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 Blog


Totally Worth It
Posted , by Catherine

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Having a family with two school aged children to take care of, and leaving the comfort of a steady income from having a job, was not an easy decision that I had to make before coming to USC.  Yes, the financial burden of paying the cost of attendance was one part, but another part of me felt guilty about not being home for my nephews, who I co-parent.  I was worried if I could be successful in my academic pursuits, while also maintaining a household. However, I knew that I had found a profession that I was passionate about, and would somehow make it work. As I reflect on my first semester in the OTD, I can confidently say, it has.

If you are like me and decide to pursue the standard progression of courses in the OTD, the OT-620 core course is the only one you are required to take this first semester.  Because most of your week is dedicated to your residency, and your hours are negotiable with your site, this provided me a certain amount of flexibility.  I have been able to continue to maintain my morning school drop off routines, and come home to have dinner, do homework and be present for my nephews consistently.

Taking advantage of the benefits of technology has also made my life a lot easier.  Subscribing to their school calendars, and knowing in advance important school events has allowed me to not be thrown off-guard if my fourth grader forgot to tell me “Pastries with Parents” is tomorrow.  And even though I may not be able to volunteer for every class event for my Kindergartner, the share sites teachers and parents utilize have kept me in the know.  Not to mention the grocery delivery apps that have often saved me when I forgot to stock up on a lunchbox essential.

I am not saying that this process has been easy.  It was not easy to study for my boards exams while negotiating with a five year old to take his bath.  I have been lucky to have had wonderful support from other adult members of my family, the school (mine and theirs), and to be able to access the comforts of modern technology.  However, looking back at my experience in the OTD so far, it has not only been manageable, but totally worth it.  If you are like me when I was considering applying to graduate school; worried about how you are going go through graduate school and be a caregiver, I am here to say you can do it!  If you have any questions about my experience, or want to know more about the OTD program, i am here for you, and would love to hear from you. 


Wrapping Up with Thanks
Posted , by Kaho

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I hope everyone had a relaxing and long Thanksgiving weekend surrounded by friends and family! Students of the Chan Division are back for their final week of classes and are sprinting to the finish line as they prepare for presentations, final papers, and exams. It’s a time of high stress, but I want to try to soak in the warm soothing vibes from Thanksgiving for a little while longer.

I spent my Thanksgiving this year with my boyfriend’s family here in SoCal. My family is far, far away in Japan and the holidays can be a lonely time for international students like me, so I’m really grateful to have been able to get that home-with-family feeling with lots of home cooked food. My cohort, Cohort A, also had a Friendsgiving potluck that week. I found out that everyone is a master chef and we had like… a century’s worth of food. It was amazing. Our professors, Dr. Diaz and Dr. Gunter, prepared turkey and ham for us too, so I’m not exaggerating when I say we had a FEAST.

cutting turkey

Dr. Diaz and my classmate, Daniel, cutting the turkey

cohort group picture

My favorite cohort 😉

*Sorry for the blurry photos, my phone has terrible quality*

As this semester comes to an end, I’m reflecting on all that’s happened (classes, fieldwork in pediatrics, elective courses selection, OTD application, externship planning, student ambassador events, etc. oh my) and how quickly these past 4 months or so have flown by. To be honest, this whole year and a half since I started the program has flown by. I can’t believe that I’ll be done with my final immersion by the end of next week and I only have one semester left until I graduate. I know that next semester will feel even faster because it’s filled with exciting elective courses and I’ll be working lots of events. Although I have an indefinite list of things that I’m thankful for, this year, I’m especially thankful for the friends that I’ve made and become closer to through the program, the opportunity to pursue my passion and study OT at USC, my teachers and mentors, my family that never fails to support and encourage me no matter how far they are, my support system back in San Diego from undergrad, and my good health/able body. I’m heading home to Japan over winter break and my annual family reunion is waiting for me on the other side of finals. It’s been a whole year since I’ve seen them, so I’m beyond excited and motivated to get through these last two weeks. I hope everyone has a great holiday season and good luck on finals! Finish strong!


I am thankful for…
Posted , by Japeth

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November is thanksgiving season in American culture, and what better way to celebrate it than by having dinner with friends at the USC Chan division? Last Friday (November 22), the Global Initiatives team was thoughtful enough to organize an early thanksgiving dinner with the students and some faculty and staff of USC Chan. It was a wonderful way for us to de-stress and be with everyone. Everybody found something to do to help as we prepared the food!

Everyone doing the Fight On sign before getting started with the meal prep

Before doing the meal prep, its always best to start it by taking a group photo while doing the Fight On pose! In this group photo, Dr. Emily Ochi, the MA1 Program Director and Bianca Ojeda, USC Chan’s social event program coordinator, showed the inner Trojan in them by also doing the fight on pose!!

Students posing with some ingredients

Katie Miller, MA2 student and also a member of USC Chan’s Global Initiatives together with MA1 students, Raffy Wagas, Lin Hung-Yi, Pan Yen-Wen, Hasmin Palo, and Yvonne Lin (from L-R).

Student doing design-your-own cookie

MA1 students designing their own cookies! That’s me right there!!

Japeth Dia, the student ambssador showing his finished product. The cookies say I love OT

Here’s my photo showing the cookies that I designed… well I am not artistic to begin with and that’s the best that I could do! LOL

MA1 girls just posing with their best smiles

MA1 ladies showing their “girls just wanna have fun” look! Indeed, they look like they’re having sooo much fun!

Picture of the turkey

Of course, this is everyone’s favorite - turkey!!

