ICO Blog http://blog.ico.edu Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:22:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Look into the Past http://blog.ico.edu/a-look-into-the-past/ http://blog.ico.edu/a-look-into-the-past/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:22:47 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5739 On a Saturday morning, many like to sleep in, some hit the gym, and others like to catch up on their to-do lists.  I decided to leave the house, grab a cup of coffee, and study the morning away.  Normally I would stay at home on a Saturday morning, even to study.  But now that our son is 2 months, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t get much done.  I am so grateful for my supportive husband who willingly stays home with the kiddos on days like this.  With my Starbucks gift card in hand and my optics textbook in my bag, I started off for my dose of caffeine.  Contemplating with Coffee

As I made my way through chapter 5, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation about ICO from what must have been a first year student.  I heard phrases such as “food from the cafeteria” to “we have finals on Saturdays” to “White Coat Ceremony.”  That took me back to a year ago.

This time last year, the class of 2018 had already taken two exams- Biochemistry and Human Anatomy.  We had already received our white coats, and most of us had our daily routine figured out.  It has been a whole year.  I’m not sure about the rest of my classmates, but it feels like first year was a totally different life- a life that we survived.

For the first time, I learned that having two to three exams a week was normal.  That a 3-inch binder wouldn’t fit all my anatomy notes.  That the normal course-load for winter quarter could change, forcing you to take neuro and anatomy at the same time.  That practicals were scary, and I could never practice enough.  That pregnancy brain was not a valid excuse to do poorly on an exam.  That snow days, although rare, do exist in grad school.  But most importantly, I learned that all the pain of first year was worth it.

Class of 2019, you now have your white coats.  You have your routines.  It won’t be easy, and the light at the end of the tunnel may not be very bright, but you will get through.  It’s worth every moment you spend listening to lectures, studying for exams, and getting ready for practicals. 

Second year is a little different.  Everything seems to flow a little better.  Instead of school just being “school,” it has become more of a way of life.  Instead of rushing to finish studying, the textbooks seem more interesting.  Maybe it’s because I know summer break is a thing of the past, and it’s full-time from here on out.  But I think it’s mostly because I view this more as a career and less as class or homework.  I am now becoming an optometrist.

I think my family is starting to realize this, too.  This afternoon, after the studying was over, my daughter and I decided to have some eye-related fun: googly craft eyes and “Parents” magazine.  In the midst of the studying, let’s not forget to goof around.  Congrats on receiving your white coats, Class of 2019, and let the fun begin!

Googly Cat

Googly Fam



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“Welcome to Doctor School” http://blog.ico.edu/welcome-to-doctor-school/ http://blog.ico.edu/welcome-to-doctor-school/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:14:23 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5752 WOW. It hardly feels like only two weeks have gone by since I arrived at ICO.

The first few days of my journey here were a daze of getting settled in, Orientation actives, and explorations of this beautiful city. In the blink of an eye, my class was able to mingle amongst ourselves while being introduced to many of the amazingly kind second years, as well as faculty/staff. I am so impressed by what a fantastic job ICO and the Orientation team did to make us feel so welcome. All of the upperclassman were incredibly warm and approachable- something that I definitely appreciated since I’ll take all the advice I can get! I was even set up with a mentor and a “big” who I could contact in case I have questions further down the line-, or just want to talk to someone who’s been through the ups and downs that graduate school is notorious for.

Where I've been spending a lot of time recently...and I mean A LOT.

My desk at the RC-where I’ve been spending a lot of time recently…and I mean A LOT.

Most schools only show you what they want you to see during your interview process. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about what the actual ICO would be like. To my relief, what I saw on interview day is exactly what I have been experiencing as a real student thus far.

One thing I was told during my interview was that at ICO, you “hit the ground running.” Boy, is that true! Our schedules might be jam packed, but you can tell that the professors here want you to learn and do well. They teach us at a fast pace, but are very fair in their expectations for us. Most of them manage to slip in a little bit of advice or a joke or two throughout lecture. My favorite line thus far is, “Your patients are not going to give you extra credit and neither will I.” I can tell that I am going to learn A LOT during my time here- both about eyecare and life.

