Life as a Commuter


Another lengthy blog post I have been meaning to write is about my life as a commuter. As my previous post said, I am a non-traditional student. My husband and I bought our house three years ago with the intention of it being between both of our jobs. At the time, I was a teacher and he was a police officer. Well, now I drive to OSU and he drives to Wright State. We literally saved every dime we had to prepare for this time because we knew we would be living on a prayer. We were both full time students this past year with him working a part time job. Believe it or not, we never worried about money and everything turned out fine.

As a disclaimer, I really do not recommend commuting more than 30 minutes unless your circumstances warrant it. I genuinely do not believe this year of commuting impacted my ability to do well in school, but it definitely is not fun. I truthfully would have moved if I did not own my house. Owning makes the situation trickier because we have to downsize into an apartment, pay a lot higher rent than we do for our mortgage, and take the time to go through the process of selling our home.

My commute is about an hour and 15 minutes in good traffic. It takes me a little under 10 minutes to walk from my car to my building. In total, I commute just shy of 3 hours a day. Obviously I do not have 3 hours of time to “waste” every day, so I have to make that time meaningful. I use this time to listen to lectures or do audio flash cards. Thankfully an optometry student in the class above me makes Quizlet flash cards for nearly every class we take. I used to make my own, but it took way too much time. Quizlet has a feature that will read the card to you, which can sometimes be tough to listen to at 6am. I have found the flashcards are most beneficial for subjects that I have already attentively studied on my own first.

I missed one day of school in the spring and only two lectures in the fall, so I almost never need to re-play our lectures. Every now and then when I am sick of doing flashcards, I will play the audio to lectures in the car. I do not prefer doing this because pronouns become quite confusing. A professor will be explaining a concept using a picture and use “it” over and over, so you are lost with just audio. Also, the program the school uses to record lectures does not play on my phone. I have to download the lecture the night before, save it, and play it from my laptop in the car. It is kind of a hassle.

Commuting nearly 3 hours definitely comes with some sacrifices. While we study a tremendous amount in optometry school, if you are focused while studying, a typical weeknight only allows for 2-4 hours of studying if there is not an exam the next day. Most people spend a few hours a night watching shows, hanging out with friends, exercising, etc. I unfortunately have to sacrifice much of that in order to commute. I still have friends and still do fun things, but I probably get to do less. The thing I miss the most with commuting is exercising. I try to get my exercise by walking during the 10 minutes between classes and taking the stairs.

I still get to be involved in the clubs and attend meetings, but I have to plan accordingly. On days that I have a meeting, I go straight from class to the library or go to my friend’s apartment to study before the meeting. If the meeting does not include food, I have to pack both lunch and dinner.

If the weather is bad or I plan to study really late, I have stayed at my friend’s apartment. During the winter, I kept an emergency bag in my car in case I needed to stay the night unexpectedly. Thankfully, we did not have much of a winter this year. Much of my drive is country roads, so winter can be an issue.

The two largest challenges with commuting is planning and construction. It is exhausting sometimes to always plan when to come and go from school. Due to traffic and parking, I aim to be at school by 7am to get a parking spot. It is stressful because any sort of traffic jam can compromise your ability to be at your 8am class. If I have an 8am exam, I have to get to school even earlier. If I need/want to stay late at school, I have to pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also have to make sure everything I could need throughout the day is with me. When to leave school is an ongoing challenge because traffic gets heavy from 4pm to 6:30pm. I am always debating in my head if I want to literally run to my car and risk getting caught in traffic or just stay at school the rest of the evening.

Construction is my other challenge. The major highway I take has been under construction since I have been at OSU, which increases the traffic problems. Since I drive country roads, I also get stuck behind things like grain trucks and tractors, which is frustrating. This upcoming school year, I am very nervous about construction because OSU is doing a huge construction project on Cannon Drive that may result in some major parking challenges. To accommodate, I have scoped out all my parking options, and I found an alternative route to school to avoid Cannon Drive. I bought a C parking pass last year and again this year.

The best way to deal with traffic problems is to watch the traffic online. I use to see what the traffic looks like before leaving school. I also check on construction projects using the Ohio Department of Transportation’s website

While commuting is stressful and challenging, it has a lot of perks. For instance, I am sitting in my sun-room as we speak watching the hummingbirds at my feeder. I have oodles of flowers in bloom right now, and I hear nothing but nature. My house is very peaceful and quiet, which is great for studying and sleeping. I also enjoy getting away from the stress of school. I am a nature lover, and I love that I get to drive out of the city and into the beautiful countryside every day. I also have the benefit of a whole home with a beautiful yard for much cheaper than even a small apartment in Columbus. The other major benefit to commuting is time management. I know that my time is restricted more, so I am focused when I need to be, and I try not to waste time. Another benefit is the stability of my house. I don’t have to worry about finding roommates, leases, changes in rent, where to do laundry, etc. I also enjoy that my family is only 30 minutes away. Most students go stay with their parents over breaks, which is not usually conducive to studying.

