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 | Joyce

Joyce

Can I Work In Grad School?

, by Joyce

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My answer to you would be that it depends. I know, everyone’s favorite answer to hear. However, I say it depends because it truly is dependent on the kind of learner you are and how efficient you are in managing your time.

In the beginning of the program (summer session) I chose not to work because of the intensity of the program (M-F 8AM-4PM). In addition to the academic and coursework, I was also couch hopping because I literally picked up my entire life and moved across the country. There was a lot of instability and uncertainty during that summer and if I were to add that extra dimension of work, I knew it would take a physical, mental, and emotional toll.

Thankfully I survived the summer program and in the fall semester, I began my Adult Rehabilitation Immersion. Each practice immersion varies but the Adult Rehabilitation one is known for its intense studies in various medical diagnoses and conditions. Therefore, I decided that this semester would not be the best semester to start working because I would much rather absorb and obtain this information to the best of my abilities without any other distractions. Not working and taking out additional loans opened up space in my schedule to read my notes and study a few extra hours.

It was when I began the Mental Health Immersion that I felt that there was enough room and space in my life to add a part time job. Therefore, I began to work as a hostess at a Korean BBQ restaurant. My shifts required me to be in on the weekends. I had a great time, it was nice to be involved in something non-OT related. Don’t get me wrong, I love the profession and I love the people that I interact with but working at a restaurant brings about a different kind of aura. I met many international travelers (as our restaurant is rated 4.5 stars on yelp and highly popular amongst tourists!). I enjoyed the customer service aspect and even casually conversing with people as they walked in and out of the restaurant.

I came home pooped from standing all day but it was nice to be able to make some money and use a different set of skills. So to answer your question, yes it is possible to work while you study. But in the midst of it, remember that you are still a student first and that your academics takes priority. Something that I have learned to do is weighing the pros and cons of the situation. Is it worth losing three hours of sleep every night to work a few hours and do homework to earn maybe $50? I guess it would depend on the kind of part time job you decide to pick up as well. I have classmates who babysit for higher rates for shorter times and others who work longer shifts in the food industry but making most of their income on tip. 

So, is it doable? Yes, but it depends.

Joyce

How to Apply to Grad School

, by Joyce

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How to Apply to Grad School:

It’s tough. I thought I was done with common app years ago never having to go through such a system again. But luckily, it is possible and applying to grad schools does not have to be as stressful as it sounds! Hopefully these few tips will help you with your application journey: 

1. Get to know the system.
&& I mean every system, the OTCAS, the GRE website, the USC admissions portal. Each website and server that the school uses varies. Become familiar with each of them so you understand how they work and function. I usually take a day just to make an account (also write your password somewhere so you don’t forget it!) to understand the system and then walk away from it. It’s important to do things in small increments because I find that doing everything at once can be super overwhelming.

2. Read the prompt!!!
OTCAS has a prompt. Each school you apply to will probably have a different prompt that you need to cater your essay to. It’s super easy to get distracted while you write and while you write you start to think of new ideas and stories to include. It’s important that you keep true to the prompt at hand and make sure that it answers it!!! It’s awesome that you went sky diving in Thailand, took care of endangered elephants, and worked with the community. But if the prompt is asking about how you define OT, you better put in somewhere in that story that connection to OT. That being said…

3. Have people you trust to read your personal statement.
I say this carefully because you have limited time and so does everyone else. Go to the friends/mentors that you know have strong writing skills and ask them to read over your essay. This will maximize the time you have and also allow for constructive feedback as to how to better your statement.

4. Reach out.
Working with the admissions team now, I understand how valuable it is to put a face to a name. Reach out to the admissions team of the program and ask questions. Who better to answer the questions that you have than those who will be reviewing your applications? Ask about pre-requisites, GRE scores, and student life. More often than not, your questions will be answered. In addition, if possible, try to go for an info session and explore what the learning environment is like. You will be committing 2.5 years of your life to this program,  you would want to know what your day to day life would look like!

5. Organization
This is the last and most important advice I can provide. STAY ORGANIZED. Whether that’s through a color-coded calendar or reminders on your iPhone, deadlines will come and go. Things will fall through the cracks if you’re not vigilant about deadlines, fee waivers, payments, etc. Personally, I printed out on a word document all the schools I planned to apply for, their respective due dates, and the prerequisites of each program. Then throughout the month, I would highlight through the ones that have been completed and done with. It gave me the satisfaction of being done but also that visual reminder of what more needs to be done.

It’s possible. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself. Don’t forget to engage in self-care activities throughout it all. Good luck!

 

Joyce

Fieldwork Meltdown

, by Joyce

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What is fieldwork anyways?
If you’ve talked to OTs or OTS you’ve probably heard this term thrown around. Overall, fieldwork is an out-of-classroom experience to practice your clinical reasoning and therapeutic skills under the appropriate supervision. The reason why I say “appropriate supervision” is because they may not always be an occupational therapist.

WHAT? HOW? WHY? OMG HOW WILL I BE AN OT?
I know, I had the same thoughts running through my head. To break it down, fieldwork experiences can be categorized into two levels, Level 1 and Level 2. To be clear, for your level 2 fieldwork, you must be under the supervision of a registered and licensed occupational therapist. However, for your level 1 fieldwork, your supervisor can vary. From my own personal experience, my first “CI” (clinical instructor as we call them in the OT world… not white collar criminal informant) was a life skills coach at ICAN California Abilities Network, a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. In addition, a few of my peers worked under the supervision of a physical therapist, a certified occupational therapy assistant, or even a psychologist.

