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Goodbye Texas, Hello Chicago!

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in Blogs


Moving to Chicago to continue my education at ICO is probably one of the biggest changes I have made so far. Moving over 900 miles away from the place I’ve called home for 22 years is one for the books. Thinking about it is kind of scary and daunting, but also exciting! This will be my first time moving out of state and my first time living in a dorm complex. I was a commuter student during my undergraduate years, so this will be a nice change of scenery.

The transition to Chicago so far has been a smooth process. Since I will be living in the RC, I didn’t have to stress out about finding a place to live. I can only imagine the time and effort to find a place to live in Chicago, especially when I wasn’t too familiar with the area.

The RC is conveniently located across the street from the school’s entrance. ICO staff have also made the transition easier by keeping us updated with the things we need to complete and turn in (transcripts, vaccinations, etc.) before we start school in August. I am learning more about how to manage my financials with the help of the financial aid office so I know what to expect by the time I graduate. My parents have also been very supportive of me and have been helpful in preparing things I would need to live in the RC.

I continually have a lot of questions about my future at ICO that I find myself emailing someone at least once a week. Remember, you are not alone if you’re asking the same questions as me. There will always be someone to answer your questions without  hesitation. All you have to do is ask! I have asked questions like, “How much will I actually spend on equipment during my first year?” to “What is CAP?” I’m still trying to fully grasp my head around that one, but I know I will learn more about it when the time comes.

Other than preparing for the big move up north, I’m enjoying my time down here in Texas. I live very close to downtown Fort Worth, so I call Fort Worth my home. The best part about living here is I get to experience TWO cities; Dallas is also in the area. Being surrounded by two large cities calls for endless adventures. Pictured below are some of the places in Fort Worth and Dallas that I enjoy venturing at:

Sundance Square | Bass Performance Hall

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge | Reunion Tower

As much as I enjoy the comfort of home, I’m excited to begin a new chapter in Chicago!

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Pre-ICO Adventures: A Guide to Your Last Summer before Optometry School

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Blogs

Roughly two months ago, I graduated from UMass Amherst (go Minutemen!) completing one chapter of my life. In roughly a month and a half, I will be flying (yes, flying, not driving—AKA I need to rethink my packing situation) to Chicago to begin the next chapter. In between these two events, I have a few summer months. Naturally, I have been determined to make them memorable.

One thing to note about me is that I am a very active person. Although many people have told me I should just relax all summer, I would much rather find a balance between relaxation and keeping myself busy. If you are similar in this way, then I hope my summer plans can spark some ideas for you.

My active personality is why I wanted to spend part of my summer traveling and part of my summer hard at work (40 hour weeks + a commute is fun right?) doing something I love where I would continue to learn and grow. Because I am from the greater Boston area (and because I love the city), I wanted to spend the summer working in downtown Boston. Through a good friend (he is actually going to NECO in the fall!), I found two summer positions that fit exactly what I wanted. So, now I am currently embracing my newly completed degree in biology and working as a summer research intern for a specialized hospital in the area, as well as working at a center for the blind and visually impaired. Both positions have taught and continue to teach me so much!

My research is all biomedically-based and focuses on developing treatments for retinal diseases. I work in a building where everyone is interested in vision and vision care. My excitement about this ensures me that I am taking the correct career path. In addition to this, through my position at the center for the blind, I am working with people who are impacted by the diseases I am learning about through my research. At this center, I get to see first-hand how someone’s life is completely changed through their loss of vision. Each position continues to inspire me and encourage my passion for this field.                                                                                   626                         655

Now although I am hard at work in Boston, don’t think I have forgotten to set aside some time for fun. I have been striving to fulfill the promise I made to myself that I will plan some fun trips this summer. Following graduation, I took a trip to Walt Disney World. While I know that many people usually do the whole Eurotrip thing (still on my bucket list!) I decided to embrace some childhood memories and go with one of my best friends  to Disney and take hold of the magic this destination creates (it really is magical…seriously.)

As a lover of thrill rides and a big fan of some Disney classics, this trip was a blast! I mean, come on, you’re never too old for Mickey Mouse. If you agree with these concepts and think a Disney trip may be in your future, I do recommend doing some research ahead of time to learn about fun tips and ways to avoid too many lines. I also highly recommend avoiding the peak summer months (we went in May) because at these months the temperature and the crowds are both at their peak.




