Advice Column

Student Involvement: Just Do It!

Optometry school is a new experience for all of us. I remember when I started, we were encouraged by upper-classmen to get involved. I didn’t listen I thought I wouldn’t have time. I was married and had a one-yearold daughter at home. I just wanted to get home as fast as I could so I could spend time with my family. I also was worried about my ability to balance family and school would I be able to handle the course load while getting involved in extracurriculars? At our club day, I was disappointed to find that none of the clubs spoke to me. I had been hoping to join the ocular disease club, but it turned out we didn’t have one. Because they didn’t have the club I most wanted to join and I still wanted most of my time to be with my family, I ended up going through my first year of school without any real involvement. However, that all changed my second year, and it has changed more as time has gone on.  

It started when I decided to do a summer research internship through my school. As I was talking to one of the professors I could work with, I mentioned I was interested in ocular disease, and that I was disappointed to know that our school didn’t have a club. I mentioned that I wished someone would start one, and the professor I was talking to said she would be interested in supporting it as a faculty advisor. From there, the whole thing snowballed I found myself asking administration about the process of starting a club, then actually going through the process. By the time the next year started, we had a club put together. It wasn’t something I ever planned, I just stumbled into it.

When I started the process, I was somewhat worried that it would take me away from my family too much or impact my grades, but as I went through the process I discovered something amazing: getting involved doesn’t mean selling your soul.wasn’t spending massive amounts of time on it. Yes, it took some leg work, but most of it was just sending emails. It only took a couple of minutes a day, and it ended up being a little bit less time wasted online. I learned a lot about leadership and volunteering, as well as had a club that I actually wanted to attend. I was away from home for an evening once a month, which was a sacrifice I felt willing to make for such great benefits, and it didn’t impact my schoolwork at all. 

The fact is, getting involved didn’t mean attending club meetings three nights a week or missing my daughter growing up. Getting involved doesn’t need to take all your life and time. If you are on the fence, just dip your toe in. You would be shocked to find how much you can contribute while not giving up your lifestyle. The difference you make for those around will be great, but the best thing is it will prepare you for your future in our legislated profession. It’s a fact of optometry that if we want to practice to the full extent of our training, we need to continue working with legislators to make changes. That doesn’t happen unless everyday optometrists you and me get out there and work to make a difference.

Changes aren’t accomplished by one super-optometrist who does everything.

If you start getting involved now, it will make involvement in your future career easier, will build your resume, and help you improve the quality of life of the students around you.  

To sum up, Nike got it right. If you aren’t sure about getting involved, just do it. The results will be more beneficial than you realize—I guarantee it! 

Health & Wellness

How Physical Activity Makes Us Stronger Students

Optometrists are leaders in eye care. When we become doctors, patients will rely on us for information and guidance so their vision is the best it can be. This starts with us working as the best students we can be. We know there are plenty of lectures and studying involved in optometry school and taking care of ourselves will ensure that we are prepared and focused for the work to come. One of the most meaningful ways we can do this is through physical activity and regular exerciseEven if only a couple of times a week, we can still get many benefits from exercise.  

Mental health 

Grad school can be a stressful time for anyone, and going through school during a pandemic brings its own extra stressors into our lives. It is crucial to seek counseling or help for mental health issues if necessary. Additionally, physical activity brings immediate benefits such as rejuvenated energy, mood boosts, and decreased stress. These short-term benefits also offer the most motivation for sticking to an exercise routine, (1) and we could all use a little less stress in our lives.  

Physical health 

Some of the commonly discussed health benefits of physical activity are improved cardiovascular health, increased bone density, a decrease of systemic diseases such as diabetes, and improved sleepBesides this, we know that overall health is connected to eye health. Just one example of how exercise can help our eyes is its connection to alleviating oxidative stress. As future optometrists, understanding the importance of physical activity will allow us to better treat our patients holistically, and not just as the eyes. 

