SB: What brought you to pursue a nutrition and dietetics degree?
JL: When I was a little girl, about 6 years old, I remember my mom had to have surgery. She explained to me that she needed to get her “stomach stapled.” I did not understand why she needed surgery but I remember being worried. As I got older, she explained that she needed to have have surgery to help her lose weight because she had “gotten too big.” Before and after the surgery I remember chronic dieting in my home. I began my first diet when I was just 11 years old. As I got older, I wanted to understand nutrition beyond the diets I had seen in magazines, on the Internet, and at home. In middle and in high school, I mostly focused my energy on the arts. I played saxophone and loved drawing. However, as I entered college, I realized there was something about the medical field that was more alluring than the arts. Science classes were something I looked forward to, not dreaded, like they were in middle and high school. I changed my major to Medicine and received my Associates of Arts degree at the College of Central Florida. After completing my degree, I worked in a doctor’s office for about a half of a year. The original plan was for my boyfriend and I to move to Gainesville in order for me to get into the University of Florida. That did not happen, as I was not accepted into their program. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “when one door closes, another one opens.” Thus, my boyfriend and I decided to move to Jacksonville in order for me to go to the University of North Florida in order to begin my career as a dietitian and for him to look for better job opportunities. I got a job in September 2014 at the Mayo Clinic as a tray runner for almost a year before becoming a dietetic technician. As I finish my Bachelors degree, I continue to work as a part time dietetic technician at the Mayo Clinic.
SB: Volunteering and being active around campus is super important when applying for internships. Are you involved in any extra curricular clubs that have helped you grow as a person?
JL: I agree that volunteering and being active around campus is incredibly important when applying for internships. I am involved in NutriNews as I make updates about the Nutrition Journal Club. As the president of the Nutrition Journal Club, it has helped me understand how to lead and orchestrate a club/organization. It takes a lot of work! However, I have loved being a part of this club. Supplementing students’ learning with research on the medical nutrition therapy topics discussed in our Medical Nutrition Therapy class has helped me learn as well. Personally, I believe it is also important to be active in your community as well. From June 2016 to December 2016, I volunteered at the Women, Infants, and Children’s Clinic in the Wesconnett area, here in Jacksonville. I was able to see what it was like behind the scenes, conduct time studies, and make lasting connections with the staff there.
SB: Like any other senior, did you apply for internships? If so, what did you think about the process and what are your plans after graduation?
JL: Applying for internships is a big task! As many have heard, starting early is key. Researching internships can be a daunting task, but once you start, you’ll begin to learn about what you want out of the program and what matters most. Making connections with teachers on campus and with others in your community is beyond crucial. Not only for recommendation letters, but as up and coming professionals we may need a mentor or someone to whom we can go to ask questions. Networking is also important in finding jobs in the future. Our profession itself is connection centered as community and food service dietitians are becoming more important and valuable, and as the interdisciplinary structure of the clinical setting is ever-evolving and becoming more inclusive of dietitians. I had applied to one internship this year and that was to the MS/Dietetic Internship option here at the University of North Florida. This internship stuck out to me the most because of its’ focus on the clinical aspect of the program, which is what I am most interested in. This program also stuck out to me because I want to have already received an MS in nutrition, as this will be required in the future. Although we would be grandfathered in, I want to have the competitive edge once I enter the field. Another reason I want my MS in nutrition is because I also want to obtain a doctorate degree in nutrition in the future.
SB: If you could tell any of the upcoming seniors what you would do differently throughout your college career, what would you tell them?
JL: I am proud of all of my accomplishments, but if I could do anything differently, it would have been to ask more questions and to have gotten involved with undergraduate research sooner. Although I am volunteering this summer as a post-grad student in an undergraduate research study here on campus, I wish I had known about the resources available to me earlier. UNF has done a wonderful job of making unique services available to students and a little bit of research can go a long way in finding what is out there.
One last thought I would like to leave you all with is to not doubt yourself. It is a competitive field, but if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish some really amazing things!