At 22 years old and recent college graduates, my friends and I are at the age that we have entered the real world. College loans, grad school, jobs, figuring out where to live, and how to still have a life are all problems in our young lives. It seems that no matter where you go or what you do, you have to spend money. For instance, my friend just asked me if I had any ideas for a date night for him and his new girlfriend because he was already running out of ideas. Besides going for walks or bike rides, what else is there to do besides watching a movie in your parents’ basement for free? All my ideas involved going out to eat or a movie, or even paddle boarding (rent for an hour or two?). But everything involves money. And it becomes even more of a concern when you’re taking out a ton of student loans for grad school.
Is it really impossible to find free things to do, or does our generation lack imagination? Or is the issue that we look at the cost of something to determine the worth and fun of it? Even as a grad student, I still want to make money, save money, and pay for the occasional fun outing or item in addition to the necessities!
I’ve just eaten dinner and was about to start studying when I decided that I would rather spend my time writing. So I’m writing this. Even though I have an Optics test tomorrow at 8 a.m.
But I’ll explain why I’ve made that choice a little later.
My classmates and I have been at ICO for nearly four months now. The bright-eyed, naive idealists–who stepped onto the grounds of ICO as a group of strangers, hoping to learn as much about the world of optometry and to help as many people as possible–have disappeared.
Today, we are battle-worn. We know each other as well as only optometry students can know each other. Our bonds are strong, having been tempered by the difficulties and tribulations of professional school. We are like lost soldiers, depending only on each other as we struggle to survive in an endless desert of notes and diagrams of eyes. We climb sand dunes to find an ever-expanding desert of deadlines and test dates. And sometimes, among the sleepless nights spent fending off coyotes, whose only goal is to whittle our GPAs closer and closer to the cut-off point of failing a course, it seems like this desert will never end.
I may be exaggerating a bit here.
It’s not that bad…
No really, it isn’t. I’ve only had one all-nighter since I’ve been here–and that was because I had insomnia.
You’ll be fine, I promise.
During third year at ICO, students have the opportunity to join this great organization called the Contact Lens and Cornea Society. CLCS hosts numerous events throughout the year. During Lunch & Learns, the latest information in the field is presented; there are also workshops, when we get to practice fitting patients with different types of lenses.
Throughout first and second year, I remember walking by the second floor entrance to the Lecture Center and being curious about the regular occurrence of long tables covered with catered food. Now as a member of this elite society, I’m enjoying the eats while expanding my knowledge about contact lens and cornea. It’s honestly a win-win.
We’ve had a couple of Lunch & Learns so far, as well as a workshop. During one of the Lunch & Learns I learned all about Prokera, an innovative biological bandage tissue made of cryopreserved amniotic tissue. Prokera is superior to a basic bandage contact lens (BCL) because it promotes wound healing while reducing inflammation. Additionally, it can be used on corneas that have been infected, while basic BCLs cannot be. It’s a great concept and one whose suggestion in clinic may earn an approving nod. Maybe even a couple of 5’s on clinic evaluations. Anything is possible.
The first workshop CLCS hosted was on fitting soft toric lenses. The top four contact lens manufacturers partook in the event and representatives from each told us about the latest from their brand and helped guide our selections. The workshop began with breakfast and an illuminating address from guest speaker Dr. Rhonda Robinson. We learned about the benefits of making contact lenses a part of our future practices and how important it is to recommend contacts to patients who would be good candidates.
After four quarters at ICO, I find myself becoming an ever-more confident optometry student, knowing not only my way around, but also exactly where I am going.
Following the rigor of first year, second year in comparison has me a bit more at ease–but that doesn’t mean that the school days aren’t still busy. However, it’s a different kind of busy. Every day I feel more and more like a clinician, more and more interested in the profession that I have chosen–simply for the fact that now I’m really in the “application” part of the curriculum. The things I hear in class so easily translate to what I see in clinic, and it probes me further to keep motivation high.
School days are not only filled by academics, but also extracurriculars. I serve as president of ICO’s National Optometric Student Association chapter, and the club is in full swing with our endeavors to increase membership and regularly provide healthcare to underserved populations in Chicagoland. This weekend was a perfect example the kind of activities NOSA engages in: On Friday, we led an outing to Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza (just a short bus ride away from campus); on Saturday, we organized a vision screening at the Family Health Network‘s Keep a Child Warm coat distribution event.
In high school, I took two classes that were similar: Freshman year it was called Values, and senior year it was called Spectrum. Instead of taking three individual classes for English, religion, and social studies, my high school opted to combine these three. For two hours a day, three teachers were in the same classroom. It may sound strange, but it worked because those three subjects overlap–you can’t study one without the other. It also helped draw connections and relationships between things, and therefore helped us retain the information.
After months of studying, I’ve come to a realization: ICO is of one big spectrum class. I came to this conclusion after I started studying for my second exam of the week. While I was going through the first few sets of notes, I was surprised to find that a lot of it was review. Yes, there’s usually some review from classes I took in undergrad, but this took it even further. Everything that I’d just learned for my Monday exam was being applied for my Wednesday exam. Though this was the first time I realized it with such clarity, it actually happens quite frequently. At least once a week, you’ll hear a professor reference another class we’re in, and relate the topics. I’m truly surprised and impressed at how well the courses overlap.
I’ve been at ICO for more than three months now. It’s been busy to say the least. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but here’s what a typical weekday is like for me. Keep in mind that this may vary slightly depending on the person:
First thing in the morning (aka waking up up 15-60 minutes before class/test)-4 p.m.
- brush teeth
- get dressed
- (skip) breakfast
- go to class
- doze off in class
- skip class to sleep
- more class
- study in the library or study lounge
- work out (sometimes)
8 p.m. and beyond
- study some more OR
- get fed up with studying and:
- go downtown
- OR browse the internet
- go back to studying
- ponder the meaning of existence
- decompress with reading or more philosophical pondering
So yeah, that’s optom life.
But I’m not here to impress you my dedication or work ethic; everyone here learns all that stuff within the first two weeks of school. Don’t worry–if you’ve been accepted into ICO or any other professional school, you’ll make it to the end. Never doubt what you are capable of or let the pressure get to you…
I’ll probably write something about that later. This post is going in a different direction.