School 

Physical activity helps us focus more efficiently on our schoolwork and improves study habitsResearch has repeatedly demonstrated that regular aerobic exercise improves cognitive function. (2) Incorporating exercise regularly into our schedule gives us an extra opportunity to practice self-discipline, and this makes it easier for us to adhere to a study routine.  

One of the best things about physical activity is that there are endless ways to do it. I like to go for walks and follow along with exercise videos on YouTube, but cycling, hiking, running, yoga, weightlifting, and many more give us the opportunity to improve our health as well, allowing us to be better students, and eventually  

 

  1. Gellert P,ZiegelmannJP, Schwarzer R. Affective and health-related outcome expectancies for physical activity in older adults. Psychol Health. 2012;27(7):816-28. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2011.607236. Epub 2011 Aug 25. PMID: 21867397. 
  2. Voss MW,Nagamatsu LS, Liu-Ambrose T, Kramer AF. Exercise, brain, and cognition across the life span. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Nov;111(5):1505-13. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00210.2011. Epub 2011 Apr 28. PMID: 21527670; PMCID: PMC3220305 
Student Experience

What I Wish I Knew: 1st Year

Optometry school is the next exciting part of your life. You are one step closer to reaching your goals. Here are some things I wish I would have known my first year of optometry school.  

 

  1. Patience is essential. It is incredibly important to be patient with yourself. Optometry school is not only a major change in the level of academics but also a major transition in life as well. Don’t get down on yourself if things aren’t going perfectly right away. It takes time to adjust and balance to all of the new challenges you will be facing, in school and out of school.
  2. Comparison hurts more than it helps You are in optometry school! That in itself is amazing! You are surrounded by likeminded people who are all very smart and have the drive to be successful. It is okay to not get an A in every class or the highest grades in your friend/social groups. You are learning and will be utilizing the same information that they are and you are earning the same degree. Be the person who lifts others up, and don’t let others bring you down. 
  3. Find balance Optometry school keeps you busy. You must find a balance between school and life. Restarting hobbies you may have had when you were younger is one example; making time for yourself to relax needs to be a priority. Take the time to go for a walk, hike or to watch that Netflix series you’ve been dying to start. Spending even an hour or two away from classwork can totally rejuvenate your mindset and will make your experience in optometry school much more enjoyable. 
  4. Be open to new study tactics. In undergrad, I studied by myself. Study groups have been a miracle worker for me since starting optometry school. The volume and difficulty level of this material compared to your undergraduate studies can be overwhelming. Many times, the methods that worked for you before simply don’t work now, and that’s okay! Studying with classmates and categorizing material have been two of the key changes I have had to make. There is no shame in admitting you might need to switch up your tactics. 
  5. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Utilize information from upperclassmen, professors and mentors. These people were in your shoes not too long ago, and they understand what you’re going through. They will have so many helpful tips and things to tell you. Also, take advantage of any tutoring and counseling opportunities that your school may offer. Reaching out for help, whether it be for school or your mental health, is always an honorable thing to do.
  6. Find a support system. Having somebody to vent and talk to, whether it is a best friend, roommate, family member, mentor or even a pet, is essential. There are bound to be moments that you feel totally overwhelmed or just need to rant and get something off  your chest. Find the people in your life who can be there in those moments and remember that they are rooting for you!
  7. Be involved. You will have so many different opportunities to get involved in your school from clubs to research to social events. Finding a group and purpose through school will make your experience even more enjoyable. Now is the time to find out what you are interested in, so do it!
  8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Now is the time to make mistakes. You are in an amazing learning environment, and one of the best ways to learn is through the mistakes you make. Take those failures and allow yourself to grow from them, that’s how you will find the most success.  
  9. Keep up with your lectures. Cramming the couple days before an exam may have worked for you in the past, but that strategy is nearly impossible in optometry school. One of the best ways to not let yourself fall behind is to review your lectures daily and try to learn the information as you go, instead of the day before the exam.
  10. Be adventurous and open to change. Some people may start optometry school with a direct goal in mind while others have no direct path in mind. Either is completely okay. Take advantage of the amazing academic opportunities available to you and try different things; volunteer for research opportunities or local eye care clinics. One of these opportunities may offer you a new perspective of optometry.  
Student Success & Residency

