The Best of Summer in Boston

DSCF1466There are so many things I love about living in Boston. It’s a big city, but it really never feels like one–its small neighborhoods and walkability keeps it from feeling oppressively large like New York. It’s beautiful; buildings aren’t just thrown together haphazardly, but, especially in Back Bay, they retain a great deal of elegance. Depending on where you are, you can get a taste of brownstones, tall buildings, or green space, so that you feel like there are multiple cities within the city to explore. You don’t feel deprived of nature; a walk along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, through the Public Gardens, or along the Esplanade will satisfy any craving you might have for the outdoors. One of the best things about being at NECO is that we live in such an amazing city, but I’ve found in the past few months that some of the best parts of Boston are best experienced in the summer.

A few weeks ago, I was able to see my first Red Sox game at Fenway; actually, it was my first ever MLB game. I’m from Buffalo, and I never knew I could be so interested in watching a baseball game–compared to how fast-paced hockey is, it didn’t seem like watching a baseball game could be anywhere near as exciting. But I enjoyed watching baseball so much more when I was actually there, because I felt so close to the action. What I really enjoyed about the game, however, was the feeling of tradition that is inherent in Fenway–being able to sit in the famous Green Monster, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning, hearing the vendors call out what foods they were selling.

I’d also been looking forward to seeing fireworks for the Fourth of July from the Esplanade this year, but I almost wasn’t able to see them at all. After wandering the Esplanade prior to the start of the fireworks, I heard an announcement that people were urged to evacuate the Esplanade due to an incoming thunderstorm and that the fireworks would be delayed. We could see the lightning across the river, and it combined with faraway fireworks to create an incredibly beautiful display. After watching the lightning for awhile, however, my friends and I decided to take shelter somewhere while we waited to see how long the fireworks were delayed. Luckily, we started back toward the Esplanade early to try and find a good spot, and found the the fireworks were starting just as it started to pour. I ended up watching the fireworks on the Mass Ave bridge, getting completely soaked, but it was worth it–the fireworks were the best I’d ever seen.

I was also able to try something this summer that I’d been looking forward to for awhile–kayaking on the Charles River. I love kayaking, and the views of Boston and Cambridge that you get from the river are really spectacular. I love that in the summer, you can spend a day in Boston kayaking and walking the Esplanade, or walking from Back Bay to Faneuil Hall and the North End, and enjoy going somewhere just as much as actually being there. But what’s really special about Boston is that even after experiencing so much of what the city has to offer, you realize that there are so many things you still haven’t done. I still really want to find a nearby beach, and to see a Shakespeare play on the Boston Common.

Until next time, when I’ll talk about what I’ve been doing in my summer jobs!

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Vision Screenings at the Special Olympics

During these past few weeks, I have mainly been working and attempting to coordinate and pack for my move into a new apartment. I’ve also had opportunities to explore more of Boston and experience a few crucial aspects of summer here. However, I’m going to wait to fill you in on all of these things until my next post.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the most powerful vision screening experience I have been involved in thus far. NECO students in Boston for the summer were given the opportunity to participate in vision screenings at the Massachusetts Special Olympics, held at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge. I’ve been trying to take advantage of any screening opportunities I hear about this summer, and I felt that the chance to volunteer at the Special Olympics was particularly important. I actually knew very little about the event prior to my participation; I hadn’t anticipated the Special Olympics to take place on such a large scale, or to have the concept of healthy living to be so integrated into the festivities.

When I arrived in Cambridge, I immediately recognized how intricately the events had been planned and how many different athletic activities were represented, from weightlifting to gymnastics to volleyball to track and field. In addition to the various sports that were represented, the Special Olympics also had been working on a “Healthy Athletes” initiative that we optometry students were able to be part of; dental students were present as well to perform dental screenings, and people were handing out salads and healthy crackers for athletes and volunteers.

Since I have only completed one year of optometry school so far, I haven’t yet learned about the different eye disorders associated with certain kinds of developmental disabilities; for example, that, as we discussed during the screenings, Down’s Syndrome can often be associated with ocular problems such as refractive error, astigmatism, weak accommodation, nystagmus, and eye infections. Participating in screenings at the Special Olympics gave me the chance to learn that there is a higher prevalence of eye disorders among the athletes of the Special Olympics in general and consequently a high demand for eye care.

After helping to organize our tent for the vision screenings, we divided into pairs to screen the athletes. We were able to see a wide variety of visual disorders, like nystagmus, strabismus, and high refractive error, but the most significant part of the screenings wasn’t the added clinical knowledge—it was getting the opportunity to speak with the athletes. The first athlete I screened was running in several track events later in the day, and when I asked if he thought he would win, he replied that since he had won all of his events last year, he absolutely expected to win them again today. I spoke to another athlete who had won a silver medal in swimming that morning and was anticipating another medal from his next race. I talked to a few more athletes who were also running track, another swimmer, and a few volleyball players, and I was extremely impressed with the positive outlook they all had on their participation in the Special Olympics. Many of them expected to win, or had already won medals earlier in the day, but even those who had suffered a loss were extremely proud of their accomplishments and glad to be a part of the event.

I found my screening experience at the Special Olympics to be not only a learning opportunity, but a source of inspiration. I am continually learning about different eye disorders and the needs of differing populations, but I am also learning more about how to interact with patients and how knowing more about their lives and interests can make me a better and more relatable clinician. I would highly recommend the screening experience to any NECO students who will be in Boston next summer or who have a Special Olympics that takes place in their hometown, and I am very grateful that I was able to be a part of such an inspirational event.