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

Ali

Winter Break: Perks of still being a student!

, by Ali

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Hello and Happy New Year! After the stress of finals, we had four weeks off from school to rest in order to come back for spring semester rejuvenated. Being a graduate student comes with doing homework every night after class, studying over the weekends, and managing your schedule around group projects and your professors’ office hours. Although being a student has some less than desirable aspects, one major perk of still being a student is having breaks! Anyone that knows me will tell you Christmas is my favorite time of year. There is no chance you will find me listening to anything other than Christmas music or sitting in my room without a holiday scented candle lit. This year I was especially grateful for the time off and the chance to fully immerse myself in the holiday season!

This extended period of time to travel and rest is something that I was reminded time and time again not to take for granted. This time next year I could be hitting the ground running in a full time job with a limited number of vacation days, so I took extra care this break to enjoy the full holiday season. I had four weeks to visit my family across the country, go to New York for the first time, celebrate my birthday at home in northern California, be with my family for Christmas, ski in Lake Tahoe for the New Year, and spend some time in Los Angeles enjoying LA winter! I engaged in some of my favorite occupations that get put on the back burner when I am busy such as baking, reading for leisure, and gardening!

I am excited to be back at school for new classes and open to all the new experiences this semester might have in store!

Kaitlyn

Currie Hall (No Affiliation with Food nor the NBA)

, by Kaitlyn

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After high school, I moved out to downtown Los Angeles to attend USC for undergrad and lived there for four years. Once I decided that I was going to go continue at USC (but this time on the Health Sciences Campus), I knew that it was the perfect time to move and make a (slight) change.

I am a big believer in growing wherever you are planted. Thus, finding the right place to live is imperative to me in so many ways. Is it reasonably close to friends and family? Is it safe? Is it comfortable? Are there opportunities for socialization in the nearby area? Are there good restaurants (huge food lover here, see: here) around?! There are a lot of considerations when finding a new place to live and I wanted to make the right choice as I embarked on this new journey.

I had a few options in mind, but I ultimately decided to move into an apartment building located on the USC Health Sciences Campus called Currie Hall. I moved there on the first day it opened, so I’ve been living there for about a year and a half now. If you’re interested in moving in, the following are some pros and cons.

Pros:
- The “commute” - My commute is about a 5-minute walk across the street to the Center for Health Professions building. It sure beats sitting in traffic for an hour, that’s for sure!
- The residents - Almost everyone in the building is a student on the USC Health Sciences Campus. Thus, you’ll run into medical, physical therapy, and pharmacy (just to name a few) students all the time! It’s in the norm to see people walking around in scrubs and/or a white coat. It’s a great experience to be in such a interdisciplinary housing setting filled with future healthcare professionals! I personally live with a pharmacy student and a medical student!
- Safety - I feel very safe in this building. There are many “checkpoints” at every doorway/entryway where your key is required. DPS is also only just a phone call away if they’re ever needed!
- Proximity to “new” cities - I frequent the Arts District, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Downtown, and Pasadena quite frequently because they are all within close driving distance (this also means cheap Ubers/Lyfts)! All of the cities I just mentioned have different “personalities”, so it’s nice to feel like I’m still exploring new places around LA. *Tip: Arts District, Silver Lake, and Echo Park have amazing hidden gems when it comes to restaurants so definitely keep your options open! My current favorites are Mohawk Bend and Cliff’s Edge (again, big food lover here).
- The apartment & building itself - Like I mentioned before, I moved in the first day it opened so it is BRAND NEW. Some notable perks: an in-unit washer/dryer (a life saver!), a balcony, your own bathroom, your own walk-in closet, furnished when you move in, a gym, a BBQ grill/patio area, a pool and jacuzzi, study rooms, etc. The staff is also great as well!

Cons:
- Far from the beach - Unfortunately, it is far from the beach, which is one of my greatest loves! With traffic, it takes me about 45 minutes to get to the coastline. I also have friends that live on the west side of Los Angeles (i.e. Santa Monica, Culver City) so it can be inconvenient at times to get to them.
- Everything is within some kind of driving distance - Although it is the most convenient option when it comes to school, it is not the most convenient when it comes to going to the store or running errands. For example, Trader Joe’s and Target are about a 15 minute drive away in the neighboring cities. Sometimes this feels a bit isolating, but it hasn’t bothered me too much because I have a car. 
- Holiday Breaks=Ghost Town - It is eerily empty when winter, summer, and spring breaks roll around because most residents go home for the holidays!
- “Dorm”-like? - I have to agree and disagree on this one. Yes, it does feel like a dorm in that everyone there is a student but we are also all graduate students. This means that we’re all busy—studying, going off to clinical rotations, working… you name it! We’ve got a lot of responsibilities on our plate so you definitely won’t get those freshman dorm experiences you had in college.