Advice for Those Flying Under the Radar of Success to Become A Bright(er) Signal: My Interpretation on How to Be Successful in Optometry School

Success is different depending on your goals, and it can be achieved in a variety of ways. The key is to set your goal, define success then take the path that works best for you. What is your definition of success in school going to be? There’s no wrong answer! The definition I use (and love) is, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. Maya Angelou.  

This article will share a little about how I learned to live the definition of success and some tips that may help you live yours 

Let’s start from the ground up. To get through this thing, you need to like and care for yourself before you can show up for others (family, friends, classmates, PATIENTS). 

  1. Keep yourself healthy. Mind, body, soul. This is a non-negotiable! What grounds you in the middle of chaos? What types of self-care help you look and feel your best? Personally, I rely on a routine as a template for my day. It helps me use less brain power on setting up my day and more on learning as much as I can during it (efficiency hack!). I work out every day before class/lab/clinic. Call me crazy, but exercise keeps mawake and ready to learn. It also has improved my confidence, motivation, and overall health. While it isn’t easy, it is possible and worth every ounce of dedication (even if it is only 15-20 min). 
  1. Find amazing friends who match your personality. These are the people who will get you through the next four years (shout out to my person, Shelby Tomek). They are your optometry school ‘Google’ when you have absurd or picky questionsjust in case it’s on the exam! Make a study schedule with them and decide when to work on homework assignments, study for exams, and go to open lab hours to practice skills. They will be your accountability partners and make you not feel alone through your journey 
  1.  Have self-discipline. Avoid self-sabotage.  If you aren’t on your own team, who will be? I’m not saying don’t have fun, just plan for it. Your schedule doesn’t allow for an excess amount of freedom, so be intentional with your time. Self-discipline will put you on the fast track to success. An episode or two of your favorite show is fine. An entire series binge on a weeknight: not okay! Moderation is the best of both worlds. Enjoy and relax, but don’t let a lack of discipline set you back. 

 

Now, how are you going to like what you are doing? Spoiler alert: Optometry school is not a walk in the park, so you’ll need to find the aspects you love to keep you going. 

  1. Get to know your faculty. Believe it or not, they are not all that scary! They are people just like you, not just tough [insert subject here] professor.” They want you to be great and are there for you. Its their job to get you to where you need to be, and they are a resource for your success as a future doctorTrust me, class will be more enjoyable (and dare I say fun?) when you are comfortable enough to participate and ask questions. 
  1. Pursue your interestjust not every club on the list. Don’t spread your time and energy thin on things to ‘add it to the resume.’ Spend your time on what gets you excited. This will create a positive feedback loop. That taste of excitement will be in the back of your mind when all you want to do is complain about a subject you don’t care for. This is a fantastic way to bring light to your end goal and remind yourself you are ready for whatever it takes to get there.  
  1. Don’t turn down opportunities that will help you grow, even if it seems like a lot of extra work. Growth is about stepping outside your comfort zoneAt the beginning of my first year, I applied for the U.S. Navy health professions scholarship program knowing my chance of acceptance was slim, and toward the end of my first year, I applied for the T35 summer research program out of curiosity and never thought it would lead to me entering the OD/MS program. Here I am, only a few semesters away from my masters thesis defense and currently, an ensign (0-1) in the U.S. Navy awaiting my base assignment as a lieutenant (0-3) once I graduateTake chances on potential opportunities; it may change your career path and potentially your life!  

 

Finally, there are specific actions that can launch you into success throughout your career as a student.  

