Heading into the Spooks of Midterms!

by on Oct.04, 2013, under Uncategorized

October is just about here, which means school’s been in session for a full month already…that’s crazy! It’s about a week before my first midterm week and I’m already exhausted! I watch the sunlight shine into the library and I become jealous of the shoppers, the sun glass-wearers, and the joggers basking in their vitamin D. I think perhaps every student reaches a point in their graduate school career where they just sit on the floor of their apartment and ponder for a second about life. In my case, I was in the middle of cleaning my room and found myself spacing out for about fifteen minutes before I realized that I had stopped sweeping and was simply sitting on my bed. And the question is this, “What IS this graduate school life?!” But then it hits you about 0.05 seconds later that you entered this form of self-torture completely voluntarily!

Actually, I really do love learning…especially science. I did my 7th grade science project on how mummies were made, and I used to spend a whole day in the children’s science museum and when I was in Taiwan this summer, I spent the whole day walking the very same exhibits as I did in 5th grade. I’m just fascinated by how resilient the human body is (has anyone ever just stared at their toes or fingers and wondered how WEIRD they look objectively? Try it!) and how many different advances and discoveries we’ve made since the dawn of time. The whole thing is mind boggling! So the short version of it all is that I think science and learning in general is awesome. However, I really despise test taking. Contrary to stereotypes and mythical beliefs, not ALL Asians are good at taking tests…I am a good representation of that. I’m a detailed and big-picture-learner rolled up into one, question child! I like to know how things work and then how they apply to their surroundings and then, of course, how it applies to my own personal life. The downside of having all these wonders and questions is that academic tests usually don’t ask for those kinds of questions. I get it, though, that there’s no real standard for how grading could be fair, but I still hope for that one day when testing is done by professors conversing with students rather than filling in bubbles.

In the mean time, I’ve got a busy week coming up! Somehow, the week before midterms also falls on the week when I have labs every single day of the week. This means extra homework and pre-lab quizzes that need to be finished — yikes! The up side is that all this required work really helps facilitate my learning. By doing the necessary work, I am also learning the course material required for midterms. I also bought a bunch of Trader Joe’s frozen food (Mac n’ Cheese? Verde chicken burritos anyone?) and extra O.J. to help fight away any potential germs lurking around. Gotta stay healthy!

On another note, I had my first screening about a week ago and it was awesome! About eight of the first years got to join some upper-class students in helping out at the Martha Elliot Health Fair. Since it was only our third week of school, the first years’ primary responsibility was conducting visual acuities (where patients read letters or shapes on a chart to provide a rough estimate of how well they’re seeing). As someone who’s worked in an optometry office before, the task itself was fairly standard and simple, however the exciting part was the number of patients we saw in the time given: about 45 people in three hours. It was a great experience to approach strangers and ask them how they’re seeing and if they’d like a brief visual screening. I encountered people of all ages and backgrounds and even some who claim they had not been to an eye doctor in over ten years…TEN! All of us at the screening really felt like we made a small impact because from child to adult, we saw people genuinely excited and appreciative of our work and what NECO students do for the community. And the kicker is that all of us had fun doing it! I was impressed by the level of public education and outreach at the event because along with our booth, there were also several other booths that tackled both physical and mental health. It was great to be reminded of how connected the health care field really is.

I can’t wait until the stress of midterms studying is over with and we can increase our patient interaction time!! For now, like my friend told me during a good venting session, “You’re in grad school, this is supposed to happen! I wouldn’t trust you to be my doctor if you didn’t work for it!” Touché my friend, it’s time to up my game!! Good luck to all my fellow students who are joining me in putting in less snooze these coming weeks. It’s go time!

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My First Two Weeks: A Cow Among the Excited Herd!

by on Sep.18, 2013, under Uncategorized

This Monday officially rounds off the first two weeks of OD1 for our class of 2017. It’s all kind of a blur thinking back, but my one sentence of summary would be: It’s strange to be an adult and still feel this young on the academic totem pole. Everyone at NECO is nothing but extra friendly towards us, which is awesome! Not to mention, it really deters the feelings of being the “newbie” that I know I am. And that’s something that I have counted on since my interview day at NECO. Since the school is relatively small, it was really important to me that the environment be homey. I wanted to go somewhere that embraced the students as family and that is supportive rather than competitive…and NECO has proven to provide exactly that!

