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

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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.

Janelle Sventek

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

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Big Sib / Lil’ Sib Program

I have mentioned in my blog posts before how difficulty it can be, not only moving to a new state, but also starting a graduate program. One person who really helped me during this transition was my big sibling. The summer before starting my first year, I was given the option to join the Big Sib/Lil’ Sib program. A few weeks after filling out the match form with personal information and hobbies/interests, I then found out who my big sibling would be.

I attribute much of my reduced stress to having a big sibling. It is such a relief to have someone to ask anything. It can be something as simple as “Where is the best coffee shop to study at?” or something important like “How can I save time on an upcoming lab checkout?” Throughout my first year, I discovered that having a big sibling is someone who I could create a supporting relationship with. For example, when I had a proficiency test, I never hesitated to ask my big sibling for advice, and likewise when she was preparing for her optometry board exam I provided her with words of encouragement. For any incoming first year students, I highly encourage you to join the Big Sib/Lil’ Sib program.

Attached below is a photo of my big sibling and I enjoying our evening at the 2017 RSO Eye Ball Formal.

Janelle Sventek

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

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Show Your Best Dance Moves

Every year during the spring semester RSO hosts an awards banquet for all students. The event is designed to recognize students for their hard work, honor the class superlatives, and provide a great venue to celebrate the end of the academic year. This banquet is coined with the punny name: “Eye Ball Formal”. This past spring, I attended my first Eye Ball, and it was a blast. Many of my classmates called it the prom of graduate school; but it was so much better than any prom I have ever attended. This year’s theme was Monte Carlo, and included music, awards, dancing, raffle prizes, roulette tables, and black jack.

One of my favorite things about this event was interacting and seeing professors and proctors in a fun and endearing venue. It gives everyone a moment to stop thinking about tests and proficiency exams and enjoy a night out and have fun. The Eye Ball is planned and put on by the second-year student government board, with support from first year SGA board. If planning events and decorating is a hobby of yours, consider joining SGA during your first and/or second year.

Janelle Sventek

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

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Relocating 101

Almost without exception, whenever I meet a potential new student at interview days, they ask me about living accommodations in San Antonio. When I confirmed my acceptance into UIWRSO I had a sense of relief, but also a giant wave of anxiety. I knew nothing about the state of Texas, and certainly had no idea about a city the size of San Antonio. Through all the nervousness and stress that I endured on interview day, I somehow remembered being told about a free relocation service to RSO students.

I was apprehensive at first, because we all know nothing is free; but reluctantly I picked up the phone and called the relocation office. The staff member that answered the phone could not be more helpful.  She asked me to email her a list of all my wants and desires when it came to apartment size, location, features, amenities and she would find the perfect complexes for me. Within a few days, sent me a good selection of places to choose from.

I planned a trip to San Antonio in May to tour my top 3 choices. By the end of that day, I had placed a deposit and knew where I would be living come August. I highly encourage all students to use the relocation service. They were great at helping me narrow down my options and find the perfect fit for me. Oh, and the cherry on top: it really was all free!

http://www.aptreloctr.com

Janelle Sventek

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

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