What My First Summer Internship Taught Me

Monday, July 27, 2015

[the one about my internship at a local hospital.]

Who: Yours Truly.
What: A Summer Student Internship that focused on inviting and enrolling patients to the Health System's Patient Portal.
When: 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, Memorial Day though last week. 
Where: Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS) ― more specifically outpatient clinics.
Why: I am recovering from ACL-reconstructive surgery and I wanted to stay in Richmond and finish with the same physical therapist, and I needed a way to finance living away from home.
How: My physical therapist, Rebecca, handed me an application two hours before it was due ― a phone interview and a few weeks later, everything fell into place.

Let me just start off by saying that I have absolutely no interest in medicine. None. Zilch. Nada. I still cry when I see needles ― I know, you're probably thinking why on earth I ended up working in a health system (I know I did for at least two full weeks of work). That being said, I have definitely learned so much from this internship that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

1. How to show up

I know this doesn't sound like much, but I think it's a lot more understated than it should be. Sure, as a student we show up to classes and club meetings and practices and things like that, but, for the most part, our attendance only really affects us.* When you are expected to show up somewhere and do your job, there is so much more importance on your attendance and accountability.

2. How to wear long pants in 90 degree weather (+ humidity)

For someone who is not at all used to southern humidity, learning to wear long pants all summer was a serious change. In the bigger picture, though, this translated to learning how to dress in a professional environment. When we "dress-to-pin" for chapter and other occasions, the dress code is supposed to be "business casual," which most girls have simply translated to "nicer that what you would wear to class." I love the way the Health System defines this dress code ― "business casual is simply a comfortably relaxed version of traditional business attire with no sacrifice of professionalism or personal power" ― and think it's something my chapter could definitely start implementing.

3. You may not always know best (and that's okay)

When I came in to this experience, I thought that my feedback and ideas would be invaluable to the projects and task at hand. I'm a smart, hard-working, determined young woman, so why wouldn't they be? Well, sometimes logistics are stacked against you ― fret not, there are worse things in life that not having your advice considered. The point of internships is to learn. To expand your horizons. At the same time, you can't expect someone to hold your hand throughout the entire process, so make independent choices, and take responsible for the fall out (positive or otherwise).

4. That I definitely underestimated a 40-hour work week

Sure, I had a desk job that involved mainly customer service related issues, and sure I was inside all air-conditioned and not doing anything super labor-intensive, but a 40-hour work week was exhausting. I would get home ready to take a nap until dinner. And then I would remember that if I wanted to have dinner I had to make it myself, and that the same thing went for lunches. Not to mention laundry, dishes, and general house-keeping. If nothing else, this experience gave me so much respect for working parents every where. *snaps for you*

5. "There are far, better things ahead than any we leave behind."

There were times during this internship that I really struggled and felt discouraged because I felt like I wasn't helping anyone (even though I definitely was). This experience taught me that I'm the kind of person who wants to be able to see the fruits of her labor ― it was hard to know that anyone was enjoying their access to the portal because it really wasn't something that most patients volunteered. When I got discouraged I really had to remind myself that this was temporary. That my reasons for being here were to be close to Rebecca, and that I needed to focus on getting better and getting stronger so I could go back to the sport I love. Summers have always been a transition period for me, but this summer was especially. I felt myself transition from teenager to young adult. I got to go on adventures independently to places I'd never been to before. I got to learn how to take care of myself ("adulting").

I also learned a whole bunch of things about the clinics I was working in (pediatric gastroenterology especially), but mostly I learned how to function in a new setting, a work place, like a young adult. That being said, I could not be more excited to be back home with my family, taking a break from this whole "adulting" thing.

Happily yours,


*I recognize that team practices and discussion-based classes may seem like an exception to this rule. #sorrynotsorry

A West Coast Girl's Guide to Living in the South

Thursday, July 23, 2015

[the article I wish I had been able to find a year ago]

There’s something difficult about leaving home when the state song literally declares “home means Nevada to me.” Nonetheless, as the college application process began, I knew that I wanted to go out of state, and preferably to the East Coast. I pictured myself somewhere with a global worldview: Washington D.C., New York City, anywhere in the Boston area. Never did I think I would find a school in the South, fall in love at first sight, and quickly apply Early Decision. Thankfully, financials fell into place, I was accepted to a Living-Learning Community, and I survived the Hunger Games aspect of class registration! 

