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Transformation, Reflection, and Anticipation

Transformation, Reflection, and Anticipation

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Blogs

It has been 8 weeks since classes began here at ICO. Those 8 weeks have been packed with tests, labs, events, ups, downs, failures, triumphs, memories, and most importantly, experiences. I remember sitting through the week of orientation hearing students, staff, and doctors bombard us with information, most of which I could not relate to and had no idea what they were getting at. I am just now beginning to understand some of the things they were telling us.

For starters, one of the biggest things that stands out is the spiel given by the security staff. This mostly stood out due to theatrical entertainment reasons, but nonetheless it stuck. They talked to us about safety, mostly, but also about us coming into their office and getting to know them when we bum a cup of coffee. I never thought I would actually stop into their office for coffee, but one day I was tired of the cafeteria coffee and decided to give theirs a chance. Now, it has become somewhat of a routine. Besides having decent coffee, the staff is as friendly as they said they were during orientation week.

Another thing that stood out with me from orientation week was Dr. Baker. I remember him talking about marathons; at the time, I saw no direct relationship with optometry school. The point of his speech was, however, that school is not a sprint, but a marathon. In other words, you can’t cram for exams. I obviously disagreed with what he said because it went against my previously formed habits from undergrad. However, I am starting to see the truth in  what he was talking about. Yes, I have classmates and there are always going to be those students who are excellent “crammers” and can get through school with short “sprints” rather than a steady-paced “marathon,” but I am starting to drift more towards the marathon approach of which Dr. Baker spoke.

The last thing that really stuck with me from orientation was speaking to older students. They told me that they have no sleep schedule and this will probably be the case for me. I, again, remember disagreeing because I had a somewhat consistent sleep schedule in undergrad so why wouldn’t I have one now? Nope. I was wrong. They were right. I cannot remember when I had the same sleep schedule even two nights in a row.

The point of this reflection is simply to realize the transformation that has been occurring since I got here. I may not have realized it until now, but it has. I’m sure if you spoke to the second years, they would tell you how much things have changed for them, and third and fourth years would speak of even greater changes. But that’s the goal of higher education.

I recently read an article in TIME magazine written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that relates to the transformative experiences of education. For those of you who don’t know who this author is, he is a former professional basketball player from New York City who is known for his success with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970’s and 18980’s. His article was basically about higher education and some of the obstacles students face throughout their programs. My favorite quote from the article was, “If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options.”

He was, of course, talking about a student entering and graduating from some sort of post-high school education with a bit of a sarcastic tone. This quote basically means that someone completing a program should have a changed perspective from when they started. If they didn’t (and this is the sarcastic tone,) at least they can be confident that they came in with some pretty good habits and opinions.

This article and certainly this quote can be applied to the transformations that all students at ICO go through. We come in with one way of thinking and we leave with a new perspective and lots of newly acquired knowledge. I may only be at the front end of this transformative process, but I am beginning to notice it… and I’m sure my classmates are too.

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5 Travel Tips for this Fall

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Blogs

While many of my peers spent some time in the sun in New Orleans for this year’s American Academy of Optometry conference, I decided to embrace Fall with a trip to the Northeast. ICO does not have classes during this conference, which gave us students some much needed time to unwind and catch up on our studies.  I took this time in New York.


Although I love Chicago, Manhattan never ceases to take my breath away. Flying over the iconic Empire State Building and monumental Freedom Tower always fills me with a sense of excitement and curiosity. On Tuesday me, myself, and I hopped on a plane at O’Hare destined for Laguardia.

Some of you may think, “Flying alone? Piece of cake!” Others may not be familiar with traveling alone, but it is a great way to take hold of your independence.  I learned at an early age how to travel by myself and it has been very beneficial throughout my whole optometry school career. From interviews to externships, you will be doing a lot of things on your own. That is one of the great things about graduate school- you learn how to be an independent adult.

Now, because I am a strong believer that learning how to travel independently is a crucial component to adulthood and a successful optometric career, I have developed a short list of travel tips from my trip to New York. Let’s start with getting to the airport…

1. Taking the CTA 

ICO is conveniently located near the Green Line of the CTA. If you are traveling to the airport, you can easily hop on this line (towards Harlem) at the IIT/Bronzeville stop using your Ventra card (bought online or at a station.) Get off at Clark/Lake to make your connection to either the Blue Line (towards O’Hare) or Orange Line (towards Midway.) These lines have easily distinguishable airport signs and take your directly to the airport. Easy and inexpensive!


2. Pack light and carry-on when you can!

I know, I know, you may need that extra scarf or the 5 sweatshirts, but try to think long and hard about what you are actually going to wear. I have learned the hard way that over packing can break the bank. Today, most airlines charge a fee to check bags and they all have an extra fee if you exceed their weight limit. Do your homework ahead of time to find out what their policies are before you begin packing. I always try to bring the minimum to avoid fees and save time heading straight to security.