While your head might be spinning and your anxiety shooting through the roof, I learned that it’s okay. For your level 1 fieldwork, the objective is to gain an understanding of the needs of the clients. While each experience varies, most students use this time to observe and discuss with their CI the needs of the clients that they encounter and what treatment plans could look like. You never know what you can learn if you keep an open mind.

For example, this last week was my full week of Level 1 fieldwork, meaning instead of going to class, I was going to my fieldwork site, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles USC University Center of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities (CHLA UCEDD). I experienced such an enriched week of learning that varied from observing to actively participating in treatment sessions. What prepared me for this fieldwork site was my first fieldwork at ICAN working with the life skills coach. I observed the ways they worked with the clients who had Autism, Down Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy. Even though they weren’t occupational therapists, I took that time to really engage in conversations with the clients to get a tiny glimpse of what their life and daily routine was like. This built a strong foundation of communication and interpersonal skills that translated over to my fieldwork here at CHLA UCEDD. And because my clients at ICAN were 22+, I was able to see what life can be like for the children I see at my current fieldwork. This allowed me to start that clinical reasoning as to what skills should the individual be working on throughout their childhood and adolescence in order to be as independent as possible in their emerging adulthood years.

It took me a while to understand the meaningful lessons I gained from ICAN. Honestly, I was just really bitter about the fact that I wasn’t placed at a setting with an occupational therapist. However, upon reflection, have I continued to resent my placement and closed the door on many of the wonderful conversations that took place, I wouldn’t have had that knowledge to reflect back on when interacting with clients today.

Joyce

Having a Seat at the Table

, by Joyce

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One of the unique opportunities at USC is the Student Run Clinic, a completely student organized interdisciplinary clinic that occurs twice a month. We strive to bring about quality care for the underserved population of Los Angeles. The protocol and environment is set up for student to learn to:
- Utilize occupational therapy lens for a holistic approach to patient care
- Collaborate with disciplines from medicine, pharmacy, and physician assistant
- Advocate for the profession of occupational therapy

As the SRC Co-Executive Chair, I have the opportunity to represent the occupational therapy profession at the table. Coordinating patient care across four disciplines can get quite messy with the layers of communication and hierarchy. In order to create a smoother flow of communication, the executive board has been created where 2 students from each discipline comes together, and we brain storm ideas to maintain the occurrence of clinics and enhance the experience of them, for both the patients and the students.  Every month, we meet to discuss any issues that may have to be problem-solved. Within this past year alone, we have tackled many obstacles including patient care, research, communication, and funding.

In partnership with my co-chair peer, I can advocate for the profession of occupational therapy. Having a seat at the table is more than being physically present. When working with the underserved, it is important to be aware of the multiple compounding factors that puts them at risk for future health concerns. While patients are at our clinic, we want them to receive the best quality care in the most efficient way. While the executive board is constantly working towards making that happen, as students, I can use my occupational therapy lens, to bring forth the narrative of the patient population. OTs have the ability and skills to dig into their routines, roles, and access, specific to this population. In this manner, we are advocating for patients using our OT lens.

Most importantly, I am given the space and time to create friendships with students from these various professions! Through our friendships, we are engaging in meaningful conversations that teach one another about our professions. I truly believe that these relationships will continue beyond our time in school and well into our clinical practice years as we learn to lean on each other for collaboration and support.

Joyce

3 Reasons to Level 2 Out of State!!

, by Joyce

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For current and prospective students alike, I would urge you to consider an opportunity to complete your level 2 fieldwork outside of sunny state California. Here’s why:

-Experience a New City: this is the perfect time to travel and put yourself out there. I know it can be a scary thought (I’ve moved to two new cities already!). However, if the time isn’t now, then when? I truly believe that as students, we have the flexibility to travel without worrying about taking absence from work or using your paid time off’s. Go eat new foods, explore new restaurants, and meet great people! 

-Experience a New Culture: hey, even if you’re still travelling domestically, culture varies by state and even by city. Growing up in NYC, we were always taught to grind and work hard. When I moved to Boston for my undergraduate career, the adjustment was difficult. The culture is slower paced and a lot more preppy, as if you stepped right into a J. Crew Magazine.The city is small and old yet rich with history. Now when I moved to Los Angeles, boy are the vibes different. People brunch at the weirdest times here, obsess over their dogs, and drink an unending amount of kale smoothies. I believe by working in settings outside of LA, especially if you never left LA, you get to experience various cultures and meet people from different walks of life. The more diverse your student experiences are, the more enhanced your clinical reasoning becomes and more refined your therapeutic use of self becomes.

-Experience a Different OT: Having gone through two Level 1 Fieldworks and 1 Level 2, there is a difference between therapists who received their education on the west coast vs the east coast. Because my level 2 was in NYC, I had the opportunity to work with OTs and PTs who completed their degrees in New York. We bonded over deep conversations as we shared the major differences and similarities between programs. In this way, I got to understand their clinical reasoning and their experiences while at the same time sharing what I learned here at USC. Expanding your professional network within the rehabilitation field is another amazing perk of completing your fieldwork out of state!

All in all, I recommend to fill out the out-of-state application HERE and explore the pathways that USC has to offer across the nation LOL

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