After four quarters at ICO, I find myself becoming an ever-more confident optometry student, knowing not only my way around, but also exactly where I am going.
Following the rigor of first year, second year in comparison has me a bit more at ease–but that doesn’t mean that the school days aren’t still busy. However, it’s a different kind of busy. Every day I feel more and more like a clinician, more and more interested in the profession that I have chosen–simply for the fact that now I’m really in the “application” part of the curriculum. The things I hear in class so easily translate to what I see in clinic, and it probes me further to keep motivation high.
School days are not only filled by academics, but also extracurriculars. I serve as president of ICO’s National Optometric Student Association chapter, and the club is in full swing with our endeavors to increase membership and regularly provide healthcare to underserved populations in Chicagoland. This weekend was a perfect example the kind of activities NOSA engages in: On Friday, we led an outing to Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza (just a short bus ride away from campus); on Saturday, we organized a vision screening at the Family Health Network‘s Keep a Child Warm coat distribution event.
And so another year at ICO begins. This time, however, I have a new outlook as a second year.
First years are in a frenzy, second years are rejoicing in their reunion after a long, well-deserved summer break, third years are just busy, and fourth years are in the midst of externship rotations. The first weeks at ICO are unlike anything else–a whirlwind to some and a huge awaiting obstacle to others. But, there is still excitement in the air.
I was part of the ICO orientation team this year. Working closely with 20 of my classmates reminded me of those first day jitters, and in feeling so, I wanted to be there and help those 164 brand new faces. Orientation at ICO is unparalleled in the depths that we go to not only welcome our new colleagues, but also make the transition to professional school as smooth as humanly possible. We jam packed four long days with information, activities, seminars, speakers, Chicago delights (delicious pizza), and most importantly new friends. Nothing was left to chance. We found it not only important to stress what academic and student life at ICO is like, but also what a Chicago lifestyle was like. What pray tell, does that entail? Our first years set sail on an architecture tour in the Chicago River sightseeing everything from the magnificent Navy Pier to the captivating Chicago skyline. Our orientation team also pioneered the way to several different cuisines–from succulent Italian to authentic Greek–in neighborhoods across the city. Truth be told, this is one of the best things about Chicago – that is, the pure culture that adorns each locality, and the delicious food that follows it.
Second year. That’s right, ladies and gents, the class of 2017 officially finished their first year at ICO about a month ago. Which, after nine months of rigorous coursework, only means one thing: summer!
It’s our last summer without classes, and my classmates are scattered all over the place–some are in the Caribbean on mission trips, some are in their hometowns, some are staying in Chicago.
I myself am staying in Chicagoland and have perhaps taken on one too many activities. I’m working in the admissions office three or four times a week and taking shifts at a Lenscrafters in the suburbs when I can. And, of course, I’d be a fool not to explore the city’s wide variety of downtime activities. I’m trying out lots of restaurants and rooftop bars, which are great for enjoying a margarita or cold beer with friends in the good weather. It’s days and nights like these that make up ten-fold for this past harsh winter (multiple polar vortices and all). Still on my summer to-do list is sampling what’s reputed to be the best tiramisu in town at Sapori Trattoria and attending Jazzin’ at the Shedd. Obviously we’re not exactly well-paid as students and cutting costs is great, so I’ve been making use of Groupon and LivingSocial deals to be able to enjoy new experiences at discounted rates of 50 percent or more. I highly recommend it.
When you start your undergrad career, you probably hear about the infamous “freshman 15” that may slowly start to creep up on you as the late-night pizza and bottle or five of beer become a multiple-times-a-week thing rather than the occasional indulgence. I admit, to my dismay, that I succumbed to those additional 15 lbs. of disgusting, unsolicited fat. After I lost all of it and then some following graduation, I promised myself that upon starting at ICO, I would never again fall victim to such unwanted poundage.
However, when the weeks begin to fill with 26 hours worth of class, two-to-three 8 a.m. exams and not nearly enough sleep, so begin those terrible habits you’d just gotten in check: those late Jimmy John’s orders, infinite calorie-laden coffee drinks and cookie binges that you justify with, “Hey, I deserve it… I have an exam tomorrow!” Right. We’ve all been there.
Wintertime has commenced once again in Chicago. Now, if you’re native to the area like me, you may be used to these negative degrees, blistering high winds, and what may seem like mountains of snow. However, with this polar weather come many, many activities that can only be done in this season and only in Chicago.
Let me start again in saying that winter in Chicago is unlike any other. I’ve been known to be somewhat of a homebody during winter, usually staying inside and watching movies whenever possible rather than venturing out into the snowy abyss before me. However, my winter level of activity this year has me feeling kind of triumphant, because there have just been too many pursuits that could not be ignored.
Before the holidays, my roommate Michelle was perhaps a little discouraged with the impending freezing temperatures that surrounded her birthday weekend. Were we to let it stop us? Of course not, and we decided to go ice skating in Millennium Park (right in front of the Bean). A group of us who live in the Residential Complex took a straight-shot 20-minute bus ride. Once at the park, we rented skates for a mere $10 and enjoyed unlimited ice-skating (what a steal!). I couldn’t believe it myself. As in any big city, it’s nice to find affordable activities that are also memorable ones. We skated for an hour or so, about 15 of us. The Canadians were really in their element, let me tell you. I was doing pretty well by the end, but I was definitely shown up as my classmates effortlessly glided by me as if they’d been doing it for 20 years (which many of them had been). The air was crisp and thou could feel the holiday season as the park was lit up with lights and a rosy color adorned everyone’s cheeks. Winter in Chicago really just can’t be beat.