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.
We’re all studying to be optometrists, but what does that really mean? Is it handing out glasses and contacts? Is it checking a patient’s ocular health? Is it using fancy equipment like a phoropter and retinoscope? It’s actually so much more than that. As students, sometimes we get so wrapped up in getting good grades and studying constantly (all day, everyday) that it becomes hard to remember the mission we have as optometrists–that is, to perfect a person’s vision and eye health in order to better their everyday lives.
Luckily, they really emphasize the bigger picture at ICO. As a new member to the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity club, I had the chance to volunteer at an event put on in honor of World Sight Day, which was last Thursday, Oct. 10. Prior to ICO, I had no idea this day existed so I’ll give you a little background. Simply put, World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision deficits. So what did that mean for the students at ICO?
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!