ICO Blog http://blog.ico.edu Illinois College of Optometry's Official Blog Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:00:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Thoughts Going into Second Year http://blog.ico.edu/thoughts-going-into-second-year/ http://blog.ico.edu/thoughts-going-into-second-year/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:46:10 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5384 I have two weeks before I leave Toronto for Chicago again. Things are starting to speed up now. There’s a lot to do and get ready for.

This will be my second year at ICO, and I’m told that it’ll be different.

This year, I’ve moved out of the RC into a small apartment complex that was once known as Unity Hall. The rooms are slightly smaller, but the ceilings are high and I get two arched windows in my room. That’s a fair trade, I think. I still have to pick up some furniture from students leaving for rotations, and I might have to go to IKEA to get more. I have to move belongings that I’ve left with friends who have been kind enough to keep them for me while I’ve been away, and I have to figure out what I still need to get for the apartment.

I just got international student insurance last night. I have to remember to contact my landlord the day before my 12-hour bus trip so that he’ll be available to give me my keys. To be honest, a bus trip wasn’t my first choice, but I want to take my guitar with me and airlines don’t have the best reputation with transporting musical instruments.

Now, there is a possibility that I may have to go to school in the States in the middle of a recession, while the Canadian dollar is expected to lose more of it’s value. Losing almost a quarter of the dollar value when converting from CAD to USD isn’t fun. I can only imagine the debt I’ll be in by the time school is over, but that’s life, and I’ll make it back one day (far, far in the future).

I suppose these are the kinds of stressors that everyone faces in optometry school, but they aren’t always obvious when you decide to pursue it in the first place.

This year, I’ll be using the skills I’ve spent so much time polishing in labs in the actual clinic. I’ll have new responsibilities to carry, expectations to live up to and challenges to conquer. I still have a lot to learn academically and clinically.

I also have hopes for myself – hopes of being the kind of person, friend, son, brother, student and clinician I want to be. There are things I want to do and learn outside of class- new things I want to try, and fears I want to master.

There’s a lot on my plate. I know that, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences so far, it’s that I can do anything as long as I am dedicated to my goal- and if dedication isn’t enough, I know I’m adaptable enough to change my approach.

Despite all my worries, it’s going to be a good year. I can feel it. It will be a roller coaster ride of beauty, the unexpected, fun, chaos, rude awakenings, shattered ego and glorious triumph… and that’s ok, because I love thrill rides.

I’m nervous and excited. I know that nothing will go the way I plan, but that’s part of the fun.

So… how is this year going to be for you?

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Sharing My Eyes http://blog.ico.edu/sharing-my-eyes/ http://blog.ico.edu/sharing-my-eyes/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:12:13 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5368 11053082_10152872372397587_1164785968262527537_n

This summer, I was lucky enough to have one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life, literally. I worked with a summer camp program for teens who have lost all or part of their vision. Although the program is only a few months long, it has definitely been one of the most inspiring things I have ever done and continues to reassure me that I am following the right career path.

Each time I leave work, I am amazed. The students in this program do not dwell on what they have lost. They continue to challenge themselves and work hard to regain their independence. During the day, they each have classes to learn crucial skills such as using the subway or doing laundry. At night, they are able to connect with each other and share their stories. Boy, do they have interesting stories!

These students are from all over the United States, and many of them are the only visually impaired student at their school. They share what it is like being treated differently because of a disability. Yet, from where I stand, they each seem to push past that and maintain a positive outlook on life. These teens do not let their lack of sight limit them.

Part of what I do for the program is helping out with field trips. I am there to share my eyes. When I first started the job, I figured we would take trips to a park every once in a while or something along those lines. I could not have been further off target.

With this students I have: gone all over Boston (using the subway to do so,) explored the woods on hikes, embraced the chilly Massachusetts waters at the beach, traveled through historic forts, taken on a ropes course 25 feet in the trees, fished (I was in charge of the worms,) gone for horseback rides, and so much more! Next week, we plan to go to an amusement park!


