becoming a registered dietitian: Volunteer experience

Hello again! I'm back to share another part of my journey to becoming a registered dietitian (RD). I was recently accepted into EMU's distance MS Coordinated Program in Dietetics. There have been so many different steps to get here, so I want to share in case others are online searching for ideas and information, like I always am. Also, I don't want to forget each challenge and how I made it through each step.

I thought I'd share my experience with how I have gone about figuring out how to gain volunteer experience. Part of the application to my desired program, required a certain number of hours of volunteer experience. Initially I wasn't sure how to go about getting volunteer experience being a distance student. I didn't have any local college affiliations or clubs associated with my school that I could reach out to - I am in California and my school is in Michigan!

During a live information session webinar, put on by the dietetics department, I asked about the volunteer experience requirement. What I found out about their requirement was that the required volunteer service was to inspire community service and involvement. I initially thought I had to volunteer directly under a RD, I found out I didn't;  so after that information session I started searching for opportunities in my community related to health, food, or helping people. I also reached out to other dietetics students I found online to ask what kind of volunteer service they had done. I made a list of all of the various ideas for volunteering and started searching to see what I would be able to do in my particular situation. I am a stay at home mom who also works at home (at night) and does my schooling online at home and at the library (in the evenings).  It doesn't leave a lot of free time to volunteer during the week! So the key for me was to find volunteer opportunities that I could fit into my schedule. 

The first organization that I came across that had many different days and times available for volunteer work was our local food bank. I called them to find out if I could volunteer for a full day, which involved 3 different volunteer shifts and they said I could! I chose a Saturday and signed up immediately. This was a really great experience. We were shown around the food bank warehouse and they explained how many people they help and how much food comes in, both fresh fruits and vegetables along with non-parishable foods. That day I helped bag different fresh vegetables for that weeks community distribution events. 

My son started going to preschool/daycare a couple days a week, so that has opened more days for me to find opportunities elsewhere. I met a girl, online, who goes to the same school that I do and lives somewhat locally to me. She shared some of the places she had volunteered. They weren't local to me but I found one that really spoke to me and I could sign up for times and days that worked with my new schedule. It was an after school program teaching elementary aged kids about vegetables. It was a blast! The organization is in Sacramento and it's called Food Literacy Center. They're doing some really great things and it's something I'll continue to volunteer with whenever I have time. 

I also have one other experience I have been participating in for over a year, my online internship with the Nutrition Twins. I plan on talking about that particular experience in a post  all its own. But I will say here that I found this opportunity through an organization called All Access Internships.  If you are a student who is working to get into either a coordinated program or a dietetic internship and you haven't heard of them, go take a look. They have a lot of great free information. I signed up for their basic membership during one of their discounted specials and gained access to so many great documents that helped me in my applicaiton process. They also offer coaching sessions (at a cost), which I did not take advantage of, but I hear they're really good! They also have a private Facebook group, I am not big on Facebook so I didn't use this group, but I do know they often are contacted by working RD's who are looking for student help and post those opportunities there. I signed up for their newletter, this was how I heard about the Nutrition Twins opportunity. 

If I can offer any advice when it comes to figuring out volunteer experience as a distance student, it would be to ask questions and think broad. Don't be afraid to ask the program directors or contacts to clarify what is expected. My particular school program is focused on business entrepreneurship, so volunteering under RD's, such as The Nutrition Twins, that had a private practice made a lot of sense. You might look for volunteer experiences that line up with your desired program or internship's focus. And think broad when it comes to community organizations that need volunteer services, I looked for organizations that were related to health, food and helping people. A few other ideas i had were  Meals on Wheels and I reached out to the organization that works with school garden programs in my county. Volunteering in a hopsital was on the top of my list, but it wasn't something I could make work at the time. I also found the dietetics association in my area and joined. 

The volunteer requirement was one of the more challenging aspects I came across in the applicaton process. But by thinking a little outside of the box and not being afraid to ask others about their experience I was able to successfully complete that requirement and came away from it with some really great volunteer experiences. 

