Students and global health experts share their experiences working with communities.

Category: Paulina

Gratitude and Hope

As my practicum comes to an end and I reflect on the past three months, I am filled with so much gratitude. My practicum was not entirely what I expected but nonetheless, it was an experience that helped me grow as a public health professional and gave me insight into the field of global health in action. At the beginning of my practicum, I encountered some unforeseen challenges that stemmed from my lack of self-confidence. When given assignments and tasks with minimal instruction, I immediately thought, “How am I going to do this? Am I prepared for this?” I was terrified of doing a bad job and potentially letting someone down. In essence, I was doubting myself and my abilities. As I threw myself into my work, I quickly learned an important lesson: although I may not have all the answers, I have the skills to do this work. I had to remind myself that after a year of training through the MPH program, I have been equipped with a toolset of basic skills to get started with any task given to me. This realization gave me a life raft to keep me afloat through all the hard tasks and moments of doubt. Now, three months later, I am proud of the work I’ve done and have grown both personally and professionally through this experience.

A back porch bonfire with my roommates—a frequent tradition

Outside of my practicum work, life has been at a steady pace with many fun and memorable moments. Truly, the small things in life, such as back porch bonfires and long walks after work, are the sweetest! My favorite parts of the summer have been filled with self-care and time with friends and family. I am so thankful for the summer of 2021. Life is slowly becoming “normal” again and I am hopeful for a fun, fruitful school year to come!


Focusing on the bigger picture

My favorite walking trail (Bolin Creek Trail in Chapel Hill)

My favorite walking trail (Bolin Creek Trail in Chapel Hill)

As I was searching for a practicum, I knew I would be working remotely and that my global experience would remain local this summer. Regardless, I was overjoyed and excited when I was brought on to work with a research team from Argentina. This summer, I am assisting in an ongoing research study that is supported by the Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy (IECS), an organization located in Buenos Aires that develops research, education, and technical support activities in Latin America and around the world. The IECS project I am assisting with this summer is studying the effects of calcium-fortified water and flour on hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP), such as preeclampsia. I will be writing concept notes promoting the fortification initiative and contributing to a literature review on the mechanisms by which calcium intake influences the development of preeclampsia. As someone with a background in nutrition science, I am thrilled to be a part of such an amazing project, while also gaining experience in the area of maternal health— another passion of mine.

From the beginning, I was so excited to start my practicum and could not wait for a summer of learning and growth. However, when my practicum began a few weeks ago, life felt very similar to my typical school routine—wake up, log on to Zoom, work, take my daily walk (see photo on the right), make dinner, watch Netflix documentaries with my roommates, and go to bed. Right away, I started to feel disconnected from my work and a bit disappointed in myself for feeling this way. I quickly realized that it was my own responsibility to change my perspective and find a way to become more engaged in my practicum experience. From then on, I have integrated daily gratitude and affirmations into my work routine. Every day, I remind myself that my practicum work is no less meaningful as a result of being remote and that I am contributing to something bigger than myself. These affirmations are so important because sometimes, they get lost in the mundane when working remotely. Since beginning this “perspective-shifting” work, I have seen a difference in my attitude and mental outlook because I am truly excited and grateful to engage in the work I am doing! In only the first few weeks, I have learned the importance of keeping a steady mindset focused on the big picture and remembering that I am responsible for my practicum experience, especially in these unprecedented times.

For anyone beginning their practicum, here are a few of my daily affirmations that you can use as you begin your practicum experience:

  • My work is no less meaningful as a result of being remote
  • I am contributing to something bigger than myself
  • I am grateful for this opportunity because it will help me grow professionally and personally
  • I accept responsibility for my own practicum experience and personal development
  • I am doing my best and am proud of myself!

Good luck!