To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much independence they had when the program started. I figured I would be running around lending my eyesight to help lead them everywhere. Although I am happy to do that, I only have to do it occasionally. Almost every one of the campers asks me if they can try whatever task they are facing alone before I help them. They take the time to learn as opposed to relying on my vision. That is something that leaves me in awe- they fight for their independence in a world that is so reliant on sight.

I have gotten to know each student very well- their likes and dislikes, their future plans, some of their past. I will miss them when the program is over, but I am confident that they will go on to live their lives fully. Each of these teens sees the world a little differently, but they don’t let that stop them- despite the doubts of others. Aside from their eye sight, they are just like any other teen and I am thankful for the lessons they have taught me.

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Don’t Panic… http://blog.ico.edu/dont-panic/ http://blog.ico.edu/dont-panic/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:53:23 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5365 It has been almost a year since I started ICO, and boy, has a lot happened! Am I happy to be at ICO? Incredibly. I have met some of the best people here, I have learned so much about myself (and about the eyes,) and I have found something that I really enjoy.

However, if you would have asked me during the first week of classes if I had made the right decision, I probably wouldn’t have said all this. In fact, I actually told Beth Karmis that I thought I had made a huge mistake coming to ICO, that I didn’t want to be an eye doctor, that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and that I applied to optometry school because I didn’t want to apply to medical school. Oh, and I was saying all this while bawling my eyes out (I hate crying in front of people!)

Was it true what I was saying? No. So, why was I saying these things? I was saying these things because, for the last 18 hours, I had been having my first major panic attack. When you have one of these attacks, you seem to say anything that could help you get away from the “dangerous” situation.

Lets back up- 18 hours prior to this moment. It was the second day of classes, and we still had two more classes to go. I was fine… until I wasn’t. My heart started to hurt, I had a lump in my throat that made it impossible to breathe or talk, and my eyes were filling with tears. I excused myself and ran back to my room. I cried from three until midnight, and 2AM, I called my mom and said she had to come get me. She and my grandpa arrived 8 hours later, and had no idea what to do.

After a long talk between Beth, my mom, and I, we had a few options: try to get through classes until White Coat, go home for the week, or quit. My mom was afraid that if I went home for a week, I would never return. Round and round we went, until my grandpa said, “Jesus Christ, Melissa!” He decided he and my mom were going to leave me and return for White Coat in two weeks. As they were leaving, my second major panic attack began, and it didn’t stop until I fell asleep at home in my mom’s bed 8 hours later.

My mom had assumed that, as soon as I was in the car heading for Minnesota, it would all stop. It didn’t. I started to panic because I knew I wanted to be at ICO, and I wanted to be studying to become an eye doctor. I ultimately felt lost.

Fortunately, my grandma has a great relationship with her doctors. The next day, I had two doctor appointments. One was to a psychiatrist, and the other to a family doctor. Both said the same thing: Panic disorder. The psychiatrist said that my panic attacks were the kind that didn’t tire my body out, and therefore they lasted longer than the usual attack. The family doctor said that everyone has a battery- a reservoir- and unfortunately, I had gone into optometry school with both empty. I was exhausted.

I ended up being medicated, and I decided to head back to ICO. Unfortunately/fortunately, while I was getting used to the new medication, it would actually cause more panic attacks for the next three weeks. Family members had to take turns staying in Chicago for the time being. Therefore, I was struggling to stop panicking, stay atop my studies, hang out with family members everyday, and try to make friends.

I failed my first exam (biochemistry.) My mom said it was OK, Beth said it was OK, and Dr. Z said it was OK. I had a panic attack and bawled again while looking over the exam in her office. However, I did laugh after this because I was so embarrassed, and guess what? It was OK. Now, I’m preparing to start my second year, and kicking it off by helping with Orientation (who would have guessed?)

So, to incoming first years: It will be ok. They say first year is the hardest. While I have nothing to compare it to as of yet, you can get through it, no matter the bumps along the way. I found out that people are willing to help; just ask. Talk to your roommate, or Beth Karmis, your teacher, or someone from the year above (like me.) Everyone wants to help you in the difficult times, even if it has nothing to do with optometry.

