First-Year Optometry Student: Sonia Panchal
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First-Year Optometry Student: Sonia Panchal

Sonia and her friend Maya at their white coat ceremonyHi, my name is Sonia Panchal and I am a first-year Optometry student at Salus University, Class of 2021. I completed my undergraduate studies at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia as a Biomedical Sciences major, and knew during my junior year that I wanted to apply to Optometry school. It wasn’t one of those choices that I knew from the very beginning of college, but as I learned more about the profession and started working with doctors in the field I began to love it and wanted to pursue this path. Salus was my #1 choice as I knew I would be close to home and also loved all of the early clinical exposure we get, even as first year students.

I am finishing up my first year (finally!) and getting ready for finals. You may be wondering what a typical day for a first year OD student is like. The truth is: it changes from day to day depending on the day of the week and also on how many exams, quizzes, or practicals we have during the week.

I’ll choose Tuesday since it is a Clinical Skills lab day for me…

6:47 a.m. (I know it’s exact, but I like getting as much sleep as possible!): Wake up and get ready for class at 8 a.m. The subjects of our 8 a.m. classes vary depending on the schedule. It could be optics, then pharmacology, or neurosciences, or whatever science module we are on at the time. Respiratory, renal, cardiology, endocrine, and gastrointestinal are just a few of the subjects covered in the second semester of our first year.

Salus simulation lab equiptment7 a.m. Breakfast! I prefer an everything bagel and orange juice or tea and take a banana to go. If I have some extra time and know I have a long day ahead of me, I love making sunny-side up eggs, bacon, and toast with fruit for a filling breakfast. I also pack a lunch for the day consisting of granola or protein bars, some type of fruit like a clementine or grapes, a ham sandwich, and water. I never really know how long I’ll end up on campus after class so I like to make sure my backpack has lots of healthy snacks to keep me energized. 

I won’t factor travel time from my apartment to school because I live right across the street from campus, so it takes about two minutes to get to school. When the weather is nice I prefer walking there. 

12-1 p.m. Lunch! On Tuesday’s we have lab quizzes before we can go into clinical skills lab and start hands-on learning. Our quizzes cover the procedure from the day’s lab, concepts, and also a question on last week’s lab to make sure we keep up with the material. During lunch I like to go to the library (Learning Resource Center) to prepare for the quizzes if I didn’t understand something from reading it the night before or if there are multiple tests with long procedures for lab that day. The library is great because there are microwaves, Keurig machines, and high and low top tables to eat with friends or have plenty of space for notes and my laptop. There are also group study rooms with whiteboards, and a second floor with individual cubbies and outlets. 

Sonia and her friends at the Salus Awards Gala1-3 p.m. Clinical Skills Lab! First of all, although the written part of this course is challenging, it’s one of my favorite classes. You can finally learn and practice what you will be doing for the rest of your career and learn what all of those tests and findings actually mean. Our clinical skills lab is brand new and just finished renovations before our class came to campus last summer (lucky us!) In clinical skills lab we are broken into smaller sections to get more individualized help with our skills from our faculty preceptors. We are partnered up in small groups and the first half, one of us is the “doctor” and the other is the “patient.” Then, in the second half we switch. Our labs always consist of a portion that needs to be done in outside time which ensures  we are coming back to the lab on our own time to practice the skills we are learning.

3-5 p.m. Lab in the Alcon computer room. After Clinical Skills, we have labs on the computer for classes such as Cardio or Respiratory and Renal. We have to look through histology slides that relate to whatever system we are studying and complete a blackboard assignment before the lab is over.

Sonia's broccoli, chicken, and rice dinner5 p.m. Time to head home, usually. Sometimes I go back to the lab with my partner from clinical skills lab to finish up the lab assignment we have for the week, or head to the gym in my apartment complex before going home to eat dinner and get ready for an evening of studying.  

5:30 p.m. Dinner time! I actually live with my sister, who is also a first year optometry student. We are in the same class which is nice so we are basically together all day. We like cooking together and trying out new recipes! We don’t always cook the same meals but it’s nice to try whatever either one of us is making. Dinner is a relaxing time for me, and we just eat and watch TV for about an hour before getting back to studying. 

7-9:30 p.m. More studying. We usually have exams on Mondays or Fridays, so I like making sure I get through my to-do list of what topics I need to study before the next day so I don’t feel behind.

9:30-10:30 p.m. Time to wind-down. I’m either facetiming my friends or family, on Instagram, or trying to organize myself for whatever is going on the next day, or looking at pictures of cute puppies or funny memes. Then I shower and get ready for bed. 

10:30 p.m. Bed time, a.k.a my favorite time!

Optometry class of 2021 group pictureWe arranged a class-wide photoshoot after our white coats got embroidered! Here's to almost being done my first year of Optometry school!


Learn More About the Salus Optometry Program

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