Opto-Camp Gives Prospective Students a Taste of Optometry
I’m the first in my family to attend college, and I had a lot of questions about my undergraduate choices and decisions as well as what I might do as a career after graduating. The University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry’s Opto-Camp gave me a better idea of what optometry is like—both as a graduate program and as a profession. Opto-Camp was a wonderful way for me to get detailed information on how to apply for and finance optometry school and learn what to expect from the curriculum.
The ability to form relationships with patients draws many of us to optometry, but not everyone feels comfortable at first. When I applied to Opto-Camp, I was working part-time in a private practice for the first time. I was fortunate to have worked with an optometrist who took the time to answer my questions about her experiences and allowed me to have an active role in her office. I learned to pre-test patients and became comfortable interacting with the patients.
The summer I attended Opto-Camp—in 2013—was a great opportunity to collaborate with fellow pre-optometry students and hear the perspectives of current graduate students. There were 30 students, so we took advantage of how easy it was to get our questions answered, learning directly from faculty and optometry students about their experiences. Knowing as much as I could in advance helped me make the decision to pursue optometry—especially important with the rising cost of attending school.
This year, the session was extended to five days, with 39 campers, and I was one of five camp counselors. We were there to help campers get the most out of the program and also plan social activities to encourage the campers to begin to think about one another as future colleagues. We stressed the importance of becoming active members of the optometric community both during and after school. This year, Opto-Campers also had the opportunity to look through the slit lamp with our classmates to get an idea of what is taught on the first day of class.
Most of us expect optometry school to be rigorous. Often, we choose optometry because we’re interested in studying health-related sciences and want to pursue a profession that allows us to make a difference somehow. Optometry allows us to participate in research, volunteer at health fairs, or simply take the time to educate our patients on proper eye health, while also providing a great community of people willing to help.
Joan Castaneda is a second-year graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry. For more about Opto-Camp, click here.