Berkeley Optometry Student Ambassadors work in conjunction with the Admissions & Student Affairs Office to provide prospective students with “real life” information regarding what it’s like to be an Optometry student here at UC Berkeley. We are also your tour guides and class escorts for our Friday Visit Program.

We encourage you to ask us questions via email and we will be happy to share with you our experiences and passion for Berkeley Optometry.

Ben_2018

Ben Szu | 4th Year

I’m Ben and I grew up in San Gabriel Valley down in Southern California. I graduated from University of California, Irvine with a degree in Biological Sciences. I spent the next two years struggling to decide what to do with the rest of my life. After being advised to explore optometry, I began shadowing an optometrist and soon was offered a job. It was a fun experience, and I enjoyed my work because of the patient interactions. I loved the positive environment and joyful attitudes from patients at each optometry office. Visiting Berkeley once was enough for me to dedicate the rest of my life to this profession. Please feel free to contact me!

benjszu@berkeley.edu

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Kelly Cai | 4th Year

Hello! I am originally from Pennsylvania, but grew up in Santa Rosa, CA. I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2014 with a B.A. in Public Health. In undergrad, I explored my interest in optometry by volunteering at the Tang Center Optometry Clinic, shadowing optometrists, joining Cal’s Foresight Pre-Optometry Club, and attending the Fall Conference and Friday Visit Program. I became fully committed to pursuing optometry while volunteering in Honduras. The trip was a reminder of how much we take our eye health and access to optometrists for granted; I saw first-hand the degree to which optometric care can improve an individual’s life. I know that many schools don’t have a lot of resources for pre-optometry students, so feel free to email me if you have any questions about the application process, applying to optometry school without a gap year, or anything else! Go Bears!

kellycai@berkeley.edu

More 4th Year Ambassadors

Hear from more of our 4th year ambassadors by clicking on a name.

Undergraduate Institution: UC San Diego
paasnaas@berkeley.edu

Hi! I am from Sacramento, CA. I graduated from UCSD with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology. I first got into optometry after I graduated from college. The first optometrist I shadowed was a vision therapist. I had no clue what vision therapy was, and the moment I walked in on my first shadowing experience, it captivated me instantly. I was fascinated with the idea of a therapeutic approach to vision care. I had so much fun and learned how interesting the optometry profession can be. This experience inspired me to further gauge my curiosity towards the visual system, and I found myself more motivated to continue shadowing more optometrists! The more offices I visited, the more I was able to see how rewarding and fulfilling this profession can be as a career. So for me, the decision to choose to go to optometry school was gradual and natural. What attracted me to Berkeley was a lot of reasons, but the early clinical exposure and the number of research possibilities caught my eye. My visit to Interview Day had a huge impact on my decision to come. I loved the atmosphere of the school and the city. The faculty, staff and students were so welcoming, friendly and accessible. I am so happy and lucky to be here, and I would gladly answer any questions you may have. Whatever question you may have, whether it's advice, OAT, applications, life in Berkeley, etc., don’t hesitate to contact me!

Undergraduate Institution: UC Riverside
stephaniele@berkeley.edu

Hello! My name is Stephanie Le and I grew up in Riverside, California and completed my undergraduate coursework at UC Riverside, where I received my B.S. in Biology. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, baking and trying out new DIY projects that I learn from Youtube! I entered college thinking I would pursue a career in dentistry. However, that all changed when I attended a pre-dentistry club meeting on campus and came to a realization that the profession was not for me. I became interested in the field of optometry through my older sister, who during my third year of college, was applying for Optometry school. Being curious about the profession, I joined UC Riverside’s pre-optometry club, Precision for Vision and attended UC Berkeley’s Opto-Camp Summer Program. From there, my interest for the field of Optometry really took off and I began shadowing, volunteering, and learning more about what the profession entailed, all the while, gaining a richer view of Optometry. I became very active in my pre-optometry club; founding, developing and securing funds for bi-monthly volunteer trips to Tecate, Mexico for pre-optometry students. I chose to attend Berkeley Optometry because of its strong clinical program, dedicated faculty, and the campus’ strong sense of community. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Undergraduate Institution: Santa Clara University
j.buckley@berkeley.edu

I am a Bay Area native, but Berkeley is a new side of the bay for me. I got a BS in Biology from Santa Clara University, where I was very involved in volunteer programs. I was originally planning on medical school, but in my junior year of undergrad, I turned my focus onto optometry. It has by far been the best decision I could have made, and I am so glad to be able to study here at Berkeley.

