03. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Almost a year to the day, I sit here and recollect the start of my journey towards earning a doctorate in optometry. In many ways, it was go from the start. At times, in fact, it felt like a roller coaster ride. A long wait in line reminiscent of the lengthy application process. Followed by the excitement of actually sitting down and being strapped in, like attending class and waiting for break time before getting out of our seats. The numerous exams, quizzes, labs and proficiencies added many twists and turns. I never doubted my decision to join the program, but there were times that I felt exhausted. The good news is that those moments were short lived and soon replaced with reaffirming ones. If asked would I do it again, I would reply, “Sure, why not?” After all…it is my chosen path.

The ASIP program was essentially 3 semesters long. We began in the summer term, followed by a winter term, and we just completed the spring term. I have been asked which term I felt was the most difficult. I feel the summer term was most challenging because I not only was getting used to the idea of being a student again, but I also was getting acclimatized to life in the city. The second term passed by quickly as we looked forward to the holidays. I would advise anyone doing this program to make sure you plan a fun escape during the holidays, as I feel this is the best time in the program to recharge your batteries. I traveled to an island destination in search of the sun in the winter months and was pleased I did so.

The spring term was our longest and final one. We had many assignments to do during this term. We were encouraged to expand our research and presentation skills. For the Pediatric Optometry class, we did a group project which answered the question “Why does my child’s pupil look white in pictures?” Besides the ominous finding of retinoblastoma, I found an article which explained how a white pupil can be caused by an optical phenomenon of flash photography. If a child is looking off axis with respect to the camera, they can appear to have a white pupil, which is clinically called a leukocoria. In any case, a white pupil should warrant a comprehensive dilated exam before making a diagnosis.

This past year in Boston has also been eventful. I witnessed a blizzard, earthquake, and terrorist bombing over the course of 12 months. I attended the marathon with such excitement, as it was the first event of this type that I had attended. As tragic as the loss of limbs and lives surrounding the events were, the recovery process was uplifting. Boston to me has always felt like a city that has a suburban feel. The bombings hit home and the community pulled together to get through it. I was fortunate to have been a safe distance away, but it was jolting nonetheless. No one could have predicted that instead of snow days, we would have had days off for disaster recovery. The NECO community all looked out for one another and slowly we resumed our lives as students and residents of this lovely city.

As I wrap up the didactic year and get ready to begin my clinical rotations, I carry forward with me a wealth of knowledge and memories that I have gathered during my time in Boston. Here is looking onwards and upwards towards the final year of the Advanced Standing in Optometry Program!

01. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Although the longest of the three semesters for the ASIP program, this semester seems to be flying by. In many ways this semester seems to be wrapping up the acquiring knowledge part of learning and steering more towards applying that knowledge. This semester we have: Advanced Ocular Disease II, Advanced Contact Lenses, Special Topics II, Clinical Medicine, Binocular & Accommodative Anomalies, Environmental Optometry, Strabismus & Amblyopia, Pediatrics, Advanced Therapeutics, and one whole day at a clinical site each week. Sounds like a heavy load and it is. Last I counted, the course load for this semester is 26+ credits.

At this stage, the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place and it is easier to integrate the knowledge across the topics. For example: in AOD we learned about retinoblastoma and in Pediatrics we learned about it again with emphasis on how it is an ocular malignancy that occurs in childhood. We have to do many projects this semester which at first seemed like busy work but, I am now finding it to be enjoyable. The projects challenge us to look at topics outside of our lecture notes and highlight the importance of continuing education. We are doing a group project in Pediatrics which will aim to answer the question which parents can pose to an optometrist: “Why does my child’s pupil look white in pictures?” Through this project, I have learned about researching and presenting information in terms of providing patients with evidence based answers to questions. Perhaps in my next blog I will share with you my findings regarding this subject.