Heading towards the middle of summer, I decided to take my next vacation in Puerto Rico. This was a good idea if I do say so, because not only is Puerto Rico relatively inexpensive, but also you are not required to have a passport as a U.S. citizen. In Puerto Rico I soaked up some sun on the Caribbean beaches and essentially auditioned for the next Jurassic World movie with a trek through tropical rainforests. …I didn’t actually audition for anything, it just felt as though a Velociraptor was going to jump at me from behind the tropic forest every turn I took. I also explored Puerto Rican history in Old San Juan. The trip was something amazing and I highly recommend stepping outside the tourism bubble and getting to know some of the local secrets (tasting mufungo is a must, and Los YeYos is a great whole-in-the-wall place in Old San Juan to do that).




So, as I continue to grow this summer through my research, aid of the blind, life in Boston, and attempts at travel, I feel as though I will be ready to embrace the change my next chapter at ICO will bring. I have been setting aside some much needed time to begin packing, pouring over the ICO website, and occasionally Google-searching things to do in Chicago, BUT let’s not forget I still have a little over a month of summer left and the adventures are far from over.

See you soon, Chicago.

Xoxo- Jess Capri 😉



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Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Blogs

I’ve been stepping outside of myself to look back on my first year at ICO from a different perspective. It has become something of a bi-yearly tradition for me to look back on my life and be embarrassed about how I’ve acted for the last couple of years. At this point, I expect my future self to continue being embarrassed no matter what I do.

Anyway. That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

I think I’ve done many things right at ICO, but there are also things that I could have handled with more tact or thoughtfulness. Thinking back has helped me realize that I didn’t need to do things differently; it was my attitude and perspectives that needed to adjust.

Attitude and perspective make a difference in everything you do. This is especially important when working with people. So, I’ve written down some principles. These are principles that would help all of us, especially professionals and soon-to-be-professionals.

Here they are:

  • I will not take things personally, even when it seems like I am being attacked. I will respect criticisms from others, no matter the content of their criticisms.
    This is important in a professional environment, especially as a student. It’s easy to be defensive about criticisms, but by dismissing the critiques, I am doing myself a disservice. I won’t be able to improve the weaknesses that other people see in me that I am unaware of.
  • I will be kind and I don’t expect people to like me for it. We need more kindness in our world. I’m a strong believer in being kind for the sake of being kind. It’s normal to expect others to reciprocate kindness with kindness, but that isn’t always the case – and you shouldn’t take that personally. Remember: the goal is kindness, not to boost my own ego.
  • I will always give people the benefit of the doubt, even when I am not given the same benefit. I have seen too many situations where assumptions have ruined relationships. Some would say that this point of view is too trusting. I realize that one day, someone may take advantage of my good will, but I am willing to make that trade to give honest people a chance. Call me an idealist. This principle is very similar to the second principle. There is a very thin line to walk between being trusting and having people take advantage of you, but in my experience, I have found that the vast majority of people reciprocate trust with trustworthiness.
  • I need to recognize that I’m needed in a supporting role more often than I’m needed in a starring role. This is especially true as a student. I am here to learn and cooperate with my colleagues, not to prove my intellect. This is a personal problem for me. My ego can become inflated sometimes.
  • I will admit when I am wrong. Ego and defensiveness do not make this easy. This is one of hardest things for anybody to do. It is also important to recognize that you can be completely humble and willing to admit mistakes in one area, and be completely obnoxious in another. I speak from personal experience.
  • I will learn from my mistakes. I realize that I will make many of them. This principle is important in order to become proficient in any field. Optometry is no exception.
  • I will respect my body and my health. The mind and body are connected. As a student who is constantly learning, I need to keep my mind sharp. To do that, I must keep my body strong and healthy. Time for a metaphor: anything can be used to make art, but having good tools makes it easier to make great art. Your body is the tool, optometry is your art. This isn’t completely necessary, but in a high stress environment with tests being thrown at you every other day, it’s important to stay in the best shape that you can.

These are principles that I try to follow everyday, but I do forget them – and I forget often, without something reminding me. I still struggle with them from time to time. They sound too idealistic for certain situations, but despite this, I have found that I never regret what I do when I follow them and I am always in a better situation, considering the alternatives.
I really hope that you consider adopting some or all of these principles on your own, and I hope you get as much out of them as I do.

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Walking through Andersonville

Walking through Andersonville

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Blogs

The past five weeks have zoomed by and I am loving the change in pace. Gone are the days of classes, homework, and tests. From morning to evening for five days a week, I’m a clinician tasting what real life could be like in one of many clinical settings.

My clinical rotation site this summer is Visionary Eye Care, a private practice with two locations – one in Andersonville and the other in the South Loop. My time at the practice is spent doing routine eye exams, contact lens fits and evaluations, lasik pre and post-ops, dry eye work ups and treatments, binocular vision management, macular degeneration evaluations, and more. My favorite thing about being a fourth year is the level of autonomy I have. In clinic, I can make my own decisions. Outside of clinic, I am free to spend my leisure time as I please. Well, until Part II and III start to creep up.

