit better about my situation and answered all of my twenty million questions about her experience and the application process (it’s a lengthy one). She was such a huge inspiration to me and she encouraged me immensely to go for it. Come late November, motivation, determination and belief all hit me hard, and I knew I had to apply.
I had expressed to her how I felt that I lacked sooo much: clinical experience, food service experience, leadership experience, volunteer hours, anyone who could be a preceptor, people who I could ask for decent letters of recommendation… the list went on and on. She shot all of my doubts down with examples. Firstly, no one truly has clinical experience when applying to a DI. You can potentially get away with working in the restaurant industry as food service experience. I actually had loads of leadership experience seeing as I managed an entire team before while in corporate wellness. I had more volunteer hours than I realized, I didn’t need preceptors if I was willing to relocate, and, lastly, I had three people who could genuinely speak highly of me and my traits, skills, and abilities.
Wow. There it was. Thrown in my face. How could I deny it? I felt empowered. I felt like I did have experience. Real life experience and real connections. That’s truly what most of this comes down to. Experience and connection. And, probably most importantly, belief. Lack of belief has held me back so much in my life and I know 99 percent of you can relate. With so many people in the world who already don’t accept us, love us, acknowledge us — why on Earth would we then decide to do it to ourselves? The answer calls for a whole separate blog post, but for now just know that it’s ludicrous to not believe in yourself. Sometimes all it takes is a little reminder or unveiling of our truth from something outside of us to see that what’s inside, is where belief actually resides.
So I harnessed that sh** and I applied. It was brutal, I won’t lie. I applied to a total of 5 programs: Sacramento State University, Bastyr, Fresno State University, Keene State College and University at Buffalo. I asked questions, joined online communities (All Access Internships on Facebook is an amazing resource), connected with my wonderful program director from Cal Poly, scheduled advising appointments with her, meticulously input all of my information (I won’t even go into what that entails) into DICAS (and made sure to procrastinate a fair amount on that), wrote 5 separate personal statements, reached out for letters of rec, mailed in checks, filled out graduate school applications, etc., etc… yeah, it’s a little insane.
Submitted my application mid February with confidence and a good amount of anxiety. Then it’s the waiting game. Basically two whole months they make you wait. In that time, you do interviews just to make your nerves even more uneasy. I ended up being interviewed by Fresno State, Keene State, and University at Buffalo. All of the programs I applied to conducted interview, so Sacramento State and Bastyr (my top two programs) were out the window. This was actually helpful because I was then able to rearrange my choices on D&D (a site where you rank the programs you apply to and you match based on your ranking of the program and the program’s ranking of you, and some confusing algorithm).
Long story short, I sort of on a whim moved University at Buffalo to the #1 spot on D&D right before match day. Figured if I were to do an internship, might as well bust out a masters degree and move all the way across the country. Where it snows. Why not? *heh*
I think a huge part of me thought I wasn’t going to be matched. Knowing how many well qualified, experience-laden, perfect GPA nutrition students were out there hungry for a spot in an internship somewhere in the country, I figured the odds of me matching were few and far between (47 percent match rate, to be exact). So I said screw it and moved Buffalo to the top. Not like I was actually going to get it. Or any of my other 4 choices.
Come match day, April 8, 2018, I get on D&D and nervously wait. My entire future felt like it was about to be unlocked before my eyes on the computer screen. I even took a video of this moment because I was so incredibly anxious I had to watch it later no matter the outcome. When I saw that I had matched, to my #1 choice, it was overwhelming. I did it! All of the hard work I put out there… it paid off. I was in the 47 percent! The feeling was liberating and profound. I cried. I just kept thinking, “Oh my gosh! I’m moving to New York?!” Yep. Damn right I was — I am.
Now, here we are with a little over a month until I leave California for an entire year and half. On to a new chapter. Leaving behind my family, my boyfriend of 6 years, my friends, my job, everything I know. Sacrificing my sense of comfort and familiarity to finally attain the growth I was desperately seeking. At last, I am moving out. Out of stagnation. Out of sameness. Blossoming into a independent, confident, successful woman. As much as I was scared, worried and doubtful along the way, I believe I can do this and I know in my soul that this is going to be one of the best eighteen months of my life.
Natalie (future RD)
P.S. If you are in a nutrition program right now, considering applying to dietetic internships, are in currently in the process, or just curious PLEASE feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to help you by answering questions and sharing more of my story! Hope to hear from you. Wishing you all my best.