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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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Posted , by Marilyn

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As a latinx, first-generation graduate student, womxn of color, there are moments of self-doubt that lead me to believe that I am an imposter. Being a double Trojan at USC has allowed me to see a shift in perspective from the transition of undergraduate to graduate student life. During my senior year of undergrad, I learned about Occupational Therapy through an elective course. I immediately was drawn to the field as I began to understand how occupational therapists can redesign the life of an individual, in order to support them with doing the things they want and need to do. My ideal profession of being a medical doctor completely changed as I fell in love with the profession of OT. With this career change, I began to have an inner dialog that impacted my confidence about whether I would be a good OT, whether I would be accepted into a competitive master’s program, and if I was making the right career move. It was evident that my undergraduate peers had been preparing to be an occupational therapist way longer than I did and it definitely took a mental, physical, and emotional toll on me. So with all that being said, let me tell you what helped me overcome imposter syndrome: 

  1. Sharing my insecurity with my village
    The community of people supporting me

    Top: Friends from high school that attended my white coat ceremony. Middle Left: My first group of friends that helped me survive summer. Middle Right: Team of Student Ambassadors who were working the white coat ceremony for incoming students. Bottom: After presenting our case study at St. Joseph’s Center Rachel Kent and I took a photo with our Clinical Instructor Dr. Erin McIntyre.

    Vulnerability is not something that comes easy to me, but overtime I’ve learned about the importance of speaking up and sharing what is truly going on in my mind. My awareness of imposter feelings emerged over the summer intensive program, while I began to get connected to peers and understood their educational training. Immediately, the negative self talk of “I am not as prepared” or “Is this really going to be a good summer” or “I am smart enough,” thoughts began to creep in. However, I chose to take a leap of faith and shared with my peers that I was struggling in certain areas. This transparency truly set the stage for our friend group and even though we were divided into different academic cohorts, I know that they played a pivotal role in recognizing my worth as a student in the masters program. Simultaneously, I had the support of high school friends that always seemed to know when I was having moments of self-doubt. My high school friends just knew how to make me laugh and reminded me to find the joy in my failures and feelings of inadequacy. Time and time again, I realize that speaking to my village provides me with reminders of my purpose and why I chose OT. For example, over summer 2019 I had the opportunity to present a case study at my fieldwork site. Dr. McIntyre, Rachel, and I advocated for OT and the need of continued services for the population that was being served. My why became even more clear after that presentation.

  2. Reframing my mindset

    Chan Division students who attended the Town and Gown Scholars Breakfast

    Chan Division students who attended the Town and Gown Scholars Breakfast

    Beginning to reprogram my mindset about certain feelings set the stage for healthier growth not only as a student, but also personally and professionally. Here are some statements that I needed to reframe:

    • I don’t have all the answers → I don’t need to know all the answers
    • I am a failure → Failure is a learning opportunity
    • Should I be here? → I need to be here because my community needs me
    • I feel useless right now → The fact that I feel useless, does not mean that I am useless

    Truthfully, it comes down to being kind about the inner dialog we have as individuals. I am unable to pour from an empty cup, so I need to continue to engage in positive self-talk, while I also lift up my academic community and clients in each setting that have the privilege to be at. We never know what someone is going through, whether that be a professor, classmate, or client, but supporting someone as they reframe their mindset is life giving.

  3. The big picture

    Reading about the innovative work taking place in the Chan Division

    Reading about the innovative work taking place in the Chan Division

    There is only one YOU. We each have been cultivating talents that no one else has, so understanding that and truly believing it often is the hardest part. However, when I am studying for long hours of the night and feeling overwhelmed, I find a sticky note or sheet of paper and write 3 reasons why I am grateful to be in this season of life as a student. I am not alone in this journey of self-discovery with OT and neither are you. In the end, I have learned that the impossible is in fact possible if I stay prepared and believe that it can be done. So whether you are a prospective student applying to the bachelors/master’s program, a current student interested in obtaining your OTD or PhD, or just a reader curious about OT, have the courage to pursue your dream and know that the big picture can be possible.


Pin Your Way Through School and Life
Posted , by Kat

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First off, if you don’t have a Pinterest account, stop reading this and go create an account. Now that we have that squared away, Pinterest saves lives! I started using the site back in high school, and have continued now into my graduate studies. I can honestly say that I have used this resource countless times over the years. You can find almost anything you can think of on this site and save it by “pinning” it to different boards that you create. Plus they have an app which makes it super convenient to have on your phone. Pinterest is known for being the go-to place for DIY’s, which it is. But it is also my go-to place to find recipes, fitness motivation, and even hairstyle inspiration for my curly hair. Over the years of using Pinterest, I have created a lot of boards and pinned tons of things. I’d like to share some of the items I have saved and some tips on how to search and use the site:

