Hello there, my faithful readers!
We can talk about the replacement ref’s bogus during with the Packers-Seahawks game. Or we can talk about the wrecked car that mysteriously appeared in ICO’s Courtyard one morning last week. Or we can once again talk about the awesome life of an ICO fourth year.
Let’s go with the last option.
Since you last read, I traveled to Raleigh, N.C. with some classmates. We road-tripped to Charlotte, enjoyed impeccable Southern hospitality and cooking, and took in the sights of a downtown that smelled of cinnamon rolls. The nightlife was vivacious and the late-night breakfast buffet was a marvelous mistake. And, oh yeah: We took our National Board of Examiners in Optometry Part 3 somewhere in the mix, too.
I had a lot to learn about coming to study in the United States. At ICO, they do a great job of coaching you on what you need to do and what paper work needs to be filled out, but most of this information is given to you during orientation. In hindsight, I wish someone told me these things before my arrival. So, to save all you prospective international students out there some time, I’m going to run through four of the major things that I had to do as soon as I arrived in Chicago.
1. Get Health Insurance
At ICO, health insurance is not mandatory but it is encouraged. The majority of my American classmates are covered under their parents’ insurance plans (until the age of 26). For the Canadians, many of us were not insured when we arrived. Our provincial health plans cover very minimal costs while we study abroad, which isn’t be enough.
Note: Be sure to contact your province or territory to let them know you will be going to school in the U.S. so that they are aware so that you will still be eligible for medical coverage. If you’re out of the country for an extended period of time, the Ministry of Health can cut off your provincial health coverage without warning if you do not notify them of the reason for your absence.
The American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) offers a health plan to all optometry students who are enrolled in a recognized optometry school. To become eligible for the health plan, you must first become a member with AOSA (membership forms are handed out during the first week of classes) and then apply for the health insurance plan. On average, the plan costs about $330 per quarter (3 months).
For me, I couldn’t afford the AOSA plan on top of all of my school and living expenses. Instead, I went with the International Student Organization (ISO) health care plan, which costs between $29-$195 per month, depending on the package you choose. I bought the “Silver” package, which cost me $29 per month for everything I needed in terms of medical coverage. The great thing about the ISO plan, asides from the cost, was that it can be used anywhere in the world. So, even if I decided to travel outside of Canada and the U.S., I would still be covered.
If I had to sum up my first year in one short story line, it would go something like below:
Packed my life away in two suitcases –> Happy I got here –> Super excited for orientation –> Exhausted after orientation –> Excited for first day –> Already behind on third day –> Excited to get equipment and learn what to do –> Freak out over practicals –> Freak out over finals –> Repeat between catching up and freaking out over exams –> WOOHOO SUMMER!! I SURVIVED FIRST YEAR!
So… what’s second year like?
Unbelievably, five weeks have already gone by here. In no time at all, half of our first quarter is over and honestly, it feels like it was only a few days ago that I arrived at ICO and just yesterday when I received my white coat.
With eight quizzes behind us and dozens more to come, I’m glad to say that I’ve almost found my stride here. Over the past weekend, I had my first observation in clinic. Wearing white brought back all the merry memories from White Coat Ceremony and the new sense of purpose it gave us.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so because you’re interested in my life. I don’t blame you. My life is pretty amazing.
As a fourth year, I gotta say that this… year… ROCKS!! We are in a strange transition period where we no longer have responsibilities as students, and yet we don’t quite have the responsibilities as doctors. In other words, my life has been chock-full of excellence including “Gangnam Style” dance moves, endless hours of TV both good and bad, eating at every restaurant that had four-plus stars on Yelp and chiseling away on my beach bod. I’ve been living my life exactly like Bruno Mars’ “Lazy Song.”