My new motivational background for my phone.

Motivational background for my phone. Hey-it works!

Dr. Bakkum’s words of “Welcome to doctor school” ring in my ears often as I experience new things here. It’s a great feeling. I even got to spend my first “late night” in the Eyepod this week practicing taking auto-refracts and IOPs with many of my classmates. Along with practicing skills that we will eventually need for clinic (and getting a bunch of hilarious Snapchats,) it felt SO good to be physically interacting with equipment that we will be using in our real careers. For lack of a better word, it felt very “doctorly”.

Auto refractor

In the midst of preparations for our first round of exams, ICO gave us a break this past Saturday by presenting us with our White Coats.  The ceremony was beautifully done and an emotional one for many, my parents and myself included. This simple, white, fabric has now publicly solidified our student status of being in “doctor school”. Now its up to us to acquire the knowledge that we will need to live the part!

White Coat Ceremony

After receiving my white coat.

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What it Means to Receive a White Coat http://blog.ico.edu/what-it-means-to-receive-a-white-coat/ http://blog.ico.edu/what-it-means-to-receive-a-white-coat/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:52:28 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5747 On Saturday, August 29th our class of 2019 received our white coats. Personally, I had been looking forward to this moment since my acceptance to ICO.


To me, receiving a white coat is a symbol of our past, present and future.

The white coat is a symbol of our past because it shows how far we have come. Each of us has worked extremely hard to be here.  We have come from all over the United States (and Canada) to Chicago to pursue a career in optometry. Our backgrounds range from business, to biochemistry, to English, and our accents are just as unique. Some come from places where the snow rarely stops, and others have never experienced a snowy winter. Although we all are very different and come from different places, one thing is similar: we are each here to become the best eye doctors we can be.

In the present, we are facing a challenge. The white coat is a symbol of this challenge.  We have been given thousands of pages of note (yes thousands!) and will take an average of 3 exams a week. We are already spending our nights with our noses in our books, trying our best to stay on top of our work. In the present, we are balancing these challenges with curiosity. We want to explore the new city we have not yet gotten to know and find the best places in Chicago to study. As we continue to explore and challenge ourselves, we are all coming to the realization of what this coat really means. A white coat is the symbol of a clinician. Although we are only at the beginning of our clinical education and patient care, we are looking towards the future at what is up ahead.

The white coat reminds us of our future. It fills us with excitement about what is to come! In 3 years and 9 months, we will graduate from ICO and enter the world of optometric physicians. Some of us will take over practice, some will start practices cold. Some will work in hospital settings, industry, or research. Others will sit on the throne of a vision care empire. Together, we will all proudly wear our coats as representatives of ICO’s graduating class of 2019.

After overcoming the challenges placed in front of us, we will receive our doctoral hoods and be given the title “Doctor.” Receiving a white coat is a symbol of all this and so much more. It inspires each and every student at ICO to be the best that we can be and achieve the goals we have worked so hard towards.

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A City of Standards http://blog.ico.edu/a-city-of-standards/ http://blog.ico.edu/a-city-of-standards/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:31:36 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5640 I recently attended a baseball game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were playing the Tigers. As I was at the game, I realized the standard of professional sports that Chicago has established for itself. Being from Michigan, I got a similar experience in Detroit.

I grew up going to Tigers games. I attended my first game before I could walk. This was when the Tigers still played at Tiger Stadium. As I got older, the Pistons were always great to watch, too (at least up until circa 2005.) I also got into hockey recently, and went to my first Red Wings game this past winter. While historically, the Detroit Lions haven’t had as much success as the Wings have, things seem to be picking up for the team. Also, there is nothing as traditional as watching the Lions (usually lose) on Thanksgiving Day.

Needless to say, professional sporting events are a someone significant part of my life. Call me spoiled, but I’m used to living in a state that provides good professional teams. After moving to Chicago, I have realized that this city is able to cater to those expectations.

