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


Challenge Accepted
Posted , by Kaho

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Growing up, I did a lot of individual sports. I ran my first 10k when I was five and from there, I participated in cross country, track, and swimming throughout my school years. I would get so much anxiety the night before a race that I often would not be able to sleep and it felt like my heart would literally flutter out of my chest. Nervous thoughts would flood my brain like, “Am I ready?” “Have I trained enough?” “What if I finish last?” “What if I don’t finish at all?” My mom, who is also an experienced athlete, would sit me down before each race and give me a little pep talk to calm my nerves. She would say various things each time, but one phrase that she repeatedly included and therefore stuck with me is, “無理やと思ってからが本当の勝負” For all of my non-Japanese speaking readers out there, it roughly translates to, “The real battle begins after you think you’ve reached your limit.” This sentence has become so engraved into me that I still hear my mom’s voice in my head every time I’m challenged or stressed to the point that I think I can’t/don’t want to try any further. It has translated over from sports to all aspects of my life and has become my life motto. It has truly helped me throughout numerous stages of my life. (Side note: it’s my mom’s milestone birthday on Monday, so quick shout out to her 🎉 )

I’ve learned that whenever I think I’ve reached my limit, how far I’m able to push myself from that point after is the real test in my strength and character. It has helped me to reframe stressful, sometimes seemingly hopeless situations. When I feel tempted to give up, I pause, reflect, and reset my thoughts. I think, “Okay, I’ve made it to the edge of familiar grounds. This is where things get interesting and exciting because I’m now entering new territory. This is only the beginning of a new self-improvement opportunity.” Think of it this way: you’re playing a video game and you lose a life at level 15. It makes you start back at level 1, but this time, level 1-15 is a piece of cake because you’ve already experienced those levels. No acquirement of a new skill happens here. When you reach level 15 again, you feel a little adrenaline because this was where you fell last time. You’re about to enter a level that you have yet to successfully overcome. This time, you’re able to conquer the challenge and move on to level 16, then level 17. Your limit is now level 17 and you’ve pushed yourself further than what you were familiar with or could tolerate before. How I see it, it’s the same with life. Each time you push yourself past your perceived breaking point, your capacity grows that much more.

Every day, we’re faced with new challenges and I completely understand that it all becomes too overwhelming sometimes. However, something as simple as reframing your thoughts can switch up your mood and give you the courage to keep advancing. Next time you’re faced with a situation that makes you want to give up, try taking a different perspective and get excited! It’s an opportunity to grow and become an even better version of yourself. I don’t know who or if anyone needs to hear this right now, but you’re much more capable than you may think. Fight On!


Finding my Squad in Black Excellence
Posted , by Kat

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This past weekend I went to the Black Graduate Student Network’s (BGSN) Kick the Day Back event. It was lit and I had so much fun! I had the opportunity to meet other Black grad students, network, and had a great time doing so. USC BGSN is a student organization that emphasizes “building a family we can utilize as a network”. This resonates with me as a Black student in the OT program. Finding community and belonging can be difficult. But having student orgs like BGSN that put on events that promote unity and community make it a lot easier for a minority student like myself. This past weekend I met PhD pharmacy, law, and masters of education in PASA students. It was an incredible feeling to be in a room filled with Black excellence. The BGSN hosts a variety of events throughout the school year such as their upcoming tailgate that will be held on the quad at the main campus this Saturday (10/19/19). They even have Spotify playlists you should check out for great music

During my undergraduate studies, it was easier to find communities I belonged to because of living on campus, sports I participated in, and having classes everyday. Graduate school is a whole new ball game when it comes to finding your niche. Luckily USC offers a number of student orgs specifically for the minority population such as the LatinX Student Assembly (LSA) and the Sistah Circle. The Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA) is a great resource for Black students looking for empowerment and engagement with campus life.

After this weekend, I know I found my crew with the BGSN! Periodt!
Don’t be afraid to branch out, be social, and find your squad, if you haven’t already.