Officially, it is spring in Boston. Spring seemed to have gotten lost on its way to us or you could say Winter overstayed its welcome. In any case, temperatures are shifting for the better and with it a new sense of energy and exploration of the city. We just had Restaurant Week here in Boston. It was a great time to indulge in the local restaurants and the special fixed price menus. For lunch, I was able to try out a seafood restaurant that I had walked past many times. Although I must say I enjoyed all three courses of my afternoon meal and the view of the city that accompanied it, I left feeling overstuffed. I also left realizing that perhaps I have a mild seafood allergy. It figures I would discover this in Boston, the land of clam chowder. For dinner, I opted for a French/Cambodian restaurant. It was an interesting mix of flavors. The restaurant had both cuisines on offer and you could mix and match amongst them. I did just that and my palate was happy. Dessert was the best part. A chocolate caramel tart, passion fruit mousse, and a decadent chocolate truffle cake. No, I did not eat all three on my own…I had a bit of help from my friends. I finished the week feeling as if I tried some of the best restaurants Boston has to offer.

It is interesting to note the title of this blog is…”Wrapping It Up” and it relates both in terms of my studies here at NECO and leftovers from my dining experiences of restaurant week. Here’s to looking forward to the last few weeks of this semester!!!

22. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

When I began this course, I envisioned long hours of studying with a few breaks to have a peek at what was going on behind the books. A point that I have come to realize and accept is that while we are studying, occasions such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, births/deaths, or any occasion for that matter for which a greeting card can be written passes by whether we stop to mark the occasion or not. Striking a balance between the demands of student life and those of a ‘normal life’ is something that can be challenging. Somehow in this process it is easy to just think that your life back home is going to be frozen in time and when you return you can pick up where you left off. Sadly, I recently was reminded that while I was busy in the books, someone very dear to me was living her last days of life and she would not be there when I returned home after my time here at NECO.

My grandmother, who had lived with us since I was 8 years old, passed away a few weeks ago. She was not well over the time I went home for Christmas and I saw her transition from our home, to the hospital, then to a nursing home for physical therapy, and finally back home, all within a 4 week period. I managed to travel back to NJ every weekend for that 4 week period and sadly, within that time, I saw her condition deteriorate. She passed peacefully with her 5 children by her side. She was a pious woman and lived an exemplary life. She lived with us for as long as I can remember. She spoke very limited English and so as a child I effortlessly learned how to speak Urdu and Punjabi, which are languages native to Pakistan. I am a first generation Pakistani-American and I credit her with developing my sense of culture and tradition, which to this day I carry forward. She was proud of me, as I am the first of the women in our family to pursue higher education. I referred to her as my treasure trove of prayers, as she would pray endlessly for my success without me even having to ask her to do so. Her loving presence will be missed.

All the while through my grandmother’s illness, I tried to keep up with my studies. This semester we are taking a course called Clinical Medicine and in it we are learning about all of the body systems from the perspective of an internal medicine doctor. Sadly, my grandmother seemed to have many of the comorbidities that we are studying. So even when I was in front of the books, I was thinking of her. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, most of the things that we learn at school can be applied in both our professional and personal life. One of the things that we are not necessarily taught, but as a health care professional it is important to know, is how to give bad news or to have empathy. Fortunately, I feel our profession attracts this type of personality naturally. One such faculty member at NECO was rather adept at demonstrating this concept. I was passing by one of the academic offices and a prominent faculty member stopped me and asked me if everything was alright. Now, there was no way for him to have known about the loss of my grandmother, but something about my sad expression prompted him to ask, “Is everything ok?” It was very kind of him to stop and take the time to look me in the eyes and realize that… no, I was not okay. He even kindly shared his memories of his own grandmother and it helped me feel connected not just to the NECO family, but also in a very human kind of way beyond academia.