3. Aim for arriving 2 hours early

This is sort of an unspoken rule when flying.  Airlines generally begin boarding a little more than a half hour before the flight takes off. Even if your arrive 10 minutes before your departure time, they may have already closed the gate and won’t let you on (it has happened to me.) Playing it safe is best. I always try to arrive two hours early. I do this in case I hit any traffic on the way (especially in a big city like NY or Chicago) or if there are major lines in security or unexpected delays. It may get boring waiting around if you are really early, but being in optometry school, you always have plenty of study material to keep you busy.

4. Charge your electronics

One of the most important rules about travel that my parents ingrained into my head was always have your phone on you and charged. You never know if you will get lost or need some information about your flight. Today most of us are very reliant on our phones so it is crucial to have it available for a day of travel- especially traveling alone. Additionally, having your laptop charged can help pass the time if you are arriving early and have to wait as stated in the above passage.

5. Know your exit strategy 

If someone is picking you up when you land, make sure you are communicating with them about the arrival time. Take into account how long it will actually take you to get off the plane and to baggage claim. If I didn’t check a bag, I generally ask my ride to arrive 15 minutes after our designated landing time to allow me to find where they are at. Some airports are easy to navigate and your ride can simply loop around until you arrive. Others, like Boston or New York, are very large and may even have a toll nearby. Once my dad had to pay a toll twice because he was trying to loop around the airport waiting for me and went the wrong way. If your ride doesn’t mind paying for parking, that eliminates most of this stress. Otherwise, try your best to time it well.

If you are taking public transportation to your destination, again, do your research ahead of time so you know where you are headed. Don’t get too stressed, though. There are many information desks at airports with people more than happy to answer your questions.


I hope these 5 tips are helpful for your next (or first) time traveling alone. Each time you do it, it gets easier until it is almost second nature.

fall 2015

Safe travels and happy fall!



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My first Academy: A quick summary of NOLA

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blogs

Ready for our first convention

Ready for our first convention

At first, NOLA seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about our future profession, meet our future colleagues, try new technologies, and see a famous city. At second thought, two exams and one project made me second guess if I should really be going on this trip. However, if your first exam back is an optometry exam, then the best place to study is a town full of optometrists. While studying NRA/PRA during our layover in Atlanta, we ended up asking a Resident (from a different school) for his help.

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Pit Stop at the AAO booth

Once we arrived in NOLA, the notes were set aside. We decided to try some New Orleans cuisine before attending our first Academy meeting. I had the brisket and mac and cheese, someone else tried fried gator. Throughout the trip I tried the famous beignets at Cafe Du Monde, a po’ boy, a Pig Mac, another brisket, and ribs (which were amazing.) However, you might note that I had no seafood, and as a stranger on the street told me, I was in the wrong town to eat.

The Pig Mac

The Pig Mac




After eating, we visited what we really came for: the American Academy of Optometry. We got our name tags, put on our ribbons (student, new member, first academy!) While I won’t bore you with all the details, I will share some of my memorable experiences.

Some included great sales pitches, such as when we were talking about the automatic phoropter, and the salesman said that our patient would be more impressed with this than the 200 year old manual phoropter. We also met a salesman selling a new slit lamp that was more accessible for “Americans,” a.k.a. larger people. We had to remind them that we were only second year students, and promised to come talk to them when we were looking to buy.

The Smart Vision Labs had us try out the SVOne, a smartphone-based autorefractor. We saw blue light lenses that block blue lights, and different types of trial frame lenses. I got to try 1-Day Acuvue Define (my eyes are too dark for shimmer and shine,) which made my iris look huge. I got a Cup-to-Disc Ratio guide and I got to pick some informational posters. Of course, I got a fews bags and beads (we were in New Orleans, after all.)

Free Pamphlets

Free Information Pamphlets

1-Day Acuvue Define

1-Day Acuvue Define Sample

My eyes look huge

Wearing the Define contact lenses. My eyes look huge.

Even though Saturday and Sunday were filled with cramming for optometry and trying to catch up for the upcoming week, Academy was worth the panic of studying. It was a great opportunity and a great reminder of why we are studying to become optometrists. I wish I could go into every detail of Academy, but it would be too long to write, and too long to read. My only advice is if you haven’t gone, you should start planning your trip for next year. I can’t wait to go again, and next year’s is in Anaheim (Warm weather? Yes, please!)

My ribbons and bag

My ribbons and bag

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These Tots Have an Egg on Them

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Blogs


they look small, but there is surely an entire chicken in the one on the right.

A couple weeks ago, my roommate told me something that would change my life forever: “I had thee legit best tacos in the world last night…oh, and by the way, I had tots that had an EGG on them.”