Undergraduate University of Texas, Austin
jennifer.wong2018@berkeley.edu

Hi Everyone! I'm Jennifer (but you can call me Jen), and I grew up in Houston, TX. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Plan II Honors (a Liberal Arts Honors degree). When I first started undergrad at UT, I didn't have a clear idea what I wanted to pursue as my career. I studied business in management information systems for 2 years before taking a chance and registering for a genetics class sophomore year. I rediscovered my love for biology. That being said, I still didn’t know what field in the sciences to pursue at the time but I knew I wanted a health professions career. The following summer, I acquired a job as an optometric technician and found I loved the dynamic working environment. Ever since, I’ve been furthering my knowledge in optometry with an internship in health at the Texas senate and as a vision therapist. It’s been an exciting ride and I look forward to sharing my past experiences with you! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my move here to Berkeley, what life has been like, or anything else!

Undergraduate Institution: UC Davis
kwu1991@berkeley.edu

I was born in Connecticut but moved to Cupertino when I was 5 years old. I attended UC Davis and majored in Psychobiology. I first started wearing glasses when I was in fifth grade. I found out that it was quite hard to play sports and keeping my glasses on my face. After a few broken frames, my mom brought me in to be fitted with Ortho-K lenses. Ever since then, I have been wearing these contacts at night and enjoying glasses-free days. Even as a kid, going to the optometrist was enjoyable and the positive experiences from the visits sparked my interest in this profession. I shadowed three optometrists and worked as an eyewear consultant at LensCrafters during my undergraduate career. Through these experiences, I found great pleasure in helping patients not only see better, but also live better. I chose Berkeley Optometry because I felt truly part of a tightly knit community where faculty, students, and staff look out for each other. I believe this program is designed to help students reach their full potential and become well-rounded optometrists. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me! Go Bears!

Third Year Ambassadors

Hear from more of our 3rd year ambassadors by clicking on a name.

Undergraduate Institution: UC Davis
mjcastaneda@berkeley.edu

Hi! I'm Joan and I grew up in the Central Valley here in California (Modesto for those familiar with the area). I spent my undergraduate years studying Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at UC Davis, where, interested in healthcare professions, I joined the pre-optometry club and started looking into optometry. All of my experiences encouraged me to continue my pursuit, but by far one of my favorites was attending Opto-Camp here at Berkeley. I took a gap year and worked in a private practice while I applied to optometry schools. Given my positive experience, I am an advocate of taking a year to get some exposure before starting school. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! Good luck!

Undergraduate Institution: UCLA
vincent.chan@berkeley.edu

I choose Berkeley Optometry based on several reasons. These include my experience with Opto-Camp in June of 2013, the rigor and success of the program, and more importantly, the tight knit community between faculty and students. I believe that most programs will prepare you well to become an optometrist but Berkeley does an unbelievable job with their selection of professors and overall support from your peers and staff.

In preparing for admission, I used a variety of websites to sample interview questions and to practice them aloud. Furthermore, I did my research beforehand on why I wanted to attend Berkeley and spoke with several Berkeley students about the process of admissions and just their overall experience there.

Undergraduate Institution: UC Irvine
georgekc@berkeley.edu

Hi, my name is George. I was born in San Francisco but I consider the Silicon Valley my childhood home. After graduating from Monta Vista, I started with psychology at UC Irvine. However, once I was exposed to optometry during my first week, I decided to pursue a double in Biology after my first year. As I explored the different areas of optometry and psychology, I lost interest in psychology. I discovered that optometry fit my personality as I started shadowing and getting involved in research. Specifically, I noticed I enjoyed shadowing when the attending optometrist served children and during the times the patients profusely thanked the optometrist. The positive and uplifting one-on-one interactions also further propelled me to apply for optometry school. The club on UC Irvine's campus (U See Eyes) served as the best resource and support for my journey. Through the club, several members encouraged me to participate in Berkeley's Opto-Camp, an experience which solidified UC Berkeley's Optometry School as one of my top choices. After receiving offers from each school, I decided to attend Berkeley Optometry because the students here showed the passion and community needed in a difficult program. Because of the community at UC Berkeley, I can't wait to meet you! Please contact me with any questions or comments you may have.

Undergraduate Institution: Mount Royal University, Calgary
seija.roggeveen@berkeley.edu

Hi Everyone! Hello! My name is Seija Roggeveen and I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I received my Bachelor of Science from Mount Royal University in Calgary, with a major in Health Science and minors in Chemistry and Psychology. I have always found eyes fascinating, however I first became interested in optometry through a junior high science fair project on optical illusions and I have become further intrigued with eyes the more I learn about them! I had a great opportunity working at an optometry clinic in my hometown throughout my undergraduate degree and this is when I really knew optometry was the career for me. I enjoyed working with the optometrists, optical staff, patients and learning and adapting everyday to a different challenge. During my undergraduate degree I wrote a literature review on age-related macular degeneration, a topic that I was captivated by. I am looking forward to learning more about this condition as well as many other things throughout my studies here at Berkeley Optometry! In my spare time I enjoy running, yoga, travelling around the globe and being a tourist in San Francisco!

