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16 Hour Flight to Hang Out With my Occupational Therapy Pen Pal ⟩
January 4, 2023, by Global Initiatives Team

Getting Involved International

By Jared Bague (he/him), OTD ’25
Edited by Christelli Carmona, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student

Jared Bague

Jared Bague

There is a certain charm and chaos that comes with the final days of the year — the simple change of a single digit after 365 days sends people into a frenzy of ending the calendar year living life to its fullest. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I too subscribed to this “final frenzy” by meeting up with my pen pal . . . that lives on the other side of the world.

In October of 2022, Global Initiatives announced that they were organizing a “Global Pen Pal Program” where they connected USC Chan students with other OT students from around the world. With OT schools spanning South Korea, Palestine, Poland, and more, the Global Initiatives team matched Chan students to OT schools abroad according to their interests found in their application. For me personally, I’ve always felt a deep calling to be a bridge for the dissemination of knowledge in a place where my roots run deep — the Philippines.

A few days after I submitted my application, I was overjoyed to see that I was paired with the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. Even more so, I was excited to see that my roommate, Joseph Quiambao, was also paired with the same school. After we shared a few embarrassing cheers of excitement in our living room, I received my first email from my pen pal, Jose Maria Miguel Burgos (Miggy for short). We immediately began emailing back and forth introducing ourselves, which eventually evolved into direct messaging each other on Instagram, which eventually evolved into Zoom calls. Despite the 16-hour time difference, Miggy and I’s friendship grew quickly over the span of 2.5 months.

I gifted Miggy with a USC Chan shirt as a Christmas/New Year's gift

I gifted Miggy with a USC Chan shirt as a Christmas/New Year’s gift.

Prior to applying for the Global Pen Pals program, I was planning on taking my first international solo trip to spend New Year with my grandma in Sison, Philippines. In full honesty, the idea of navigating the stresses of international travel by myself was deterring me from following through with my plans. But after thinking about the possibility of having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet up with my pen pal, I knew I had to book the 15-hour flight. I pitched the idea to Miggy and Ray Torres (my roommate’s pen pal who I also got to know), and they were on board. After a few weeks of planning, we all settled on meeting up on December 28th.

It was only when I was surrounded by hundreds of balikbayan boxes (gifts that overseas Filipino families send home to the Philippines) at LAX that I realized how crazy of a plan this was. I began thinking to myself, “Jared, you just spontaneously booked a solo flight overseas to meet up with someone you had only seen the upper half of on Zoom.” But as the great philosopher, Drake, once said, “. . . you already know though. You only live once, that’s the motto.” With that song on repeat in my head for the entire duration of the flight, I finally touched down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on December 27th.

At 7:00 am on December 28th, Miggy and his childhood friend, Raffy, picked me up from my hotel in Bonifacio Global City. We went on a short road trip to Tagaytay where they took me to their favorite food spot, and then we headed back towards Makati where we grabbed coffee, went sightseeing, and shopping.

Miggy experienced my first taste of 'sinigang na baboy' and 'puto bong bong,' which are Filipino dishes

Miggy experienced my first taste of “sinigang na baboy” and “puto bong bong,” which are Filipino dishes.

Our first stop in Tagaytay was this lookout point. Tagaytay is located an hour and a half outside of Metro Manila

Our first stop in Tagaytay was this lookout point. Tagaytay is located an hour and a half outside of Metro Manila.

Apart from the amazing views, food, and shopping malls, the part that I enjoyed most was the conversations we had in our downtime. I got to learn a lot about Miggy — he is a big fan of Florence Clark and Erna Blanche, and he eventually wants to work in the mental health setting as a life coach, he and Ray Torres put on “Camp Kabahagi” which aims to enable children with disabilities through play, and so much more. While talking about our passion for OT, I was able to see how different yet similar the profession looks in our own respective experiences as OT students in different countries. We shared moments where we talked about Sensory Processing, therapeutic use of self, dysphasia, and other OT-related topics that sparked our interests. Overall, it was inspiring to witness OT students outside the United States sharing the same desire to make a difference in the world, one intervention at a time.

Going to Tagaytay was a special experience because Miggy and Raffy expressed how COVID has restricted them from leaving their houses too often

Going to Tagaytay was a special experience because Miggy and Raffy expressed how COVID has restricted them from leaving their houses too often.

