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My 3 Best Study Spots in Chicago

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Blogs

During the week, us first years are busy with classes and studying. If you live in the residential complex (RC) like myself, you find that you are constantly running back and forth between the RC and our academic building. Although these are great places, by the end of the week I find that I am getting a little antsy from being in the same buildings every single day. My roommates and I have found that exploring Chicago and seeking out new study spots is the cure.


Now, even though I would love to spend my weekends window shopping on Michigan Ave. or taking trips to the river, I really do need to take the time to study. What we have been doing is going to different coffee shops across the city and making these our study spots for the day. A change of scenery every once in a while can be quite refreshing. My list of study spots is continuing to grow, but for now, here are my top three choices.

The Wormhole Cafe

This tucked away spot can be found just off the CTA Blue Line and has an irresistible atmosphere. When you walk in, you are surrounded by fun sci-fi characters, cozy couches, and quite a unique menu. They even have a replica of the Delorean from Back to the Future. One of my favorite things about this space is that it is full of outlets (they understand the struggle.) If you are interested, make sure you get there somewhat early- I’m not the only one who realized it is a cool spot.


Intelligentsia Cafe

Intelligentsia is not quite as unique as Wormhole, but still a great spot. This is more of a chain in Chicago which can be nice if you don’t feel like traveling too far. They are known for their foam art and wide coffee selection. Don’t worry if you are not a big coffee drinker though, they do have smoothies and pastries to choose from!


Sip Coffee House

The third site on my list is Sip Coffee House. This spot is great when you are looking for an energetic place. There are large windows that welcome natural light, delicious pastries and a whole range of caffeinated beverages.  One of my favorite aspects of this coffee house is that they also have an outdoor garden portion. If the weather is right, you can study outside while enjoying your purchases. It’s great!

My time here in Chicago has just begun and I have already found some great places to hide out. As the months pass, I plan to continue to get to know this city. By the time I graduate, I hope to have an even longer list for you full of the ultimate study spots in the area.


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5 Ways to Deal with Stress at ICO

5 Ways to Deal with Stress at ICO

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Blogs

Exams are well underway, intramural play has started, weekly meetings are scheduled. We are pretty much into the bulk of the quarter. With that being said, things are hectic. I think I speak for all students when I say: we need an outlet.

When I say “outlet,” I am referring to a way to relieve stress, blow off steam, clear your head, or whatever you want to call it. Everyone functions differently and everyone has a different outlet. With all the different students at ICO and all the resources, there is something for everyone. Here is a list of some of the common techniques students use to de-stress at ICO.

1. The Fitness Center

The Fitness Center is open pretty much from 6am-11pm every day. So, whether you’re a night owl or a morning person, you can get your workout in. There is always someone on staff to answer your questions or help you with a specific piece of equipment or exercise. This includes group fitness classes like Cycling and Kick Boxing if you’re into that scene. If you want a personalized coach, there are Fit Coaches available to meet with you one-on-one to develop a personalized plan to achieve your fitness goals. In addition to this, they have every kind of equipment you can think of. This is my go-to de-stresser. There is nothing quite like getting in a workout, listening to some loud music, and releasing some natural endorphins.

2. Extracurricular activities 

This is a broad category and most people don’t think of a private optometry school being big on the extracurriculars, right? Wrong. There are IM Sports including volleyball, basketball, soccer, flag football, baseball, and numerous others. And, you’d be surprised at how competitive some leagues are as well as how relaxed and fun some of the others are. I personally am involved in soccer for now, but who knows what other teams I’ll end up playing on by the end of the year?

Besides just sports, if you live in the RC, there are planned events that are usually free. These include weekend trips to Bulls games, Shedd Aquarium, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a great way to experience the city and get away from campus.

