Vivian Lau is a graduate student in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences studying food, nutrition, and dietetics. Lau is working as a dietetic intern at the new Hy-Vee store in Bloomington.
After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lau came to Illinois State as a graduate student. Part of the degree requirement in this specialization is to complete rotations of various dietetic internships in different settings: community, food service, and clinical. Those experiences give the students a well-rounded and thorough training experience.
As a dietetic intern, Lau completes tasks assigned by her preceptors, who are already established dietitians in the field. Interns observe their preceptors in their daily work and assist in many tasks, while also getting the opportunity to be creative, take initiative, and display leadership as future dietitians. Dietetic interns must be flexible, determined, and skilled at effective communication.
In her current internship at Hy-Vee, Lau is learning what it is like to work in a grocery store setting. Working in this setting provides students the opportunity to meet and work with people from a wide range of cultures and socioeconomic statuses who have different beliefs and preferences.
“It’s a very hands-on experience,” said Lau. “Customers walk in and ask nutrition-related questions constantly, and I get to walk them over to the specific product and talk about it, rather than recommending it in other settings and hoping they can find it on their own. It’s a very interactive, laid-back setting.”
Lau credits a random thought senior year of high school with her decision to pursue a career in dietetics.
“I thought about nutrition, and realized my great interest in learning about the subject, especially concerning my grandmother’s chronic health complications,” Lau explained. “Once I got some experience, I absolutely loved it and knew that this is what I wanted to do for my career.”
So what’s the best part of her internship?
“Getting to sample all of the different kinds of food products,” Lau replied quickly.
She also loves that every day brings something new and different, whether it is planning a cooking workshop, doing a food demonstration, holding a store tour, or prepping food, among other activities. Lau also loves to interact with customers.
“They are often eager to learn and listen to my input,” she said.
Lau says that the hardest part of her internship is remembering all of the products, as Hy-Vee has a selection of over 90,000 products.
“Although I am familiar with countless products, the store offers many that I haven’t heard of before,” she said. “I find it amazing how the current dietitians at Hy-Vee can be so familiar with so many of the products when making recommendations to customers.”
Lau is grateful that Hy-Vee opened in time for her to be able to intern there.
“My preceptors are wonderful at making my experience enjoyable and full of learning opportunities,” she said. “Hy-Vee is a wonderful, friendly place that truly seeks to serve their customers.”
Lau encourages anyone considering a career in dietetics to go for it.
“It is amazing! You get to make an impact on people’s lives by improving their health. If you love food and people, it is so fun!”