Q&A with Deakin Optometry Student Society – Part 1

Authors: Celine Zhang (2017 UNSW OptomSoc President) and Jingyi Chen (2017/18 DOSS Vice-President)
Earlier this year the UNSW OptomSoc Executive team (Celine, Alison, Tyson and Rhonda) had the pleasure of meeting up with the 2017 Deakin Optometry Student Society (DOSS) team (Marshall and Jingyi). We had so much to share and chat about over lunch! Although we are 947.0 km away from each other (according to Google Maps), we had a lot in common. Through our chat, the “Q&A” idea was born! Here’s Part 1 – DOSS answers all the burning questions we had for them. Stay tuned for Part 2 where UNSW OptomSoc answers the DOSS team’s questions. 
Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, tree, shorts, sky and outdoor


In this edition, UNSW OptomSoc is asking the questions and DOSS is answering.

Q (UNSW OptomSoc): As an optometry student that goes through 2 semesters a year, trimesters confuse me. How do trimesters work?

A (DOSS): Whereas there are two semesters in a year, there are three 11-week trimesters at Deakin. Most Deakin students do trimester 1 and 2 and take the third trimester off, which is essentially their summer break. As optometry students, we do all three trimesters continuously until the end of our degrees. This means that a 10 term course which would normally take 5 years with 10 semesters will take 3.5 years with 10 consecutive trimesters. We are doing the same amount of study as the other optometry schools in Australia, but studying over the summer break allows us to complete our course and graduate sooner.

Q: Wow, 2 week breaks sounds short – what do DOSS members get up to in the 2 weeks? I hear Deakin students get to travel a lot for uni?

A: Many optometry students at Deakin are interstate, so most tend to travel back home to see friends and family. Some students like to also use their break to travel overseas or do programs that are difficult to fit in during the trimester. We all appreciate the breaks a lot because they don’t occur too frequently! –

Q: Your course is 3.5 years long, correct? 

A: Yes. Our course is 5 years but since it’s done over consecutive trimesters, we technically have 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. The 4th years complete their residential clinical placement in June and are able to start working in July/August of that year.

Q: What’s your most exciting event of the year at DOSS? Who are your big sponsors?

A: Our traditional big event for DOSS has always been the annual Eyeball, sponsored by Specsavers and Luxottica. In the past, our sponsors have also included Optometry Australia, Young Optometrists and most recently, Optometry Victoria. Our smaller social and industry events are also a big success, such as the Christmas Party, BBQs and Industry Night. Where possible, we try our best to raise money for charities such as the Fred Hollows Foundation and World Sight Day in order to give back to both our members and the community.

Q: UNSW is the only school of Optometry and Vision Science in NSW. How is it, being in such close proximity to UMelb?

A: Our associations with the University of Melbourne has always been quite limited in the past, despite being geographically so close. However, we have recently established connections with the optometry student society at UniMelb and are hoping to strengthen this relationship through events and communication for our members in future tears. DOSS is excited, as this is the start to potentially bring together the optometry schools around Australia!

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of UNSW OptomSoc, NSW School of Optometry and Vision Science or Deakin Optometry Student Society and Deakin University. 


When second time’s the charm – Resilience in the face of failure

Author: Cinda Lam (Class of 2019)

Your phone buzzes.

Inbox (1)results

It’s the email, your university has finally sent out the semester’s final scores. You open the email. There is one high distinction, one distinction, and two fails. You sit there, frozen. Academic failure wasn’t on your agenda for the foreseeable future. What’s next?

I do not write this article to analyse the circumstances that led to the unwanted results, nor do I write to analyse the university dropout statistics for Australian universities (1 in 3)1. Instead, I will offer a few words of practical advice to help you move forward.

Mental health

It’s ok to be sad; I’ve been through failure too. Yet, in your sadness, aspire to actively deal with it and have somebody trustworthy to talk to. Regular sleeping hours, a balanced diet, fresh air and team sports, and a spot of light hearted entertainment like a book or film is good for the tender, heavy mind as you seek recovery.