Undergraduate Institution: UCLA
tiffanietruong@berkeley.edu

Hi everyone! I was born and raised in Oakland, CA. Moving away from NorCal, I went to UCLA for undergrad and majored in Biology. Inspired by my own optometrist, I set out to learn more about optometry when I arrived at college. After several months of volunteering at health fairs through Bruins in Focus, a community service club that provides vision screenings, I realized the great impact that vision has on quality of life and knew I was going to into eye care.

My passion for working with underserved people drove me to expand the club to provide eye and vision education services when I eventually became its president. After shadowing optometrists at Jules Stein Eye Institute and a local private practice, I saw how much patient interaction optometrists had, which played a large role in my decision to pursue optometry. Working in a private practice for a couple of years and being able to work with patients only solidified my decision. As an undergrad, I went to pre-optometry club meetings and Opto-Camp to learn more about Berkeley Optometry. I found the amount of student involvement I saw during Opto-Camp to be extremely impressive. Ultimately, I decided to attend Berkeley Optometry largely because of the many opportunities available to students, great clinical training, and the supportive community. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Second Year Ambassadors

Hear from more of our second year ambassadors by clicking on a name.

Undergraduate Institution: University of Arizona
samanthafung@berkeley.edu

Hi, I'm Sam! I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, and majored in Physiology at the University of Arizona. My interest in the field of optometry began when I was high school, but I solidified my decision to follow this career path during my undergraduate years. Being a part of the pre-optometry club showed me the variety of opportunities that are available as an optometrist, and working in an optometry office allowed me to realize how much I enjoy the patient interaction part of the career. What ultimately led me to choose Berkeley Optometry was the sense of community that I experienced when I visited the school during Opto-Camp, and during Interview Day. Seeing current students interact with each other as not only classmates, but also as friends, made me realize that this was the type of environment I wanted to be a part of for optometry school.

Undergraduate Institution: UCLA
jessica_gee@berkeley.edu

Hi everyone! I am from Sacramento, CA and I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Physiological Science. During undergrad, I explored many different health professions because I knew that I wanted to care for others, but wasn’t sure which specialty I wanted to pursue. What drew me to optometry were not only the long lasting relationships doctors formed with their patients, but the immediate and impactful change doctors had in patients’ lives. Initially, I thought optometry was limited to private practice. However, I was amazed at the wide scope of fields optometrists could pursue. From working as an optician at a private practice and shadowing optometrists specializing in low vision, I was able to experience how sight and eye health plays such an important part in everyone’s lives. At UCLA’s Stein Eye Institute, I also worked with an ophthalmologist and optometrist who co-managed patients after surgery and even got a taste of vision science when I conducted research in a corneal genetics lab. Ultimately, what drew me to Berkeley were the perfect balance of excellent clinical and research training, a large and diverse patient base, and a friendly and welcoming environment. I’m excited to learn more about the growing field of optometry. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!

Undergraduate Institution: Michigan State University
adam_hoffhines@berkeley.edu

Hello! I am originally from Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Physiology. I always knew I wanted to work in health care and was initially focused on going to medical school but had a change in career choice once I got to work with optometrists. So far I would say Berkeley has been a great fit for myself and living in the bay area has been the new adventure I always wanted. If you have any questions or need any guidance I am more than willing to help!

Undergraduate Institution: UCLA
monicaprani12@berkeley.edu

Hey! My name is Monica and EYE am a second year student at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry. Clearly, I have not gotten over the eye puns after my first year here. I went to UCLA for undergrad and am involved in a few student/optometric organizations here at Berkeley such as the Graduate Assembly and the American Optometric Student Association. In my free time I like to nap, cook, and explore cute places around Berkeley. I am a friendly and chill person so feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns or if you just want to chat about Berkeley Optometry!

Undergraduate Institution: Boston University
joyce_zhang@berkeley.edu

Hello! My name is Joyce Zhang. I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii but as much as I loved the paradise, I shipped off to the east coast to attend Boston University for undergrad, majoring in Biology and Economics. Optometry was always on my mind since high school and since then, I've shadowed, volunteered, and worked in different settings and careers before devoting to this profession. Throughout undergrad, I was involved in diabetic retinopathy research and that made me realize how important the visual system is towards our quality of life. I really loved how everyone in the profession was welcoming, dedicated to direct patient care, and passionate in optometry. Before applying, I attended Opto-Camp which confirmed my decision in this career and with all these experiences, I really focused on getting into opto school right after graduating. Although there are many excellent schools out there, I ultimately decided on Berkeley because I felt like it was the best fit for me and what I wanted out of an optometric program. Feel free to reach out to me about ANYTHING, I would be more than happy to help!

