As the eighth oldest institution for higher learning in the United States, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th anniversary on November 10, 2016. To celebrate this monumental milestone, I Am Rutgers will be featuring Rutgers’ most involved and accomplished students in a new series, “250 for 250.” This year-long series will serve as a reflection of Rutgers’ diverse student body and status as a premier national research university.
There’s no doubt that college is overwhelming. You might often find yourself exchanging sleep for a good grade, vegetables for ramen noodles, or Netflix for textbooks. On top of being full-time students, we often work part-time jobs, dedicate our time to various organizations, and occasionally, we shower. We push ourselves to get out of our comfort zones to find what kind of things are going to inspire and motivate us. If you’re an introvert with anxiety, college isn’t easy and it’s certainly not comfortable. Breahnna Saunders, a graduating senior, continues to work with her introverted personality.
Something that I am still working to fully overcome is my shyness. In unfamiliar situations, I become very shy to speak to the point where sometimes, I stutter or have other physical symptoms. Many of the opportunities that I have had at Rutgers would not have been possible if I had done what was comfortable.”
Breahnna found her passion early on in her Rutgers career. She has been studying Nutritional Sciences (Dietetics option) for nearly four years now and has been heavily involved in activities related to nutrition. Her attraction to the major stems from the respect she feels we owe our bodies.
I would say that I’m passionate about respecting and admiring our bodies. I want people to take care of their bodies because they can do these amazing things. People can climb mountains, they can dance, they can bend all sorts of ways. The body is just so amazing, so my passion in life is to inspire people to want to respect their own and admire what it can do. And then also, I would say another passion of mine is helping people. I think those two things are always in the back of my mind – making other people feel happy in little ways or helping people. I’m consistently on the lookout for the opportunity to do that.”
Breahnna is currently the Vice President of the Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe and the Secreatary of Kappa Omicron Nu, a human sciences honor society. She has previously worked as a Research Assistant with Aresty, a Nutritional Assistant at St. Peter’s hospital and as a volunteer with SNAP-Ed, a supplemental nutrition assistance program. Needless to say, she has kept busy during her time here, but in her eyes, her biggest accomplishment was successfully teaching a First Year Interest Group Seminar (FIGS) in Nutrition last fall. It was a constant struggle for her to lead discussions, and introduce new material to her students because of her quiet and mellow personality. But she was able to push through her anxiety and can look back and say it was one of the best things she has ever done.
My favorite part about teaching my class was when students would ask me questions that weren’t exactly related to the course curriculum, but wanted more information about a particular topic. Like I actually generated interest in them. And they wanted to learn more about a specific topic or something Rutgers related in general and I felt like I could really help them. It felt like they could see me as a mentor. That’s why I did it in the first place because I’m passionate about Rutgers resources and I want to show people what I’ve learned here and the mistakes that I’ve made, and give them tips.”
Although it may have been difficult to put herself out there, being an introvert is by no means a bad quality. In fact, it has given Breahnna a unique vantage point in everyday life.
I would say the most unique thing about me is that I am able to empathize with people. I consider myself introspective and also because of my tendency to be shy and quiet, I observe interactions between people a lot. Because of these factors, along with the situations that I have experienced in life, I think I am able to find potential ways to relate to people on a different level.”
Following graduation, Breahnna’s ultimate goal is to become a registered dietician. But first, she has to complete a supervised internship for about one year (similar to a residency upon completion of medical school). Breahnna wants to begin working in a hospital setting, and continue to work with larger populations later in her career. She hopes to one day make policy-level changes that would help people who don’t have access to as much healthy food so everyone has a chance to be healthy and happy with the foods they choose.
There are still times when I would like to just stay in my room to feel safe, but it continues to be worth it to push through my discomfort so that I can learn and explore the world.”