Examine the bigger picture; many optometry students have repeated one subject or another. Never doubt your IQ. Optometry school is meant to be challenging to convert students into the best practitioners they can be. It is a privilege to handle the health of people’s eyes and your university is preparing you for that future. So before you jump the gun to say farewell to optometry, keep that in mind.

The logistics of enrolment

You will no longer be enrolling as per the regular schedule. Book an appointment with the academic advisor at your optometry school if you need assistance in developing a new enrollment plan.


Another resource is your university handbook website if you have one – the subjects will have indications of pre-requisite and co-requisite subjects under the information tab. Your school’s website may also have forms for appealing to do subjects that you want to do but failed the pre-requisite subject, or when there is a timetable clash between the subjects you are eligible to enroll into. Those forms go to the course coordinator for the subjects you wish to enroll into. The outcomes of these appeals are per case.

If you are still stuck, talk to a classmate who has failed a subject before to point you in the right direction.

Making the most of your time

While under-loading, you will suddenly feel gloriously like an arts student. Yet, don’t be fooled into believing you have unlimited time on your hands.

One option is to get a job, but don’t work more than 2 days/week if you aren’t struggling financially. Re-gaining good grades is more valuable than pre-professional income at the risk of further academic failure. Relevant employment roles include optical dispensing and retail at optometry clinics, or ophthalmic assisting at ophthalmic clinics.

Option two is taking on extra-curricular activities with transferrable skills. Many universities, including UNSW, offers summer vacation projects and research scholarships, so speak to your professors2. There’s also the option to become more active in your university clubs such as Giving Sight, the Fred Hollows Foundation, or your university’s rural medical and allied health club. Become a peer mentor.

Of course, don’t forget to live. Optometry studies is only one facet of your life, albeit one of high priority and responsibility. Foster interests outside of your studies, work on something close to your heart (shout out to the classmate who became a part-time model), and don’t neglect your relationships.


Repeating means riding across two cohorts. Trust me, your younger peers don’t bite. It’s natural that relationships and friendships take time to build so give them a chance. These classmates will become your future colleagues and peers you work with or bump into at optical events. Form study groups for accountability. Help younger peers, ask older peers for advice. Become each other’s support network – celebrate the victories and stress about disease case studies together.

Image result for friendship support gif

Preventing future failure

Reflect. What led to your failure? Was it preventable? What can you do to change what happened? Perhaps it is studying longer hours, or studying smarter, or recognizing and attacking weak points in your learning. Are you better at theory than practical skills? Are you a visual, auditory, or kinetic learner?

Write down your goals, and shoot for the stars my friend. See you at graduation.

1 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/third-of-university-students-failing-to-complete-course/news-story/0c70435cf7690878811d957a51523a5b

2 https://www.optometry.unsw.edu.au/current/summer-vacation-research-scholarships

Editor: Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of UNSW OptomSoc or the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


Sleeping and Waking up Early

Author: Cindy Van (Class of 2017)

Being an optometry student, you’ll have weird hours, especially during 4th year. Think 9am to 9pm Mondays, and 8ams three days a week. Now exams are coming up, sleep is getting more scarce. Those pesky early morning exams at the Racecourse are always a pain. To make sure you don’t miss any classes and ace those exams, here are some tips for sleeping and waking up early.

Sunrise at Sandy Bay, TAS - Taken by Jennifer Banh
Sunrise at Sandy Bay, TAS – Taken by Jennifer Banh
  • Turn off your devices an hour before sleep, or use f.lux to stop blue light interfering with melatonin levels
  • Don’t drink any tea or coffee before bed, lest you toss and turn until 4am the next morning (been there, done that!)
  • Make sure your room is perfect for sleeping; dark, quiet, and distraction-free.
  • Keep your bed only for sleeping – don’t create an association with studying or browsing the internet, it will make falling asleep more difficult.
  • Sleep in multiples of 90 mins, the length of your natural sleep cycle, so that you feel refreshed the next morning. So try for 6 or 7.5 or 9 hours.
  • Wake up at the same time each day to reset your body clock.
  • Open the curtains so that you get natural lighting stopping the production of melatonin and waking you up
  • Set an alarm that you know will wake you up, and don’t hit the snooze button.
  • Don’t have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, because it disrupts the production of cortisol, which starts gluconeogenesis to increase your blood glucose levels. Try having an apple instead to wake you up.
  • Go for a morning run to enhance blood flow to the brain and stimulate brain processes.

