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MBTA→ CTA: First Week at ICO!

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Blogs

Last week, I said my goodbyes and stepped on a plane in Boston, Massachusetts. Roughly two hours later, I entered a new time zone and touched down in Chicago. As of August 16th, I have officially completed my first year Orientation at ICO. Now, I’ve begun classes.

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View from plane leaving Boston!

Things are moving along very quickly, but I am enjoying every minute of it! It is such a great feeling to know that I have accomplished one of my life goals and made it to optometry school. Here at ICO, I have met people from places ranging from Southern California to Nova Scotia and already begun to build great relationships. Through Orientation, I was given the chance to explore not only what ICO has to offer (which is a lot!) but also the city of Chicago.


All of our class notes for first quarter!

It is hard to step out of your comfort zone sometimes and take on something new. I left Boston, a city where I knew my way around, would always run into people I know, and thoroughly understood the public transportation, to take on a whole different (and larger) city. My first night here at ICO, I attempted to use the CTA for the first time. For those of you who may not be familiar with the CTA it stands for the Chicago Transit Authority and encompasses the city’s buses and train system

Now, I can easily explain the ins and outs of the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) in Boston. For the most part, the CTA is the same. On my first trip, however, it was the little differences between the two that began to throw me off.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t lost in the city for hours! I am quickly learning my way around and spent some of Orientation exploring. Although, like with the public transportation, Chicago and Boston have many small and large differences that I am beginning to love. Chicago is full of so much to do!

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View of Chicago from the boat tour!

To complete our Orientation, we took the Chicago River architectural boat tour. Following the tour, some of us made our way to Michigan Avenue to eat and do some shopping (honestly, it was more window shopping because all we could think about was the amount of loans we just took out.) Next week, we plan to check out the lake and embrace these last summer months. Some of us have already began to plan trips to museums and orchestras!

So, to sum up my experience at ICO thus far and my experience with Orientation, I am filled with excitement. I am itching to continue exploring the city, use the CTA some more, and I am even looking forward to the start of classes. This is one of the most exciting times of my life and I am looking forward to making the most of it!


Officially a student!

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I Love Y’all

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Blogs


A few mornings ago, I blinked and first year Orientation was over. I peeled myself out of bed and made the convenient walk from the RC to campus. After scarfing down some pretty perfectly cooked bacon at “the caf,” I found myself in the front row of the lecture hall, school supplies strewn out across the desk, pen in hand, ready to hear my very first lecture at ICO. I couldn’t believe that barely a year ago I was sending in my application to my top choice school. I knew then that ICO was the place for me, but after this first week, there is not a single ounce of doubt in my mind.

Seriously though, I love y’all. No, I’m not Southern, and after this post I’ll go back to saying “you guys,” but I had to make a tribute to my Tennessee native roommate and all of the incredible diversity here at ICO. Did you know that some people put ketchup on their hot dog? Even more alarming: some people have NEVER had a Chicago style hot dog. *insert gasp* Just like where we came from, the size of our families, the hobbies we enjoy, and what we majored in in college, different condiments used for our hot dogs is just one more example of how different we all are. This year at Orientation, we participated in a few diversity exercises and it was extremely refreshing to see our differences unfold. Our Orientation leaders encouraged us to “feel the love” despite our diversity, and I’m writing today to do just that.

To the faculty and staff: You all have been incredibly helpful. I feel that you’ve made yourselves readily available to us students and if I didn’t know it already, “No question is the only stupid question.” Throughout my school career teachers and profs always would say that but I have to be honest, this is the first time I actually believe it. So, thanks for that. Thanks for being willing to hear the silly jumble in my brain translated into a somewhat coherent phrase with a question mark at the end of it.

To the second years: Y’all rock. I have never felt more welcomed than I have this past week. Starting something new can be daunting, and it takes down the “daunt factor” when you know you have people who were just in your shoes looking out for ya. Thanks for showing us a taste of Chicago. I’m pumped that we have a few more years together still.

To the upperclassman: I don’t know many of you yet, but if you’re anything like all of the other wonderful people I’ve met at ICO, I can’t wait to get to know you. If you ever see a girl wandering aimlessly through the halls, I’m OK with you asking me if I need help; trust me, I need all the help I can get.

And finally, a big thanks to the city of Chicago for being one of the most diverse places in the world. There’s no way to live here and not become mesmerized by the bustle that surrounds us. If you’re ever bored, go take a walk downtown; in about 0.2 seconds, you’ll forget what boredom is.

I cannot wait to continue this journey at ICO, and I hope I can live up to the high standards before me. So here’s to first year, Chicago style grub, and Southern accents.


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Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Blogs

Like many of my classmates, I grew up in a suburb. I spent the majority of my life  in this familiar setting before transitioning to a new place. For my undergrad education, I chose to attend Ferris State University in rural Big Rapids, MI. With that move came unfamiliar territory, countless new people and names, overwhelming information at orientation… as well as a lot of fun. I think that when most of us look back to our undergraduate transitions, we admit that they had challenges, but obviously, we managed.

When I moved to cojcxoxgzRillege, I was in culture shock. Ferris State was in the middle of nowhere, it seemed. There were a couple of restaurants, a few bars, two hotels, and one or two places to shop. We did have a Meijer and a Wal-Mart, though. Also, the nearest big city was Grand Rapids (an hour drive away.) In addition to this remoteness, if I wanted to do any banking, I had to drive 20 minutes East to the nearest town where a branch of my bank was located.

After spending three years in Big Rapids, I am now in Chicago. This again has been a culture shock- however, a different kind of one. Instead of going to a small town with limited options, Chicago seems to be limitless with what the city has to offer.