  1. Learn and study with efficiency and purpose.In class, relate topics to your future patients. Don’t think “when am I possibly going to need to know this stuff?” The truth is, the more you know about how the body works and how diseases can affect the entire body, the better doctor you will be. Don’t be average, strive to stand out and solve problems! Study for understanding not memorizationMake connections between courses and different aspects of optometry. This is not the time to cram because the rest of your life will be cumulative.  
  1. Learn to think for yourself. Do your own research, piece teachings together, and craft what works for you. You know yourself better than anyone, so craft how you want to practice someday. Feel confident in the clinic by using methods that work best for you. You don’t have to be a robot and just do as you are told. Just be able to explain to your attending why you performed certain tests/procedures. They will appreciate this and think highly of you for being able to do so!  
  1. Keep the faith through it all. Find positivity in everything you do. Believe in yourself. This is your time to ask questions, accept that you are here to learn and that sometimes can mean setbacks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. When you fall short of your expectations, figure out a plan on how to do betterPray, meditate, vent, go to office hours, get lost in the music, dance it out, whatever you need to do, do it! Be kind to yourself and have a positive mindsetStudy hard, capitalize on what you enjoy, bring light to your strengths, and groom your weaknesses. You’ve got this!  

 

Student Experience

5 Things I learned as a Non-Traditional Optometry Student

Like many other students, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after graduating college. I knew I wanted to work with patientsI knew I wanted to further my education, but I didn’t know which direction I wanted to take things. I ended up taking a medical assistant and scribe position at an eye center. Fast forward four years, I ended up falling in love with the field and chose to pursue a degree in optometry. I was ready to jump back into school, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit anxious about returning to school after such a long time away! Now, as I wrap up my third year, I have no regrets about the path I’ve taken. Here are five thoughts that sum up some of my experience as a non-traditional optometry student: 

  1. Your work experience in the real world is invaluable! There’s no substitute for professional experience in the working world. You might not feel it right off the bat, but once you get into the clinic and start working with patients, your previous work experience will definitely come in handy! You will have a better sense of professionalism and problem-solving skills from your previous experience that will help you enter your clinical experience with more confidence.
  2. There is an age gap between you and your classmates. This one might seem obvious but it can be a tough pill to swallow for some! I’ll admit I was nervous entering a program where some of my classmates were five to six years younger than me, but once things got rolling, I honestly stopped noticing that difference. You and your classmates are all in the same program together working toward the same goal, and that fact alone helps you relate to your classmates unconditionally.
  3. You know what life is like outside of being a student. You’ve already seen the light at the end of the tunnel! Compared to your classmates, you know what it’s like to have a job, to not necessarily have homework to go home to after work. The decision to return to school may not be an easy one, but the perspective you gained from some time away from school will definitely help you visualize your end goals and give you the drive you need to succeed.
  4. You have a jump start on a professional network. Having professional contacts is always a good thing. In the time you spent during undergrad and grad school, whether you know it or not, you were building your network. If you spent time working in the eye care industry, even better, but if not, those contacts still matter! Having people available to reach out to for professional recommendations or even advice can be a huge leg up. 
  5. You’re not exempt from impostor syndrome. In grad school, everyone has feelings of inadequacy from time to time.  When your classmates have freshly completed their undergrad studies, it’s definitely tempting to compare yourself to them. When I have these feelings, I remind myself that we’re all in the same boat together. The more you talk with your classmates, the more you realize how similar your struggles are. Having confidence in your knowledge and skills will help carry you through difficult times! 
Health & Wellness

NBEO Part I is Over – Now What?

Thirdyear optometry students across the country have been spending much of their time over the past few months preparing for Part I of NBEO.

Now that the exam is finished, how should you spend all of this newly discovered free time? 

