Chelsea Shafer

Hometown: West Lafayette, IN 
College: College of Health & Human Science
Major: Dietetics and Nutrition Fitness and Health

Last summer, I was a paid intern at Tippecanoe Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which is an income-based government nutrition support program. One component of the internship was being in charge of farmers market outreach. I was stationed at the farmers markets distributing food vouchers for fruits and vegetables and the amount of vouchers each family was allowed was based on the amount of people in the family. One day, at the Saturday market, a Spanish speaking man came up to the WIC booth. I remembered him because he has come to the booth a few times before to receive vouchers. He had already received all of the vouchers we could administer to his family, but wasn’t aware because when he learned about the rules, they spoke to him in English and he didn’t understand. I was able to speak to him in Spanish and explain to him why I could not give him any more vouchers to a point where he fully understood the situation and was no longer confused. I am double majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition, Fitness, and Health and minoring in Spanish so I can become a professional who manages these situations every day. I want to make adequate nutrition easier for the population, and low-income populations encounter the most barriers to the ability to be healthy. In America, obesity rates, incidences of heart disease, and the number of individuals with type two diabetes are only increasing, and they are increasing the quickest in low-income populations who have the fewest resources at hand. For some individuals in this population, the resource could simply be lacking is communication. I want to be an individual who bridges the language gaps in America that prevent low-income individuals who only speak Spanish from being the healthiest they could be.

I am pursuing an 11-week study abroad program in Lima, Peru where I will be taking classes and interning at a women’s shelter and a foster care agency. The program is 9 credit hours which is comprised of 3 credit hours for a Latin Culture course, 3 credit hours for a Level 6 Spanish course, and 3 credits for the internship. During the internship, I will be able to apply the skills I gained while working at WIC and volunteering at the YWCA Center for Domestic Violence. While working at WIC, I was able to sit in on consultations with clients and learn the different ways to communicate nutrition guidance in ways that the client will understand. That skill, specifically, will be useful in Peru this summer. At the YWCA, I mostly work with children during their free time so being familiar with the types of activities kids enjoy and what directions they respond to will be beneficial. With my experience at WIC and the YWCA, and my Spanish education, I will be able to design wellness activities for both groups while considering their special nutrition needs as women and children. For wellness activities, I envision anything from a healthy snack or meal that is rich in nutrients relevant to life cycle needs, a quick and easy meditation activity that can easily be performed in their environment, or teaching games that are meant to increase physical activity in a fun way. Furthermore, by developing my understanding of the nuances of having limited resources while meeting specific needs of women and children, I could bring what I learn about their care to America to better serve Spanish-speaking individuals here.

For the first 6 weeks of the program, the participants are staying in a hotel, and the last 5 weeks will be with host families. Both settings will be conducive to interacting with the culture because although the employees in the hotel will likely speak English, there are things that I will need that the hotel will not be able to offer, which will be something I will have to seek out myself. One example would be having laundry done. Having laundry done at this hotel is very expensive, so I will have to seek out a laundry mat and communicate with the employees there to fulfill the task. Living with a family for the second part of my trip gives me the unique opportunity to talk to them about their lives in Peru. We can discuss things like what they enjoy doing as residents, what struggles they face, and other aspects of life as a Peruvian that I otherwise would not be able to learn as a tourist. It will also give me the opportunity to find out about spots that locals go to that are not as touristy. I would love to find a yoga studio nearby to experience yoga in a different way with new people, a new setting, and a different method of instruction. I will also be seeking out coffee shops to spend time in to enjoy a book or work on course work. These experiences with Latin American culture will help me with work I pursue in the states or abroad when working with Latin American individuals because it will give me some insight to what their life was like before living in the states.

Coming from a low income family and knowing firsthand what obstacles vulnerable populations face to adequate nutrition, I cannot fathom the added challenge of not being able to communicate effectively. Working with low-income, Spanish-speaking clients is what I want to pursue for a career out of college, so having this study abroad would provide me with priceless experience. I would be making in impact on people who have fewer resources than Americans and doing my part to make the world a healthier place overall. In addition to this area of interest, I am pursuing sports dietetics, nutrition research, and other opportunities that allow me to help people be healthier and perform to the best of their abilities through excellent nutrition.

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