I know it’s hard to believe there will be any extra time for anything but studying once you’re in optometry school. Many of us really do spend endless number of sleepless nights before exams. But you’d be surprise at the things you can do outside O-school. Sometimes I think about the personal statement I wrote when I was applying to schools. How many different ways could I indicate “I would like to help others” without sounding cliche or absolutely tacky?! Yes, it’s important to get As in classes (and god knows I try)… and yes, it’s important to use every moment of my waking hours to perfect my skills as an optometrist (except when I am at the beach playing volleyball), but I do try to remember from time to time why I wanted to become a doctor. This is why I made a small (though it sometimes feels big) commitment to myself to get involved in ICO, whether it’s optometry-related, community-related, or just about having fun.
It’s so easy to find something to do to get more involved at school and in the community when you’re in a city like Chicago. There are tons of vision screening opportunities, as attested by other bloggers, and ICO has lots of great clubs that are incredibly active and fun. This is evident when you arrive at school in the fall. In the space of a couple of weeks, about 20 different clubs organize introductory meetings, luring newbies with free pizza and introducing themselves and explaining what they do–not only to incoming first years, but to returning second, third and fourth years as well. Don’t think you can get sick of eating pizza? Think again.
Then, there’s an event called the Club Blind Spot. The clubs set up tables, and students can go around and see which ones might be a good fit (yep, there’s more free pizza). At this event during my first year, I fell in love with ICO’s Leo Club; two years later, I’m its president. It was also at this event where I discovered that there’s a “support group” for Wisconsinites who have to deal with the Bear fans in Chicago (I’m confident the Packers will take home the win tonight!). My love for running also drew me to the Running Club, and at this event I also learned about the possibility of doing an optional fifth year residency by becoming an officer in ICO’s American Academy of Optometry student chapter.
When I try to convince innocent first years to join one of the clubs on which I serve as an officer, I always tell them that you can be involved as much as you want and as little as you want. This is really true; I am not lying. Well, partially. I got into it a bit more than I planned, and I have to admit I bit off a little more than I can chew this year. From fundraising events to finding volunteers to club marketing, it’s been a stressful couple of months. But then again, it does give me a lot of opportunities to do good things and to interact many first years.
I thought you might like to meet some of ICO’s different clubs. I may have missed a few, but here are more than a dozen that I was able to capture at this year’s Club Blind Spot:
1. Student chapter of American Academy of Optometry
The AAO has fun annual meetings; this year’s meeting took place two weeks ago in Seattle (I went and had a great time). Next year’s meeting will be in Denver. Here I am sitting this my friend and ICO’s AAO secretary Lix Walsh, who is also president-elect!
2. Private Practice Club
Many of us enter optometry school dreaming of owning our own practice someday. PPC will let you in on all kinds of secrets on how to do that, through bringing in guest speakers and organizing visits to practices!
3. Tomb & Key
One of ICO’s honor societies! Third years Jenna, Mandee and Taia cannot wait for new members to join!
4. Omega Leo Club
Volunteer in the community and be part of the one of the largest world’s community service organizations–Lion’s Club International! I personally can’t wait to go to the next Special Olympics vision screening!
5. Neuro-Ophthalmic Rehabilitation Association
Interested in the human brain and its plasticity? I am all for it! With NORA, you can attend conferences and be part of one of the most interesting research communities!
6. Student chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH)
This group takes several mission trips each year to places like Morocco, Mexico, Honduras and other wonderful places that need our help!
7. Beta Sigma Kappa
If you join this international optometric honorary society, you’ll get to go to fancy dinners like this one!
9. College of Optometrists in Vision Development
This group allows you to attend conferences and brings in guest-speaker ODs who specialize in vision therapy and pediatric practices! Katy Green, the COVD president, also loves baking for the group as well as throwing ice cream socials!
11. Canadian Student Association
Another one that needs no explanation. Did you know that 25 percent of our students are from Canada? This club helps them feel right at home. The group will even let non-Canadians celebrate wonderful Canadian holidays with them if you ask nicely!
13. Fellowship of Christian Optometrists
This wonderful group will not only assist you in finding the perfect church to attend once you get to Chicago, they also organize mission trips to underserved countries in South and Central America!
14. Student Association
Last but not least, the SA is the organization behind this Blind Spot and lots of other ICO events. In addition to the group’s officers, two representatives serve from each class. Thanks to their hard work, events like these never run out of beer!
These aren’t even all of the clubs at ICO. If you don’t find exactly the one you’re looking for, you can also create your own–it can be optometry-related or just for fun. Of course, these clubs wouldn’t matter without the pizza-eating monsters: ICO’s student body. I have a good feeling that 2013-14 is going to be another fun year jam-packed with fun activities and volunteering opportunities!