Some of my classmates are experiencing- and will continue to experience- this same culture shock. All of the Canadian students have to deal with setting up new bank accounts, handling a new monetary system, dealing with new terms and phrases (my personal favorite is the discrepancy between “writing” a test and “taking” one) in addition to becoming accustomed to the crowded city life of Chicago. To al9TzMEjaTEl of my classmates from the West coast and Southern states, prepare yourselves: Winter is coming.

Many students may even be in the same boat as myself. I know of a couple classmates that came from small towns (such as Big Rapids) and are now in the third most populated city in the United States.

The point is, this is a time of transition for us all. We all had to have gone to college, or we wouldn’t be here, and we all had to transition to that. Once again, we are dealing with unfamiliar territory, countless new people and names, overwhelming information at Orientation, as well as a lot of fun. And again, we will manage. Some of us may have come from a state or two away, while others have moved across the country or continent. Nonetheless, it all adds to the ICO experience.

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Two Weeks of Summer

Two Weeks of Summer

Posted by on Aug 14, 2015 in Blogs

After a challenging three months of summer quarter, we all have realized that life as a third year is a whirlwind. Bustling between labs, classes, and clinic is the daily agenda, and although sometimes stressful, I have to say that life is exciting. Being a full-fledged optometrist is right around the corner!

However, as a third year putting in many hours of patient care, studying, and taking exams, myself amongst my colleagues couldn’t wait to feel just a touch of Summer freedom.

blog 1Being a Chicago girl, born and raised, I knew that I was going to have to fit A LOT into fourteen days. There is so much that this city and its neighboring suburbs offer that I could hardly pick what to do over this short, but precious break.

After sleeping for a good 48 hours and catching up on life after the madness and chaos of finals and practicals, I had to stop and get my favorite treat at Sugar Shack (about a 5 minute drive from ICO and A MUST). A mouth-watering funnel cake sundae is Sugar Shack’s famous dessert. Trust me, IT IS WORTH EVERY GUILTY CALORIE. However, if you are not a funnel cake fan, have no fear as they offer everything from snow cones to milkshakes and beyond.

When that was said and done, I began filling my time with activities, wanting to soak up that Summer sun. Just outside the city is one of the Nation’s largest animal experiences, Brookfield Zoo. It’s very easy to get to, and does not disappoint with a fun day outside with daily live-bands, tasty treats, and of course, wildlife that is surprisingly close to such a large city.

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Just so you know, life and activities don’t have to be so planned in Chicago. Heading to North Avenue IMG_3321beach for a little afternoon volleyball followed by a margarita along the Chicago River makes for an easy and relaxing cap to a summer day, and- let’s be honest-  it’s just good for the soul. Chicago is one of those cities that is so involved in what it can offer to its inhabitants. It has allowed me to take advantage of movies, yoga, and even a symphony orchestra at Chicago’s famous Millennium Park.

Although these two weeks of summer vacation are rapidly coming to a close, Chicago and its activities don’t have to stop… after all, there is always the weekend!


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Goodbye, Toronto.

Goodbye, Toronto.

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in Blogs

Goodbyes never play out the way I expect them to. How can I tell someone that I’m going to miss them? That I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me, and that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated their company? …and how do I do that without creeping them out?

Goodbyes are my weakness. I’m the kind of person that needs to think about the words I want to use and the way I want to say them. I can’t string complex thoughts in the moment, and goodbyes deserve better than my poorly thought out see-you-laters and peace-outs.

So now I’m here at a bus terminal, surrounded by strangers and a strange sense of peace that has allowed me to collect my thoughts. I feel like I can finally say those things that I want to say.

I am not afraid to begin my second year at ICO. I’m actually pretty excited. I am only afraid that things will change so rapidly from this point forward that I could forget where I came from- my roots. So, this goodbye is dedicated to Toronto, and in a way, it is the ending of a big chapter in my life.

Dear Toronto,

We haven’t always gotten along. Your bus service is the bane of my existence, and for a long time, I resented your often late or missing buses. But home doesn’t feel like home without the sound of buses passing by every 10 minutes right outside my window during peak hours. And home doesn’t feel right without the hour-or-longer bus rides I need to take to see my friends or do anything even remotely stimulating. You have, in a strange way, helped me develop selective hearing, zen-level patience, an ability to temper my own frustration, and a love of reading, all of which have served me well on many occasions.

You are a beautiful city. I recently visited the Lakeshore and those rocks I used to climb as a kid, where I would stand at the top and watch the cityscape from across the lake. The shore has changed in the many years since I’ve been away. I remember vividly how freeing it felt to be there, with the wind sweeping along those curving paths and the water dancing along the paths. Now, it is over shadowed by a row of newly built skyscrapers. The place that used to seem like my little secret is now teeming with joggers, cyclists, and young families taking selfies on the beach (if you can call it a beach.) It is bittersweet, knowing that the Lakeshore is no longer mine, but at least you are not lonely anymore.

We have had our differences, but Toronto will always be my home. I will miss you Toronto. Thank you for raising me.

Before I left, I took one last walk around my neighbourhood and watched the moon sitting serenely up in the sky. I took my time breathing in the still-sweet air- literally sweet from the cookie factory down the road.

Toronto, I have known you for over half my life, and although that may not be as long as some friendships out there, it is among the longest that I have ever had. We had lost touch over the years when I went to undergrad at Waterloo and in that time, I had also unknowingly lost my creativity and imagination. It has been a joy for me to rediscover these in your presence. You have inspired a creativity I have not had in a long while. We don’t always agree on everything, but that’s OK. I have learned a lot about my biases and broadened my horizons. I am excited for the things you will discover in the coming years and I am proud of what you have accomplished these past few months. We will be going our separate ways for now, but “with friendship, we can do anything.” Until next time. We will always have call of duty and energy drinks.

Goodbye, old friend.

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