“I found myself applying for optometry”
Jack Fowler, second-year optometry student at Cardiff University, on his motivation to study optometry, and his tips for new students
25 September 2023
How did you first become aware of the profession? Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?I had been aware of the profession since I was young due to check-ups but did not consider it to be the career path for me until my gap year after A Levels. During this time, I would visit my great aunt who received too much oxygen at birth and so is disabled. While growing up in the 1950s, she did not have access to appropriate vision testing and as a result, she experienced rapid degradation of her vision.
I remember thinking that, if someone had just helped her earlier, they could have saved her sight and improved her quality of life. This got me thinking about possible careers to make sure the same did not happen to anybody else, and I found myself applying for optometry.
What have you learned from your experience of optometry so far?After completing my preliminary and first years, I have found studying pathology to be of the most interest to me. I look forward to acquiring more knowledge in this area.
Do you have a career path in mind? What are your professional goals?My goals are to work in both hospital and High Street practice; then possibly to start my own practice. Alternatively, I could go into research or possibly take the study of vision forward and pursue ophthalmology. I believe in focussing on the task at hand and now that would be attaining a good result in the degree.
- Firstly, study with another student. Everyone has an area they excel at. For example, someone may be extremely good at dispensing, while you may be good at clinical techniques, as a result, you can help each other to better understand topics
- Secondly, keeping in touch with friends and family back home is important. It’s easy to get wrapped up in student life and the pressures of study, exams and budgeting. The people who know you best are probably the best people to keep your mental health on track
- Thirdly, remember to pencil in some time to have fun and enjoy university life. You’re only here for a relatively short time. Work hard, make friends and good luck.
What helped you settle into university?
The best advice I have for new optometry students to settle in is to create a routine. If you timetable study periods with regular breaks you will find time goes quicker and results improve drastically. In first year, it’s tempting to think the exams are far away, but they soon creep up on you. Prioritise study from the beginning.
Additionally, regular exercise brings stress levels down and helps with focus, and most gyms or leisure centres offer student discounts.
Finally, build a network of friends and colleagues. Starting at university can be daunting. I live over 200 miles from home and sometimes you can feel very alone.
Having a solid group of like-minded friends is key to succeeding at university.
Ultimately, optometry is a highly rewarding profession. As long as you work hard and learn how to manage breaks and relaxing, university will be an extremely rewarding time.
UCAN Productions Maggie’s Club
The charity has operated in Cardiff for a while, and I found out about it when Dr Maggie Woodhouse gave the students a presentation in the special assessment clinic. The charity and the club do incredible work in boosting the confidence of the members. I am extremely proud to be a part of this amazing group and their incredible work.
I decided to raise money to help support UCAN Productions earlier this year. The way I chose to do this was to shave my hair. I have been known for my long hair and it was a personal challenge to cut it off. In total I managed to raise £315 for the charity, which will hopefully make a small difference and help with paying for the various activities the charity undertakes. UCAN Productions was recently named charity of the year for the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and is being given special attention in terms of donations and promotion.