None of this, however, could prepare me for the total change in cultures from the West Coast to the South. I tried to prepare myself by researching on Pinterest, Instagram, endless blogs, and anything else the internet had to offer, to little avail. Most of the articles I found were tips for Yankees moving South of the Mason-Dixon Line, or Californians moving to the Northeast. So here it is*, as a hope that it can help others making that same major move!

Embrace the great things about this culture:

The South and Southern way of living has so much to offer especially in terms of hospitality and nice weather. Be open to experiencing the beautiful things that this move will result in.
  • The food here is perfect in every way: loaded with butter, salt, and sugar and worth every single calorie. Tater tots are served for breakfast like, hellooooooo – what an age to be alive. Enjoy both cookout and Cookout. (Here’s your first lesson about Southern vocabulary: What we might call a barbecue is called a “cookout,” “barbecue” is the food you eat at a cookout.) A cookout, of course, should never be confused with Cookout, the restaurant which the South is #blessed to have. We may have In-n-Out, but nothing compares to the beauty of Cookout. Their milkshakes –which they call “Fancy shakes,” because they’re really just so fancy, you don’t even know– and their hushpuppies… like wow. Nothing quite like a milkshake that takes your full mental effort to get up the straw.
  • The only thing here sweeter than the sweet tea is the people. Total strangers will smile and ask how you are, hold the door open for you even if you’re far away, and yield to you even if they have the right of way fantastic habits to get into. Also, PEOPLE ACTUALLY SIT ON THEIR FRONT PORCHES. It’s not necessarily applicable to college dorms, but it’s the cutest thing to see lil’ old folk sitting out drinking sweet tea and smiling at passersby. On campus that might manifest in picnics, or studying outdoors (yes, just like you saw in the college brochures).
  • People here also dress up for football games excuse me, what? Yeah, that’s right: long gone are the days of needing to bundle up for a home football game, now replaced with bow ties and sundresses. Local families and alumni will come hours before to tailgate and dress their children in the school’s colors. It’s kind fun and really quite sweet after you get over the initial awkwardness of realizing this display of hometown pride is not a casual venture to be taken lightly.

One of my favorite events with one of my favorite people.

Dressing up for football games is part of the next step to overcoming West-to-South culture shock: Understand, at the same time, the quirks.

  • Very quickly you’ll learn a lot about geography. For example, Northern Virginia is hardly Southern, and Florida isn’t at all.
  • Other than dependable humidity, the weather is predictably unpredictable.
  • Boat shoes are waterproof: which means they work for your rain storms and occasional inch of snow. (If it’s more than an inch of snow, most opt for Bean Boots.)
  • God is everywhere. “Good Lawd,” is a commonplace phrase, all the best restaurants are closed on Sundays, and church is as much a social experience as it is religious.
  • The only people who wear more pastels than Southern belles are Southern gentlemen.
  • SO. MANY. MONOGRAMS. Seriously, on tumblers, on backpacks, on boots, key-chains (or “key fobs,” as some of your new peers might call them), and literally everything you didn’t know could be emblazoned with your given initials.
  • A year ago Lilly Pulitzer didn’t have her connection with Target, so I had never heard of her, nor did I much less, own anything in any of her prints. I didn’t totally understand Jack Rodgers (until I bought a pair of flats and omg, life changing). But here, these are not only brands, but household names.
  • These kids have gone to Washington D.C. every year since the first grade, so seeing the monuments doesn’t sound like an exciting way to spend a Saturday to them but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think it’s the coolest thing you’ll do this semester! (Which, of course, it won’t be, but be excited about it nonetheless!)

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

That being said, the South has a complicated history: even amidst current controversy, Confederate flags still fly, and the Civil War is still called “the War of Northern Aggression.” DO NOT LET THIS SCARE YOU. Please note that the header of this section says to understand the quirks of this region: as a transplant, it is important to consider the valuable aspects of this complex history. Take the time to ask people about the way they were taught about the Civil War without casting immediate judgement. Which, brings me to my next point:

Bring your unique perspective and experiences to the table.

