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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Tag Archives: internship

NOTE: Somehow found this reallllly old post from back when I was still a college senior, haha. There is still a lot of helpful information in here so I’m going to post this now. If you’re still in college, I hope you find this useful!

I was talking with a freshman who was in one of the campus organizations I was in last semester, and when asked what his plans were for the summer, he replied “oh I don’t know, I think I’ll just sit on my butt and watch TV”. I sincerely hoped that he was joking, but from his tone, it didn’t sound like it.

I know that when you were a kid, summers really were the time you didn’t do anything productive and probably watched TV all day, or ran around on the lawn, or had fun in camp, or maybe even had a summer job at the grocery store, or whatever. But once you’re in college it’s different. You actually have to do stuff in the summer. Useful stuff. Stuff you can put on your resume and can talk about during interviews for grad school or jobs. As tempting as it is to just relax and have fun all summer or go back to the Starbucks job you’ve had since high school, don’t. So what are you supposed to do? Here are some of the most popular options.

1. Take summer classes.

I’ve never done this myself, but lots of people do it and it certainly has many advantages. You can get ahead on the road to graduation, or maybe catch up on requirements you might have missed. Summer classes -often have smaller class sizes, therefore offering more faculty-student interaction. You are also probably better able to focus your studying on 1 or 2 summer classes, as opposed to 5 or 6 in a regular semester. So it’s a good option if you need or want the credits!

2. Do research.

If you’re a science major like me and want a career in healthcare or research, then doing research as an undergrad is a must. Summer is prime time to find a position as a research assistant in a lab, and this may come in many different forms. There are a ton of summer research programs out there, and many of them are paid (though often not much). If you can’t find or can’t get into one of these programs, you can always just contact professors directly. Most profs are open to getting more help in their lab, especially if you volunteer (see below).

3. Volunteer.

I know you might feel like making any money at all is better than doing free labour, but trust me, in the long run, your summer volunteer work will mean much more than a retail job at the mall. Volunteering can also come in many different forms. For example, I volunteered as a research assistant my summer after freshman year in a lab. Volunteer to work in an organization you’re interested in, and maybe it will eventually even turn into a paid job! Another way to volunteer is to join an international volunteer organization and go abroad. But these programs usually cost money, so not only will you have to pay, some companies or grad schools may even be wary of them because they might think you just paid for an experience. Still, volunteering is another great option for summer.

4. Do an internship.

No matter your major or intended career, doing internships is beneficial or even essential. Interning is a great opportunity to explore a potential career, build your skills in the workplace, and network. Plus, you will make some money! Start looking early – many internship programs start accepting applications in the fall. Look online by searching “summer internship in _____”, look in the career section of companies you’re interested in, and talk to a counselor at your school’s career center. Most summer internships are likely very competitive, so apply early and apply to many!

And if you want extra challenge and excitement – you can do any of the above abroad! Like I did with my research internship in Vienna. It was one of the most amazing yet challenging experience of my life (you can read more about that here)!

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I have a confessions to make: I almost quit my research internship in Vienna the summer after my sophomore year. I was about a month into it, and there were many reasons I wasn’t happy with the job. One particular Saturday morning (yes, I had to work weekends – one of the reasons), a co-worker took over the lab where I was supposed to work in without looking at the sign-up sheet. At the moment, it was just the last straw for me, and I broke down, took off, crying the whole way on the tram back to my dorm. Back in my room, I cried and cried. I hit my pillow in anger and frustration. I was so upset that I took out my contract and saw that that day was the last day I could quit. And I seriously considered it.

I opened up a Word document and wrote down all the reasons why I hated my internship and wanted to quit.
It had a shocking 20 items and took up the whole page. As I stared at it, tears still running down my face, I wondered what more reason I needed to leave this job. But I was always the indecisive one, so I hesitated. And when I calmed down a little more, I called my parents and Yufei and told them that I wanted to quit. I was pretty sure that none of them thought I was serious, that I was just having a bad day and would move on. So then I did what I always do when I’m uncertain: I researched the topic online. And the overwhelming opinion was that you shouldn’t quit an internship, especially in the middle of it. At this point, I was starting to doubt myself. The practical questions started to pop up: what would I do for the rest of the summer? Would I have to leave Vienna and go home? What would the other interns think of me? What about the travel plans Yufei and I already made for after my internship? Who’s going to finish my project? And so on and so forth.

In the end, I got so tired that I just went to bed. So I didn’t end up quitting, and I’m so glad I didn’t. And here’s why:

– Things did get better at work
– My final project presentation went great and I won a prize at the symposium
– I got to have some awesome experiences travelling in Europe
– My PI ended up writing me recommendation letters for future internships
– Even though my project ended up being pretty successful, I’ve come to realize that research really, really isn’t the thing for me
– And most importantly, the experience taught me that I have the ability to overcome anything. I still have the file “Why I hate my internship and want to quit” on my computer, and all of those things on it still hold true. But now I know that if I got through such a difficult and miserable time, I can get through anything.

