Global Initiatives Team
16 Hour Flight to Hang Out With my Occupational Therapy Pen Pal ⟩
January 4, 2023, by Global Initiatives Team
By Jared Bague (he/him), OTD ’25
Edited by Christelli Carmona, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student
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.
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.
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.
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.
WFOT Conference: Who Am I to Even Network? ⟩
October 25, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Christelli Carmona, MA ’23
Edited by Abby Khou, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student
When I hear of networking, I think of sharp blazers, stern handshakes and well-groomed speeches about how accomplished you are. Because of that, I never saw myself as someone who could go out there and network. I mean, who am I to network? I cannot consider myself established in our profession. I am not even a licensed OT yet. I have not even attempted taking the infamous NBCOT and still do not have a perfect spiel explaining what occupational therapy is. So why would they want to talk to me? I am just a student who still turns in her assignments late. I guess you can say that I show symptoms of imposter syndrome.
However, one random interaction on a long, typical day at work selling sandwiches changed that mindset. It was a busy afternoon at work with long lines of customers when a man wearing a USC hat approached me at the counter. As a staff, we were encouraged to initiate small talk with guests. Naturally, I pointed at an easy conversation starter: “Oh you go to USC too?!” He then followed with, “Yes, I am actually the admissions officer for the school of Business.” Definitely not the response that I was expecting. As I assisted him with his order, I quickly chatted with him about his work, and he asked me about our OT program. I finished assisting him with his transaction, and we thanked each other for our time in the end.
The next day, I saw that he had connected with me via Linkedin and sent me a message thanking me for my service and the good food. He told me to reach out to him whenever I needed help with any business-related questions. Without even knowing it, I had just networked with the USC business school admissions committee. Although I do not think I will be applying to business school anytime soon, it was a connection that I valued and appreciated.
Fast-forward to the WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) conference that was held in Paris, France, this past August, I found myself in a complete 180 — the student who thinks she is not worthy to network because she turns in her assignment late and because she thinks she’s not accomplished enough was successfully networking with Japanese OTs and OT students around the world.
I have dreamt of doing my level II fieldwork in Japan for a long time, but I did not have any connections or know of any possible placements in Japan. I was so determined and passionate about doing my fieldwork in Japan that I was willing to talk to anyone at the conference who may be able to point me in the right direction. On the first day of the conference, I scouted for people who might be able to help me. I then saw two people reading a Japanese magazine. Unassumingly, I approached them and asked what country they were from, to which they responded, “Japan.” I was so excited to hear that they were from Japan and I started to talk to them about my admiration for their country. A simple conversation sparked a lengthy and amicable conversation about OT in Japan, which ensued in a friendship between Japanese OT professors and a USC OT student who never imagined that she was even qualified to network.
At the end of our conversation, one of the OTs kindly offered to host me at her home in Japan if I ever did fieldwork there. I was astounded and touched by her kind and generous offer. She also handed me a handkerchief from Japan as a parting gift, which also warmed my heart. I will always cherish her gift, but I will treasure the connection and friendship we made even more.
At the end of that day, it was not stern handshakes, crisp suits, sharp blazers or self-promoting tidbits from my Linkedin profile that connected me with these wonderful people around the world — it was kindness and a shared passion (for OT) that manifested these connections and friendships.
If there is anything I learned from working at my old job selling sandwiches, it is that networking can happen anytime and during the most unexpected times. In addition, I realized that you should probably wear your USC merch more often to increase your chances of networking with people within the USC network.
In all seriousness, I learned that networking is not a task that needs to be attached to a prerequisite of having accomplishments to boast about. All that it necessitates is for you to be yourself and the desire to connect with others with kindness and a shared passion for something.
So go out there, be kind, stay passionate, and most importantly, be yourself — you are your greatest asset.
WOSC 2022: Redefining Inclusion Towards Social Transformation ⟩
September 12, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Abby Khou, MA ’23
The inaugural World Occupational Science Conference was a gathering of occupational scientists, occupational therapy students, practitioners and educators, and members of the interdisciplinary world who have dedicated their lives to the work of social transformation through the knowledge from the body of work of Occupational Scientists. Held at the Sheraton Wall Vancouver Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the featured speakers at WOSC 2022 was Dr. Sridhar Venkatapuram, Associate Professor in Global Health and Philosophy at King’s College London and Deputy of King’s Global Health Institute and Director of Global Health Education. Dr. Venkatapuram spoke about the importance of values in science and promoting a capabilities approach that emphasizes quality of life, among other themes that set the tone for conference. Dr. Lilian Magalhães was another featured speaker, and is an adjunct professor at Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil and Associate Professor at Western University in Canada where she is Professor Emeritus. She highlighted her lifelong work in Occupational Science, her familial roots, and the commitment of Occupational Science to social transformation. The inaugural event was hosted by the University of British Columbia Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and the International Society for Occupational Science.
