For my first blog post, I am going to share a little about how I discovered occupational therapy! Now, I would be lying if I said that I had always known that this was my dream career. In fact, I spent most of my life dreaming of becoming an elementary school teacher. This dream may have been slightly influenced by the fact that my Mom and Grandma were both elementary school teachers—but, regardless, I was confident that I would follow in their footsteps. With a love for working with children and a desire to make an impact, I figured this was the most practical career for me to pursue. However, when I began volunteering as a preschool teacher, I could not help but feel as if something was missing. I loved being surrounded by children, watching the wonder in their eyes with each new discovery—but I felt restricted by the four walls of the classroom. I found myself frustrated by the generic approach I had to take to effectively teach all children, and desired a more individualized approach. What I truly loved about teaching were the one-on-one moments with students, the times when I could truly understand and engage with each student. However, because I started volunteering at this preschool at quite a young age, my dreams about the future seemed rather premature. I decided to put all this career planning on the back-burner until something truly caught my attention.
Almost as soon as I made this decision, I stumbled upon occupational therapy. The word “stumbled” could not be more accurate—I found OT through an experience I never saw coming. In the spring of 2009, I was admitted to the hospital following lapses in memory and irregular changes in behavior. Following two grand mal seizures, I was admitted to the hospital where I was diagnosed and treated for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. While receiving chemotherapy transfusions and attending various rehabilitative sessions, I was exposed to a large variety of healthcare professionals. However, the endless support and reassurance I received from my occupational therapist has impacted me to this day. At a time where I felt so scared and helpless, she was able to bring peace. I remember feeling so triumphant when I was able to tie my own shoes or sign my name on a piece of paper. This occupational therapist was a source of light to my family in a time of such hardship. Once recovering and being discharged from the hospital, I could not stop thinking about how much this occupational therapist impacted me. I did know, however, that I wanted to be like her. I wanted to give back to others, to offer the same hope that I received all those years ago.
To be honest, I did not ever expect to find my future career this way. However, I am so thankful to have found such a fulfilling profession. I am equally as thankful to have had the opportunity to be a patient, and to have experienced firsthand how much impact an occupational therapist can have in someone’s life.
With each day I learn more about occupational therapy, I become more in love with the profession. Rather than feeling generic or formulaic, occupational therapy breeds creativity and innovative thinking. This profession is able to combine my fascination with the complexity of the human body with my utmost desire to give back to those in need, and I could not be more thrilled to be on the path toward becoming an OT!
Hello everyone! I am very sad that this will be my last blog post as a student ambassador. This has been such an amazing year and I would highly recommend applying to be a student ambassador during your second year in the program!
Graduation was last Friday and this past Monday I started my first day of my second Level II fieldwork rotation. I am so excited that I will be staying here at USC to pursue my OTD degree in the advanced clinical track and will be completing my residency at Keck Hospital of USC. (Just across the street from CHP so if you ever see me, please say hello!!)
I look forward to seeing new faces around campus in just a few weeks when the new incoming class joins us! Welcome to our Trojan family Class of 2018, you are in for the most amazing two years of your life!! Fight on :)
The time has finally arrived! Essays have been essay-ed, tests have been taken, comps have been comp-ed, presentations have been presented, and friends have been…well, friend-ed and subsequently woven into my heart. In other words—we’re finished! Two weeks ago, we took the comprehensive exam—a test that pulls together information from seven of the classes we’ve taken over the past two years and reminds us all how much we’ve forgotten in such a short period of time. Suffice it to say, everyone I know got out alive.
It has been such a privilege to study occupational therapy at this renowned institution. The myriad experiences I’ve had throughout grad school—from attending our national conference to hands-on classroom fun to customizing my courses to celebrating the gift that is life here in Los Angeles—have truly been a rollercoaster of excitement, challenge, friendship, and lessons in learning more about myself and occupational therapy than I ever thought I could.
As I sit here on the precipice of graduate school and “real life,” I can’t help but feel a bit verklempt about leaving this place and the people who make it as special as it is. We’ve come so far; I can hardly believe it has been two years.
Next steps on my agenda? I’m moving from my beloved Echo Park apartment back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I will complete my second level two internship in SF at California Pacific Medical Center (Sutter Health), a multidisciplinary outpatient pediatric clinic. I’ll be continuing to pursue my passion for impacting people’s lives through connection, compassion, and creativity. Whether it be through infusing technological innovation into my interventions, building adaptive equipment, or advocating for OT in the public sphere, I hope to advance our profession in my own unique way.
My fellow ambassadors have given you readers a number of great words of wisdom and pieces of advice for conquering graduate school, so I won’t repeat. Instead, I will leave you—my readers—with three suggestions my favorite history teacher left me with before I graduated high school. They still resonate with me today:
- If you want to make an impact on someone, write them a handwritten letter and mail it via snail-mail. Think about it; when was the last time you received a letter in the mail (handwritten, no less) that you actually wanted to read? It’s a surefire way to make a lasting impression.
