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


Hippotherapy Doesn’t Use Hippos

, by Bethany

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This past week, I had the chance to visit the Altadena Stables to watch hippotherapy. Whenever I talk to someone about hippotherapy, one of the first reactions I get is confusion. Hippotherapy, in fact, does not use hippos, but rather horses. (The hippopotamus’ name is actually derived from the Ancient Greek “river horse,” so the confusion makes sense.) Physical therapists, speech therapists, and yes, even occupational therapists can all use the movement of the horse as a tool for therapy.

When I was ten, I loved horses. I did horse camp during the summer and knew all about the different breeds. But I never imaged that it be something I could begin to pursue as a career. I was able to shadow both a physical therapist and an occupational therapist to see how their sessions were similar. Both used the same horse, the sweet-tempered Cali, and her movements to simulate the same kind of pelvic movement that walking would stimulate. From there, the child on the horse could ride in different positions, from facing sideways and holding their arms out for balance, to doing sit-ups on the horse to strengthen core (while the horse was stationary, of course), and even to riding backwards. There was even an obstacle course with logs and ramps for an added challenge!

Coco the Donkey

It was amazing to see therapy being used everywhere, especially in places where the kids can see therapy more as play than as work. And I re-fell in love with the stables, the smell of horses, and Coco the little donkey, too. Any occupation, any passion can be used to help people become more engaged and more independent in their own daily lives, whether it be horseback riding or music. When I chose occupational therapy, I thought I was choosing into a definite field of work for the future. But the more I learn about OT, the more options appear that I have yet to experience and choose from.


Summer Occupations

, by Bethany

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It’s officially summer! And that means that the occupations that I engaged in as a student during the year have changed. I have taken on a little more work being a Student Ambassador for the Chan Division as well as working at the Office of Undergraduate Admission as an Ambassador and Tour Guide. But I also get to engage in my favorite occupations.

I have had more time to read (anything in the Fiction realm, from Fantasy to Mystery, being my favorite), watch movies (Ocean’s 8 is great), and try new restaurants and boba places with friends! And I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. We took a trip up to the mountains with my cousins, and I got to engage in the occupations of kayaking, playing a ridiculous amount of card games, and teaching my cousin to use SnapChat.

Choosing the filters and writing the captions are her favorite part

Summer occupations are awesome! It’s a chance to do more of what I love and try something new, too. With only one month left to go, I guess I’ll have to make the most of it.


The Perfect Blend

, by Bethany

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As an undergraduate Occupational Therapy student at USC, in every conversation, I inevitably get asked three questions in this specific order: What’s your major? Ooh, what’s Occupational Therapy? How did you know you wanted to be an OT?

Well, after my brief fifteen second description of how an occupation is any meaningful activity that takes up your time (whether it be brushing your teeth, swimming, or walking the dog), and how Occupational Therapists are focused on an individual as a whole becoming independent in the occupations they’re passionate about, I then tackle the last question: How did I manage to stumble upon such an incredible field?

I was born (fun fact: on October 6th, the same day USC was founded) and raised in Southern California by two parents who were physicians. Through their stories of incredible relationships and conversations with patients, for example how my mom gets to care for three generations of the same family, I decided at a young age that I wanted to serve and help people in a similar way. I wanted to build those bonds with people and be able to see them grow and change over time. But I also wanted the chance to be creative, to maybe continue to pursue my passion in music, or to explore other activities. And one day, one of my parents’ friends walked in the door, talking about how she had just referred one of her patients to an OT, and she said, “Oh! Bethany should check it out!” And so I did. I was able to shadow an OT on a house visit, as well as a hand OT for a day, and I fell in love with what they did.

I fell in love with the way they broke apart different activities and analyzed different aspects, how they used sensory integration tactics for the house visits (everything from macaroni boxes to hanging out in a hammock), how they used shuffling cards and practicing with putty to bring back range of motion in a thumb, and most of all how they looked at the whole individual to help them get back to what was most important to them. Instead of focusing on the question “What’s the matter with you?” the OTs seemed to turn to “What matters to you?” I’ve found the perfect blend of being creative and being compassionate. I’m excited to see where OT takes me in the future, how it will use my own passions to help people follow theirs.


So Nice, I Graduated Twice

, by Kaitlyn

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Channeling my inner Elle Woods, I first off want to squeal and tell my fellow class of 2018, “We did it!!!”

