University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Ambassador Blog

Jessica P

Good Day Mate: Australian Externship

, by Jessica P

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If our division hallways have been a little quieter than normal, it’s because us second-years have been away for the past two weeks on our externships. As part of our course OT 540: Leadership Capstone, all students complete an externship. This is a student-driven, create your own experience designed for us to continue developing our leadership and professionalism.

We are able to create an externship that fits our personal interests and career goals, whether that is shadowing an administrator at AOTA to learn more about advocacy, learning more about private practice, volunteering, or traveling to explore occupational therapy in a global context. I had the opportunity to do my externship through our Global Initiatives, run by Dr. Danny Park, to Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia.

Griffith University’s Occupational Therapy Departmnt

While at Griffith, five other students and I had the opportunity to sit in on classes and go to clinical site visits. It was such an incredible experience to be able to compare global perspectives on occupational therapy. While there were differences between OT in Australia and the United States, it was more similar than different. Griffith’s courses also utilize team-based learning like we do here at USC. This means that much of their class time is spent doing case-study applications and using standardized patients.

Through our clinical site visits, I got to experience the continuum of care in Australia, specifically in the context of universal healthcare. It was amazing to see many of their brand-new hospitals and shadow occupational therapists there.

Visiting Headspace, an outpatient youth & adolescent mental health site

Visiting Queensland Children’s Hospital’s therapy rooftop

My externship team and I also gave a presentation on USC’s academic programs, comparing American and Australian OT, and advice for fieldwork placements.

Our two-week externship was also conveniently right next to spring break so four of my classmates and I traveled throughout Australia. We were able to explore Sydney and Melbourne, taking advantage of everything Australia has to offer…especially the Tim Tam’s!

Sydney Bridge

Meeting one of my favorite animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Scuba diving in Gold Coast

Ziplining in Mount Tamborine

I feel so grateful to be a part of a program that not only allows us this opportunity but pushes us out of our comfort zones to grow professionally and personally. My time in Australia will forever be one of the most memorable parts of my OT education. I know no matter where I am in the world, I am entering one of the most rewarding and amazing professions with the best people.


Health and Wellness in Australia

, by Serena

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Where did I go for externship?

So I traveled internationally for my first time! I participated in the Global Initiatives student exchange program in Australia at Griffith University for the Leadership Capstone course. I was able to develop a stronger ability to connect with people from other parts of the world, enhance my leadership qualities, and heighten my awareness of the Australian occupational therapy and occupational science cultural differences and similarities. My time was spent observing and shadowing occupational therapists specifically in the Gold Coast in settings such as acute care, emergency, community, persistent pain services, children’s hospital, geriatric, and emerging areas focusing on health and wellness.

How did I decide where to go for the externship?
The externship is so incredible because you are able to travel anywhere in the world to strengthen your understanding of OT leadership. Some of my friends like Joyce went to Ghana and others stayed within the Los Angeles area like Evan, Melissa and Goeun. The reason why I decided to go to Australia is due to my passion for health and wellness.

I have been following an occupational therapist, Mrs. Jacqueline Edser, who I admire via the Internet for over a year now. I decided to apply for the Global Initiatives externship in Australia when I noticed that Mrs. Edser was less than an hours drive from the partnered University. I immediately reached out to her and she was happy to meet! She is an Occupational Therapy member of the Australian Lifestyle Medicine (LM) Association and is currently utilizing her OT skills while delivering LM interventions to employees of the bus and train systems in Australia. She is an occupational therapy leader within the Australian country by focusing on an area of need that is at times overlooked and not staffed with an OT to address preventative healthcare needs. After learning from her, I aspire to take the leadership skills she has given me to deliver occupational therapy informed lifestyle interventions to the population in my surrounding American community.

Meeting with Mrs. Jacqueline Edser, an occupational therapist at Burleigh Beach in Australia for the Leadership Capstone externship.


Jessica P

So…What Is OT?

