Looking Through A Different Lens

“You know you are more than welcome to come back and shadow anytime. You could even work here over the summer,” Dr. Hopping told me as I walked into the optometry office one Thursday morning.

It was spring break, and I had chosen to spend my time doing an externship in Houston. Through the Owl Edge Externship program pioneered by the Center for Career Development at Rice, I was assigned to a 4-day shadowing externship with optometrist Dr. Desiree Hopping (Rice class of 1976) at her private practice Hopping Eye Associates. I knew nothing about optometry nor had the specialization held any particular interest to me, but I wanted to explore my options.

I arrived at the office on my first day, and Dr. Hopping welcomed me with open arms. She introduced me to the other optometrists in the group practice: her husband, her son, and two other optometrists. As I followed her around for the day, watching eye exams and listening closely to her explanations for her actions, I took great interest in her personality and interaction with her patients. Most of her patients had been visiting Hopping Eye Associates for decades. There was never any need to go to another optometrist. Dr. Hopping was personable, curious about the well-being of each of her patients. She was also a great optometrist, skillful and smart in her diagnoses. I watched many eye exams over the next four days, learning more about eye conditions and how to detect them with eye imaging, the academic course to becoming an optometrist, and the different kinds of cases you could deal with depending on your training. But most of all, I appreciated Dr. Hopping’s hospitality towards me during the week, bringing me to her house to eat lunch, telling me about her grandkids, taking me along to pick up some cupcakes, and inviting me back to shadow and work at Hopping Eye Associates any time.

At Rice, spring break is not the only time that you can go into the field like this. Right across the street in the Texas Medical Center, you can shadow and volunteer all throughout the year. In doing so, you not only gain insight into what goes on behind the scenes, but also get a feel for the clinic environment, learn about the kinds of people you’re caring for, and gain connections amongst many medical professionals – all things that you can’t access by simply going to class and burying your nose in textbooks. Rice fosters both sides of preparing you for the future, offering a top-tier education while making experience and opportunities to get into the field more than accessible.

Dr. Desiree Hopping and her partners in crime

Hopping Eye Associates had a huge office. Besides eight private exam rooms, they had a large vision therapy clinic and their own in-house optical (pictured). I had a lot of fun trying on glasses in my down time.

Rice Packs in the Opportunities

Out of all of the tools that college has given me, my backpack has proved the most useful.

My backpack and I started our journey together right before college. I had never considered it more than an item, something that was useful but unnecessary. It sat in the corner of my room for 3 months during the summer. At least, I thought it was sitting, but really it was preparing.

Our first true adventure was move-in day. I began to see it as a partner, as I didn’t intend on getting a new backpack for the next few years. It politely waited on my desk through O-week as we prepared for the first day of school. All it held was 3 notebooks, 2 pens, a pencil, and a USB drive — all that my naïve new student brain thought I would need.

The backpack and I at a baseball game in Japan!

It was only two weeks in when I started to appreciate the third pocket. Office hours require text books, textbooks that couldn’t be forced into the laptop and folder pocket. They nestled nicely in the third pocket. And the back pack nestled nicely on my shoulders. I vaguely remembered the “EXTRA PADDING” tag, and although the back pack is heavier with text books, there was no digging in of the straps to my shoulders, as if my pack was taking at least part of the stress off of my shoulders. My back pack became my friend.

About halfway through my first semester, the Back Pack and I got a new member. As I joined two club sports teams, and realized I didn’t want to have the smell of outdoors in the same pocket as my essays, my sports bag became essential. It was essentially a large hole, carrying two pairs of shoes, 3 outfit changes, and a smaller pouch for snacks. This back pack has been across the country, won a national championship, and survived communal washers to help me live out the wannabe-varsity-athlete that lives in side of me.

These two back packs carried me through the first semester of my second year. Laptop, journals, Chap Stick, class. Resume, folder, heels, career fair. Band-Aids, cleats, knee brace, tournament. Nail polish, cookies, speaker, girls’ night in. My experiences at Rice University became more and more diversified. So diverse, that I needed yet another backpack. Because my first two packs had allowed my two travel to track meets and performances across campus, the city, and the country, I had met a lot of people. Most importantly, I met one person, who would go on to gift me my next pack.

The Back Pack Pack

This new back pack was pink with polka dots, a little smaller than the usual back pack, with only one compartment. Perfect for letting me run to Target to pick up lemons for my business project, or for carrying my journal to the engineering quad so I could relax on a sunny day. This backpack was like my best girlfriend, making sure I looked cute no matter what was going on. This addition to my pack family made me all the more efficient. I was able to pre-pack my packs, so I could get up and rush to whatever activity was necessary. They had my back, and I am grateful.

Rice University has allowed me the opportunity to participate in international research, civil rights demonstrations, and inner tube water polo. Whatever I have wanted to try, I have had the opportunity here. There are actually so many opportunities, that prioritizing has become my biggest struggle. I want to do everything, to be everything, but the overwhelming amount of activities has actually made me become more of myself. When you have to choose, you want to make sure that you choose wisely, because free time is a luxury. You will find out what you truly enjoy when you come to Rice, and you will have the backpacks to help you through it.