  1. Talk to your attendings about your strengths and weaknesses in the clinic. Focus on the areas that need improvement for the rest of the semester to better prepare yourself for fourthyear rotations. 
  2. Secure your housing and other miscellaneous tasks associated with fourthyear rotations that may require relocation. Reach out to older students who have been to the location to help you better prepare for the experience. 
  3. Make sure you are up-to-date with your doctor’s appointments, especially if you will be relocating this summer or may have forgotten about one of them while studying 
  4. Explore residencies that you may be interested in using the ASCO Residency Program DirectoryIf a residency is not on your radar, consider reaching out to practices with specialties in your areas of interest and set up a time to shadow.  
  5. Keep advocacy at the front of your mind by signing up for Optometry’s Meeting®, which has been relocated to Denver, Colorado, June 24-26, 2021!  
  6. Pick up a new hobby or get back to something you put on hold before the big exam. Need some ideas? Try painting, playing an instrument, needlework, photography, reading or becoming a plant parent.  
  7. Take care of both your physical and mental health. Get back into the gym or enjoy the beautiful weather outside by incorporating a daily walk into your schedule. Stock your fridge with fruits and veggies and try a new recipe. Practice yoga or meditation to slow down your mind. Make sure to get eight hours of sleep each night.  
  8. Set aside quality time to spend with your friends or family. Explore metro or state parks in your area. Try a new coffee shop or restaurant. Or simply have a movie night with your favorite snacks. 

 

Most importantly, choose something that will make you happy. You have just completed one of the largest exams of your life–you deserve a break!  

 

Student Success & Residency

Advice to a First Year

Student success can be defined differently by every student, but it is important to find a way that brings us fulfillment on this journey to becoming a doctor. For some students, it might mean making straight A’s, being able to go on mission trips and making a difference in underprivileged communities, making it through exam week, forming lifelong friendships, or just staying awake during an entire zoom lecture! Whatever your goal is, it is important to find happiness in the midst of all that optometry school entails. For the first years, you are having a very unique start to your optometry career, but I hope I can offer some guidance to ease the transition to studying in a professional program.  

For those wanting to be successful in the academic department, I would recommend making your own notes, working with other students when possible, talking to professors to see what areas you can improve on, and be flexible with your style of learning. I have had friends in first year who did not know what style of learning worked for them; they took everyone’s input and kept changing up their learning style, which only made them more confused. Your learning style may have changed after the first round of exams because you are not used to a certain professor’s style of teaching or the pace of the curriculum, and that is okay! I would just recommend trying to develop your own way and sticking to it. Even when I try to read someone else’s notes, I find it harder for me to understand because they are not my own. Talking to professors can also help you understand what areas to focus on. That way, you can utilize your time better when studying. They might seem intimidating at first, but they really are there to help you. My friends and I also like to quiz each other before exams, which is super helpful! My friends ask me questions I would have never thought of, and then we explain the answer when someone gets confused. You would be surprised at how talking it out helps you recall information better. Most importantly, it is okay to ask for a tutor. There is no shame in needing extra help. It is YOUR academic career, so do what you need to keep you on the road to getting that degree! 

With the pandemic going on, it is difficult for clubs to meet during a time where we need to be separated, but I would still recommend joining clubs and getting involved! It is a great segue into everything the optometry field has to offer and helps you find other students who are interested in the same specialty areas as you. Whether you want to go on mission trips, network, do sports vision, do low vision, or ANYTHING your heart desires…clubs are a great way to get you where you want to be when you reach the end of your academic career. You might not know what you want to specialize in or if you even want to specialize in anything, but clubs are a great way to help you figure that out and to also just have some fun doing optometry related things! 

Most importantly, try to not just focus on school work. I know school is very demanding of your time, but you still need a break. Find at least one friend to help you get through the day, especially since most of you go to school outside of your hometown and away from your family. I found that most people tend to be friends with the people in their labs because they have the same exact schedules, so if you are having trouble finding at least one person because you are shy like me, then I would start there! Your classmates are the only ones who will truly understand what you are going through. It is a comforting feeling knowing you are not the only one on the struggle bus sometimes. If you are shy like me, just think about all the new patients you will have to talk to on a daily basis. Talking to one person in your school is not as scary as talking to a bunch of strangers everyday, so believe in yourself and be the one to start the conversation. 