Being a commuter is probably easier with a support system. My husband helps me a lot. He cooks, cleans, and does all the things that I often do not have time for. We usually take turns depending who has the most going on. Other commuter students live with their parents, which provides a similar support system.

One last thing, when I knew I was going to be commuting to school, I posted in our class’s Facebook page about commuting to see if anyone else was in my position. I was fortunately put in touch with a student in the class above me who commutes the same distance and has a similar background as me. She requested me as her little sib, so I have fortunately been able to get a lot of advice from her. A similar thing happened to me, so my upcoming little sib is a student commuting an hour, as well.

I hope to have answered most questions regarding commuting- for better or for worse! Thanks for reading!


From Teacher to Optometrist

Hello, all!

I thought it was time to finally explain a little bit about how I became an optometry student. I am writing this blog mostly to encourage all those who fall under the umbrella of “Non-traditional Student” and are a little scared to take the plunge. I am here to tell you that it is possible! This blog is quite long, but I felt it was necessary to write the details because I remember all of the insecurities and questions I had as a “non-traditional” student.

No better place to start, I suppose, than at the beginning. I graduated from high school in 2009 thinking I was interested in going into medicine. I loved science and wanted to help people, so it seemed like an obvious choice. I started my first semester at the University of Dayton as a biology major with a course just for biology majors about all the things that can be done with a biology major. Of course, there was much emphasis on the medical field. Through this course, I realized that becoming a physician was not interesting to me.

I was one of those kids that had a fake classroom in my basement where my sister and I would play school all the time. I always thought about being a teacher, and I thought teaching would be just as rewarding as medicine because I could educate the world’s future doctors and scientists. I ended up graduating in 2013 with a dual degree (2 bachelor’s degrees), so I have a B.S. in biology and a B.S.E in adolescent to young adult integrated science education (grades 7-12). Try typing that degree name on OptomCAS….Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed my education classes, and I enjoyed going to my field placements every semester to a variety of Dayton area schools. Doing a dual degree meant that I had to take 19 credit hours a semester and summer classes to graduate on time with also losing a semester to student teaching. In hindsight, I can say that taking that many credit hours was good preparation for the 23+ hours we take in optometry school.

I always wanted to keep all my options open, so I took as many biology electives as I had time for. I will never forget my senior year at UD. My fall semester I was taking all biology electives and teaching half days at a high school. I was taking a course called “Genetics of Human Disease” by Dr. Kango-Signh, who is a Drosophila researcher. It was her class that made me start to question my decision to teach. During that semester, I went to the optometrist for what I believe to be the first time (gasp!). I remember leaving my optometrist’s office thinking, “What a cool job! I wish I could do that!” Well, I put those thoughts away and decided to stay the course to teach. I had a great time student teaching and graduated with a teaching job for the fall.

My first year as a teacher I taught 2 classes of physical science (freshmen), 2 classes of physics with lab (sophomores through seniors), and 1 class of AP Physics B with lab. I loved the students that I taught, and I generally had really good days. It was the nights/ mornings that made the job rough. I would get home from school around 5:00pm, eat, take a 20-minute nap, and begin lesson-planning. Teaching AP physics was what really wore me out because I had not done physics for 2 years and some of the content in the course was beyond what I had in my coursework as a biology major. I would work on lessons until about 9 or 10pm, get up the next morning at 4am, and finish the lessons I could not finish the night before. I would teach students from 7:35am to 2:30pm and then repeat. I never actually took my lunch hour but twice that whole year because there just wasn’t enough time in the day. I spent my Friday nights sleeping or grading. I would work all weekend and never had time for family or friends. I finished this year believing that teaching could only get easier because that year was incredibly challenging.

I was fortunate enough my second year to teach sophomore biology and design my own courses as electives, so I taught ecology and genetics, as well. I loved teaching concepts that I was more passionate about and felt more comfortable with, but this year came with its own set of challenges. I had about 50 more students than the year before, and I was responsible for preparing all the sophomores for the state test at the time (the OGT). I absolutely love biology, and I loved teaching biology, but it was tough to teach it in a “box.” I did my best to teach the students where they were and at a level they could understand. Teaching to a test does not always allow room for fostering passion and inspiring teenagers. It is also challenging teaching sophomores because they often begin tracking themselves (for better or for worse) at this point, and you feel helpless. I felt like some days my job was to torture kids into caring about their life, which was absolutely not what I ever set out to do.