My birthday is another event that passed by while behind the books. It was a milestone birthday and it should suffice to say it was not my 21st. I had visions of dancing my way into the next decade, but given my grandmother’s death, I decided to not to mark the occasion. Instead, I spent a quiet evening surrounded by my loved ones at home. There will be many more happy occasions and sad ones, too, to deal with in the coming days, months, and years. So yes, there is a lot happening behind the books. It is up to us to determine what is important to stop for and partake in and what can wait until May 2014. Whatever you decide, never lose sight of those who are important to you, while keeping your eye on the goal of completing your degree program. Manage your time so that even that phone call home or the short trip during the breaks can make for some great memories. I felt compelled to write this blog to encourage you all to every now and then take a peek at what is happening behind the books, so that when you close them, you are still connected to your loved ones and your life beyond academia.

04. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

As a student, it is nice to on occasion stop and reaffirm why it is we sit in lectures and digest information with great depth and at a fast pace. No doubt, building a solid knowledge base which in turn will give us confidence to apply that knowledge is pivotal. Whether it is in a clinical setting, at a community health screening, family gathering, or simply on the street when the occasion rises, so shall we. Case in point, last semester we had a Low Vision lecture discussing how people born visually impaired tend to cope and adjust better to their impairment than people who lose their sight later in life. Within one week of this lecture, I noticed a visually impaired man walking with a white stick. Just so you can visualize the scene, I was walking over the Mass Ave bridge connecting Boston to Cambridge. For any of you who are familiar with this bridge, you know it is usually busy with pedestrians, cyclists, roller bladers and runners all merrily going about their business. As I walked, I could not help but question my own pace when this man whose white stick indicated he was blind was able to effortlessly overtake me, at a fast pace, while swinging his stick side to side. Immediately, I realized he must have either been blind for many years or his vision was not terribly reduced. The former being the more likely case given he had the stick. I was amazed at how fast and confidently he was able to walk. But soon enough, I noticed he came to a halt. I observed as he waited at the edge of the street. He was still confident as he took one step into the street but at the same time it seemed obvious he was conscious of his own limitations of crossing the street safely. But actually after observing him for a moment, I came to realize his hesitation was not about crossing the street, it was about where the bus stop was located. I know this because I saw him stop and ask people. I also noticed how uncomfortable people were with a blind man asking for directions. Some people moved out of his way out of fear of running into his stick as he approached them.

I approached him as he crossed the street and as we were taught in class…I asked him if he would like my assistance. He said he wanted to know where the bus stop was. I said I can accompany him there and then proceeded by giving him verbal instructions. Normally we would offer our arm as a guide, but given his mobility was good, my verbal instructions were enough to guide him to the bus stop. Once we got to the pole that had the bus stop sign on it, I told him to tap it with his stick thereby giving him a cue. He thanked me and I told him I am an optometry student. At this point, I could not help but ask how long he had been sight impaired. My assessment was correct in that he was born visually impaired, but had learned to cope well. He proceeded to tell me that he lost his vision through having measles as a child. This supported my initial observation of how agile/fast he was with navigating the road with his walking stick. This reinforced what we learned in class which was that people who have lived with reduced vision/blindness all of their lives tend to adapt more easily and seem to have better mobility than those who develop poor sight later in life.

This encounter left me thinking about how often we just walk through life not taking note of people’s internal struggles. Being in school and studying these topics is all purposeful and meant for us to apply sooner or later. It felt good to have been confident enough to approach him, especially when I saw many people pass by and not stop. In doing so, I was not only able to apply my knowledge, but also build my confidence that I could keep up with the pace of applying that knowledge in a meaningful way.

24. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

This is the third and final semester of the didactic portion of the ASIP program. At this point, I have a suitcase full of notes from knowledge I have attained across the various lecture series. It kind of feels like senior year of high school, where the end is in sight. Generally speaking, I have separated the didactic year from the clinical year. The clinical year will begin in May 2013 and at this stage we will be on par with the traditional 4th year students. Although it has only been 9 months since that sunny day in May when we began this journey…it seems like a long time ago. Having said that, this past semester flew by at record speed…and I am hoping the same for the upcoming semester.