As Rob Schneider said in The Waterboy: 



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Fortune Cookies Know Best http://blog.ico.edu/fortune-cookies-know-best/ http://blog.ico.edu/fortune-cookies-know-best/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 18:06:08 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5319 image1 (4)image1 (5)Morning Coffee

This morning for breakfast I had a rather hefty cup of espresso with exactly one sugar cube and two splashes of skim milk; typically it’s only one splash but I was extremely tired and my hand slipped. To accompany this brain booster, I had a fortune cookie from last week’s takeout. I’m glad I saved it instead of devouring it post egg drop soup. I always knew these crisp, golden treats had an eerie way of predicting the future (after all, they are fortune cookies) but this morning made me a true believer.

It read: “You are soon going to change your present line of work”

This got me thinking about how true this statement really is. In exactly two weeks I’ll be leaving my job as a LensCrafters technician and I’ll be starting my transition into becoming an ICO optometrist. Soon, I’ll be stepping onto campus and calling the RC my home. In between sips of coffee I let that sink in.

Although I’ll still be in the eye care profession, I consider my line of work to be changing drastically. I am going to become someone that others look up to. I am going to have the power to help people, maybe even change their lives. Wow, what a cool thing to think about. I hear from students and faculty that the ICO process gives you a complete mind, body, and spirit makeover to shape you into a successful optometrist… kind of like what a fortune cookie must go through in the manufacturing process, right?

Please enjoy the following cheesy analogy:

Per YouTube, fortune cookies start out as a bag of sugar, flour, and other extraneous ingredients that are thrown into a huge vat for mixing. I’d like to think that I have all the necessary “ingredients” to become an optometrist, and the ICO curriculum is the mixing vessel that is prepping me to become a professional clinician. As first year progresses, I imagine as students we will become more robust versions of ourselves and will be ready for the next step: the oven. Or, if you prefer, we can call this second year. Here, we will come out steaming hot from first year and be ready to take form as a more experienced student. We are no longer a one dimensional hotcake, but we have some grooves and indentations and are eager to be folded into a pretty little cookie… errr, I mean optometrist.

During the fortune cookie manufacturing process, one batch of cookies can have as many as 5,000 different fortunes in their lot. I think as ICO students we will be no different; I anticipate our education here to encourage our diversity and embrace our range of purposes for wanting to pursue an education in optometry. Once ICO helps fold and mold us into the right shape, we will be neatly packaged, boxed up, and shipped out, excited to become someone else’s morning espresso accompaniment. Or, if you want to be all technical about it, excited to make an impression on someone else’s life.

I’d be lying if I said this little cookie today didn’t cause me to think about my future and consider the metamorphosis I’ll soon undergo. I’m feeling pretty fortunate to be where I’m at in life. Hey, maybe I should take my lucky numbers and go play the lottery 😉

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OM 2015 http://blog.ico.edu/om-2015/ http://blog.ico.edu/om-2015/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 15:45:19 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5216  

think about your eyes… in Seattle




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Neighbors to the North http://blog.ico.edu/neighbors-to-the-north/ http://blog.ico.edu/neighbors-to-the-north/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 21:27:43 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5276 IMG_0198
One of the great things about going to school at the Illinois College of Optometry is that you meet people from a variety of places. From the East to the West coast, from the South to the very coldest North, students are from everywhere- including Canada.

There are a few differences between The United States and Canada. While visiting my boyfriend (a fellow student) in Windsor, we started a list of things that are different between our two countries:

1. Alcohol, but mostly beer. Apparently, American beer is too light and watered down. Americans also like their IPAs and craft brews, which some Canadians do not like. Also, alcohol is cheaper in the States. A case of Budweiser was $40 in Windsor this summer!

2. Official Languages. My boyfriend’s first language was French, and then he learned English; both are official languages of Canada. While I speak English and Spanish, the States do not have an official language. However, Spanish is much more common than French in most places.


3. Guns. I actually noticed Canadian reactions to guns when my roommate saw an officer in a restaurant still wearing his gun. Growing up in the States, we get used to the idea of guns way too easily.

