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As you may have heard, optometry school can be rather costly, especially at a private university. But as the age-old phrase goes, “you get what you pay for”. I believe the value of my education is priceless, and the graduates before me have proven that paying off student loan debt is feasible, given the starting salary of an optometrist. 

But, one way to combat the ever-growing financial debt of optometry is by working as a student. RSO provides many job opportunities to students, which include library desk staff, student affairs office, tutoring, laboratory teaching assistant (TA), and many more. 

I refrained from obtaining a student job until my second semester of optometry school, because I wanted to get a handle on course-load, and figure out the best method of studying for my success. As of the third-year fall semester, I proudly was offered the position of teaching assistant. 

Watching first year students practice Retinoscopy.

Every year, roughly 30% of the third year class is hired to work in after-hour labs, supervising underclassmen, and helping them master their skills before taking their final clinical proficiency. I really honor and respect this position, because I remember how helpful the TA’s were when I was just learning a new skill in the beginning of my optometry coursework. 

Watching second year students practice Goldmann Applanation Tonometry (GAT).

Since starting this position, the most rewarding experience is helping a first- or second-year student who is struggling with a technique and then finding out that they passed the checkout or proficiency for that skill. I believe a vast benefit of being a TA is being reminded of the skills learned years prior and serves as a reminder of the potential uses within the clinic setting. 

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a fourth year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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Third Year Clinic

Unlike most doctoral professions where you would receive your white coat at matriculation, at RSO you receive your white coat after the completion of your second year. Academically, in your first 2 years, you are building your knowledge and skillset in preparation for you to provide patient care. Each semester of optometry school contains a clinical lab course that teaches you the rudimentary techniques needed to perform an eye exam. At RSO the courses are named: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Optometry, in that order. 

In the spring semester of your second year you will take a Clinical Optometry course which reviews everything from Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. At the end of this course you will take the Final Clinical Proficiency which tests your comprehension, effectiveness, and accuracy of clinical skills. 

Upon passing this proficiency you will have earned your white coat, which is symbolic and essential in your transition to clinical rotations. At RSO, clinic rotations begin summer of third year. Starting clinic can be nerve-racking and exciting, all at the same time. You officially begin to see actual, live, real patients (by yourself) with chief complaints and concerns. I remember my first day of clinic, like it was yesterday – it is such a monumental moment, that I never want to forget. 

When you begin clinic, you will be grouped with three other classmates, and as a group of four you will rotate around the three clinics, we have at RSO. One clinic is at our main campus on Datapoint Drive, the second clinic is on the east side of San Antonio near the AT&T center, and the third clinic is on the west side of San Antonio within a community multi-care clinic. Each location presents a different patient base and unique experience. 

Myself after completing the first day of clinic.

Three things I have learned since starting clinic are: be confident when presenting to your attending doctor, you can never ask too many questions, and even with the hustle and bustle of clinic be sure to treat every patient with the quality of care you would want to be treated with. I full-heartedly believe my first two years at RSO have immensely prepared me for my clinical experience, and I look forward to fourth year where I go out on externship and can show off the skills this great school has provided to me. 

My clinic group-mate, Adaly, and I after completing day two of clinic.

 

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a fourth year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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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 one 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.

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a fourth year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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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!

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a fourth year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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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.

Janelle Sventek

Janelle is a fourth year student attending UIWRSO, working as a blog writer to share personal experiences about her time in optometry school.

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