I thought I would share some of my highlights from the previous semester. It was our second semester and it ran from August to December. I particularly enjoyed the Advanced Ocular Disease class. The professor was great at combining various modes of technology to help us integrate our learning. We had traditional in class lectures, but also clicker review sessions of actual clinical cases as well as a blended module online. I have come to appreciate that the layering concept really works. In other words, seeing similar concepts through different medians both in/out of the classroom and having them repeated in different courses helps students to integrate/retain/apply that knowledge.

Interestingly enough last semester, I encountered many of the ocular/systemic diseases in my clinic with patients and/or family around the same time as we were learning about the particular disease in class. This reminds me of the idea that we will be faced with these clinical scenarios on a daily basis. It is a sort of heightened awareness of what is medically going on around us. It is nice to know the knowledge we gather can be applied for our own benefit when reviewing medical records of family members or our own personal medical records for that matter. The idea is to come out as not just competent clinicians, but also as educated patients ourselves. This is an important concept as we enter the diverse family of medical professionals. There is a sense of professional courtesy and respect that we can share with our colleagues in affiliated specialties. Knowing and sharing our knowledge with other medical professionals further reinforces our professional standing as doctors of optometry.

As I eluded to earlier, paying attention in class and applying those concepts to your everyday life is rewarding in and of itself. For example, I am one of millions who suffers with dry eye. Last semester, dry eye was discussed in the following classes: Advanced Ocular Disease I, Principles and Practice of Optometry and Special Topics I. I was able to diagnose the cause of my dry eye and am in the process of self-treating it. Dry eye has various etiologies and treatments, so it was good to learn about the latest and greatest in the field.

This semester also looks promising as far as integrating knowledge. These are a few of the courses: Special Topics II, Advanced Ocular Disease II, Clinical Medicine, Pediatrics, Binocular Anomalies, Environmental Optometry and Contact Lenses. No doubt it will be challenging, but there are a lot of exciting concepts to be learned and reinforced in these subjects. Here’s looking forward to our third and final didactic semester!

03. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s start with the serious bit. Proficiencies! For those of you who are reading this and are not familiar with this term and how it applies to optometry school I have provided the following as my interpretation: Proficiencies are the equivalent of the road test part of the driving test. They are there is make sure you know the rules and when to apply them and most importantly that you are comfortable and safe to be in the drivers seat.

We had a proficiency last semester that tested basic optometric skills such as entrance tests, refraction, and a direct fundus examination.  As ASIP students we were all trained as optometrists in our respective countries, but the level that we practiced the profession varied. The ASIP course has helped us develop the skills and knowledge we need in order to work as optometrist in the USA.  In other words, we all came in as experienced clinicians and now we are building upon those skills.  The best way I can describe it is like having a driver’s license for many years and then moving to a different country and learning how they drive there. Fundamentally the skills are the same, but the rules and the skill levels change.  In the USA,  the rules change state to state for driving and for that matter optometry too.

We had our proficiency exam yesterday.  The set up of the exam was intended to help prepare us for part 3 of the National Board exam. Our last proficiency exam consisted of the following: Biomicroscopy, Punctal plugs, Goldmann tonometry, Gonioscopy, Binocular Indirect Microscopy, Optic Nerve head drawings and Blood pressure checks. Most of the techniques, like the slit lamp exam, required us to mention the magnification, illumination and patient instructions. So verbalizing your understanding of the procedure to the examiner as well as performing it was key.  We also had to do a station where we mounted what looks like a helmet with a bright light, which is called a Binocular Indirect Microscope. We had to carefully balance a magnifying lens in front of the patient’s eye and maintain alignment of the patient’s eye, the magnifying lens, and the oculars of the headset all at the same time. Very fine movements can distort what should be a clear magnified view of the fundus. We had to also locate 3 shapes that were concealed in a box with a small hole in the middle which represents a patient’s pupil. It was fun hunting around and looking for the objects using our BIO headsets.  The box unlike a real patients eye did not mind being subjected to the the bright light of the headset. We also had to insert collage punctal plugs into our classmates’ eyes. The idea behind the punctal plug in layman’s terms is to ‘insert a small plug into a small opening in the inner corner of a patients eye in the hopes of relieving dry eye symptoms by blocking the drainage of the their tears. Depending on the severity of a patient’s dry eye, they may benefit from having anywhere from one to all four of their puncta blocked. It is a simple and fun procedure to learn and one which I never had a chance to do when I worked in Europe.

