As a Community Health major at Tufts, one of my major requirements has been to complete an internship in a public health-related field, approved by the Tufts CH department.  Through campus tours and conversations with other Tufts students, something I wanted to do in my Tufts career has been to conduct research.  Keeping this in mind, I wanted to complete my internship at a site where I could do that, and that’s how I decided to work with LEEFE.  It definitely has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Tufts.  Through working with LEEFE, I’ve learned a few critical lessons:

  1. It’s okay to ask questions

Working completely remotely with people I’ve never met before was understandably difficult, especially during a time like the COVID-19 pandemic.  This, in addition to the fact that I’m naturally a reserved person, made it difficult for me to reach out and ask for help when necessary.  I had been attending our weekly team meetings each Friday for a couple months before I officially started working with LEEFE, so I was able to listen in on updates around the team, but once I had actually started, there were times I felt lost.  In one of my first one-on-one meetings with Dr. Corlin, she explained the idea of different levels of seeking help: the first level is to ask for help immediately without seeking any sort of solution; the second level is to try to find a solution and then ask for help; and the final level is to seek a solution and present it, with the objective of determining if your sought-after solution is a possible way to answer your question.  With the goal trying to have my questions at the final level, I was able to learn to be more independent in the problem-solving process, but I’ve learned when it’s appropriate to ask for help at the same time.

  1. Connect however you can with others

Even though work has been remote since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, I’ve had opportunities to connect with others at LEEFE.  For example, one of the assignments for my internship course which has corresponded with my work at LEEFE was to conduct an informational interview to better know a colleague’s past, their motivation for working in their current position, and how their position relates to their future career goals.  In completing this interview, I got to know her in a setting not related to work, which was refreshing!  Furthermore, having frequent project meetings with Dr. Corlin, Mateo, and others was important in allowing me to continue interacting with others during a time where I couldn’t meaningfully connect with others as much due to the pandemic and because it was during summer break.  Some of the LEEFE members were also able to meet in-person over the summer!  We met on Tisch roof in the Medford campus, where we talked about a variety of topics, some lighthearted and some more serious, but nevertheless a great time!  Throughout the pandemic, I’ve struggled with social isolation, so I’m grateful for the fact that this opportunity arose and I’m happy I was able to finally match people to the faces we see on our Zoom screens.

  1. Research is a long process with many iterations, so it’s okay to make mistakes

I’m currently working on a paper for publication regarding possible associations between housing exposures and one’s COVID-19 experience. Through this experience, I’ve had many rounds of drafts and revisions.  I was a bit overwhelmed when I received my first set of revisions, so much so that I didn’t know where to start.  However, I’ve since learned that it’s okay to make mistakes and find new ways of approaching problems, especially in research.  Something that has helped me learn to grow through my mistakes is learning about the “growth mindset”, which promotes the idea of taking on challenges as a source of excitement rather than a threat.  LEEFE has been my first research experience, so I’m still finding new ways of completing things, as I’m always gaining new insights on the research process and learning how I can improve.

Working with LEEFE has been one of my most valuable experiences since coming to Tufts, and I’m excited to continue working with LEEFE during the school year as I finish out my current projects and help in any way possible.  Although I serendipitously found LEEFE in my CH internship search, I’m incredibly lucky to have found it.  I’ve already learned so much thorugh my experiences with LEEFE, and I’m excited to continue to grow as a student and as a team member through this organization.

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