When you’re accepted to ICO, the question of whether or not to live in the Residential Complex–the RC–comes up. There are numerous benefits to living in the RC, and there are many reasons why one would choose not to. At this point, I myself am very glad that I opted to live there!
Living in the RC is a very unique experience and I would encourage all new students to partake in this experience to enjoy the benefits of living right across the street from school. I think it’s an especially great experience for first years. The convenience of having the college and all of its amenities right next door is absolutely invaluable; in your first year of optometry school when you are extremely busy (you can’t imagine how busy you will be) you will have the fitness center, cafeteria, library and countless cozy study areas just two minutes away. Additionally, there are many upperclassmen willing to lend an ear to help you get through the stressful times, or to simply provide tutoring or test preparation advice.
For me, coming from Canada and never having been away from home, it was nice to know that I had a place to live already lined up before getting here. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been knowing that I still had to find an acceptable place to live before classes started. This really helped with adapting to life in a completely new city, adjusting to optometry school expectations, and meeting and forming friendships with many, many new people.
It’s no secret that optometry school, like many other professional programs, is quite costly. With careful planning, however, one can manage to actually decrease their total amount of debt coming out of school. Although the savings may seem like mere drops in the bucket at the time, it’s certainly better than a kick in the butt.
ICO has an excellent financial aid office equipped with staff who are more than happy to help you obtain information regarding what scholarships, bursaries and grants are available. They recently gave a presentation about credit scores and how to build good credit. Even if you feel you’re good at managing your money, you’ll learn something–and it’s very important to come out of school with a good credit score, especially if you plan to purchase a practice or buy into one following graduation. The financial aid section on ICO’s intranet is continuously updated with new financial aid opportunities as they become available, making it even easier for students to find scholarships and apply for them.
If you’re a US citizen, there are a lot of federal student loans available as well through the FAFSA website. Canada also has a very generous student loan program available to post-secondary students, and I would highly recommend that those who are eligible apply for them. This money is interest-free until graduation, at which time interest will begin to accrue and monthly payments must be made. However, this will save you a lot of money in interest in the long run, so it is definitely worth applying. Canada also offers student grants which are primarily for independent students (students who live on their own), and can be up to $250 per month of study. I would also recommend looking into additional websites, like StudentAwards.com, to connect you with money for school.
My post-dilation mydriatic pupils
So during first year, we’re required to get an eye exam at the IEI and reflect on our experience as a patient in the clinic. This was my first dilated fundus exam, and was also the lengthiest, most thorough eye exam I have ever had. My pupils have never been that big! We were all warned that for four to six hours after being dilated, we’d experience photophobia, or light sensitivity, and would have blurry near vision. I recorded moderate-high light sensitivity, however, I did not experience blur at near. It was certainly an interesting experience.
After my exam, I of course received a copy of my new prescription–my prescription has changed slightly since being here, with an increase of -0.25 diopters of sphere in the left eye and an increase of -0.25 in the cylinder power in the right eye. I spent some time at the IEI’s dispensary, the Fait Family Eyewear Center, and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent selection of frames. Designer lines like Fendi, Tiffany and Boss were all represented, as were a variety of price points. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for in stock, they’re willing to bring in specific frames upon request. I chose to put my new prescription in a pair of Dolce & Gabbanas, and I can’t wait to get them!
We’re in our fifth week of the quarter and at this point I’m getting very comfortable writing exams almost every other day. Unlike undergrad, most days here start at 8 a.m. and finish at 6 p.m., with only an hour break for lunch. I’m getting used to working longer days and learning how to handle the work load.
At this point, though, I am really starting to miss home, and some of the things I can get there but can’t get here.
So we successfully finished our first week of exams. I must say that it’s good that the anticipation of exams is over–now we know what to expect. We know what exams are like and we can really crack down on the studying now, because there’s no end to this madness until late October.
So far, people have been asking about how my first exams went. I have to say, they were not that bad. I have the best study technique, and whenever someone asks what it is and I tell them, it seems so obvious. My expert advice for studying, is do what you say you are doing. I know it seems ridiculous, eh? (Yes, I put that in there on purpose. I will never give up my eh!) But lots of students in fact don’t do this. They say they’re studying for optics, while they’re actually thinking about all the other stuff they have to do and study for: physiology assignment, microscopic anatomy exam prep, what will I do next weekend?
After White Coat Ceremony with ICO’s president, Dr. Augsburger
I’m sure we’re all guilty of this because I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I feel so guilty taking a nap” or “I feel so guilty going shopping” or something along those lines, and I used to do the exact same thing. I never understood why I studied so hard for so many hours and still never got As until my last year in undergrad. If you’re out shopping with friends, shop with your friends. Don’t feel guilty about what you’re NOT doing, otherwise you never allow yourself to take a real break and get your mind off school. And your mind relies on those breaks to refresh and unwind–they’re a necessity if you are to maintain your sanity.
Last time you heard from me I was packing up my last few things before leaving for my road trip to Chicago, with a stop in Minneapolis along the way. In Minnesota we stopped at the outlet mall in Albertville, but there weren’t too many great sales and we were promptly on our way to our primary destination, the Mall of America. Here I found awesome deals: I got lots of shirts for $5-10 each from places like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Club Monaco.
After spending some time in the Mini Apple, we drove down to Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago. We spent a day just exploring the community and its vibrant downtown, and we also visited the newly opened Chicago Premium Outlets in nearby Rosemont. The mall was filled with upscale shops that I couldn’t afford, but it was fun to look anyway. I enjoyed my last evening with family in Chicago at the Purple Pig on the Magnificent Mile. This place is tons of fun. The patio is tiny, yet they manage to cram so many people in it… let’s just say this isn’t the restaurant to go to if you’re planning on telling your big secrets.
Move-in day quickly arrived and I could barely contain my excitement, although I did drag my heels a little bit at the hotel because I knew I would soon be alone. I arrived at the school and was promptly greeted by some very pleasant second year students ready with their carts to get me moved in. The moving-in part took all of five minutes, and the unpacking and settling-in part took close to three hours. Getting acclimated is an ongoing process. I’ve had to make a few quick trips to Target for little things for the room, and these mini trips are a nice way to get out of the RC and wander the city a bit.