Writing My Way to My Future

Nathalie Walker
Portrait of Nathalie Walker

By Nathalie Walker, Guest Writer

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series describing one student’s perspective on her experiences as a Werner H. Kirsten student intern.

“The future depends on what you do today.” Those wise words were spoken by Mahatma Gandhi. Before I started my Werner H. Kirsten (WHK) student internship, I did not know what I know now. I only knew what each of Gandhi’s words meant individually. I now understand the full meaning of the phrase. To me, Gandhi’s words mean that nothing in life is handed to you. You have to work hard today to get the results you want tomorrow.

I am now halfway through my WHK internship. Aside from my time at NCI at Frederick and general high school activities, I have also been applying to colleges and maintaining my GPA. Throughout the college application process, I have observed that I stand out more to colleges because of the real-world experiences and opportunities that this competitive internship is providing. What I am doing today is already helping me for tomorrow.

My internship is also helping me succeed in the present. For example, my writing used to be, for lack of a better word, horrible. Punctuation, spelling, and grammar have never been my friends. This internship has given me the opportunity to write a wide range of materials, including e-mails, newsletter articles, posters, tweets, and Facebook posts. By working with my mentor, Melissa Porter, administrative manager, NCI Office of Scientific Operations (OSO), Andrea Frydl, public affairs specialist, NCI OSO, and other experienced writers in the NCI OSO, I have become a better writer.

I am most proud of the newsletter articles I have written. Before this one, I wrote two other articles for the Poster online newsletter. The first article described my perspective on beginning my internship, and the second was about my experience at the Bethesda and Frederick student poster days. In addition, I am writing an article about nanotechnology.

Before starting my internship, I thought that once you determined the skill or subject you were naturally good at, you were stuck with that. Now I know that this theory is incorrect. The truth is that by practicing and improving my writing and interviewing skills, and by experiencing an office setting first hand, I have learned the skills I need to be successful in this type of work environment.

This internship provides me with the opportunity to not only practice writing about people and events, but also to write about science, which is a necessary skill for a scientific career. For example, while writing the nanotechnology article, in addition to learning proper grammar and punctuation, I can formulate my ideas and present my knowledge to the public. Now I know more about nanotechnology and can communicate this information to readers. By learning about this relatively new technology, I will gain insight into how nanotechnology may affect the future of scientific research. I have learned that knowledge is power, especially for something you are passionate about.

In pursuing my passion for science and by completing this internship, I am learning about more than just science writing, the field of communications, and office life; I am learning more about myself, which will help me in the future and in college. I know I can improve my communication skills and increase my knowledge in areas brand new to me—it just takes practice. This lesson has given me more determination in everything I do. I am no longer scared about writing, science, or college because my confidence has grown as a result of this experience.

Three women sitting around a table talking.

This internship is not a light commitment. Managing my time has usually come naturally to me; however, with school, an internship, a second job, and trying to have a social life, time management has been difficult. Also, writing an article is not always simple. For the nanotechnology article, I had to read up on the subject, and the material was not always easy to understand. However, my mentor, Melissa Porter, has been wonderful. She helped me find resources to read. With her support, I have also learned that you are never alone. Your mentor is there to help you. In another lesson learned, I realize that, no matter how hard it is during the year to manage work and life, it is still possible with the help of friends, family members, and mentors.

My newly found confidence and determination, and the knowledge I have gained from this internship, have made getting ready for my future a little easier. I plan to attend college and become a biomedical engineer. I have applied to four colleges: Trinity College in Connecticut, Towson University, Ashland University in Ohio, and Loyola University Maryland. I do not expect my future to be perfect or without struggle, but I have learned that I can be successful and accomplish my dreams through hard work.

As I look ahead to the future, the full meaning of Gandhi’s words resonates with me, especially when I find out where I will go to college and where my future will take me. Wish me luck! 

Photo caption: Nathalie Walker (right) works with Melissa Porter (center), her mentor, and Andrea Frydl.