I am so serious–literally every upperclassman and faculty member uses the phrase “hit the ground running” when referring to the first-year class load/test schedule. And I can, now, with first-hand experience, vouch that really, there is no other way to describe it.
There’s no syllabus week. Sorry to disappoint, but that grand time of undergraduate frolicking is gone. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, “syllabus week” is so-called because it’s the first week of classes when all in-class time is wasted reading the syllabus and talking about the rest of the semester, and out-of-class time is perhaps spent indulging in an adult beverage or four. That time is gone. Don’t even expect it. Fortunately, I really didn’t have that perception of ever having an “easy week” in optometry school, but I just wanted to make that clear.
We have now been in the full swing of exams for the past three weeks, and we’re starting our second cycle of exams tomorrow. When we first started, the air felt thicker and everyone had a look of sheer panic on their faces. Our lives are biochemistry, optics, anatomy, histology, physiology and optometry. Everyone has been in high-stress test-mode. When I asked friends what they plan to do over the weekend, they’d look at me like it’s some type of sick joke–because the answer is always studying.
Suddenly, I’m a full-fledged optometry student. We just finished our first two weeks of fall quarter and most of my classmates agree that our lives are a whirlwind of classes, clubs, and even some fun (yes, there is time for that still). Taking six classes (feels like nine if you include labs) is no easy feat, but it’s still so exciting to finally be starting the final leg of my education.
Orientation was overwhelmingly daunting, but let me tell you that while ICO students work hard, they play hard too. The upperclassmen couldn’t stress enough that in addition to all of our studies, we also needed to make time for ourselves. Trust me, I was thankful to hear that I could still go to the gym and run or even spend time downtown with my friends. Chicago is such a great city and I want to take full advantage of it while I’m here.
As the first weekend started, the class of 2017 was revved up for a little fun after a tumultuous week of taking note after note in class after class. Lucky for us, we got our first taste of the ICOlympics. Classes compete against each other in like volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, limbo, water ballon toss, etc. I personally did the limbo (I used to be a gymnast so I thought hey, why not?) and took third place. Next year, I plan to really get limber and take first!
While sometimes it’s so invigorating to explore every crevice of a big city–be it through restaurants, concerts, baseball games or museums–it can be a breath of fresh air to escape to the back roads and fields that are awaiting you a measly hour drive out of the city. Students at ICO come from a variety of places, not all metropolitan areas. I myself come from one of Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, where en route to my high school I passed cornfields and picturesque farms, complete with grazing cows. Now, four years later, I don’t make my way out there quite as often, and I find my small-town ties being strained as the hustle and bustle of working 40 hours a week has enveloped my life.
Luckily, when I find myself getting a little tightly wound, I feel fortunate enough to be able to take to those country roads with good friends and great music. When I think of Chicago, country music is definitely not the first genre of music that comes to mind. But I do associate the music with feelings of home, family, and breezy good times. So a few weeks ago my friends and I took an hour drive up to Twin Lakes, Wis., where we attended the Country Thunder music festival.
Finally, a day off work comes around and I think to myself, “How can I make the most of this day, one of my last few ‘free’ days before the rigorous work of optometry school starts?”
Honestly, you’d think it’d be easy to fill the hours with activities living so close to Chicago, a multicultural mecca of nightlife, concerts and upscale dining. Well, that’s just it: There are too many choices. However, I would rather have too many options than too few–the same way I feel about picking out a new pair of glasses (which I just did, by the way). In any case, me and my new crisp prescription glasses decided to hit the Shedd Aquarium and Crêpe Bistro & Martini Bar with a few of my best friends.
In natural Midwestern fashion, the day started in a whirlwind, literally, mixed with rain as I boarded the Metra and headed into Union Station. Suddenly, it was as if the clouds were feeling generous, parting to uncover the beaming sun. We were thankful for that as we took a short 20-minute walk to Shedd. Feeling like a true city girl-to-be with a latté in hand, I found myself actually trying to remember street names and directions, which I would have NEVER thought to do before… but hey, only 38 more days until ICO move-in day so I thought I might as well try to make my life a little bit easier. The city streets were like a trendy amusement park filled with all types of important-looking people rushing in every which way. Getting closer to the aquarium, we found ourselves traipsing behind a tour group on Segways. I’ve actually been on one of these tours, and although I know it seems super tourist-y, it was actually a great way to explore the city in a fast-paced way.
That’s right–in a mere 60 days my fellow classmates and I will enter the ICO for the first time as members of the class of 2017. What a surreal notion to put on paper (or, um, type on a keyboard).
I’ve been arranging my ICO school forms over the past few months. This includes sending in all of my complete transcripts and school immunization forms, and little by little I am seeing the makings of true enrollment; that is, actually seeing myself as a student-doctor of optometry (I’m sorry, when did this happen?!). Let’s be serious: It’s one thing to say “I’m going to ICO,” and it is quite another to actually see the steps be taken to get there. All of the optometrists I work with have been telling me vivid tales of year one at ICO. Although I’m perhaps shaking in my boots a little at the overload of tests and information that is undoubtedly coming my way, I will say I became exceedingly excited as the doctors were describing becoming a true Chicagoan. I’ve lived in the suburbs of Chicago my whole life and have had my fair share of city adventures. From holding a nice cold beverage and a hotdog at a Cubs game, to sunbathing at North Avenue Beach, I’m no stranger to the city. However, I’m ready to know my way around without a GPS.