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.
Alas. I made it through the first quarter of optometry school, surviving 10 weeks of rigorous classes, 30 intensive exams, five nerve-wracking practicals, and lastly, six intensive cumulative finals. However, what I can’t quantify is all of the wonderful memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
A few weeks ago we had a break between fall and winter quarters, and after the hustle and bustle of school, it was nice to have a nice seven-day frolic to unwind and de-stress from the first year craziness. How did I spend my time? First thing: sleep. Second thing: TV and all of the delicious and comforting foods that I love, courtesy of my mom. I may or may not have gained five lbs. from being at home, but I can’t tell you how accomplished I felt after marking that last answer on our last final. That final happened to be biochemistry (a WHOPPING 100 questions!). Now, biochemistry in general is no walk in the park, but pair that with utter sleep-deprivation…that is no easy feat.
Many of my classmates stayed here over the break and finally took the time to really explore Chicago (the city I’ve loved for now 23 years) and if you ever get the chance, I can say with 150 percent confidence that you will not be disappointed. There’s nothing like being on top of the John Hancock Center with its 360-degree views, exploring scientific wonder at the Museum of Science and Industry, or indulging in one of the signature beverages at Hot Chocolate on a chilly fall day. Being in Chicago, you never know where the day will take you.