, by Jessica P

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So you like help people find jobs? Is it basically the same thing as physical therapy? These are just two of the questions you may be hearing a lot when you tell people that you are studying occupational therapy. As relatively youthful profession, I mean we are only 102 years old, occupational therapy is not always well known and represented in society or healthcare professions. Many people make assumptions about what we as OTs do and as an OT student I love that I get a chance to teach others about this amazing profession and the role that it can play in so many people’s lives.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at my “OT elevator pitch.” This is just a quick way to describe occupational therapy to someone who may have never even heard of the profession before. In one of our courses, OT 523: Communication Skills for Effective Practice, we even had the opportunity to develop our elevator pitches and get feedback from classmates. Being able to confidently share about my profession allows me to explain the unique occupational therapy lens, advocate for my future patients on why they may need OT, and educate others on a profession they may be interested in pursuing.

So…what is OT?

Occupational therapy is a holistic, healthcare profession which helps people of all ages and abilities do the things they need to do and want to do in their day to day lives. An occupation is not just your job, it is anything you do that occupies your time.

Across the lifespan, our occupations will obviously look different. When I was 2 months old, my main occupations were sleeping and eating. Now at 22, my occupations look very different – attending class, hanging out with friends, and working. As I get older, my occupations will again shift and look different. Occupational therapists come in when there is something that prevents you from living your life to the fullest, the way you want to. This could be from anything, such as a mental illness or physical disability. 

So…where do OTs work?

The short answer to this is OTs work pretty much everywhere. Occupational therapists can be found working in hospitals, private clinics, schools, home health, corporations, community centers, psychiatric hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, university medical and research centers…and more!

After years of explaining to people that I want to be an occupational therapist, I’ve found it’s best to make it relatable to them. Ask someone “What is your favorite thing to do?” and “How would you feel if you could no longer do this?” Voila! That is where occupational therapy will come in.



Senioritis…Senioritis Everywhere

, by Melissa

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Hey everyone! This is our last semester in the program, and things definitely haven’t slowed down. As a result, I’ve realized that a common theme amongst our class is exhaustion and senioritis. After I graduated from undergrad, I thought that senioritis was a thing of the past, but boy oh boy was I mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying my time in the program tremendously, and taking electives this semester keeps things interesting, but I am also feeling the burnout. Thus, I wanted to share some of the things that help to keep me going!

Clinical opportunities and seeing OT in action
Although there is no Level 1 fieldwork associated with our Spring Semester, we still have the opportunity to shadow OTs in specific settings depending on the electives we choose to take. I talk more in depth about these opportunities in my previous blog post, so check it out if you’d like to learn more. Getting the information we need during class is always great, as our professors are incredibly knowledgeable and they are experts in their given area of study, but there’s something invigorating about being able to see it play out in a clinical setting. For example, we learn all about the difficulties associated with treating medically fragile patients up the hill at Keck Hospital, but having the opportunity to see what that looks like is hugely beneficial to my learning. It also helps to remind me why I chose to be in this profession, as the OTs we shadow are GREAT at what they do, and the patients truly appreciate them.

Meeting with my Mentor
USC does a great job of providing us with opportunities for mentorship, and we are often encouraged to seek out faculty or staff that we think would offer mentorship in an area we are interested in. I myself have sought mentorship from several faculty and staff members, and I can happily say that we are still in contact today. However, apart from being encouraged to approach mentorship on our own, our program actually assigns us a mentor depending the area of study we’d like to pursue! I personally love the mentor I was assigned, and I am truly grateful that clinicians, faculty, and staff all take the time to mentor us. Things aren’t always going to be rainbows and sunshine, and having someone that I can go to when things get rough is truly comforting.

In addition, I have been lucky enough to work alongside 2nd year and OTD students throughout my time in the program, and they have provided great mentorship as well. As students who are ahead of you in the program, they can offer some great information on what to expect, and even some tips based on their own experiences! I’ve found it really beneficial to have a student perspective as well. Ultimately, seeking mentorship from leadership within the program or students that are ahead of you will help to ease your anxiety, and it can help with your own career planning! 

