International Connections

Brittany Wilson

Major: Dietetics/Nutritional Science

Year: Graduate

Type of experience: Dietic internship
Experience: International Dietetic Internship Community Rotation
Experience website:
Destination: Ghana

Overall experience..
My overall experience was unlike anything I have done before. Learning the Ghanaian culture was the primary focus toward the beginning of the internship. It was interesting to learn about the many similarities and differences between American and Ghanaian culture. Before beginning the research and interventions, research was done to determine the feeding practices of children aged 0-60 months. Communities and caretakers were interviewed to determine the feeding practices. In addition to interview questions, MUAC, weight and height/length of the children were measured. Once data collection was complete, the measurements and interview questions were assessed. An intervention was determined and a community dubar was held to teach them about what needed improving and what was going well. I learned so much throughout this experience and was able to have much hands on learning in the field. Working with communities of other cultures was also rewarding and improved my cultural communication skills. It was the best experience I have had in school in dietetics and has confirmed my desire to pursue work abroad in the future as a dietitian.

I learned...
While volunteering with woman, infants, and children in my local community, one of the dietitians suggested that I apply to Iowa State's Dietetic Internship. I had mentioned my interest in working abroad and she told me about the international program that Iowa has.

An impact to my life...
I do not believe that there are adequate words to describe the impact this trip has had on me. While I have seen malnutrition in the past and I have done missions abroad, the impact is still great. I believe this experience has made me search within myself and determine my strengths and weaknesses and my goals. One thing I do know from this experience is that I would like to work abroad in the future working with malnutrition and preventative care through nutrition. I have seen how doing research and implementing nutrition interventions in communities with high malnutrition rates in children can improve their health and nutrition status.

I will never forget...
The most memorable experience I had was at a clinic where my team and I were doing measurements on the infants and children. The baby boy that I was assigned was born with a condition that was very dangerous to his health. I sat and talked the mother about her son and was able to hear the families’ story. She has limited income but is still determined to take her son to his monthly appointments while she cares at home for him between appointments. She explained to me that because of the lack of doctors, her son was not scheduled for surgery until December 2016 even though it is a surgery that should have been done as a newborn. The boy was six months of age. Although a sad story, it was the smile of her son that I remember most. He was such a curious and playful baby and his laugh was adorable! His story is an inspiration for me along with his mother’s love, determination, faith. I know the time I spent with her and her son will always be one of my favorite memories from the trip.

Advice for others...
Go in with an open mind. It is important that when visiting another country you should not make assumptions based on things that have been said before. Ask a lot of questions when something is not clear about a culture rather than assume. I found that the more questions I asked the locals, the more they were excited that I was interested and were more than willing to explain. Gaining better insight to the culture also helped me to connect better with people.

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