By Bonnie Samuelson, SCCO 2020
Everyone goes into grad school expecting it to be a grind and worrying about how to survive the coursework while maintaining good grades. We worry about how stressful it’s going to be and whether we’ve made the right choice. Well I’m here to tell you that, while this past year was stressful and challenging at times, the good moment far outweighed the bad. I met so many wonderful people and had a ton of fun and new experiences. With that being said, here are my top 7 moments from first year:
1. Vision Expo
During the first couple months of school everyone in the class is getting to know each other and making new friends so what better way to do that than with a road trip to this awesome optometry conference in Vegas?! Vision Expo was such an eye-opening experience (pun intended) and showed me just how many different career paths there are in optometry. The sheer amount of vendors, exhibits, and fellow optometrists and students there was overwhelming. It was a great opportunity to network as well. The whole experience was a blast and I got to bond and have fun with my classmates in a non-school setting.
2. White Coat Ceremony
At MBKU we (optometry) are fortunate to have our White Coat Ceremony early in our first year in October. Needless to say, once I put on my white coat, I truly felt like a doctor, and in the midst of my first quarter and exams as an optometry student, it helped me realize the ends justify the means. It was great to see our entire class go through this occasion together and we all looked pretty good in our white coats if I do say so myself.
3. Passing Any Proficiency
As any SCCO student will tell you, proficiencies are pretty nerve-wrecking going in, but there’s no greater feeling of triumph than completing a new clinical skill and successfully performing it on a patient. This is the reason we are all here and, I’ll tell you right now, nobody will complete every proficiency perfect the first time. All you can do is continue to practice and try again. The best part is that everyone in your class is going through the same thing and are willing to help. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be when it comes time to perform.
4. Care Harbor
This is a huge Los Angeles volunteer event that many different health care professionals attend from all over the area. Our school sends students every year to which to participate and provide free eye exams to anyone who wishes to attend. After learning some clinical skills in fall and winter quarter, it was very exciting to go and use these on real patients in a real-world setting. It was a very rewarding experience and all of our patients were very kind and appreciative. In the middle of a year full of lectures and labs, this was a good reminder of why it’s all worth it.
5. Optometry’s Meeting in D.C.
Technically this occurred the month after first year finished but it was so much fun it had to make the list! Similar to Vision Expo, Optometry’s Meeting had so many great opportunities to network and learn about advocating for our profession on both a state and national level. At this conference I was able to meet a ton of students from different schools and spend time with them. There were so many events geared specifically for students and I felt like I really learned a lot. Also, there are so many fun things to see and do while in DC. I highly suggest doing the rent-a-bike service and biking around the monuments and along the Potomac River.
6. Tijuana SVOSH Trip
Near the end of the year, I decided to go on one of our school’s SVOSH day trips to Tijuana with five other students from our school (and Dr. Van de Pol). We volunteered at a local church to give free eye exams and provide free glasses. Similar to Care Harbor, this was a very rewarding experience and a great opportunity to practice and hone the clinical skills I’d learned throughout the past year. We got to work with and help young kids as well as some adults who had been struggling to see. The whole day was a ton of fun and we also stopped for some tacos before we crossed the border on the way back.
7. Any and All Fun Random Moments with My Classmates
My absolute favorite parts of this year were making new friends with the people in my class. There are so many hilarious moments we’ve had together, whether it’s late-night delirious studying sessions, going out to try ramen and boba for the first time, or having last-minute bonfires and s’mores at the pool. We always have fun together and have all bonded through certain tough exams or proficiencies we’ve had. My last piece of advice is to put yourself out there when you get here this fall. Go to the class mixers, run for class board, go on hikes and explore the area or form a workout squad! I guarantee you’ll meet some pretty great people in the process and truly thrive as a student.