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Goodbye, Toronto.

Goodbye, Toronto.

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in Blogs

Goodbyes never play out the way I expect them to. How can I tell someone that I’m going to miss them? That I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me, and that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated their company? …and how do I do that without creeping them out?

Goodbyes are my weakness. I’m the kind of person that needs to think about the words I want to use and the way I want to say them. I can’t string complex thoughts in the moment, and goodbyes deserve better than my poorly thought out see-you-laters and peace-outs.

So now I’m here at a bus terminal, surrounded by strangers and a strange sense of peace that has allowed me to collect my thoughts. I feel like I can finally say those things that I want to say.

I am not afraid to begin my second year at ICO. I’m actually pretty excited. I am only afraid that things will change so rapidly from this point forward that I could forget where I came from- my roots. So, this goodbye is dedicated to Toronto, and in a way, it is the ending of a big chapter in my life.

Dear Toronto,

We haven’t always gotten along. Your bus service is the bane of my existence, and for a long time, I resented your often late or missing buses. But home doesn’t feel like home without the sound of buses passing by every 10 minutes right outside my window during peak hours. And home doesn’t feel right without the hour-or-longer bus rides I need to take to see my friends or do anything even remotely stimulating. You have, in a strange way, helped me develop selective hearing, zen-level patience, an ability to temper my own frustration, and a love of reading, all of which have served me well on many occasions.

You are a beautiful city. I recently visited the Lakeshore and those rocks I used to climb as a kid, where I would stand at the top and watch the cityscape from across the lake. The shore has changed in the many years since I’ve been away. I remember vividly how freeing it felt to be there, with the wind sweeping along those curving paths and the water dancing along the paths. Now, it is over shadowed by a row of newly built skyscrapers. The place that used to seem like my little secret is now teeming with joggers, cyclists, and young families taking selfies on the beach (if you can call it a beach.) It is bittersweet, knowing that the Lakeshore is no longer mine, but at least you are not lonely anymore.

We have had our differences, but Toronto will always be my home. I will miss you Toronto. Thank you for raising me.

Before I left, I took one last walk around my neighbourhood and watched the moon sitting serenely up in the sky. I took my time breathing in the still-sweet air- literally sweet from the cookie factory down the road.

Toronto, I have known you for over half my life, and although that may not be as long as some friendships out there, it is among the longest that I have ever had. We had lost touch over the years when I went to undergrad at Waterloo and in that time, I had also unknowingly lost my creativity and imagination. It has been a joy for me to rediscover these in your presence. You have inspired a creativity I have not had in a long while. We don’t always agree on everything, but that’s OK. I have learned a lot about my biases and broadened my horizons. I am excited for the things you will discover in the coming years and I am proud of what you have accomplished these past few months. We will be going our separate ways for now, but “with friendship, we can do anything.” Until next time. We will always have call of duty and energy drinks.

Goodbye, old friend.

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Bucket List Beyond Studying

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Blogs

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As some of you may know from my blog Don’t Panic, my previous Fall in Chicago was not the best. This year, I am planning on enjoying Chicago even more. What do I want to do this Fall? More like, what don’t I want to do?? I have a huge bucket list to start as soon as I get back, and cannot wait. Some of the list includes activities, places to see, and of course, places to eat.

1. Six Flags: Who doesn’t love amusement parks? My siblings and I got season passes to the one in Minnesota. I think it is time to compare Valleyfair to Six Flags. Lucky me, the Class of 2018 has planned a trip to go before exams begin!

2. Ferris Bueller Day: OK, so maybe fitting in everything Ferris did in one day might be a little hard, but I do want to do everything he did. This includes: The Art Institute of Chicago, Wrigley Field, any restaurant on Rush Street, the Von Steuben Day Parade (Sept. 12 this year,) The Sears Tower, and the Ben Rose House (Cameron’s house.)

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3. Myopic BooksHello, we are at optometry school; of course Myopic Books is going to get my attention. I also love to read, and this place looks packed with books. Apparently there is also a no cell phone rule, so be prepared to remember the good old days.

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4. The AviaryMy cousin just told me about this bar/restaurant that has drinks with a twist. I’ve heard rumors that they have a drink that changes flavors and colors when you flip it. They have a drink with frozen bubbles in it, and a drink that you sling shot an egg into (?). While this may be an upscale evening out, my other cousin said people are happier when they spend money on experiences, not on material goods.

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5. Ice Cream: I love ice cream, and so far I have not found the perfect ice cream place in Chicago. I have high standards, such as homemade ice cream or homemade waffle cones. Is that too much to ask for? Also, I prefer not to break the bank while I am trying to afford optometry school.

6. The Maggie Daley ParkThis park was built last year and is very close to Millennium Park. There is a jungle gym, a climbing wall, and tennis courts. In the Winter, they have what is called the “skating ribbon,” which is an ice rink that goes around the entire park. I cannot wait to go skating this winter on the ribbon!

