Student Ambassador Blog
Although I am a second year in the graduate program, I technically completed my undergraduate degree in May 2017. Therefore these first few weeks of classes have been full of transition and adjustment from living on the University Park Campus to living on the west side of Los Angeles and commuting to the Health Science Campus. Here are some things I have learned:
1) Moving to a new neighborhood in a familiar city
This is my fifth year living in Los Angeles, but this is my first time living off campus in an apartment. I live in Culver City, which is a thirty minute drive from the Health Science Campus. This change of neighborhood has provided me the opportunity to find all new running routes, coffee shops for studying, and even a favorite laundromat. This move has opened up a whole new side of Los Angeles to my life.
2) The value of a planned social life
Moving off campus means that I now live on average fifteen to twenty minutes away from my friends. I can no longer just drop by my friend’s apartment unannounced or walk to the library together late on a Sunday night. I have quickly learned the necessity that is planning in advance to go out to dinner or try a new ice cream shop with a friend. These things cannot be as spontaneous as they used to be, but that just means I get to have something fun on my calendar to look forward to.
3) The abundance of USC hosted graduate student events
In just the first few weeks back to school, I have already seen the benefits and fun of being a graduate student. I went to the occupational therapy and physical therapy tailgate for our first football game. It was an easy way to be social with classmates as well as the physical therapy students, who we share a lunch patio with. I love that all the graduate school students have just as much Trojan pride as my undergraduate friends. I also attended a Los Angeles Dodgers game for five dollars organized by Graduate Student Government. There are always fun events for graduate students to opt into!
4) Everything we learn is valuable and relevant
One aspect of graduate school that has only been solidified over the past few weeks upon returning from level II fieldwork, is just how relevant all of our coursework is to our future practice. Regardless of what area we specialize in or get advanced practice in, the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has created a curriculum that molds us into generalists of the field of occupational therapy. Each course has its own value. Readings and assignments are all important because they are informing and building our occupational therapist lenses. It is motivating to know everything we are doing in and out of the classroom is valuable.
5) Classmates in graduate school have a lot in common
Finally, as some of my undergraduate friends have moved away and out of Los Angeles, I have become closer with graduate school occupational therapy classmates. It is wonderful to be a part of a program that has students with diverse interests and backgrounds. We are all so different while simultaneously have a common interest entering a profession centered around helping people live their healthiest and happiest lives. Lunchtime is always a good time with the occupational therapy students.
One way in particular that makes the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy so unique is the Professional Program Course Sequence. As a Bachelor’s to Master’s student, I have had limited time out in the field as most of my life up to this point has been spent in the classroom. With level I fieldwork imbedded in our coursework each semester I have been exposed to pieces of occupational therapy that are exciting and eye-opening, but in the midst of exams, quizzes, group projects, presentations, and research papers at times over the last year I felt distant from the profession I know I will love.
This summer changed everything. With level II fieldwork I fell in love with occupational therapy on a whole new level. I was placed at a private practice in Half Moon Bay, California. My first day of fieldwork I was so nervous and anxious about what the next twelve weeks would have in store, but upon walking into the clinic I knew that I was in the right place. My site was a home converted into a pediatric speech and occupational therapy practice with families waiting in the living room. I learned more about using myself as a tool for therapy, what it means to be family centered, and the ins and outs of running a private practice than I thought possible.
Throughout my twelve weeks I transitioned from shadowing my clinical instructor to treating her full caseload. I completed treatment plans, interventions, and progress notes. Through projects assigned to me by my clinical instructor such as an in-service, case study, research projects, and readings I was able to maintain an evidence based practice and ensure I was providing the best treatment possible for my clients.
I have come back to school rejuvenated feeling more confident in my abilities as an occupational therapist and know that I will soon be working in a clinic that I love, where day in and day out I am helping my clients live their happiest and healthiest lives. I am now ready for another year of school in order to get there!
I want to begin this blog by explaining the story about how I knew occupational therapy was meant for me. I have always been a good student: I turn assignments in on time and start studying for exams weeks ahead. I have always been a good roommate: completing my assigned chores before the chore chart changes. I was a good athlete: never missed practice and worked out on my own. But not until I discovered occupational therapy would I have called myself passionate.
Throughout high school my interests were vast and choosing a college major seemed near impossible. My favorite subjects were art history, health, and biology. My favorite after-school activity was assistant coaching my local Special Olympics swimming and basketball teams. I loved learning about people and engaging with them one on one. When I was applying to colleges, I chose a different major for each university. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career, but I knew I wanted to help people. I chose USC for its commitment to scholarship and sense of community. I was dying to be a part of the Trojan family the moment my acceptance letter came.
Fast forward to fall of my freshman year at USC, my major was undecided. Each day I would meet new people studying the most interesting things. I found myself attending classes that I was not enrolled in just to learn more about what USC had to offer. One day, I found myself in Kim Morris-Eggleston’s “OT 310: Creativity Workshop,” where I heard the definition of OT for the first time. I was sold.
I fell in love with the idea of a client-centered therapy that focuses on adapting and fixing problems that arise to help clients engage in whatever activity that has meaning to them. Helping people live their happiest and healthiest life, day in and day out, sounded like a dream come true. Occupational therapy is hopeful, creative, and challenging: everything I was looking for in a career. It is not just something I am studying; it is part of who I am.
I applied to the Bachelor’s to Master’s program the spring of my sophomore year and have not looked back since. Being a part of the USC Chan Division of Occupational Therapy for both my undergraduate and graduate course work has shaped how I view the world. I cannot wait to see what the second year of my Master’s degree has in store.