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A Look into the Past

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Blogs

On a Saturday morning, many like to sleep in, some hit the gym, and others like to catch up on their to-do lists.  I decided to leave the house, grab a cup of coffee, and study the morning away.  Normally I would stay at home on a Saturday morning, even to study.  But now that our son is 2 months, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t get much done.  I am so grateful for my supportive husband who willingly stays home with the kiddos on days like this.  With my Starbucks gift card in hand and my optics textbook in my bag, I started off for my dose of caffeine.  Contemplating with Coffee

As I made my way through chapter 5, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation about ICO from what must have been a first year student.  I heard phrases such as “food from the cafeteria” to “we have finals on Saturdays” to “White Coat Ceremony.”  That took me back to a year ago.

This time last year, the class of 2018 had already taken two exams- Biochemistry and Human Anatomy.  We had already received our white coats, and most of us had our daily routine figured out.  It has been a whole year.  I’m not sure about the rest of my classmates, but it feels like first year was a totally different life- a life that we survived.

For the first time, I learned that having two to three exams a week was normal.  That a 3-inch binder wouldn’t fit all my anatomy notes.  That the normal course-load for winter quarter could change, forcing you to take neuro and anatomy at the same time.  That practicals were scary, and I could never practice enough.  That pregnancy brain was not a valid excuse to do poorly on an exam.  That snow days, although rare, do exist in grad school.  But most importantly, I learned that all the pain of first year was worth it.

Class of 2019, you now have your white coats.  You have your routines.  It won’t be easy, and the light at the end of the tunnel may not be very bright, but you will get through.  It’s worth every moment you spend listening to lectures, studying for exams, and getting ready for practicals. 

Second year is a little different.  Everything seems to flow a little better.  Instead of school just being “school,” it has become more of a way of life.  Instead of rushing to finish studying, the textbooks seem more interesting.  Maybe it’s because I know summer break is a thing of the past, and it’s full-time from here on out.  But I think it’s mostly because I view this more as a career and less as class or homework.  I am now becoming an optometrist.

I think my family is starting to realize this, too.  This afternoon, after the studying was over, my daughter and I decided to have some eye-related fun: googly craft eyes and “Parents” magazine.  In the midst of the studying, let’s not forget to goof around.  Congrats on receiving your white coats, Class of 2019, and let the fun begin!

Googly Cat

Googly Fam



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Stay the Course

Stay the Course

Posted by on Aug 25, 2015 in Blogs

I just finished the first week of my second year here at ICO along with my colleagues and classmates of 2018. This is a huge accomplishment for me, and maybe it was for some of you as well.

When classes ended in May earlier this year, I had the whole summer staring me in the face. Total freedom from studying, taking exams, and completing practicals never felt better. But with that freedom came the taste of something I have never yearned for in the past.

I have been a mom for 6 ½ years now. I went through all of undergrad as a single mom. It wasn’t easy, but I got through it, and I had an amazing support system back home in Central Wisconsin. The summer before first year, I got married, and our family of three set off on an adventure to Chicago. Shortly after classes started first year, we found out we were pregnant and were due in June (2015). The plan still stayed the same- graduate from ICO, apply for a residency, and make optometry a lifelong career. Then classes ended, optometry was removed from the forefront of my mind, and being a stay at home became my only role for a few months.

That’s when everything changed. I realized the passion I had to stay at home with my children- to be there for them as much as I possibly could. That passion had been hidden for so long, and slowly, it started to rise over my passion for optometry… or so I thought.

My son was born 8 days late on June 29th.  We became a family of four. I continued to question if coming back to ICO was the right choice for me. I was torn; could I be an excellent mother AND an excellent student? Would I ever be able to become an excellent optometrist?

I asked for advice from several people- my friends who stay at home with their children and my friends who are full-time employees as well as mothers. One friend said, “You’ll never regret staying at home with your children.” I wondered, would I ever regret not going back to school? I wish I could talk to future Talitha- the one who continued and graduated in three years and had a job in optometry lined up- to see what she thought and felt.

The closest I could come was to continue seeking advice from those who are in a different season of life. Someone I highly respect and who works in optometry while having three children said this, “It never gets easy being a wife, mom, and life-long learner. It sure has a lot of blessings though. I encourage you to stay the course and keep praying.”

Some people have wondered how I will do it all. Others have just come out and said, “You can’t. You should take a year off.” Some have said it isn’t worth it, while others think it’s worth more than can be imagined.

