Hola mi nombre es Siva!
(Pido disculpas por mi terrible español)
Yes, darlings–now that I’m at my second externship site where I’m fortunate enough to be learning Spanish on the fly, it’s time to brandish the big guns and start putting my money where my mouth is.
Let’s be real, Spanish is probably one of the most musical languages in the world. Everything sounds better in Spanish, like you’ve just sipped a delicious margarita or something.
It helps that I have a tenuous grasp of French (12 grades of French immersion but I’m still conjugating verbs with the help of my handy Bescherelle). French and Spanish have that common Latin root, and once your tongue can roll those “r”s you are pretty much set to jet.
I’m always amazed at the amount of patients that think I am Spanish–but then again it does really cut to the chase of why they made an eye appointment. If my ethnicity doesn’t scream Indian to you, it makes sense why you’re getting your eyes examined, doesn’t it?
No problema, senor. I’ll get you some nifty glasses.
All jokes aside, with the diversity of Chicago and the multi-ethnic tapestry that makes up the country as a whole, speaking multiple languages is more than an asset. It’s a sheer necessity.
What a difference a year makes. First quarter wrapped up a month ago, and I think all my classmates would agree that first quarter of second year is a walk in the park compared to first quarter of first year. Last quarter, as I walked through the library, I noticed first year students hunched over those dreaded Human Anatomy notes, 20 different colors highlighting the hundreds of tiny anatomical parts we needed to memorize. It was a bittersweet moment: I felt the pain of those first years trying to remember which nerves at the upper thyroid cartilage would be affected by damage to the right side of the throat. But I also rejoiced in the knowledge that I’d never have to relive the rude awakening most of them were experiencing. Spare time was a luxury rarely afforded last year. This year, believe it or not, I’ve actually been able to work out regularly and get more than five hours of sleep a night.
Second year of optometry school has many perks: fewer quarter exams, more afternoons off, fewer labs, and more time with patients–both in clinic and the dispensary. I’m loving second year in general but the highlight so far has to be the Ocular Prosthetics elective that I am taking this quarter.
You not know that the Illinois Eye Institute has an ocularist, Patrick Adkins, who works in the Cornea and Contact Lens clinic on Thursday afternoons. During the rest of the week, he works at his clinic in the suburb of Des Plaines, where he hand creates prosthetic eyes in his lab using plastic that he makes himself by combining raw polymers and monomers.
One of my classmates and I are lucky enough to have the opportunity for five weeks to work with Mr. Adkins on Thursdays. Patients coming to see Mr. Adkins at the IEI have already been fitted with a prosthesis at his clinic; at the IEI they can have their prosthesis cleaned, re-polished and/or refitted.
My responsibilities these afternoons include taking patient history, checking the visual acuity and responsiveness of their good eye (if they are monocular), and assessing how their prosthesis looks and feels.
A patient’s right eye. This particular patient wore a prosthesis in both eyes and also happened to be deaf. She and her translator were incredibly sweet and inspirational.
I’m a firm believer in three things.
Everyone should have a favorite book, a favorite vacation destination, and a favorite pen.
But after a whirlwind weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, I’m now a firm believer in a fourth indisputable truth.
Everyone should get to feel like a celebrity at least once in their life.
I achieved this pinnacle of the human experience when I went to the Academy of EyeCare Excellence earlier this month. Alcon, a global company specializing in eye care products, invites fourth year students to travel to their headquarters in Texas for a weekend and learn about their products. From my arrival to my departure, I was treated like a princess. And not a reality show princess–a legit “I fly on a magic carpet, have a pet tiger, and only bathe in Fiji water” princess.
I knew that I was going to like Texas because that’s where Coach and Tami Taylor reside.
(If you didn’t understand that reference, go to Netflix and watch “Friday Night Lights” seasons 1-5 immediately, and we can reconvene our friendship afterwards.)
So how does one prepare for a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip?
It’s no secret that optometry school, like many other professional programs, is quite costly. With careful planning, however, one can manage to actually decrease their total amount of debt coming out of school. Although the savings may seem like mere drops in the bucket at the time, it’s certainly better than a kick in the butt.
ICO has an excellent financial aid office equipped with staff who are more than happy to help you obtain information regarding what scholarships, bursaries and grants are available. They recently gave a presentation about credit scores and how to build good credit. Even if you feel you’re good at managing your money, you’ll learn something–and it’s very important to come out of school with a good credit score, especially if you plan to purchase a practice or buy into one following graduation. The financial aid section on ICO’s intranet is continuously updated with new financial aid opportunities as they become available, making it even easier for students to find scholarships and apply for them.
If you’re a US citizen, there are a lot of federal student loans available as well through the FAFSA website. Canada also has a very generous student loan program available to post-secondary students, and I would highly recommend that those who are eligible apply for them. This money is interest-free until graduation, at which time interest will begin to accrue and monthly payments must be made. However, this will save you a lot of money in interest in the long run, so it is definitely worth applying. Canada also offers student grants which are primarily for independent students (students who live on their own), and can be up to $250 per month of study. I would also recommend looking into additional websites, like StudentAwards.com, to connect you with money for school.
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.