Which is Better, Year 1 or 2?

Optometry school is quite the rollercoaster. At ICO, first year is the biggest hurdle. After that, anything seems possible. Students always want to know the next step as they continue throughout their journey to become optometrists. Will it ever get easier? Will I ever gain back some of that beloved ‘free’ time? What is it like to be one year closer to graduation? Although every student has their own perspective on the four-year endeavor, here is my take on maneuvering your way through the obstacles.

Being a second year at ICO, there are many misconceptions. Students always seem to have the impression that school gets easier as each year passes. For me, nothing has gotten easier. In fact, things might have gotten a little more complicated. The main thing to remember is that each year is different. There are different responsibilities, different requirements, and different obligations to fill your time.

After gaining the right of passage into second year, my time management skills have improved. The ability to juggle the many tasks at hand has become easier. When you get used to three exams per week, constant studying, and trying to fit in some fun, you learn to manage your time well.

Resident Complex at ICO (left) and apartment in chicago (right)

Although you have more experience in how to manage your time, it does not mean you have more of it to spare. For me, the classes are no longer review of old concepts learned in undergraduate school. They contain new terms, diseases, and material that I do not have a background in. My studying time has increased, and my brain capacity has, as well. Now, I must connect the old with the new, all while saving room for brand new concepts.

The test schedule may be lighter after completing year one, but the material and expectations of you as a student are not. The clinician side of you comes through in all aspects of your day. You no longer are just memorizing facts, you are applying them on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true during your clinic shifts. As you direct the exam and get more and more parts under your belt, you feel yourself transforming from student to clinician.

If my time is not taken up by studying or being in clinic, it is by working in the pediatric department, going to meetings, staying involved, and practicing my clinical skills. It is no longer enough to practice a skill a few days before you are checked-off on perfecting it. As a second year, you must practice weeks in advance to master the skills at hand. The skills require you to master the procedure, know the diagnostic abilities of the various pieces of equipment, and understand your findings.

First year optometry equipment (left) and adding to the collection of equipment second year (right)

After year one, I felt as though the worst was behind me. I used to be shocked when I got a bad test grade. I felt like the world was caving in on me when an illness sent me to the hospital before three exams, a check-off, and a recitation. Now, I know that nothing can stop me. You learn to build confidence after overcoming many obstacles. You develop a tolerance to difficulties that come your way, and grow a thick skin to protect yourself.

When it comes down to it, every day is an uphill battle, but knowing that you are one hour, one day, or one week closer to becoming an optometrist makes it all worth it. In the end, it all kind of blends into the same thing: bettering yourself as a doctor. So, which is better, 1 or 2?

I suppose a more important option to add, both in the exam room and out of it, would be: “Do they look about the same?”

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