Class of 2018: Cohort C

My first year on OTSC Executive Board

These past two years have been such a whirlwind, and I’ve had so many highlights that I know I’ll remember for a long time. I’ve stood in front of and presented to the largest crowds I’ve ever spoken to (upwards of 200+ individuals at a time), attended 5 conferences under scholarship across numerous cities and states, went on a Eurotrip with some of my best friends in the program, lived across the Pacific Ocean for three months (the longest I’ve ever been away from home, my friends, and my family), and learned about what it means to be the best occupational therapist I can be. Interspersed in these bigger events, life bestowed upon me lessons about myself, people, and life in general. I’ve learned and grown so much not only as an aspiring OT, but also as a person.

The Student Ambassador Team

Looking back on my experience in graduate school, these are a few things I would tell (and remind) myself. If you’re thinking about going to OT school as well, it may be helpful for you too:

- Relax and do your best. You will be fine. | Work hard and do your best obviously, but don’t stress out too much about it. That 1 point you got off a test or assignment will not matter 20 years from now.
- The power of influence (both good and bad) | You will meet so many people who you both will inspire and be inspired by. For the people you are inspired by, choose wisely. For the people you inspire, make sure you not only say what you mean, but live it out too. People are always watching, and what you do trumps what you say every time.
- Remember your core values and live accordingly. | You will make a core values checklist during your first semester in the program. Look at it often. Are you living in a fashion that is congruent with what you believe?
- Get to know the people around you and create meaningful relationships with them. | Again, you will meet so many different people. Get to know your peers, colleagues, friends, mentors, clinical instructors, and so on, on a deeper and more meaningful level. This life is about creating meaningful relationships.
- Walk through doors that open up for you and take opportunities that fall into your lap. | Trust me, it will happen and it might even be a little scary. Everything happens for a reason!
- Always remember the big picture. | You are in school because you want to positively change people’s lives and help them live life to its fullest. This is always the goal. 
- Remember to take care of yourself, have fun, and live your best life! | True: school is going to take up a huge chunk of your life. Also true: remember to live YOUR life too. 

My amazing and incredibly supportive family!

I recognize there is absolutely no way I could have gone through graduate school alone. I am so thankful for Kimberly Kho and the Admissions team for providing guidance and support professionally and personally, my amazing Student Ambassador team (Ali, Erika, Caroline, Linah, and Bryan) for being the best group of people I could’ve ever asked to work with and for making what we do that much more fun and rewarding, the OTAC Student Delegate council for connecting me with OT throughout the entire state of California, OTSC Executive Board for being such an inspiring group of leaders, crazy Cohort C for being the most fun classmates to go through the program with, the Division’s faculty for always going above and beyond what is expected inside and outside of the classroom, and of course, my incredible and loving family and friends for helping me up through the lowest days and for walking alongside me during the happiest ones.

Thank you again USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. What a journey it’s been, and I can’t wait to see where life takes me next.



Final Reflections and Next Steps

, by Caroline

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I can’t believe I’m really saying this, but I’m officially done with ALL of my classes in the Entry-Level Master’s Program! I want to take this final blog post to reflect on the past two years in the program, and to share what’s coming up next for me! Warning: this one gets a little sentimental.

Over the past 2 years:

I’ve taken (and passed!) 22 classes. That’s included countless exams and the 4 P’s (papers, posters, presentations, and projects). Those classes have included so many opportunities for group work, which have encouraged me to see multiple perspectives, enhanced my communication skills, and have given me the chance to get to know so many of my classmates on a deeper level. Each class covered a different topic; I’ve learned about specific practice immersion areas, research methods, program development, leadership, therapeutic use of self, and so much more! I used this Spring semester to take elective courses to dive into pediatrics, the practice area I’m most interested in. Altogether the curriculum has prepared me to be a general practitioner, ready to work as an OT in any practice area.

I’ve loved how active and hands-on many of the courses were! Here I am with my friend Niamh trying out a tactile sensory experience in the Pediatrics lab.

Presenting our diabetes-management program poster for the Occupation-Centered Programs for the Community Course.

In those 22 classes, I’ve been instructed by 26 outstanding faculty members, who each brought their own unique experiences and perspectives to the classroom and the course material. Seriously, the USC Chan faculty members are passionate, experienced, and understanding – they’ve truly made this learning experience a positive one. They’ve challenged my clinical reasoning and they’ve supported my development to becoming an entry-level practitioner.

Cohort A after finishing our Pediatrics immersion with Dr. Diaz and Dr. Gunter.

