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


Back to School Again

, by Ali

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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!



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 at the moon logo



Back to School Excitement

, by Caroline

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I love the excitement that comes with a new school year! Growing up, I always looked forward to the annual tradition of back-to-school shopping with my mom and sister – pens, notebooks, and flashcards galore! At the start of a new year, I delight in filling my planner with color-coded assignments, due dates, and obligations…though looking at everything I have to accomplish over the semester can be slightly stress-inducing. One week at a time, Caroline, one week at a time.

These first couple weeks back at school were particularly exciting, as I got to reconnect with all of my classmates after we’ve all completed our first 12-week Level II Fieldwork experiences. It was very cool to hear about all of the different settings my classmates were working in: hospitals, pediatric clinics, schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, community mental health sites, inpatient psychiatric sites, home health, and more! My classmates have shared about their challenges, their successes, and (my favorite) their A-ha! moments. I have noticed a newfound confidence my classmates have gained after spending 12 weeks in the field, moving towards the comfort level that an entry-level OT practitioner has.

Because some of my friends chose to do their fieldwork placements out of the area for the summer, we decided to do a potluck brunch on the first morning of school to celebrate our reunion and the beginning of another school year! One of my friends lives in Currie Hall, a student apartment on our Health Sciences Campus, so it was incredibly convenient! We also got to check out the Solar Eclipse from her balcony (though to be honest, not sure what I was looking at. Good thing I went into OT and not Astronomy). It was a fun morning catching up, reflecting on our summers, and getting excited for the upcoming school year.

Back to school brunch

I am in Cohort A, so this fall semester, I’m taking OT503 the Pediatrics immersion course, which I am really looking forward to. In addition to Pediatrics, all of the second year students and I are taking the following courses: OT 534: Health Promotion and Wellness, OT537: Occupation-Centered Programs for the Community, and OT 538: Current Issues in Practice: Adulthood & Aging. Pediatrics, aging, programming, and wellness – if that isn’t a testament to the diversity of our profession and its scope, I don’t know what is! Check out our course sequence if you’re interested in the rest of the courses in the program, and follow along this semester as I work my way through these courses and all of the assignments in my fresh new planner!

First Day of School


Love at First Sight: Finding Occupational Therapy

, by Kaitlyn

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The most common question I am asked is how my path to pursue occupational therapy began. I have always found it extremely rewarding to hear the narratives of my peers because we all ended up being where we were meant to be: en route to become occupational therapists. Here is my own narrative.

When thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I had the following criteria: I wanted to be in health care, I wanted to improve the well-being of people, and I wanted to be able to look back on my life and know that I dedicated my life to serving others in the best way that I could.

For my undergraduate studies, I attended the University of Southern California (my dream school since I was a young girl!) but was very much undeclared and undecided. It was not until I took a class under USC’s Occupational Science minor in my sophomore year that I even knew what occupational therapy was. I like to say that my encounter with OT250: Introduction to Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is the closest I have ever been to “love at first sight.” I was extremely invested in the material that we were learning in that class. I loved the idea of improving people’s lives based on their own personal goals and seeing each person as a whole instead of in parts. To make things even better, I absolutely admired my professor, Dr. Kate Crowley, who I still keep in contact with to this day.

From that point on, the road to becoming an occupational therapist became clearer and clearer. I began to take more classes under the Occupational Science minor, volunteered and shadowed practicing occupational therapists at numerous hospitals and clinics, and worked at a camp organized by health practitioners for disabled and at-risk children. I learned and saw the power of OT in each experience and enjoyed every minute of it.

However, there was one particular session that I shadowed that really confirmed the decision to pursue OT for me. I was at a pediatric clinic and the OT I was shadowing was working on fine motor skills with a young girl. When I first met the young girl, she said her main goal was to be able to play “princess dress up” with her father and put on her favorite princess dress that happened to have a row of buttons along the back of the garment. After months of therapy, I watched that same young girl put that dress over her pre-existing outfit and button the buttons she once could not manipulate before. The dad simply turned and said to me, “I knew my princess was there all along.” It was in this moment and the culmination of all the other moments that I realized that OT was the one for me (like I said, it really was love at first sight!).

Occupational therapy is an amazing profession that I wholeheartedly believe in and I am so excited to be able to share my experiences with you here on this blog. I hope that you enjoy the ride with me and that maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall in love with OT just like I did too.


OT, you are everything I never knew I always wanted

, by Erika

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Hello Friends!

Erika here, reporting for my first blog post. Welcome and thanks for reading!

Let me tell you how I discovered OT [cue Drake’s “One Dance”].  Occupational therapy is a second career for me. After graduating undergrad from USC in 2008 in communication, I packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn. Without much focus or intention, I found a job in advertising and worked on accounts that include P&G and Disney. I quickly learned that I had a passion for learning about human behavior. I enjoyed sinking my teeth into consumer data and developing human insights on what motivates people to take action. While learning about why people purchased Swiffers or bought tickets to watch Disney movies was thrilling for the first few years, I knew advertising was merely a stepping stone for whatever was next.

Throughout my seven years in the industry, I would periodically meet up with old friends at SC tailgates or reunions who worked as occupational therapists and I was dumbfounded by the stories they told me about their work. How did one of them work in a hospital with clients with spinal cord injuries, another work with children in a sensory clinic, and yet another work with a client at their home coping with depression? I couldn’t understand the common factor but as I investigated more, I quickly learned that it was actually very simple: meaningful occupation is what unites us as humans. Whether it’s dressing oneself independently to a child being equipped with the means to play safely with peers to being able to play your favorite song on your trumpet again, meaningful activities are what motivates people to take action and live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Talk about human insights! My mind was blown.

With that said, equipped with my love for learning about human behavior, and this time around, with full focus and intention, I’m back in school for my Master’s in OT at USC. I am one year into the program and I can honestly say that I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’ve found a profession that requires me to see and value every client as a distinct and unique individual, challenges me to think creatively, and empowers people to live happier lives in the process. OT, “you are everything I never knew I always wanted” (as quoted from 1997’s romcom hit, “Fools Rush In”).

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