Segundo Año

As the title of this entry might suggest the latin culture is very prevalent in San Antonio, and is just one of the many features that makes me glad I chose to study at UIWRSO. Upperclassmen will tend to say, “Second year is so hard!”, but now that I have completed my “segundo año ” I can confirm that it is not THAT hard. It just takes dedication, time management, and focus.

We all know that being in graduate school, especially a health professional program, is NOT supposed to be a cake walk.  The fall and spring semesters of second year include lectures and labs specifically designed to prepare you for the final lab proficiency. This lab proficiency is typically held at the end of April, and is a time where students are evaluated on all clinical skills required to conduct a comprehensive eye exam.

Upon passing the final lab proficiency and second year courses, you will be awarded your white coat. The white coat symbolizes the beginning of patient care and your commitment to The Optometric Oath. This ceremony is such an exciting time for family and friends to come and celebrate the past 2  years of hard work and commitment.

Receiving your white coat is not nearly as exciting as your actual first day of clinic. Nerves are obviously heightened during the first clinic day but your preceptors do a fantastic job of helping ease the anxiety. Clinic is conducted in groups of 4 interns and the first half of summer semester you are paired with a classmate to conduct each exam. As the summer semester continues, you will begin to see patients by yourself and speed up your exam time.

My main piece of advice about your “segundo año” is to go in with confidence, don’t treat it any different than your first year. Be confident in your knowledge and skillset. Make sure to stay ahead in your studies and don’t get caught up in the day to day worries. Think of the big picture and the final outcome: starting clinic!

Long Term Tourist

Moving to a new city is such an exciting time and gives you the perfect excuse to explore! Of course, we all know what San Antonio is known for: the Riverwalk and the Alamo.

BUT those two things only cover 1 mile of this great city. I am here to enlighten you to some of my favorite sites of San Antonio, as well as, the surrounding cities.

Some other historic places to visit in San Antonio include the Mi Tierra Cafe in Historic Market Square, San Fernando Cathedral, and the McNay Art Museum (all pictured below).

When I first moved to Texas I knew very little about the multiple-large cities found within the state lines. Some of my favorite cities to visit include:

Fredricksburg, TX, which is home to numerous Texas wineries found just off of U.S. Highway 290.

DFW area which includes the Texas State Fair in Dallas, TX (highest attended fair in America) and the MLB Texas Rangers can be watched at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX.

Austin, TX where you can catch a home of the UT Longhorns football game at Darrell K Royal Stadium.

Houston, TX, which is the most populous city in the state.

Introductions

I’m new here. Not just to this humble blog, but to the UIWRSO family, as are my 67 classmates of the recently officiated Class of 2021. Even nearly 2 months into the exciting and sometimes intense undertaking otherwise known as optometry school, I find myself still undergoing introductions with peers I have yet had the chance to say hello to.

Through this challenging four year experience, and even onward into the professional world, these people will become my second family. Peers that will be there to answer each other’s questions, and send each other encouragements or memes for quick laughs late into the night during exam week. Shoulders to lean on during moments of surmounting stress, when concepts won’t seem to ever click, and friends to celebrate with after overcoming hurdles.

Some of us have heard a calling to the optometric profession since our undergraduate years or even before. And yet others such as myself began our professional careers in other fields, and somewhere along the road found ourselves in San Antonio, in this distinguished program. No matter our background or where we call home, we’ve all been brought here with one common dream: to one day change the lives of patients through our optometric practices.

 

Fortunately, we aren’t alone on our conquest to professional success. Since even before beginning the program, the UIWRSO community has been exceptionally welcoming and accommodating. Something that drew me towards UIWRSO since meeting the staff at interviews is that they genuinely care about our education and training. As demanding as their own courses are, the upperclassmen have also been so helpful in guiding us into a smooth transition.

Along with Janelle, I will be documenting my experiences here, as well as sharing resources and tips that have helped me along the way.

To aspiring students, applicants, and the curious, take a peak at the every day life of a UIW optometry student.

My dear fellow first years, let me put our shared experiences down on metaphorical online paper.

And to the respectable upperclassmen and RSO faculty, enjoy reliving these first year moments, from stress-induced tears and nervous breakdowns of exams, to the unforgettable memories of first patient interactions.

Hi, it’s nice to meet you. Through my entries, I will be sharing with you the RSO experience, from the perspective of a first year.

Overcoming Adversity

Throughout my undergraduate career, I had always been an A/B grade student, described as an overachiever, and truly dedicated to my course work. I was anticipating the transition of class work and tests from undergraduate to optometry school to be difficult, but nothing could have prepared me enough for my first set of graduate school exams. At UIWRSO, during my first semester, we had a total of three exam weeks, with each week consisting of four days of nothing but exams and afternoon labs. Essentially, it was like having undergraduate final exam week three times a semester.

