Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Blogs | 0 comments

I’m a firm believer in three things.

Everyone should have a favorite book, a favorite vacation destination, and a favorite pen.

But after a whirlwind weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, I’m now a firm believer in a fourth indisputable truth.

Everyone should get to feel like a celebrity at least once in their life.

I achieved this pinnacle of the human experience when I went to the Academy of EyeCare Excellence  earlier this month. Alcon, a global company specializing in eye care products, invites fourth year students to travel to their headquarters in Texas for a weekend and learn about their products. From my arrival to my departure, I was treated like a princess. And not a reality show princess–a legit “I fly on a magic carpet, have a pet tiger, and only bathe in Fiji water” princess.

I knew that I was going to like Texas because that’s where Coach and Tami Taylor reside.

(If you didn’t understand that reference, go to Netflix and watch “Friday Night Lights” seasons 1-5 immediately, and we can reconvene our friendship afterwards.)

So how does one prepare for a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip?

Well I can only speak for myself, even though I like to pretend I speak for everyone. I prepared for my trip by contracting the 24-hour stomach flu. I was projectile vomiting the entire day before my flight, marveling at the sheer velocity at which my stomach contents were able to hurl into that porcelain bowl. I was sleeping on the bathroom floor, and I was ten shades of puce.

I won’t bother you with the vivid details, but I will say that I highly encourage people recovering from the stomach flu to get on a plane the next day. Frankly I’m surprised WebMd hasn’t included that in their “treatment” tab. Bless the poor guy who sat next to me–I held it together, but only just.

But back to the fun stuff.

I arrived in Fort Worth with Davis Staley, my good friend and occasional co-conspirator. The first thing he said when we walked out of the airport was “It smells like steak!” with a grin from ear to ear. And then we saw it:

The black limousine.

Yes, kiddos. They picked us up in a limo.

The more refined part of me realizes this shouldn’t matter. A vehicle is a vehicle. But the much larger part of me recognized that this was sheer awesome sauce.

Then we got to the hotel.20131107_171417

If the limo was awesome sauce, the hotel was the vat in which the awesome was brewed.

The Worthington Renaissance hotel boasts a two-story waterfall, countless pianos, a Starbucks, and rooms even a princess would deem luxurious. Stomach flu be damned, I was ready to enjoy myself.

The fun part of fourth year is seeing your classmates that you haven’t seen for a while and running into each other’s arms in slow motion. I think I hugged my fellow Calgarian, Eve, for an embarrassingly long time. She’s too sweet to care, and I’m too creepy to let go at an appropriate interval. I know I’ve gone on ad nauseum about the class of 2014, but  we were genuinely excited to catch up with each other and our little table was bustling with tales of our externships sites, our boards stories, and our excitement for the weekend ahead. The other thing I love about ICO peeps: When the food line up gets too long, you can find us at the bar.

We don’t mess around.

Our first day started bright and early, with breakfast served at 6:30 a.m. and the buses leaving for the Alcon campus at 7:15.

I guess since I recently ventured into adulthood without realizing it, this no longer seems insanely early to me. I remember being aghast at 8 a.m. exams–and now I’m expected to have seen at least four patients and run two visual fields by 8.

Actually, I’m joking. It’s three visual fields.

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Alcon’s campus is beautiful. If you were ever wondering how the pharmaceutical industry is doing… I can assure you, they are not clipping coupons. The lecture hall was immaculate, we all had our little name plates on the desks, little microphones to amplify our questions, and bottled water everywhere. It became a running joke that they would be feeding us every two hours–but after our seventh “snack break” of the day, it became evident that it was no joke.

Again, stomach flu be damned. If there is a selection of premium ice cream bars being rolled up to me and I can choose as many as my heart desires, I’m no longer thinking about gastrointestinal distress.

The lectures themselves were interesting–some of the premier ODs in the country were invited to speak on about a myriad of topics, ranging from ocular surface disease to contact lenses and solutions to age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and implantable lenses for cataract surgery.

It was cool to hear the perspective of actual practicing doctors and why they choose the products they do, and what the patient’s response to them has been. Like any promotional meeting, there will always be an emphasis placed on the products that Alcon itself manufactures, but it was cool nonetheless to hear about products that we may be dispensing to our patients one day. It is a self-evident truth that Alcon supports optometry and optometrists in every action. From the executives who greeted us to the presenters, it was abundantly apparent that their company wants us to succeed in whatever scope we choose to practice, and that they were there for us every step of the way.

After they fed us again, they brought us to the laboratory that makes the majority of Alcon products.

It’s cool to watch the inner workings of a factory, even from behind glass (to keep the environment sterile). I had flashbacks to reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when I was little and secretly hoped to catch a glimpse of an Oompa Loompa sealing the Opti-Free bottles that were whizzing past me.

Alas, no Oompa Loompas. But they did feed us candy after the lab tour. Coincidence?

At night–you guessed it. More luxury and more food. I think I killed that stomach flu but literally drowning it in glorious Texan goodness. We even got to go to Billy Bob’s, the world’s biggest honky-tonk bar, and listen to Josh Turner perform live. Javeria learned how to Texas two-step, Andrew got to try Texas’ own Shiner Bock beer, and we all got to get weak-kneed when Josh Turner hit those low notes.

It was with a touch of sadness that we said goodbye at the airport.

It’s always cool to travel and learn. In fact, I think those might be two of my most favorite things to do.

And not to sound overly sentimental or cloying–the best thing about these trips is getting to hang out with my classmates. I don’t see them often, and I’m terrible about keeping in touch. But when we get together, it’s always a good time. The little weekends in fourth year are perfect for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. In fact, when we get together, we are almost always the rowdiest table.

We are the table with our heads thrown back because we can’t stop laughing.

We are asking each other how “lubricious” the staircases are.

We are double-fisting marshmallows at the s’mores station.

We are beaming at our fellow ICO alum giving one of the presentations.

We are biking around Fort Worth after dark–remarking how truly wonderful life is at this very moment in time.

Thanks for the trip, Alcon! It was truly spectacular to see Texas in all her glory, and that limo wasn’t too shabby either.

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