Let me start by telling you that these will be the best and most memorable four years of your life. Your studies will finally be focused on something that you are passionate about as you catch yourself saying, “Wow, that is so cool!” at least once during every lecture (at least, I did). You will be making lifelong friends who help make the journey a little easier. They’re the friends who can relate and understand what you are going through, who will remind you of deadlines, and who will be there when you need to vent, laugh or cry. There will be lots of fun experiences throughout as well as a ton of self-growth.
As I’m sure you know, not everything is sunshine and rainbows as an optometry student. Halfway through my first year, I developed an anxiety disorder due to the excess pressure I was putting on myself to perform well in school. I kept telling myself that I need to become the best optometrist that I could be but, at the same time, I was questioning and sometimes doubting how I will even become a doctor. These thoughts made it difficult to focus on my schoolwork, and it also became difficult to enjoy time with my friends. Thankfully, my optometry school is very supportive about mental health and has provided us, since the beginning, with the resources we might require. I quickly took advantage of those resources, which have helped me tremendously. By listening to my body and acting quick, I was able to prevent my grades from dropping and enjoy what I was studying again.
As you start your journey through optometry school, always make time for self-care. This is easier said than done as you will be incredibly busy with schoolwork and might forget from time to time to take care of your body. Set yourself a reminder if necessary or find a spot to fit it into your busy schedule. Whether it is meditating, exercising or a spa night, your body will thank you and you will most likely perform better on your exams and proficiencies. Keep in mind that putting a little pressure on yourself can be helpful, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
Not only will optometry school teach you everything you need to know about eyeballs, but you will learn so much about yourself during your time as a student. So far, I’ve learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was and I am capable of handling big and unexpected obstacles that come my way. I also have found ways in which I could keep myself calm during chaotic times.
Something else I have come to realize is that I am not the only one going through personal struggles. I found that a lot of my classmates were going through the exact same thing, making me feel less alone. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend and let them in on what’s going on. And don’t forget, your professors and faculty members are some of your biggest supporters. They want you to succeed and, though we are listening to them lecturing most of the time, they are great listeners, too.
I hope I was able to give you insight with my experience during my first year as an optometry student. You are all going to be amazing doctors and help so many people. I am already proud of you all!