While my regular biology classes had their ups and downs, my ecology and genetics classes kept my spirit going. While teaching genetics, I found myself staying up late at night reading about all these different genetic diseases that appear in the eye. I would start researching the disease and the anatomy of the eye to better understand the disease, and I could not get enough of it. I was teaching my class with inspiration from Dr. Kango-Singh’s course.

All while I was teaching, there was a part of me that always felt off. I had this desire to learn more than what I could teach myself. I knew my work gave my life tremendous meaning, but it was also leaving me feeling like I was aging in dog years and watching life pass me by. As the saying goes among teachers, “the highs are high and the lows are low.” You have really amazing experiences and you have ones that still literally give you nightmares. I realized that I was ready to go back to school again.

I started researching Dr. Kango-Singh’s research and decided to meet up with a friend of mine who got a master’s degree with this professor and is now in medical school. We met for dinner, and I told her all the things that I loved about teaching and the topics over the years that I found most interesting. She said, “Amy, why are you not going to school to be an optometrist? You would be perfect at that!” That night I went home and began researching optometry, contacted a friend of mine who just graduated from OSU’s optometry school, and set up a time to shadow my optometrist immediately. I was immediately hooked! I fell in love with every aspect of optometry and could not get enough of it.

I will never forget scurrying out the door after work one day to shadow my optometrist. I watched him give a couple of eye exams, and I was absolutely fascinated. The thing that appealed to me most was, his ability fix each person’s problem in only a few minutes. As a teacher, many of my students’ problems were beyond anything I could fix. I loved how he could improve each person’s quality of life in an instant!

Shortly after shadowing, I signed up to go to an admission’s day at OSU. I remember feeling so out of place because most of the prospective students were still in undergrad and came with their parents, whereas I had been out on my own for two years and came with my husband. The whole experience felt weird until the end. I asked a question during the question and answer session, “My favorite part of teaching is getting to see my students every day and ask how they are doing. Will I still have the same relationships with patients?” Dr. Earley answered with some variation of, “Your practice lives and dies with your ability to teach and form relationships with patients.” He brought tears to my eyes, and I knew I had to give my all to become an optometrist.

I had decided I was going to go to optometry school, but I had not decided when. My husband was in the middle of a chemistry degree at Wright State (he was a police officer), and we had bought our house within the last year. I was thinking I would wait for my husband to finish school before I started optometry, but I truly believe God had a different plan. Sunday after Sunday I would go to Mass (I am Catholic), and the readings would be about Jesus healing a blind man. I am convinced every reference to blindness in the Bible came up during this time. I decided to take a leap of faith and begin my application on July 1, 2015 (the day it opened).

I knew I had to take the OAT before I started teaching that fall, so I scheduled it for the day before my first day of school. I studied literally all day every day for about six weeks using the Kaplan book supplemented with my old textbooks. I finished up my application by about September, and then the waiting game began. I interviewed in December and got accepted that day. I still remember my interview day because I remember feeling just as out of place as I did at the admissions day. I had to take the day off work, I drove to OSU, and I walked into a room full of parents. There were about five of us interviewing that day and four parents in the room. Between events for the day, the other students were all talking about the other schools they applied to and interviewed at and I did not even know the names of the other schools. I knew that with my husband being in college, OSU was my only option, so I put all my eggs in one basket. Thankfully it worked out! I was accepted on the condition that I took physiology and biochemistry before starting school. Thankfully, I took hybrid classes at Columbus State last summer. The lecture component was online, but the labs were on campus. I am grateful for those two classes because it helped me to transition back from teacher mode to student mode.

I am commonly asked if I regret taking the non-traditional path I took, but I am truthfully glad things worked out as they did. Many of my classmates were battling burn out. They took rigorous course loads all through undergrad and went straight into an even more rigorous course load. I had the benefit of working for a few years, and I am grateful every single day to be the student rather than the teacher. I developed a lot of stamina and discipline as a teacher that made it not as hard for me to spend my entire weekend studying. While I wake up at 5am to commute to school, it is still better than 4am to write lesson plans. I am fortunate to have a perspective that really helped me get through the tough times this past year, and I hope will continue to get me through the tough times.

If you are worried about being a non-traditional student, do not worry. I am 26, married, and live over an hour away from school, yet I have plenty of friends and love every bit of it. A handful of students in my class have children (some born this year, some are expecting now). Whatever your circumstances are, you will fit in at OSU’s optometry program, and you will love it!