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While this list doesn’t include all the things I want to experience in Chicago, it gives you an idea that there are a million things to do in this city. I cannot wait to return and walk around the city to find hidden treasures at every corner. If you have any suggestions to this list, please let me know!

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An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Blogs

Very few things captivate my nerdy heart the same way that school supply shopping does. There is just something about being amongst aisle upon colorful aisle full of brand new binders, folders, and pens that makes me itch to get back into the classroom- if only just to use my new toys. Seeing notebooks without bent edges is much like having a clean slate to work on… and that is exactly what I imagine beginning school at ICO will be like.

I won’t bore you with the long list of school supplies that I bought (but just so you know, they are awesome.) I do, however, want to highlight one particular purchase that got me really excited: my brand new MacBook Pro!

I haven’t gotten a new laptop in SEVEN years. To you give you some perspective, seven years ago is when Tina Fey did an amazing Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live, and before Instagram became an unhealthy obsession in my life. It’s also when my older brother bought me an HP Pavilion that I somehow made last way longer than I ever should have.

To reward myself for getting into optometry school (and for keeping a piece of technology alive for so long,) I decided to splurge and get a Mac. The only question that remained was, which one? After speaking with friends and grilling several Best Buy employees, I had it narrowed down to either the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro. While both seemed like essentially the same computer, my wallet and brain leaned towards the Air while my heart wanted the Pro.

I wanted to think about it before doing anything rash. So, I walked out and slept on the decision for a week. During that time, I couldn’t help but to make a whimsical list of reasons justifying why the Pro would be worth the extra money:

1. The extra weight will help keep my muscles strong.

2. Sephora will probably steal my leftover money anyway (it’s not possible to have enough lipstick.)

3. If I had my HP for seven years, I’ll keep my Macbook for ten!

After a lot of obsessing, I finally went in and bought it. Speaking as a person who doesn’t regularly drop big bucks on just a single item, I felt kinda like how the grimacing face emoji looks. I’m justifying this purchase by reminding myself that this is the computer that I will be relying on for some important stuff-like learning how to become an eye doctor.

My older brother never owned a laptop during his eight year journey to become a dentist. This is something that he reminds me of all the time. While I outwardly roll my eyes at him, internally I feel overwhelmingly lucky to have the opportunity to pursue my dream at my top choice school. Everything else that comes into play (like a new laptop) is just cherries on top of the sundae.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to chase their passion, or receives the tools that they need to accomplish what they seek after. I am sure that my fellow classmates are making preparations of their own for the start of the school year. A lot of our prep may be very similar or different, but one thing is for sure- we are all in a pretty amazing spot regardless of where we are coming from or what we are bringing with us.

Being a PC user my whole life, getting used to the Mac is turning out to be a slight challenge. While it is definitely annoying taking twice as long to do things that I could so quickly do on a PC, I’m confident that I will get the hang of it soon. My goal is to be reasonably competent and efficient by the time school starts- and there is not too much time left! My Macbook and I are about to be put to the test.

…Maybe I should buy my baby a protective case, too.

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Survival Guide to Interview Day

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Blogs

It’s that time of the year again where the OptomCAS application cycle opens and everyone is excited and stressed out about applying to optometry schools. Going through the application cycle is tedious, but once you’re all done with it, you can say with pride and dignity that you overcame one of the most significant obstacles to applying to optometry school.

If you have successfully finished the application process and received an interview from ICO, I would sincerely like to say CONGRATS! It’s definitely a great invitation to receive. To help future applicants out, I have broken down what happens during ICO’s interview day from my own experience during the 2014-2015 cycle. (Disclaimer: Anything written below can be changed or altered by the time a future applicant interviews at ICO!)

Applicant Host Program
ICO provides an opportunity for applicants to stay on campus at the Residential Complex (RC) for FREE the night before the interview. This opportunity is on a first-come, first-serve basis. I believe this is one of the best opportunities to pursue because if you do decide to attend ICO after being accepted, you will most likely choose to live in the RC your first year. I understand every applicant’s situation is different, but if this option appeals to you and you don’t want to pay for a hotel stay in Chicago, I would suggest staying in the RC for a night. Every applicant will be assigned an RC Ambassador- a student who lives in the RC. They will meet up with you once you’ve arrived, give a tour of the RC, and answer any questions that you may have.

Typically, the entire interview day will be from 9:15AM to 2:30PM.

1. WELCOME – Interview Day Group

Whoever is interviewing that day will all be brought into the “Welcome Center” room. The admissions faculty will discuss the schedule of the day, which will be outlined below. A piece of paper will be given to each applicant and guest to check off what they would like to eat for lunch later that day. There is also a coffee/tea machine if you need your daily cup of coffee before the day begins!