Now I know that most of you haven’t had a child over the summer, but maybe some of you have had this thought: “Is this really what I am supposed to do?” Summer may have given you that taste of freedom that we won’t ever feel again. If you decided to come back, I congratulate you. It isn’t as easy as some people might think. Now that we all are here, back on campus at ICO, I think we all know where we belong.

We have picked up our new (and expensive!) equipment- our BIOs and lenses. Some of us have started clinic, taking patients with a fellow classmate. It is becoming more real. We are becoming optometrists. We have the opportunity and responsibility that not everyone is capable of experiencing. However, just because we are back home at ICO, just because we can find a spectacle prescription for a patient, just because we have all of our equipment… we aren’t finished yet.

We may have those days that we don’t think we can do it- that we can’t complete the journey we started August of 2014. But “I encourage you to stay the course and keep on praying.” We can do this! Here’s to another year together. We are in this together. Good luck!

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A First Year’s Reality Check

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blogs

We are half way through the first quarter of our first year of optometry school. This was also the end of the first of many weeks consisting of three exams. I can honestly say I never thought I could see myself getting through a week of three exams let alone the two we had last week and the three (or is it four?) that we have next week.

Have you had your breakdown yet? I’m not talking about the quick little panic you had on your way to an exam or even the night you thought you wouldn’t get through all of your anatomy competency objectives. I’m talking about that moment you find yourself realizing what you have on your shoulders, in your mind, ahead of you, and behind you.

We have accomplished so much already. It’s five weeks in and we have taken seven exams, two pop quizzes, five homework assignments, and a lab quiz; written one paper, three forums, and a couple hundred note cards; entered chief complaints and case histories; gone through at least one set of highlighters; and answered way too many clicker questions. The list could go on. We have done A LOT. I am overwhelmed as my mind replays it all.

There are exams we as individuals scored higher than anticipated, and then there are the ones we did worse than we either wanted or expected. We have found our favorite classes, professors, and labs. We have studied hard for some tests and been overconfident for others.

We have been learning a lot over the past few weeks. Yes—we have learned about the many branches of the vertebral and basilar arteries to the brain; we have learned about fatty acid synthesis; and we have learned how to take extremely subjective exams, thinking through questions instead of just memorizing information for direct recall. More importantly, we have learned how to manage, balance, and survive. Now we must learn to continue—to press on—to not give up.

That brings us back to the original question: Have you had your breakdown yet? Next week we have one lab practical, two exams, and a lab quiz. We have open lab time slots we’ve signed up for in order to learn the Visual Field test. We have a lot in front of us. We have more on our plate than ever before. It is exhausting to think about. Your eyes tear up, and your burden seems to increase in weight. There’s your breakdown—reality. This is not going to be easy. If it were—why would you be here? We have all chosen to be students at the Illinois College of Optometry because there are people at this school who believe we have what it takes—that we CAN keep going. We are the Class of 2018, and we will move forward with grace, humility, and determination.

So you’ve had your breakdown—whether it was last week, this week, or next week, you will come to the realization that this isn’t about the perfect score or the stupid mistake you made on an exam. It is about growth. It is about our experiences in the lecture hall, in the labs, on exams, and with our future colleagues. These experiences will transform us into the best optometrists—and THAT is what this crazy journey is all about.


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Remembering and Continuing the Adventure

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Blogs

Memorial Day.

A day devoted to remembering those who have fallen fighting for our freedom, safety, and certainty. In this country, freedom is taken for granted; bondage is not easily defined by experience. In this country, safety is cherished and held dear; danger is feared and avoided. In this country, certainty is attainable; uncertainty is defeated. We have these privileges because of people who gave up theirs. These people know the true meaning of selflessness, friendship, and family.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends: John 15:13

I, along with my fellow members of ICO’s class of 2018, am about to step into a new chapter–perhaps a new book–in the series we call life. The next couple months must be spent preparing our minds, hearts, and souls to give up our whole selves in devotion to those around us. The adventure we will begin in August is not solely for ourselves but for every person we come into contact with during the next four years. Becoming an optometry student is a remarkable accomplishment along our journey. It is now time to turn this accomplishment into a training: a training to become the guardian and protector of the human eye. The eye is what allows us to interpret our surroundings and respond appropriately. As we learn how to preserve, correct, and enhance vision, we learn how to improve the quality of life.

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