By Cristen Scifo
I had no idea just how much this internship would push me out of my comfort zone. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. In college, you could pretty much get away with only doing as much as you are comfortable with. For example, in college I never would have volunteered to get up and talk to 165 people about nutrition, and nobody would have made me either. In my internship, however, my internship director told me that I would be giving my technology tool presentation on 3D Printing of Dysphagia Appropriate Foods at the upcoming Maryland Dietetics in Health Care Communities (MD-DHCC) Spring Conference in front of ~165 Registered Dietitians. While I feel I might have pulled off an outwardly calm composure, inside I was freaking out. I am not, and have never been, a good public speaker.
My first reaction when I got home that day was to panic. I had maybe a month to get ready and I was already terrified I would embarrass myself in front of my future peers; the dietetics community is pretty small. I spent the next couple of weeks adamantly refusing to even think about the conference or my presentation. A couple of days before the presentation, I had come to my senses and practiced my presentation, but I was still feeling nervous. When it was time to take the stage, my legs were visibly shaking in my high heels. I began to have a very real fear that I might be sick before I even got up the stairs. You might be wondering what happened next: I gave my presentation, I didn’t mess up, I wasn’t sick, and I did not embarrass myself. I was so worried to step out of my comfort zone when in the end, all it did was improve me. I now know that I am capable of public speaking, and I never would have known that if I hadn’t tried…or been forced to try.
In this program, we have participated in a lot of conferences and professional events that often pushed us into situations we had never been in. We shook hands with corporate vice presidents, interned at big name companies, handled clinical cases that we needed guidance on, and have all now accomplished some sort of public speaking. While not all of these experiences were what we were expecting when we were matched to a dietetic internship, they are just as important as learning how to calculate a tube feed or construct a lesson plan. These professional skills are what will set us apart from other applicants in our fields. These skills will make us more confident and comfortable in the workplace.
I am thankful for this internship in many ways, but one of the biggest reasons I am thankful is because this internship has changed me. I can safely say, and I think most of my classmates would agree, that I am not the same person I was when I started. Without change, we cannot grow, and without growth we cannot improve. With less than two months left of this program, it is amazing to sit back and reflect on the opportunities for professional growth that our class has been given.