Once you live in a place for a full year, you truly get to know it. So, what’s it like living in Boston during your first year of optometry school?
Fall: Fall of first year in Boston is a time for meeting new friends and exploring the city. The weather is beautiful and the trees are brilliantly colored; I found myself constantly taking pictures of different sights in scenic Back Bay. NECO offers several opportunities outside of class to meet new friends, starting off with the Welcome Back Barbeque, Icon night, NECO Olympics, and the NECO Amazing Race. I did a lot of sight-seeing during the fall, explored some of Boston’s museums, discovered insanely cheap produce at Haymarket, and saw Phantom of the Opera at the Boston Opera House for a student discount.
As far as academics go, you take a lot of basic science courses, such as Anatomy and Cell Bio, in addition to optometry-specific courses, such as Visual Sensation & Perception, Optics, and the most important: Principles & Practices of Optometry (PPO). Most of the classes have labs associated with them. You start going on screenings in local schools immediately, even when it seems like you don’t know what you’re doing, which is a great patient care experience. Some people find first semester to be the toughest, because even if the classes aren’t the hardest, you have to figure out the best way to study and manage your schedule.
Winter: I lived in the South my whole life, so I was worried about getting through the winter up here. All in all, I’d say the winter was not so bad. Yes, it was cold, and yes, it snowed a lot, but I invested in a good coat and a good pair of boots and it wasn’t horrible. We had our first snow the first week of December, and I was amazed at how beautiful it was. We had two big snow storms, but luckily they both occurred when I was home for breaks.
By winter, you’ve hopefully nailed down study strategies and found ways to work in plenty of preclinic practice time. Winter also holds your first Clinical Skills Exam, your first round of finals, and your first long break from school. Most people spent the two weeks at home with their families, recovering from finals. In January, you start another semester of brand new classes. You continue taking courses in Anatomy, Optics, and PPO, and begin the Ocular Disease sequence, the notorious neuroanatomy, and color vision. Also, NECO’s VOSH club holds a Casino Night fundraiser which is a great way to start off the new year.
Spring: In my opinion, winter lasted way too long, but it finally started to get warm in March; I think the last snow of the year was in mid-March. When the sun came out, my friends and I would spend time between labs siting on the dock on the Charles River. In April, the flowers bloomed and Boston came to life again. On particularly nice days, it seemed like the whole city came out to enjoy the sunshine. Beacon Street was covered in bright pink magnolia blooms and yellow daffodils. One of my favorite places in Boston is the Boston Common, which is even more beautiful in the spring. The Red Sox season starts mid-spring, which is a perfect weekend activity and cheap for students too!
Spring semester was definitely longer and tougher than the Fall in my opinion. Clinical skills exams and finals can be very stressful, which is why organization and time management is so critical. Finishing finals in the spring is one of the most rewarding feelings.
Summer: Summer in the city is hot and humid, and AC is rarer than expected, but there’s plenty to do in the city. There are so many free events around the city during the summer – one of the best being the 4thof July concert and fireworks show on the Esplanade. There’s more free time than during the Fall & Spring semesters to explore the various Boston neighborhoods, including the beach!
During the summer after first year, we had only seven weeks of 3 classes: PPO, Optics, and Biochemistry. The courses are known for being not as hard, but they are still important to getting you prepared for clinic in the Fall. We had our White Coat ceremony in July, a significant event in our optometry careers and a great time for family to visit.
Now summer has ended and Fall semester of second year is just beginning. I am eager to put everything I’ve learned during first year to use in clinic and learned more advanced optometry concepts in class. I’ve been told second year is the hardest, but I feel first year gave us a great foundation and I’m excited for what’s ahead.