It was a mere three weeks ago that I donned a black cap and gown and walked across the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree in health science from Purdue University. After the ceremony, unlike most of my friends who were going off to work salaried jobs in various parts of the country, I didn’t have those post-grad blues. While my degree represented everything I had worked for as an undergrad, I knew it also represented the new journey I’m starting as part of ICO’s class of 2018!
I think I speak for everyone in my entering class when I say IS IT AUGUST 6 YET?! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for summer. I know I really should relish in these rare three months of free time with no classes and no responsibility, but I can’t help but look ahead to this fall when all the madness begins. No, I’m obviously not PUMPED to stay up until 3 a.m. cramming exam material or waking up early for lectures or being forever lost in biochemistry (again), but think of all the stuff there is to be excited about: meeting new people, the RC, being in clinic, THE CITY.
But okay. I can’t get ahead of myself. It’s only the beginning of the summer. I’m lucky enough to be incredibly free this summer (minus the few shifts a week I picked up at my old retail job), so that raises the question: What am I going to do fill the remaining two months until I move in?
To my fellow classmates who are also wondering this, here are my tips on how to fill your summer with worthwhile activities while anxiously awaiting the next 4 years of your life.
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.
Since arriving at ICO in 2012, I’ve tried to improve my study habits and general approach to student life. I was a model of poor health during my first year. My extreme commute and my time-consuming responsibilities as senior editor of OptometryStudents.com took their toll. But I made some adjustments, and now I feel mentally sharper and have more energy. Here are some tips that have helped me be successful in my classes and stay healthy–maybe some of these can work for you, too.
Treat your lectures as if you have an exam on that exact material the next day
Don’t waste your time half-listening in class, “multitasking” by scrolling through Facebook or Snapchat on your phone. Imagine that you’ll be performing the clinical procedure you’re learning about later that day, and the patient’s sight depends on YOU. If you can hang on to every word your professor says, you’ll save tons of time studying later on. (Sorry for not heeding this advice sooner, Dr. Goodfellow!)
It’s such a simple question.
“Where did you grow up?”
It’s something I feel like I get asked every day.
The simple answer is listed on my passport and my birth certificate and slips out of my mouth with ease. We all know our towns, our family home, our childhood bedrooms.
But seemingly without notice, the answer has changed. A paradigm shift has taken place, and I realize now that I actually grew up in the last four years, not in the 20-odd ones that preceded it.
The honest answer now is, “I grew up at ICO.”
The hallowed halls of school were my playground, my nursery, my school house, my detention, and my time-out corner. The RC was where I met some of my lifelong friends, the Lecture Center was where I drew all over my notes, the big room on the second floor of the library was where I ate my body weight in candy as I studied, and the dimly lit Eyepod was where I discovered the intricacies of the ocular tissues.
When I arrived fresh on the scene four years ago, I doubt I could recognize who I’ve become now. I used to be shy and introverted, and now you’d be hard-pressed to get me to shut up. I didn’t know the difference between being a Bears fan and a Packers fan, and I wasn’t entirely sure what the I-90 was. Now I’m ripping on referees with the best of them, and honking on my horn like it’s my job. Oh, and I learned how to be an optometrist. Sidebar.
I never thought I’d have the guts to write this. It’s pretty personal, but I want to hopefully inspire those who have hit similar hard paths, and to remind people to appreciate what they have, and never give up.
How I found optometry
I haven’t always known a lot about optometry. I didn’t consider it as a profession growing up, mostly because I come from a family of bankers and IT professionals. I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, so I spent most of my life volunteering and talking to healthcare workers to see what I wanted to do. For a long time, I thought I’d be a pharmacist or physiotherapist–it makes me laugh now. The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing in my first year of undergrad, and had no drive to succeed in anything because I had no set goal in mind.
I am not one for cliches. But when I randomly turned in my resume to an optometry office, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t meant to be. I was also on my way to drop off my resume at a local restaurant for a position that would presumably pay better, but I couldn’t find the restaurant. At the interview, I still remember I telling my soon-to-be boss that I wanted to become a pharmacist. But I loved every patient interaction I had at the optometry office, and I fell in love with the profession. My co-worker, Janet, worked for the LensCrafters next door and told me about her mission trip to the Philippines to help give eye exams and glasses to those in need. That’s when I knew I wanted to become an optometrist someday. I wanted to be in a position to help people, to go on those mission trips and give back globally and locally to the best of my abilities.
Preparing myself in undergrad
Once I was back in school, I went to the career office on campus to get more information about my newly chosen profession. We had a folder with a list of careers and schools; I think one measly page was devoted to optometry. I even signed up to talk to a career counselor, who admitted she didn’t know anything about the profession. In fact, when I asked her about the OAT, she talked to me about MCAT, DAT, and even the GMAT instead. I remember being so disappointed to be so thrilled about this career path, only to have virtually no information about how to get on board. Optometry felt almost taboo during undergrad. I remember doing a ton of research online (thank goodness for the advent of the internet), and got a lot of good information about schools in the USA, job rankings, the profession in general. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the hard path that I did to find optometry, so I founded the Pre-Optometry Club at the University of Toronto. I wanted to tell everyone about this awesome profession, disperse all the information I collected so others wouldn’t have to accidentally stumble upon optometry like I did as they considered their own career paths. I collaborated with a business student to write the club’s constitution, and even used my own money and artistic skills to create my own membership cards and banner.