I cannot believe nearly two years ago, I was walking the halls of USC for the very first time. Then I was nervous, will they like me? I hoped I’d made the right decision with USC. And I hoped above all else that Occupational Therapy was the career path for me.
Fast forward two years and I could not feel more confident I chose the right school and right profession, and I also made some friends along the way!
Last week at AOTA Conference, it was like prom. It was the final weekend with peers I’ve grown to love and professionals I respect. I felt empowered and excited, exactly what I need as I transition to the real world.
USC has been such a blessing. The program, the faculty, the students, everything has come together to create an ideal learning experience for me. This is my final post as an OSOT Ambassador. One of the highlights of my time at USC has been this job. It has been as fundamental to my OT education as quantitative research and clinical reasoning. Working for the Division, I’ve been able to get to know the professors better and grow confident talking about OT to all people. I see OT in everything and do not hesitate promoting our profession to any one who will listen. I will treasure this experience for the rest of my life.
I’ve talked a lot about being from Texas, and naturally I’m full of Texas pride. When I chose to attend USC, you can imagine I got a little pushback from Texans, and I too was hesitant to embrace the notion of being ‘a part of the Trojan family.’
Not anymore. I’m so proud to be a Texan AND a Trojan. Go USCOT! and Fight on!
Last week while busily adding my part to crazy long study guide for our comprehensive exam in two weeks, it dawned on me: I’m graduating from OT school next month.
After having to take a series of deep breaths to get my heart rate back to normal I asked myself, am I ready to be an Occupational Therapist?
Good thing I was working the OT booth at the LA Times Festival of Books the next day or I may have spent my weekend submerged in graduation themed anxiety. At the booth we had several different stations: Sensory Integration, Lifestyle Redesign, Low Vision, and Stress Management. Each of us was so busy unpacking supplies, it felt it was a matter of minutes before people started arriving asking us questions about stress, relaxation, anxiety, depression, the list goes on and on.
Here I surprised myself again, I was able to answer their questions! Not just that but I felt confident in what I was saying, that what I was telling them was based on research and facts and information I’d learned in OT school.
Suffice to say, I slept easier that night with the faith in myself that not only am I ready to graduate with my Master’s in Occupational Therapy, but that I am well informed and prepared to be an effective, insightful therapist.
Recently I was taking an admitted student on a tour of the Health Sciences Campus, and she came prepared with a list of questions, one of which was, “I heard the culture at USC is eat or be eaten, is that true? What’s the student culture like?”
I’m not sure who told her this, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact the students at USC are one of the reasons why I love this program so much!
While in the program you will spend 3-4 days a week with the same group of people. You will go through the highs and lows of Graduate school together. You will create programs, projects, and presentations together. You will cry and laugh and celebrate with your peers. Never once have I felt competitive with my classmates.
In fact my MA-II class consistently blows me away with their support. It was my peers that nominated my community program for a community service award, not an instructor or dean. And it was my peers that came together one day to support another student undergoing chemotherapy.
Occupational therapists are generally happy, empathic people. We live our lives working with other people, collaborating and sharing intervention strategies and new research. We do not exist in a bubble. Not OTs and not USC students.
When I think of the students in my program, I do not think of competition, I think of family. I think of a safe place to go and learn, to try new things, to challenge yourself and have fun while doing it.
Do these cats on “arbitrary coordination day: hats” strike you as cut-throat? I hope not!
The saying is true: when you go to USC you’re a member of the Trojan family for life.
These last few weeks I have had several transformative experiences, but more on those later. Last weekend was the OT Extravaganza, an event hosted each year by the Division of OS and OT and put together by members of PTE (the student honor society). This year’s theme was Leadership, and as part of the event students were allowed to enter their Leadership Externship experiences into a competition.
I am thrilled to say my partner Jane and I won for our work with Mujeres Fuertes along with two other amazing gals who went to Costa Rica.
This was such a HUGE honor and a source of immense pride for Jane and myself because we have also been awarded the Extraordinary Engagement Award by USC for our work with Mujeres Fuertes. It feels like here at the end of our education that things are falling into place, that our education has helped us to become not just advocates for OT, but for women, health, and the community. And that’s just one program!
My heart was near to bursting on Sunday, after so much good will from our school, when we returned to the group to lead a stress management session. Every. Single. Time that I work with the women, share with them, learn from them I feel transformed. I forgot in my desire to help others make positive change, that their lives can have a tremendous impact on my own. I feel that I have a new community of support bonded by the simple fact that we are women and we want to feel better about our lives.
Above we are “releasing” the stress we cannot control by tying it to a balloon and letting go. Such a simple exercise carried so much weight and meaning to all of us.
Occupational therapy is so powerful, not just for the client but for the therapist as well. I feel an enormous wealth of positivity surrounding me as I make my transition from school to the workforce.
These last two weeks I have been at my externship. This is our opportunity to ‘bridge the gap’ in our learning or expand upon specific areas of interest before we are released into the wild, wild world of REAL WORK!
I have chosen to focus on learning about the intricacies of creating, operating and funding a non-profit. The non-profit would support the current group a classmate and I run, Mujeres Fuertes. This group is a perfect example of how my education at USC OT has the potential to transfer directly to the real world. We designed the group in our Occupation-centered programs for the community class last fall. The response was so positive, we received funding from a local non-profit to start implementing the group!
The group has been an amazing success. Through our needs assessment, we were able to identify that people, specifically women, living in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of LA, have an increased incidence of chronic illness, many of which are lifestyle related and preventable. Every other week we meet with two groups of 10 women for an hour, set goals and learn about stress management, nutrition, and exercise. It’s also an opportunity for the women to become health advocates that promote change at the personal, family, and community level.
We feel so confident a group like this can have rippling effects throughout many communities, we are now taking it to the next level, obtaining more funding and potentially establishing a non-profit. Its a lot to learn, but California is incredibly supportive of little programs like ours.
Each time I feel nervous or overwhelmed, I think of the women who call me their inspiration, that are making small changes every week to improve their lives. I cannot let them down, and I’m grateful for the chance to learn how to run a business, so that I won’t.