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


Things I wish I knew before moving to Los Angeles

, by Raisa · email · Leave a comment

Hello everyone! It’s good to be back from a much long blog-hiatus. As I have mentioned in my previous blog, things have been moving full-speed. We formally ended our classes a week ago, and guess what my comprehensive exam is tomorrow! eeeek! To calm myself down, I decided to write about something that I’ve been meaning to share with you all for the past few months. I understand that beginning your OT journey half-way across the globe is both an exciting and a stressful experience, believe me I’ve been there! So here are some of the things I wish I knew before the program and moving to L.A.

First of all, let’s talk about all of the resources at your disposal. All these links listed below are the respective USC offices and services that you may find helpful when you are just starting out in Los Angeles. 
USC Resources:

Office of International Services: offers services regarding immigration counselling, the OIS is also resource center to assist you with various government processes such as filing for a California driver’s license, filing for a SSN/ITN, filing U.S. Taxes etc.

Financial aid: offers variety of resources for international students looking for assistance in financing their education. 

Housing: here you can see the selection of housing options available to graduate students.

USC IT Services: here you can activate you USC ID (you need this to access the resources on campus!). Access the wireless network on campus, download available software to help you stay on top of your game during classes.

Eric Cohen Student health center: offers medical services, examination and screening, immunization, and student counseling.

Transportation: extremely useful to find USC tram times, parking passes, and they have useful information to help you navigate the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.

Department of Public Safety: I suggest reading the Safety tips & training section, this houses useful information regarding safety practices and resources that students should be aware of.

Chan division website: all the information about the division is found on the website. The Student blog and Videos are great resources to get a sneak peek into the lives of Chan Division Trojans. wink

Next, I wanted to talk about your personal experiences with occupational therapy. Everyone has an OT story, and USC celebrates that. It is a great privilege to bring your experiences and practice into your classes. Take the time to reflect on your own practice, look at the things that you want to improve and things that you thought worked well.  In my experience, often times the concepts I learn in class brings me back to my clinical internship, and professional experience in the Philippines. It provided a great opportunity to stir insight and spark inspiration to help me improve my practice. And if you don’t have experience, that is okay! Keep an open-mind, be like a sponge, and absorb the experiences shared by your classmates and professors. Learning is a two way process, you learn from them, and they learn from you. I know this may all seem intimidating and anxiety inducing, but you know what? Intimidation is good, life is boring without challenges. It is okay to be scared, just don’t let it stop you from achieving your goals. Always reach out to your professors, the division is here to support its students, and don’t forget all the resources mentioned above!

What does everyone else in the post-professional MA Class of 2017 have to say?

Tai-wei Lee
: Mentally and physically prepare to study in a perfect school! The class load might be a bit tough.
Bella Hsieh: Don’t forget to bring/buy sunglasses, it gets hot in Los Angeles!
Rucha Naik:Sunscreen!
Jayshree Nagvekar: Save your money, loads of great things to do on the way
Shikha Kamdar: Save your money to spend it on Black Friday…the clothes will last almost till your spring semester
Nikita Sunny: Get an umbrella! People say it doesn’t rain in LA but it rained this year!
Kathryna Gomez: They say [to bring] just a light jacket but I was freezing during winter.
Rucha Naik: It will be great to buy winter clothes from here. [the] Jacket I carried from India couldn’t keep me warm enough in this cold
Francis Co: Ralphs card
Kathryna Gomez: get all those cards, they help a lot Vons, Ralphs, Seafood Market, CVS etc.
Sujin Kim: kepp in mind the extra expenses that you might have during school year (educational evaluation, NBCOT, graduation etc.) so that you can plan your finances better
Chaitali Sutradhar:  Get at least a year of full-time clinical experience (not as a student)!
Raisa Fernan: Familiarize yourself with your personal devices! Learn to maneuver pdf readers, applications for note-taking, learn email etiquette, digital organization and the like. Keep copies of your personal documents, digital or print copies! Use apps like google maps, citymapper, uber, lyft to help you get around Los Angeles.

I will not lie, you will get homesick. You will find healthy ways to cope, whether it be a new support system or even exploring a new hobby. Internet connection is amazing, so take advantage of the technology and resources at our disposal. It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you it is going to be worth it. Lastly,

don’t forget to have fun!



Greetings from Ghana!

, by JRoe · email · Leave a comment

Hi everyone! I am back from a long blogging hiatus and can’t wait to share with you something very close to my heart: Ghana, Africa.

As both Jessica, Kimmy, and Raisa have explained, every spring the second year students in the MAII program and those in the MAI program complete a “leadership externship” in the two weeks prior to spring break. I chose to be a part of the annual trip to Ghana, Africa, where we promoted OT, collaborated with other healthcare professionals to learn how we could work together, participated in school readiness assessments, and gained cultural competency. Perhaps everyone’s favorite part is spending time with the kids at the boarding school we stayed at. The school, Mephiboseth Training Center, is for children with disabilities. Our team came from many different backgrounds and countries. We had occupational therapists, physical therapists, a language pathologist, teachers, and even an actor! Learning from this team of woman made me excited to go out into practice and make a difference. 

The whole team!

Everyday looked different from the next, making it fun and full of surprises. We had the opportunity to try the local food that the cooks made for us, explore a local jungle, visit a former slave castle, go to the beach, and visit an artisan market. Did you know that it was the first Africa country to gain independence from colonial rule in 1957?? Cool huh?!

Looking out over the rainforest!