If you are reading this in search of information, I hope this in someway helps. Whether it directly helps or sparks a new train of thought, I'm hoping to pay the help I've received, from others along the way, forward.

Journal | May 2017

Where to begin. Life is so full. I could say busy, crazy, overwhelming, <insert all the dramatic words here> but I like full. Bursting at the seams. Jack, age three, has just blossomed into this awe inspiring little human. I spend every day with him but often feel like I've missed some major transition between the leaps he makes, sometimes seemingly overnight. I often find myself saying, WHERE did he learn that?! He's amazing and sweet and just the coolest person I know, hands down. But let's be real for a second, he's 3 ... deep breaths ... and exhale ;) He reminds me every day that the hardest things we are faced with are often the most rewarding. He is most rewarding. At the end of the day no matter how hard it has been there's a sweet surrender in us all and we go to bed with lots of snuggles and promises of a new day and fresh start when we wake. Three years has gone by in a blink of an eye. I want time to slow down but at the same time love the growth and change I see in him and in our family as he gets older. It's such a mix of emotions this parenthood thing =) 

School marches on! I am moving along in the prerequisites I need to complete before applying to a MS dietetics program. It's gotten more challenging, partially because I've transitioned into taking classes completely online and partially because the classes are getting more difficult, but thankfully also more interesting! Learning sciences like organic chemistry without a lecture is a practice in resourcefulness and self-discipline. I think the hardest part it it is extremely more time consuming than a traditional in-person class, in my opinion.  I got into the college that offers the MS program I will apply to next fall. So that is one step in the right direction! The program I am applying to is a second admissions program, so after I take a handful of their specific prerequisites, I will be eligible to apply to their dietetics program. This winter semester was my first at EMU. I had a Nutrition class online at EMU and the organic chemistry class online was at a separate community college in another state. It's truly amazing how today's college experience can be. I feel so old when I talk about "when I was in college the first time..." haha... but literally things have changed so much as far as taking classes online and it being so common now that the hiccups that I experienced as a student 10 plus years ago have all been worked out, making online learning much easier now than it was back then. Not to mention the ease of textbook rentals and finding used ones for a fraction of the cost a lot of times! Also the access to infinite amounts of information online, from tutorials to full on lectures! Seriously so different from before. I also feel infinitely more dedicated this time around. Lots in my life has changed in the 10 years since I graduated with my BA. I feel like I have a lot more riding on school this time, I have a bigger purpose, a focus. I know what I want to do and I know why I want to do it. It's a pretty powerful feeling to have those two pieces in place. I don't think I had that sense in my early twenties. Now when I want to cry and just give up because I am not ashamed to say it's all so very overwhelming a lot of times, I have my little beacon that always pulls me back in and makes me put my big girl pants on and ramble on. 

This year I have a few goals I want to note to see how I fare a ways down the road. I'd like to find a better balance in my life. Marriage, kiddo, school, work, social life, me. All of those things do not currently have a fair share of time. And most of those get no time. I know it's a lot to ask for complete balance, but perhaps a shift in different directions here and there. That'd be nice. Another goal, blogging. I really want to find time to get on here more often. It gets pushed to the waaaaaay back. Like priority zero haha! But perhaps I can fit it in more often and make it related to something happening in my life right then, so it somehow fits in without too much effort. Extracurricular effort (aka time)  is always my challenge. And goals for Jack, potty training, big boy toddler bed (cuz yes he's still in his crib... he hasn't attempted to climb out and anyone I ask nearly screams NOOOOOO at me when I say I might just switch him haha... clearly they long for the crib days of old ;) ... but that will have to come eventually right? He can't be 16 and still in his crib hahaha!). We still struggle with his eating, so that's always and forever a goal. Daycare and preschool (hopefully combined) are in the works. And just more other kid time for him. Being an only child he needs to be around other kids as much as possible. So those are my goals for him this year! I know how time flies, so it will be interesting to look back on this in a while or a year and see how we've done. 