3. Clubs and Organizations

There is every kind of organization you think of related to optometry at ICO. To list a few, the Private Practice Club, the Spanish Club, the Canadian Club, and the Corneal Lens Society. Getting involved in one of these is a great way to get away from the academic demands of optometry and see the field as a whole from a different perspective. They almost always have free food, too, from local Chicago places which is a definite bonus.

4. Reading and/or Movies 

Netflix. What college student hasn’t succumbed to binge watching a season or two of a show on Netflix? I certainly did in undergrad and those habits seemed to have carried over.

Outside of Netflix, there are plenty of movies or books to check out from the library during a study break. Many of my classmates use this technique to give them a break from the books. I personally have not gotten into recreational reading so I am not speaking from experience, but I am told that it’s nice to read something other than a text book or your notes every once in a while.

5. Keeping in touch with family and old friends 

Many of my classmates do this. They will call home every day just to talk to their parents or a sibling or an old friend. It feels good to reach out and see what is going on outside of the ICO world. I keep in touch with a buddy from high school in addition to talking to my parents every once in a while. Getting away from the demands of school and talking to someone who has nothing to do with optometry can be quite therapeutic.


The better I get to know my classmates, the more and more differences I see between them- especially when it comes to their outlets and how they handle the demands of school. This is only a small list of some of the ways students here relieve stress. Like I said, everyone is different so naturally everyone has a different method of stress relief. Regardless of what that outlet is, ICO can facilitate it and in the end, it all adds to the ICO experience.

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A Promise to Myself

Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 in Blogs

I’m the kind of person who likes to have a little bit of everything in his life. Variety is necessary for me to stay sane. I tend to get restless when I’m missing some aspect of my life, but then again, I also get bored when there’s too much of something in my life.

So for second year, I promised myself that I would find my balance and do everything I wanted to do to the best of my ability. I was going to study harder, work harder, go out with my classmates and party harder, explore the depths of my mind and psyche through deep introspection, and attain levels of relaxation rivaling those of a boulder in a rock garden. I can say with confidence that I’ve fulfilled the first half of that promise (study, work, and partying).

Having survived first year, I have a pretty good handle on studying now. It’s an art form. You have to set the “mood.” Yes, you could just jump into it, but where’s the fun in that? My process is simple: set up your work space, make distractions invisible, be comfortable, follow a study method, and take breaks. When you do that, the studying comes a little more easily.

I’ve taken a work-study position as a tutor. It was necessary to offset at least some of my spending. I also get to work on my communication skills. Having to explain concepts to students and adapt to their way of learning is giving me some insight into how I express ideas. Tutoring also helps me brush up on first year material, which is awesome because it’s like I’m getting paid to study for boards.

And now: partying. I’ve gone out more in the first month of second year than I did for all of first year. I’ve had a blast with my class mates and increased my tolerance for alcohol (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad). So yeah. It has been fun.

It hasn’t all been about good vibes, productivity and fun though.

I still feels like I’m on the grind. First year felt like running 20 miles along a manicured path every day. This year feels like going for a 10 mile run on the same path, only now, it has been severely neglected. I’m still spending a significant amount of my time at school or studying – but that is what I signed up for when I applied to ICO. I shouldn’t be complaining. It just gets repetitive. It’s too much of the same thing for me.

The other problem is that my promise has been fulfilled at the expense of sleep, nutrition… physical and mental exhaustion. There isn’t enough time in a day to do everything I want to do.

Anything done well takes a significant amount of time. It seems impossible to fit all of my interests into my daily life (and trust me, there’s a lot.)

Over the past week or two I’ve been wrestling with the realization that I’ve expected too much of myself. I’m starting to find my footing; I need to be more realistic if I want to survive second year. I’ve imposed limits on some of the things I do so that I have more time for my priorities and I’m using my calendar to help manage my time.

I’ve also been catching up on sleep, which is nice.

My promise has been tweaked a bit. The emphasis is no longer on work hard, play hard. I need to be realistic after all.