I’m not trying to tell you to never quit. Heck, giving up is probably harder than holding on. But there are some takeaways from my story:

1. Never make big decisions when you’re extremely emotional. I’m so glad I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me and make a rash decision to quit. Take some time to calm down and regain your ability to think rationally before making the decision.

2. Think through the consequences of quitting. And not just the consequences you would face, but also how it would affect others. Not only in the present time, but also down the road. Think about the things you could be losing if you quit.

3. Talk it out and write it out. Talking with my loved ones and writing that list really allowed me to vent a lot of my anger. Your friends and family might offer a fresh perspective on things too.

These lessons about quitting apply no matter if you’re thinking about quitting a job, leaving a relationship, giving up on a career path, or changing a major. So think carefully before you decide to give up on something, especially something big, even if it doesn’t seem big at the time. But of course, if after careful consideration, you come to the conclusion that it really is time to move on, then at least you can be assured that you’ve thought it through and made the right choice.

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So last Thursday was the last day of my summer internship; all the interns were back in Nashville for the final presentations and a few last meals together, and then everyone was off again.

I probably won’t realize the full significance of this summer until I look backon it much later, but I have to say that I really did have a great time and that I’m very happy that I got to experience everything I did. Although this internship wasn’t my first choice for the summer, and Nashville was in the bottom half of my location preference list, I think it worked out for the best. Life works in a funny way sometimes; you may not always get what you want in life, but what you need.

After I said my goodbyes, I was on my way to San Francisco. I was super excited because I was just happy to be back on the west coast and SF is an awesome city and I get to spend time with Yufei. And the night I arrived we ordered Thai food and I had my first pad kee mao in months! Yum! This was off to a good start.

The next morning I had a mission: to get a haircut. I’m someone who gets tired of her hair very easily, and I’d been very agitated with my hairstyle the whole summer. So I opted to get it cut short, which I hadn’t done since about the ninth grade. I think it turned out pretty good, yeah?

Then that afternoon I walked over to Twitter, where Yufei is working this summer, and we walked around Union Square for a bit, before stopping for dinner at Sanraku. Delicious Japanese food… mmm oh yeah San Francisco is shaping up very well food-wise. After dinner we went to see the last Harry Potter movie – finally. I’ve already written extensively about the profound influence Harry Potter has had on my life, so I won’t say much now, besides that yes, I did shed tears at some parts of the movie and that I now have the urge to re-read all the books again.

So my stay in SF was off to a good start! Despite the cold weather and all the hills I’m subjected to climb every day, I still love this city.

Weekend adventures coming soon!

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So, this was pretty much my final presentation for my internship. Yeah, I drew comic panels as slides :)

1. Being a doctor can mean many different things

Throughout the summer, I shadowed many different doctors in different specialties and settings. And I realized that even though they all have the title of MD, what they do every day can be vastly different.

2. Surgery is really awesome

During my internship I observed 2 kidney transplant surgeries, a laparoscopic nephrectomy, and a coronary artery bypass surgery, and all of them were so cool to watch! I still find it amazing that we have the ability to do all these things to fix our bodies.

3. And so is tissue recovery

I had the opportunity to go on a tissue recovery case and I was so glad that I got to see it. I was completely eye opening! They recovered the heart, the aortic bifuracation vessels, the bones in the arms, the bones and tendons in the legs, and the costal cartilages. Awesome anatomy lesson!

4. Kids make everything more fun

I also shadowed 2 pediatricians at a private practice and a pediatric nephrologist at the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and let me tell you, it’s a totally different environment. Much more relaxed and fun!

5. The human mind is fascinating

As a Neuroscience and Behavior major, 2 of the medical specialties I was interested in were Neurology and Psychiatry. And as I expected, I saw a lot of interesting cases. For example, I saw a lady who had conversion disorder, which means that she has neurological symptoms (slurred speech, paralysis) without any neurological cause – super interesting.

6. Dentistry is actually really cool

So as I’ve mentioned before, I spent quite a lot of time shadowing a dentist during my internship. Before now, I’d never really considered dentistry as a career option for me, but as I was browsing through the VUMC directory looking for things I was interested in, I came across dentistry and thought, hey, why not? Dr. Rezk, the dentist I shadowed, and the rest of her team, turned out to be so wonderful and informative that now I’m actually starting to look into possibly becoming a dentist!

