I am so serious–literally every upperclassman and faculty member uses the phrase “hit the ground running” when referring to the first-year class load/test schedule. And I can, now, with first-hand experience, vouch that really, there is no other way to describe it.
There’s no syllabus week. Sorry to disappoint, but that grand time of undergraduate frolicking is gone. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, “syllabus week” is so-called because it’s the first week of classes when all in-class time is wasted reading the syllabus and talking about the rest of the semester, and out-of-class time is perhaps spent indulging in an adult beverage or four. That time is gone. Don’t even expect it. Fortunately, I really didn’t have that perception of ever having an “easy week” in optometry school, but I just wanted to make that clear.
We have now been in the full swing of exams for the past three weeks, and we’re starting our second cycle of exams tomorrow. When we first started, the air felt thicker and everyone had a look of sheer panic on their faces. Our lives are biochemistry, optics, anatomy, histology, physiology and optometry. Everyone has been in high-stress test-mode. When I asked friends what they plan to do over the weekend, they’d look at me like it’s some type of sick joke–because the answer is always studying.
It’s true–we are always studying. With everyone studying for the exact same classes in this intense environment, it’s easy to feel how you do when you’re in undergrad: competitive to get the A grade (or A mark, if you’re Canadian). At the University of Illinois, most of my friends were different majors so we never took the same classes and never really discussed anything school-related. Before coming to ICO, I thought I would probably hate the fact that everyone takes the same classes. I think most of us are a little competitive in nature, which I feel you have to be when applying for a professional program like this. I wasn’t sure how to feel about sharing all of my knowledge and helping each other out. I know, I sound really cut-throat, but when you go to such a big school like U of I (40,000-plus students), there’s a lot of competition when bell-curve grading is the norm and weed-out classes are considered live-or-die.
HOW DIFFERENT MY LIFE IS NOW.
I’ve decided to take the glass-half-full approach and look at the positive aspects of working together. As optometrists, there is no doubt that we will be collaborating with not only each other, but also with other healthcare professionals, so the time to start working together is NOW. It is so refreshing to find myself really valuing my colleagues’ answers and knowledge because we are all in the same environment. It also doesn’t hurt because we have many group assignments and practical practices. It’s not about competition. Aren’t we all here to be the best clinicians we can be? YES! So… I find myself a little more at ease because we are all enduring the same classes and tests. The turmoil has settled and taking exams every other day is the norm. Everyone has started to find their groove and is seemingly more at ease with the ever-increasing abundance of knowledge (and lecture packets). I am no longer frazzled when sitting for an exam; it really is no longer about getting A’s. The reason we are all here is to give patients sound vision care and my report card isn’t going to help me do that. Staying calm, feeling confident, and learning the material and then applying it are the keys to being successful