So hopefully if you incorporate these tips into your daily routine, you’ll be able to avoid drifting off during your next OPTM or VISN lecture! Study hard and smash those exams!

Best wishes,

Cindy Van

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of UNSW OptomSoc or the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


How Not To Lose Your Things In The Clinic/Pre-clinic Lab

Guest Author: Sunny Lee (Class of 2018)

Several weeks ago, just before the semester break, Dale finally threw in the towel. With a single announcement on moodle, our days of casually swinging by the Preclinic to grab a new pentorch or occluder were ended. Word on the street is that we’re going to have to (gasp) pay for any replacements from our student kits—so how’s the average, broke, forgetful uni student to survive these dark times?

As one of the most broke, most forgetful students currently enrolled in the Optometry degree (would you believe I forgot to attend a final exam once), allow me to give you some pointers.

  • Treat everything in the student kit like it’s made of money. Every time you pick up your tonometer probe, don’t think ‘ah, here’s my tonometer probe’. Hypnotise yourself into thinking ‘ah, here’s $138 AUD in my hands right now’. You wouldn’t just leave behind $138 in cash moneyz in your clinic room, now would you? (Wait, you would? Sorry, you’re beyond even my help then.)
  • Label everything. This sounds silly and elementary, but when I say everything, I mean Your lenses, your ophthalmoscopes, your retinoscopes, your tape measures, your 6D prisms, your flippers. EVERYTHING. I don’t care how trivial you think it is. There are 90 other people in your grade with the exact same PD ruler as you; trust me, you’ll be glad one day you put your name on it. Invest in some good waterproof labels and/or a sharpie. Or even use the marker in your kit!
  • Make a list of all your equipment and carry it with you. This is especially
    handy for fourth years and up, who regularly have to load and unload like 20kgs of equipment in the clinic rooms. Before leaving, check your equipment list and make sure everything in the list is ticked off.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to set up and pack up. I know it’s easier said than done, but not being rushed in and out of the room will give you a little more peace of mind to make sure all your equipment is with you.
  • Develop a streamlined clinic routine. Knowing when I pick certain equipments up and when I put them down (and where I put them down) helps to keep my equipment organised throughout my consult/lab and definitely cuts down on packing up time.
  • Look behind you before you leave, even if you’re absolutely sure you’ve packed everything!
  • If all else fails, believe in the innate goodness of human beings. I know you’re jaded and cynical after x years of this degree, but chances are, if you’ve lost something, someone else will have picked it up and handed it to Dale and/or the clinic reception. Not all hope is lost.

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of UNSW OptomSoc or the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.





What to do on long trips to uni? – Optometry Edition

Author: Cindy Van (Class of 2017)

Although there are a lucky few who live near campus, most students will need to commute considerable distances. T1, T2, T3, T4,5,6,7, 895, 891, M50, M10, M41 – these seemingly random combination of numbers and letters are a way of life for many of us.  Doing that five days a week can take a lot of time out of your study – but it doesn’t have to! Train rides (and bus rides if you don’t get too carsick) can be a great time for you to reflect and maybe even get a bit of work done. Here’s a few suggestions on how you can make the most of it.

Image result for unsw bus

Read ahead on your lecture slides. It takes 20-30 minutes to read through the slides for a lecture, but this way you’re able to circle areas that you might find confusing ahead of time. When you get to the lecture, write down explanations in your own words so that when you revise this in two months’ time, you won’t have any missing info.

