If you are working on becoming a Registered Dietician, and have not gotten into an internship yet, you probably have been told to get volunteer hours to increase your chances of getting into one. The acceptance rate to dietetic internships is around 50% (yikes). There are a number of ways to boost your chances of getting accepted into an internship, but one thing that has really been pushed, at least at my graduate school, is volunteer hours. With a focus on community, food service, and clinical, gaining volunteer hours not only gives you experience and good future recommendations, but also shows dedication. It is also a great way to learn outside of school. I just finished my first year of grad school so I am not used to being seen as an expert in nutrition. Well, surprise, I am an expert (panic mode begin). I mean, obviously, I have A LOT to still learn and YEARS of experience to go through. However, when the general public hears that I am in graduate school for nutrition, they expect me to be knowledgable. So my immediate thought is to run and hide (just kidding..kind of). Seriously though, I have had to learn to give myself more credit and embrace the fact that, although I am still working on becoming an expert in nutrition, most people already see me as one. And once I have the letters RD after my name, I won't be able to deny it either.
So instead of being afraid of the responsibility, I have been learning to share my knowledge to the public. One way of doing that was volunteering at a community garden here in Raleigh. Well Fed Community garden grows up to 90% of the produce used at a local restaurant, Irregardless Cafe. Imagine a house in a regular neighborhood, but instead of a lawn there is a beautiful garden with chickens and bees. It was a sunny, hot Saturday where families could visit the garden, learn about Well Fed, eat pizza and salads with produce straight from the garden, and learn a little about nutrition. This where I and another fellow student came in. We were asked to give some general information on the importance of community gardens and some nutritional facts on the food being eaten today. Not going to lie, I was a tad nervous. As soon as we were put on the spot, though, information just started flowing out of me.
Things I didn't think I was very knowledge in, like importance of community gardens and eating in season, were suddenly easy for me to talk about. I have a tendency of talking my skills down. Of course I know about gardens! Of course I know about eating locally and in season! I love topics like this. I love food and nutrition. Period. So it shouldn't have surprised me that I could talk on these topics with people. It was really a great experience for me. Not only was I forced out of my comfort zone, but I proved myself wrong. I do know what I am talking about (to an extent). And the amazing thing is that people listen and are interested! No one saw me as an insecure girl that was bluffing her way through the day (this is exactly how I felt). It was a huge confidence booster to say the least and a very proud moment for me.
It probably sounds silly that talking about my passions was such an eye opening experience. But it was the first time I was placed in front of people and shared what I knew as an "expert" in nutrition. It made me excited to continue to learn and become an RD. Long story short, this is an example of just one of many reasons why volunteering is so beneficial - It forces you to step out of your comfort zone and grow.