We ate at 'Balay Dako' in Tagaytay. The restaurant had a beautiful view of Taal Lake in Batangas!

We ate at “Balay Dako” in Tagaytay. The restaurant had a beautiful view of Taal Lake in Batangas!

The “final frenzy” that I experienced led to me gaining a deeper understanding of the global community that we, as future OTs, are a part of. It is easy to forget that there are OTs around the globe that share the same hopes and dreams that we do — I find it quite beautiful. Once we set sail in our curiosity to learn more about OT beyond the borders of our own country, we can experience an exchange of knowledge that propels the profession forward. This is in hopes that OTs around the globe can provide the best quality care that we can as future practitioners.

In regards to my pen pal, Miggy, I know this isn’t the last time I will see him. His dream is to eventually attend USC Chan to pursue his PhD but until then, I’ll make sure to make a stop in Makati whenever I find myself in the Philippines again.

Leah Mary

Hidden Gems at USC ⟩
December 15, 2022, by Leah Mary

Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

I’ve been at USC since 2016 (WOW), and during my time here, I’ve found some fun places to hang out and events to participate in that I would love to share with you all!

Rock and Reilly’s or Study Hall (UPC)

Rock and Reilly’s or Study Hall are classic USC spots for a fun sit-down restaurant and bar to grab food with friends and watch USC and professional sports! I would always go with friends to hang out and celebrate good times!

USC Break On 2: Salsa Night (UPC)

The first Friday of every month, Break On 2 hosts a salsa night at Mudd Hall. The first hour is a workshop where they teach people tips and tricks, and then the rest of the night, you dance! Sometimes there is even a live band! It’s a 5 dollar entrance fee, but it is worth every penny.

Doheny Library (UPC)

This is the best Library to study at. Every time I study there, I feel like I am at Hogwarts. It is so beautiful.

Free gym memberships with fun open recreations

The perk of being a USC student is getting access to Lyon center, HSC Fitness Center, and Village Fitness center. At Lyon center, they have open recreation hours for badminton, indoor volleyball, Uytengsu outdoor pool, and the PED indoor pool.

Farmer’s market at McCarthy Quad (UPC) or Pappas Quad (HSC)

At UPC, there is a farmer’s market with fresh produce, boxed foods, and jewelry most Wednesdays 11am-3pm. I believe HSC also has a farmer’s market most Wednesdays. These are great places to relax and hammock!

Rose Garden (UPC)

Near the USC Colosseum is a beautiful rose garden where you can take pictures or have a nice picnic. Close to the rose garden, there is also the natural history museum!

Have fun exploring!

Aisha

Silver Linings ⟩
December 3, 2022, by Aisha

Classes Community Diversity

On Thursday, my team and I presented a poster on our community program proposal for our OT 537 course. I felt incredibly proud of the hard work we put into developing a justice-based occupational therapy program called Silver Linings to help previously incarcerated youth successfully reintegrate into the community. Using an occupational therapy lens, we aim to reduce recidivism which is the likelihood of rearrests, and occupational deprivation, which is when external circumstances restrict or limit people’s ability to engage in meaningful activities that promote health and well-being. As many of you may know, youth of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and treated worse than their white counterparts (Gigante et al., 2022). Although this is a proposal for a class project, my team members and I are passionate about increasing access for marginalized groups and promoting occupational justice. Therefore, we would like to see programs like this implemented in the future. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, one of our inspirations and role models in this field, tell us we should make this happen. That moment was invigorating and reignited the drive I felt when I began OT school!

A photo of my team members and me at our poster presentation

My incredible team members and me at our poster presentation! Shout out to Dejaney, Zoë, and Sadie. 😊

I’m not going to lie; this semester was very challenging. I struggled with imposter syndrome, burnout, and personal issues while balancing family obligations, work, and school. All of these factors impacted my motivation and mental well-being. I’ve had one too many crying sessions while battling self-doubt and the urge to give up.

No matter how challenging a situation is, there are always silver linings. As I write this, I am grateful for my countless blessings this semester. The first is my supportive family, friends, peers, and professors, who constantly encourage me to take care of myself, produce quality work, and remind me of how far I’ve come. I am forever thankful to be surrounded by brilliant human beings who challenge and inspire me to be the best version of myself personally and professionally. Second, I discovered rock climbing, my new hobby and restorative occupation. Lastly, in the field of occupational therapy, where there is only 5% Black representation, I am filled with joy to be in the midst of incredible history in the making.

