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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog

Yna

Staying connected >

by Yna

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As an only child, I spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends, probably topping my list of favorite occupations. Although over the years I’ve appreciated being able to have my own private time, I also find a different kind of delightful companionship from them. And so without being able to go out due to the stay at home protocol currently in place, and adding the factor of being away from home, feelings of loneliness do arise from time to time. What definitely has been a huge support for my situation are the various (virtual) social events being held regularly at school, which I think students could really use especially during this time of limited socialization opportunities.

Global Initiatives, for one, hosted an International Student Welcome Celebration Zoom party, where students were allowed to gather virtually (in our pajamas!) and have time dedicated to just catch up, share experiences, and have fun together.
International Students Welcome Party
One of our activities was called “bake a wish” where we made paper fortune cookies. We picked out a quote from a list of inspirational messages that were provided by the students ourselves, to provide encouragement to our fellow students. My quote of choice says: “The goal is to be better than who you were yesterday,” to inspire me to keep going especially for when the more challenging times come.

Additionally, is a photo of me with some Post-Professional Master’s students Elmo, Amy, and Ahmed virtually hanging out on a Friday night over Zoom. We played some games and really spent time talking to each other about life and many other things.
MA1 students virtual hangout
Despite the busy schedule, it is nice to have some time dedicated for socialization. Besides, what better way to destress after finishing 3 weeks of the fall semester than celebrate it with my fellow international students? After all, we, humans, are innately social beings; and social participation is one essential area of occupation that we must also fulfill in order to achieve a healthy balance.

To wrap this up, I want to highlight the importance of finding creative ways to make our presence felt to our friends and loved ones even though we’re socially distanced from each other. Each of us carries our own personal challenges, apart from the multitude of things currently happening in our society that may or may not be directly impacting us, so making it this far is really something to be recognized in itself. During challenging and unprecedented times like these, it is through each other where we can find support and draw strength from, so definitely reach out and seek support! Fight on, everyone!

Calvin

Humans of USC Chan Volume 1 >

by Calvin

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When I was applying to OT school, I remember that I really wanted to get different student perspectives on what programs were like and how they navigated graduate school. As a student ambassador, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to share my experiences with all of you, but I know that there are so many other extraordinary voices in the division too!

So, I gathered some second-year Entry-Level Master’s students to come and talk about what their OT school experiences have been like so far! We went over topics related to what kind of OT they’re interested in, what their favorite classes and memories are, and what challenges they’ve faced. They even shared some advice for all of you thinking about applying to the program! If you watch it through YouTube, the video is time-stamped with each topic in case you ever want to go back to a specific conversation.

I hope you find this video helpful and that these diverse perspectives give you more insight into what student life is like in the Master’s program! Welcome to the Humans of USC Chan!

 

Liz

My First Level 1 Fieldwork in Permanent Supportive Housing >

by Liz

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The mental health immersion has been by far one of my favorites! Before grad school I had zero experience in this type of setting and I didn’t know what OT in mental health looked like. So, I was excited to learn all about it! A couple of weeks into my first fall semester, I learned that I would be completing my first level 1 fieldwork experience at a permanent supportive housing facility. The residents at this facility were all individuals who were transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing. This is one of the settings that you’ll get a chance to learn about in the immersion.

To my surprise there wasn’t an OT at my site, but I learned SO much. This was because there’s already a smaller representation of occupational therapists working in mental health settings. Fortunately, there were a couple of case managers and an event coordinator present who collaborated with each other to best support the residents. At first it made me really nervous that there wasn’t an OT at my site. I already didn’t know what OT looked like in a mental health context and the fact that it was my first fieldwork experience felt intimidating. However, I will say it was comforting to have one of my colleagues at the same site with me!

The site was relatively new, and most of the residents didn’t really know each other. However, a few of them did from seeing each other at some of the same shelters prior to obtaining housing. On our first day, we knocked on every single resident’s door to introduce ourselves. Even after we introduced ourselves, at first it was difficult for my colleague and I to interact with a lot of the residents. They preferred to stay in their rooms and only came down to the main lobby for coffee or snacks. So, my colleague and I asked ourselves: what would our goal be while we were there? We broke down some of what we had learned in class so far and decided that we wanted to establish a sense of community among the residents. We hoped to promote social engagement and wanted the site to feel like home. And of course we also wanted to encourage the residents to engage in meaningful occupations!

We discussed our ideas with the case managers and event coordinator to make sure it was okay to move forward and they were on board! After receiving the green light, we designed a monthly calendar full of different groups/activities the residents could attend which included gardening, bingo, cooking groups, exercise groups, and computer classes. We also got to use some of the money available in the budget to order some yoga mats, light weights, coloring supplies, and raffle gift cards for bingo.

Every week we would make a new flyer to promote the groups we would be hosting for the day, knock on people’s doors, and invite them to join us. What started with one person attending our first couple of groups turned into more than 10 people joining us! I had the chance to work with one resident who wanted to learn how to use a computer to type up his own songs. He loved music, and I showed him how to use Microsoft Word to type them up. I taught him how to use the internet to search up websites that help you practice typing on the keyboard. I also helped another resident type up a resume. She wanted to go back to work and wanted to get a resume ready. Being able to support these residents engage in activities they found meaningful was amazing.