  1. Meal Prepping
    Meal prepping makes balancing graduate school, work, and trying to eat healthy while on a budget doable. Personally, I am not a plain baked chicken, with plain rice, and plain veggies kind of girl. I like to eat well seasoned and spiced up food. This is where Pinterest helps me find new and exciting recipes to try. When searching for a new meal to try, it depends on the mood I am in. Sometimes I’ll search for quick easy dinners while other times I search for a specific dish like roasted vegetables. Here is a pin that has 30 minute meal prepping ideas.
  2. Self-Care
    Self-care is important at any stage in life. Finding time for self-care with a busy schedule can seem like a chore. At least for me it can be. Searching for self-care pins has broadened my perspective on what self-care means. One pin in particular that has helped me is 6 Types of Self-Care. This sight breaks self-care down into 6 categories: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, and sensory. Viewing self-care in this manner has helped me follow through with remembering to take time for myself.
  3. Study Habits
    Coming into graduate school, I had a pretty good idea of what study habits worked for me. I am a visual learner and I need to write things out so I can get kinesthetic feedback. However, with different classes and types of materials, sometimes I need to switch up my study approach. Search terms such as study habits college or study habits for exams have provided useful tips.
  4. OT Interventions
    Believe it or not, you can even find OT intervention ideas on Pinterest. This past summer, I did my level II fieldwork at an outpatient sensory integration clinic. Towards the end of my fieldwork, I managed my own caseload of clients and was responsible for creating interventions, or activities, for each client based on their age, diagnosis, and interests. In searching OT interventions for kids on Pinterest, I came across a fun pizza making craft activity that I then tailored to match the skills that clients were working towards to meet their goals. Making pizza was a hit with my clients! They were very engaged!

Long story short… there are pins out there for everything. Pinterest has millions of ideas that you can add your own spin to and make your own. Just play around with search terms and word combinations. Happy pinning!

*Disclaimer: Not sponsored by Pinterest. I just wanted to pass along a resource.*


More Travelling with Less Money
Posted , by Kaho

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One of my favorite occupations is to travel. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been flying internationally since I was 4 years old between Japan and the US, but I have MAJOR wanderlust. For a student who is pursuing her master’s degree and possibly a doctorate degree (on top of pre-existing loans from undergrad), this is a struggle. There’s a constant battle between saving money and engaging in what I love to do, but I made a promise to myself my senior year of high school that I would visit at least 1 new country every year for as long as my career/life allows. To date, I’ve been to Japan, USA, Canada, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, Spain, and Mexico. Over the past several years, I’ve accumulated some knowledge on how to travel on a low budget, so I’d like to share three tips with you today:

  1. Use multiple apps/websites to compare flight ticket prices.
    I like to look on an app called Skyscanner before even deciding my destination. On there, you can set your destination to “Anywhere” and just select the month you’d like to travel. They’ll list out all of the countries you can fly to by price, and then you can see which city is cheapest within that country. This past summer, I flew to Spain from LAX for just $300 roundtrip!! Staying flexible and keeping your search general is key to finding cheap flights. Then, I go on other sites like Kayak and to see if there are any better deals. Keep in mind that usually, the longer the layover, the cheaper the ticket. Most people dread long layovers, but use it to your advantage! With several hours, you can leave the airport and explore that city too. You can knock out two birds with one stone.
  2. Pack light in a backpack and stay in hostels.
    Trade your bulky suitcase in for a backpacking backpack. Mine holds 50 L and it has padded straps around my hips and chest, so I can fit a lot in there and still be able to carry it around comfortably. I use this so that it’s easy to always be on the go. I usually visit multiple cities when I travel, so I don’t stay put in one place for long. This requires me to move about with all of my belongings on me. Dragging a suitcase behind me all day would limit my mobility and occupy my hands, which I need to take photos, read maps, etc. I also hop from hostel to hostel because they’re cheap and easy to book for just a few nights. I use Hostelworld to find them. The majority of my day is spent outdoors exploring anyway, so I don’t need fancy accommodation, I just need a place to shower and sleep. I’ve stayed in hostels that range from $10-$30/night, which allows me to spend more on activities and cultural experiences. Staying in hostels also allows me to meet people from all over the world that love to travel, like me. They often have amazing stories to share about their current and past journeys!
  3. Use public transportation.
    I totally understand that being in a new country (that is often non-English-speaking) is scary. It’s tempting to just call a taxi or sign up for a tour that takes care of transportation for you. However, public transportation is usually the cheapest mode of transportation in any country and many countries have a better system than the US. I recently started using something called Mapway. They have a different app for each major city with a developed transit system. You simply put in your starting point and destination and the app will figure out the best route for you. It’ll tell you what train line to get on from what station, when and how to transfer to another line if need be, and it’ll even tell you whether you should ride towards the front or back of the train to be near the exit at your stop! Using public transportation will allow you to dive deeper into the country’s culture and have you feeling like a local.😀

There’s so many more tips for money-saving on trips and I’m still learning more and more each time I travel. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, want to hear more, or have some tips of your own! I’d love to hear about them. Happy Travelling!

kecak dance in Bali, Indonesia

One of my favorite memories: seeing the Indonesian kecak dance up close in Bali.



