That’s right–in a mere 60 days my fellow classmates and I will enter the ICO for the first time as members of the class of 2017. What a surreal notion to put on paper (or, um, type on a keyboard).
I’ve been arranging my ICO school forms over the past few months. This includes sending in all of my complete transcripts and school immunization forms, and little by little I am seeing the makings of true enrollment; that is, actually seeing myself as a student-doctor of optometry (I’m sorry, when did this happen?!). Let’s be serious: It’s one thing to say “I’m going to ICO,” and it is quite another to actually see the steps be taken to get there. All of the optometrists I work with have been telling me vivid tales of year one at ICO. Although I’m perhaps shaking in my boots a little at the overload of tests and information that is undoubtedly coming my way, I will say I became exceedingly excited as the doctors were describing becoming a true Chicagoan. I’ve lived in the suburbs of Chicago my whole life and have had my fair share of city adventures. From holding a nice cold beverage and a hotdog at a Cubs game, to sunbathing at North Avenue Beach, I’m no stranger to the city. However, I’m ready to know my way around without a GPS.
Every ICO alum I’ve met has told me that not only this city, but also this school will change my life. They speak of esteemed mentors who have become friends, and friends who have become family. At my alma mater, the University of Illinois, my peers and I had different majors and although we were working towards the same goal of receiving a diploma, at the end of the day we were to go down different paths that would lead us all in vastly diverse directions. Here at ICO however, we will be collectively helping each other reach the same objective. That is, to become competent, successful–and most importantly, compassionate–optometrists.
Days are passing quickly during this sweltering summer in the Chicagoland area. As I look at my calendar, crossing off boxes one by one, I’m not convinced that the first day will ever get here. I’ve been filling my days by working at LensCrafters as an eye care advisor as well as taking the time to do things that I love. Let me tell you, what an interesting feeling it is to be able to not have to worry about anything besides how I want to spend my time.
Recently, I have just come back from Panama–I traveled to Panama City and Bocas Del Toro with my best friend, Brigid. We were the epitome of true vacationers basking in the sun and exploring one the gems of Central America. It seemed worlds apart from the U.S. and one thing was extremely evident to me: Either Panamanians have great vision, or there seemed to be a lack of eyecare facilities in the rural and even many of the populated areas. This notion struck a chord with me. Especially because I was feeling blessed to be able to observe Panama clearly behind my beloved Acuvue 1-Day Moist contact lenses.
Suddenly, a positive thought enveloped me. Joining ICO’s SVOSH (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) might be just the remedy to give back to society. SVOSH makes mission trips to remote countries in hopes of giving eye care to those that would not otherwise have the opportunity. I love to travel and I love eyecare. Why shouldn’t the two go hand-in-hand?
For the time being this summer, I’ll be working locally with the organization OneSight, which has a similar mission to SVOSH. Every summer thus far has never felt truly “mine.” Even during my summers between each school year at U of I, I’d always be taking a summer class or feeling that the summer was only just a break between semesters. This time, it feels like one chapter has closed and I’m waiting, if you’ll pardon the pun, for optometry to come into focus. This phase of life is the one I studied countless hours for, shadowed optometrists day-in and day-out for, and dreamed about for years and years. I know there are not only many successes, but also a few struggles ahead of me. Even so, as part of the class of 2017, I just can’t wait.