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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events
News and Events

Finding Global Community and Connection in 2021
February 23, 2021

As we say goodbye to a tumultuous year, all of us at Global Initiatives wish to send our warmest greetings of friendship to all of you, whether you are reading this blog locally in Los Angeles or around the world.

Global Initiatives International Pandemic Students

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By Daniel Park, OTD, OTR/L
Director of Global Initiatives and Associate Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy

As we hope that 2021 brings healing to our lives, we know that now more than ever, coming together as a global community is all the more important. Here in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away many of our everyday avenues for connection. We are unable to meet up for lunch on the weekends, to go to the movies, or to simply greet friends with a hug! I imagine that many of you around the world have experienced loss of community as well in your own ways, and it is a loss that cuts deeply for many of us.

At USC, Global Initiatives has been finding creative opportunities for global connection and friendship during the season of COVID, and to me, some of our efforts have provided my favorite memories of 2020. In September, we launched a “Friendtorship Circles” program as a way for us to bring together USC OT students across all of our many academic programs (Bachelor’s-to-Masters, Post-Professional Masters, Professional Masters, OTD, and PhD programs). We have had over 120 OT students participate in this program, as we created 30 diverse Friendtorship Circle groups of 4-6 students who met online to build friendship with each other, provide advice, and find community!

First Friendtorship Circles Meeting (October 2020)

And just last month (December), Global Initiatives began a “Pen Pal” Letter Writing Exchange program with fellow OT students from 6 universities around the world (from Australia, Colombia, Ghana, Palestine, and Taiwan). We really hope many of these Pen Pal connections become long-term relationships that our students will carry with them for years to come!

Pen Pal Asia University (2020)

On a personal note, I am deeply thankful for the global friendships and partnerships we have built over the years in Global Initiatives, and it has been meaningful for me to see us draw together as a community in this time of world-wide need. Throughout 2020, I was constantly reminded of how truly small the world is, and the things that seem to divide us across national borders have mattered less and less as we connect simply as friends and human beings. As we will begin to emerge from our global crisis in 2021, I also hope we won’t lose sight of how much we do need each other, and that we will continue to prioritize friendship and partnership with one another around the world.