Some of my peers, a group of Black women who will be future occupational therapists, and Dr. Anvarizadeh!

Some of my peers, a group of Black women who will be future occupational therapists, and Dr. Anvarizadeh!

Gigante, C. I., Rak, K., Kaplan, A., Helmcamp, L., Otoo, C., & Sheehan, K. M. (2022). A community-based youth diversion program as an alternative to incarceration, Illinois, 2017–2019. American Journal of Public Health, 112(9), 1265–1268. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2022.306946

Tania

Latinx Heritage Month Celebration ⟩
November 29, 2022, by Tania

Community Diversity First-Gen Getting Involved

Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional (AHTO) is a student organization in the Chan Division, with the goals to improve the educational experience of Latinx students and to provide care/resources to the Spanish-speaking community. We are a group of aspiring OTs passionate about working with underrepresented and underserved communities. AHTO hopes to support the retention of students of color within the division and to advocate for the needs that our community requires. AHTO is a student organization made by the students and for the students.

We all know the importance of representation in higher education and healthcare. Therefore, the AHTO board worked together to create several events in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.

The first event was café con pan dulce, which allowed students to connect over some cafesito and conchitas. That same day during lunch students gathered to play Loteria, which is similar to Bingo.

The next event was Case Studies en Español, and this event was made possible with the collaboration of Dr. Celso Delgado Jr.. Our two presenters, Dr. Marilyn Thompson and Dr. Daniel Padilla reviewed two different case studies in Spanish and provided tips on how to best serve the Spanish-speaking community.

We also had a social at a local Latinx-owned restaurant, Casa Fina Restaurant, to support businesses in the community. We enjoyed good food, good music, and great company. We had over 30 people at the event. It was beautiful to see so many people in one room building community.

We closed the celebration with Dia de Los Muertos. Students enjoyed tamales, pan dulce, and crafts.

AHTO hopes to create a safe space and a home away from home for those in the division. We understand that there have been other Latinx organizations before us that maybe have not lasted, but the fact that an organization keeps arising time by time lets us know the need for support in the division and the willingness of our community.

If you are a student and you are interested in getting involved, stay on the lookout for elections next semester!

If you are staff / faculty and wonder how you can best support our student group here are a few ways:

  1. Attend our events
  2. Promote our events
  3. Advocate for funding for student orgs
  4. Ask us what we need

Special thanks to Dr. Celso Delgado Jr. and Dr. Danny Park for their collaboration and support!

Leah Mary

External Residencies Are the Move ⟩
November 22, 2022, by Leah Mary

Classes School/Life Balance

During my 2nd year in the Entry-Level Master’s program, I felt enormous pressure to apply to the internal residency. I had my rose-colored glasses on. USC’s internal residencies are competitive, prestigious, and well-funded. Everyone was applying, so I felt compelled to apply. However, when I researched and learned about each residency site, I couldn’t see myself there. It wasn’t for me.

I didn’t think I was going to do the Post Professional OTD. It was expensive, and I didn’t want to pay for another year of school during a pandemic. I was very close to not applying until I talked to Dr. Bream. We explored the external residencies sites that suited my interests and could support me. I ended up committing to Hiller Therapy, where I am both the Occupational Therapy Resident AND a part-time employee, and I LOVE IT!

So here is a list of why I recommend getting excited about an external residency:

Schedule
You can create your own schedule! I am completing the Post-Professional OTD within a year and a half instead of one year to allow me to work part-time. In addition, you have the flexibility to defer for a semester or a full year.

Income
Oh yeah, you can work as an OT once you pass the NBCOT and obtain your license. That means you can make an income! 

Low-stress
I did not feel overwhelmed after summer fieldwork. I was able to take a couple of OTD courses and have enough time to study for the NBCOT without the pressure of 20-30 hours/week of residency.

Location Location Location
If you don’t want to stay in the LA area, you can do your OTD anywhere (nationally or internationally). The OTD courses can either be in person or over Zoom.

Advocate for your needs
I was able to ADVOCATE for what I needed and wanted from my residency site.

Ultimately, do what you want to do. Advocate for your needs, and don’t let institutions or people pressure you into things you don’t want to do!

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