Blood pressure is now part of the Board examination and so we were assessed on our ability to perform this technique. As one of our lectures pointed out, patients expect optometrist, as health care providers, to be competent at measuring blood pressure. There are many eye correlations with hyper/hypotension and so it is an important diagnostic consideration.  The main thing with any of these techniques is to know in which situations you need to perform them and then prepare the equipment and the patient for the procedure. For the last few weeks in the lead up to the proficiencies, we dilated each other. Collectively I would wager a bet that we were dilated well over 100 times. That is a lot of eye drops. I myself was dilated nine times in the past 4 weeks.  It felt good to work together as a class and share tips as well as challenge each other to tweak our techniques. Now that the big day is behind us, I am happy to report that the last I checked we are all still alive and breathing and none of our mock patients were blinded in the process, so all ended well.

Now onto the even more fun stuff which is the second P of the blog: Packing for Thanksgiving break. I can sum this up in one sentence by the following: Open a big travel bag  put in a few pairs of clothes/personal items and lots of books/notes/chargers/and your laptop you are all done. Oh and leave room to bring back freezer bags of food from home.  Oddly enough, on this trip I also decided to bring along my ophthalmoscope to do a round robin fundus check of my friends/family around the dining table after Thanksgiving dinner. Think of it as a vision screening.  I will keep you posted on the outcome.

Luckily, Boston is a city with well connected bus/train/and airport links and so getting out of Boston is not an ordeal. I literally booked my bus ticket a few hours before I caught the bus out of town. I have tried all 3 modes of transport and find for me taking the bus is the most comfortable and convenient way back to New Jersey.  It takes approximately 7 hours after a short transit through New York City, but the journey is worth it. My favorite part of the trip is when the bus pulls off the highway and drives through Harlem.  I never realized what an architecturally beautiful part of the city Harlem is. For anyone who is living in Boston, I would highly recommend taking the four hour bus to New York City and enjoying the views.

Lastly, I feel my blog will not be complete without making a reference to some sort of food item, as I have done in my previous blogs.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, pumpkin is the flavor of the month. When November rolls around you can literally find anything pumpkin: pie, cake, muffins, bread, pancakes, coffee, tea, candles, jam, lotion, lip gloss and I’m sure the list could go on! I love this time of year! Everyone is happy being off from work and studies, albeit for a short time. It is a great time to reconnect with family and friends and indulge in home cooking guilt free.  Warm regards to you all for a very Happy Thanksgiving. Eat lots and enjoy!!!

05. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

So, what does love have to do with it?

A lot!!!

Most of us who enter this noble profession have an Ah-Ha moment and today’s blog is dedicated to that story.  When I was in high school, many moons ago, we had a driver’s education class. The most exciting part of that class was driving while your teacher was sitting on the passenger side. Well, in order to get to that stage each student first had to pass the vision screening by the school nurse.

I must admit that even at the age of 16, I did not piece together the extent of my visual impairment. In fact, when I ‘failed’ the vision screening, I was surprised.  Soon after, I found myself in the comfy chair of our local optometrist and when faced with the letter chart, I remember feeling embarrassed that I could not even identify the big E.  I was fascinated by the refraction process and within minutes was reading 20/20. My Ah-Ha moment was when it felt like someone turned the lights on in the world.