Chances are, you’ll be one of the first (if not the first ever) West Coaster your new classmates have met. Embrace your uniqueness and use it as an interesting facet of conversations.
  • People on the West Coast talk about going to Coachella in all seriousness, but in the South it’s more of a fantasy in a far-away land (and, to be fair, three-thousand miles and three time zones makes it just that).
  • On the note of snow: most people here haven’t grown up skiing. At even the news of the mildest now warning, Southerners flock to grocery stores. It doesn’t matter if you need more of whatever you’re actually buying; it’s a matter of principle.
  • Laugh when you see quinoa advertised as “adventurous,” and then pride yourself in explaining the beauty in a food that tastes like rice but is packed with protein.
  • Be prepared to encounter people who can’t stand to drive for more than a couple of hours and are shocked to hear how long it takes to traverse Western states. “Yes, I have driven the entire Californian part of the Pacific Highway. No, it wasn’t torturous. No, I don’t think a ten hour drive is the end of the world.”
  • Pride yourself in being from the Best Coast and don’t be afraid to make it your caption on Instagram when you find other West Coasters because you will, and you will bond. Mostly about being so far from home, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
    West Coast, best coast

Ultimately, allow yourself to become an amalgam of both cultures:

College is about ~~finding yourself~~ or ultimately, creating yourself and defining the person you want to be. Allow this person to be a healthy blend of both cultures. “Y’all” will slip into your lexicon. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Let it naturally happen in conversations with friends from home without thinking twice about it. (Your autocorrect will get used to it, too, if you just give it time.) Realize that it’s okay to call home to be reminded what familiar things feel like. Acknowledge that the Mexican food will always be better at home, but that you probably would never have a new-found love for Cuban pastries or authentic barbecue without coming to the South.

Little Stony Man, Shenandoah National Park

Join in on the chorus:

This goes for the college experience in general: get involved! The biggest change, regardless of where you’re going to college is the fact that there’s a whole new academic and social landscape. Yes, it can be as terrifying as offering the world your heart on a silver platter, but at the end of the day, it’s a matter of getting involved. Don’t be afraid to start small hanging out with the people on your hall or from a class. I don’t know if this is particularly a Southern thing, something we do at my school, or just a college thing in general, but this is my piece of advice: when “Sweet Caroline,” or “Wagon Wheel” begins to blare, regardless of the social setting, join in on the chorus and do so unabashedly.

Good times never seemed so good.

Happily yours,


*This started as a student blog post for Unigo, in which I used the same aforementioned points to talk about college-associated culture shock more generally. That piece can be found here.

#SongCrushSunday: Summer Roads

Sunday, July 19, 2015

There's nothing like the summer to make you want to roll your car windows down and blast the stereo. Inspired by the trending hashtags, #ManCrushMonday and #WomanCrushWednesday, my friend Ruby came up with #SongCrushSunday, the perfect way to start a conversation about the songs that make us happy. After taking a few road trips this summer (to D.C. and then New Jersey), I decided to compile a short list of my favorite songs for a summer drive.

1. "Summer in the City (Yites Remix)"  Sunbathers ft. DJ Yites

This song is perfect for when you just want to jam out and have a dance party without having to think too hard about the lyrics. Pairs well with road trips or late nights with friends.

2. "Tongue tied"  Grouplove

Following the electric feels from "Summer in the City," "Tongue tied" is great for car dance parties, with moments that feel like you're at a live concert. Pairs well with dance parties (personal or group setting).

3. "Hold Back the River"  James Bay

This song is ready to be belted out at the top of your lungs ― even if you only sing in your car and / or shower (hey, I don't judge). Pairs well with a good attitude on life.

4. "Jackie and Wilson" ― Hozier

I was first exposed to this song by the Redhots' annual mixtape. If you're looking for more sounds from the man that so desperately wants you to take him to church, this song can help you imagine just what a future with said man could be. Pairs well with a thoughtful drive, full heart, and a blustery afternoon.

5. "The General" ― Dispatch

You know those songs that are more of a story than just a poem or really wicked set of instruments? That's this song in a nutshell, which I fell in love with after hearing it at an a capella concert in the spring. Pairs well with an ambitious determination to learn and in turn spit all the lyrics, and sunshine.

