Come for the Course, Stay for the Castles

You did it! You survived first year!

Now what? You have the entire summer free to do whatever you want, so now is great time to cross seeing Germany off your bucket list. Every summer, The Rosenberg School of Optometry, in conjunction with the UIW study abroad program, hosts a 10-day trip to Heidelberg, Germany.

UIWRSO is the only optometry program that offers a study-abroad experience, and this trip is exclusively available to students who just completed their first year. In Germany, optometry students complete their Public Health course, normally taken in 3rd year. The course is instructed by Dr. Foutch, a UIWRSO professor. Taking this course, unlike taking other summer courses, does not cost extra- it is already covered by tuition as if you were taking it your third year. Your only out-of-pocket expenses are travel fees, and of course tours in Germany!

Even better, you don’t have any limitations on what you do before and after the 10-day trip. You can start saving money now and plan an extra trip before or after Germany. This past year, my friends and I spent two days in France before departing to Germany. After, we visited Italy, and Spain. With good planning, options are limitless!

The trip begins in Germany with a traditional German welcome dinner at one of the local restaurants. For those of you wondering, there are plenty of vegetarian options available. Then, you take the scenic route back to your housing. Housing is a brisk 15 minute walk from the main shopping plaza and is provided by the dorm-style rooms at the European Study Center (ESC) in Heidelberg. The building makes you feel like you are a local. It was once home to a German family and resembles typical German living conditions. There is a kitchen available on each floor that is available for use by the students as well as a laundry room. The first floor of the ESC is where you’ll report for your Public Health course. The class meets once a day, and classes range from 1-2 hours, depending on the tour scheduled for that day. Additionally, the evening always has free time scheduled.

Be prepared to walk! When I say you’ll be living like a local, I mean it. German streets are full of locals who either walk or bike to their destinations and you will too. At the beginning of the trip, you will be taken on a tour of the vicinity. On the tour you will be shown where to go to get groceries, shop, eat, send packages or take out money. Everything is primarily walking distance, however, you will also have access to the bus system. You will also be given a crash course in German culture and language to be better acclimated.

Tours are scheduled frequently and include trips to the Heidelberg castle, as well as other cities such as Ladenberg, Speyer, Schwetzingen, Neckarsteinach, Allen, and Frankfurt. Other tours include a visit to the Carl Zeiss Optics Museum, Schwetzingen gardens, as well as a boat tour.

On your free time you can explore the town (it is very safe at night), go shopping at the shopping strip, eat lots of gelato, listen to live music, try out new bakeries and restaurants, and even hike one of the tallest peaks of Heidelberg, which was my personal favorite.

The course concludes with a farewell dinner on a boat on the beautiful Neckar River.

The Germany Study Abroad program is a perfect way to wrap up your first year and the best way to take advantage of your last free summer. I guarantee if you ask anyone who went they will say it was the best decision they made- I know it was mine.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

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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Dr. Ron Kelley visits RSO for Black History Month

Black History Month is annually celebrated in February as a celebration of the many contributions made in the United States and around the world by those of African descent. UIWRSO is a very diverse school and this may be why our National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) chapter is always so active. To continue tradition the RSO student chapter of NOSA hosted its 3rd annual Black History month celebration event. This year, the students invited a well-known guest speaker from the San Antonio area. He is the founder and CEO of one of the nation’s top education corporations, The National School Improvement Corporation (NSI) as well as an internationally-recognized motivational speaker, author, and training consultant for corporations, school districts, and organizations worldwide. Dr. Ron Kelley is a charismatic speaker that captured the audience’s breath. I have read about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. many times, but I have never heard the story of his life before he became a civil rights activist. Dr. Kelley brought MLK’s story to life and it was very inspirational.

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Susan Ly

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Student’s Role in the Texas Optometric Association

How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills

2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. (Left: Dr. Valdez and Dr. Fortenberry are UIWRSO Faculty)

My political optometry involvement grows concurrently with my public health efforts. I am drawn to the legislative side of optometry because many life changing vision programs like the InfantSEE® program was established due to optometrists lobbying and networking with state representatives and senators.

I’ve been to multiple optometry board meetings with the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) and I would like to explain the organization of the optometric societies in America. Every state has a board that represents all the optometrist residing in that state. The board may include optometrists, public health advocates, administrators, accountants, membership directors, etc; together the board runs the association with or without dues from participating/supporting optometrists in the state. These optometric associations are formed to ensure that those who have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry have the opportunity to practice their profession to the fullest extent possible.

Many optometry students do timeline aoanot realize that the state optometric associations and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are closely connected. AOA board members will visit and sit in on the state meetings while state associations presidents gather at least twice a year at the Optometry’s Meeting or the Presidents’ Council Meeting. Also the student optometric associations at each school can support the state associations by encouraging students to lobby or educate fellow students about the laws that the state is trying to pass, as well as donate or pay dues to support their cause. Optometry students often join the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and in doing so they are also supporting and a member of their state student optometric association. Before my experiences with the TOA, I had no idea that there is such an organized network that keeps our profession strong. If you would like to read more about the history of optometry please click here for a timeline.


I am an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA) because I want to take an active part in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. Jason Ngo (President, STOA) and me (Treasurer/Secretary) are invited to the Texas Optometric Association board meetings to keep up to date about what the TOA board is planning and learned of their successes or what needs to be changed. I was impressed by the leadership and organization that they possessed; they are encouraging and positive when discussing their agenda and I can feel how their camaraderie fuels the team’s success! The board also taught me the importance of networking with other leaders. The board members would introduce themselves to us, and I’m grateful because I was really nervous at my first board meeting. I appreciate this opportunity to learn from these leaders. I would also like to mention that any optometry student in Texas can attend these board meetings if they let their STOA officers know in advance. I hope that optometry students can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) mission statement: “Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan.” To show our support, the UIWRSO STOA created hoodies that incorporates the TOA mission statement.

photo 5 (640x640)



Susan Ly

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