The first few weeks have consisted of orientation, a few provided lunches (yay, free food!), becoming CPR certified, and settling into lecture and beginning labs. Because we all have the same lecture classes together (and therefore the same destination as one another), it often feels very much like herding lost cattle. Many of us are just getting acquainted with the campus, so it becomes a game of “following the leader.” If you look like you know where you’re going… well, there was probably at least five other people following you then. In a way, these first “herding days” were a good experience and I feel one that is critical to bond as OD1s, and in another way, I was very much reminded of how much there is to learn beyond the academics of optometry. Coming to NECO from the West Coast makes everything a learning experience. Aside from the obvious studying, I’m learning my bike path to/from school (and how to avoid getting hit by cars that seemingly follow no traffic rules!), how the Boston T works, and where all the secret hallways are within NECO. I found it deliciously pleasant that almost every office I walked into on campus had a bowl of candy waiting for me and all the staff and professors have tried really hard to make the OD1s feel welcome.

At the annual welcome back BBQ, I met more upper years than names I can remember, but they were all silly, engaging, and seemed genuinely happy to be hanging out with us. Getting to know all 135+/- of my fellow classmates might prove to be almost as challenging as memorizing the bones of the human skull (OK, the skull definitely wins), but I take comfort in knowing that there are so many fellow colleagues that will walk this program with me. When I put in library hours, I almost always find a classmate already there and when there are events, such as the amazing FREE Mix Fest concert this past weekend, (featuring Backstreet Boys, Gavin Degraw, and Of Monsters and Men!!), I found plenty of friends to join in on the fun. Hopefully along with the studious, there will be many more fun Boston events to attend!

On top of that, by some scheduling miracle, both of my housemates and I have the exact same schedule this semester. That means every single lab, every lecture are all exactly the same! We’re not sure how this happened, but we promised each other that in an effort to avoid getting overly attached to each other, we’d try to branch out by sitting with different people during our labs and lectures. And by doing so, I was able to become friends with so many others, so I’m grateful for my charismatic housemates. It’s a running joke that we’ll probably want to hurt each other by the end of the semester, especially because we met as strangers, but we have gotten along surprisingly well so far. So thank the graduate Gods for giving me Tammy and Yan. :)

It’s only been two weeks and the true highs and lows are still to come, but I’m looking forward to it all! Aside from feeling like I have not seen a lot of sunshine lately (library hours, labs hours, and lecture hours add up to a lot of time indoors!), I have no regrets about graduate school, about my chosen profession, and definitely not about choosing NECO. I can’t wait to cry, laugh, and be tired beyond belief with my classmates for the next four years. If you ever see me lurking around NECO, please say hello! (Or give me candy/ coffee…much appreciated in advance).

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Goodbye Summer, Goodbye Taiwan (再見!)

by on Aug.21, 2013, under Uncategorized

It’s quite fitting that the last blog of the summer before entering NECO lands perfectly on the day before I head back to the US.  I’ve been here four weeks and it has truly been awesome and somewhat painful. Painful in the sense that I don’t think I ever feel as sweaty and gross as I do when I visit Taiwan (anyone who’s visited East Asia during the summer can probably relate, right?). It’s a mix of feeling like I should shower as soon as I leave my front door and looking for the nearest convenience store to enjoy some A/C. It’s also painful because in the four weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve gotten 14 mosquito bites and 4 flea bites and they came in groups of 2-3 at a time. Itchy! I’m sure you all know the agony I speak of…that urgent life-or-death need to scratch, but the wisdom that it is bad for you to do so — ugh!

One of the greatest things I got to do was visit some friends and family I have not seen in a few years. I got to visit my great uncle panoramic view of Taipeiand great aunt who used to babysit me in elementary school and it has literally been 10+ years since I last saw them! Not only is their house amazing, but they’ve got quite a view! Their house overlooks a panoramic view of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and its surrounding hilltop ranges. It was breathtaking! (The picture is of my dad, great uncle, and great aunt on their rooftop balcony.) So despite getting 4 mosquito bites by staying with them, I must say it was worth it.