This journal is mostly to remind me of this moment in my life. If you're reading along, hello and thank you =) 



becoming a registered dietitian: Getting started

When I first started researching the idea of going back to school to be a registered dietitian (RD), I asked a friend who is a registered dietitian where I should start and asked her some of the first questions I had. She was great and instrumental in pointing me in the right direction to find credible information. Along the way I've scoured the internet for personal accounts of how people have gone about navigating the path to their dietetics education. Because  above and beyond the hard facts about how to go about becoming a RD, finding someone who shares a similar situation makes the process feel a little less scary and daunting. Especially when you are coming from an entirely different field and also choosing a non-traditional route such as an online/distance program, like I am. Many of the personal accounts I have come across have shared wonderful insight into their specific journey. And while none have matched my situation exactly, I have learned tidbits of information from them all. So I thought perhaps there might be others out there that are looking for someone in a similar situation to mine while starting their journey to becoming a registered dietitian. Even if it's not the same situation someone else may be in, I may have one piece of the puzzle that helps! 

These posts about my journey to RD will be ongoing as I am currently working on the last few science prerequisites I need to be able to apply to the program I am interested in. I'll talk about how I got to where I am now and update as I move along! 

If this is the first post you're reading on my blog, I'll share a little background about myself. I graduated with a BA in Studio Art from UC Davis and have worked in the photography industry for the last 10 years. I also worked a variety of administrative jobs along the way to support myself through college and during the early years of my photography business. I still currently work in photography, just not as a photographer. In 2014 my husband and I welcomed a little boy into our lives and six months after he was born I decided to change my career and the following summer began taking courses towards becoming a registered dietitian. 

Because I had a bachelor degree in another subject already, I am considered a career changer. I found the information regarding the steps it takes to become a RD along with accredited schools and programs on the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website, . Start there. And read everything! 

The steps to becoming a RD for me started with catching up on all of my basic science courses in order to take the upper division prerequisite sciences required to apply to a program. I had taken a basic biology class but that was about it. I had to start at the very bottom in chemistry, never have taken a chemistry class! I am glad I had to do it that way, while it took me a few extra semesters to get to the level I needed to be at, it gave me a great foundation and everything is fresh in my mind. It gave me confidence as well! It did take me a few semesters of sequential courses to get to where I am now but I took one science course in person at my local community college and then one course online that fulfilled my other needs each semester. For me this was a great way to ease back into school. With my son Jack, working part time and life in general, I found it challenging but in a very manageable way. I would suggest taking as many of the science courses in person as you can. I have now completed one major science course (organic chemistry) in an online format and it was the most challenging class I have taken so far. I know organic chemistry is an extremely challenging subject in general, taking it online was definitely a test of resoursefulness in addition to learning the subject matter, but it's totally doable. 

There is a plus side to taking science courses online. For me the school I am applying to is a distance/online program, with an in person, coordinated program in supervised practice experience. So I see the benefit being the more courses I take online, the better I will become at it. Just like figuring out how to navigate any program of study is a huge part of being successful, so is figuring out how to learn in an online environment. So I've started to find a flow to how I personally learn best in an online class. It's always scary to go into a new online class, because the pace and the amount of information and how it's delivered varies but I feel like I have found my groove quicker with each successive class I've taken. So I am thankful for the hard classes that make me manage my time efficiently, be unafraid to ask question, to make mistakes and to reach out to the professor and other students in hopes of creating the kind of community and camaraderie I'd find in a traditional classroom. But I won't sugar coat it, it's hard and there have been tears =P

I finished my winter semester and am now enjoying a bit of a break. I start my online summer class in June (anatomy & physiology for dietetics) and am, as always, feeling nervous but excited. I really do enjoy what I am learning!

During my break and this summer I am also starting to work on my application for the coordinated program I have my sights set on. There are a ton of components so I'm hoping starting now will have me in line with the deadline in January! I plan on sharing my experience as time allows... if you are looking for ideas on how to begin your education in dietetics and I can help answer even one question from my own experiences up until now, please message me! I'd love to pay the help I've received from others forward.