Major: Dietetics/Nutritional Science
Hometown, State: Spokane, Washington
Type of experience: Dietetic Internship
Experience: International Dietetic Internship Community Rotation
Experience website: http://isuabroad.iastate.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=11973
Destination: Asesewa, Ghana
During the month of June 2016 I had the privilege of traveling to Ghana, Africa to work with a nutrition team made up of seven ISU students and five students from the University of Ghana. Our team’s focus for the trip was on child-feeding practices from 0-5 years of age in the Upper Manya Krobo District (UMKD). Our first two weeks in Ghana were dedicated to learning about and understanding the Ghanaian/Krobo culture. During this period we attended lectures on culture and dietetics practice in Ghana, with a focus on how to treat malnourished children. Our team also had the opportunity to tour three local hospitals. After two weeks of lectures and learning, our team headed out into the field to assess two communities in the UMKD. The assessment included measuring weight, length and mid-upper arm circumference of children 0-5 years of age. With the help of our wonderful translators we were able to use a questionnaire for the mothers, asking them about feeding practices, breastfeeding and drinking water. At the end of our assessment we decided to focus our education on proper drinking water treatment and how to increase dietary diversity for children 6-8 months. We decide to provide this information to the communities through a skit. This trip, though short, was life changing. Through it I have gained new friends and a new perspective on community and culture.
I was searching for a distance dietetics internship and found that ISU not only had a distance degree program but also allowed students to travel abroad to complete their community rotation. As I researched further I realized they were sending a team to Ghana. I had originally heard of this internship through the ACEND website (eatright.org) and then found more detailed information as I researched further on the ISU dietetic internship website.
An impact to my life...
I have always had a desire to take my nutrition degree and use it in an underserved country. During undergrad I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana, where I spent a month getting to know and understand the culture and lives of students at the University of Ghana. While in Ghana I was able to talk with a traveling doctor and I asked if there was a need for dietitians in Ghana. The doctor told me that only doctors and nurses were needed in Ghana—not dietitians. At that moment I felt as if a door had closed on my desire of possibly using my nutrition degree in Ghana. I headed back to the states and finished my degree still hoping that I would be able to live out my desire of using nutrition in an underserved country. When this opportunity came up I knew that I had to take it and go back to and serve a place where I was originally told I was not needed. During this trip I was able to take everything I learned in undergrad and put it into practice in Ghana. I was not only able to apply the skills I learned throughout the prior parts of the internship, but also developed and sharpened new skills as I went through this program and learned from my fellow Ghanaian dietetic students. This experience further increased my passion for working with underserved communities. I am currently studying to pass my RD exam to work as a dietitian serving communities in need in the US and—hopefully—internationally.
My most valuable learning experience...
Pinpointing one learning experience is a difficult task. Over the past month I have had so many learning experiences, but one that stood out as having the biggest impact on me was the ability to step outside of my comfort zone and just “go for it.” “Go for it” became my motto as I was daily given the choice to live in the comfort of my own culture and my own views or put them aside in order to fully embrace the beautiful Ghanaian culture. The unknown is a scary place, yet a place that is full of adventure. As soon as I learned to put my fears aside and jump into the culture I learned so much more and experienced so much more than if I would have stayed in fear. As silly as it sounds, I started to feel like a Ghanaian. I also found that when I choose to embrace their culture my own culture began to grow in a richer and deeper way. This trip has made me bold and has shown me the wonderful reward of living a “go for it” life.
Advice for others...
As mentioned above, my advice would be to embrace the culture of the country you are going to. Try all the food, learn how to cook it, learn the language, the dances, what people like to do for fun, the games and the way people live. Whenever you doubt or feel that fear is holding you back, remember to “go for it” because this trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you will miss out if you let fear hold you back. Learn to laugh at yourself because you are bound to make so many crazy mistakes as you are learning and adjusting to a new culture. This may seem very broad but it is the most valuable lesson I learned on this trip. As soon as you learn to let go of your comfort zone and embrace something new and different you will find that not only does your comfort zone become larger, but your experience grows richer.