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.

How Did We Get Here?

The application process for optometry school is a long and overwhelming endeavor. I began thinking about a career in optometry junior year in high school. I knew there was an entrance exam and an application, and that was the extent of my knowledge about the application process.

Recognizing that the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) was science-based, I chose to pursue a degree in biology entering college. I was involved in my school’s pre-health organization and one of my favorite events that was held was an annual preview day one of the local medical schools would host. It included application tips, a student panel, a tour of the facilities, and my favorite part: the mock interview. One of the most important opportunities for you to stand out as an applicant is your interview. Yes, your personal statement gets your foot in the door, but your interview is where you bust the door wide open.

TIP #1: Do as many mock interviews as you can

The amazing thing about mock interviews is it is a low-pressure interview. You can get the nerves out early and become familiar with the kinds of things you will get asked. In total I did about four mock interviews, and I learned so much through each one. Each interview was a completely different style; I have done mock individual, partners, and group interviews. The group interviews were the most interesting because you were able to listen in to what other people had to say about certain topics. I was asked personal questions, light-hearted questions, and even presented with ethical cases in which I had to state what action I would take.

Not to worry, I am here to assure you that the interview at UIWRSO is different, and even enjoyable. The interviewer wants to get to know you and answer any questions to help you determine if this program is a good fit for you. It is more of a conversation than a high pressure question and answer setting. Your visit to UIWRSO is more about you assessing the program for fit, and has been constructed to introduce you to the culture. The interview itself is one-on-one with a faculty member and is closed file.  The faculty  interviewing committee consists of current professors who you will encounter throughout your career at UIWRSO.

TIP #2: Make a timeline

Since elementary, I have always carried my trusty planner detailing my schedule, events, and to-do list. That being said, I know not everyone has to write down their day-to-day schedule; however, you should have a timeline outlining your plan of action for the years leading up to optometry school. There are many resources that share a detailed outline of what should be done and when. I had Pinterest boards full of helpful timelines to keep me on track towards optometry school.

Everyone’s journey to optometry school is different. Some take gap months, years, or graduate early. Modify your timeline to whichever way fits your path.

TIP #3: Shadow different optometrists

It’s great to shadow your local optometrist, whom you’ve been going to since elementary school, but I encourage you to span out and reach out to different optometrists and shadow as many as you can. Shadow optometrists in different settings: private practices, retail optometry, group practices, M.D./O.D. practice, etc. There is so much variability in each patient exam and each optometrist practices to his/her specific method; being able to take in as much expertise from each one of them will definitely give you more knowledge coming in. Also, let’s not forget you will be needing a letter of recommendation from an optometrist so it wouldn’t hurt to mingle with a couple and get their support. Even if you don’t ask for a letter from them, it is nice to have someone who has been through optometry school rooting for you.

Good luck and happy planning!

Class of 2022 beginning their journey to becoming O.Ds.

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

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Beyond the Classroom

Moving miles away from home to start graduate school can be an intimidating experience. I must commend the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) for doing a great job of making out-of-state students feel right at “home”. UIW main campus, as well as RSO, plan various activities that help you get to know your classmates and faculty outside of the classroom, within the first few months of orientation.

Some of my favorite occasions have included: a UIW football tailgate hosted by RSO, Six Flags Fright Fest, and UIW’s Light the Way. As a graduate from a small private undergraduate university without a football team, I was excited to attend my first football tailgate. With UIW football recognized as division I in the Southland conference, I had nothing but high expectations. RSO hosts a tent annually at a Cardinal home football game, which allows students and faculty to get to know each other outside of the classroom. Nothing beats a Saturday afternoon filled with hot dogs, corn hole, and football!

RSO hosted an event this year during Halloween at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This action-packed Saturday was nothing short of fulfilling. A break from class and studying is essential during optometry school. This break was slightly abstract because it included stomach dropping roller coaster rides and ghoulish haunted houses. Pictured below are students and professors enjoying the new batman ride.

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The most recent event I attended was held at UIW main campus, called Light the Way. At this annual event, UIW comes together to celebrate the holiday season and turn on all the campus Christmas lights on the count of 3, 2, 1… This event is a great opportunity to not only get in the Christmas spirit with live music, but also helps new students understand how important community is to UIW. Light the Way was first created by former UIW president Dr. Agnese to unite the entire community in the spirit of the season, by inviting all of the city of San Antonio. As an optometry student, you spend a vast amount of time with your own class, but these community events provide you with the chance to get to know upperclassmen and make remarkable new friends. Pictured below are first and second year students enjoying the recently turned on Christmas lights adorning UIW main campus.

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I am so very appreciative of the opportunities that exist to become part of the UIWRSO community.  In just 1 semester, I have so much appreciation for my new family, friends, and community while I work toward accomplishing my dreams.

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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