7. I’m really lucky to be healthy

After seeing so many patients who have to take 12 different medicines day, come into the hospital because of a rejection, etc, I’m starting to appreciate what a gift it really is just to be healthy. This experience has really shown me how health really is the most fundamentally important thing in your quality of life and this has inspired me to really take care of my body.

8. There is a real sense of community in medicine

I was so happy to see that everyone I met was so nice and helpful, even though I’m just an undergrad. All of the doctors, residents, fellows, and medical students I met really welcomed me with open arms and genuinely wanted to make this a good experience for me.

9. I have a lot of options than I had thought

So before this summer, I’ve been feeling kind of bleh and constricted about a career in anything science-y. Since I’ve decided that I didn’t want to do research, I felt like my only other option was to be a doctor. But this internship exposed me to many other options that I never even considered – or knew existed. I think it was the most valuable thing I got out of the internship – the feeling that I do have choices and the renewed confidence in a career in healthcare!

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“Wow, we come from vastly different academic backgrounds,” said Ian, my fellow summer intern, at lunch.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter anymore now that we’re here, does it,” I replied. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the statement was mostly aimed at myself.

If I dare say so myself, I was a high school superstar. I consistently got the highest grades in almost all of my classes, many of them AP, throughout high school, taking home the top student award every year from grade 9 to 12. I was on the debate team, was a member and later a coach of the math team, served on student council, and was involved in numerous other extracurricular organizations. I painted and designed murals and other things for my school. I volunteered. All the teachers and principles knew me and loved me. I took and won math and science competitions. I only lost 10 points total on my SAT’s, including 3 SAT subject tests. And to finish off such a high school career, I was my class valedictorian, the winner of the Governor General’s Award, and got accepted to Columbia University. And all of a sudden, none of that mattered anymore.

And I was okay with it. After all, I was expecting to be just average at a school like Columbia. I still got good grades, perhaps even better grades than I had anticipated. But I can’t help but feel like an underachiever at times. Like when I barely get above average grades on an organic chemistry midterm. Or when I lose a prestigious summer internship to someone who wasn’t even chosen as a finalist. Or when I’m home, looking at the bookshelf in the study that’s filled with my plaques, certificates, medals, and trophies from high school. Sure, next year my Columbia diploma will join their ranks, and maybe that alone is a bigger accomplishment than all the rest of them. But still, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’ve been somehow under-performing since I graduated from high school.

Maybe it’s simply the fact that, at this point in the game, you don’t get gold stars anymore for a job well done. A nice looking GPA and the words “Dean’s List” on your online student account just doesn’t feel as great as a big ceremony with presentations and plaques. And nobody really cares about your nice internships or leadership roles when everyone else has the same or even better ones. I understand all that, and I accept all of it, but why do I still feel like such a loser sometimes?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and I think I’ve come to a good conclusion. It has to do with losing sight of my goals. In high school, my goals were clear: get top student in physics class, get at least a 2300 on my SAT, get into a great college. I knew what I wanted and I knew what I had to do to get it. But now that I’m at Columbia, things have been different. I thought I knew what I wanted (to become a doctor), but along the way I encountered things that made me unsure. And so I’ve decided to become undecided, to just stay in the moment and focus on right now. But you know what? That doesn’t work for me. That’s not how I operate. I can’t focus on studying organic chemistry when I don’t see how it will contribute to a concrete goal. I just can’t. Recently I realized that what I need is something to work towards, something I really want, something that is going to motivate me and re-energize me. I miss the feeling of having a goal to work towards, and the rush of happiness when I know that my hard work has paid off. The reason why I feel like I’ve been underachieving is simply because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be achieving in the first place.

I’m not good at being undecided. It agitates me, worries me, and ultimately renders me apathetic and void of motivation. So this is what I need: a goal, a goal I truly believe and want to invest my time an energy in. By the end of the summer, I hope to have gained enough experience to make that choice with confidence. It’s high time I set my mind to something and just work for it. Because it’s only then that I truly feel like a superstar, even if no one else recognizes me as one.

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Finished the third week of my internship at Vanderbilt Medical Center and it’s been awesome so far! This has been such a huge change from doing research for the past 2 summers, mostly because there has been very little real work, since I’ve been just doing shadowing. But it’s been very valuable experience and I’ve gotten to see a lot of cool stuff!

So I continued shadowing in Nephrology at the Vanderbilt Hospital, and also at the Veteran Affairs Hospital next door. I watched a kidney biopsy, shadowed some more in Neurology consult, and sat in on a bunch of meetings. I also started shadowing in psychiatry consults, where you see a lot of angry people, depressed people, crazy people, etc. So that’s been fun.

then this past Wednesday, I shadowed Dr. Susan Langone, the wife of the Dr. Langone at Vanderbilt. She works as a pediatrician in private practice, it was a very different experience. I was there for the clinic visits of a 2-month-old, a 6-month-old, a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 10-year old – a good range! Overall the environment is just a lot happier and relaxed and fun, and there aren’t any really serious illnesses since it’s an outpatient clinic. And Dr. Langone was hopping around and being pretty active in trying to assess the kids’ physical development and such. And the kids were all so cute!

