Whether you are enrolled in an internship program that consists of 3-4 rotations at 1-2 facilities, OR 10+ rotations at 12+ facilities, the overall goal is to work hard, be successful and not lose your mind.
Just in case you’re still trying to figure it all out, here are a few internship survival tips and tactics:
1. Prepare meals in advance
Your time is precious and extra time will most likely be limited, so having healthy food that fuels your mind and body is imperative. Make things that are easy to prep and keep well (cut up veggies for sandwiches and salads), lasagnas, baked sweet potatoes, beans and rice, soups/stews, protein-rich grains (quinoa, farro, bulgur, etc.).
2. Keep snacks in your bag and car
There have already been several occasions this year when my blood sugar has plummeted and there was no food (or at least healthy food) in sight. Thankfully, I usually have a healthy snack or two on hand. I carry things like nuts, granola and granola or date-based bars because they are small and mess free. If there is a refrigerator available, I pack an extra yogurt, 1/2 nut butter-banana sandwich, veggie sticks and hummus, even a hard-boiled egg. Eating every 2-3 hours keeps my metabolism and energy up!
3. Stay organized
In the beginning of the year when we received the list of our assignments, projects and presentations, I spent a few nights organizing my binders, computer documents and planner to ensure that I never miss a deadline….and yes my binder may look like a crazy amalgamation of multi-colored tabs and sticky notes, but by golly it works! You have a lot on your plate and the last thing you need is for things to fall through the cracks because an important form or paper was accidentally shoved to the bottom of the pile.
4. Work on your assignments daily
Don’t wait until the last minute, which usually means more stress, less sleep and a lower quality of work.
Your body uses sleep to reset and heal itself. Yes, you may have to pull a few all-nighters, but don’t make it a habit. Losing sleep affects your appetite, productivity, concentration, immune system, etc. Racking 7-8+ hours each night (at a minimum) should be a goal and priority. Trust me, one night of bad sleep can affect your whole week.
6. Make the weekend count
If your schedule is like mine, by the time you get out of work and get home, it is almost 6 pm (or later) and you’re pooped. For me, this means I typically only have energy to heat up a meal I prepared over the weekend, work on some assignments and go to bed. My weekends are spent: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, catching up with family/friends, racking up some longer work outs and anything that was not accomplished during the week. They may be busy but they enable my week to run more smoothly.
7. Be flexible
Your schedule will change frequently, assignments and classes will be shuffled around and new obligations will be added in. This may leave you feeling like you have to scramble, but hey, sometimes opportunities pop up quickly and it is better to take advantage when they come along than to miss out altogether.
8. Laugh often
This year is meant to be intense. But not so intense that you feel like your stress levels are through the roof. To avoid the burnout: take a deep breath, put a smile on your face and enjoy that ridiculous youtube video of the children eating “healthy” candy. Laughing is healthy and as a future R.D., promoting healthy habits is part of your job description ; )
9. Be supportive of the other interns
Hey guess what? There are 11+ other people who are going through the exact same things that you are, which can be a huge relief. It is such a blessing when you are surrounded by peers who want the best for each other and work hard to keep everyone in the loop, so we can all succeed. I lucked out with a group of girls who are kind, cooperative, fun and incredibly supportive.
10. Have fun and relax
This is a temporary time and as fast and crazy as it feels, take the time to try a new restaurant, go on a run in a new park, have a bake day with a friend or go to a fun event with the interns. Life is all about balance and your scale may be tipping more on the “work” side, but make sure the “fun” side sees a little action too. You can be successful and enjoy your year, it is possible I promise.