Cat GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Type up your study notes. Granted, this takes a bit longer, but you’ll still be able to get a good chunk of it done, meaning that you’ll be able to relax a bit more when you get home. On that note, get your tutorial questions done as well!

Catch up on sleep! It doesn’t have to all be uni work. Sleep and taking care of yourself is important so that you can concentrate in class. Twenty minutes is all you need for a power nap to refresh your mind. Just remember to set an alarm so that you don’t miss your stop!

Go through your clinic routine. Time management, flow, and better flow; trying to improve your clinical performance can be difficult if you don’t think about what order you’ll be tackling things like entrance testing. Short bus rides can be a great time for you to reflect on the order of testing; try and imagine yourself actually doing the testing, including when you need the patient to have their spectacles on or off, the equipment that you have in hand as you transition to the next test, etc.

Logbooks. Every year, clinic students let logbook entries pile up and end up having to do 5, 10, or an even greater number of reflections on patients that they’ve seen weeks ago! Most students also don’t write down notes when the supervisor is giving feedback, making it very difficult to remember what to write even after a few days. Do these when you’re on your way home, and save yourself a headache at the end of the rotation.

Image result for procrastination meme

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of UNSW OptomSoc or the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


OPTM1001: Budgeting for Optometry Students

Author: Lowana Littlechild (Class of 2018)

So begins another year here at UNSW Optometry and Vision Science. Congratulations to all of you! Whether you are a first-year fresh and excited to experience university, or a seasoned fourth year beginning to see patients in the clinic – studying optometry is an exciting and often challenging journey. Optometry at UNSW is unlike any other degree. Learning is not confined to lecture theatres and tutorial rooms; there are many hands-on clinical skills to learn and perfect (particularly in later years) as well as exciting opportunities to get real life experience outside of the university environment. As you progress through the degree, a number of expenses will arise as you embark on this unique learning experience.

Here at UNSW OptomSoc, we have put together a rough breakdown of the expenses you should be budgeting for each year throughout the course of the Bachelor of Vision Science/ Master’s of Clinical Optometry (and we’re not just talking about the migoreng and late night Maccas runs during STUVAC either).

Year One
You’ve probably sat through introductory lectures and browsed course outlines that talk about recommended and prescribed textbooks. There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing textbooks in first-year optometry:

  • Many of the courses have all the course content included in lecture slides and on Moodle – make sure you read carefully exactly what you need
  • A number of first-year courses (particularly first semester) are a recap or an extension of Year 12 subjects you have only just done
  • You can often find textbooks online as files if you know where to look (check the UNSW Optometry Class of 2021 Facebook page if you haven’t already)
  • If you find a textbook you feel will assist your studies but are worried about the price, try grabbing a second hand copy through the Facebook page UNSW Textbook Exchange or the UNSW second hand bookshop for a good deal

Year Two
As you move on to more specific learning, it’s time to think a bit more carefully about textbooks. Not only are some of these super interesting, they provide fundamental knowledge for your career as optometrists on the anatomy and physiology of the eye, as well as insight into basic clinical skills and techniques.

On top of this, you get the chance to purchase your very own clinical equipment for the first time! The list for second year will include:

  • Clinic kit: this is used in your dispensing practicals, ~ $80
  • Direct Ophthalmoscope & Retinoscope: two pieces of clinical equipment which very handily share the same battery. The price will range from $750 – $2000
  • Trial frame: these start from around $200 depending on the quality and patient comfort

If this all seems daunting, don’t worry. Manufacturers come and visit us on campus during late semester one for ‘Manufacturer’s day’. Here you will have the opportunity to try out the equipment to get a feel for what you like and talk to the experts about the specifications of each instrument before you place orders for your own (and of course get some free goodie bags along the way).