4. Fast Food. First off, fast food is cheaper in the States than in Canada, so Canadians, eat your hearts out! However, we do not have “fries supreme” in the States. This is a travesty, because I just had them for the first time this summer and I already miss them (to any Canadians, please bring some back for me.)


5. Toque. A toque is what Americans call a winter hat. Do not make the mistake of calling it a beanie because beanies are those knit hats that are baggy in the back. According to Danny, a beanie is a subgroup of a toque.

6. Volleyball. Volleyball is a boys’ sport in Canada. Obviously we had co-ed volleyball at my University, but it was not normal to have a grade school/high school boys’ volleyball team. Volleyball in Minnesota was mostly a girls’ sport. The main point of number 6 is, if you want to make an intramural volleyball team at ICO, make sure you get some Canadian men on the team.

7. Take/Write an Exam. In Canada you say “write an exam,” whereas in the States you say “take an exam.” There have been many debates over these two at the Cafeteria table, but neither side has won. How can you “write an exam” when it’s all multiple choice? However, we do pick up our exams and then “take the exam(s)” into the lecture halls…

These examples are not all the funny things you will hear fellow students say, but they give you an idea. At ICO, you are surrounded by different cultures and you should try to absorb it all. Even the differences between two states are prominent! For example, ask a Minnesotan to say “bag” (I’ve been told we say it funny.) You might even expand your vocabulary by hearing new words at the bubbler (a.k.a. water-fountain.)




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Tick Tock http://blog.ico.edu/tick-tock/ http://blog.ico.edu/tick-tock/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 16:48:07 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5187 Summer time in Chicago always seems to move quickly (time becomes less noticeable when every second outside doesn’t hurt your face.) This year is no exception. Friends, family, work, and prep for school have been pulling me in all sorts of directions lately, but I have no complaints; my life is about to dramatically change!

They say you don’t value what you have until it’s not there anymore. Time- precious, lovely, lazy, free time is what I am attempting to cherish as the clock rages forward to the beginning of first year. A year ago, binge-watching Netflix would have caused me some severe guilt and a violent need to re-evaluate my life, but for now, I just stretch and happily click forward to the next episode. I will most definitely miss this kind of care-free luxury once school starts, but I would not trade anything in this world for the opportunity that lies ahead.

When I’m not being shamelessly lazy, you can usually find me working. I have been at LensCrafters for the past several years. Through this experience, I’ve gotten to meet a wide range of ICO alumni. I am so happy to say that I have never met a doctor, young or old, who did not like ICO. When asking for advice on how to navigate through my studies, the nature of the responses vary. “Make sure to watch your diet and make time to exercise! It’s easy to eat unhealthy when you’re stressed” is probably the one that stuck with me the most (future friends-PLEASE tell me if I get fat, I really need to know.) Some of my other favorites include, “Get help right away if you get behind,” and “Buy pepper spray.” Throughout all of my conversations with these lovely ODs, the take-home message always stays consistent: the next four years are bound to be some of the most influential and transformative of my life.

A lot of my friends have been asking me how I feel about starting school. They know that eye care is my passion, and that I have been wanting to pursue optometry for a while. It’s hard to put my emotions into words, so forgive me for using this cliche analogy. Sitting on the cusp of an adventure of a lifetime feels a lot like standing in line for a giant roller coaster. I am excited, yet slightly terrified. Still, it is usually when this feeling creeps up that I know that I am moving in the right direction. A little healthy fear can do a lot to propel you forward. I, for one, am ready.

For now, I find myself day dreaming about what life in the RC will be like, and just how awesome it will feel to be able to call myself an official ICO student come August 17th. In the meantime, as I keep checking my watch, I plan on cherishing these moments that I have by hanging out with loved ones, watching House of Cards, reading some books, and enjoying all that the warm summer months have to offer… along with waiting in line for an actual roller coaster or two!

photo (18)

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Let Freedom Ring (or BOOM… whatever you prefer) http://blog.ico.edu/let-freedom-ring-or-boom/ http://blog.ico.edu/let-freedom-ring-or-boom/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 20:06:27 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5176 American Flag Sunnies

Ahhhh, it’s summertime. I’ve got beaches on the brain… which is ironic, since my bikini fits a little tighter than last year. This is, of course, due to the inevitable 5 pounds I’ve gained during all of my spontaneous ice cream trips: “Would you like one scoop or two?” “Ummmm is that even a question?”

