Representatives in every organization exist for the purpose of solving both everyday and major issues that interfere with everyone’s workday and to brainstorm ideas to make our workplace better. Our main workplace during these past four years has been optometry school. Student representatives are an essential component of the school’s ecosystem to ensure our student experience, both in learning and having fun, is fulfilling. There is a role for every personality whether it is social media, event planning, accounting, student representation and more.
Advocating to make your learning environment better is one of the most satisfying experiences you can go through as a student because you can see the direct results of your hard work in the lives of your fellow students and future generations. As both theory and practice learning are evolving at a swift pace, even more so during the past year with online learning, it becomes even more important to bring our ideas to the faculty’s attention and advocate for student rights. It might not always be a clear-cut path, and it is not always the perfect result we were expecting, but doing something is always rewarding. All those small victories are worth it and make our lives better. Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking or dealing with authority figures, and that’s OK. However, the more you try, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. Being involved in the team that works to make your school better, often the student association, means you are not alone in this.
Through talking with fellow students, I have realized that many people don’t get involved by fear of being late in their schoolwork or not having time for themselves and their family and friends outside of school. In my experience, it’s all about how you go about it. The teams you work with, the people you meet, the fun you have being involved make the school experience so much more enjoyable. By not studying 24/7, when you sit down to do your schoolwork, you are more rested, and your mind can focus on it 100%. However, this is true for any activity you do outside of school! Volunteering in your local organization for the cause that you hold dear can only make you more productive when you get back to your schoolbooks.
Another way to make sure you do everything on time and not burn yourself out is to embrace having an agenda and keeping it near and updated. This is true for both schoolwork and leisure activities.
Finally, an important part of being an active part of your student community is knowing your boundaries regarding workload and advocating for yourself. When you need some rest, say so, and the other members of your association will be able to help you out.
Advocacy at the school level can give you good insight on how to go about advocating for optometry after you graduate. Moreover, advocating for our profession can start right during school with organizations like AOSA and events such as AOA on Capitol Hill. Amazing blog posts on Foresite can give you a very good idea if you’re curious about it!
As much as I am excited to finish optometry school, leaving the student association after all these years is going to create a void. I hope some elements find you and give you a new perspective into school advocacy and self-care, two concepts that sound so opposite but must coexist. We will remember far more the experiences we have, the friends we meet and the goals we accomplish rather than our grades. I wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved and make the most of your four years in optometry school.
Wishing you all an awesome student experience,