Sunday, December 11, 2016

4 Survival Tips for the UMD Dietetic Internship

It’s been 15 weeks (!) since the start of my dietetic internship, and I’ve learned a few lessons on how to stay successful along the way
1. Organize, organize, organize
We get a lot of papers and emails.  And I mean A LOT. Between class day information, assignments, reminders, surveys, etc., there is a ton of information that you need to keep organized.  Binders with dividers and a reliable hole puncher are basic tools I’ve continued to use since college to keep track of my paperwork.  
I have dividers in my binder labeled for each rotation type where I keep any projects, documents, or evaluations I have done.  Trust me on this one.  Otherwise, your internship director may email you at 10pm telling you that you haven’t submitted an important document and you’ll have to ruffle through your pile of papers to find it.  I also have a separate section for class day lectures and activities and one for general internship information like my rotation schedule.  
Gmail is another place where organization helps.  I recently created a special label in Gmail called “DI” for internship emails.  This way I can clearly see what emails pertain to the internship in the inbox, or I can go to the specific “DI” folder to see only internship emails.  You can even change the color of the label to make it more appealing.  
To automatically mark incoming emails with a filter:
          1. Search the email of the person you would like to tag with the label on your Gmail search bar.
          2. Click the small gray triangle on the right side of the search bar.

          3. Click on the link at the bottom that says “Create filter with this search”.

          4. Click on the box that says “Apply Label” and then click on the label that you wish to apply to the emails.

I have set up automatic filters so that emails coming from the internship director, the technology coordinators, or my fellow interns are automatically labeled as “DI”.

If there is an email that I need to take action on, such as completing a survey, I star the message so that I know I need to get it done.  Starred emails also become filed under their own folder. Everyone’s organization style is different, but the main idea is to put all your information in a place that is clear and accessible.

2. Communication is Key

Remember when I said we get a lot of emails? Well, that’s because email communication is pretty important in this internship.  Verbal communication can’t be looked at later, so for important discussions I send an email as a reminder or confirmation.  This helps eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings.  

You should also be proactive with your communications.  Let your internship director or preceptor know ASAP if you have any issues, conflicts in timing, questions, etc.  The sooner you let them know, the better it is for both parties.  Just don’t forget to put it in writing!

3. Be open-minded

This internship has so many rotations and experiences and it’s likely you’ll encounter one that doesn’t appeal to you or you just downright don’t like.  It’s important to stay positive, no matter how hard that may be, because you don’t have the option not to go.  I’ve learned that every rotation has its positive aspects, whether it be the work you’re doing, the people you get to meet, or simply getting to bond with your partner.  Each rotation is a learning opportunity and a chance to experience something you never have before. So even if you’re dreading a rotation, keep an open mind! I was terrified of the clinical rotation and it has turned out to be my favorite so far.

My partner Ysabel and me at our Chinese Theme Meal at Riderwood Village.

4. Make time to relax

I really can’t stress this enough (pun intended).  Find what makes you happy and do it.  A great thing about the UMD internship is that we’re just a metro ride away from so many cool things to do and see in the DC area.  Weekends are a perfect time to explore!  If you’d rather stay in, you can do that too.  Allow yourself to binge watch Netflix or sleep all day if that’s what you need to decompress and get ready for the next week.

Some other interns and I out for dinner in Washington, D.C.

Hopefully these tips will help you maximize your fun experiences and minimize stressful ones! As for me, I’ll be using these for my next 29 weeks on my way to becoming a registered dietitian.

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