Over time, some residents felt more comfortable coming down to the lobby even during hours when we weren’t hosting any group sessions. It was an amazing experience also serving as social support for them. Several residents didn’t have any family or friends, while some had simply lost touch with them. On some days we would just sit in the lobby, listen to music and just talk. We were able to order a speaker for bingo that had an aux, so I was able to take some song requests. Billie Jean was a HIT! But, hearing their stories was the best part.

My professional boundaries were also tested while I was at this site. I am a very petite woman, and one of the residents who was also around my size wanted to give me a USC sweater she said no longer fit her. We had talked about this in class and how we may have to make ethical decisions when at fieldwork and in practice. But, I didn’t know making those decisions would come so soon! This woman whom I had established wonderful rapport with wanted to gift me a sweater. How could I decline? I definitely didn’t want her to think it was because I didn’t like it or because it wasn’t brand new. Would this affect our therapeutic relationship? I knew the right thing to do was to decline the gift. So, I explained that I was not allowed to accept any gifts, but that I would take a picture with it and keep that instead. I could tell she was disappointed at first, but she was happy to see that I took a picture with it! This was definitely a difficult decision to make, but an important part of my learning experience.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot! As I am writing this blog post I can’t help but think about all of the wonderful residents I met at this site. I am hoping they are all doing well and full of health! If you are a student in the program who hasn’t taken the mental health immersion, I am certain you’ll have a wonderful experience too. And, if you’re a future Trojan you also have some exciting experiences to look forward to!

Bethany

Introducing OT >

by Bethany

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Between our summer session ending and the start of fall, we had a one week break. And I tried to make the most of the time. I engaged in some of my favorite activities that had been pushed off during finals week, including different musical occupations. One of the most entertaining is making parodies of songs and rewriting lyrics.

I found myself reflecting on my school experiences as an OT. Ever since freshman year, I’ve had to have a definition of my major at hand. That basic introduction question of “What are you studying?” probably brought more explanation than that poor engineering student was expecting. But I thought it would be fun to put it all in song form. I hope you find this parody of Nick Jonas’ “Introducing Me” both informative and amusing. So whether you’re here for the laughs or you’ve stumbled onto this page by accident and want to learn more about OT, here it is, for your perusing:

Lamoni

So, You Have Submitted Your Application >

by Lamoni

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It is that time of the year when potential students are pressing that “submit” button! If that is you, congratulations! Completing applications is undoubtedly the most stressful part of applying to schools. You have completed all of your pre-requisites, spent several hours observing, gathered recommendation letters, wrote an impressive personal statement, sat 4 long hours to take the GRE, and maybe did a couple of interviews as well– CONGRATULATIONS! Please give yourself a pat on the back. Those are a lot of steps; You have already accomplished a lot.

But, nobody talks about the waiting game. This is also a very stressful time. I remember the big sigh of relief when I turned in all 9 of my OT school applications (Thank goodness for OTCAS am I right?). However, the feeling of relief was fleeting. Getting into OT school is a very competitive process and it only gets more competitive each year. The daunting question of “What if I don’t get in?” crossed my mind soon after submission.

OTCAS Congratulatory Email

OTCAS Congratulatory Email

USC Application Verification Email

USC Application Verification Email

I also had feelings of guilt because the number of things on my plate had significantly decreased. When applying, I was working, taking classes, observing, and studying. After, all I had to do was work. I was no longer extremely busy, and I felt weird about it. Was I doing enough? Should I be doing more?

I was also on OT blogs and OT reddit posts non-stop. Once people started posting their acceptances and rejections, the anxiety was unbearable. I started having dreams about checking my email!

It should not have been that stressful. That should have been my time to take a step back and breathe. If you are going through the same challenges that I went through, here is what you should do:

Create a Plan
      Honestly, rejections happen. Sometimes it takes more than one try to do anything and that concept applies to getting into OT school. But it is not the end of the world. So, let’s not think of it that way. Instead, have a just-in-case plan ready. That way, if you are not accepted this time around, you will have action steps in your back pocket.During the wait, get the contact information for the directors of admissions at each of the schools you applied to. Most programs will allow you to reach out and ask about ways to strengthen your application. This way, you can have concrete suggestions on what to do instead of wondering where to start. For USC, the admissions team contact information can be found here.
      Because we are all our biggest critic, you probably already have areas of your application that you would like to improve. For example, do you feel like you could have done better on the algebra section of the GRE? Do some practice algebra questions from time to time. Now that you have been through the process once, you have an idea of what you should focus on.

Stay (kind-of) Busy
Now that you have gotten into the routine of preparing your applications, it can be hard to break it. You don’t have to! Not all the way, at least. There’s no need to take more classes or revise your personal statement—that’s done. However, you can continue to observe and volunteer. It never hurts to increase your understanding of OT. See what the OTs in your area are doing in a variety of settings. Are most of your observation hours in pediatrics? Try mental health. Combine the two and try pediatric mental health. Did you mainly volunteer at camps? Try volunteering at a nursing home this time. This way, you are not only learning more about the profession, you are building your network. And continue to document these hours because..why not. Again, it doesn’t hurt.

Put Your Phone Down and Close Some of those Tabs
Why are you frantically checking your emails?  It’s still September. They aren’t even sending out acceptance letters yet. Oh, and close all 6 of those forum tabs. The two YouTube videos named “how to get into OT school” is enough.
You spent more than enough time on your phone and computer during the application process. You have already seen and noted what’s on these forums and in these videos. Take a bit of a break.

Waiting is tough. Feeling like you are in lingo is challenging. But you have already done what needs to be done. Be patient with yourself and patient with the process. Add some time to your sigh of relief.

 

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