Learning to love the unexpected

By Julia Werth

“So, did your time here meet all your expectations,” my preceptor at NETTA (Nutrition Education, Training and Technical Assistance), a division of the Food and Nutrition Service asked me during the final week of my rotation.

“Yes!” I responded automatically, but then I paused. Did it? Did I even have expectations? The answer to that was just as certain in the opposite direction, no. The only expectation I remembered having at all (a fear that I would be incredibly bored) had proved anything but true.

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At the National Food Bank with the Food and Nutrition Service’s Out and About program.

Before my first day at NETTA, I had no idea what to expect. Unlike clinical or food service rotations where what to expect was right in the name, “technology” gave me few clues. The thoughts I did have – involving Adobe program malfunctions and late nights at the office with the glow of computers all around – came from my years working for newspapers and media outlets and I instantly dismissed them, this was my dietetic internship after all.

“Today we are going to hunt down your computer, so you can get started on website design, only problem is the lead on that is in InDesign training all day. So in the meantime, would you be interested in copy editing some of our latest nutrition education material?”

My mind froze. Website design? InDesign? Copy editing? In the span of just two sentences my preceptor at the Food and Nutrition Service was starting to sound a lot more like my editors at a newspaper.

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At the National Food Bank I found a little reminder of UMD!

“Yes, that would be great!” I told her.

At the end of my first day, I sat at my desk, a stack of papers covered in scrawled comments, arrows, cross outs and circles in front of me. I was smiling. Wordsmithing and grammatical mistakes may not be most dietetic intern’s favorite past time, but it was one of mine.

During my eight weeks that smile came back again and again as I spotted more and more use for the skills I’d picked up through non-nutrition related activities, classes and jobs that I’d done throughout college. Hours organizing and analyzing data in excel brought back memories of the honors thesis I had opted to do in psychology. Creating posts for pinterest brought back memories of the design shifts I had worked at the newspaper. Multiple projects reordering and laying out the website reminded me of the web design class I had elected to take. Phone interviews and hurriedly written stories in my last days in the office had me thanking all the summer I spent working for media outlets instead of kitchens or hospitals. It wasn’t those days studying biochemistry that I once dreaded that were helping me be successful, it was all the random, little things I’d picked up in every field but the one I’d claimed as my major that were helping me the most.

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Celebrating Christmas Team Nutrition style. I got to use my crafting skills as well to compete in the FNS door decorating competition.

At NETTA I’d found a place where I could combine my focus in nutrition with all the skills my various journalistic and academic endeavors taught me.

“Well no,” I corrected myself, as I glanced down at the evaluation rubrics laid between my preceptor and I. “I don’t think I knew what to expect, but I couldn’t be happier with what it turned out to be.”

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