Good luck to everyone on the rest of the semester. You can do it! You are not alone in this. There are so many people in your class and in the school available to help you. As Michael Scott said, “I knew exactly what to do, but in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.” You know what it takes to get that degree, but sometimes you might feel lost and wonder if you made the right choice. Just take it one day at a time, and know you do not have to do it alone. Remember why you fell in love with optometry, and know your hard work will pay off one day. Enjoy the small moments and learn as much as you can because these are the days that will shape what kind of doctor you will become. I hope you stay safe and find success and happiness on your journey. 

Photo (Left to Right): Estefany Mendez, Alexandria Van Ells, Caroline Obermeier, Monica Carrizal (Me), Dr. Srihari Narayanan, Nicole Klesner, Breeanna Kelly, Sarah Duong 

Student Experience

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: Optometry School Networking

Wake up. Make coffee. Watch lectures. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Sound familiar? 

It’s easy to get caught in our daily routine as optometry students, and it’s even easier to forget that there is a world outside of optometry school especially when we get thrown in an online remote learning environment. Moreover, when we fixate so heavily on the goal of doing well in that class or mastering that clinical skill, we often forget one key ingredient in career advancement: networking 

Networking can help you better understand the evolving profession, come up with new ideas and perspectives, and set you up for lifelong success. It can help you evaluate where you are, where you are going, and where you want to be. Furthermore, it can help you realize how much potential you really have under your belt. So why are we afraid to do so?  

Connecting with optometrists and other like-minded individuals early on in your career may seem like a daunting task, especially when you don’t know where to start. Nonetheless, pushing your own boundaries and taking risks allows you to learn more about yourself, gain knowledge and expertise in the field, and acquire skills you would not have had otherwise. Optometrists and other professionals you meet also can play pivotal roles in shaping your future and open doors that you never knew existed. 

If you don’t know where to start, start small. Spark up a conversation. Grab a cup of coffee with that person and connect over passions within or outside the field of optometry. Don’t be afraid to meet people and put yourself out there. Remember, they’re interested in optometry, too! Understand that networking is about creating relationshipsnot just adding names and phone numbers to your contact list. It involves connecting with others on a deeper level and continuing to grow the relationship over time. Know that networking does not come naturally for all people, so it may be a skill that you need to work on throughout your career.  

Still not sure where to start? Here are five ways to get you connected to others in the optometry community:  

  1. Reach out to your professors. Believe it or not, your professors want to see you succeed! Don’t be afraid to seek out a mentoryou may be pleasantly surprised to find that many, if not all of them, are kind people who enjoy getting to know their students. You will, after all, be their colleague one day. 
  1. Get involved in various optometry clubs and organizations. This is an excellent way to start meeting other optometry students with similar interests and work directly with faculty. AOSA, NOSA and CAOS are great places to start. You also can become a student member of professional associations for FREE including the AAO, COVD and NORA among others. 
  1. Attend conferences. Enjoy the benefits of being an optometry student by registering for conferences and annual meetings at student rates! If you are interested in a certain field of optometry, you are guaranteed to be surrounded by experts who would love to share their ideas and expertise. For those who are thinking of practicing in a different state, this also is a chance for you to connect with doctors from that area 
  1. Connect with doctors and future doctors on Instagram. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so why not use it to your advantage? You’ll discover that the Instagram optometry community is a tight-knit community of optometrists helping optometrists and optometry students helping optometry students. Here, you can find study inspiration, experience the day-to-day life of an optometry resident, and even explore unique clinical cases. 
  1. Other avenues. Networking also will happen when you’re simply out and about living your life. Be open to the idea that someone you least expect can change your perspective, introduce you to new opportunities and, ultimately, help you become the optometrist you desire to be. Don’t limit yourself and remember that you are right where you are supposed to be. 
Student Experience

Evolving: Perspectives from a First Year Student

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!