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.
Life as a third year isn’t so bad right now. We had our first pediatrics lab with Dr. Allison, and since the majority of the class is made up of females, there was a huge estrogen-driven chorus of ”aww” every few minutes. We watched videos of how to perform eye exams for infants, toddlers and pre-school children. Each lab, ICO faculty members volunteer to bring their young children to be our practice patients. You’d imagine that these kids would feel shy, or be intimidated by the vast number of students that take turns to talk to them, and make them focus on things to practice our techniques. You might think that that some would cry, or throw tantrums, but none of that happened. For my lab, Dr. Polanekbrought in her son Paxton and her daughter Payton.
Paxton looking at the OKN drum
As an entering “class of 2017″ student, this summer will serve as a entryway down a rabbit hole full of adventure and new things and people. I’ve been trying to contain my excitement so as not to irritate anyone who has already heard me express it more than once. Although it seems like forever away, I know August will sneak up on me very quickly–so I’m making every effort to enjoy the rest of the time I have before I delve into my studies full steam ahead. I’m very excited about coming to ICO and I’m really looking forward to learning the hands-on practical skills and applying them to my friends, family and anyone with enough patience to sit for me while I practice on them. I have already warned some that they can expect to have retinoscopy done while I am back for Christmas holidays!
I have been spending these last couple months preparing myself for this undertaking and only slowly packing things as they come to mind. In addition to working full-time, I will be volunteering at this year’s Fringe Festival, and KidsFest. I have also been spending lots of time on my hobbies, which include woodworking, painting, and riding my brand new bicycle. I am hoping the bicycle riding will go well, as I plan to sell my car to free up the money for school, and use my bicycle for commutes when I am back at home. I have been spending many evenings sitting outside by the koi pond in my backyard just watching the fish and hoping another bug will fly into it so I can watch the fish fight over it. Despite my greatest efforts to make as much money as possible to save for school, I do have a week booked off near the end of July to get my last few appointments in, have lunch with friends and crack down on the packing.
Working this past year in the optical dispensary has provided me with great skills for working with patients, providing advice regarding frame and lens choices, and discussing the benefits and trade-offs of each and how they affect the wearer. Occasionally the doctors will bring me in to their exam rooms to show me a unique situation or eye condition under the slit lamp. So far, I have been able to observe a conjunctival laceration, macular hemorrhage and the results of “intact” refractive surgery. All are very interesting to me and I was disappointed to find out that we don’t get to use the slit lamp until second year.
From all over the country and even from outside of the country, students in the class of 2016 might be wondering how my first quarter is going as a third year at ICO. On second thought, none of them are probably thinking about me at all. I can in fact guarantee you that they are enjoying their summer off, hanging at the beach or doing something that is not eye-related. For me, this summer is going to be much different than than the previous one. Last summer, I worked a lot, yes, but I also traveled to various places and was able to find some spare time for myself to relax.
In contrast, this was is what my weeks will look like for the remainder of the quarter:
Monday starts with an 8 a.m. contact lens lecture taught by Dr. Jurkus. When I’m done with class, I have five minutes to gather all of my equipments and run over to the clinic for my 9 a.m.-1 p.m. shift. Afterward, I have 10 minutes to eat lunch and go back to hours two and three of CL lecture. I run back to the lecture hall with a microwaved bowl of pasta, my notes wedged under my armpit. Luckily, having a bit of previous exposure to practical CL from working at a private practice helps me understand the concepts easily.
For the last nine months, free time was a rare commodity. It was coveted by all and seldom achieved. It was all anyone ever talked about, and when it finally came, I slept through it and was left wondering with everyone else, where had all my time gone?!
Now however, I have a very different problem: too much time. The perk of finishing my first year is that I actually get the summer off to enjoy one last time. So before I started up work and got swept into that, I decided to take two weeks off to just unwind. After sleeping straight through the first few days, I finally had enough energy to get things started. I made the trip home to visit my folks and then went on a whirlwind tour of my old stomping grounds in the Northeast. What was originally a short trip to see a good friend graduate from law school turned into a nine-day journey of rekindling friendships and couch surfing to the extreme. I mean things really escalated quickly. Now after all that, I find myself back living the quiet life at home. Almost too relaxing, which brings me back to the problem I stated before: I think I have too much available time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. On the contrary, those who know me best will agree that taking naps is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. However, when is the last time that you spent two hours of your day examining and trying to identify a spider? Until today I probably would have had the same answer as you… never.
Just when I finally got accustomed to telling everyone I’m in my second year at ICO, I am *gasp* now in my third year.
…is when your day begins at 8 a.m.
That’s right. Whereas during first and second years we had exams early in the morning, now we’ve got early-morning classes. You would think that since our lectures are all recorded, we can watch the early lecture later, right? Sorry to break it to you, fellow night owls, but for one class, attendance is mandatory, and for the other, answering questions in class comprises four percent of our grade. So if you’re going to study, better get it done during the day time. And if you’re not used to it, the security office always has coffee!
…is when we start learning about contact lenses!
First quarter of third year is probably the scariest, most exciting, rewarding experience at ICO. We’ve finished all the basics–optics, physiology, anatomy, etc.–and now we can move onto everything we’ve anticipated doing as an optometrist: retina/ocular disease, contact lenses, etc. According to our contact lens professor, Dr. Jurkus, by the end of the quarter in August, we’ll have learned everything we need to know to fit the average patient with contacts (I know, it sounds pretty exciting to me too!). I’ve worn contacts since I was in high school, and now I can finally learn everything about the little pieces of plastic I put on my eyes.