Let’s Eat!
Posted , by Kevin

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For many of us living in LA or new to the area eating is one of our most cherished occupations. Last year on campus, I spent some quality time “researching” the best food on the HSC campus…so loosen up a notch on that belt and let’s eat.

Food Trucks:

While they may not always be the healthiest option, the food trucks around campus offer some of the best local cuisine your money can buy! With a wide variety of options from gyros to burgers, there is something delicious for everyone’s taste. Personally, I visited the La Estrella truck every Tuesday to get some of the best pastor tacos and burritos I’ve ever had. If you plan to go to any of the food trucks during lunch, budget at least fifteen to thirty minutes of time because the lines grow quick. Additionally, some of the trucks have an extra card charge, so plan to bring cash.

Farmer’s Markets:

There are two amazing farmer’s markets on/near campus every week that have some awesome food options that are both affordable and healthy! Every Tuesday, the Keck Farmers Market comes to the Health Science Campus and quickly became popular within our cohort. It’s a little bit of a walk, so grab a friend or two and plan for about a five minute walk each way. Despite the walk, the food is well worth the trek! If you miss this farmers market, don’t worry, several of the vendors also come to the Pappas Quad located near the Norris Medical Library on Wednesday or Thursday. Some of my favorites from the Farmer’s Market include giant spicy tuna sushi burritos, pita with hummus, and pupusas. Not only are the hot meals tasty, the farmers market offers a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you aren’t sold on the farmers market already…then you are about to be! The market offers a healthy community eating program called the Veggie Buck program that allows you to purchase a token to double your purchases of the fresh produce. Furthermore, any produce that does not sell by the end of the week is donated and distributed to families in the community.

On-Campus Dining:

If those first two options aren’t your taste, then there are great options for eating on campus. If you are looking for a quick pick-me-up before class or during breaks, check out the Quench Juice Bar. Quench has great drinks and sandwiches if you are like me and forget to pack lunch. If you are looking for more options, then take a quick walk over to the Plaza Marketplace which has some more recognizable favorites such as Starbucks and Panda Express.
Want to take your campus dining up a notch? Then reserve a table at the only full-service restaurant on campus, The Edmondson, for a special occasion.

Off-Campus Dining:

There are so many great food options in Los Angeles so explore!


Course Catalogue Queen
Posted , by Noelle

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During my first advisement meeting of college, I was told that the credits I brought in from high school allowed me to double major, double minor, or potentially do both!  As an eager freshman, I took that statement as suggestion and immediately threw myself into the USC catalogue, frantically scribbling lists of interesting classes, minor and major unit requirements etc.  Two hours, about 80 tabs, and 3 existential crises later, I paused to survey my lists hoping to see a clear path.  What I ended up with was the opposite—one or two classes in a whole bunch of schools/studies.  It was then when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this? Do I actually want to minor in something, or do I just want to be able to say I did?” It was an important question and I’m glad I checked myself.  I had spent the previous four years doing everything I thought I had to do to get into a good school, including a lot of things I didn’t really want to do.  I don’t regret that at all because it got me where I am, but as I contemplated what I wanted out of the next four years, I realized that it would be dangerous to continue to do things just “for the resume”.  After all, I was at USC and there are endless things to engage in that are both personally and professionally fulfilling.  I recognized that college was a rare time in life to take risks and explore new subjects and it would be a waste of time and opportunity to be bound to what other people see as prestigious and how they measure success.  So, I took my lists of classes and ran. I was introduced to new occupations like ballroom dance, drums, and ceramics. I challenged myself and took financial and managerial accounting and web design.  And I looked for opportunities to expand my perspective on health in eastern medicine, bionics, gerontology, and health promotion classes.

I was spoiled in undergrad and I know it.  And I am grateful that my hodgepodge of interests is an asset to my future practice as an OT. I’ve noticed a similar trend in my classmates in the division.  I am surrounded by people who studied philosophy, marketing, biology, who teach yoga classes, build puzzles, served in the military, and had multiple careers before coming to OT school.  We are an interesting bunch her at Chan, and we all share the value of meaningful engagement for the clients we serve and ourselves.

Check out Visions and Voices, Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, and the Ahmanson Lab for some interdisciplinary activities available to undergrad/grad students and alumni. 

This week’s song pick: “Back Pocket” by Vulfpeck

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