Summer also brings morning coffee on the porch, fun concerts, food truck festivals (there’s another 5 pounds,) and of course, one of my favorite holidays. Maybe I love the 4th of July so much because I get to raid my closet for all things flag related and come up with the most obnoxious but very patriotic outfit. Maybe it’s because I get to revert to childhood a bit and paint my nails whatever combination of red, white, and blue I please. Or maybe it’s because I enjoy hearing the mighty BOOM of the fireworks at Navy Pier as their glitter falls from the sky. Or just maybe it’s because I get a kick out of watching my cat creep around the living room with her tail bushier than Mr. Big’s eyebrows. She “loves” the BOOM of the fireworks, too.

So naturally, as I write this, I’m refreshing my weather app every 2 minutes to make sure this Saturday is going to be free from the grips of a rain shower. Hopefully, I didn’t just jinx it!

…And while I’ve still got beaches on the brain, I haven’t forgotten the real reason we celebrate the 4th of July. Around this time, I go through the lists of reasons I’m thankful for my freedom. This year, I get to add a new freedom to the list: the freedom to not only attend optometry school, but the freedom to choose where I want to attend. It seems surreal that this is my last summer before I start this amazing journey with, from what I’ve seen so far, some pretty rad peers.

This holiday has caused me to reflect and dig deep on why I chose ICO in the first place. In the jumble of my thoughts, there is a recurring theme. ICO is offering me the freedom to express myself, the freedom to be a little quirky, the freedom to explore my creative outlets while getting a science-based education, and the freedom to make decisions about my future. I’d be lying if I said that the most exciting thing about the summer of 2015 is Lollapalooza. While it’s a very close second, I think the ride of preparing for ICO takes the cake (and ice cream).

Now, please excuse me while I take a trip to my closet; I still can’t decide between the flag-printed shorts or the red, white, and blue dress.

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Goodbye Texas, Hello Chicago! http://blog.ico.edu/goodbye-texas-hello-chicago/ http://blog.ico.edu/goodbye-texas-hello-chicago/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:39:40 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5082 Banner

Moving to Chicago to continue my education at ICO is probably one of the biggest changes I have made so far. Moving over 900 miles away from the place I’ve called home for 22 years is one for the books. Thinking about it is kind of scary and daunting, but also exciting! This will be my first time moving out of state and my first time living in a dorm complex. I was a commuter student during my undergraduate years, so this will be a nice change of scenery.

The transition to Chicago so far has been a smooth process. Since I will be living in the RC, I didn’t have to stress out about finding a place to live. I can only imagine the time and effort to find a place to live in Chicago, especially when I wasn’t too familiar with the area.

The RC is conveniently located across the street from the school’s entrance. ICO staff have also made the transition easier by keeping us updated with the things we need to complete and turn in (transcripts, vaccinations, etc.) before we start school in August. I am learning more about how to manage my financials with the help of the financial aid office so I know what to expect by the time I graduate. My parents have also been very supportive of me and have been helpful in preparing things I would need to live in the RC.

I continually have a lot of questions about my future at ICO that I find myself emailing someone at least once a week. Remember, you are not alone if you’re asking the same questions as me. There will always be someone to answer your questions without  hesitation. All you have to do is ask! I have asked questions like, “How much will I actually spend on equipment during my first year?” to “What is CAP?” I’m still trying to fully grasp my head around that one, but I know I will learn more about it when the time comes.

Other than preparing for the big move up north, I’m enjoying my time down here in Texas. I live very close to downtown Fort Worth, so I call Fort Worth my home. The best part about living here is I get to experience TWO cities; Dallas is also in the area. Being surrounded by two large cities calls for endless adventures. Pictured below are some of the places in Fort Worth and Dallas that I enjoy venturing at:

Sundance Square | Bass Performance Hall

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge | Reunion Tower

As much as I enjoy the comfort of home, I’m excited to begin a new chapter in Chicago!