Suddenly, everything was bright and oh so clear. It was a great feeling, one that to this day I recollect each time I find a marked improvement in my patient’s refraction.  Imagine being in the room when someone has their Ah-Ha moment. Young or old, each patient is excited about their new found sight.

From that experience, I carried forward a few good observations.  I realized that many children, and some adults for that matter, do not complain about not being able to see well.  This is because the majority of a child’s world is within a few feet, that is until they are faced with the prospect of driving.  These patients make do with what vision they have and subconsciously make adjustments such as head tilt, eye squinting, or simply moving closer to things to see them clearly.

So, how does this tie in with the title of this blog?  Well, it can be said that I love what I do and it shows.  Or at least that is what anyone who has seen me do an eye test says.  Since that day when I was prescribed my first pair of spectacles, I have continued to be fascinated with the sight test process.  It amazes me that within minutes and without the need for advanced diagnostic tests, optometrists can change the way people see the world.  It is an intriguing notion and it continues to give me delight in the process.

After all, when you love or like something, for that matter, it becomes a more natural process and you can approach it with ease. Even on the days when it seems like there are an endless number of tests and proficiencies, I remind myself of my Ah-Ha moment.  I know I am not alone in this feeling as I look around NECO and see the expression on most of the student’s faces.  It is nice to see there is a lot of love for our profession around NECO.  Part of the beauty of optometry as a profession is that it attracts happy people, the sort who are genuinely caring and dedicated to their work.  The kind of people who approach their work as not just a paycheck, but rather as a paycheck with a bonus.  That bonus is the joy that you feel in the process.  No doubt it is a challenging course, but I would not trade where I am today.  As each exam passes, it is another slam dunk towards the end of this journey and another chance to fall more deeply in love with my chosen profession.

01. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized
     Ready…Get set…Go… you may be thinking is something you associate with a sporting event.  Yet, I have found the same could be said for the pursuit of academia.  It can be likened to a sport such as football or soccer, in that in order to score anything, you must have a ‘goal’ as well as a clear start and finish.  When I was exploring my options to transition from optometry in England to the USA, I found NECO to be the only school that had a program that would allow optometrists to realize the goal of attaining a Doctorate of Optometry degree within 2 years.  The program is well structured and bridges the gap between how optometry is practiced in foreign lands to the level expected in the USA.
     From day one it was go! Thankfully, I had spoken to students who had already graduated from the program and they helped me to mentally prepare.  Classes began in May 2012.  The first three months consisted of courses in Cell Biology, Histology, Human/Ocular Anatomy and Physiology, Neuroanatomy, Clinical Care, Diabetes/Glaucoma, and Principles and Practice of Optometry.  I commend my classmates who sit through lectures and manage to absorb information in English, which is not their first language.  Fortunately, the ‘language of optometry’ is fairly global and so it is just a matter of learning clinical terms used in the USA.  Doing the sight test, or as it is commonly called here ‘eye test’, in terms of 20/20 rather than 6/6 was also an adjustment.  For years, I aimed to get my patients to see the 6/6 line and now that seems like a foreign concept.
     I am at the stage now where I can reflect upon my time thus far in Boston.  For those of you who read my previous blog, you may recall that I wrote about my transition to Boston and how I have made a nest for myself here. Carrying on from that thought, I want to share my thoughts on two aspects I considered before even contemplating the notion of studying.  The first was the importance of finding study buddies.  This is a shout out to all my study buddies!  They each have a unique strength that I admire and I feel fortunate to have connected with them.  We not only help each other, but at times we also challenge one another.  Ultimately, we are all competing not against each other, but rather against ourselves.  Competing against yourself, you may be thinking, is an unnatural process.  The thought is, that whatever we achieve or fail at, for that matter, is a measure of our personal growth.  The new skills and knowledge that we have attained minus those that we presented with on day one of classes.  This is the clear ‘starting line’  I made mention to in the beginning of this blog.  Beyond the registrar’s office, how we measure against one another really has no longevity, as far as I see it.
     On a less philosophical note, I want to mention the other key factor I considered before setting up camp to study. My personal belief is that the phrase ‘active learning’ involves literally making sure you have snacks on hand while studying.  Any respectable school bag would not be complete without a stash of snacks. And at the top of my healthy study snacks list is…popcorn! Yes, I see you smiling.  Be it plain or with a flavoring (herb and spices is my personal favorite), popcorn rocks, or should I say pops?!?…You know what I mean.  My reasoning is as follows.  Popcorn is a happy food which is nutritious for the most part and satisfying, too! And hey, it fits most any students budget.  So, ready…get set…go… get out there and grab your study buddy and a bag of popcorn too!  See you at the finish line…aka Graduation May 2014!