For basketball, the Bulls have soaked up a lot more media attention since acquiring Derek Rose. I think I speak for all Bulls fans when I say I have high expectations for the team in the near future. For hockey, the Blackhawks have clearly made a name for themselves. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they won another cup during the remainder of my time at ICO. For American league baseball, you probably won’t ever find me cheering for the White Sox, but the stadium is too close to the school for me not to attend a game. For National league baseball, attending a Cubs game at Wrigley Field is just about as classic as you can get when it comes to sports. They are one of two teams left in the MLB (the other team being the Boston Red Sox) that are still playing at the same ball park where the team originated. As for football, the Bears are another team that you probably won’t find me cheering for, but, again, Soldier Field is so close to the school the chances of me not attending a game during my time at ICO is slim to none.

Regardless of where your loyalty lies, you can still come to Chicago and not be disappointed with the performance or atmosphere of the game. You can’t argue with the sporting opportunities available in this city. Whatever standard you have when it comes to sports, a Chicago team will reach it. The history is rich with each of the teams and so is the success. This, of course, is on top of all the other entertainment, cultural, and musical opportunities that are also available in this city. If you want to attend a quality sporting event, Chicago is the place to be.

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Stay the Course http://blog.ico.edu/stay-the-course/ http://blog.ico.edu/stay-the-course/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 15:44:53 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5670 I just finished the first week of my second year here at ICO along with my colleagues and classmates of 2018. This is a huge accomplishment for me, and maybe it was for some of you as well.

When classes ended in May earlier this year, I had the whole summer staring me in the face. Total freedom from studying, taking exams, and completing practicals never felt better. But with that freedom came the taste of something I have never yearned for in the past.

I have been a mom for 6 ½ years now. I went through all of undergrad as a single mom. It wasn’t easy, but I got through it, and I had an amazing support system back home in Central Wisconsin. The summer before first year, I got married, and our family of three set off on an adventure to Chicago. Shortly after classes started first year, we found out we were pregnant and were due in June (2015). The plan still stayed the same- graduate from ICO, apply for a residency, and make optometry a lifelong career. Then classes ended, optometry was removed from the forefront of my mind, and being a stay at home became my only role for a few months.

That’s when everything changed. I realized the passion I had to stay at home with my children- to be there for them as much as I possibly could. That passion had been hidden for so long, and slowly, it started to rise over my passion for optometry… or so I thought.

My son was born 8 days late on June 29th.  We became a family of four. I continued to question if coming back to ICO was the right choice for me. I was torn; could I be an excellent mother AND an excellent student? Would I ever be able to become an excellent optometrist?

I asked for advice from several people- my friends who stay at home with their children and my friends who are full-time employees as well as mothers. One friend said, “You’ll never regret staying at home with your children.” I wondered, would I ever regret not going back to school? I wish I could talk to future Talitha- the one who continued and graduated in three years and had a job in optometry lined up- to see what she thought and felt.

The closest I could come was to continue seeking advice from those who are in a different season of life. Someone I highly respect and who works in optometry while having three children said this, “It never gets easy being a wife, mom, and life-long learner. It sure has a lot of blessings though. I encourage you to stay the course and keep praying.”

Some people have wondered how I will do it all. Others have just come out and said, “You can’t. You should take a year off.” Some have said it isn’t worth it, while others think it’s worth more than can be imagined.

Now I know that most of you haven’t had a child over the summer, but maybe some of you have had this thought: “Is this really what I am supposed to do?” Summer may have given you that taste of freedom that we won’t ever feel again. If you decided to come back, I congratulate you. It isn’t as easy as some people might think. Now that we all are here, back on campus at ICO, I think we all know where we belong.

We have picked up our new (and expensive!) equipment- our BIOs and lenses. Some of us have started clinic, taking patients with a fellow classmate. It is becoming more real. We are becoming optometrists. We have the opportunity and responsibility that not everyone is capable of experiencing. However, just because we are back home at ICO, just because we can find a spectacle prescription for a patient, just because we have all of our equipment… we aren’t finished yet.

We may have those days that we don’t think we can do it- that we can’t complete the journey we started August of 2014. But “I encourage you to stay the course and keep on praying.” We can do this! Here’s to another year together. We are in this together. Good luck!