2. CANDIDATE FILE REVIEW – Individual with Admissions Team Member

The admissions team member will take you to their office and go over an admissions checklist. This covers if you’ll be getting a bachelor’s degree or not, OAT scores, completed prerequisite courses, transcripts from each school you have attended, and required letters of recommendation. Be prepared to explain any discrepancies with your grades on your transcripts as well.

3. FINANCIAL AID/CAREER SERVICES PRESENTATION – Interview Day Group

A staff member from financial aid will come in and discuss what kind of financial aid is offered and how to pay for tuition at ICO. Another staff member from career services will also come in and discuss career services provided at ICO.

4. WRITING SAMPLE – Interview Day Group with Admissions Team Member
The group will then go into a conference room to begin the writing sample. Everyone will be given 10 minutes to write out an answer to the essay prompt that is provided by the admissions team member. Many applicants in my group used the front and back of the paper while I only used the front. As long as you get your point across on the paper, you should be fine here. No preparation beforehand is needed for the writing sample.

5. ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW – Individual with ICO Faculty Member or Admissions Committee Member

Each student gets a different professor interviewer. The interviewer will take you back to their office and begin the one-on-one interview. Based off of my interview experience, the interview was laid back and very conversational. I would advise future applicants to be prepared by making sure they have answers to general questions such as, “Why optometry?” or “Why ICO?” Most importantly, be yourself and be sincere! You are here for a reason and you should show your interviewer why.

6. TOUR OF CAMPUS/LUNCH – Interview Day Group with Current ICO Students

The group is assigned two ICO students to give a tour of the campus. The tour is kind of lengthy as it covers the Lecture Center, the Illinois Eye Institute(IEI), RC, gym, cafeteria etc. so make sure you’re wearing comfortable professional shoes. If you have any questions for the ICO students, this would be a great time to ask them. After the tour is over, lunch will be provided.

7. WRAP UP – Interview Day Group

The admissions coordinator will come in and discuss what will happen next after the interview day. They will explain when the admissions committee will meet up to review every applicant and when you should be able to hear back from them.

Interview Day is not only for the admissions committee to review you as a future colleague. It’s also a time for you to see what the school has to offer and if it will satisfy your needs and wants when deciding what optometry school to choose. I hope my survival guide helps all you future applicants out there. Nothing good ever comes easy, but ICO does a great job at making every applicant feel welcomed! GOOD LUCK!!

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Thoughts Going into Second Year

Thoughts Going into Second Year

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Blogs

I have two weeks before I leave Toronto for Chicago again. Things are starting to speed up now. There’s a lot to do and get ready for.

This will be my second year at ICO, and I’m told that it’ll be different.

This year, I’ve moved out of the RC into a small apartment complex that was once known as Unity Hall. The rooms are slightly smaller, but the ceilings are high and I get two arched windows in my room. That’s a fair trade, I think. I still have to pick up some furniture from students leaving for rotations, and I might have to go to IKEA to get more. I have to move belongings that I’ve left with friends who have been kind enough to keep them for me while I’ve been away, and I have to figure out what I still need to get for the apartment.

I just got international student insurance last night. I have to remember to contact my landlord the day before my 12-hour bus trip so that he’ll be available to give me my keys. To be honest, a bus trip wasn’t my first choice, but I want to take my guitar with me and airlines don’t have the best reputation with transporting musical instruments.

Now, there is a possibility that I may have to go to school in the States in the middle of a recession, while the Canadian dollar is expected to lose more of it’s value. Losing almost a quarter of the dollar value when converting from CAD to USD isn’t fun. I can only imagine the debt I’ll be in by the time school is over, but that’s life, and I’ll make it back one day (far, far in the future).

I suppose these are the kinds of stressors that everyone faces in optometry school, but they aren’t always obvious when you decide to pursue it in the first place.

This year, I’ll be using the skills I’ve spent so much time polishing in labs in the actual clinic. I’ll have new responsibilities to carry, expectations to live up to and challenges to conquer. I still have a lot to learn academically and clinically.

I also have hopes for myself – hopes of being the kind of person, friend, son, brother, student and clinician I want to be. There are things I want to do and learn outside of class- new things I want to try, and fears I want to master.

There’s a lot on my plate. I know that, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences so far, it’s that I can do anything as long as I am dedicated to my goal- and if dedication isn’t enough, I know I’m adaptable enough to change my approach.

Despite all my worries, it’s going to be a good year. I can feel it. It will be a roller coaster ride of beauty, the unexpected, fun, chaos, rude awakenings, shattered ego and glorious triumph… and that’s ok, because I love thrill rides.

I’m nervous and excited. I know that nothing will go the way I plan, but that’s part of the fun.

So… how is this year going to be for you?

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