The first round of lectures has begun for the graduating class of 2022! I am an ICO first year coming to Chicago from Nashville, Tennessee. With classes underway, I can’t help but anticipate the major changes I’m about to be thrown into. My life is about to be turned upside down. ‘Work Life in the South’ vs. ‘Optometry Student in the Big City’ are two very different concepts that are sure to present some exciting and unexpected challenges. While I know I can’t predict what lies ahead, I can anticipate what areas of my life may require the most adaptation.
Some of the adjustments I’m going to make are related to the move from a mid-sized city in the south, where a car is essential, to the city of Chicago, where there is a much more developed and integrated public transit system. I initially thought I would bring my vehicle with me to school. I imagined it would be a safety blanket for me during my first year at ICO. The school offers a parking spot in a secure garage for a reasonable price, so at first, I thought it was a no-brainer. After more weighing of the pros and cons, however, I decided to forego the safety blanket and put myself in a situation where I will more heavily rely on public transit and walking to get me where I need to go. Here’s a breakdown of what was going through my head as I made my final decision:
As you can see, it wasn’t an easy decision but I ultimately made the choice to sell my car… and I’m not alone. A poll from our class’s Facebook group regarding whether or not students were bringing their car resulted in a majority saying they were coming without one; 53 students said they were not bringing a car, while only 18 said they were. Those that have brought their cars seem to enjoy the convenience of being able to go wherever they want, and I’ve heard of some second years who have decided to bring a car their second year after being without the first year. It’s all up to personal preference and what works best for you!
Another major change that comes with moving to Chicago is the weather. Almost everyone’s first response when I told them I was moving here was “-but have you been there in the winter????” I have a feeling that my definition of ‘cold’ is about to get redefined. In Tennessee, we get snow once per year, maybe twice if we’re lucky. With temperatures rarely low enough for the snow to even stick to the ground, I’ve had virtually no need for any cold weather gear. Average annual snowfall in Nashville is around 6-7 inches, while Chicago multiplies that number to 36-37 inches per year (Yikes!) The advice I’ve gotten from upperclassmen and locals is to wait until I’ve moved to Chicago to start hunting for my winter wardrobe pieces. They just don’t make clothes in the south to prepare you for a Windy City winter. I’ve mentally put aside money in my budget for these purchases which are sure to come with a higher price tag than I’m used to.
Speaking of money, possibly the biggest adjustment I will have to make is with my budget. I personally took a three-year gap between undergrad and starting optometry school. In the meantime, I got to work full-time jobs that allowed me to spend money on clothes, food, social events, and (for the most part) whatever I felt like I wanted to do. While I will definitely not have the same luxury being a full-time student, I will fortunately (and unfortunately) have less free time and therefore less temptation to spend my limited funds. And although I will try to avoid extravagant spending, I am still going to allow myself to put money towards things that I enjoy and that relieve stress (aka the therapist I like to call ‘Target’).
I know many people in the class of 2022 are in for some big changes as we navigate our first year of optometry school. The good news is that we’re not in it alone. With such a large and diverse student population, we are bound to share our individual struggles with others in our class or school. I can’t wait to see how my experience at ICO plays out and what unexpected challenges may arise during my time here!