Another fun event was hitting the tiny island of Liuqiu Shiang with my dad. The island is about a 30 minute boat trip from the south of Taiwan with a population of only 13,000 and a size of only 4 km long and 2 km wide…which comes out to be about 2.5 miles long and 1.2 miles wide. Aside from amazing seafood, it also offered some great beach views and coral rock formation! While it was pretty much 95+ degrees the whole weekend I was there, looking back at the pictures, it was worth the sweat!  Check out the unique coral rock formation. Can you spot the wild hog?? If you ever get a chance to visit Taiwan, not only are night markets and local delicacies like oyster pancakes and stinky tofu a must…I recommend checking out the island of Liuqiu Shiang (小琉球)!

Liuqiu Shiang (小琉球)

On top of the above mentioned adventures, I was able to check out some awesome eateries. However, I’ve got minimal pictures of those as I was too busy eating! Food is one of the God-send things that I will miss the most once I leave. The taste is beyond ice creamdelicious and the price can’t be beat! I’ve gotten a steak meal for $5, a bento box lunch for $3, and a boba (pearl) milk tea drink for about 80 cents. Lastly, the local tropical fruits are pretty much tiny tastebud miracles. If you’re partial to that sweet and slightly tart flavor like I am, I recommend the bell fruit, the star fruit, and the dragon fruit (which can actually now be found in most US Asian supermarkets!). I also got to check out this ice creamery that housed a whopping 99 flavors of ice cream. It made me crazy indecisive! Some fun options were unique house-blended tea flavored ice creams with creative names, like “Between Dreams and Life,” “Story of the Times,” and my personal favorite that was recommended by a friend of mine who said this flavor was especially uplifting after school exams, “Tomorrow Will Be Better”…HA!

So to wrap it up, a horde of eating and two wisdom teeth pulled later (yep, I also pulled teeth, and no puffy cheeks…dental work is also fabulous here!), I am settled and ready for what’s to come. I know I must say goodbye to all that is delicious and gear up for optometry school. Aside from missing my family and my old cat, I’m pretty amped up for this next adventure! I’m sure there will be more amazing food to try and even more scenic views to take in. I’m counting on the amazing views that the Charles River gives and the Boston Restaurant Week to bring my optometry experience to new heights and I hope I’ve got classmates that will join me! Here’s a disgruntled Candy to end the summer. :)

Angela and cat

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Blog 3: Leaving On a Jet Plane

by on Jul.26, 2013, under Uncategorized

For many people, airports, plane rides, and especially those dreaded red eye flights are just a means to an end…a way to get from point A to point B. Not me. I absolutely love airports and plane rides and even airplane food! I’m actually on a twelve hour flight right now even as I type this entry. I’ve been traveling these twelve hour plane rides between Taiwan and the U.S.A since I was in kindergarten and as such I’ve developed quite a fondness for all types of planes, trains, and automobiles. In short, I love the idea of going somewhere…the excitement of packing (which always seems much less stressful than unpacking, why is that?) and scouring any of the souvenir shops and the duty-free shops available or even just sitting in front of the big windows, watching airplanes take off and land. There’s something so awesome about travel because you always come back or leave a little different than before the trip.  Specifically relating to airport traveling, I have perfected a routine of buying too much junk food, a Readers Digest magazine, and calling one of my high school best friends before departure. My friend and I each used to have to travel to Asia a lot during school breaks to visit family and created a tradition since high school of always calling each other whenever the other is at the airport. And even though my friend and I live on opposite ends of California now, both out of boredom and in the spirit of friendship, it’s a tradition we still keep up when we’re at the airport and I don’t intend to mess with it.

Nowadays I don’t get a lot of time to read for fun and when school starts in the fall, I don’t expect to be able to leisurely read either so these long flights are the perfect time for some good ol’ reading.  My devotion to Readers Digest as a “travel-must” began in 5th grade when my teacher brought them from home as extra reading material for the class and I’ve been hooked ever since! It’s got an excellent blend of inspirational stories that have left me in tears more than once, some awesome joke pages that actually make me chuckle out loud, deliciously simple recipes to try, as well as providing health advice of some sort. Best of all, it’s published almost all over the world. I grew up reading it in Chinese when I was in elementary school and when I got a little older and started buying my own books, I realized that they sold them at airports all over and now it’s a travel staple of mine. I think I’m over-selling it a little, but if you’re ever looking for a good read, but not sure what to read exactly…might I suggest picking up a Readers Digest? Of course, I’ve got my novel reading, too! In my back pack, I’ve also packed Game of Thrones (who’s watching with me out there on HBO?!) and the more light-hearted Learning to Exhale…just to cover all my reading genres, just in case my mood changes abruptly during the flight.

