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Finding Family at NECO

Hannah and 3 classmates in front of building

As my third week as an OD1 concludes, I can say with confidence that my NECO experience so far has surpassed any expectations I had prior to starting the program. In terms of the tangible changes I’ve experienced, I made my largest financial investment after choosing my diagnostic kit, which consists of the various tools optometrists rely on to perform vision tests, and have become responsible for hundreds of pages of course and lab notes.

On the more subtle side of things, my roommates have been an absolute blessing and we’ve made a great group of friends! One of our friends is actually from my hometown and another friend has the best sense of humor, I can always rely on her for a great story. Because we’re all on the same page when it comes to finding the balance between studying and devoting time to exploring Boston, their company has been really comforting. We are especially eager to get to know more of our classmates! Even though our entire class year spends 5 hours together in the same lecture hall every day, lecture time hasn’t offered much time for socialization. I’ve actually had great conversations in the bathroom during breaks, transition times between the labs, and walking home after class!

Between the great events NECO planned for the first three weekends of September and the club fair, I’ve been able to meet so many students both in and outside of our class year. For instance, last Sunday, student council hosted the annual NECO Olympics, where class years compete against each other in events like kickball, basketball, volleyball, and even an eating contest! I loved getting to see my classmates outside of the school setting, as well as seeing how spirited every one was. We were also spoiled with a great meal at the Welcome Back BBQ last weekend! The barbeque was a great way to mingle with the upper years and some of our professors were there too. It was great to see that our professors were not only invested in our education, but wanted to get to know us as people as well! Because I’m coming from an undergraduate institution of 14,000 students, it’s been really refreshing to be a part of a smaller, tight knit community at NECO. While I am far from knowing everyone’s names, I am definitely starting to recognize more faces!

Before you think that it’s been all fun and games, I will mention that the workload has been intense, although definitely manageable. During undergrad, I had a bad habit of cramming the night or two before exams. Even though it worked for me then, I knew that I would have to toss this “study method” out the window as soon as I started at NECO. Because the material we are learning in class is arming us with the knowledge we will eventually need to become great clinicians, I feel a social responsibility to take good notes, review my notes every night, and prepare well in advance for the benefit of my future patients. Even though that might sound like a lot pressure to put on myself, I’ve been deeply inspired by something my Principles and Practice of Optometry professor, Dr. Vera-Diaz, reminded us on our first day of class: “You are not students. You are doctors-in-training.” For this reason, I haven’t felt bogged down with school work. Rather, I’ve been constantly reveling in how lucky I am to be receiving a prestigious education surrounded by the support of passionate professors, engaged administrators, and friendly classmates.

Within the next couple of weeks, I’ll be going to my first two screenings, will be exploring research opportunities at NECO, and experiencing my first Midterm week! I’m trying to enjoy every moment of being an OD1 because I am constantly being told that the year will go by in the blink of an eye. Even though we had our first quizzes in Anatomy and Cell Biology this week, I know that I have many more quizzes, assignments, and exams before I become a doctor… But before I get carried away with myself, my roommates and I are going to enjoy some ice cream to celebrate a successful beginning at NECO!  

Blogger Hannah and two friends at Emack and Bolios holding ice cream cones.

Hannah is a second year student who is originally from Rochester, NY. She is a 2016 graduate of Boston College, where she studied Behavioral Neuroscience and minored in Medical Humanities. Some of her most formative experiences at BC include volunteering weekly at a children’s hospital, traveling to Nicaragua on a service and cultural immersion trip, and studying the neurobiology of eating and eating disorders through an undergraduate research fellowship. Hannah's decision to pursue optometry wasn’t completely made until the summer before her senior year at BC. Despite this relatively late start, she believes that her Jesuit education at BC has cultivated a deep sense of social responsibility to serve communities as an optometrist, perhaps by participating in vision science research adapted towards treatments for rare ocular conditions or by providing basic eye exams to underprivileged communities in the US and Latin America. She is thrilled to be spending another 4 years in the historically rich city of Boston, but this time, as a graduate student and living in the heart of Boston with 2 other roommates! She cannot wait to see where the next four years at NECO will lead her, as well as her classmates in the class of 2020!