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My First Year at NECO: A Canadian Student’s Tale

As this is my first blog post as the New England of Optometry Class of 2018 student blogger I thought I would make it about my experience during my first year at the college. Hopefully these blog posts will be eye opening for students interested in attending NECO in the future, as well as my fellow students who are curious about what sort of experience another one of their classmates is having.

First, a bit about me:  I am a Canadian student, an avid gym goer, and a bit of a movie geek. I am also enrolled in the MS/OD 2018 joint program, meaning that when I get my OD after 4 years I will also get my Masters of Science.   
When I first came to NECO I really didn’t know what to expect. First of all, being a Canadian, I was instantly caught up with the immense number of differences I saw around me. The currency (how can Americans tell their money apart when it’s all the same color?), the slang I used, and even the food I ate.     
But it wasn’t long before the similarities began to outweigh the differences. All around me were like-minded students who wanted to succeed and wanted me to succeed as well. I feel as at home in Boston as I ever did in Canada and would not trade the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve gained for anything.  
Although I made it successfully through my first year at NECO, there were many pieces of advice I wish I had had before I started the program. Consider this next section “Maria’s Words of Wisdom” or “Maria’s Words of Warning”.   
Firstly, go to class. I know I know, this is what people have been saying for years.  But seriously, go to class. Even though almost everything is recorded, the sheer volume of material means it is very important to stay caught up. It is more helpful to rewatch a lecture as a review before a test, than watch it for the first time before said test.    
Secondly, don’t be afraid to take a break. There are so many classes and assignments that it’s far too easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out. Obviously breaks aren’t practical all the time but whenever you can watch a show, take a walk, have a nap. Just don’t let the importance of school outweigh the importance of your health. I personally use the gym as my study break. Or if it’s a Monday night, my friends and I like to go to Crossroad’s Trivia, where our team “Trivia Newton John” battles to win bragging rights and gift certificates through a grueling test of pop culture knowledge.     
Finally, trust yourself. There were many times when I worried I wouldn’t be able to pass this or that, but we are all here at NECO for a reason and we all want to succeed.   
It was a whirlwind of a first year and I can honestly say that the skills and knowledge I  acquired from September to May exceeded the amount I learned in my four whole years of undergraduate studies. I’m sure I will gain more pearls of wisdom that I can blog about over the next three years and I look forward to the mistakes and rewards that are to come.   
Until next time!  
Maria is a Canadian student in her final year of the four year OD/MS dual degree program. For her MS project, she is working with Dr. Vera-Diaz and Dr. Panorgias examining color vision and early age-related macular degeneration.