Erika Julyann Tolentino MA ’21
Hometown: Cavite, Philippines
Program: Post-Professional Master’s, Class of 2021
What brought you to occupational therapy?
My answer to this question would actually be a “who” rather than a “what.” The reason that I am here in occupational therapy is because of my beloved mom. My mom was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis in the year 2009. As a young teenager back then, all I wanted to do was to help my mom overcome her condition. She was my best friend, my partner and my home. I researched and studied about her condition and I saw how much help she needed. Unfortunately, she was not able to make it. That’s when I realized it was my calling to help those in need. At first, I had no idea what occupational therapy was. Most of my relatives in the family had either been nurses or doctors but I felt in my heart I had a different calling in the medical field. At a certain point in my youth, I told myself that the reason why I chose Occupational Therapy was to help my people like my mom fight their battles. I am someone who loves to help others live a better life. I am someone who wants to be a part of the change and to help bring purpose and meaning to one’s life for those who need it. I was inspired to help patients who specifically deal with neurological and hand conditions. I have dedicated all these years of hard work to my mom and all the many more years of work ahead. She serves as an inspiration from up above.
What area of practice are you interested in?
After being in the profession for almost 3 years (professionally in the Philippines), I found myself torn between pediatrics and adult rehabilitation. I love helping children as much as I love helping adults. I have learned a lot based on work experience from my hometown, the Philippines, but one area that I am specifically interested in is to start practicing hand therapy here in the United States. After engaging in electives in hand therapy and physical agent modalities, I see myself pursing a certification as a hand therapist who would love to help people who are suffering from various hand impairments.
Describe your background before coming to occupational therapy.
Before studying to become an occupational therapist for undergrad, I was just a typical teenage girl living life day to day like anyone my age would. Someone who loves to spend time with her family and friends, a girl who at times struggled with schoolwork in order to get good grades so as to get into a good college. I have always been a girl who loves to dream big. Learning and embracing occupational therapy definitely has changed my life and I have never been this content and in love with a profession before. This profession has definitely brought out the best and at times has challenged me to my absolute limits which made me in turn learn more about myself as a person and as a therapist.
If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I love traveling. I believe that each and every part of the world has its own unique experience in their own way because of different cultures, values and even cuisine. It is definitely my dream to travel across all of it! If given the chance, I would love to go to Paris, France to see the Eiffel tower! I would also love to see Greece and see the great Greek architecture as I was a huge fan of Greek mythology when I was younger. Tokyo, Japan also because my boyfriend and I want to go!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever given “Don’t be afraid, you are bigger than your fears. Follow your heart and dream big.” I know life can be really tough sometimes. Being at our lows can either make us or break us. Life is not always about the happy times because there will be sad times as well, but no matter what go through it because we all learn from our experiences. These experiences are what makes us become the person that we are meant to be.