Naturally, we went there for dinner that night. She didn’t care that she had just been there less than 24 hours prior; they were THAT good. The place was called Velvet Taco, a cute joint with a simple concept: make bomb tacos. Upon arriving there, I realized the food was nothing short of velvety goodness. The tacos were eclectic and unique, and some of the ingredients sounded more complicated than the words in my anatomy textbook. I was OK with not being able to pronounce them, as long as I could taste them.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was about 10-12 rotisserie chickens spinning in perfect harmony. Apparently, the rotisserie chicken is one of their signature ingredients. I decided to give it a whirl and order their rotisserie chicken taco (which, by the way, came fully equipped with white queso.) I also got a shrimp taco, complete with crispy pepper jack cheese grits- fried together to make a popper, which I devoured shamelessly in a matter of seconds.  Can you blame me? Food this good should not be allowed to exist.

tots. with an egg.

Then came the tots (described courtesy of Velvet Taco’s menu): “crisp tots & local egg, herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado cream, bacon.” When a poor college kid is willing to pay $5.50 for some tots and a fried egg, you know they’re sumthin’ special.

And because we were not yet full enough after our taco escapade, we decided to walk to Amorino for dessert… one can always make room for gelato. Honestly, I’ve never felt more overwhelmed with choices than I did there. The person on my right shoulder told me to order the hazelnut with bits of Nutella (YES, NUTELLA) folded in it, while the person on my left shoulder told me to get the dark chocolate with dark chocolate bits. This was going on internally when the lady at the counter then told me I could get as many flavors as I wanted on one cone. ‘Nuff said.



Meanwhile, in the case chillin’ next to the gelato was a rainbow of macaroons. Was I dreaming? Pure finesse left the spatulas of these gelato artists and ended up on the cone in the shape of a flower. I was delighted to be eating something that looked as wonderful and delicate as it tasted. Next time I might order flavors depending on which color combos make the prettiest flower treat.


the fine art of “gelato-ing”

As we rolled to the CTA Green Line, we crunched the last bits of our sugar cones (which were delicious by the way) and were already planning the next time we would make another Velvet Taco/ Amorino trip. At one point, we considered pitching a tent next to Velvet Taco… but we decided that would be too weird.

These two examples barely scratch the surface of what the city of Chicago has to offer in terms of unique eats, but if you’re like me, a good taco is enough to make you want to find out.

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Homecoming 2015

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blogs

welcomeCE signCE entrance

Homecoming is an event each Fall at the ICO campus that brings alumni and current students together. It provides an opportunity to meet future colleagues, make connections, and learn a little bit about the current hot topics of the field. The weekend-long event starts on Friday evening. This year, the ICO courtyard was turned into a Blindspot Kickoff party equipped with a photo booth, tiki bar, live music in the form of karaoke, and delicious food, of course. For the students, Friday is a great way to get warmed up to starting their weekend of networking. For the alumni, it’s a nice amp-up to the later event; 2015’s outing happened to be a White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field.

CE lecture

As an alumnus, your Saturday starts off with breakfast served at the hotel before shuttling over to the ICO campus to begin the line-up of activities. These include a 2-hour continuing education course and a Student-Alumni Mingle that takes over the gym. One of the sought after work study jobs during Homecoming is helping coordinate and assist with the Saturday night dinner cruise on the Odyssey that takes off from Navy Pier.

Fortunately, ICO has graduates all over the US and Canada, and you’re bound to find someone with similar interests that you can learn from at the Student-Alumni Mingle. Most often, there’s also a table or two with other professionals such as lawyers, company representatives, real estate associates, and practice start up and management assistants to help you get a more whole picture of aspects of optometry you probably hadn’t even thought about. Many exhibitors are also part of this event and are always eager to demonstrate their new products or talk about potential future opportunities with you; some are ICO alum themselves and are great resources for a “once school is over” perspective.

Name tags


homecoming food

After attending Homecoming, or other networking events offered, it makes me realize that networking is a skill in itself. One must learn it and practice it to be good at it. The earlier you start, the better at it you will be by the time you really need to turn to those skills- when you’re almost a doc and looking for a job… so start NOW! If you’re really ambitious, it wouldn’t hurt to start writing your CV now, either. I started mine about 6 months ago and I constantly think of stuff to add that I had forgotten about. It has become an ongoing project of mine, and not surprisingly, it will be a lot more complete by the time I need to submit it for a potential opportunity.

ICO is very fortunate to have such a geographically diverse student body. After graduation, some of us will return home, some of us will move somewhere new, and some of us will tackle a residency program. Once we start our careers and become busy with family, career and just life in general, it will be difficult to get everyone together at the same time and place. ICO Homecoming is an event that I look forward to attending as an alumnus. My circle of friends has definitely talked about the subject and agree that we will make every effort to be there.  I hope that my colleagues are having the same discussion and plan to attend.
student alumni mingle signhomecoming food 2










Student alumni mingle 2







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