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Pre-ICO Adventures: A Guide to Your Last Summer before Optometry School http://blog.ico.edu/pre-ico-adventures-a-guide-to-your-last-summer-before-optometry-school/ http://blog.ico.edu/pre-ico-adventures-a-guide-to-your-last-summer-before-optometry-school/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:56:22 +0000 http://blog.ico.edu/?p=5124 Roughly two months ago, I graduated from UMass Amherst (go Minutemen!) completing one chapter of my life. In roughly a month and a half, I will be flying (yes, flying, not driving—AKA I need to rethink my packing situation) to Chicago to begin the next chapter. In between these two events, I have a few summer months. Naturally, I have been determined to make them memorable.

One thing to note about me is that I am a very active person. Although many people have told me I should just relax all summer, I would much rather find a balance between relaxation and keeping myself busy. If you are similar in this way, then I hope my summer plans can spark some ideas for you.

My active personality is why I wanted to spend part of my summer traveling and part of my summer hard at work (40 hour weeks + a commute is fun right?) doing something I love where I would continue to learn and grow. Because I am from the greater Boston area (and because I love the city), I wanted to spend the summer working in downtown Boston. Through a good friend (he is actually going to NECO in the fall!), I found two summer positions that fit exactly what I wanted. So, now I am currently embracing my newly completed degree in biology and working as a summer research intern for a specialized hospital in the area, as well as working at a center for the blind and visually impaired. Both positions have taught and continue to teach me so much!

My research is all biomedically-based and focuses on developing treatments for retinal diseases. I work in a building where everyone is interested in vision and vision care. My excitement about this ensures me that I am taking the correct career path. In addition to this, through my position at the center for the blind, I am working with people who are impacted by the diseases I am learning about through my research. At this center, I get to see first-hand how someone’s life is completely changed through their loss of vision. Each position continues to inspire me and encourage my passion for this field.                                                                                   626                         655

Now although I am hard at work in Boston, don’t think I have forgotten to set aside some time for fun. I have been striving to fulfill the promise I made to myself that I will plan some fun trips this summer. Following graduation, I took a trip to Walt Disney World. While I know that many people usually do the whole Eurotrip thing (still on my bucket list!) I decided to embrace some childhood memories and go with one of my best friends  to Disney and take hold of the magic this destination creates (it really is magical…seriously.)

As a lover of thrill rides and a big fan of some Disney classics, this trip was a blast! I mean, come on, you’re never too old for Mickey Mouse. If you agree with these concepts and think a Disney trip may be in your future, I do recommend doing some research ahead of time to learn about fun tips and ways to avoid too many lines. I also highly recommend avoiding the peak summer months (we went in May) because at these months the temperature and the crowds are both at their peak.




Heading towards the middle of summer, I decided to take my next vacation in Puerto Rico. This was a good idea if I do say so, because not only is Puerto Rico relatively inexpensive, but also you are not required to have a passport as a U.S. citizen. In Puerto Rico I soaked up some sun on the Caribbean beaches and essentially auditioned for the next Jurassic World movie with a trek through tropical rainforests. …I didn’t actually audition for anything, it just felt as though a Velociraptor was going to jump at me from behind the tropic forest every turn I took. I also explored Puerto Rican history in Old San Juan. The trip was something amazing and I highly recommend stepping outside the tourism bubble and getting to know some of the local secrets (tasting mufungo is a must, and Los YeYos is a great whole-in-the-wall place in Old San Juan to do that).




So, as I continue to grow this summer through my research, aid of the blind, life in Boston, and attempts at travel, I feel as though I will be ready to embrace the change my next chapter at ICO will bring. I have been setting aside some much needed time to begin packing, pouring over the ICO website, and occasionally Google-searching things to do in Chicago, BUT let’s not forget I still have a little over a month of summer left and the adventures are far from over.

See you soon, Chicago.

Xoxo- Jess Capri 😉



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