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News > OH News > Optoversity Challenge 2023

Optoversity Challenge 2023

Isabelle Horrocks, OH 2010-20, competed in the competition and came third
10 Aug 2023
OH News

We recently heard from Isabelle Horrocks, who left Hymers College three years ago in 2020.  This year has been busy for her as she has been finishing her degree, as well as taking part in Optoversity Challenge, the exciting Out of the Box Optics(OOTBO) event for all UK optometry students.  The University of the West of England team, which Isabelle was part of, won the competition for the second year in a row and she placed third individually.

We found out more from Isabelle about her time at Hymers, her university degree and taking part in the competition:

What years were you at Hymers College?


How did the teachers at Hymers help shape your career choice?

I always knew I wanted to do Optometry (since the age of six!); the teachers at Hymers were always very supportive of that.

Were you very musical or sporty at school?

I was part of the cross country running team, and was on the hockey team for a while too. I also played piano.

Did you take part in any other extra-curricular activities?

I’ve taken part in various extra-curricular activities throughout my time at Hymers. In sixth form, I took part in the Kings Mentoring Programme, Primary Mentoring and the Young Enterprise competition. I was also a Buddy and Form Prefect. After GCSEs I completed my Silver DofE and did NCS at Hymers. I have also taken part in various different clubs, including Nature Club, Leadership Club and Animation Club in Junior School.

Are you still in touch with anyone from Hymers?

Absolutely. I still keep in touch with most of my friends from Hymers on social media and I regularly meet up with my closest friends.

Do you have an outstanding memory of your time at Hymers College?

I have lots of great memories; I was fortunate to go on some fantastic school trips to Italy, Barcelona as well as the ski trips. I think my favourite was the physics trip to CERN in Geneva. But my best memories are from playing on the field with my friends.

Where did you go to continue Further Education after leaving Hymers?

University of the West of England in Bristol. (UWE Bristol)

How did you find your Optometry course?

The Optometry course is amazing. I would highly recommend optometry to anyone who has interest in healthcare. Eyes are physically quite small but they have a huge impact on people and their livelihoods; they can also show indicators of other serious, sometimes life-threating, health conditions.

The course is so much better than I expected. There is a large communication and practical element, as well as plenty of anatomy, pathology and optical physics to learn. It has opportunities for placements in a hospital, community and domiciliary settings.

I’m sure like many people attending university during COVID; I found the first year and a half difficult. Being so far away from home and not knowing when I would be able to return to see family was particularly tough and lonely at times. The practical element to the course was a lifeline though. By wearing full PPE, I was able to have some interaction in the clinics with people who weren’t my flatmates. It did make it difficult to learn new clinical skills but we adapted. Second and third year were much better as we were allowed to interact normally with people again, and as President of the Optometry Society, I was able run lots of social events, including the end of year ‘Eye Ball’ where we could finally celebrate all that we had achieved in those difficult years.

On a side note, now that I have graduated I will be starting my pre-registration period. The journey to becoming an optometrist involves a 3 year BSc Hons Optometry degree followed by year of working underneath a qualified optometrist (the pre-registration period) as well as a set of intense practical exams (OSCEs). The reason I became interested in Optometry in the first place is because my dad (Matthew Horrocks, OH 1975-85) is an optometrist. He also went to Hymers, and will be the qualified optometrist supervising me in my pre-reg year. (He was eager to mention that we were both in Brandesburton house).

Can you tell us more about the Optoversity Challenge?

The Optoversity Challenge is a competition run by Out of the Box Optics which aims to raise money for Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) – an incredible charity that provides sight tests and glasses for homeless people. £8,400 was raised this year. The competition runs annually and due to COVID, the last few years have taken place online only. In 2021, I placed second individually, and I was part of the team when UWE won overall in 2022.

This year, the first two rounds of the competition were online, but the ‘grand final’ took place in London, hosted by 100% Optical at the ExCel (the UK’s largest annual optical event).  Over 70 optometry students from 13 different universities took part and the top 4 were invited to compete in the final. I was fortunate to be in the top 4.

100% Optical paid for my travel and accommodation at the two-day event in London which was very exciting. Out of the Box Optics held optometry masterclasses to improve our skills ahead of the final which proved to be very useful in calming our nerves.

The format of the final was different to the previous two rounds, which had been quick fire optometry questions and test result analysis of various ocular conditions. It was much harder because it was structured similarly to the practical examinations that all optometrists must take before they qualify – the OSCEs.

Each finalist was presented with a fake patient (an actor) who had some sort of ocular condition and a problem that needed resolving. The patient was trained to react sensitively to everything you said – so I had to explain very carefully the condition in laymen terms and the solution to their problem. You only had one minute to read the scenario before the patient interaction began, then you had 5 minutes to resolve the problem. To add to the pressure, you had to do this in front of about 30 spectators, and 5 judges, all who have experience of optometry, with the judges being experts within the field.

Afterwards we were invited onto the event stage where the results were announced. Individually, I came 3rd place, winning equipment for my future career, fancy sunglasses and various gift vouchers – I was very happy.

The competition also held prizes for the best university overall as well as best university for fundraising, where my teammates and I came 1st in both, winning equipment for our course mates. I felt very proud of my achievement both individually and as a team for UWE.

Some of our lecturers and my parents came to support us which I was very grateful for. I also had time to explore London with my teammate who also made it to the final. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience, I learnt a lot and made some great memories.

Congratulations, Isabelle for the competition and your degree, we look forward to hearing more from you in the future.


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