A BSc Optometry degree is very valuable because there are so many routes that you can undertake after your degree
How did you develop an interest in optometry?
I have always been interested in a career in healthcare. I loved sciences throughout my high school education and I knew I wanted to further my education in the medical field. I attended the University of Western Ontario for four years where I achieved a BSc (Honours) in Biology. At this point in my life, I had options regarding which career path I could choose and honestly I had no idea which direction to take. I obtained some experience by shadowing my local pharmacist, family doctor, optometrist and dentist which helped me get a better idea of what each career entailed.
After a few weeks at my optometrist’s practice, I instantly knew that optometry was for me. I loved the fact that each patient episode was different and how my optometrist tailored her skills to adapt to any situation she faced. Problem solving is a large part of optometry and that excited me. I knew I wanted to be in a work environment that wasn’t static and where I could make a difference to an individual’s health. Optometry checked all those boxes and now I cannot see myself doing anything else.
Why did you choose to study at City, University of London?
I have never been to the UK and, at first glance, all the Optometry schools seemed like a good option. However, I found that City had, and continues to uphold, a very prestigious and impressive reputation. City is the capital’s leading institution for optometry teaching and is currently ranked 1st in London and 2nd in the UK for Health Professions by the 2018 Guardian League Table. Therefore, I knew that studying here would be the best option for me to become a knowledgeable and effective optometrist.
Living in London was also a huge motivation for me. City is located only minutes from Angel; a thriving area filled with delicious eats and lots of entertainment. Furthermore, City is very easily accessible as it is located close to four major tube stations which makes travel a breeze.
What has been a highlight of the course?
The highlight of the course for me has been learning my full routine in my clinical skills labs. Students are able to pick up a retinoscope and ophthalmoscope as early as the second week of the programme. This gave me a break from the heavy content in my classes and allowed me to learn concepts with a hands on approach. Learning how to use a slit lamp, retinoscope and ophthalmoscope early is very valuable. By the time you learn about how different pathologies manifest in the eye, you are skilled at using the equipment which gives you time to focus on finding key features that you may miss if you aren’t confident with the equipment.
How have you found the teaching and facilities on your course?
The professors at City are phenomenal. Not only are they all highly educated, they are very approachable and helpful. Students are encouraged to ask questions during and after classes and professors always stop to make sure that everyone is on the same page with what is being taught. Some professors have even incorporated online multiple choice questions which are displayed at the end of a lecture. Students can use their phones or laptops to answer these questions and we get live feedback on why each answer is correct or incorrect. Professors respond promptly to questions via email outside of class time as well. It’s apparent that the professors want you to do well and will help you become an effective and knowledgeable optometrist.
The facilities at City are also excellent. In the first two years of the degree, students practice clinical skills in two large labs with individual cubicles that represent a testing room in the real world. These labs contain state of the art equipment that is constantly maintained by the lab technician. In the third year of the programme, students practice at City Sight, a purpose built clinic, which is also filled with the newest technology in optometry and have the opportunity to practice with real patients.
What kind of things are you involved in outside your course?
I am a student representative for the Association of Optometrists (AOP). I was privileged to first obtain this role in my first year at City. The AOP is the leading UK membership organization protecting, supporting and representing professionals in the optical sector. The AOP gives me the opportunity to raise any concerns or ideas that can help support students of optometry. We work with student representatives in every optometry school throughout the UK in the hope of bettering the future of education in optometry.
What have you enjoyed most about your time at City?
I have really enjoyed the small campus atmosphere. It has given me a chance to meet many interesting individuals from around the world. Furthermore, since our class sizes are generally small, I have been able to develop personal relationships with almost all my classmates and professors.
What have you enjoyed most about living in London?
No matter what time of day or night, there is always something to do. I visited all the major tourist attractions within the first week of living in London. To my surprise, even after almost two years of living here, I keep finding new attractions almost every week. The best part is that there are a lot of free attractions that are available to the public - you just have to find them!
How did you find moving away from home?
It’s not my first time moving away from home. I lived essentially on the other side of Canada from my home for four years during my undergraduate programme so the move out here was not too difficult. Moving away from home makes you grow up fast. It’s hard leaving your friends and family; however, I feel like moving away helps you develop as a person. The main difficulty I faced was the time difference from my home. It made communicating with family and friends a little more difficult but it’s definitely doable.
What are you looking most forward to during the rest of your time at City, University of London?
I am really excited about the clinics at City Sight next year. I love the idea of taking the knowledge and skills I have learned in the first two years of the programme and applying them to real patients while still being supervised. I feel like I will really develop professionalism and independence in the clinical setting which are skills that are necessary for my pre-registration year but hard to achieve without repetition and practice in the clinical setting.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I plan to work in a hospital or a multiple practice in the UK for a few years and develop my skills and knowledge in order to become the best optometrist I can be. During this time, I will also try to prepare for the Canadian conversion course in the hope to be accredited to work back home as an optometrist. My goal is to open one or even multiple independent optometric practices in Canada.
What would be your advice to anyone considering studying BSc Optometry?
My advice would be to shadow an optometrist for at least a week. Get to know what you are getting into. Optometry is not an easy course, however, if you are motivated and truly are interested in this career it becomes easier for you and more enjoyable. Understand that it’s going to take a lot of work and dedication to get where you want to be but also understand that optometry is a very rewarding and flexible career.
If you do decide to study BSc Optometry, and are lucky enough to be accepted into City, University of London, make the most of it. Practice when you can and try to improve yourself daily. A BSc Optometry degree is very valuable because there are so many routes that you can undertake after your degree, whether it be working in a multiple, independent, hospital or even working in academia. The possibilities are vast and exciting and if you think you have what it takes, go for it.