The field of nutrition and dietetics is a competitive one. Thousands of people across the country sign up every year to become students and begin their journey toward becoming registered dietitian nutritionists. So how do you make yourself stand out?
Don’t wait for school to start to begin your studies — go volunteer! I found myself in an interesting transition period when I was more than a year away from entering school. Being so far away from my first day, I felt that although I had the plan in place for becoming an RDN, it was still a long time coming. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be involved. In fact, I took the free time to do something outside of the box and that has made all the difference.
I spent three months on the Big Island of Hawaii working at an organic farm and cancer retreat called Kokolulu, pictured above. It was there that I learned what it really means (and takes) to grow food, and the powerful effect that food has on us. When you’re working in the field, you’re gaining experience that you rarely find in a classroom setting. Kokolulu's founders, Lew and Karin, continuously taught us about each vegetable and herb's various benefits and the role they play in fighting cancer and healing our bodies. Not only did we get a nutrition education, we saw just how much the environment and the quality of the produce that we eat affected us. I and the other interns experienced a positive change in our bodies just by being on the farm and cooking and eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
Not only was this hands-on education huge for me, but going outside of my comfort zone to a completely new place gave me personal growth that living in New York could not. The friendships and connections I made led to working outside the farm in various cooking positions, where I was able to expand my social network and teach others how to cook healthfully and deliciously. These are things that will benefit my career because I am already practicing the qualities of a successful RDN. This experience also stands out on my resume and makes me memorable when I’m interviewing for a job.
My advice? While you’re waiting for school to start, volunteer in a local or national organization or abroad — and throw your whole heart into it!