2017 PFIG Recipient Sarah Romanus
Journal Entry #1
I am from Pennsylvania, but Boston has long been my favorite city I have visited in the United States. I find beauty in its history as I walk down the old brick paths that are very common in its streets. I find excitement in its ample opportunity for food exploration in one of its many neighborhoods. I find people, of all backgrounds and stories, using the public spaces along the Charles river or in the midst of large skyscrapers. When I found out I would be spending my summer in Boston I was very eager for my arrival date in the city. Not to mention that I would also be interning for a wonderful women-run organization called Initiatives Inc. focusing on global health-a passion of mine. I had just returned from a semester in India and had firsthand experienced some of the health needs that exist in cities and rural areas alike in India. This experience further fueled my motivation to work on pressing global health issues.
What does my day to day work look like?
One of my favorite things so far is that I am able to ride my bike everyday to work, so my commute includes riding over the Charles river and along the Esplanade--a great way to start the day. Once I arrive, my main task here at Initiatives is working on a website called CHW Central that helps support Community Health Workers (CHWs) with resources like articles and upcoming events that are relevant to their field of work. Community Health Workers are an important part of the healthcare system, providing a link to patients in between doctor visits and at home care. Community Health Workers are trusted members of a community that help to educate and provide basic care for its residents. At UVA, I study global development studies, which has taught me the value in focusing on community and people within to support initiatives, which makes CHWs a particularly exciting part of healthcare to learn about and focus on for the summer. My job is to seek out new resources and current events to add to this site. In addition, I also work on the social media pages for CHW Central, which help to get the word out about this free resource to those who can use it. Another project I will be working on over the course of the summer is a literature review about CHWs and adolescents. I am particularly interested in mental health of adolescents, so I will also be trying to draw a focus on the ways in which CHWs can address mental health issues among youth populations.
First Week Reflections
With the first week complete I am able to look back and reflect on what I have done so far. I feel I have been getting the hang of writing more effective social media posts, and have also found a good amount of articles to read and summarize for the site. The first week was definitely an adjustment since I had just come from India, being more “in the field” everyday, and now I sit in front of a computer to do my work. This was difficult for me because it seemed to be a very opposite setting to what I had enjoyed so much in India, as well as being more far removed from what community health workers do and experience everyday. However, part of being in a new city at a new internship is learning to be adaptable and finding ways to make it your own. For example, I have spoken with people in the organization about information collection for the literature review being more of a dynamic interview with different people in the Boston area (professors, NGOs, CHWs themselves). They were very supportive in having me pursue this option, which allows me to get out of the office and interact with people in the community who work with adolescents and community health as their job. I have already reached out to many people and will be having my first meeting tomorrow, which is very exciting!
As I move forward, I hope to continue pursuing new and unique avenues for achieving the tasks this organization has asked me to complete. I aim to interview many people to make a well rounded final product with great information for the website. Besides my interview, I look forward to exploring what Boston summers have to offer! I am overwhelmed with things to do already and I know my time will fly by.
Journal Entry #2
It is hard to believe that I am now over half-way done with my summer internship at Initiatives Inc. here in Boston. I feel like I finally have a routine down, and understand what is expected from me, and how best to go about doing these things. The first few weeks of my internship my supervisor was away, so our communication consisted of emails and a few Skype calls. During this time period I was mainly working on the CHW Central website and social media accounts, while doing a few interviews on the side, which supported my longer term literature review project. I felt like I was on a roll and knew what I was doing. However, when my supervisor got back and we had more face to face meetings, I began to realize that through some miscommunication I had misunderstood the priorities she had for my time here. I am very glad we got this straightened out early on in the internship; however, I couldn’t help but feel I hadnt been as productive as I thought my first two weeks. Soon enough I got into the swing of things again, and this time felt like I was really making a dent in what they wanted me to do.
