Wondering if a Nutrition internship in Arusha, Tanzania is right for you? We spoke to future dietician, Emma Mathewson, about how her internship abroad helped her become more independent, confident and determined to pursue a career within the field.
Hi Emma! What was your role like, as a Nutrition intern in Tanzania?
My long term career goal is to become a dietician. Although I knew what I was working towards prior to the internship, I wasn’t sure what field or specialty I was truly passionate about. This internship contributed towards me learning and exploring different fields and roles within nutrition.
During my nutrition internship, I used weight measurements to detect malnutrition in infants, supplied nutrients and vitamin supplementation to infants, was responsible for educating children about basic nutrition and the components of a balanced meal, and more.
My internship was a little different than other placements, as I also got the opportunity to diversify my experience. For example, I also gained insight into local dairy processing and agricultural food production.
Was there a particular highlight for you?
I really cherished every second of working with the mamas and babies at the hospital! When I was weighing the babies at my placement, everything was hand-recorded in pamphlets or handwritten in a book at the hospital. Mothers were required to keep these books, and bring them in with them for each visit. In Tanzania, hospital facilities are under-resourced, which has been eye opening to the different ways in which hospitals around the world function.
My favorite memory is of my time spent at one of my farm placements. My supervisor here and his family were so sweet, and I loved learning how to make cheese and butter. Their four year old son and I became good friends. When we would make cheese, he would sneak up behind me pretending to be the tickle monster. It was very cute! They were so welcoming and made my time in Tanzania wonderful.
From this trip I learned that I really love traveling and I have an interest in food processing and science. It also solidified my appreciation and motivation to work with children. All of these learnings can lead to completely different career paths, however it’s taught me the importance of an open mind and exploring my options.
Did you encounter any language barrier?
I found the language barrier to be a bit of a challenge at first. However, interns are only required to speak English, in order to participate in this program, so I was able to get by alright. Despite the barrier, I was accepted with open arms at my internship placement. I was supported through patience and kindness, encouraged to ask questions and acknowledge differences.
I also worked hard to use any words or phrases I knew in Swahili, and I felt it was important to ask how to say basic words or phrases if I did not know how. If I hadn’t persevered I would have lost the opportunity to improve my Swahili and wouldn’t have expanded my knowledge on Tanzanian culture and tradition.
On reflection, I really valued my ability to make new friends and remain patient and respectful when communicating with a language barrier. This comprehensive experience went a long way in enhancing my problem solving skills, self confidence in new situations, and cross-cultural communication.
How did this internship build your confidence and leave a lasting impact?
I feel more empowered to take a leap of faith no matter what my next path is. I feel more encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone and throw myself into applying to grad school. I’m nervous to enter this next chapter in my life, but I have learned from traveling to Tanzania by myself that I am strong and confident and no matter what twists and turns I encounter, I am flexible and capable of adapting to my situation.
My time in Tanzania has been something I truly will never forget. I think the hardest thing about returning home will be jumping back into work and the fast paced American lifestyle. In Tanzania everyone is on African time, their lifestyle is slow and easy going with a hakuna matata mindset. I know that I sometimes put too much pressure on myself and often overfill my schedule. Tanzania has inspired me to remember to remain calm and relax… no worries, hakuna matata!
Do you have any advice for those considering a similar internship?
Since my internship in Tanzania I am even more confident in my decision to travel after I graduate. I want to travel, whether it’s with friends or solo, but I know now how important it is to go and experience other cultures and experience new places. My advice would be to go into each program with an open mind and understanding that sometimes your placement can be busy, while at other times, the pace may be slow. At the end of the day, everything is an unforgettable learning experience!
Ready to plan your own internship? Here’s how to started!
Our step-by-step guide on how it works provides you with more information on how to get started. The process is user friendly - just submit your application to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and won’t take more than 5 minutes. However, your formal expression of interest provides the foundation for us to help you take the next steps.