TSDA Inside Scoop

Jennifer Fiske’s Inside Scoop on Taking the “Non-Traditional Route”

Jennifer Fiske

Which program are you currently enrolled in?  Texas Woman’s University

Where did you complete your undergraduate program? Sam Houston State University

Why did you pick the program you are in now? I chose to apply to TWU because they have a solid reputation of producing outstanding dietetic interns. The growth of the dietetics field has made internships and jobs incredibly competitive, so I wanted to be in a program that would challenge me and provide me with a variety of experiences to best prepare me for the future. TWU’s dietetic internship is coordinated, which is an added bonus since a Master’s degree will soon be a requirement and is always a competitive advantage/great way to “round out” your education. I also knew I wanted to complete a Master’s in sports nutrition, and TWU has one of the few programs in the country.  

How did you plan for this internship (time/finances/living/etc)? Oddly enough, I believe the 3 years post-baccalaureate helped me plan/prepare for the internship more than my time as an undergrad. I was disappointed when I did not match my first time applying (the spring semester of my senior year); however, I had a back-up plan. I moved to Dallas with my now husband and applied for a variety of nutrition related jobs. I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do at the time, but I knew I wanted to gain experience that would make me a stronger applicant. I accepted a great job with a school system and applied to graduate school at TWU.

For 2 years I worked full-time and attended school part-time. In an incredible twist of fate, my supervisor at work was an RD who also took a nontraditional route. The 2 years I worked with her were the best preparation for an internship- she pushed me beyond my comfort level and trusted me to “rise to the occasion”. She also lead by example and helped me develop management and people skills. After 2 years I left my job to finish my Master’s as a full-time student. In addition to coursework, my Master’s program required 3 practicums. During those 3 semesters, I gained experience counseling and charting, working in new/challenging environments, and exerting myself as a nutrition professional who can produce quality results and is desirable to work with. I have also worked the entire time I’ve been in school and chose jobs that were connected to nutrition and physical activity. Although the jobs have not always paid “big bucks”, they helped build my resume and prepare me for future success.   

When I applied for internships in February 2016, I knew I was as prepared as possible and confident I would match. I did apply to more than one internship program (better safe than sorry), but was selective with where I applied. Aside from my work and school experiences, I focused on building a future with my (now) husband. He works incredibly hard to ensure I can follow and achieve my dreams, which continues to be a true blessing. When I matched to TWU last year he said, “I always knew that was the place for you and I never doubted for a minute it would happen when the time was right.” Having a strong support system has helped me stay positive and excited about what I’m studying and where I’m headed- which I know is somewhere big!

What’s been your favorite part of your internship so far? Honestly, my favorite part of internship thus far is simply knowing I am one step closer (in the “home stretch”) to being an RD. Nutrition/Dietetics was not my original major, so my journey has been longer than most. I also love interacting with clients and teaching. Knowing you have the ability to change someone’s life for the better is empowering.

Do you have any crazy/fun stories from your internship? The most vivid memory that comes to mind is Match Day. My husband and I were driving to East Texas to see my family when results were posted. Although I was confident I would match throughout the application and interview process, I was very nervous that day. We pulled over on a country road and my husband excitedly told me I matched. I immediately burst into tears of joy and felt so relieved that I forgot to ask where I matched. (My husband made sure to point this out before telling me.) This moment will always be one of my favorite memories.

What do you plan to do after you’re done with your internship? Aside from the obvious (passing the RD exam), I will have one class left to complete my second Master’s. I plan to explore job opportunities during internship so I can start working as soon as possible. Thankfully, the last 6 months of my internship program are rotations only (no graduate classes), so it’s a great time to network and entertain a variety of opportunities. I have been interning with a local sports team for the past 8 months, and will continue with them through 2017, so I am hopeful they will have a position for me as an RD. (*fingers crossed*)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? This may sound very cliché but…I hope in 5 years I am enjoying life to the fullest and embracing new opportunities. Yes, I do want to be a respected, successful RD. Yes, I would love to work for a major university or sports team. And yes, I would love to start a family with my husband. But more than anything, I want to experience new things, places, and people in ways I have not been able to while in school. Professionally, I would also like to be a contributor for publications (digital and print) and T.V. segments.

What did you expect going into the internship? Is it what you expected? The months between Match Day and the start of internship were some of the busiest of my life. As a result, I never felt nervous until the first time I met all of my fellow interns. Looking around the room, knowing we were all in this together, was both exciting and slightly unnerving. Although we were all a little overwhelmed at the end of our first meeting with our director, I was actually excited about all of the learning and experience to come.

Since this day, internship has been about what I had expected. Balancing graduate school with work, interning on my own, plus internship requirements keeps me incredibly busy with few days off. That being said, I am having fun every step of the way. The many assignments and projects don’t seem as daunting after completing a Master’s, and I always remind myself that each box checked (or grade uploaded in many cases) gets me one step closer to the RD exam. I also see how I am growing as a person from each experience- that feeling is invaluable.

What’s something you did not expect? To my surprise, I did not expect to be as calm as I have been throughout internship. Although I do feel the pressure of balancing so many activities and deadlines, I know this period is short-lived and at the end, it will all be worth it. A strong support system is key to surviving any internship, and even more important for enjoying the journey.

What is something that you think DPD students can do to stand out to in applications? The best piece of advice I can give to DPD students is to embrace who you are and think outside the box. Everyone will have their DPD director and a nutrition professor as references. Choose that third reference wisely! When I matched last year, my references were my graduate advisor, a former boss who’s an RD, and a PhD candidate in the Ex Phys department. My third reference was someone I had classes with and worked with on campus (I taught, supervised, and graded her students). She was able to speak about me in unique aspects, and I believe her reference helped me stand out. When writing your personal statement, stay personable. Your writing should be direct and succinct (1000 word limit is no joke), but also warm and relatable. Give the readers a glimpse of who you are, and leave them wanting more!

Anything you want to let people know that are applying to internships? Everyone applying to internships should have a strong backup plan. My backup plan ended up being a necessity the first time I applied, and in the long-run, it was a blessing. A backup plan does not mean an alternate career, rather a plan for growth and learning to better prepare you for applying in the future. I also want applicants to know that not matching your first time applying is not the end of your career in dietetics. Let me repeat- NOT MATCHING IS NOT THE END. Stay positive throughout the process and trust that your journey is your own. Whatever the results on Match Day, be confident in yourself and continue growing as a person.

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