The Andersonville location, where I am stationed 4 days a week, is set amidst a bustling neighborhood of restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, galleries, bakeries, and more. In the past few weeks, exploring and getting to know more about the diverse and vivid Andersonville community has been a delicious treat.

Before the work day begins or somewhere in between, I delight in coffee trips to La Colombe. Their mochas are delicious and my weakness!


I usually bring a “brown bag” lunch, but on occasion check out what the neighborhood has to offer. I lunched at Polygon Cafe, a thai restaurant and sushi bar, with a opened wall perfect for people-watching and awkwardly responding to greetings from my patients. The shrimp tempura and spicy tuna maki were yummy and my first-try of thai iced tea was delicious! There’s a lovely and often packed Swedish Bakery nearby where I’ve often disappeared into for mid-day treats. When National Donut Day rolled around, I popped in to claim one of the last two sugary fruit-filled pockets of goodness.


Across the street from Visionary, I got a manicure at Nail Palette complete with an oh-so-good neck and back massage which was so perfect after a long day at work. A few steps away is Marguerite Gardens, a ethereal flower shop with a expansive collection of glass and ceramic vases.


Throughout Andersonville, there are these neighborhood maps and history boards that are such clever touches. The Coffee Studio, just a few short blocks away, is another great caffeine cafe where I’ve savored delicious cold-brew iced coffee.


My favorite treat this summer has been at George’s Ice Cream and Sweets. The ice cream is delicious and the waffle cone is the perfect balance between chewy and crispy.


On one summery weekend (I do work on Saturdays but not on Mondays), the Andersonville Midsommarfest was in full swing. It was a treat to be front and center at the fest. During eye exams, concert music streamed in and wafts of grilled goodness touched our noses. So, it made perfect sense that during lunch break, I walked through the seemingly endless stands and indulged in a fresh and hot churro.


There are just five weeks left at my summer externship. I’m looking forward to further increasing my clinical experience, improving my skills, and learning from the doctors and a staff I have been enjoying working with, all while having a great time.

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Cheezborgers, Cheeps and a Coke (no Pepsi)

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Blogs

My double Cheezeborger, Cheeps and Coke

My double Cheezeborger, Cheeps and Coke

As I write my third or fourth blog about food, I’m starting to worry that everyone will think this is all I do. However, in my defense, how can you be in Chicago and not eat everything? I’m still drooling over the Spanish tapas bar I found and wrote about in my last article, Tasty Chicago. I keep telling myself that if I’m going to keep eating, I should try new places, only returning to previous places occasionally. Oh, the troubles of living in Chicago!

If you’ve ever Googled famous eats in Chicago, the lists of restaurants, food trucks, grab and gos, etc. will most likely overwhelm you. For the sports fans, you have Michael Jordan’s steak house and Mike Ditka’s restaurant. If you watch The League, head over to Gibson’s bar and restaurant. If you love Oprah Winfrey, then head to Table Fifty-two, who’s owner and chef Art Smith was Oprah’s personal chef for years.

If you are a fan of Murray, Belushi, and Aykroyd, then you should have already guessed which restaurant I am talking about: The Billy Goat Tavern, which was immortalized by their famous SNL skit. While the tavern has a few locations, locals and SNL fans will make fun of you unless you go to the original, at the lower level of Michigan Ave.

There are a few rules you should know if you decide to go there and not watch the SNL skit beforehand. First of all, do not order a single cheeseburger. As my friend found out, they will not give it to you and you will get a double cheeseburger. Get a triple if you are hungry. Next, they do not have fries, only chips, and do not think about ordering Pepsi- only Coke products.

Now about the food, the kaiser rolls are baked and delivered daily, and trust me, you can tell. The burgers are fresh and thin, which is why a single cheeseburger isn’t worth trying to get. Again, they won’t let you (unless you are a kid, or a girl on her first date). The double is 1/4lb, and the triple is “even better.” The Homerun is a double double for the extra hungry eater. Also, they let you put pickles and onions on. No lettuce. No tomatoes.

For sports fans, you can also learn about the Billy Goat Curse on the Cubs that has been going on for 69 years, 7 months and 20 days since I’ve been writing this.

No matter the reason you go to the Billy Goat tavern- if its for the burger, for the skit, or for the curse- you will definitely have a great time. You’ll leave with a full stomach and a great experience… unless you order a single cheeseburger, fries and a Pepsi.

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