Our very own Dr. Rebecca Aldrich, Chair of the International Society of Occupational Science, along with Lisette Farias, Debbie Laliberte Rudman, Lilian Magalhães, Nick Pollard, and Roshan Galvaan, led a dialogic session entitled: Promoting an ‘unconference’ space for transformation of occupational science through critical dialogue. According to Farias et al. (2022), an “unconferencing” approach “prioritizes participation, reflection, and dismantling presenter-attendee hierarchies” (p. 4). By sitting in two concentric circles, the outer circle was able to actively listen as the inner circle addressed the question prompts and verbalized their thoughts. Participants spoke about Occupational Therapists and Occupational Scientists working hand in hand to achieve social change, the need for interdisciplinary involvement, and breaking away from traditional modes of communication such as research, to more grassroots initiatives such as those involving social media.
As a USC Chan second-year master’s student, a mother to a 6-year-old diagnosed with ASD and first-time conference attendee, I appreciated the themes of inclusion, play as occupation, belonging and the access of children to play and play spaces and the overarching theme of mobilization towards social transformation. There were a few presentations that particularly struck me, and further ignited my desire to advocate for a redefined sense of inclusion, the promotion of belongingness within the ASD community, and the awareness of play as occupation.
The passionate quality of the presentations on belongingness sometimes included tears, as presenters remembered their lived experiences of being a sibling to a disabled family member, or losing one’s cultural identity in the process of migration. I myself thought of my son Ethan while viewing “The Belonging Project: Conditions that support belonging for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities” presented by Paige Reeves, David McConnell and Shanon Phelan. I couldn’t help but share my own experiences as a member of the special needs parents community, sometimes being caught up in the pursuit of “services,” filling up my son’s schedule with therapy and appointments. “The Belonging Project” made me stop and think: does inclusion also result in exclusion if our idea of inclusion is for children to be included in manufactured spaces that we have created for them? Must we take away the agency of disabled children and plan out their days for them without consideration of where they truly want to be and who they desire to connect to? Is there a need to redefine the theory surrounding inclusion, mobilizing to translate into practice as we begin to chip away at the iceberg of social transformation? Reeves began her presentation quoting Reinders: “We create space and include people with [intellectual disability] as citizens . . . but do we also include them in our lives as human beings?”
The very definition of inclusion was questioned across different related presentations. The idea of having a “façade of inclusion,” that is, convincing ourselves as practitioners and caregivers of individuals with disabilities, that if we complete our checklists of the things we must do to advocate for our children’s inclusion, then our work is done. Comparing the façade of inclusion to the actual experience of being included was discussed in Paige Reeves, David McConnell and Shanon Phelan’s presentation: “The (radical) role of belonging in expanding and shifting understandings of social inclusion.” The Occupational Science perspective that the team was advocating for was a “paradigm shift” into a “meaningful involvement of disabled children’s voices.” What comes to mind is pediatric interventions that are child-led, respectful of families’ perspectives and culture, and the act of simply and truly listening in however way possible to the children when they communicate with us whether by verbal or by behavioral expression.
There is so much more to unpack from WOSC 2022 that I may not be able to express in this medium. I attempted to encapsulate such a wide and varied experience in the blog medium, but not quite able to represent all the meaningful experiences that I had at WOSC 2022. I had so many great and profound conversations and met so many wonderful people. As I moved from the conference back into my everyday life in my intersectional roles, I was filled with so many great ideas, a desire for social transformation and a further igniting of my passion for Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Maybe I left with more questions than answers, but that can be a good thing. Questions can lead to answers and answers can lead to solutions, and hopefully, continuing change.
Farias, L., Aldrich, R., Laliberte Rudman, D., Magalhães, L., Pollard, N., & Galvaan, R. (2022, August). Promoting an ‘unconference’ space for transformation of occupational science through critical dialogue [Dialogic session]. World Occupational Science Conference 2022, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Reeves, P., McConnell, D., & Phelan, S. (2022a, August). The belonging project: Conditions that support belonging for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities [Paper presentation]. World Occupational Science Conference 2022, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Reeves, P., McConnell, D., & Phelan, S. (2022b, August). The (radical) role of belonging in expanding and shifting understandings of social inclusion [Paper presentation]. World Occupational Science Conference 2022, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Magic of GI ⟩
May 4, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Maggie Goodfellow MA ’21, OTD ’22
Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
If I told you there was magic behind one of the doors in CHP, would you believe me? Well, no — not the traditional type of ‘magic’ that involves playing cards or bunnies appearing out of hats, but rather, something even better. Behind the doors of CHP 161, you’ll find the magic of a global community, the magic of pushing boundaries, and the magic of discovering what it means to “grow together”. In case you couldn’t tell, the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Global Initiatives is . . . Magic (surprise!).