I’ve learned and studied with 136 classmates. These students have come from so many unique backgrounds and will end up working in a wide range of different practice areas. The passion, drive, and enthusiasm in my class has been so impressive, but it has always felt like such a supportive group!

Spent hundreds of hours in class with the awesome Cohort A!

I was inducted into Pi Theta Epsilon, the National Honor Society for Occupational Therapy.

With my fellow PTE Inductees!

I completed 4 fieldwork placements (3 Level I and 1 Level II). Each placement was in a uniquely different practice area: an acute hospital setting, an outpatient forensic mental health setting, a community-based center for older adults, and school-based pediatrics. In each setting, I got to connect with real clients and work through the OT process with them to help them achieve their goals. It was in these environments where I felt the most challenged, but also the most rewarded; getting an A on an exam feels great, but actually helping a client feels WAY better! One more Level II Fieldwork to go this summer!

I’ve dedicated 350+ hours of work in this role as a Student Ambassador. I’ve had the honor of representing the Chan Division over the last year and half and sharing my experiences as a student in this program through this blog, but also by conducting tours and information sessions for prospective students on campus, presentations to pre-OT clubs at universities in Southern California, and tabling at health fairs. Serving as a Student Ambassador has been one of the highlights of my experience in the program, because of the opportunities and experiences it has given me, but also because of the people it’s brought me closer to. This position has allowed me to get to know my 5 amazing coworkers: Ali, Bryan, Erika, Kaitlyn, and Linah, none of whom I knew very well before starting in this role!

The fabulous Student Ambassador team I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Thanks for making work FUN!

I’ve also been so lucky to get to know my supervisors who oversee admissions, recruitment and events for the Division: Kim Kho, Liz Carley, Erin McIntyre, Amber Bennett, and Bianca Ojeda. It’s truly been a pleasure to work with and learn from these women!

The Student Ambassador team together with the whole Admissions, Recruitment, and Events team at our end of the semester lunch!

These two years haven’t been ONLY class and work, however! OT students definitely understand the importance of lifestyle balance smile

I spent 2 weeks in Australia for my leadership externship, where I learned about occupational therapy education and practice at Griffith University and their affiliate clinical sites.

Presenting to Griffith University OT students and faculty about OT education and practice in the US!

Hanging with some Kangaroos!

I’ve supported the Trojans at 11 home football games and tailgates, including 2 homecoming tailgates! Fight On!

Prepping for the Homecoming football game at the Homecoming tailgate.

I’ve spent countless hours at the OT House not only studying, but also spending time with friends and talking about topics other than OT (No Homework Saturdays!!).

Holiday gift exchange at the OT House!

There’s definitely been time for a few parties, too!

Celebrating the first summer session at the Decades Party, held at the Center for Occupation and Lifestyle Redesign. Love a good themed party!

The annual OT Vegas trip in January.

Finally, I’ve made 7 incredible, lifelong friends in this program: Emily, Niamh, Dani, Brett, Brooke, Hanna, and Heather. I moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles to start this program. I was 21, had just graduated from college, and I was starting grad school in a new city where I didn’t know anyone – it was a scary transition! That feeling went away much quicker than I’d anticipated. I’m so lucky to have found a place in the group of friends that I did. These two years would not have been the same without the laughs, the support, the debriefs, the study sessions, the outings, and the dance parties.

Celebrating finishing exams with my best friends at the end of year prom “ShoOT for the Stars”

These 7 friends have made the past two years an incredible experience! In my very biased opinion, they are all going to make stellar OTs!

What’s next?

In a few days, I’ll be graduating from the Entry-Level Master’s program, but there are 3 additional things I have to do before I can call myself a registered occupational therapist: (1) Take the Comprehensive Exam; (2) Complete my final 12-week Level II Fieldwork experience; and (3) Take and pass the National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy exam.

I’m staying at USC to get my Doctoral degree (OTD); the program is 1 year and begins in August. I am pursuing the Advanced Clinical Practice track of the OTD, and I will be completing my residency at the USC University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I’m looking forward to spending the upcoming year developing my clinical expertise in the clinical practice area of pediatric mental health!

I’ve wanted to be an Occupational Therapist since the 8th grade, and it’s surreal that I’m so close to accomplishing this dream! I’m so thankful for the learning experience I’ve had these past two years, and I’m looking forward to one more year at USC to gain advanced skills in OT! Thanks to my family, friends, fellow Student Ambassadors, and classmates for the support these two years. And, finally, thanks to the readers – best of luck as you pursue your OT goals!!

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