How Hurricane Maria Helped Me Use Devastation as Motivation

Illustrative editorial of Puerto Rico flag and rain drops
Photo: Thinkstock/Sergio Lacueva

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, just two short weeks after Hurricane Irma impacted the island. The amount of devastation I saw the morning after affected me emotionally, spiritually and physically. As a student, I found myself at a crossroad: I was in my last year of college, which had come to an indefinite halt, and I was left at home with no communication, no water and no electricity. FNCE was just one month away. I had no way of communicating with my advisor about the final payment of the trip and all flights were canceled at the airport.

About two weeks after the hurricane, I was able to go to Puerto Rico’s capitol, San Juan, where I finally got cell reception, paid my FNCE registration and confirmed that our flight to Chicago was possible. It was a breath of fresh air. The day we left, I was sad knowing I was leaving my family behind on a completely devastated island, but I was comforted by the fact that I was one step closer to reaching a dream: attend FNCE and network with future professionals.

FNCE was a dream come true and the recognition that we got by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics was pure and greatly appreciated. The students who represented the University of Puerto Rico received an acknowledgment by the president of the Academy, Donna S. Martin. I met a lot of nutrition and dietetics professionals who encouraged me to keep going, expressed their sympathy regarding my island’s trouble, and motivated me to keep applying to internships and master’s programs.

There have been a lot of natural disasters this past year all over the continental U.S., as well as in the Caribbean. It is a time when we feel lost and confused. But the Hurricane Maria experience was the impulse I needed to keep going and to fight even harder for my dream of becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist.  Times get hard and it may seem like there’s no end to this agony, but there is. When we find ourselves in these difficult moments, we are not alone, and that is exactly how the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic board members made us feel last October. And for that, we express our most sincere gratitude.

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Priscila Ruiz-Rivera
Priscila Ruiz-Rivera completing her dietetic internship at the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus. She enjoys writing about nutrition related topics and educating about the role proper nutrition plays in our health.