- Take care of your back. Seriously. You only have one spine and you need it to be functional for hopefully ten decades or so. Once it’s hurt you’ll have a heck of a time trying to fix it, and it will encroach on almost every aspect of your life (and your ability to complete your daily occupations)! So strengthen your core, practice good posture, learn proper lifting techniques, and brush up on your workplace ergonomics. It will help you survive grad school and it will help you enjoy life.
- It’s never too late to send a thank-you note. No explanation necessary for this one! :-)
So that’s it. Three morsels of advice from me to you. And with that—I’m out! Happy graduation to all who just completed the program, and WELCOME TO THE TROJAN FAMILY to all those who are just entering. FIGHT ON!!!
So, here we are, final blog post…. I graduate in FOUR DAYS! (WOO!)
I’ve had the most incredible and transformative journey. I pivoted from one career path to come into the OT profession, initially aimed at going into physical rehab, then every semester showed me a new side of OT which flipped my world upside down. Now at the end of my final semester, I find myself interested in bridging between physical rehab and mental health practice, with a touch of primary care. And with one more fieldwork to go, I wonder how my interests will change by the time I take the board exam….
USC Chan has given me more than just clinical skills, but personal and professional life skills as well. If it wasn’t for the tremendous mentorship I received from our stellar faculty, I would not have become so involved with AOTA, which has opened incredible leadership opportunities & experiences, like attending conference to speak in front of hundreds of people, and even representing the OT profession at physical therapy’s national student conclave. Looking back, I can’t believe how much has happened in 2 years… it’s all just flown by!
So, what’s next?
I’ll be at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in their outpatient mental health programs. This includes working with teenagers with behavioral health problems, adults with special needs, and refugees for community integration. I’m SO excited to get started, and looking forward to being back on the east coast. I’m still waiting to hear from residency placements, but I expect to be back in the fall for the OTD program… with how much has happened in these last 2 years, who knows what that year of mentorship will bring as I’ll be a fully licensed occupational therapist!
For those of you just beginning your OT journey, some tips:
1) Get to know your faculty! I remember right at the beginning of the program, Dr. Samia Rafeedie, Director of the Professional Program, said simply: “you’re a student for now, but I see you all as future colleagues”, which really set the tone for the relationships we should develop with our faculty. I’ve made it a point to meet with each of my professors one-on-one at least once per semester. They have invaluable insight and expertise, and their input has been so crucial to my personal growth and success in the program. Make the effort, it’s well worth it! (And don’t worry, they’re all friendly and warm, they’re OTs!)
2) Learn through experience! Our classes are great at setting your foundation for clinical reasoning and developing hard clinical skills through fieldwork, but there is so much more to learn about yourself both personally and professionally through extracurricular experiences. Go to all the seminars, guest lectures, presentations, and the myriad opportunities available to you throughout your time in the program. I’ve continued to learn new skills through some unexpected ways, such as meditation training through my volunteer work with the health promotion office, and presentation skills through my work as an ambassador.
3) Get involved with our professional associations! I cannot stress this enough! Being a part of the OT profession means being a member of your professional associations at the state & national level. Not only do they act as your professional insurance to protect the work we do as OTs, but there are really great opportunities for learning and networking. Which leads me to:
3.5) Go to conferences! They’re super fun, but also give you a chance to feel part of the greater OT community. Go to the mixers and networking events, attend sessions of interest - I’ve made so many good friends from attending conferences. That’s where I meet the OTs who have similar interests as me, and who have offered invaluable advice going through the process. While there are lots of conference & symposium opportunities, attending at least once AOTA national conference is a must!
And finally, 4) RELAX. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress & workload of school, but remember to take time to take care of yourself. We talk about balance a lot as OTs, make sure to apply that to yourself. Keep up with leisure and recreational activities, make time for friends & family, and give yourself permission to enjoy a delicious meal and a good night’s rest.
Ok, one more - 4.5) Celebrate your successes! You’re going to work hard, savor the fruits of that labor!
Oh, and always… FIGHT ON!
As a way to ring in the end of my graduate school experience, I wanted to talk a little bit about one of my favorite occupations: taking photos.
I found my passion for photography over twenty years ago, when my father gave me his old point-and shoot camera. I initially discovered my love for taking photographs of flowers and different elements of our natural world. It was beautiful and seemed safe at the time.
When I was in high school, I joined the school newspaper as the staff photographer. This gave me an introduction into taking photographs of people. All different types of people.
When I moved on to bigger and better things in college, I decided to minor in photography. Our school had a well-renowned art department, so I thought it would be a good idea to make the most of the resources it had to offer. I recall the discomfort of my first photography class critique - we reviewed each other’s work and gave constructive criticism (out loud). It was extremely difficult. I learned eventually to not shy away from criticism, as I saw my craft improving with time and peer feedback.
After college, I moved to San Francisco and tried to start my own photography business. My passion had evolved from taking photographs of the natural world to taking photographs of food. Yep, food porn basically. I was offered opportunities to assist on bigger photo projects for brands showcasing ice creams, soups, yogurts, and for projects for Bon Appetit magazine. I was loving the challenges and the different types of art I was being exposed to.
To this day, I still love photography. I look forward to its next big challenge for me.