I’m kind of partied out for a while, so my focus now is on “quiet social engagements.” School has always been a priority, but I need to be more organized when it comes to my work and studies. I’ve cut down a bit on work-study hours now that tests have started. I need to prioritize my health and rest – I’m thinking of no-work Sundays. And if at all possible, I would like to read and explore my thoughts in my spare time. That would probably be on Sundays. The rest of my interests will be pursued on a how-I-feel-in-the-moment basis.

So yea. What have you promised yourself?

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Breathe and Bust out those A’s!

Posted by on Sep 23, 2015 in Blogs

Although I am only about 1 month into my optometry career, it has become pretty clear that obtaining my goal of becoming an eye doctor will be a lot of hard work! Take this week for example: we have 3 exams, a lab practical, and two quizzes. Although there is a lot to do, it isn’t too bad because I am still doing what I love.

The thing is, even though I enjoy what I am doing, it can still be hard not to get stressed out and overwhelmed. Have no fear though- I have some fun tips to help decrease that built up anxiety. My not-so-secret secret- exercise.


Exercise has always been a way for me to relieve some stress and it is a path I highly recommend. Along with this, I also recommend joining group fitness classes if you have the opportunity. Now I may be a little biased (I am a group fitness instructor) but I find that having an instructor present to push you and motivate you is the best part about group fitness. …Well, that and the fun music! Here at ICO we have a number of group fitness classes to choose from ranging from yoga to kickboxing. Whether you want to kick your worries away or relax in child’s pose there are plenty of choices for you.











I am currently teaching spinning and kickboxing and I love it. This is a great way for some of my classmates and I to take an hour break from studying and blow off some steam. Some classes are in the morning and others are taught in the afternoon (for those who aren’t really early birds.) Overall, you can find a schedule online or at the school stating the classes for the month. Again, it is by far my favorite way to blow of some steam and get ready to bust out those A’s. Come join!


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Read the Last Page First

Read the Last Page First

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in Blogs

You’ve been told never to read the last page first. It ruins the book, of course. Instead of wondering if Harry Potter defeats Voldemort as you read every suspenseful word, or having doubts as to whether Frodo is able to destroy the ring, you already know. You ruined the entire book by succumbing to your curiosity.

Well folks, I let the curiosity get the best of me, too. So I’m warning you: this post is going to be chock full of spoiler alerts.

SPOILER ALERT: In 3 years and some odd months, I’m going to become an optometrist. In the midst of studying for three exams this week (turns out that it’s just a warm up for next week,) I started losing sight of the bigger picture. It’s easy to forget that you’re not a coffee guzzling robot and that you actually have a purpose in life; this is the beginning, but there is, indeed, an end.

SPOILER ALERT: I will make it out on the other side. The last time I doubted this truth was about 20 minutes ago. I worried I would have to drag my bed to class with me today because there was no physical way I was able to leave the covers. I was wrong. I was able to not only leave the covers, but open my notes to do some last minute studying (err, cramming) before our exam.

SPOILER ALERT: My life will not end if I make a mistake. Apparently, I’m human and mistakes happen. I might answer #11 incorrectly on the Anatomy exam (even though I know the answer,) or I might stay up too late the night before a test and pay for it the next morning as I’m pep talking my extraocular muscles to keep my eyes open. I might even repeat a mistake I vowed never to repeat… but guess what? Life continues.

SPOILER ALERT: Optometry school is a TON of work, but I read the last page. It turns out that I’m already making some of the best memories I’ll ever have. Instead of only referring to optometry school as a lot of work, the word “fun” will also be in that sentence. Apparently, I’ve already met some lifelong friends, and apparently, I will miss being here once I graduate.

I’ve never been more excited to read the last page first as I am now. This is the beginning of the rest of my life. While I know it’s going to be a wild ride, and I know there will be a lot of 90 degree drops and ambushing loop-d-loops, I’ll have that sweet ending to look forward to in: “Celina Goes to Optometry School.”



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