Is this actually happening? With a blink of an eye, grad week is upon us. I will be honest with you. We’ve hoped for its quick delivery, crossed days off our calendars, and have learned all too well what we can accomplish in 12-week periods. Now that grad week is here, though, I am sorry that it is. Commencement means leaving friends who have inspired me and faculty mentors that have become friends.
It would be a gross oversight to not reflect on these last four years during this week filled with celebration, achievement, and friends. It serves us right to think about the work we have done, and more importantly, for what purpose. For many in the class of 2017, we view the end of optometry school as the last step in our schooling. It is light at the end of the tunnel, the wheels touching the ground after a long flight, and the stamp of approval that we’ve made it. However, as time goes by, it is easy to forget how we got to the optometry school finish line. That is, enduring over 150 exams and practicals, hundreds of hours of studying, many nights of celebrating in our beloved Chicago, 3 rigorous board examinations (or 5 if you’re Canadian), and 4 externship rotations. While we all found different struggles and areas of excellence, we all made it to this moment.
What we sometimes forget is that graduation is not just for the graduate. It is for the families that have poured their love, endless support, and resources into us. It is for our friends and significant others who have had to put up with our incessant remarks of, “Sorry, I can’t make it. I have too much studying to do,” for the last four years. It is for all of the people in our lives who did not give up on us or forget about us when we couldn’t be physically or emotionally present. It is for the people we called in utter panic and distress when an exam or practical did not go our way (Sorry, Dad and Miheer!) It is for our faculty who have watched us grow from timid first years into confident and methodical optometrists. Graduation signifies that we all have made it- together.
So much of my identity has been the Illinois College of Optometry, and while I’m excited for the next chapter of residency in Cleveland, Ohio, I can’t help but think how this institution has been my home. It is where I have rejoiced, cried, made many mistakes, but most importantly, where I’ve grown. I can honestly say that a different Rina Sheth is exiting these doors than the one who walked in. I have only my friends, family, and ICO to thank for that because I am grateful for the time and effort that has been spent on me.
To my fellow graduates, I would like to offer some sentiments that I’ve come across while going through this last year of externships. Firstly, never stop the active pursuit of being better than you were yesterday, and not as good as you’ll be tomorrow. Secondly, now we will be without an institution that, every day for the last four years, has encouraged our ideas and growth. Don’t forget to stop and think about the kind of people (and optometrists) you are. Keep pushing yourself, always. Finally, and most importantly, congratulations! This is a milestone we have finally reached! I do believe that for all of us, the best is yet to come. We are the Class of 2017!