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 | Bryan

Bryan

2010 NBA Champions

, by Bryan

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The first question Joe (pseudonym) asked me was whether or not I thought the Los Angeles Lakers would win the NBA championship this year.

“Not a chance” I replied before noticing his purple and gold 2010 NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS LOS ANGELES LAKERS shirt.
“That’s whack man,” Joe said.

He did not talk to me the rest of my first day at my very first Level 1 Fieldwork.

***

My first Level 1 Fieldwork placement was at Mychal’s Learning Place in Hawthorne CA. Mychal’s is a clubhouse setting that offers day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, equipping them with self-care and job skills in order to foster independence. Mychal’s has an onsite washer and dryer, fully functional industrial kitchen, as well as other opportunities to teach and practice ADLs. There was, however, no OT onsite, so my colleagues who were also placed at Mychal’s and I had to be proactive to see how OT fit into this setting and population.

After a whirlwind first day of orientations and getting to know the facilities, I volunteered to assist with an awesome opportunity at Mychal’s, their Howl at the Moon café, which functions as a mobile coffee and pastry retailer. Howl has partnerships with MATTEL headquarters nearby and sets up shop twice a week to sell and serve coffee to the employees. The coolest part of Howl was that Mychal’s participants did almost everything from taking orders, making drinks (fancy lattes, cappuccinos, everything!) and even cooking the pastries. It was incredible to see how much Mychal’s believed in its participants. While I loved my experience there, throughout the semester I was still unsure of an OTs role in this setting.

***

Joe and I were both assigned to Howl a couple weeks into fieldwork. We did not get the opportunity to converse since our first meeting and I was a little nervous to break the ice again.

“So…do you like basketball?” I asked before noticing the same purple and gold 2010 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP LOS ANGELES LAKERS shirt (PSA: Use your clinical observation skills people).
Joe nodded while preparing a pumpkin spice latte.
“Who do you think is going to win this year?” I asked.
Joe paused midway, while pouring the steamed milk and let out a sigh. “Probably the Warriors,” he responded.

I was confused at his overtly disappointed response and had to ask what was wrong.

It is amazing how a simple question diving deeper can help us understand our clients, and each other, better. In school they teach us two valuable concepts that are foundational to our OT practice: mindfulness and therapeutic use of self. While conceding my lack of mindfulness in noticing Joe’s apparent interests from his attire, I saw these two abstract concepts produce concrete fruit as Joe shared about his background and how the Lakers were an uplifting part of his life growing up. He looked up to Kobe (the GOAT) and Pau as heroes, sad to see them disband and the team rebuild. It was so interesting that Joe and I could connect on something as so seemingly simple as shared sports interests.

Our Howl at the Moon Cafe set up!

Howl at the Moon's tent display

Amazing pastries baked by participants at Mychal’s

Howl at the Moon cookies
Handmade pastries by Mychal's participants

Howl

Howl at the moon logo

 

Bryan

My Parents Still Don’t Know What OT Is

, by Bryan

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I began and completed undergrad without ever hearing of the words Occupational Therapy in combination. Growing up in an immigrant family, my parents always emphasized the importance of pursuing a career with a stable income, regardless of one’s passions. While I cannot thank them enough for working hard to establish a foundation for me to pursue everything I have thus far, I was at war because of my inability to suppress my love for the arts and more creative endeavors.

In order to appease both sides, my daily schedule at UCLA looked like: 8:00 am organic chemistry lecture, 9:30am - 4:00pm internship at movie production company, 5:00pm - 7:00pm physics lecture and discussion, 7:30pm - 8:30pm Improv Comedy class in Westwood, 9:00pm - 11:00pm CareExtenders hospital volunteering. My heart, as well as my schedule, was clearly divided. In the end, I knew I wanted to help others and was told throughout childhood that medicine was the best (and only) way to do so. On the flip-side, I loved storytelling and wanted to become a screenwriter, helping others smile, laugh, and cry as they saw chapters of their own journeys unfold onscreen.

The “creative” side won and I officially declared English as my major and dropped pre-med during my 3rd year. Whether it was trauma from scraping a single point on my physics midterm by writing -9.8 m/s^2 or from unlucky hospital shadowing experiences, I was ready to move away from health care into the romanticized world of marketing and advertising (#madmen).

After a few years working as a copywriter in a number of unique specialties (wedding vendor, mobile app, etc.), the long-suppressed existential questions of purpose began to brew anew. What do I really care about? What do I want to do for the next 40 years of my life? While I totally understand that our careers cannot be a complete (or adequate) representation of our values and passions, I always hoped to enter a vocation I really believed in. For me the pillars of a satisfying career seemed to be: caring for others, building relationships, and financial stability.

In a matter of beautiful fate, during this time my friends all started suggesting pursuing Occupational Therapy. I remember trying to explain this new career path to my parents in broken Korean . . . they still don’t know what it is (though interactions with the Korean international students from Global Initiatives helped a lot!) Honestly, there is so much more to share on how I have been consistently affirmed in my decision to dive into this evolving and exciting profession (more to come in future blogs hopefully), but I am just grateful take part in this opportunity to care for others in creative and meaningful ways.

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