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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Bryan M.

Cycling Saved Me! ⟩
, by Bryan M.

Community Living in LA School/Life Balance

Whenever prospective students ask me what I wish I would have known at the start of OT school, I always say the same thing: find something removed from OT school that you love doing, and keep consistent with it. Finding balance during your few years learning how to be an OT practitioner is a key part of preventing burnout and enhancing the learning experience in the classroom. Prioritizing your life outside of school is so important because it directly influences the kind of professional you are when you graduate. In this blog, I’m taking the time to write about my favorite non-OT related occupation: indoor cycling.

I began indoor cycling consistently in 2019 after I signed up for a class with an on-campus club I was a part of. My first class was rocky: I slept through my alarm, showed up late, and my foot got unclipped from the bike so I wasn’t able to take half of the class. Luckily, thanks to a new rider feedback form, the studio gave me a free class to try again, so I gave it another shot. This second class is where my love for cycling sprouted.

SoulCycle advertises itself as an “immersive and intense full-body workout,” and I can certainly attest to that. I fell in love with SoulCycle because I appreciated being able to work out both my body and my mind during class, mindfully listening to the inspiring words the instructors spoke while also cuing the exercise progression. I loved the classes so much that I ended up working for the company as Front Desk staff, something that I do even to this day while in OT school.

My love for indoor cycling exemplifies the power of meaningful occupations. Through the activity, I am able to provide myself a just-right challenge, keeping me engaged and motivated each time I go. Because of my commitment to this occupation, I am able to live a more balanced lifestyle in which my life isn’t consumed with only school and work. I’ve been able to remind myself that I am not just an occupational therapy student and have a life outside of school that I value and prioritize. I’m a well-rounded occupational being! This is something I think OT graduate students tend to forget, which is why I’m trying to remind others through this blog.

4 years later and nearly 500 classes later, I still consider indoor cycling one of my favorite occupations. Truly, I am so grateful for SoulCycle’s ability to keep me grounded during the trials and tribulations of school.

Tania

New Year, New Me? ⟩
, by Tania

Classes Community Diversity First-Gen School/Life Balance

Starting a new year can feel weird at times because there is this weird societal pressure of being the best new version of yourself. However, if you ask me, I am already a different person from 5 months ago. In fact, each day we evolve. At times, we sit reminiscing on the things we didn’t accomplish the years before. Our minds go on and on about the should ofs and could ofs but we don’t have control over those anymore.

Maybe this year is not about reinventing or being the newest best version of yourself but instead about being patient, caring, and loving to the person you are right now. I invite you to instead or in conjunction with writing new year’s resolutions, take the time to celebrate ALL your accomplishments (big and small) and appreciate your life’s journey. This year block the outside noise!

This is because as first-generation, low-income, Latinx students we usually carry the weight of our families. We are forced to create our paths, we navigate unknown territories and we receive plenty of no’s along the way. Being the first in the family to do something different requires many “mistakes” that later turn into lessons for those that come after us. However, the beauty of being a first-generation, low-income, Latinx student is that we don’t take NO for an answer. It may take us longer, it may take us a few tears, and it may take us finding different ways to get there, but we are determined to accomplish what our heads and hearts set themselves to do because our families already sacrifice too much. We know how it was before so the only direction is forward. In my case, little Tania didn’t wake up every day at 3 am to commute across the US-Mexico border for 10 years for today’s Tania to give up now.

Little me would be so proud to see what was once a dream is now a reality. Present day Tania is working towards becoming a doctor in occupational therapy and accepted a paid residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)!

This 2023 there is no newest best version of me and there is no need for the newest best version of yourself either. So as hard as it can be, appreciate the now and be patient with who you are because past you once dreamed of who and where you are today. I’m sure little you is proud of how far you have come and your validation is the one that matters!

Leah

Finding Housing in LA When Moving from Out of State! ⟩
, by Leah

Community Housing and Transportation Life Hacks Living in LA

While from Northern California, I had been living in Seattle, WA for a few years before moving to LA for USC.

Things I considered when looking for housing in LA

Cost
While there are plenty of benefits to living in Currie Hall (convenience / community aspect of living around a lot of other OT students) I thought it was too expensive for my budget. I wanted to find something more affordable in the East LA area. I paid $860/month the first year and now $950/month (boo inflation) but I still found this more affordable than a lot of other options I was seeing.

Some neighborhoods I checked out
Alhambra, Pasadena, Highland Park, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Arcadia, Los Feliz, and Silverlake.

Who to live with
I was interested in living with other graduate students since we would be understanding of each other’s schedules and interests. I moved in with 2 second year physical therapy students. I loved that we were in fields similar enough to be excited about what the other person was studying, but I felt like it relieved me from pressure of always having to talk about school with roommates. It was also super helpful that the apartment was already mostly furnished since I did not have furniture from when I lived in Washington.

My interests / hobbies
While living in Seattle, some of my favorite occupations included being outdoors hiking or camping. I decided to live in the Alhambra area due to its easy access to the Los Angeles National Forest. I love seeing mountains from my window and being only 20 minutes away from several trailheads. If you are really interested in the beach / surfing / etc. then West LA might be a better fit!

Helpful Facebook pages I joined

16 Hour Flight to Hang Out With my Occupational Therapy Pen Pal ⟩
, 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 ⟩
, 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!

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