Time to cast my memory back two years ago to give an idea of what first year is like studying optometry. There is now a preliminary year, called Year 0, for those on 4 year course, but I didn’t do it and only started last year so can’t tell you personal experience of it.
It all starts with moving into a strange place with lots of people you don’t know, often the first time you’ve lived away from home – yes, it’s moving into halls. I’ve given a few tips on this before as have many others so won’t dwell on this too much.
Next comes the chaos of Freshers week, a lot of people feel compelled to go out every night. In my opinion it is better to pace yourself over the 2 weeks and only go out to the events that interest you and that friends are going out to. It’s good to go out with different groups of friends throughout the fortnight, people from your course, societies and flatmates. OPSOC runs it’s own Freshers week to get everyone integrated and welcome everyone.
After the fun stops, or at least is toned down it’s on to lectures and practicals which start right from the start. In the first year you study the following modules
- Dispensing – the random one. This gives you a background in frame materials, how to find the power of a lens and mark it up ready to be glazed. The lectures are about how light travels through the lens and the different coatings and options available. This can seem very daunting at the start, it usually takes a bit of thinking in your own time to understand but once it clicks it’s relatively straightforward.
- Visual optics – the physics one. All about how light interacts with lens surface, the principles of optical instruments, reflection, refraction etc. Can be a bit dry at times but the lecturers do their best to make it as interesting as possible and the practicals are quite fun.
- From cells to system – the biology one. This is a fairly wide ranging module covering the basic make up of cell, the systems of the body like muscles, blood, digestive etc, embryonic development and practicals including cardiovascular, which involves running up and down stairs. If you have done biology at A or AS level then you will have an immediate head-start for this module, if not it can be tricky at the start. I found this one of the hardest modules to get to grips with but ended up being one of my highest marks.
- Anatomy and physiology – the eye biology one. All about the eye muscles, the different layers of the retina, how it adapts to different conditions, the anterior eye and how it all works together.
- Basic clinical techniques – the eye test one. This module will teach you all the techniques needed to perform a basic eye exam. Backed up by practicals from the first week, you will soon have the ability to check someone’s prescription and check the health of the eye. I really enjoyed this module as it gives you a great taste of what the role of a “typical” optometrist is.
- Physiology of vision – the brain one. How the brain forms an image from the signals being sent to it from the retina, how eye picks up contrast and flicker and then a little bit of optical illusions for fun at the end.
- Study skills – the random one. This contains two parts, a series on reflection and improving your own learning – sounds odd and is a bit but it does help later on in degree and an introduction to maths and statistics which I found rather easy due to having a maths degree.
This all sounds rather daunting and confusing but it serves to give every an all round basis in physics, biology, maths and techniques no matter what A levels you might have done. I found the biology modules tough whilst some of my friends found the study skills and optics difficult so it all balances out and everyone helps each other out.