What surprised me about NECO

4 female students wearing glasses, surgical masks, and face shields

What surprised me about NECO

I have enjoyed the pod system NECO that was set up for us so we work closely with the same people the entire term.

When I moved to Boston for optometry school, I wasn’t sure what to expect coming to NECO. Not only is it a graduate program, it’s a community.

I have come to really appreciate my choice of school. And now that I’m in my second year, I find it fun to reflect on how much has changed since I first started.

The Community.

When starting a competitive graduate program, I was extremely wary of a cutthroat environment. I was pleased to find that NECO could not be any further from that. My class is full of kind, supportive people who want to see others do well. Our class Facebook page is full of helpful tips, funny memes about our harder classes, and reminders about upcoming deadlines. Everyone wants to help everyone, and even though I don’t know every one of my peers personally, I feel like I could walk up to any individual in my class and chat.

Not only my peers surprised me though, the teachers and staff at NECO are also wonderful. They want to see you become the best optometrist you can be. Every person who works at NECO has been so helpful, and it makes you feel like the whole school is on your side.

The Location.

Coming from a small town, I was unsure of how I would feel living in as big of a city as Boston. NECO is in one of the most charming areas of Boston and I have enjoyed being able to explore the Back Bay neighborhood. I feel like Boston is the perfect size because it is so easy to get to other parts of the city just by walking or hopping on the T (what we call the metro system).

I personally love the North End because it’s historical plus has great Italian food. Yet, there is still so much for me to experience in this city, and there is no doubt in my mind I made the right choice moving to Boston.

The Workload.

I had absolutely no gauge of what the schoolwork in graduate school would consist of. I knew it would be more difficult than undergrad, but much more focused in one area that genuinely interested me. I’m not going to beat around the bush – first year was tough. Not only did I have to basically re-learn how to study for every course and apply the information I was learning in a hundred different ways on tests, I also had to put myself on a strict regimen.

Every second or third year student at other optometry schools I visited said the same thing: time management is everything. I learned the hard way that it couldn’t be more right. Making new friends here was a blessing and curse because you want to go out and experience the new city you live in, and yet you also need to sit and study.

I recommend surrounding yourself with people who you enjoy studying with, but also ones who will join you for a margarita as soon as you submit your optics final.

The Pandemic.

COVID changed my first year, and we are still feeling the effects of it as second years. This was an unprecedented challenge that threw colleges and universities through a loop across the entire country. I want to commend NECO’s efforts for handling the pandemic the best way they knew how to. Switching to online learning when the majority of things we are learning is hands-on is a tough problem to solve, but the NECO staff has been there for students to help ease this difficult transition.

I have enjoyed the pod system at NECO, set up so that we will work closely with the same people the entire term. I am getting to know people in my year I hadn’t before!