The program was started fourteen years ago by Dr. Bonnie Nakasujii, who just won the first ever International Service Award this year at the AOTA Conference and Centennial Bash in Philadelphia!

This experience was something I looked forward to for four years. I first heard about this opportunity when I came to an info session; it was there that I knew I wanted to go to USC for OT and go on this trip. Yes, this trip was a factor in my decision to choose USC. I had never been to Africa, or that far away from home without my family, but it was something I knew I had to do.

One of my favorite memories from the trip was from beach day. The kids live a few miles from the beach, but there is not enough support to take all of them unless our large team is there. We all piled into the TroTro (which is a combo of a bus, taxi and van. Not a helpful description) with kids on our laps and headed to the beach. Since Ghana is so hot and humid being close to the equator, we all look forward to the beach as a chance to cool off, but for the kids, who are used to the temperature, think it’s cold! Seeing their faces as they splash and dive into the water was the best.

Beach day is the best day!

OT is in its infancy in Ghana as they are just now graduating their first students. However, they do have Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), which reminded me of OT and social work. They go out into the community and find people who would benefit from services. The CBR students that my group worked with were stationed at the Salvation Army in Daukwa for what was similar to a Level II fieldwork in OT school. This specific Salvation Army center specialized in children with cerebral palsy. There are children and families who would stay there for around a month to receive more intensive services that we were able to work with. They also made a lot of the assistive devices for the kids there in the workshop. They used the workshop as a vocational training center as well.

Learning how to make shoes!

The CBR students we met were assigned to clients in the community and we were lucky enough to meet some of them. The children would be assessed for their needs and see if they would be a better fit for the educational route or the vocational route. We met a few clients to see how they are doing and if they needed additional supports. One girl we met (pictured below), was learning how to make silk flowers through an apprenticeship in hopes that she could be independent and make these on her own.

With our CBR students and their client

One thing this trip taught me was to lean in. I really had no idea what to expect there and had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew is that it was going to be insanely hot and I needed to get shots. I cried packing because I was so nervous. Ghana was such an incredible experience and I can say I cried more saying goodbye to the kids than I did saying goodbye to my mom. I’m not afraid to go out into the world and let life happen now

I think it’s hard to fully describe the experience, so here are a lot of pictures.

Our team of USC OT students wearing our handmade clothes from Ghana


Let’s talk about Australia

, by Kimmy · email · Leave a comment

Well hello again!  The blog has looked a little bare these past few weeks, as the Master’s students were away on their leadership capstone externships.  A couple weekends ago, I returned from Australia, feeling joyful and jetlagged smile

The faculty at Griffith University were welcoming right from the airport and facilitated an amazing learning opportunity throughout our two weeks in Goldcoast.

USC externship students at airport

Along with five other classmates, I toured clinical sites, attended classes, visited fieldwork placements, and led presentations.  To become fully immersed in Aussie OT, we visited public and private hospitals, a children’s hospital, a nursing home, a pediatric clinic, a community-based mental health foundation, and a role-emerging site.  It was enlightening to hear about OT from leaders in each of these places and share our own experiences from fieldwork in similar settings.  Many of the buildings were recently renovated, so I was impressed by the colorful and modern designs!

Lady Cilento Children's Hospital

Overall, I was pleased to realize OT is more similar than different abroad.  The profession represents the same ideals of holistic, occupation-based, client-centered care in any hemisphere.  However, my classmates and I noted some differences within the education and healthcare systems.  In Australia, OT is a Bachelor’s degree, while a Master’s degree is required in the US.  However, undergraduate education is more focused toward a career in Australia, as determined by an exit exam taken at the end of high school which plays a role in determining students’ future paths.

USC students presenting to Griffith students

USC students presenting to Griffith students about leadership and professionalism within OT in the US

Now for the fun stuff!  (Not that learning about OT isn’t fun wink)
We held koalas:

We pet kangaroos:

We walked along the coastline to see the beautiful beaches:

We were total tourists at the Sydney Opera House:

We snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef:

...and we became even more enthusiastic about occupational therapy!  I would encourage every student to consider planning an amazing and meaningful externship.  Click on the bold names to learn more about Global Initiatives and the USC Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion.



OT Kickoff!

, by Alyssa · email · Leave a comment

Hello Spring!!

I apologize for my blogging absence these past few weeks-time flies fast when you are having fun and enjoying your electives!!

I am absolutely thrilled for the Month of April! In fact, so is our whole USC CHAN Division! During the month of April, we celebrate Occupational Therapy!! This past Monday, we celebrated our kickoff to OT Month with an event held at our Health Science Campus. This was a FUN, carnival-style event, with outdoor games, free PIZZA, OT buttons, and a quite informative skit from JROE and I! I had a blast spending time with my classmates, faculty, and our student ambassador team!

We live for OT Month!
We live for OT Month!

Pizza and OT Buttons! What more can we ask for!
Pizza and OT Buttons! What more could we ask for??

OT Carnival: Our cool Event Geofilter!!
OT Carnival: Our cool Event Geofilter!!


It’s More Fun in the Philippines!

, by Jessica · email · 1 comment

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.

USC OT externs with our supervisor, Apple

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.

Photo of vacation house

Photo of backyard of vacation house

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.

From this…


We made this…

cardboard chair base

Which became this!

Photo of me and my teammate and our finished chairs

Hopefully the children and families are happy with their new chairs grin

Mark with his new chair

Kirby with his new chair

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!

All the EN/Ability project volunteers

With our new OT friends!

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!


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