The stress that built up during my first test week really affected my performance on them and overall course outcome. Now, since completing my first year of optometry school I realized how important it is to stay calm during exams. Each person will achieve that calmness in a different way, and I hope you to find which method works best for you.

My first words of advice: “Never be afraid to ask for help”. At UIWRSO, upperclassmen who excelled in a previous course can become tutors. I highly encourage anyone struggling to sign up for a tutor in that course. And the best part: it is completely complementary! Tutors can provide you with practice problems and help you work through topics which are unclear. Many students in my class have tutors and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have one as well.

Another recommendation: On test days, arrive early, and arrive prepared! It seems like an easy concept but you want to avoid mishaps at all costs, especially during test weeks. Make sure to get a good night’s rest. It has been proven that “pulling an all-nighter” can have serious negative effects on an individual’s exam taking ability. Have your electronic device charged with the exam file pre-downloaded, bring a pencil, pen, and calculator, and for good measures, don’t forget your favorite lucky charm.

After you finish your test, you will notice many of your classmates aggregating outside the lecture hall discussing their grades, and/or difficult questions. I personally chose to avoid those conversations. Usually I had my next exam in 24 hours and needed to focus on reviewing that course material more than worrying about that one question I might have missed on the exam I just completed. Once exam week has ended, the professors will post exam grades on Blackboard and if you did not do as well as you thought, I urge you to make an appointment to meet with that professor and go over the questions you missed, to make sure it doesn’t happen again on the cumulative final exam.

My final word of advice: Don’t give up! I personally sometimes felt defeated after an exam week, but I reminded myself that I DO know this stuff and so will you. You have sat through numerous lectures, studied countless hours, and it is now your time to shine. If you don’t do as well as you thought during test week 1, then test week 2 is the time to prove to yourself that you can do better and do exactly that. In optometry school, you are not completing against anyone else, except yourself. So, on the first day of school, put your best foot forward and don’t let that foot ever fall behind.

Grant the Guide Dog

Before moving to San Antonio, I had spent countless hours volunteering my time at a guide dog school in Florida. Guide dog schools are non-profit organizations that typically breed, raise, and train guide dogs to increase mobility and independence to legally blind individuals. So, it would make sense that when I had accepted a seat in RSO’s class of 2020, my next thought was to locate the closest guide dog school to San Antonio. To my pleasure and surprise, I found one, not only in Texas but headquartered right here, in San Antonio.

Prior to leaving my home state I had all paper work filled out, all training quizzes complete, and became an approved volunteer with Guide Dogs of Texas. I was not only excited about starting optometry school but also having the opportunity to give back, to my soon to be neighborhood and community. After several months as a weekend guide dog boarder and getting a handle on my first semester of graduate school, I felt it was time to take the next step.

With approval from RSO administration I signed up to become a full-time guide dog raiser, one who boards a dog long-term. On January 10th, my life changed as soon as I met Grant, my guide dog in training. With his big floppy ears and grinning smile, he instantly stole my heart.

As a guide dog raiser, I oversaw exposing Grant to all the sights and sounds he could potentially experience one day while with a client. When I received Grant, I had only lived in San Antonio for six months and was still exploring for myself. What better way to learn a new city than with a puppy by my side?

The very first place I went with Grant was the iconic Riverwalk! With water features, ducks, lots of people, and narrow sidewalks it was a great place to begin working on our bond and his training.

One week after getting Grant, the spring semester began, which meant all new sights and sounds for him, and for my peers. Many classmates had the urge to pet Grant, given his cunning looks, but they understood the damaging effects that occur when a guide dog is distracted from work. Grant quickly discovered his favorite teachers (they were the ones with treats) and would readily interact with them while in the hallways. When I would stay late studying for exams, he would easily cheer me up with a puppy lick or a goofy play session.

On June 5th, the big day arrived. After six months of training, he went in for his assessment to see if he could continue as a guide dog. It was a nerve-racking experience, but I knew I had given it my all, and after a few days I found out…HE PASSED! Grant would officially become a guide dog for a legally blind individual. After passing his assessment he had lots of “free runs” at the dog park and maybe a few extra treats.

On July 15th, Grant attended his doggy graduation where he traded in his blue “In-Training” vest for his official harness. He will continue in advanced training for six more months and will then be matched with a client. After roughly ten years of working, he will then enjoy the good life of retirement.

This whole experience has been so rewarding to me, through the ability to train Grant and help potential visually impaired patients. I highly encourage everyone to find a hobby or organization that you are passionate about and donate your time to it while in school.

Pictured below is an example of a guide dog and client team. Guide dog Finn with his client Steven. (Fun fact: Finn is Grant’s uncle.)

Visit www.guidedogsoftexas.org to learn more, donate, or become a volunteer.