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


Hello Lovely Readers! →

Aug 27, 2015, by Ariel · email · Leave a comment

Hello Lovely Readers!

For my first post, I’ve decided to mirror the student ambassadors of years past by telling you the tale of how I first fell in love with occupational therapy….

Once upon a time…

I was a senior in college majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (an interdisciplinary mix of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history), and minoring in Drama. Despite this eccentric mix, somehow I wasn’t too concerned about what profession I would ultimately pursue; I figured if I took classes I was passionate about, they would lead to a major I was passionate about, which would eventually lead to a job I was passionate about. Then, in junior year, all my peers started siphoning off into various career tracks—tech, business, law, medicine, education… I knew I needed to do some major self-reflection and research to figure out which path I would take.

First, I thought about what I wanted out of my work: I knew I wanted to be in a helping role, create meaningful relationships, and that I wanted to wake up every morning (even 30+ years down the line) and still be energized by the path I had chosen. Second, I knew I wanted to have a flexible career—one that was dynamic in nature and broad enough that I could continuously be learning and expanding upon my knowledge. And third, I wanted to work in a profession that relied on kinesthetic experience (read: no cubicles!), and that would allow me to flex my creativity.

For a long time, I was unsure of how to proceed; even after hours of research (thanks Google!), it seemed that no profession existed that fulfilled all of my ideals in the way I had hoped. Then, during the last week of my senior year, I had a chance encounter with an acquaintance from my freshman dorm. She told me that she was going to graduate school for this profession called “occupational therapy,” and that if I wanted to help people I should really check it out. I had no idea at the time, but her offhanded comment would prove to be quite serendipitous. I headed back to Google, and searched for anything and everything related to occupational therapy. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole. ...and I’ve just kept falling ever since…

Initially, it was the theory behind occupational therapy that was compelling: I was inspired by OT’s consideration of the multidimensional nature of the human experience. But it was in the clinic setting where I truly fell in love with the field.

My first hands-on experience with OT was at a pediatric occupational therapy clinic in San Francisco that helps children gain the strength and functional ability to overcome developmental challenges. Early on, I assisted a therapist in treating a boy with severe sensory processing disorder. At first, he was terrified to navigate the obstacle course, ride the zip-line, or even play with the toys. Over the course of several months, the OT and I graded his activities to address his proprioceptive disorganization (<—a few terms you’ll learn in OT school!). His progress was astonishing. In time, the same boy whose frantic screams had once echoed down the hallways was beaming with confidence, showing off his fearless zip-lining skills. I could barely believe this was the petrified boy I had once met. I was thrilled to have taken part in his extraordinary transformation, and it was then that I knew for certain I would pursue occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy gives its recipients a new opportunity to really live. It was in my hands-on experiences where I concluded that the most serious adversities afford the most potent opportunities for growth. Furthermore, these experiences revealed to me that it is in grappling with our greatest physical and emotional challenges that we discover not only our limitations but—more importantly—our innate resilience.

Here at USC’s #1 program in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, I’ve been offered so many different opportunities: I’ve been given the opportunity to teach children new skills, mentor adults and adolescents in attaining life goals, help brain injured patients maintain independence, explore research that advances evidence-based practice, and learn the ins and outs of creating community programs. Above all, USC’s occupational therapy program is preparing me to reach my overarching goal: emboldening patients to discover within themselves the perennial strength of the human spirit.

Welcome to my blog, and FIGHT ON!!!


All good things come to an end… →

May 19, 2015, by Leila · email · Leave a comment

I can’t believe the time has come to close one chapter of my life and begin another.  My time as an occupational therapy master’s student has come to an end and it is bittersweet. Time really does fly by when you are having fun, and I have to say my time in the program has been a phenomenal one. From the amount of knowledge I have learned to the amazing individuals (students and faculty) I have met, I will forever cherish the past couple of years. If someone would have told me 2.5 years ago that I would be graduating from the top occupational therapy school I would not have believed it! I can honestly say that the endless hours of assignments, studying for tests, and long commutes was all worth it. Is it hard? Of course! But every sacrifice made was worth it and I cannot think of a greater moment in life than finding a profession that you are passionate about and achieving that dream. Fortunately, USC’s OT program, wonderful faculty, clinical instructors and peers have prepared me to continue on this journey in becoming an amazing occupational therapist. 

I look forward to my upcoming Level II fieldwork experience where I will be working in the pediatric inpatient unit at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, CA. Completing my final Level II fieldwork this summer will officially label me as a “Master” of Occupational Therapy, but not until I pass the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) exam will I be marked as a licensed occupational therapist! The last few weeks have gone by so fast and I am sad to say that this will be my last blog post as a student ambassador. I really have enjoyed my time working as an ambassador and will miss it greatly! It’s time your current student ambassadors pass the torch to the incoming student ambassadors who will be here to help you. On the plus side, you will get to hear from different students!

