Optometry School 3,000 Miles Away From Home

My Home Is California – My Optometry School Is New York

Today we have a special guest writer, Quy Nguyen, who is a SUNY 2013 Optometry Student. He is going to share with us his decision to go to optometry school in New York City even though he lived in California for the majority of his life. Feel free to post comments and questions and we will get back to you with quality answers, enjoy!

When I graduated from high school, I remember the speaker for our graduating class talking about how we were going to be moving on to the “real world” and how uncertain and scary that was. For me, growing up in San Jose and going to Berkeley for college was not so scary. It was because I had the sense of comfort of being only fifty minutes away from home. That’s not to say that I didn’t have the kind of unique experience that most students have. I chose to live in the dorms, came home infrequently, experienced a sense of independence, tried new things, and I also did the things that every freshmen did. I definitely felt like I had grown up a lot at the end of my college career.

So when I got into optometry schools both in California and New York, I thought to myself, “Do I stay in California, where everything would be convenient? I would have the comfort of being in a place of familiarity, or do I go somewhere far?” I grew up with a very traditional Asian family so they wanted me to go to a better school, a cheaper school, and a closer school when it came time to decide where I would go—this would mean staying in California. It would make sense academically, economically, and I’d be close to my family “just in case something happens.” I spent a couple of months debating and eventually, I went against the wishes of my parents to go to school in the east coast. I would be paying a lot more money to go to a school very far away. The deciding factor for me was that I would only have one chance to live somewhere else and experience something completely new to me while I was going to school. Once I graduate from optometry school, I’d pretty much be living where I work. I remember having lost a lot of sleep on the last week prior to sending in my decision. And so, on the very last minute of the very last day, I declined the schools that I had gotten into, and chose to go to SUNY in New York City.

This past August, I packed two big bags and moved into my new apartment, excited to start a new life. I was in for a surprise. At the time, I thought California was warm and it was just so much more humid in New York. I remember telling my friends in California how “hot fire” it was in New York. It was extremely humid; anywhere that I would go I would be drenched in sweat. On top of that, I got lost many times trying to find my way around my neighborhood. And I also found myself lost, trying to navigate subways at 5 A.M. in the morning after I had gone out with classmates. As for hobbies, some of them had to change. I couldn’t find any trails to go jogging and I couldn’t find any indoor basketball courts to play in without having to pay a hefty sum. It definitely wasn’t a welcoming start.

Now, I am in my second semester of my first year in optometry school. I do not look back at my decision nor do I regret having chosen to come to New York. It’s unbelievable to describe how scary it was initially, but how liberating and satisfying it is to be living somewhere outside of California. The first night it snowed in New York, I remember we had finals to study for, but I decided to put on as many layers as I can and go outside for a walk. I remember opening the door outside and the cold wind instantly pierced my face. I couldn’t believe how much snow had fallen in one night; it was white everywhere! So I took a walk around my neighborhood, laughed to myself, and smiled, thinking in my head, “Man, this is sweet!” That’s just one example of how experiencing something new can be so refreshing. I am finally adjusted. I can find my way around well. The weather sucks, but I’ve come to accept that. I’ve joined a basketball team and I get to play every week. Even the occasional trip to the park nearby my house is pleasant seeing as I’ve gotten the chance to interact with some New Yorkers through a few games of pick up. And instead of feeling like I’m doing the same thing over and over, there’s always something different to do and a different place to see. Speaking of which, I think my roommates and I are going to ride the subway tomorrow with no pants on as participants of the 9th Annual No Pants Subway Ride NYC.

Aside from my new experiences, perhaps the most satisfying part of my move to New York so far has been the sense of independence I’ve felt and my parents’ eventual agreement with my decision. When I packed my bags to move to New York, I had a feeling of uncertainty because I knew nobody. But the opportunity of starting a completely new life overcame this feeling in my stomach. I have great friends and family in the west coast, but meeting new people and making my new network here is very invigorating. Living in a new place affords opportunities to meet new people, presents new challenges, and encourages letting go and trying new things you would not otherwise. And lastly, having my parents finally agreeing that my decision has not been so outrageous after all is wonderful. They’ve always thought that I should not pick the harder path, but as a result, they feel that I’ve grown so much more and it’s helped their relationship with me grow deeper.

I tell my story to present an example and to tell everyone that with optometry school comes an opportunity: an opportunity to live somewhere new for a while and an opportunity to grow. For those of you that got in all your schools, you get to pick which schools you want to go to. Lucky you, or maybe you’ll be like me and it becomes a personal dilemma because you have such a hard time picking. Perhaps you’ll go with one that’s better, or one that is cheaper, or one that is just far and expensive. Well, there’s no such thing as a wrong decision when it comes to this. You get to be the one in control. And for those of you that maybe did not get into a school that you want and have to go far away from home, it may be a blessing in disguise. All the challenges that you face and all the new experiences that you’ll garner will make you a more complete individual. After all, isn’t life exciting when you overcome obstacles and challenges and you continue to grow?

Quy Nguyen

p.s- feel free to ask questions!

Scroll to Top