Assisting with interviews for the incoming Ambassadors
This has been a particularly fun experience, as it reminds me that not too long ago I was also going through this process and hoping to be a part of the Ambassador team! It was so refreshing to see the passion, commitment, and talent in our program, and we had some very strong candidates. This position is something I knew I wanted to pursue even before I started in the program, therefore interviewing the incoming ambassadors reminded me of the excitement and NERVES that surround the application process. Now that my time as an ambassador is nearing its end, the interview process has prompted me to reflect on everything we’ve done, and all that we’ve accomplished these past months. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of everyday life, therefore taking a step back to appreciate these last two years has helped me get the energy to push through the last couple of months in the program.

Admitted Student Reception
For those that don’t know, there is an Admitted Student Reception that we host in the spring to welcome all of our admitted students. It’s such an exciting, emotional, and invigorating experience, and serves as a great opportunity to meet your future classmates and professors! I personally had such a great time, and getting to experience it again last year and this year reminds me of the excitement surrounding our admission into the program! Working the event and meeting the newly admitted class is so fun, and I find it hard to believe that my time as a Master’s student is almost over. It’s a surreal feeling, but it serves as a reminder to enjoy the time I have left!

Ordering our regalia for Graduation!
We were recently notified that we could begin to order our regalia and sashes for graduation! Although graduation is a little over 2 months away, it’s exciting to begin to plan for it. It definitely makes it feel more real, and it’s a reminder that we’re so close to the finish line. We also get to personalize our sash if we want to, which makes the process more fun! Because this semester has been so busy, it’s hard to remember that it’s not an ordinary semester, but our last one! Even that small reminder has been enough to excite me to push through the rest of the semester and finish strong.

Being tired and feeling burnt out is not a bad thing. It’s just a sign that you’ve been working really hard for a while! However, it is important to take some time to reflect and remember why you started. It’s crazy to think about how quickly my time in the program has gone by, and I’m excited to push through these upcoming months to walk the stage with my classmates!



, by Joyce

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Have you ever wondered who manages the Chan Instagram and Facebook profiles? How about our Twitter and YouTube handles?
Did you even KNOW we have those platforms? Many people get access to our channels, accounts, and platforms. But it’s been a great joy and opportunity to take the lead on a majority of the content that gets posted on our social media.

So… what is it that I really do? Do I just go around taking pictures of people and posting online? To a certain degree YES that is exactly what I do! One of my duties as a student ambassador is to post various events that happen in school. This can range from special speakers to student-led philanthropy events. What I really enjoy about this part of the job is the fact that I can use my love for social media for school and get paid for it!

Snap, Edit, Post!
A majority of the social media is done on the go. When there is an event that’s going on at school, I’ll try to sneak into it for a split second to snap some pictures. If I can’t be at the event physically, I’ll reach out to a classmate who is at the event to take some pictures for me. Then it’s about using editing apps like Snapseed or VCSO to create a cohesive theme like this:

Then straight to posting we go! Sometimes, I enjoy using InstaStory to feature multiple photos rather than posting all of them in one post. I’ll also have other ambassadors or my boss texting me throughout the week asking me if I can post something to our social media handles. I love being on the go because social media is something that I enjoy partaking in.

My camera roll will end up looking like this:

And I’ll receive messages like this LOL:

For students who submitted their information and pictures to an email address and found themselves on the Chan website… well that’s me! I love participating in this project because I get to read a myriad of students’ journey to occupational therapy as well as fun and quirky facts about them. Our program is filled with over a 100 students alone in the entry level master’s program! It’s hard to meet everyone but in this way I get to see a little snippet of the people I study with!

It’s all about the Insights
A hidden part of my social media role is pulling data from all the posts that we publish on both Instagram and Facebook. This is done mainly behind the scenes through each handle’s specific analytic software. By pulling the information, I have a clear idea of the kinds of posts that receive the most attention/likes/comments/shares. Then I can focus my energy in creating similar kinds of content!

I never thought that I could get paid to do social media stuff in OT school! It truly has been a fun journey!! Through my interaction with the official Instagram and Facebook handles, I have also been able to speak with people all over the world who are interested in our program!

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