Year Three
In preparation for more practical learning and your clinical course over summer before fourth year you will be required to deck out your clinical kit with some more fundamental items:

  • Clinic kits: Binocular Vision kit for use in practical lessons and later on in clinics for a range of binocular vision tests and exercises learnt in third year (~$200); Primary Care kit which contains basic supplies for consultations with patients (~$120)
  • Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscope (BIO) + Pan Retinal Lens – this is a big one, and with a student discount you’ll be looking at anything between $2000- $6000 depending on the model and manufacturer you decide to go with. This price includes a student discount with many suppliers, and keep an eye out for those who include the retinal lens you need when you use the BIO.
  • Fundoscopy lens: an important lens for checking the ocular health of the posterior eye, fundoscopy lenses come in varying designs and prices range from $200-$700

Manufacturers Day will be relevant for you once again, as suppliers will come with samples of each of the different BIOs and lenses for you to get a feel of, and can answer any questions you have.

Year Four (Year 1 of the Masters of Clinical Optometry)
Now you are a fourth year, you have the exciting new challenge of working in the clinic and seeing real life patients. Clinic shirts will set you back $35/shirt – you’ll generally be in clinic two days a week in fourth year, so most people will recommend you order two shirts to start. Once you get to fifth year you might need a few more, as you’ll be in clinic 4-5 days a week.

Fourth year also brings with it the opportunity to undertake a voluntary rural preceptorship. Part of your budgeting for this will include transport, accommodation and living expenses for 2 weeks. Overall costs of the placement will vary depending on where you go; set aside ~$1000 for accommodation pp and account for flights to some locations (<$500 return).

Year Five (Year 2 of the Masters of Clinical Optometry) In your final year of optometry you will participate in a

In your final year of optometry you will participate in a 4-week preceptorship to further your skills in a unique clinical environment. There are a wide range of locations for the preceptorship, with the possibilities of travelling interstate or overseas. With this amazing opportunity comes with expenses (transport, and 4 weeks of accommodation and living expenses). Exactly how much you will need to put away all depends on how much ‘fun’ you have during your preceptorship. For some placements, it can range from $2000-10,000. Before it all feels too overwhelming, we’ll give you some promising news: OS-Help is a government based loan where you can receive up to $7000 for an overseas placement (it goes on your HECS-HELP total). Some examples of specific preceptorships and their costs are listed below:

  • UK,US, Canada > $5000 to 10,000 in previous years
  • China ~$4000
  • Australia: cost is highly variable and can be budgeted closely by you depending on where you go. One placement run by the Brien Holden Vision Institute provides accommodation and transport.

External placements are another key (read: compulsory) part of your final year optometry experience. You will visit Melbourne and Tasmania throughout the year, so it is important to factor in transport and accommodation costs. Previous students have reported that with some shopping around on Airbnb you can be looking at around $800pp and flights ~$200-300 return for each placement, with other expenses up to how much exploring you want to do and what you’d like your final budget to be. Just remember that you might need to factor in purchasing some business attire as well, as you aren’t able to wear clinic uniform at any of these placements, which are two weeks each. Likewise, placement at the Centre for Eye Health is a six-week rotation where you’ll need business attire.

Image result for broke gif

Editors: Cindy Van (Chief Editor) and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the UNSW OptomSoc or UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


What I’d Wish I’d Known Series – Part 4 (Final)

Our lucky last article is for the 4th years! 4th year is a whirlwind of a year rife with existential crises, self-discovery and friendship. Here’s the advice our current UNSW OptomSoc Treasurer, Tyson, has to give you.