Nevertheless, USC’s occupational therapy program is fun (and hard work) and like I stated above, it is great finding a profession that you are passionate about. Discovering occupational therapy and deciding that you want to make a career out of it is one of the most important steps to achieving your dream! Keep your head up. It may seem like a long road ahead, but no one or nothing can stop you from reaching your goals. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors. Thank you for reading my blog as a student ambassador!

-Leila A.



WE DID IT!!! →

May 18, 2015, by Kristy · email · Leave a comment

Well the time is finally here, graduation day! Other than the fact that it was raining, and it NEVER rains in southern California, it was a great day and experience, and I am so lucky to have been able to share that with a great group of classmates that I am lucky enough to call friends. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind, from having our last day of classes, to studying for the comp exam, finishing out my time as a student ambassador, celebrating at the end of the year party, passing the comp exam, and graduating!  It is a strange feeling leaving behind something that you have been so accustomed to, but it is time to open up new doors and move on to the next chapter.  I am excited to begin my second level II fieldwork and my doctoral residency in the fall, and then finally become a licensed occupational therapist!  Dreams do come true and they are so close, I will finally be able to practice in the field that I am extremely passionate about and am so fortunate to have found it! To all of you just beginning your journey as an occupational therapy student, or if you have just found the profession, you are heading in the right direction!  This is a great field to be in, and this is the best program that will prepare you for the profession!  Best to all of you smile Farewell my friends!

End of the Year Events


The time has come… →

May 13, 2015, by Brenda · email · Leave a comment

While I am excited to be graduating in two short days, I am saddened that today will be my last day in the office. I have had such an amazing time working as a Student Ambassador. Kim Kelton and my fellow team members have made this experience so special! A big thank you to them and all that I have had a privilege to work and communicate with. Until next time…


AOTA 2015 in Nashville! Yee-hawww! →

May 11, 2015, by Jonathan · email · Leave a comment


This post is about my recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee for this year’s AOTA conference! First off, I have to give a big thanks to the division for making this trip possible for me, as I was fortunately awarded a scholarship to attend the conference. This was a huge help, especially since I probably spent half of this amount on some bah-beh-cue dry ribs alone. Haha totally kidding, but jokes aside, having the opportunity to attend this year’s conference really brings my entire gradschool experience full circle. Exactly two years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the AOTA national conference right before I started the program, in which I volunteered. For any individuals who are hoping to gain a conference experience, I highly recommend volunteering, even if you are not yet a practitioner or a student! Typically if you volunteer, you get to attend the conference for free, as was the case for me two years ago. I remember going two years ago, just being admitted to the program, with excitement of what was to come. I remember running into Ricky and Rob, two former ambassadors, and little did I know that I’d be filling their shoes two years later. With that said, as Leila mentioned in a previous post, this year’s conference was the largest ever! It was a pleasure getting to attend several educational sessions, meeting other practitioners and fellow students, and just enjoying the OT pride that was definitely palpable in the atmosphere!

This year’s theme was “giving voice to the distinct value of occupational therapy.”  Personally for me, this means being able to articulate, advocate, and express the unique skillset occupational therapists can provide to help all people, in utilizing occupation to help everyone we serve reach their fullest potential.  Whether that’s helping a Grandfather who’s recovering from stroke gain the upper extremity strength to hold his baby granddaughter, helping a Mother who’s battling cancer find meaningful occupations while she receives treatment, helping a child with special needs gain the skillset they need to access their school curriculum, or helping a veteran with PTSD foster therapeutic relationships within the community through surfing, our value is diverse, essential, and most definitely distinct. This was actually one of my favorite things about the conference; the fact that I was able to attend several educational sessions and poster board presentations that demonstrated how occupational therapy is evolving on a daily basis, and just how occupational therapist are utilizing their unique skill sets to help people of all backgrounds. One of the practitioners I had met was formulating an occupation based program for refugees from other countries, who have a long history of oppression, abuse, or trauma. A fellow student I had met had implemented a creative arts and crafts program at a local women’s penitentiary, which I really identified with especially given my experiences at Project 180. Several relatively new professionals spoke about their transition from student to working clinician, and it was great to gain their insight about their challenges and their keys to success.

All in all, AOTA 2015 was an amazing experience that gave me greater insight about my profession, and where it is headed towards the future. Needless to say, It’s an exciting time to be in the profession and to see what my fellow colleagues have been working on to help our profession grow and evolve. In addition, Nashville was an amazing city as well and it was tons of fun checking out the city with my classmates and several new friends in our spare time. I can definitely say that I have never in my life heard so many country covers of 90’s hip and R&B songs. Here’s a video documenting some my AOTA 2015 experience.

AOTA 2015 from Jonathan Rodil on Vimeo.

Y’all take care now,


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