Lauryn highlights her experiences interning at Trend Community, including working with an extremely supportive community and meeting others through a conference.
One day on Twitter, I tweeted about being disappointed that most internships I found were unpaid. I also had a problem with finding internships that were writing based in some form. Later that day, Matthew Horsnell commented on my tweet that he knew about some internship programs that were paid, following up with a dm. We had been following each other for a while due to Matthew being one of the well-known leaders in the Narcolepsy community.
The site that Matthew recommended was Rare Youth Revolution, which had internship postings for youth with rare diseases. After looking over the Rare Youth Revolution website, I decided to apply for TREND Community’s Internship because I loved their mission of improving “the quality of life for all of us living with rare and chronic disease”. It also stood out to me that they worked with my rare disease, idiopathic hypersomnia which is not known to most people. Idiopathic Hypersomnia is a sleep disorder categorised by long sleep periods and unrefreshing naps. It has no cure but can be managed by taking stimulants.
After applying, I was reached out by Chelsea Wong, who helped me through the interview process and the paperwork. Chelsea was very supportive and immensely helpful every part of the way while I worked for TREND Community through Rare Youth Revolution. Following the paperwork, I found out that Matthew was one of the supervisors for TREND Community! I was shocked that the internship I chose to apply to on a whim was where Matthew worked. I was also surprised to find out that TREND Community had a focus on sleep disorders. I did my interview, describing what work I did in the scope of the sleep community and how I wanted to work for the company. I ended up doing well at the interview, leading me to join TREND Community as an intern for 6 weeks. I was excited to work with people who understood my condition and with Matthew, someone I looked up to as representative in the sleep community.
Subsequently, I sat a couple of formal meetings called “Sleep In Rare Evidence Accelerator” and daily check in meetings with Matthew, Rachelle and the other interns. We also did informal meetings to give definition to more disabilities TREND Community worked with and how certain adaptive devices worked. We did a few blog pieces for the website and I was able to create and edit fact sheets on these disorders. I loved typing up and doing copy editing for the fact sheets for the disorders that TREND worked with because I got to learn about more rare diseases that I didn’t know about. It was interesting to learn about more rare diseases as someone new to the rare disease community because I get to see what makes other people rare compared to me.
Best of all, TREND offered the opportunity to attend and facilitate a panel discussion for the Global Genes conference in San Diego, which I gladly accepted. I was excited to meet more people with rare diseases, meet other TREND employees in person and connect with more people who understood narcolepsy/idiopathic hypersomnia. It was also my first time visiting California and going to the west coast. I was nervous to present my symptoms in front of strangers, but having Matthew, Rachelle, and Justice (another TREND Intern) there with me made me feel more at ease. After the presentation, I got to connect with people who worked in the sleep disorder field, which I personally thought was super cool. I even got to meet people that I followed on social media in person, which was also exciting!
While it was not my first time attending a conference, it was my first time attending a conference that focused on rare diseases. Being in a space where people could relate to my experience of getting a diagnosis, dealing insurance and medication problems were validating in its own. Networking was still a bit hard for me to do, but I planned to wear my earrings that had QR Codes on them. The QR Codes linked to my Twitter and portfolio, so it was a great conversation starter when meeting new people at Global Genes. I also adored the travel pillows that TREND gave me as well. It made my nap back to college much more enjoyable.
Overall, my experience working with Chelsea and TREND Community was amazing! It has become a fond memory that let me experience multiple situations that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. I am truly thankful to both TREND Community and Rare Youth Revolution for giving me this opportunity!