What I Wish I’d Known in Fourth Year – Tyson Xu, Class of 2017

    1. Keep your logbooks up to date – Do them straight after you test a patient so that you don’t have to rush through them all the day before it’s due and so that you can also start implementing the things that you’ve learnt into your next consultations
    2. Be curious – If you don’t know why – ask! Also, expect all supervisors to be slightly different and that’s what makes this career so dynamic and exciting. If we did everything the same we’d be technicians but because we’re all unique in the way we choose to practise, we are clinicians. Find out why some supervisors have certain preferences and learn from them!
    3. Take initiative – Read up on areas which you are unfamiliar with and reach out and discuss cases with peers, lecturers and supervisors for their take on diagnosis and management
    4. Form study groups and learn from each other – You’ll often find that you will complement each other in that you’ll know something that someone else doesn’t and they’ll know something that you don’t.
    5. Be a scientist and perfect your craft – I want to finish on this note because there will be times when you feel like you’re just “filling in the boxes” and rush through tests so that you don’t get a U for time. However, I encourage you to use this opportunity (especially during first rotation) to be a scientist and experiment performing tests in different ways to perfect your craft. Find out other ways of conducting tests and implement them to help you decide what works for you. Then, use all of your knowledge and extract clinically significant information to address your patients’ concerns. Make the most of this opportunity and become the optometrist that you want to be.

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the UNSW OptomSoc or UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


What I’d Wish I’d Know Series – Part 3

To all the 3rd years, you’re coming to the end of your Bachelor of Vision Science program and you’ve heard some scary things about what this year brings.

What I Wish I’d Known in Third Year – Nancy Liu, Class of 2018

There’s a lot to balance in third year, especially with ocular diseases and binocular vision coming into play, try and:

1. Learn how to work effectively in a group. This becomes incredibly important in the second semester, so why not start early? Delegated tasks, set deadlines and share all your files amongst your cohort. Organisation and keeping to deadlines are key, because there is simply too information to cram.
2. Understand why things occur, rather than blindly memorising. Try organising information in categories based on the reason as to why they happen, and photos are always helpful.
3. Try to have some down time. It can be a simple nap or joining a society, because Optometry is really stressful. It is important to have a little escape from Optometry now and then, to remind us of why we did it in the first place.

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the UNSW OptomSoc or UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


What I’d Wish I’d Known Series – Part 2

This is for all those 2nd years out there. You’re no longer a fledgling first year student and lecturers are starting to expect more of you.

When your friend is practicing on you and you try your best not to blink…

What I Wish I’d Known in Second Year – Vivian Kong, Class of 2019
Second year is when the real clinical work starts, so get ahead by:

  1. Make the best use of your time in the preclinic labs – read the manual beforehand and come prepared.
  2. Required readings are definitely assessable, don’t forget to revise them before exams!
  3. Share notes and ask each other for help, grade cohesiveness is so important to survive this huge step up in workload – try a shared Google Doc for example!
  4. Practice for your practical exams. Practice at the clinic and if possible practice at the practices you work at. Practice practice practice makes perfect!
  5. Make sure you read course outlines and make a note of all the assessments so there are no nasty surprises!
  6. Echo360 is your friend; download lectures and listen to them on the bus/train to uni.

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the UNSW OptomSoc or UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.


What I’d Wish I’d Known Series – Part 1

This year, we’re introducing monthly articles by student editors. Here’s our first series detailing what Optometry/Vis Sci students wished they knew. Oh boy, I wish us final years had access to these tips earlier on…We’ll be releasing one article per day this week (for 1st,2nd, 3rd and 4th year), so keep tuned!

What I Wish I’d Known in First Year – Veronica Giang, Class of 2020
Here are a few things I wish I’d known so that I could start first year on a good note!

  1. There are plenty of people in the same boat as you, so don’t feel nervous. Try and get out of your comfort zone and talk to someone; it could really make their day and turn out to become a great friendship!
  2. Don’t stress too much about work and exams. Obviously, do the best that you can and study hard, but try to really enjoy first year! The workload gets heavier as the years go by, so go make some memories while you have plenty of time!
  3. Be friendly and get to know your lecturers well because they’re there in the background throughout your degree to help you!
  4. Manage your time wisely to reduce stress levels. Likewise, try to get a healthy balance of social and educational activities to get the best out of uni.
  5. You can eat in lectures – there’s no need to try hiding your food.

Editors: Cindy Van and Celine Zhang

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the UNSW OptomSoc or UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.