Two main projects have emerged for me: one being the literature review on adolescent health and community health workers, the other being a funding ideas presentation to help them form a plan to get future funding for the site. In addition to these long-term projects I am responsible for posting current news and resources, while keeping up with the social media aspect. This keeps me very busy day-to-day. All of this was only possible with very effective communication between my supervisor and I. This way, if I started doing something that was not as relevant or needed editing, she would be able to address my concerns immediately and I could get back on track. Communication is definitely one of my biggest takeaways so far, especially because it is important in all aspects of life, not just in a job setting.
My favorite part about this internship is that the people who work here really want me to walk away from this experience having pursued topics of personal interest. As I read and post articles on the site, I am able to pursue topics of my interest within the realm of CHWs. I am very interested in mental health and have been able to learn a lot about mental healthcare both domestically and abroad. This knowledge will definitely inform my future pursuits in this field. That being said, learning is also about what you don’t want to do. Over the course of my internship I have found it difficult to work in front of a computer all day. I really enjoy interacting with people and doing things outdoors, so this has been a big change. This does not mean my experience hasn’t been valuable. What this internship has allowed me to do, is to try something out for a short period of time to see if it is something I would like to do. I think this really gets at the core purpose of an internship. I now know for sure going into fall of my fourth year that I want to pursue opportunities that are more social and engaging out in the community. This is an exciting next step in my life and I am glad this internship has helped me learn what I want to do.
Regardless of how I feel I want to spend my time working in the future, I still have a little less than half of the internship to go, and I knew I wanted to make the most of it. In order to integrate engaging opportunities with community members, I went out of my way to conduct interviews for my project. This allowed me to go out into the community and speak with people who were interacting with other community members and addressing health. These interviews have been wonderful and I have met so many smart and incredible people studying or doing what they love, which is very inspiring. These interviews have also led to connections to others who specialize in mental health, which was a welcomed surprise. I am finally getting things together, and looking forward to presenting my final product on the last day of my internship.
If you are considering doing an internship, I would definitely suggest going for it! Even if it is something you are not sure is exactly what you want to do, you will learn invaluable lessons about what you want in life, even if that ends up being the opposite of the internship. That is ok. I don’t think we hear that enough, but it is a very important part of guiding you to a career that will be fulfilling!
Journal Entry #3
My internship with Initiatives has now come to a close and it is hard to believe that the summer has already past! In the last few weeks of my internship I was busy trying to pull together all of my projects in order to present them to the company on my last day. I had two major projects to finish: a literature review on adolescents and community health workers as well as a more detailed funding document that provides step-by-step instructions on certain fundraising ideas for CHW Central. I really enjoyed seeing the long-term projects I had worked on for two months finally come to fruition. I feel they helped the company as well as provided me with valuable knowledge and experience to bring back to UVA.
The last week not only included work, but reflections on my internship and what I personally took away from this experience. Here are a few things I feel I learned during my time that I would like to share:
Value of complimentary qualitative and quantitative data: I am a Global Development Studies major, and a lot of my reading and class work airs on the side of qualitative data. I love this type of data because I feel it gives the “whole picture” and depicts data as a story versus a number. In the past, I also found it hard to stay interested in quantitative data that didnt seem to have as much life and character. However, during this internship, I read many articles that included both types of analysis. Instead of seeing the two types of data as contradictory, I learned how complimentary they can be, and how qualitative data can actually be productively quantified in studies. I felt this was a very important skill and realization I took away from this summer that I now hope to incorparate into my 4th year research.
Working in a professional environment: Another experience I had not had the opportunity to have before this summer was interacting with people in a professional environment. I had co-workers and a supervisor that all helped me learn how a business operates and how these professional relationships can impact your time at a company and understanding of work.
Trying something new: Probably my most important takeaway was the value of trying something new. I had never done such a structured type of internship before, never lived in Boston (let alone a city), and I had never worked solely on a computer before. Trying something new really helped me clarify many things I do like and that I do not like that will be helpful in guiding me to a post-graduation path. Getting out of your comfort zone, although uncomfortable at times, really helps when trying to understand what you want in life and in the future!
I am continually grateful that I had the opportunity to work as an intern for CHW Central this summer!