Pictured are friends I made this week at the BGSN event, Cas Walker and Celeste Brown

Friends I made this week at the BGSN event (Cas Walker and Celeste Brown) #blackgirlmagic


To Be, or Not to Be, a Trojan
Posted , by Kaho

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As students begin to apply to different occupational therapy programs and the Chan Division’s November 30th deadline creeps up, one of the most common questions I’ve been receiving is, “why did you choose USC?” “Is it worth it?” A former student ambassador wrote a blog that briefly shares her reasons for choosing USC and it also has helpful tips on how to finance. Graduate schools are not cheap and it’s no secret that even among them, USC is on the pricier side. I understand that finance is a huge factor for everyone when making decisions about their future and no one looks forward to the multi-digit loans they’re about to take on. The financial burden was an immense worry for me as well, and it still is. However, there are pros and cons to everything in life. It helps to weigh both sides and look at the bigger picture. So, to answer your question, attending USC has been worth it for me personally and I’ll explain my reasons why. Before I do that though, I’d like to note that everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s values are different, and only you can make the best decision for yourself because ultimately, you’ll thrive most in an environment that you’re whole-heartedly committed to.

  • The school itself, the students, and its faculty
    There’s a reason that the Chan Division has been ranked as one of the top OT programs in the world repeatedly. There are numerous, cutting edge research projects going on at any given time and graduates of the program go out to be leaders in the world of OT every year. Being in an environment like that, where I’m surrounded by intelligent, motivated, passionate, and dedicated students and faculty, I’m inspired to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone to be the best OT that I could be. The professors that I have met are all so personal and genuine. I can sense that they truly care about my learning and success. Despite the large student body compared to other OT programs, I feel that my individual needs are heard and met and that I am fully supported in my education.
  • my cohort of about 45 students

    My cohort after a Thanksgiving potluck

  • The size
    While some people may prefer a small class of 25 students, I appreciate the fact that there are 136 other students going through the program with me at the Chan Division. It has given me the opportunity to meet a variety of people with different passions and styles. Personally, the big class keeps things interesting because each individual brings a new perspective. Each graduating class is also divided into 3 cohorts of about 40-45 for most lectures and in labs, the cohort is further split into 2, so I still get the benefits of a small class like individualized attention from professors and close relationships with classmates as well.

  • The resources and connections
    As you already probably know (because I mentioned it in my first reason), USC Chan’s faculty is pretty amazing. The researchers, educators, and clinicians are all passionate about what they do and they’re respected across California, the nation, and even the world. Now imagine being able to walk into any of their offices and start a casual conversation. All of the faculty have an open door policy, where students can seek for guidance, mentorship, or just a fun conversation. It’s incredibly comforting to merely know that I have access to all faculty with an array of different experiences within and outside of the profession of OT. Furthermore, students have resources outside of the division. Every fieldwork site I’ve been to, there has been at least one USC Chan alumnus working there. As soon as I say that I’m from USC, their eyes light up and I instantly feel a connection as “a fellow Trojan.” They willingly share with me about their career path and any advice they have. Because OTs can work in such a vast range of settings, everyone’s story is unique and insightful. Speaking of fieldwork, USC has connections to over 950 sites nationally and internationally. The possibilities for your professional development is endless!

With all that being said, I can’t stress enough that this is just my own experience. Everyone’s priorities are different and what makes USC worth it for me, may not be important to you. In addition, I have only experienced USC’s OT program, so I can’t compare it to other schools and speak for it. In the end, any school will be what you make of it. Talk to the people around you that know you well and can help you figure out whether what USC has to offer is what you’re looking for in a graduate program. An application process can be a stressful experience and it involves some big decisions, but I’d be happy to be a resource so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email! You can also sign up for one of our info sessions. Just remember, you’re not alone in your concerns. Good luck!

