Hola! I recently returned from my international externship experience in Costa Rica and let’s just say it was amazing! Before I give you all the fabulous details of my trip, I’ll give you a little bit more background on the externship itself. During the final spring semester of the Master’s program, we are given the opportunity to learn aspects of leadership and advocacy in a different setting than our typical internships, therefore creating the externship process. Students may go shadow at a private practice, a physician’s office, the CEO at a major hospital, the principal at a local school district, or many of us, choose to travel internationally! International externships vary as well; some people go to other Universities and advocate for the profession or our programs at USC, for us, we worked with underprivileged children in a daycare center. Some of my fellow classmates traveled to London, Ireland, South Korea, Thailand, Mexico, or the Philippines! The sky is the limit ☺
So back on my externship, myself, along with six other OT students were placed in a government funded daycare center in the outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica. They have very limited staff and very limited supplies, but the children were so excited to see us and play with us! We really just provided compassion and care, and showed interest in them as individuals. The children could have really benefited from occupational therapy services for fine or gross motor as well as social play and manners. We played a lot of games with them, sang songs, created arts and crafts, and just got to know them. It was a really wonderful experience. Even though we weren’t able to make huge changes in their daily activities, I hope we sparked enough desire in them to improve their quality of life. The children were so appreciative of the time we spent with them, and I would love the chance to go back and spend even more time with them!
Even though the main reason for the trip to Costa Rica was the externship, we still had lots of time for fun! We stayed with a host family and got to experience the real, home-cooked Costa Rican cuisine every day. We got to go ziplining, see volcanoes, visit the hot springs, hike through the rainforest, and of course, spend lots of time at the gorgeous beaches! Overall it was an amazing experience, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to experience it and especially with a great group of friends! It will be one of my best memories of the master’s program!
The Global Initiatives team organized a Chinese new lunar year dinner at the Plum Tree Inn in China town. Adley Chan and Daniel Park put together a diverse group of international students together with the faculty.
The organizers laid out a large spread of Chinese cuisine including a jellyfish appetizer. They took into special consideration the vegetarian students and had several vegetarian dishes for the several Indian and vegetarian therapists and students.
Chinese New Year: It is the year of the goat, and obviously there was a lengthy discussion on Chinese zodiac animals and everyone wanted to find out which sign they were and the significance. Mine is the Dragon ☺.
Adley Chan informed us on the correct way of eating noodles and they say NEVER cut a noodle before it is entirely in your mouth. In China, people have the custom to eat noodles on the birthdays. The long and continuous noodle strips are the symbolic meaning of longevity. So people who choose to eat noodles on the birthdays show their wishes to live longer and maintain a better life. The noodle represents longevity and cutting it before it reaches the mouth indicates bad luck, cutting the longevity and good health.
All in all it was a fun, laughter filled dinner and getting to know the faculty and other students better. Happy Chinese New Year!!!
When it comes to your second to last semester of OT school, choosing electives can be a lot of fun! However, it can also be tough if you have many interests. All of them had sparked a bit of my interest throughout my time in OT school at USC. I found selecting electives to be a challenging experience because I wanted to soak up information from many of them! In a previous blog post I mentioned the process of selecting electives, so in this post I wanted to share with you some vidoes/photos in action of my time in these courses.
OT 574 Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
This course is AWESOME! Students taking this course have the opportunity to understand the principles and methods for remediation of movement impairments following upper motor neuron lesions (ex. Stroke). Our time is spent at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center composed of lectures, laboratory experiences, discussions, etc. This course has a lot of hands-on components, which is great for me as a kinesthetic learner.
Here is a brief video of me trying Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on myself. EMS can be used on some patients to elicit muscle contraction using electric impulses.
OT 578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner
For 2 units, this course has definitely taught me principles and practice of a variety of therapeutic communication skills, including motivational interviewing, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Much of health care today involves helping individuals manage conditions whose outcomes can be influenced by lifestyle change. After learning aspects of motivational interviewing (MI), I find myself putting MI into practice with individuals that I’m working with now! We just had our last class this past Tuesday ☹.
Here is our class photo:
OT 583 Lifestyle Redesign
This was definitely on my list during the selection process due to the unique nature of this course. The practice of Lifestyle Redesign is an innovative treatment approach that was developed here at USC! Lifestyle Redesign is the process of acquiring healthier habits and routines in your everyday life. I really love learning how to collaborate with patients to address their needs, provide education and help them set and attain their goals! What is awesome about this approach is that it really allows the patient to be in the driver’s seat, and the occupational therapist as the passenger. ☺ As we learn the components of Lifestyle Redesign in this course, we also get to practice by working with one of our classmates to really implement lifestyle change in their own lives!