In more exciting news, I observed a couple of kidney transplants in the OR! The first one was such a strange and surreal experience. First of all, I was shocked at myself for being so totally okay and non-reactive during the surgery (especially considering my fellow intern Ian chickened out on it that morning). Maybe I’ve got what it takes to be a surgeon, ha. Secondly, it’s still so incredible to me that modern medicine has advanced to the point where we can take an organ from one human being (dead or alive) and put it into another. As I stared at the kidney sitting in a bucket of ice, it was odd to imagine it being inside someone’s body just minutes ago, someone who was probably still on an operating table just next door. And it was even stranger to see the surgeon staple the wound close on the recipient’s abdomen, and seeing her lying there, with her blood already flowing through a new kidney. And what made it even more surreal was that I saw the patient in person in her pre-op clinic visit, as well as after her transplant in the hospital. And on top of everything else, it was actually the much publicized kidney-found-via-celebrity-Tweet transplant… Anyway… yes, I’m still in awe at the whole thing.

The second one I observed was this week, and I got to see some of the nephrectomy surgery (it was all laparoscopic) for removing the kidney from the donor as well. And I actually got to scrub in for the transplant, so I was right up there at the operating table with the surgeon and his assistants! It was so cool seeing everything up close, and I even got to touch the kidney and feel the pulse in the iliac artery and hold stuff for the surgeon. Hoping to see more different surgeries soon!

I also began shadowing a dentist, Dr. Rezk, at the dental clinic at Vanderbilt last week. It has been going super over there as well; Dr. Rezk and her team are some of the friendliest people ever. She told me that she was reluctant at first to take me on, since she’s had some not so great experiences with students shadowing her before (how do you even be bad at shadowing someone? You don’t even do anything!). But then she said that since I was a girl and I was Asian (she’s Asian too, it’s just that her husband’s Egyptian) she thought she’d give me a chance, and she tole me after the first day that I was a great shadower (again, how can you possibly be bad?). Anyway, so I’ve been really enjoying shadowing her, she’s great at what she does, and she’s so, so friendly to her patients, and she genuinely seems to enjoy her job. And she’s been great about telling me what it’s like to work as a dentist and actually really recommended it for me. I’m really glad that I found her and that she let me shadow her, and it’s been making me consider dentistry more and more seriously. We’ll see how that goes for the rest of the summer!

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After orientation, camp, and moving in, it was finally time to get serious. On Monday I got all my paperwork approved and got my ID badge, and on Tuesday I began my official internship at VUMC!

Basically what I’ve been doing is just shadowing my host doctor, Dr. Langone, a transplant nephrologist, and sometimes other doctors, residents, and fellows. I get to the Vanderbilt Hospital at 8 am every day and go on rounds with Dr. Langone’s team as they check on patients in both nephrology and the surgical ICU. After that, I go to clinic with a doctor or fellow and observe outpatient clinic visits for various reasons such as post-transplant follow-up, pre-operation check-up, kidney donation, etc. Then at around noon almost every day there is some sort of meeting of conference going on so I go to that, which usually includes free lunch (yay).

On the first day I realized that I’d be free after about 1 pm every day, and I wanted to make the most of this internship so I asked one of the fellows to help me make some connections in the neurology department since I’m a neuroscience major and I’m really interested inneurology. This was successful and for the last 2 afternoons I’ve been shadowing on the neurology consult team, which gets called to check on in-patients in various departments who need to be checked for neurological issues. This has been really interesting and I’ve met some current medical students on rotation who have been great to talk to.

I’ve also tried to contact some more doctors in neurology and psychiatry, and hopefully next week I will be able to branch out even more. I think it’d be so cool to go on psych consults. Also I tried to contact a dentist (since I’m also considering dentistry) here but she’s away until next Monday so I’ll have to wait to see if she’ll let me shadow. And I’m in the process of being approved for the OR so I’m hoping to see a surgery soon!

Everyone I’ve met here – doctors, residents, fellows, medical students – have been really nice and receptive so far, and it’s great. I was a little nervous at the beginning that since I’m only an undergrad, people wouldn’t even bother with me or would be too busy to make time for me; after all, they’ve all got very important jobs to do. But everybody have been amazing at taking my questions, explaining things to me, and just being generally supportive. I was pleasantly surprised and this has definitely been a big part of me enjoying this experience.

In other exciting news, I got my lab coat today! Now I will feel much more legit walking around the hospital :D

Can’t wait for week 2!

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