Traveling to India with Cultural Passage was a true full-circle experience for me. I originally started my undergraduate degree as an International Studies major. I was awestruck by the world and wanted a career that would allow me to immerse myself in various cultures, see everything I could possibly see, and learn the wisdom from countries that have been established long before the United States. I was (and still am) in love with hearing the sounds of different languages. There’s nothing better than learning words that cannot literally be translated because there is no English equivalent. It makes you feel like you are part of an inside joke and that you truly know the culture just that much more.

Although International Studies seemed like a good fit, the curriculum was heavily focused on Economics and Political Science, two things which I quickly learned were not my strong suits. I switched to Dietetics halfway through my sophomore year as I have always been drawn to food and the intricate ways that food metabolizes in our bodies.​

Hiking through the Himalayas for my Capstone Course. Miami University, 2017

In my senior year, I completed my Capstone in Nepal studying the effect of altitude on the human body. I’m not exaggerating when I say this experience changed my life. I met some of my absolute best friends while hiking over 200 miles through the Himalayas. I mentioned earlier about my passion for seeing the world, well this journey truly ignited a desire for more.

Fast forward to halfway through my dietetic internship when it came time for me to decide what my all-encompassing project would be. I wasn’t in my rotation with Megan (Sound Dietitians) yet, so we scheduled a phone call to chat about possible options. She told me about some of the projects she was working on at the time and to be honest, I don’t think I heard anything after she mentioned that she was working on setting up an international rotation for dietetic interns…in INDIA. India! I knew I could be an expert resource because of my experience with being a student in Nepal, which borders India to the north. Without a doubt, I chose to help with the Cultural Passage project!

There I was, starting to contemplate what I even wanted to do as a dietitian and this amazing preceptor (whom I had not even met yet) was offering me the opportunity to be a part of something that made me feel inspired and important.

There’s a certain skill set that you acquire outside of the classroom. Immersing yourself in a dietetic internship is already taking what you learned in undergrad and applying it to real-world situations. Studying abroad takes that one step further to really drive home the principals and learn things that you can’t possibly comprehend without stepping outside your comfort zone and putting yourself in a completely different environment.

The Cultural Passage team is extremely accommodating and has a vast network of resources to help with anything you could possibly need. Be sure to pay attention during orientation because there is information about cultural norms, safety, and history that are very important for you to remember during your stay in Shimla. ​

​Lalu, the chef at Ena Lodge, makes the most delicious foods! He always greeted us with morning Chai and cooked with fresh produce from the market. One day, I woke up super early and he taught me how to make Aloo Paratha. It was potato bread with herbs and spices that we packed up for breakfast on the road. He is very considerate with preferences and spice levels and even knows how to make some traditional American dishes in case you need a little taste from home.

In India, you feel respected and valued. At Rippon Hospital, the dietitian, interns, and doctors (yes even the doctors) are so eager to hear your opinion and input on their patients. I think that this was one of the most impactful experiences. So many times we feel unsure of our answers, even though we are usually right, simply because we are interns. In American culture, we are taught that Intern means “bottom of the food chain.” But having this experience truly gave me the boost to feel confident in my abilities as a healthcare professional.

Gillian and Laurie at Rippon Hospital. We had so much fun shadowing local dietetic interns! We started with the pediatric patients and ended at labor and delivery.

The community settings were humbling in the fact that their community grows and produces ~99% of the food they put on the table each day. That being said, isn’t it also remarkable? The hosts welcome you into their homes with open arms and smiles as they take pride in showing you their livelihood. ​

Laurie, Megan, and Gillian sipping Chai at the Golden Temple. The temple is a holy site that serves a free meal to 100,000 people each day! We were able to go behind the scenes to see the Food Service operation and it was incredible.

This experience taught me that it is possible to combine two things that I am so passionate about; nutrition and culture. It enhanced my career as a future dietitian by boosting my confidence, enabling me to think outside the box, it humbled me, and it gave me purpose. Moving forward I plan to keep pushing into the world of global nutrition, using my skillset to make an impact in various countries.