“Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost, anywhere in the U.S.A.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers played from my iPod as five classmates and I entered downtown Indianapolis last Saturday night. We decided to take a trip together to kick off the start of our week-long Thanksgiving break. So, after PAP on Saturday morning, I threw some things into a backpack and hopped onto a bus to Indiana, not really knowing what lay ahead.
It was a great trip, with fantastic weather, delicious food, lots of sight-seeing, some (completely necessary!) shopping and the Indianapolis Zoo.
Fall quarter officially ended last week and I was looking forward to integrating back into society after three long months of living in an optometric bubble. Before heading home to Ottawa, I took a quick trip to Waterloo to visit my alma mater as a guest speaker on behalf of ICO at the UW Pre-Optometry Club. I hadn’t been back to the University of Waterloo for almost two years and everything felt foreign to me, with all the new buildings, new landscaping and new faces.
Gifts from the UWaterloo Pre-Optometry Club
By the time you read this, I hopefully will have survived my third of six final exams, meaning that my first quarter here at ICO is almost over and I get to go home in less than two weeks (exciting!).
During these last two months I managed to survive 16 lecture exams, three lab quizzes, three lab practicals, and soon-to-be six finals. But academics aside, I still managed to have a quasi-normal life by going out for dinner on Saturdays, and having brunch and exploring with friends on Sundays. A few of us also saw the Silversun Pickups at the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown last month, and a couple weeks ago I got my groove on at Boo Bash.
My classmates have different ways of relieving stress. Some turn to retail therapy, be it on State Street or online. Many play intramurals and/or work out at the gym religiously. Others stroll, jog or bike on the lakefront path. Some come up to the fourth floor lounge in the RC to play the piano for an hour or so (I can often hear them through our living room wall—it’s great study music).
For me, I eat. Cooking has always been my stress reliever (well, that and cleaning), but I also like to indulge myself every so often by going out and trying new things. And in Chicago, you can’t help but want to go out. My parents always remind me to be frugal… except when it comes to food.
“You have to eat,” they say. “So, eat well.”
And eat well I have.
Below are my top five favorite places to eat in Chicago so far:
1. San Soo Gab San Korean BBQ
5247 N. Western Ave.
My parents and I ventured out to the cute North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Square for some Korean BBQ when I arrived in Chicago a few days before Move In Day. It was so authentic and tasty that I ended up going there again shortly after classes started with a handful of classmates. The restaurant is opened from 10 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning! Now I have a place to go if I ever have insomnia and the munchies.
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.