*full disclosure the second half of this list is country because the genre is practically synonomous with summer and sunshine.*

6. "House Party" ― Sam Hunt

Work blues got you down? Feeling like you just wanna curl up into a ball and pretend that you don't need to see people in your free time? Alternatively, are you so ready to see everyone you love in a single moment and have the best of times? Here's the summer anthem for you. Pairs well with driving home after work on a Friday night, and then at any given weekend festivity (especially if it's a house party). 

7. "Why Don't We Just Dance" ― Josh Turner

This song will forever remind me of Narae, which basically means it always leaves a giant smile on my face. (The music video is worth checking out, too.) Pairs well with a good mood (or anyone in need of being put in one), and dancing feet. 

8. "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" ― Kieth Urban

What Rolling Stone calls a "genre-jumping" track is perfect for your ride home from work, or to or from anywhere, really. Name dropping three important Johns, Urban creates your country-encompassing anthem. Pairs well with a young soul and good time.

9. "Crushin' It" ― Brad Paisley

Ever feel like you just can't catch a break? In this song, Paisley reminds listeners that "every week has a weekend," and that's the truth of the finer things in life. Pairs well with sunshine and summer drives.

10. "Wagon Wheel" ― Darius Rucker

Intentionally saved for last, "Wagon Wheel" is a classic whose chorus can be belted out with the windows down, or appreciated for it's gentler verses. Don't forget to join in on the chorus. Pairs well with anything, everything, the moment is always right.

Happily yours,


Adventures Beyond RVA

Monday, July 13, 2015

[those times that I got out to travel outside of Richmond to see the ones I love.]

| Washington D.C. |

"I can't imagine anything more 'American' than being in our nation's capital on the Fourth of July."

This year, since the Fourth of July fell on a weekend, the hospital where I'm interning gave employees Friday the Third off of work. My friend Claire was staying in D.C. with her family to visit her sister, and on very impromptu set of plans, I decided to visit her on my day off. I got to see the White House for the first time ever, and I got to walk all of the monuments I've only ever read about. (To anyone who has grown up around the D.C. area, I understand that this is hardly exciting, but for someone from the West Coast who has never seen any of the monuments, this adventure was absolutely monumental.*)
Korean War Memorial
"Our Nation honors he Sons and Daughters who answered the call to defend a Country they never knew and a people they never met."
"Did you know that's life-size?" // "Yeah, I heard he was a pretty tall guy!"
Being in D.C. so close to Independence Day really made me think about what it means to be American, and the blessings of freeo that come with that. Fourth of July is a ton of fun (cookouts, an overwhelming sense of patriotism, parades, etc.) but in all seriousness, it's the anniversary of a celebration of a declaration of rights from oppressors. In the same vein, we must remember that human rights violations persist on every level thought the entire world today. The work is not yet done: equality and freedom are not yet readily available to all the world and her citizens. Stand up. Get involved.

*There were so many other cool monuments and memorials (the FDR and WWII Memorials, notably), but my phone started to die, so now all I have are the beautiful, beautiful memories.

| New Jersey |

"Man, the clique is the tightest, the drinks are the coldest, the future the brightest."

Something that's totally different on the East Coast from the West Coast is the size of states. I know that might sound obvious, but it really doesn't hit you until you go on a five hour road trip and travel in four different states, nearing a fifth within another forty-five minute commute. Last Friday a group of friends drove up to Jersey for a friend's birthday. This meant that we passed through Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware to get there (it was my first time in both Maryland and Delaware  whooo). As we drove through the states passing names of natural features that I had read about in history textbooks, all of a sudden I felt so much more connected to the past. Sure, I was speeding down the interstate with an end destination in mind, but it all made me start thinking about the factors that it takes to draw state lines (geographic, etc) and how those barriers must've varied or been overcome by the time Americans moved West. It made me think about how history must be taught so differently here when they talk about the Civil War, do they give any mention to California and Nevada as the means by which the Union army was funded? Geography is interesting. There are so many more states that I need to see (Montana and Alaska, notably).
Angels or mermaids? You tell me.
Thankful for friends who have my back and are patient with me through all kinds of strange decisions. (Pictures from a disposable camera to come soon!)

Happily yours,