The third year at the Illinois College of Optometry comes with a lot of changes to student life. As we shuffle from class to clinic with lab in between, we often forget the optometric steps ahead of us. These steps I’m referring to are the long-awaited, reverently desired externship sites for our fourth year.
Externship sites are where ICO students enhance our clinical knowledge base. We work in different modes of practice for the duration of the year. ICO, on the quarter system, is lucky enough to have four externship opportunities.
Externship selections at the Illinois College of Optometry are the perfect way to begin our last full year here on campus. My process began by analyzing the list over and over, carefully and anxiously, of sites both near and far. These precious locations range everywhere from local Chicago to across the world in Melbourne, Australia.
Once a list has been analyzed and carefully cut down to favored locations, categorizing then takes place. We must ensure that our fourth year requirements are met- that is, to fulfill a certain amount of hours of exposure to primary care, contact lenses, pediatrics/binocular vision, and low vision.
Alas, the lists are made! …but what next? The whispers, the everlasting discussions amongst classmates, ensue. “Where do you plan to go? What’s your top pick? What’s your selection number?” You hope your ever-favorite won’t leave the lip of any colleague. It is all in good fun to try and figure out what your possibility is to get the sites you want, but luckily for us as students, it is not all up to luck.
The selection process is divvied up into 4 selection rounds: VA Hospital (a requirement), Illinois Eye Institute (at ICO), and two specialty sites (to finagle getting hours that you did not pick at IEI or the VA). Each round, each student is put into either top tier (early pick), middle tier (an okay pick), and the bottom tier (to keep everything fair). The last round is completely random luck, as your pick is designated by raffle. By this process, in combination with the extensive list of locations, I can honestly say everyone ended up very satisfied, going everywhere from Hawaii to Boston to Dubai to China.
This early selection in third year lets many people rest easy. We all know where we are going in the future. Many of my colleagues even chose to link up with a friend or a significant other, which has made the excitement grow further!
I, myself, will start here at the IEI in my beloved “summertime Chi.” Then, I will travel to the snowy (and sunny) mountains of Denver, Colorado. I will come back to Illinois for Winter Quarter (always a Chicago girl at heart), and will finish out our Spring quarter with all of my best friends in Daytona Beach, Florida. Although we have some ways to go to get there (Boards Part I… EEK!), these are certainly steps we are all itching to take.