Student Ambassador Blog Articles

Immigrating to the States When I was 10 Years Old to Becoming a Doctor of Optometry by SCCO Student Ambassador, Supanat Sritapan

A series of articles written by SCCO Student Ambassadors, here is Supanat Sritapan. To learn more about Supinat, where he is from, and why he chose SCCO, find his bio here listed alphabetically.

Immigrating to the States When I was 10 Years Old to Becoming a Doctor of Optometry

by SCCO Student Ambassador, Supanat Sritapan

Sritapan_SupanatHello pre-optometry students and potential applicants…

My name is Supanat Sritapan, but I also go by Soup. I am a first generation graduate school student who immigrated from Thailand to America when I was 10 years old. Although growing up on the other side of the globe affected how I navigated through the U.S. education system, I was still able to find my way here to SCCO.  I want to share my experience about how I was able to adapt to this new country and overcome challenges to get into the best optometry school in the nation!

From Thailand to America

Many say that past experiences impact and shape who we are today, and I definitely agree with that statement. The events in my early life undoubtedly molded the way I think and act towards others. In Thailand, my family and I lived in a relatively low income area on the outskirts of Bangkok. Being exposed to this environment inspired me to volunteer in low income areas throughout my life. Thankfully, my parents were able to provide for me and put a roof over my head. Right before I was born, my father borrowed money from friends and family to move to  America. He worked for many years in the states, and when he was able to financially support me and my mother, we decided to immigrate here as well. I remember how excited I was to move to America. People around the world know America as, “The land of opportunity.” Plus, isn’t this where all the movie stars from Hollywood came from?

Adapting to America

But moving here wasn’t all that easy for me and my family…

We had to adapt to the new environment, learn a new language and get used to a wholly different culture. I remember crying on the first day of school in the US because I only knew how to say “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” I was afraid to go to school here. After all, speaking, reading and writing in English (with proper grammar) was very difficult for me, because I’d never learned grammar in Thailand. However, in due time and through hard work and continuous practice, I was able to become proficient and adapt to the United States.

Undergrad at UC Riverside

My family and I had no idea about what to do for the college application process.  Until my classmates mentioned that I needed to take it, didn’t even know about the SAT. Although my father received a bachelor’s degree from a university in Thailand, none of us had any idea about how to navigate the application system. Regardless, through many hours of researching online and a stroke of luck, I was admitted to my undergraduate institution, UC Riverside, where I met many friends who steered me towards optometry.

Journey towards optometry

It was during my time at UCR that I was introduced to optometry.  I began taking science classes and found out that neuroscience and optics were among my favorites. I would participate in vision screenings through an on-campus organization. This opportunity exposed me to optometry. Eventually, after I graduated, I started shadowing and working with optometrists, many of which recommended that I should apply to optometry school. It wasn’t until I started working in an optometry office when I realized that optometry was a career I wanted to pursue.

Why optometry?

At first, I thought optometry was just providing prescriptions for glasses or repeating “one or two” to patients. However, it just didn’t occur to me that there’s so much more behind the scenes such as performing a comprehensive exam and examining the overall health of the eye.  Because it was interesting to me, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the clinical aspects of the profession. I enjoyed the cleanliness and well-structured aspect of the profession. Optometrist’s work-life balance is also perfect for me because I can choose my own schedule if I start a private practice. Not to mention, optometry is very flexible in that there’s so many subspecialties and modes of practice. But the one thing that stood out to me was the amount of patient interaction associated with the profession. Through my experiences working in optometry, I learned that I love interacting with patients and meeting new people. Because I think it’s an important aspect of health care, I value patient interaction so much.

Journey to SCCO

 After deciding to pursue a career in optometry, it was time for me to apply to optometry programs.  But I was dreading the entire process because my family and I had no idea what we were doing. Luckily though, I could ask many of my pre-optometry friends and my doctor for help this time. One of my pre-optometry friends connected me with her mutual friend who was a current student at SCCO. He was a student ambassador during his first year as well. He essentially guided me on how to use OptomCAS and how to go about the entire process (including OAT, personal statement, transcript verification, interview prep, etc.). Moreover, this individual—along with the optometrists I shadowed and worked with—spoke very highly of SCCO’s program. SCCO is one of the oldest and most established optometry schools in the nation.  There’s a reason that the school has been so highly regarded all these years. He also mentioned that SCCO has up-to-date technology and equipment, great clinical emphasis and the faculty members were warm and welcoming. There’s a sense of tight-knit community on campus, which is why he chose SCCO. In the end, these are also the reasons why I chose to attend SCCO, and I believe that I made the right decision.

 Closing thoughts

 My journey towards optometry was rough and treacherous.  From immigrating to a whole new country to finding my way around the US education system, in the end, all the hard work was worth it. My love for the sciences and my passion to serve others in need had led me to pursue a career in optometry. Seeing my family’s sacrifice for me (considering the environment that we came from), I am motivated to work hard to achieve my goal of becoming a great clinician. I would also attribute my success to all the outside help from the optometrists I worked with, friends, and the student ambassador who helped guide me through the application process. I am eternally grateful for everyone who supported me throughout my journey, because I definitely wouldn’t be here at SCCO without them. I also believe that I will be able to obtain and develop all the necessary knowledge and clinical skills at SCCO to achieve my goal of becoming a great optometrist.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at supanatsritapan.scco25@ketchum.edu

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