Hey everyone! I’m back from my three-week absence and I’d love to share what I’ve been up to. As Raisa mentioned in her last post, students in their 2nd year of the Entry-Level Master’s program and the Post-Professional Master’s program plan their own two-week externship experience to engage in during the middle of the Leadership Capstone course. What’s great is that the externship happens right before spring break, so students are able to either continue on in their externship or travel for the full 3 weeks! For my externship, me and 4 other students decided to volunteer with the EN/Ability Project in the Philippines, building adaptive chairs out of cardboard for children with disabilities in a rural village of Cebu.
The EN/Ability Project is an outreach program that provides therapeutic services to underserved children with disabilities in the rural provinces of Cebu. On this volunteer trip, we led a group of volunteers and therapists in building adaptive seating for children with disabilities in Borbon. The children that were identified to benefit from the adaptive chairs have disabilities that impact their ability to participate in fundamental activities in their daily lives, such as feeding, playing, and interacting with their families. We created about 30 individualized chairs, based on the designs of the Adaptive Design Association, an organization that specializes in creating customized seating from low-cost, recyclable materials. We received a training from the founder of the organization, Apple Sepulveda, before we left for the trip. (She also happens to be in the OTD program currently!) This was the first time the EN/Ability Project decided to do this type of program, so it was exciting to be able to start off a new tradition for them.
We met up with around 30 volunteers in Cebu City, and from there we were transported by bus around 2-3 hours north to a small town called Borbon to meet the children we would be assessing and measuring. The volunteer group was a mix of people from different backgrounds and disciplines; some OTs, PTs, and other local volunteers who just wanted to help out! The USC students served as team leaders, and our teams were composed 1-2 other local volunteers. Each team was matched up with 1-2 children, who we met and measured on that first day. I was really glad I had a local volunteer on my team who spoke Cebuano, the language of this region, as the families we met did not speak much English.
After we met the children and families, we headed to our vacation house that all of the volunteers would be staying in for the duration of the program. Lemme tell you… that house was awesome! It was three-stories, large enough to house all 30 volunteers. The house was super spacious, with enough room for all of us to build our chairs. There was even a large lap pool and basketball court in the backyard, with beach access right behind the property! The great thing about this project is that the organizers wanted to make sure that there was a good balance of work and fun, in order to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
The first night we took all of the donated cardboard and layered them with glue, to serve as the foundation for our chair building the next few days. In the US, we have much thicker, sturdier cardboard. However in the Philippines, they only have 1-ply cardboard which is much thinner, so we needed to layer about 4 sheets of cardboard in order to have a study base. We also spent some time on our team planning out and sketching our designs. The next day, the building began! With our measurements in hand, lots of cardboard, glue, and power tools, we spent the next few days focused on creating the chairs. I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work going into it, but it was much more labor intensive than I even anticipated. (Plus, the humidity of the Philippines didn’t help much either). After 30+ hours of labor, all of the hard work was worth it once we saw our finished products and the smiles on the children and families’ faces.
We made this…
Which became this!
Hopefully the children and families are happy with their new chairs
One of the best parts of this experience was not only meeting the children and building the chairs, but also getting meet and collaborate with OTs from the Philippines and creating new friendships. As visitors, we felt so welcomed by all of the local volunteers. We even karaoked and toured around the island with some of them afterwards!
Overall, I had such an amazing externship experience and visit to the Philippines – I would do it all again in a heartbeat! Check out this video, made by the EN/Ability Project, that highlights our whole experience!
It is officially the end of Week 7 for the spring term. Campus is so quiet now with everyone going off on their Externships. A unique part of our graduate program is we are given the chance to go on a two-week leadership externship. This externship is for the course completion of OT540: Leadership Capstone. The goal of this externship is to develop leadership qualities and traits, which will help prepare students to assume leadership roles in the field of occupational therapy. Read Kimmy’s blog to read more about the Leadership Capstone course and Externship.
This year we have students to who will be taking their externship in Australia, Denmark, South Korea, Ghana, the UK, Sweden, Philippines, and China. Very exciting time indeed! Can’t wait to hear all the exciting stories and experiences when everyone gets back.
I will be spending my externship with the Global Initiatives team. I am definitely excited to start working on some projects for the international students (admitted and prospective ), I hope to make new friends while honing my managerial and leadership skills.
When we return from our Extrenship and Spring Break it’ll be mid-March, and that means full speed ahead to graduation! It feels just like yesterday I started this program, and started my blog. A little part of me doesn’t want this to end, there’s still so much to learn and so much to do!
Time is of the essence and it is time to make things count.
Fight on everyone! Enjoy your externships!
One quality I admire most about the USC Chan Division, is their sincere support for their students. Recently, I was granted the Student Leadership Award; this is awarded to those who have a particular interest in becoming a leader in occupational therapy or occupational science. This year, the award is in support of student attendance and participation in the annual AOTA Conference and Centennial Celebration. It will be both an honor and privilege to attend the AOTA conference. It will be my pleasure to represent USC and the international students, this will definitely be the highlight of my academic year.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the national professional body for American Occupational Therapists, they strive for improvement and advancement of the profession. The association and profession was established in 1917, hence the Centennial celebration! It is indeed an exciting time to be in the occupational therapy profession, we are closer to achieving the centennial vision our forefathers had envisioned for us. This year, we celebrate 100 years of our beautiful profession, 100 years of helping people live life to the fullest!
Stay posted for updates, 6 more weeks to go!
Hope to see you there!
“We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society’s occupational needs.”
- The AOTA Centennial Vision
Many students also ask if it is possible to work while in the program. It is definitely doable, but the amount of hours depends on your personal capacity to manage school and work. Keep in mind that the Entry-Level Master’s program is a full-time commitment, so realistically you could only work part-time. In a typical week, you have three full days of class from about 9:00am to 4:00pm, one day of fieldwork, and one day off (usually Fridays!). I have personally worked 10-15 hours per week throughout the program, which has been a good balance for me. I wanted to work part-time in order to have enough spending money for myself, and not necessarily rely on loans for all of my personal needs. My job is on-campus, so it is very convenient for my schedule, as they are very flexible and recognize that school obligations come first. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are opportunities to become a student worker for the division in various capacities! If you’re interested, make sure you rank this option on your Awards Application, which you can find on the back of the Financial Resource Brochure.
As prior blog posts have mentioned, the final semester of the program is full of unique electives. These classes range from lecture-based courses in advanced practice areas to research involvement to hands-on experiential opportunities. After reading over all of the course descriptions, I was most excited about this last category, which includes a class called Autism in the Community.
Despite keeping an open mind throughout the program, I have always wanted to work in pediatrics. I initially became interested in occupational therapy after learning about the role in schools helping children with developmental disabilities. Growing up, I used to visit the special education classroom during lunch to play games with the students in the class. It was a great way to relax during the day and become friends with new people!
Now, as I finish up my Master’s degree, I have found myself coming full circle. This past Friday, I visited a nonpublic school for children on the autism spectrum and spent two hours bonding with them over board games. To be clear, I played Connect 4 for graduate course credit—living the dream! Seriously, I had so much fun meeting this class of amazing students. Now that we have met the students, my classmates and I will each be assigned our own buddy from the special education classroom. In the coming weeks, we will take weekly field trips with our buddies to the California Science Center. Not only do these trips allow our buddies to learn and apply their science curriculum, but being in the community provides valuable opportunities to practice social skills and regulation. Reciprocally, my classmates and I gain hands-on experience working with adolescents with autism—in pretty much the most fun way possible