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A First Year’s Reality Check

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blogs | 1 comment

We are half way through the first quarter of our first year of optometry school. This was also the end of the first of many weeks consisting of three exams. I can honestly say I never thought I could see myself getting through a week of three exams let alone the two we had last week and the three (or is it four?) that we have next week.

Have you had your breakdown yet? I’m not talking about the quick little panic you had on your way to an exam or even the night you thought you wouldn’t get through all of your anatomy competency objectives. I’m talking about that moment you find yourself realizing what you have on your shoulders, in your mind, ahead of you, and behind you.

We have accomplished so much already. It’s five weeks in and we have taken seven exams, two pop quizzes, five homework assignments, and a lab quiz; written one paper, three forums, and a couple hundred note cards; entered chief complaints and case histories; gone through at least one set of highlighters; and answered way too many clicker questions. The list could go on. We have done A LOT. I am overwhelmed as my mind replays it all.

There are exams we as individuals scored higher than anticipated, and then there are the ones we did worse than we either wanted or expected. We have found our favorite classes, professors, and labs. We have studied hard for some tests and been overconfident for others.

We have been learning a lot over the past few weeks. Yes—we have learned about the many branches of the vertebral and basilar arteries to the brain; we have learned about fatty acid synthesis; and we have learned how to take extremely subjective exams, thinking through questions instead of just memorizing information for direct recall. More importantly, we have learned how to manage, balance, and survive. Now we must learn to continue—to press on—to not give up.

That brings us back to the original question: Have you had your breakdown yet? Next week we have one lab practical, two exams, and a lab quiz. We have open lab time slots we’ve signed up for in order to learn the Visual Field test. We have a lot in front of us. We have more on our plate than ever before. It is exhausting to think about. Your eyes tear up, and your burden seems to increase in weight. There’s your breakdown—reality. This is not going to be easy. If it were—why would you be here? We have all chosen to be students at the Illinois College of Optometry because there are people at this school who believe we have what it takes—that we CAN keep going. We are the Class of 2018, and we will move forward with grace, humility, and determination.

So you’ve had your breakdown—whether it was last week, this week, or next week, you will come to the realization that this isn’t about the perfect score or the stupid mistake you made on an exam. It is about growth. It is about our experiences in the lecture hall, in the labs, on exams, and with our future colleagues. These experiences will transform us into the best optometrists—and THAT is what this crazy journey is all about.


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Optometry Conferences and Trade Shows: My First Hand Experience and Advice

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Blogs | 1 comment

Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the privilege of attending Optometry’s Meeting (OM) in Chicago and San Diego, Vision Expo East (VEE) in New York, Vision Expo West (VEW) in Vegas, the South Eastern Congress of Optometry (SECO) in Atlanta and the Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC) in Washington, D.C. A lot of students don’t give much thought or are really aware of the opportunity to attend these hugely beneficial conferences. Here’s my take on why you should attend a few conferences as an optometry student, and how each one is different.VEE

How these conferences work:

You can usually find a decent deal on registration and hotel as long as you start planning early. The centerpiece of each conference is usually the exhibit hall and features frame companies, equipment dealers, websites, specialty products, and more. Throughout the show, there is a wide variety of continuing education courses–FREE for students–on topics such as clinical advice to business and marketing. There are also various events and parties to attend, some educational with a complimentary lunch/dinner and networking included.

Optometry’s Meeting

This is the meeting that is most synonymous with students, which is what sets it apart from the others. It’s held in a different city each year. It has events such as the student bowlpopular Student Bowl, and some great parties at night. It also has many student-geared programs and CE’s. That being said, the size and variety of the exhibit hall is on the small side. I feel the attendance of optometrists (and your opportunity for casual conversations and encounters walking around the exhibit hall floor, which is important for making connections and networking) is low compared to other conferences. I would still try to attend this conference every year, as it is a very fun trip and a chance to meet students from other schools and bond more with your classmates. As a side note: don’t underestimate the importance of meeting other students. You get a different view on optometry school and they may have connections or plans once they graduate, and could be looking for someone to join them.

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Let’s Go Round Again

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Blogs | 0 comments


And so another year at ICO begins. This time, however, I have a new outlook as a second year.

First years are in a frenzy, second years are rejoicing in their reunion after a long, well-deserved summer break, third years are just busy, and fourth years are in the midst of externship rotations. The first weeks at ICO are unlike anything else–a whirlwind to some and a huge awaiting obstacle to others. But, there is still excitement in the air.

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I was part of the ICO orientation team this year. Working closely with 20 of my classmates reminded me of those first day jitters, and in feeling so, I wanted to be there and help those 164 brand new faces. Orientation at ICO is unparalleled in the depths that we go to not only welcome our new colleagues, but also make the transition to professional school as smooth as humanly possible. We jam packed four long days with information, activities, seminars, speakers, Chicago delights (delicious pizza), and most importantly new friends. Nothing was left to chance. We found it not only important to stress what academic and student life at ICO is like, but also what a Chicago lifestyle was like. What pray tell, does that entail? Our first years set sail on an architecture tour in the Chicago River sightseeing everything from the magnificent Navy Pier to the captivating Chicago skyline. Our orientation team also pioneered the way to several different cuisines–from succulent Italian to authentic Greek–in neighborhoods across the city. Truth be told, this is one of the best things about Chicago – that is, the pure culture that adorns each locality, and the delicious food that follows it.

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Getting the hang of ICO

Getting the hang of ICO

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Blogs | 0 comments

Where am I going to study? Should I take notes on my computer? Which desk drawer should I put my highlighters in? Do I workout in the morning or at night? OH GOSH, WHICH SEAT DO I WANT?

It didn’t occur to me when I decided to go to ICO last fall that I would have to “get the hang of it.” When uprooting your life to come live in a new city, take new classes at a new school with new professors, there is certainly a lot to think about. From the second I moved into the Residential Complex last week, I have been making mini decisions that will effect the next year of my life.

Home Sweet Home. I am definitely a nester by nature. I unpacked and set up my room as quickly as I could because I couldn’t wait for it to feel more homey. While unpacking I had to think about things like finding a place for school supplies, underwear, extra towels and picture frames. It’s not like there’s a lack of storage space in the RC, I just had to ask myself, “Am I sure this is where I want to put this for the next nine months?” I mean, I know I can always change it’s spot, but I guess I like being dramatic.

Seat Envy. Speaking of dramatic, is there a harder decision than picking out your lecture seat? There are pros and cons to being upfront and way back in the back. I felt like the seat you pick on the first day says something about you, both to your fellow classmates and to your professor. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say yet, so I chose a seat in the middle. (Close enough to pay attention but far enough away that I can still text…)

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