A letter to first-year students

“Enjoy the optometry university experience”

Khambreal Garland, third-year student at the University of the West of England Bristol, on the benefits of keeping up with recommended reading and consolidating learning with peers

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After a demanding few months of online lessons, cancelled exams and grading challenges, a new cohort of first-year students prepares to embark on the university journey. With the start of the new academic year, OT has asked AOP student reps to share their own experiences and advice for surviving first-year.

When I received my offer to join UWE Bristol’s optometry programme, I was in absolute disbelief until the first day of lectures. I am sure that I probably called the admissions office a few times to make sure that it was real. Once this feeling subsided, I was really excited for the opportunity to study in a field which I have been passionate about for over a decade.

First year optometry was fairly different from what I had been used to in education. Being a mature student, I found it difficult to regain my grasp on studying, especially for theory examinations. It took a bit of time to develop new skills to help me to learn better, as how I studied in the past no longer worked for me. However, I found practical sessions very intriguing and enjoyable, especially as we are given the opportunity to work with our peers a bit more.

Khambreal Garland
Khambreal Garland

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of teaching will be done online which is very different from the traditional classroom settings.

Note-taking and retaining information have always been a struggle of mine. During the first year of optometry studies, you will learn practical skills and the theory behind them. This helped me a lot, as I was able to understand these skills more. COVID-19 will mean a reduced number of practical sessions due to the social distancing restrictions, so I definitely recommend first years takes full advantage of these sessions in order to try to grasp a clear understanding of what is being taught.

My advice for first-years would be to pay keen attention and try to review the recommended reading prior to the lectures, to help grasp the concepts being taught. Building great friendships with your peers is also a plus, as you may very well need one another during your studies.

Following the Prime Minister’s address regarding COVID-19 in March, UWE Bristol swiftly moved all of our lectures online. Each student was kept up to date with changes to their course through their programme leads and lecturers, which was followed by an address from the university’s vice chancellor, advising us on the changes being made over the next year.

Our exams were re-written to be invigilated through internet platforms, a no-detriment policy was put into place to ensure the pandemic did not have a serious negative effect on our grades, and we were also given opportunities to personally contact our tutors if we needed any form of support.

For the upcoming year, lectures will remain internet-based, however, we will have practical sessions with reduced student numbers to allow for the social distancing guidelines to be followed. Every student will also be required to attend a few online lecturers, Block Zero, which will help us prepare for the new style of teaching and studies. 

To find out more about the student-focused activities and resources available through AOP membership, click here.