So when it comes to my flight out to Boston at the end of August, I will still be following my routine of picking up a Readers Digest, calling my friend, and packing extra food to curb the impulse to splurge on expensive airplane sandwiches. As with all my plane rides somewhere, I’m pretty excited!

-update-

I’m finishing up my blog entry now that I have landed and gotten a good night’s sleep. I wanted to show everyone one of my biggest reasons for making this trip back to Taiwan (aside from visiting family and the delicious food)…my thirteen-year old cat, Candy! She’s my pride and joy because I’ve had her since 5th grade and aside from what the Veterinarian called “bone spurs,” she seems to be a pretty happy old lady. She has gotten more high maintenance as she’s aged, refusing to drink water and eat food that is more than half a day old, and becomes highly vocal when you are near her and neglect to rub her back. Does this happen with everyone’s old pets? Or is it simply the stereotypical “cat ego?” Either way, I love her. She was one of the first reasons I wanted to go into the health care field. As I am the only child, I grew up extremely attached to my pets. When my first cat died of leukemia in 3rd grade, I decided I would become a veterinarian when I grew up so that I could help other animals. However, as I grew up and attended different veterinary and animal welfare research internships, I found that I was too much of a sucker. I couldn’t bare the sadness that often came with the position, but I knew I still loved the science of medicine and the amazing feeling of helping others. After two years as an optician/exam scribe, I knew that optometry could provide me the same intellectual stimulation while providing an environment that was suitable to my friendly persona. I love that the field has direct patient interaction and as an optometrist, you are not just addressing illness, but increasing longevity by providing practical health changes regarding diet and daily habits. So while sometimes I feel like an outsider because I was not born with the notion of becoming an optometrist, I feel that my path led me straight to it. And now, I leave you with a picture of Candy, in all her sexy, lady-like glory! Stay cool this summer, friends :)

 

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Reflections of a Melting Popsicle!

by on Jul.02, 2013, under Uncategorized

As I sit here at 11pm at night, in 86 degree weather writing this blog entry, all that comes to mind is ice cream, shaved ice, and taking an actual ice bath. There’s a gripping heat-wave that’s currently rearing its ugly face on the West Coast, and my money-pinching side is rebelling against turning on the air conditioning ( after all, it has been on for the better part of the day just trying to keep the apartment at a cool 85 degrees). It hit my town approximately last Thursday and seems to have decided to extend its stay indefinitely. My phone is constantly on a weather update and it tells me that for the rest of the week, I am to face above 100 degree weather, to which I cry “Weather party-foul!” I’ve been trying to train for a half marathon race on July 13th called the Davis Moo-nlight Race (it’s a night run and UC Davis is known for its cows, hence the silly pun title) and the seemingly inevitable possibility of a heat stroke proves more daunting with each passing day as I am having difficulty running outdoors for training. For all you social media gurus out there, I say #californiaweatherproblems, #runnerproblems, and #firstworldproblems. Kidding aside, though, if any of you guys are keeping up the active life in this heat wave, I really commend you! Don’t forget to keep a bottle of icy water by your side and stay safe out there!

Since sitting here in the heat, I’m reminded of what one of my friends once told me about the Boston weather and how besides the fact that it gets extremely cold in the winter, there is also a REAL summer! As a Californian, I think I’ve got an extremely skewed perception of what a year round weather should look like. Any variation that extends beyond a 15 degree change from 75°F and I will feel uncomfortable. The rumors about Californians are true; we’re very delicate and whine a lot about the weather. I admit it! As the move for NECO inches closer and closer, I’ve recently added Boston, MA, to the weather category on my iPhone. It makes me feel that I am always in contact with Boston and helps bridge the 3,000 miles between the two coasts. Currently, my phone tells me that it’s 72 degrees in Boston at about 3am in the morning and there’s a chance of lightning. That tells me that Boston isn’t fairing much better and, honestly, it’s kind of nice to know that my current and my future are all experiencing similar things, even if we’re only talking about the weather.

