As anyone could tell you, I learned a lot in college. And some of that learning went beyond book work, part of it was about maturity and learning more about myself. I've compiled the top 4 things I wish I had learned sooner rather than later.
1. Yes, hanging out a the Food Bank is completely relevant.
Nutrition spans a lot of areas. As a freshman I had no idea about the other parts of the field, and the community side of nutrition was unfortunately in my blind spot. At that age, I didn't have the understanding to look upon my preconceived notions of the field I chose. The Food Bank seemed boring. Wasn't sexy. I wanted to learn about supplements, and curing cancer. But looking back, the Food Bank was important. Much of the nutrition field is working with what's in front of you. Many people cannot afford the "sexy" stuff. We have to be creative within a budget, and the food bank also gives an opportunity to practice setting priorities in care. Being very knowledgeable about the benefits of green tea and promoting organic food is a wonderful start, but if a woman of childbearing age has a folate deficiency, neither of those things are going to be useful.
2. Peeing in a jug for science does actually look good on your resume.
So yeah, just get yourself an empty milk jug and carry it around campus. You'd be amazed what you'd learn! Kidding. There's a back story to this. I had noticed one day that many of my peers were carrying jugs of what looked like lemonade or orange gatorade - some of my peers were not very well hydrated apparently- and I had no idea what was going on. I wondered if I should start carrying a jug of lemon lime Gatorade.... maybe this was the new Nalgene trend? It was Nalgene's in my day, these days kids are drinking from mason jars and other glass containers I think... maybe even those infuser bottles? Let me know below in the commments, because I'm totally curious. But no. It was not a new trend. Turns out a professor in a different department was running a research study and these students had volunteered as subjects. I didn't see how that would be worth my time, but in my years of wisdom since I realize that being a subject of a research study gives you a look into the inner workings of a reserach study AND it gives you an opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk. It is really powerful to understand what your patients and clients may be experiencing, and being on the side of the desk of not knowing or not being in control can give you some big perspective.
3. Anthropology can make you stand out.
Those electives seem dull don't they? The core requirements are just to bring the university in more money.... well I thought so too until I realized how those different classes expanded my view and made me stand out. I'm sure by now you've learned about hard vs soft sciences. Hard sciences being those that can be studies in the lab, while soft is more a measure of behavior, things that are more subjective. Anthropology is considered somewhat of a soft science, they don't like to be called that though. I never thought anthropology would be useful in my work. Remember, nutrition works with behavior as well, and having an expanded horizon of culture and how cultures differ will improve your communication, your ability to think abstractly, and your effectiveness with multiple groups of individuals. It doesn't necessarily have to be anthropology, though I'm a fan--- and slightly biased, my husband was an anth major and I worked in their department. I am especially a fan because anthropology and philosophy greatly challenge your views. More dietitians need to learn how to challenge their views. It will make us a much stronger force to be reckoned with as professionals. So seek out those classes that seem irrelevant, they may be far more than you now now.
4. Mistakes Can Be An Advantage
There's a story for this too. I went to school in Montana. We got snow. Lots of it. My boyfriend and I were walking back from a little store near campus when I received a phone call. An important phone call. I walked under a snow covered tree and suddenly the tree just dumped everything it was holding on me.... I wanted to scream. I held my composure as long as I could but at a certain point I just had to tell the person on the other end what happened. We had a good laugh about it and I ended having a really good opportunity come my way. She especially noted my great attitude and bubbly personality. I later found out my boyfriend had thrown a snowball at me and lobbed it too high... Just because something doesn't go as planned doesn't mean you can't make it into something good, it may even turn out better. Open your mind. Be flexible, and roll with the punches. You'll learn twice as much if you're willing to take chances and learn from mistakes than if you always try to play it safe.
Do good things ladies and gents! You're the future of nutrition! I'm counting on you to be awesome and change the world :-)