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I may have picked the closest option to campus, but don’t be afraid to venture out as well! I have many friends who commute from neighboring cities like Silver Lake, Echo Park, Alhambra, Pasadena, and Downtown. I know people who commute from Culver City, Manhattan Beach, and Santa Monica as well! My best piece of advice: Determine what’s important to you and pick a place you know you will be happy in.

If interested in learning more about Currie Hall, click here.

Caroline

How hard is graduate school?

, by Caroline

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Prospective students frequently ask: how hard is graduate school? What might I be getting myself into? Will I ever do anything other than study? Let’s jump in!

How many days per week do you have class?
The Entry-Level Masters program is full-time; I take up to 18 credit hours per semester, which means I spend 18 hours in the classroom each week. This is usually broken into 6 hours of class, 3 days per week. Most of the time, classes are 9AM-12PM and 1PM-4PM, with a break at noon for lunch. Professors also give us a break in the middle of class to get up, move around, and snack! Additionally, I have Level I fieldwork experiences one day per week. Total, that’s 4 full days per week devoted to schoolwork, with weekends and one weekday off.

For more information, check out our course sequence.

What are graduate school classes like?
Each course is organized differently, but I’ll describe some of the common course designs.

Some courses (OT 538: Current Issues in Practice: Adulthood and Aging or OT 534: Health Promotion and Wellness, for example) are held in a large lecture hall that fits my whole class. These courses are primarily lecture, with some group work mixed in. Often, we will have guest lecturers come in to speak about a particular area of expertise or lived experience, which is cool!

Other thread courses (OT 523: Communication Skills for Effective Practice or OT 518: Quantitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice, for example) are smaller, just with my cohort of about 45 students. These courses include time for lecture and instruction, but also time to work on group activities and semester-long projects.

The 3 practice immersion courses (OT 501: Adult Physical Rehabilitation, OT 502: Mental Health, and OT 503: Pediatrics) are unique in a few ways. Instead of meeting only once per week like the other courses, these courses meet 3 times per week, each time for 3 hours. Twice per week I have lecture for my immersion course with my cohort of about 45 students. I also have lab once per week, which is with just half of my cohort – about 22 students. The immersion courses utilize principles of team-based learning. Instead of sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture for 3 hours straight, a lot of time spent in class is active and interactive. I’m frequently working in groups and teams of classmates on case studies, application activities, discussions, and hands-on learning experiences. This means that my professors expect me to come to class having read the assigned textbook and articles, ready to ask questions about them and then apply what I’ve learned.

For more information, check out our course descriptions.

What about homework, projects, and exams?
Similarly, each course syllabus is structured differently. All courses require textbook and/or article readings each week. Some courses have weekly quizzes on the readings (sometimes taken individually, often taken with a group). Many courses have a midterm exam and a final exam (sometimes cumulative, sometimes not). A few of my classes have had large semester-long group projects, research papers, or presentations. Participation and professionalism are always a component of my final grades, so I always make sure I am in class, prepared for class, and ready to participate!

So…how hard is it all?

I’ve truly found graduate school to be quite manageable. When I think about what’s expected of me in the program, 3 things stand out:

1. Support
First, the program and the people in it are incredibly supportive; it’s far from a competitive environment. I share notes with my classmates and divide up study guide preparations with friends to make exam prep more manageable. I want my friends and classmates to be the best OTs they can be, so why wouldn’t we help each other out? Faculty and staff have been so relatable and understanding and always make themselves available to answer questions! They understand everything we have on our plates, and they never give us more than we can handle.

2. Knowing Myself
Second, it’s important to know yourself and how you work. I’ve learned that I work best under pressure. I like to juggle a lot of different things and stay busy, so when I do have time set aside to get work done, I know that I will be productive and efficient. I also very much value balance, and know that I won’t feel happy if I spend all of my time on schoolwork. I have a “No Homework Saturday” rule that I have not broken throughout my entire graduate school experience (I’m quite proud of this). I reserve Saturdays to get out of my apartment, explore LA, and spend time with friends. “No Homework Saturday” has become a mantra among my friends in the program, serving as a reminder that it’s OK to take a break even when the work is piling up. Everyone is different, however, so it’s important to figure out your style so that you can manage your time and responsibilities!

3. Passion for what I’m learning
Third, and finally, I’m in this program because I am pursuing my passion to become an Occupational Therapist. The curriculum and expectations of me in the program are designed to prepare me to be the best OT than I can be. As a result, I see the value in the courses I take, the assignments I’m turning in, and the pages of reading I complete. The time I spend on schoolwork is not time wasted. Sure, I sometimes have long hours studying, but I feel motivated to study, and not only because I want to do well in school or pass my national boards exam. I also understand that what I’m learning now is information I will continue to be tested on when practicing in the real world for the duration of my career as an OT. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by school, I try and zoom out to see the big picture! It’s hard work, but will definitely be worth it!

