Odds are, if you pick a random OD student and ask them what they majored in during undergrad, the answer is going to be “biology” or a type of health science. For most OD students, it’s obvious why this is the case. A lot of potential OD students find science interesting (shocker, huh?) Also, on the practical side, most of the optometry school prerequisites overlap with undergraduate requirements for a biology major. Essentially, you’re killing two birds with one stone. This also frees up time for you to take non-health classes and pursue extra-curricular interests. It’s a pretty smart strategy!
However, what if you don’t want to major in biology?
When I was still an undergraduate, I was torn between what I wanted to major in. On one hand, I could have picked biology or some other science field for the reasons I already outlined. Heck, I even enjoyed physics quite a bit, so I was leaning towards that. However, when I thought more about where I was naturally drawn to and what kind of OD I wanted to become, I knew I had to pick Spanish.
I’ll tell you personally and practically why I made this choice. Practically, with how much college costs, I wanted to get more bang for my buck by learning another language while taking all my optometry school pre-requisites. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, surpassing even English in the number of native speakers. I knew this could be an invaluable accessory to help me connect with my fellow man. I was also required to take Portuguese classes for my major, which truly exposed me to a huge, exciting culture that I was largely unaware of up until that point. As for how this choice has benefited me personally…
A little over 50 years ago, a little girl and her parents came to the United States from Italy to seek out the economic opportunity they lacked at home. Fast forward to today; that little girl has a family of her own, made possible by the sweat of her parents’ brow. That (once) little girl is my mother. If it wasn’t for the tremendous leap of faith her family took all those years ago, I wouldn’t be here today. Growing up with an American father and an Italian mother, I have had a rich cultural upbringing. So, from early on, I realized how important it is to learn more than one language. It can expose you to a whole new way of life you never knew existed.
I chose to learn a foreign language as my major because I wanted to continue to diversify my experiences in life. As for how this relates to my optometry goals, I have been able to do some extremely satisfying volunteer work by combining my love of optometry with interacting with different types of people. This includes a medical brigade to Honduras in the summer of 2016 where I was able to help obtain prescriptions for those who had never worn glasses in their lives. With such a large, diverse population in Chicago, I hope to be able to continue in such a way at ICO, as well as for the rest of my life.
So, when picking you major for undergrad, how should you know what to pick? Well, that’s really up to you. Don’t worry if it’s science-related or not. Although it may sound cliché, just do what makes you happy.