I asked my friends who grew up here about thanksgiving and their answer in a nutshell is… its a time for us all to think of what has been great and why you’re thankful about it; some may also consider what did not work out or what failed if they see it as a blessing in disguise.

Honestly, when you’re facing a lot of stress and tons of schoolwork to do and on top of that, life gets in the way - what is there to be thankful about, right? But again, how we perceive things greatly affects how we feel and how we react to them. Last week too, while I was hearing the mass, the priest was preaching on how to live not on the ‘what if’, but live on the ‘even if’. Is this the universe trying to intervene? Hmmm.

With that being said, I took some time to do a thanksgiving reflection, and what I realized is something that I cannot discredit myself: one thing that happened to me this year that I am most thankful for is being able to take my MA and being able to thrive in a totally new environment. Its difficult but its doable, especially if you are with the right people!

Group photo of everyone who joined the dinner

Life may be difficult at times, but being with the right people helps a lot. To me, these are the right people and I am so blessed to have them!

If I may ask you, what are you thankful for?


Studying without Stu(dying)
Posted , by Kaho

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I don’t know about you, but I’m easily distracted by my environment. As soon as I sit down to study, my brain convinces me that my entire house needs to be deep cleaned this instant, or that I need to meal prep for the next 2 weeks, or it suddenly reminds me of an errand I need to run that I’ve been putting off and is obviously not time sensitive. If I manage to win that internal battle and remain at my desk, then my bed starts to look incredibly cozy and warm and before I know it, I’m wrapped up in there like a burrito and hours have passed… Unfortunately, I just cannot study for long periods of time in the comfort of my own room or home. If you just nodded in agreement, this post is for you. 👉
After trying to study in various places around my house, I’ve found a few favorites that always get the productive juices in me flowing. I live near the main campus, UPC, so I usually study somewhere around there.

  1. The Village
    This is my favorite spot of all time. There are tables and chairs in the plaza next to a fountain, where numerous undergraduate and graduate students sit down to study or chat with friends. It’s outdoors, so I love being able to feel the calming breeze while soaking up some SoCal sun. There’s a Trader Joe’s, Target, and various shops surrounding the plaza, so I can always run for a snack or meal if I get hungry. If I need an outlet or I want to go indoors because I’m baking in the sun, there are cafés like Dulce and Starbucks that still promote productivity. When I need a quick break, I just look up from my books or laptop and people-watch. It may sound strange, but it’s really interesting to see all these different lives and situations coming together in one place. I just like to gaze around the plaza and see what people (and their dogs) are up to. I could study here for hours.
  2. USC village

    Tables and chairs in the USC Village plaza

  3. Doheny Library
    My second favorite is Doheny Library. In my opinion, it’s the prettiest library at USC. I go here when I really need to concentrate and grind out some work because it’s quieter than the Village and there are less people. It also kind of makes me feel like I’m in a Harry Potter movie, so I guess that helps too. There’s a study hall in the corner of this library where the ceiling is high, books line all of the walls, and there are numerous long tables for students to sit at. It gets an ample amount of natural light and outlets are conveniently located. Just sitting in the room instantly makes me feel more intelligent and motivated.

  4. Doheny Library

    Study hall at Hogwa—I mean, Doheny Library

  5. Any coffee shop
    I won’t go into much detail about this one because there are hundreds of influencers out there that can do a much better job than I can of ranking aesthetically pleasing LA coffee shops. But, I just wanted to point out the existence of numerous aesthetically pleasing LA coffee shops. Once you start exploring, the possibilities are endless. Just Google “best LA coffee shops” and you’re good to go. (Side note: The next place on my coffee exploration list is Blue Bottle because a dear friend got me a gift card. I’m pretty excited to try it this finals week.) Sitting down with a nice cup of coffee in a well-decorated space with relaxing music is always a good indicator of a productive day.

Finals week is coming up and it seems to be a tough time for a lot of people, but the least you can do is study in a space that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. You’ll definitely find me in one of these three places these coming weeks. Don’t forget to get some sun, listen to some music, eat well, sleep well, and good luck! 


Family Traditions
Posted , by Kevin

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With the holiday season approaching, it got me thinking about what make the holidays so special for me. At the top of my list are the traditions I celebrate with my family. For the past four years, my girlfriend Jenna and I visit my family in NorCal to celebrate thanksgiving and these are the traditions that are the most meaningful to me.

Although we arrive a few days before thanksgiving, the festivities start the moment we arrive. On the first day, my mom always makes pies and more importantly “pie sticks”…what are pie sticks you may ask? Well it’s essentially just the pie crust baked with cinnamon and sugar on top. We all know the crust is the best part of pie, so let’s just get to the good stuff…right? After we’ve filled up on pie sticks, we walk from my parent’s house, one street down to my older sister’s house to play the latest board games. I never know how she does it, but my sister always has the most fun board games that I’ve never played before. It’s even become a tradition to bring the games my sister taught us to Jenna’s family during their holiday celebrations. The next day we head to Wright’s Lake to kayak. In November, Wright’s Lake is usually partially frozen over, and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains making it one of the most breathtaking scenes of nature I have ever seen. After a day of exercising our upper body kayaking, we wake up early Thanksgiving morning and do a charity 5k run. The run helps me feel more justified in the amount of food I will consume later in the day. The rest of the day we help our relatives prepare the Thanksgiving meal and then we all eat together while sharing stories to catch up on the past year. The next morning we get up early again and we head toward South Lake Tahoe to find a tree in preparation for Christmas.


Wright’s Lake


Jenna and I searching for the perfect tree!

Needless to say, I cannot wait for next week because I am grateful to have these traditions that allow me to spend quality time with the people I love!


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