Amanda Junkin always knew she’d be a writer. She loved English and writing classes as a student, and parlayed that passion into a career as a deadline-driven, adrenaline-fueled newspaper reporter and editor. She figured that’s what she was always meant to do... until she fell in love with optometry.
Junkin had eye issues from the time she was a child, so the optometrist’s office was a familiar place to her. About 10 years into her journalism career, while working as city editor of the Record-Courier newspaper in Kent, Ohio, she took an interest in optometry as a career and started to wonder if maybe it was her second calling. For someone who had shunned science and math classes while earning a liberal arts degree in college, this was a big change. Rather than ignore that inner voice, though, Junkin took the leap of faith and resigned from the newspaper to return to school. She also became an optician so she could experience firsthand what it’s like in an optometry office every day.
Fast forward a few years and she’s now a full-time ICO student, getting ready for her externship year and ready to face the world as an optometrist when she graduates in 2014 at age 40. Sometimes, even she is amazed at what she's doing.
"Coming from the liberal arts background like I did, I hadn’t taken a math or science class since high school," says Junkin, who got her undergraduate degree at the
To do a 180 and be involved in math and science classes every day was quite a culture shock. There was definitely an adjustment
College of Wooster in Ohio. "It isn’t that a liberal arts education is easy, but it’s a different type of thinking—essays, oral tests, papers. To do a 180 and be involved in math and science classes everyday was quite a culture shock. There was definitely an adjustment."
While the majority of first year ICO students are in their early-to-mid 20s, each class typically has a few students who range from the late 20s to early 40s, says ICO’s director of admission and marketing, Teisha Johnson. She says returning students generally do well in the program because they are more mature and they already know what it’s like to have a professional career or more real world experience.
"When you have a career, you tend to be more stable and already have learned how to develop professional relationships with your colleagues," Johnson says. "But the admissions committee does speak to these students at length about what it’s like to return to school and into such a tough program to make sure they are ready for the changes and demands of being a full-time professional student. For some, work life can be demanding, but generally you leave it at the office or have occasional projects that you bring home. In optometry school, you always have projects and things outside of class that you have to do, such as studying. It’s like having a part-time and a full-time job or a 50-hour work week."