First Year Ambassadors

Hear from more of our first year ambassadors by clicking on a name.

Undergraduate Institution: UC Davis
shazib_haq@berkeley.edu

Hello! My name is Shazib Haq, and I am a member of the Class of 2021. I am originally from Irvine, CA, and I went to UC Davis for undergrad. After college, I worked in an optometric office for two years to gain experience and see if this is what I really wanted to do! I started applying and was lucky enough to be accepted into my dream school (UC Berkeley School of Optometry of course!) . Please let me know if you have any questions!

Undergraduate Institution: UC Irvine
jessica_nguyen@berkeley.edu

Hi! My name is Jessica Nguyen and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California. For my undergraduate education, I received my Bachelors in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. I've always had an interest in the health sciences and knew I wanted a career that would allow me to help others. I began shadowing two optometrists and was even given the opportunity to assist in a medical mission trip to Mexico where we gave free eye exams and glasses to a children at an orphanage. After these experiences as well as attending UC Berkeley's Opto-camp, I'm happy to have been able to follow my dreams here at Cal! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Undergraduate Institution: UC San Diego
johnnypascual@berkeley.edu

Hello everyone! My name is Johnny Pascual, I was born and raised in south central Los Angeles. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from UC San Diego. I decided to take a couple of years off before being accepted into Berkeley Optometry as a re-applicant.

I was introduced to the healthcare system at a young age due to my father’s health condition. As I helped my father navigate through the health system, I realized that I was drawn to a career that combined problem-solving and enabled me to develop personal interactions with patients. In undergrad, I was a research assistant for the UCSD Hamilton Glaucoma Center. I interacted with a diverse group of patients to research new treatments for glaucoma. I found it fascinating to be a part of a profession that contributes to the research and care of patients with vision problems. After graduation, I worked as an ophthalmic technician for a multispecialty practice. As a native Spanish speaker, I was often the bridge to communication and understanding between patient and doctor.

I am extremely excited to be a part of this great program, Berkeley Optometry, where opportunities seem endless. I am confident the decisions I make in the next four years will go beyond Berkeley Optometry. I encourage you all to explore your options and decide which school with offer you the best resources to become the best optometrist. Go Tritons and Go Bears!

Undergraduate Institution: Fresno State
rafaelremotigue@berkeley.edu

Hello, I’m Rafael! I was born and raised in Hanford, CA and received a B.S. in Biology from Fresno State. Prior to attending Berkeley, every time I visited the School of Optometry I was always welcomed by awesome and enthusiastic student volunteers.

I was greatly impressed by how organized and refined interview day and admit day were. It was apparent that the staff and faculty were always looking out for their students and listening to their feedback. The atmosphere of the school is incredible — and is a big part of why I chose to attend Berkeley after a couple visits.

My late grandmother was an optometrist in the Philippines but worked as an optician here in the U.S. She is the reason I wanted to become an optometrist, and I was fortunate enough to shadow at the optometry practice she worked at. Forging relationships with eye doctors has proved to be crucial by allowing for opportunities to work or shadow. Getting involved with shadowing and preoptometry clubs has prepared me well for optometry school because I found that surrounding myself with like-minded and ambitious peers motivated me to push myself and improve. Thankfully, the support of friends and family helped me power through when life got stressful -- and I’ve found that Berkeley’s School of Optometry has also provided that kind of support.

Undergraduate Institution: UCLA
janice_trang@berkeley.edu

Hi, my name is Janice Trang and I'm from San Gabriel, CA. I went to UCLA for undergrad and graduated in spring of 2016, so I've lived in SoCal all my life... until now! In undergrad, I worked a part-time job as an optometric assistant at a private practice in Santa Monica. While I learned a lot there, I further explored the field of optometry by shadowing physicians that specialized in different fields of optometry, from vision therapy to VA hospitals. In addition, I participated in a mission trip to Jamaica, where I was able to work even more closely with patients. Altogether, these experiences confirmed my passion for optometry. During my application process, I was drawn to Berkeley Optometry because of its strong clinical program. After being able to visit the campus, I felt the welcoming and supportive vibe in the community and right away, I knew that's where I wanted to be. I'm already loving it at Berkeley and I can't wait to see what's to come!