My Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion (SOTI) Program Experience
April 14, 2021
by Global Initiatives Team
By Samar Lahham, Occupational Therapist in Palestine
SOTI Alumni (2019)
My experience in USC’s Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion (SOTI) program for one month was indescribable and memorable, both personally and professionally. Participating in this program gave me the opportunity to learn from new experiences by attending lectures and site visits that are related to various areas of occupational therapy. In addition to the common occupational therapy intervention areas in Palestine, I have also experienced new interventions for wider population categories. For example, the role of occupational therapy working with people who have been through homelessness, human trafficking, and perinatal loss. These are new and important interventions I would take back to my country as a qualitative addition for the occupational therapy profession. For me, the most interesting experiences were learning about animal-assisted therapy through The Children’s Ranch Foundation, Ocean Therapy, and innovative practices that help children living with autism, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, and adults living with mental health conditions. This experience opened my eyes to new and interesting aspects within the field which I would complete my Master’s in.
The SOTI program also created opportunities for effective interactions between participants from all over the world, which enhanced sharing knowledge about occupational therapy theoretically and practically in other cultures.
Personally, the SOTI program provided me the chance to face new challenges and experiences for the first time in my life that made me more confident and stronger. It’s the first time I’ve traveled alone for 22 hours, my first experience in surfing and closely interacting with animals as I hugged a horse and carried a chicken or rabbit, and it was also interesting to try new foods from different cultures and visit amazing places in LA. This experience made me more responsible and independent in managing my daily affairs and needs, taking care of myself, enhancing my financial and time management skills, and also improving my leadership and communication skills by being a group facilitator for many presentations. Moreover, my English skills have improved significantly through the program, making new friends and interacting effectively with the American society.
I really would like to recommend SOTI to other occupational therapy students as it is a great chance to improve their skills professionally and personally.