Nutrition (Public Health Pre-Grad Intern) Sophomore Diana Doan

Diana DoanThe IE Pre-Graduate Internship opened up my future to an unknown world. Throughout my academic years leading up to college, I was always in medical school mode. I knew I wanted to become a doctor because I wanted to make a difference in the world by healing as many people as possible. However, last semester I discovered that I would not be the best candidate for medical school due to my disability. As a result, I needed find a new path towards a new career, but I immediately felt lost. Still, I wanted to hold onto my goal which is helping to heal the world and making a significant improvement in peoples' lives.

I decided I wanted to open international health clinics for patients who cannot afford and or have the access to proper medical treatment. Although I had an idea for a new career, I had no clue about what route to take or if it even existed. I was so used to the science structured path that medical school had provided. Everything was very unclear and scary, to be honest. Then a miracle happened; I met my future mentor Amanda, and she introduced me to the IE internship program. I did not know what to expect from graduate school, and the internship sound like an amazing opportunity to explore whether or not this would be the next step for me.

The IE program gave me the opportunity to answer so many of these questions through hands on experiences. For instance, I had no idea about how professional the level of graduate classes, research, and presentations were. I was able to shadow my graduate mentor, and I was so impressed with her research presentation. It was a smaller class, but there was a lot of detailed information. The professor was evaluating through a video camera from another state! I have never been in a setting that the professor was not physically there. I thought it was very neat and it showed how mature the graduate level was. Instantly, I could tell the level of difficulty of graduate school. However, each graduate student was so passionate about their particular topic and that gave me a lot of inspiration and encouragement.

My favorite part of the internship was my trip to Yale University. I felt so fortunate to have had received a travel grant from the IE program. Thanks to their generosity, I was able to finance my trip and attend the conference sponsored by Unite for Sight. The conference was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my academic career. It was my fist time ever in that type of atmosphere. There were 2,200 people in attendance, including key speakers such as Jeffery Sax. I was so fascinated with each individual speaker. I felt so inspired because everyone had a different program with a different focus and mission. For example, a doctor from London was working with the Canadian and Vietnamese government. Their program was hoping to bring in social workers in order to help the probity crisis in north and southern Vietnam.

I was surprised how every speaker had different professional background which ranged from areas in medicine, anthropology, and government. I learned so much about the master program for public health, and the connection it has to my ideal career. I was able to have a grab a sense of what to aim for after I finished my undergraduate years. I also loved the experience of visiting another university and exploring its campus. I thought Yale was beautiful, and the town has a lot of history with each building. However, I think I preferred the diversity level at the University of Texas. When I was walking around Yale, it made me realize how important it was to be in an academic environment that I was comfortable with since I would be spending at least 2-3 years there for graduate study. I also had the opportunity to learn about the importance of networking; I hope it is a trait that I will develop as my academic years progress. After my experience in Yale, I have a great thirst to attend more conferences around the country and, hopefully, internationally one day.

Coming home from the conference I felt confidence that I really would like to devote my career in the service of helping people, and I believe I would be able to accomplish this goal through public health. In addition to a MPH, I think I would also like to go a PHD in counseling. I do not know if such a program exists, but I hope so. I went to a public health talk hosted at the University of Texas, and it was equally as informative as the conference. I heard from four different public health school admissions boards and advisors. Each school expressed their key focus in a public health student, and how to go about the application process. I learned that I must find a research the sparks my interest in addition to a MPH (Master in Public Health) program. I did not think of research until I came to this meeting. I learned that UT has a huge public health school in Houston which is my hometown. Also, UT at Austin just admitted their first class of public health students for the fall of 2008! I thought that was very exciting because I love UT and Austin and I could see myself continuing my education here. My favorite part of the entire program was a personal story from a former UT student. He did his undergraduate years in Austin (which he loved) and is now a graduate student at the Washington University school for Public Health. I could really relate to the speaker because he also started off as a science major and found an organization at UT in order to connect to the field of public health. He shared his experiences in Africa, and he said "it was the most fulfilling experience of my life." I loved his passion for public health and it really inspired me to go after my passion as well. It was just great to hear other students who share the same interest and are achieving their goals which are similar to mine.

My favorite IE meeting was the one with our graduate mentors. I got to hear each graduates' personal accomplishments and experiences. I learned that some time off could be a good thing before entering graduate school. At this point of the meeting, I learned that I would actually like to go straight to graduate school after my undergraduate years. That was something I learned about myself from this meeting. I also learned that it's important to start connecting with professors and their research. The contact could make a real difference in the relationship you develop with the university and the individual program. I never thought about funding a lot even though it is a big deal, but I know now that there are many options. I could possibly even get some great funding for schools outside of Texas. I think it would be a key factor in determining where I would end up for graduate school. Each of the mentors' advice really helped me think ahead to start planning for graduate school.

Furthermore, I think my favorite assignment from the IE program was interviewing two of the university's faculty members. It really tested my skills as an interviewer. I think I asked good questions because I received great answers from my faculty interviewees. I enjoyed hearing about their academic backgrounds, research travel experiences, and how they achieved their professional position today. I also learned how they balanced their work, research, and personal lives. I knew it was not easy, but I have learned that it is not impossible. That was a big concern of mine when I wanted to become a doctor. I was afraid that I would be unable to have a steady personal life while having a successful career. I learned from both of my professors that it can be done, and I think the path after graduate school will give me the flexibility to have a more balanced lifestyle. I interviewed my faculty mentor who specialized in the area of nutrition and my political science professor. The assignment gave me the opportunity to connect my two areas of interest which also happen to be my majors. I am a little sad that the university does not have an undergraduate public health program, but I think I am surrounded by great faculty members who would be able to help me accomplish my dream towards graduate school.

Another great IE source is Ruby Olmanson. Ruby is wonderful; she is super supportive and is always willing to help. I attend Ruby's workshops and they were so great. I received some valuable tips for every aspect of the process for going to graduate school. Ruby also shared with us her experienced with graduate school, and I really appreciate her advice. Other information I learned was that I should start preparing two years in advance (which is next year) and I should start studying for my GRE. In addition to the workshop, Ruby helped me in finding a professor for research in public health. She gave me all the information I needed, plus additional advice in how to go about contacting the professor. I feel very grateful to have met Ruby and the other members of the IE faculty.

My experience with the IE pre-graduate internship surpassed all my expectations. I had incredible mentors, and a wonderful support system. I heard so many amazing talks from various speakers (including Jeffry Sax). I got to experience my first conference and learn more about the world of public health. I was just blown away with all the great information I have learned about graduate school. I have such a better idea of how to go about things now, and I really am set in heading towards a higher degree after I finish my undergraduate studies. I am so thankful for my time with the IE program, and I would repeat my internship in a heartbeat.