Bonjour, Hello, Goeie dag, Nihao, Privet,  Salam, and Shalom!  All of these greetings reflect the countries of origin of the Advanced Standing International Program (ASIP) and the Accelerated Optometric Degree Program (AODP) class of 2014. We are a cohort of 9 students, which is actually considered a large group considering last year there were only 3 ASIP students.  An additional 4 students comprise the AODP class of 2014.

The AODPs actually began their program in February 2012 and the ASIPs, having had previous optometric experience, joined them in May 2012.  Collectively we traveled many air miles to make a new home in Boston, all with the same goal, which is to complete the Doctorate of Optometry in 2 years!  Yes, this is a rather ambitious goal, but students in previous years have managed and so shall we.  No doubt there will be a few moans and groans along the way, but ultimately it is a goal worth aspiring to.

So, a bit about my journey to Boston. I have been fortunate to have lived in and traveled to many countries.  My last residence in England was in Milton Keynes. For British standards, it is considered a modern town, which is located approximately 50 miles northwest of London.  After living in England for 14 years, when I came to Boston I was pleasantly surprised to see an American city with some European character and charm.  Boston in my eyes is a good mix of both lands.

I made my move to Boston in May 2012.  The city had a very serene atmosphere, given the mass exodus of students for the summer holiday.  I was fortunate to find a great place to live in the Back Bay within walking distance to NECO.  For those of you who are still sorting out accommodation, I would strongly advise trying to stay as close to the school as possible.  Boston is a relatively small city, but somehow instead of shortening the journey, it becomes drawn out if you take public transport.  Having said that, Boston is a very walkable city and you will be surprised at how much further and faster you can get places on foot than on some of the public transportation links.

I have made a nest for myself in Boston and feel quite privileged to call it home for now.  What I mean by a ‘nest’ is that during my first few weeks here I made a conscious effort to orient myself to the city and get ready for the intense semester that lay ahead.  I must mention that during our orientation at NECO, we were introduced to things beyond courses, exams, and clinic schedules. I was impressed how the orientation team went to the trouble of organizing an introductory packet to Boston.  This gave me the idea to explore the city from a student’s point of view.  One of the first things I set out to determine was where the hot spots were to study.  Apart from numerous libraries located around Boston, there are a great number of coffee houses that are welcoming to students who want to find a cosy spot to study.  I also looked into things like where to go for visits to the doctor, dentist, hair salon, and bank.  I surely cannot forget to mention to scope out the go to place for stationary such as highlighters, folders, multi-colored sticky tabs (which happen to be my number 1 favorite item) and of course pencils to use during the many scantron tests you will be faced with. Also consider where is the best place to buy certain groceries, because if you are a foodie like me, not all bread is created equal.

These are just a few things I found useful to do during my first days in Boston.  Making a new home anywhere requires exploration of your surroundings. With that in mind, I wholeheartedly encourage you to hit the streets of Boston and find all the things that will help you make your nest here!