There are so many changes coming up that my head is spinning a bit. I’ve been working at my current optometry office for two years and in three weeks, I will be leaving this second family of mine to prepare for my next adventure. I have laughed and learned with them and I am absolutely positive that I would not have been able to attend optometry school without their help. Last week, my office officially hired my replacement and the newbie has been shadowing me as I try to teach her everything I leanred in 2 years, in a mere 3 weeks. As I go through the basics of glasses adjustments, lens materials, and the meaning behind each pre-testing machine, I can see the newbie’s head spinning. In the process of training her, I have realized all that I have learned regarding the field of optometry in the last two years and I almost can’t believe it myself! Conducting visual fields, taking retinal photos and non-contact tonometry are all standard pretesting procedures, but on top of that, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge regarding the optical aspects of running a clinic. Words like digital freeform progressive lenses, various levels of anti-reflective coatings, and the mess of sorting through insurances have all, unbeknownst to me, become second nature. And all I want the world to know is that I am grateful for the learning opportunities that I have encountered and the people that have come in and out of my life through this period. I’m excited for the next chapter, but sad to turn this current page…I guess that’s why they say growing up is hard. Anyway, if you’re thinking about optometry, or any health field, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the process and fully taking in all aspects of the field. This way you’ll learn the good, the bad, and if you’re lucky, meet some great people along the way who are willing to help guide you through the hardships of the future. Also know, dear readers, that no matter where you are, if you’re stuck in a heat-wave, or this is your normal summer weather… that I am with you and melting, too! Stayed tune for my travels to Taiwan in my next entry!
P.S. I am attaching a screen shot of my weather outlook for your viewing pleasure :)

 

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Blog 1: Confessions of a Semi-Hoarder :(

by on Jun.07, 2013, under Uncategorized

First blog post!! As the housing fair nears, I find myself getting more and more anxious about the big move. I’m hoping to lug a giant suitcase full of winter clothing over (containing scarves, pea coats, fuzzy pajama pants, etc.) and have a friend safe- keep it so that I’ll have less to move come August. The trouble I’m having is the packing part. Like the stereotypical girl, I fear that I’m a bit of a hoarder! I stand back and take a look at my room and I think, “Well surely I’ll need this pair of fairy wings, what would I be for Halloween without it?” or “I must find a way to pack this 30in X 30in white board as it’d be super useful to study with” and “Five pea coats and two snow jackets doesn’t seem nearly enough to save me from the impending snow storms!” I’ve also contemplated and acted upon the notion of buying winter clothes here in California while there are still some change-of-season sales. So far I’ve gotten a pair of snow boots with linings in them for an awesome steal of $35 and a scarf for $1 (yes, ONE DOLLAR!) as well as some other miscellaneous items like thick wool socks and beanies. It is only after the shopaholic/over-thinker side of me has subsided that the logical side of me hits and I realize that I must find a way to send all this to the East Coast. Seriously, may the packing gods save me!

Aside from my packing issues, which I feel better and better about each time I watch Hoarders, I’m generally excited about the move across country. Last week the transmission in my car decided it did not want to help me go in reverse anymore and that’s when I knew I was excited to move to Boston. I see the fact that I’m carless for a few days and going to have to fork over some big bucks to the auto shop as a sign from above that it’s time to stop driving. I’ve never lived in a “real” city in my life, never had the full experience of public transport or loud noises at night or a littered street. The suburbs have been my home no matter which continent I’ve been on (Taiwan or North America) and my undergraduate years were spent in a quaint college town where everything was within biking or walking distance. And although at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in a homey suburb much like the one I grew up in…for now, I’m excited by the prospect of some hustle and bustle. I may regret this later, but I’m truly excited to take the T and commute to school, I’m excited to walk around the busy streets with friends and classmates and explore. I’m excited to witness my first Boston marathon, experience my first “real” winter, and eat some good seafood! At this point, the possibilities are endless.

There are so many exciting things coming up in the summer leading up to my big move to Boston that I’m a bit overwhelmed, actually. I’ve been told that the summer before school is like your last vacation and to cherish it well. With that notion in mind, I’ll be (sadly) leaving my job at an optometry office at the end of July. Then I’ve lined up a visit to Oregon with one of my best friends since high school and a trip back to Taiwan to visit my relatives and my 13 year old cat, Candy, whom I’ve had since 5th grade. My goal is to spend time with those closest to me and to experience some new places and things with them before I completely submerge myself into the NECO family for the next four years. I want to say I’ll be able to keep all my relationships at an equal level while in school, but on the off chance that I slack a little…at least I’ll know we had a glorious summer!

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