*a little disclaimer in case you were wondering: everything I’ve written is my honest opinion and I was in no way required or encouraged to say positive things about USC 😊


California Love
Posted , by Noelle

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I have been based in Los Angeles for four years now and have lived in Southern California my whole life.  Not a shabby place to be by any means but when I found out that we could go “out of area” forlevel II fieldwork , I jumped at the chance.  Now the story of how I got to New York is a long one involving waiting tables, countless meetings with the fieldwork team, and a lot of persistence…but I’ll save that for another blog post.
I spent three glorious months in the city that never sleeps and as much as I missed the beach and predictable weather, I was not ready to come back home.  In an attempt to ease the blow, I returned with a new resolution—to rekindle my love of Los Angeles.  When I was in New York, I was determined to make the most of the limited time I had.  I spent many happy hours on rooftops and patios, took side trips to museums, flea markets, parks, walked home from fieldwork on nice days just to take in the city.  What’s stopping me from doing those things in LA?! Well, besides school, work, and traffic, NOTHING!  But seriously, I have taken this city for granted and considering I don’t know how long I’ll be here after graduation, I thought I’d better start taking advantage of it. 
So here are some things I’ve been doing to keep “New York Noelle” alive:

  • The Graduate Student Government (GSG) hosts fun outings (with discounts!) like happy hours at trendy bars, local sporting events, and volunteer opportunities—all of which are great ways to explore the city and meet other grad students.  I would recommend getting on their email list to get regular updates!
  • Noelle rooting on the Dodgers

    Me and my best friend at a Dodgers game in September. We got to sit in the section that had unlimited food so thanks GSG!

  • There are also lots of social events that happen with other OT students.  Student organizations like OTSC and PTE plan fun outings like happy hour hangouts and roller-skating.
  • I’m on an informal trivia team with a group of math PhD’s (I actually met them at a GSG event). University Park Campus has a weekly trivia at Tommy’s Place, but we also like to try different restaurants/bars too.
  • To make studying a little more exciting, I’ve extended the radius of my study spots.  I live at the OT House close to the main campus so the local coffee shops and libraries are convenient and lovely, but after 4 years, very familiar.  I’ve found some hidden gems in Korea Town, Echo Park, Hollywood, Santa Monica etc. that make studying for adult rehab feel like an event!

So far this resolution has served me well.  My wanderlust is satiated and I feel lucky to call Los Angeles home.

This week’s song rec: Who doesn’t love 2Pac’s “California Love”? But if you want to try something completely different check out Joni Mitchell’s “California”.


It’s Interview Season!
Posted , by Catherine

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Hello everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying the beginning of the fall season.  Along with pumpkin spice, and everything nice, the Chan residency interviews have begun.  It thought it might be helpful for share some interview tips.  Remember, interviewing for a residency is like interviewing for a job, and these tips can save to apply to when you interview at external residencies later on as well.

  • Dress for success, and strike pose.  I know you’ve heard it a million times, but I will say it again for good measure.  While you don’t need to go outside of your means to purchase an entire new outfit, it really does make a difference when you dress for the position you want.  Not only does it reflect a level a respect and professionalism, it can be helpful to get you into “the zone”. What also helps is to do a power pose.  Take 5 minutes to do a power pose before going into your interview to level up on your confidence.
  • Prepare an elevator speech.  You’ve written countless ones of how you will describe occupational therapy, but it’s also good to have one about yourself.  Writing an elevator speech about why you want the residency you’re applying for will not only have a handy go to answer if you are asked this question, but it will give you an opportunity to identity your strengths!
  • Practice talking about yourself.  If you’re like me, and feel uncomfortable talking about yourself under pressure, practicing talking about yourself can be really helpful.  Find a safe space with someone you feel comfortable and do a “mock interview”.  This can get your interview jitters out and help you feel more prepared on the big day.
  • Write yourself a LTG. I mentioned this in a previous post, but setting a clear goal for what you want to achieve during your residency will help anchor your talking points.  This will especially come in handy if you get a question you weren’t prepared to answer.  Just tie it back to your goal(s).
  • Be yourself!  While sometimes it may seem like there is a “right answer” to an interview question, it’s always best to be true to yourself.  One of the goals of an interview is find a good fit between the candidate and the residency site.  Trust the process and be yourself.

Remember, take a deep breathe, count to ten, use whatever relaxation strategy works for you, because you got this! Fight on!!

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