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Hello, Chicago! http://blog.ico.edu/hello-chicago/ http://blog.ico.edu/hello-chicago/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:01:56 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5521

My move-in experience was a little different from most of my classmates. Instead of moving in the RC on Wednesday like everyone else, I moved in on a Sunday, 3 days before Move-In Day. My family wanted to help me move in, but my dad couldn’t take weekdays off of work, so we opted to move in during the weekend.

We drove 14 hours from Texas, and even stopped in St. Louis to take pictures with the Gateway Arch before we made it into Chicago. Talk about a long drive! I even got to witness the endless miles of Illinois cornfields during our drive. All was well until I realized I would be alone for a few days. Everyone was supposed to move in Wednesday, after all. What was I going to do when my parents dropped me off at the RC and made their drive back home to Texas?! It was an intimidating thought at first, but it dawned on me that I was in the city of Chicago and I could do lots of things to occupy my time before my classmates arrived. This was a great opportunity to not miss out on exploring the city.

There are so many awesome things to do in Chicago and every day I would wake up at 9AM and set my agenda to do something different in the city.

Monday, August 10th
At first, it was a little daunting to think about me exploring the city by myself. Luckily, I have a friend who lives in the Chicago suburbs. We decided to meet up in Chinatown and try a restaurant we’ve never been to. We ate at a restaurant called Strings Ramen Shop; it was only a 20 minute bus ride from ICO.  If you ever want to try ramen on steroids, I recommend trying out this place. It’s not your typical $.50 ramen out of the packet! Afterwards, we headed north to Lincoln Park to try out Molly’s Cupcakes. These are probably the best cupcakes I have ever had! I definitely recommend all the cupcake lovers out there to try this place out.

Tuesday, August 11th
One of my goals was to explore the Lakefront Trail. Luckily, ICO is ~1 mile away from Lake Michigan. I decided that I was going to walk/jog the trail until I reached Grant Park in Downtown Chicago. I know I would never jog outside in the Texas heat but here in Chicago, the weather is perfect for jogging… for now at least! I stopped at Museum Campus and sat along the sides of the lake while taking in the mesmerizing Chicago skyline. Moments like this made me appreciate the city of Chicago and its vast amount of buildings that makes up its skyline. After hanging out in Grant Park, I headed to Opart Thai. The food at Opart Thai was phenomenal! I’m a big fan of Thai food so this place definitely hit the spot.

Wednesday, August 12th
Since exploring the Lakefront Trail was fun the first time, I decided to do it again! This time, my goal was to walk all the way to Navy Pier. I probably walked ~5 miles from ICO to Navy Pier. I even made it to the Wabash bridge to take a nice photo of the Chicago River. After I explored Navy Pier, I ate lunch at a European cafe called Iguana Cafe. The cafe was off the Blue Line, so it was very easy to get to. Afterwards, I stopped by Target and grabbed some school supplies and things I needed for my room before heading back to ICO.

I will never regret the opportunity I had to explore the city myself, especially when school is about to get busy. Exploring the city is only a glimpse of more memories I have up ahead at ICO. Now, I can explore the city with my classmates. It’s always more fun with a big group of people!


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MBTA→ CTA: First Week at ICO! http://blog.ico.edu/mbta-cta-first-week-at-ico/ http://blog.ico.edu/mbta-cta-first-week-at-ico/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:33:57 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5565 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.

Screenshot 2015-08-20 at 1.49.11 PM

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!

Screenshot 2015-08-20 at 1.53.32 PM

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 http://blog.ico.edu/i-love-yall/ http://blog.ico.edu/i-love-yall/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 17:21:35 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5612 IMG_4184

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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Transitions http://blog.ico.edu/transitions/ http://blog.ico.edu/transitions/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:44:32 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5539 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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How to summer at home http://blog.ico.edu/how-to-summer-at-home/ http://blog.ico.edu/how-to-summer-at-home/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 20:37:56 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5493 1. food (mainly ice cream)

2. friends

3. festivities

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