#1. The Magic of a Global Community. The door (and room) of CHP 161 can be quite deceiving at first glance. However, upon opening the door, you’ll immediately find a friendly face who will welcome you in and ask you about your day. As someone whose home is across the world in South Korea, the GI office quickly became my home away from home, somewhere I could go when I needed a break in between classes, somewhere I could trust would be welcoming and safe, and somewhere I knew a friend would be. The irony of our small office is that inside it lives a global community. Everyone’s culture is welcomed and the mundane interactions, such as sharing snacks from our respective countries or creating a poster for a holiday, become the building blocks of lifelong friendships. There’s something very special about the friendships built through GI, as they are grounded in our shared love for celebrating each other’s cultural differences and upbringings. Through Global Initiatives, I’ve seen the magic that can happen when you not only keep the door open for others, but also provide them with a seat, listen to what they have to say, and recognize there is always an opportunity to learn from them.
#2. The Magic of Pushing Boundaries. When it comes to magic tricks, you typically see the outcome but rarely see the hard work and determination that’s required to master them. More importantly, it takes confidence and the belief in yourself that you can do something that seems impossible. While it seems silly to compare the projects of GI to a magic trick, quite frankly, some of the projects did seem impossible at first. To name a few, just over the past 3 years our team has implemented Frientorship Circles, a global poster exchange, a global Pen Pal program, a “Global Citizenship” thread in the new Entry-Level OTD curriculum, and so much more. I’m incredibly grateful to this team who has time after time shared their creativity and demonstrated the power of creating something with their hearts and the intention to uplift others. Moreover, none of this would be possible without Danny Park, who empowers each member of our team to take their ideas and transform them into reality. Together, this is what creates the magic to push and continue pushing boundaries.
#3. The Magic of “Growing Together”. When I first joined Global Initiatives as a student worker, I was a first year MA-2 student who was eager to learn yet shy in voicing my opinions. It’s funny how, in just three years, I’m able to see so much growth in myself, both personally and professionally. Thank you, Global Initiatives, for being part of my journey and showing me that growth rarely happens alone — it happens through the mentorship and support of others. From celebrating birthdays to accomplishing various professional milestones together, I could not have asked for a better team to grow with by my side.
AHTO: An Introductory Retrospective ⟩
April 27, 2022, by Global Initiatives Team
By Carly Martinez MA ’23
Editors Abraham Ramirez and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
When I received my acceptance email to USC, I — like many others before me — wondered how I was going to do it. I knew that I would need a support system to keep me going. My family and I were not communicating, so I was scared. I felt alone.
Partway through the fall semester of my first year, I learned about a new organization through Global Initiatives aimed at the Spanish-speaking community — Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional, or “AHTO.” I was thrilled, and looked forward to being around people who spoke Spanish, which was reminiscent of my late grandmother who helped raise me.
However, I was concerned that I might not be “Mexican enough” to participate, despite speaking Spanish. ‘Was that enough?’ ‘Was my Spanish good enough?’
I anxiously brought this up during an early interaction with AHTO. When I shared my concern, this sentiment was echoed by other members who also questioned their identities due to imposed cultural markers, which can feel a lot like gatekeeping. I learned that, like me, they too were in this in-between place, where we were left asking ourselves where we belong and if we were enough.
I recently told a friend that the reason why microaggressions are so insidious, is that they’re often so small that they can make you question whether you are overreacting to a situation or if it even took place the way you remember. This has been my experience as a member of a minoritized group — the feeling that I am living through a continuous microaggression, and left wondering if I am making things up or should be happy with the way things are. Or, are there legitimate reasons to be unhappy and should I ask for more? It’s a bit like being in a toxic relationship, and it can mess with your head, particularly when it weighs on you alongside class assignments.
As I began compiling stories of my fellow students’ experiences, the triumphs and challenges overheard at AHTO meetings at socials and at conferences, I began to see connections that had not been previously apparent to me. That’s not only amongst Latine* students at Chan, but other minoritized students as well. Conversations have taken place that require action and advocacy. They still are, and they probably always will, leaving a need to ask for more on an ongoing basis.
This is why I am glad organizations like AHTO exist. They serve as places where I and others can verbalize our experiences and share them with others, allowing the space to process them in a way that leads to validation and support. My hope for AHTO is that it will continue to provide a platform for students to demand change from the university and express their needs in a way that will continue to elicit change, not only for the Latine population, but everyone who feels like they need to make themselves seen, heard and understood.
I hope AHTO will serve as a model for, and collaborator with students seeking empowerment and resources. It is important for us to realize our power, particularly when we work together, because it is only when we feel acknowledgement and action on the part of the division that we will be able to create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based). Isn’t that OK to want?
*I prefer to use Latine over Latinx or Latin@ because it works in both Spanish and English and is more inclusive. Latinx does not work in Spanish, so it is not the preferred term by some Spanish-speakers; instead it is looked down upon by many people living in the US and Latin America as a forced idea contrived by non-Latine, white folks. Please see this comic for more information and explanation.