Here is a photo of one of our sessions taking place outdoors in a relaxing manner(no faces shown due to protect privacy of patient):
Here is a photo of one of our modules we get to develop in class:
OT 500 Optimal Living with Multiple Sclerosis
I have nothing but great things to say about this course! As occupational therapy students we get to learn how to work with people who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) using Lifestyle Redesign intervention. This course allows me to utilize the skills I have learned in both my OT 578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner course, as well as OT 538 Lifestyle Redesign. We also gain experience running a group module, along with working individually with one to two participants from the community (recruited by the National MS Society). We also get to work with 2nd year physical therapy students and co-treat twice during the semester! I have been working with two participants this semester and the process has been great! I really love the experience I am gaining through this course.
Here is a before photo of one of my sessions with one of my participants:
Here is a photo of items my counterpart and I used for one of the group modules to discuss roles and engagement of occupations:
Here are two photos of another group module discussing and practicing adaptive equipment to participants:
This is just a taste of some of the course the division has to offer to students, there are plenty of others you can choose from. Here is the elective courses link if you are interested in looking through the courses we have to offer.
This semester has been quite busy for me, hence the lack of blogging ☹… I know, shame on me! Regardless, I still try to make some time for me by engaging in some of the occupations I love: ☺
In one week, I will be on my way to South Korea! And I am so very excited. I can’t believe the time has come. And in a very Brenda tradition, I am only now beginning to prepare for my three week trip. I have started by buying new socks, yes socks. Clearly, you cannot go on a trip without some new socks. Baby steps, baby steps. And since it is winter in Korea right now, packing is going to require some extra thought. Here in Southern California, weather remains pleasant pretty much all year long. The forecast in South Korea is looking a little colder than usual. I am going to be welcomed by 30-40 degree weather. Brrrrrrrrr. Wish me luck!
While I work on packing, I will leave you all with some pictures of my awesome dog Mosquito. I will only be gone for three weeks, but I know I will sure miss his warm cuddling.
Throwback to the baby year, 2013.
As an occupational therapist, one of the things we are best at is being able to capture the details of any given occupation. We are trained to develop this skill, because we are constantly breaking down activities into components to find out where our clients/patients may experience challenges or successes during a given occupation. From there on, we have a better idea of where our treatment efforts should be focused. With that said, during the course of the program, I’ve gotten better at developing this skill – almost to the point in which I can’t turn it off. Here are some examples of what I would like to call the “OT lens.”
This one time, I was hiking with Leila and her sister at a pretty challenging course. I remember for one of the pathways, the hill incline grade was ridiculously steep (almost 45 degrees.) I remember Leila’s sister was wearing one of those drawstring backpacks, in which she had only one strap over her shoulder. Almost automatically, I found the following words coming out of my mouth: “It may be easier if you put on both straps of your backpack on so that way there’s no muscle imbalance. Also, get down more towards the floor to lower your center of gravity, and spread out your feet to increase you base of support; it may be easier to get up the hill.” I remember Leila smirking, and I found myself laughing as well, because I totally OT-geeked out. Best believe we got up that mountain, here’s a pic from the top!
This other time, I was on my way to a concert with some friends from the program. I remember being in the backseat of a full car, faced with a dilemma I’m sure you’ve all been through: trying to find your seatbelt buckle between the tiny crevice between you and your friend, without looking. I remember saying to my friends, wow, the stereognosis demand on this task is through the roof! For those of you that don’t know, stereognosis is defined as the ability to perceive the form of an object utilizing the sense of touch. I debated with my OT homies and they just laughed, saying “Jon, can we not talk about anything school related right now!?” I responded by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t help it! I can’t turn it off!”
To preface these last examples, I’ll give you a little background about my family: it is currently being overran by numerous cute babies. It’s straight up baby land at my family parties. With that said, I find myself sort of becoming the baby guru of my family. I remember one of my cousins was mentioning that her daughter loves to wash her hands. I then asked, “Does she like to do anything regarding water?” She immediately replied, “Yeah. She loves the water.” I replied with, “Well, she may be sensory seeking towards anything that involves water, much alike me.” It’s important to note that during any family party, I will take my niece an average of 4-5 times to wash her hands (even if her hands are clean,) and every time I do take her, all I can think to myself is…. “I feel you girl, I feel you!” Haha lastly, during a recent Superbowl family party I was hanging out with my 9 month nephew and I was rocking him side to side as he rested in my arms. In 5 minutes, he was sleeping… a friend called me the baby whisperer, to which I replied “I can’t take the credit… it’s the vestibular input magic at work.”
Yeah, sometimes the OT geeking out can get a little crazy and out of control. The fact is, once you’re an OT, you can’t really turn it off. Call it what it is, but it’s one of the things that comes with being an OT: we are trained to analyze people in the context of their meaningful activities; the occupations that are embedded in everyday life. The lens never really comes off, even if you try. I guess idealistically, I would like to compartmentalize school, work, and my personal life, but the fact is, having an OT lens doesn’t feel like work… at this point in time, it’s second nature, and it’s something that I love to do. I guess Confucius said it best: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, that’s what occupational therapy is.