In short, graduate school is challenging, but it should be! I’m learning so many new skills, theories, and ways of thinking that I constantly feel like my mind is stretching, but not to the point of feeling overwhelmed. It’s the right amount of challenge, and I always have time for my “No Homework Saturday” smile

Erika

I Can’t Sleep! What Do I Do?!

, by Erika

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You ever have a night where no matter how hard you try, you can’t sleep? A few weeks ago, I had one of those nights. My head was spinning a million miles an hour and any time I tried to relax, breathe, or picture myself on a tranquil beach, my mind just zoomed elsewhere and spun a million miles an hour at the next place it ended up! It was complete, and utter, torture.

Each night, whether it’s spawned from stress, depression, anxiety, diet, or physical conditions, millions of people struggle to stay asleep or fall asleep in America. MILLIONS! After my one interminable night, I can’t even imagine how people experience this as a nightly occurrence and somehow function the next day.

So of course, as an OT student would, I took account of my sleep hygiene for that evening. From assessing my memory of the day/night, it went like this:

9:00a - 5:00p: Last day of fieldwork! It was an incredibly busy day seeing patients, saying goodbye to patients, coworkers and CIs. While it was busy, it was full of adrenaline. I came out of fieldwork feeling very energetic!
6:00p: Went home, changed for yoga, drank some iced green tea.
7:15p: Yoga Class
8:30p: Visited a friend and had dinner.
10:30p: Watched an episode of “Stranger Things” S2 with my roommates.
12:00a: In bed, on my phone before bed (like a good Millennial).
4:00a: Tossing and turning in bed, completely awake.
6:30a: Finally fell asleep.
7:30a: Alarm clock rings! -__-

After learning about sleep hygiene and points of consideration that can affect sleep in our OT534: Health Promotion and Wellness class, there are a few things I would have done differently in order to potentially gain restful sleep.

1. Avoid caffeine after 3p. I truly believe the iced green tea was a main culprit in keeping me awake till the whee hours of the morning. It was only half a glass! So lethal!

2. Wind down. While Stranger Things S2 is SO HARD NOT TO BINGE, it wasn’t the best way to wind down before bed. Episode 4 made my energy and excitement rise up to my eyebrows that it took time for my heart, brain, and body to relax. For the future, knowing that STS2 is hella thrilling, perhaps I will make it a point to start watching it earlier in the night and avoid watching it right before bed!

3. Reduce phone activity before bed. As many people know, blue light (from your phone or laptop) stimulates your body similarly to it’s response to daylight and thus, can wake your body up more then prepare it for sleep. Therefore, it’s encouraged to either adjust your phone settings to night time mode and make sure to reduce the amount of phone time prior to going to sleep.

4. Don’t lie in bed awake. A good rule of thumb is that if you are awake in bed for more than 15-20 minutes, get up and do something. Refrain from highly stimulating activities like television or looking at your phone and try reading a boring book or magazine. Alternative activities can include stretching, breathing, or even utilizing a relaxation app like “Sleep Pillow Sounds” or “Sleep Time”.

Bryan

Some Alternative Transportation

, by Bryan · 1 comment

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I thought this post might be useful for anyone considering applying/attending USC who lives outside the LA area! I currently live in Redondo Beach and driving to campus is definitely taxing. It takes a little over an hour each way and there are plenty of cohort members who commute all the way from the OC! For those who are looking for some alternative and cheaper forms of transportation/parking, here are a few.

1. Metrolink Trains. A number of my cohort members take this train from Fullerton/Irvine/OC area and it is a great option! The train has seats to sit on and study or sleep and also travels straight to Union Station, from which you can board a USC shuttle to take you to Health Science Campus. The downside with these trains is that the departure times are pretty limited so you will probably have to wake up pretty early and leave campus by specific times.

2. Metro Bus. I personally take the silver line 910/950 which goes straight from Gardena area/91 fwy entrance in the South Bay all the way to LA+USC Hospital which is close to the Health Science Campus! The commute consists of just one bus and takes about 1hr~ to get to HSC. A major benefit is that the Tap Card bus pass (which works for all other Metro lines as well!) is 107$/semester. You can purchase a Tap Card online through USC and pick up the sticker on HSC campus.

If you do end up driving and are looking for other potential parking options, there is metered parking available on campus that expire in 4 hour intervals (1$/hr) as well as free parking available on Valley Street right next to campus, across the train tracks. If you search “Lincoln Park” into your maps app, you can find free street parking around that area. Finding street parking along Valley gets tough, however, so definitely give yourself some time to find a spot and walk to class.

Hope this makes your commuting lives a little easier!

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