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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog


Presenting My First Poster at AOTA ⟩
April 22, 2019, by Joyce

Getting Involved What are OS/OT?

If you had asked me last year, I would have told you that presenting at AOTA was definitely not in my future plans. But here I was with my partner, Tabitha Lin, presenting on the role of occupational therapy in the student run clinic! & what a FUN experience this was!!

Tabitha and I with our poster presentation

Tabitha and I with our poster presentation

During the poster session, Tabitha and I were standing by our poster and engaging in conversations with attendees who were passing. It was interesting to see both students and program directors come up to us. We encountered directors who were trying to set up a similar student run clinic in their occupational therapy program and asked us questions about our model. I had so much fun discussing my experiences as a co-chair exec for SRC as well as the experiences our student volunteers had.

Ambassador Serena and I after setting up the USC Booth!

Ambassador Serena and I after setting up the USC Booth!

In addition, this was my first AOTA conference and my first time being in New Orleans, LA! Conference is definitely a hustling busy time with so many moving parts. In addition to the poster presentation, as a student ambassador, I also worked the USC booth during the expo hours. I enjoyed this part of conference as I was able to interact with alumni and perspective students who were thinking about pursuing their PhD or Doctorate at SC. I also got to explore other booths including Nike, Zappos, and Microsoft to explore their adaptive shoes, clothing, and gaming equipment.

NOLA was extremely fun with its culture in food and drinks. I think I consumed way too many oysters during my time there. My friends and I got drinks after conference sessions and explored the city together!

Fresh Oysters!!

Fresh Oysters!!

I think going to a national conference such as AOTA as a student is such a unique experience and I highly encourage all students to go! As a student, there is no pressure to go to all sessions (to accrue continuing education) but to truly explore different parts/practice areas and enjoy conference for what it is! It’s also a great networking opportunity, I found myself talking with occupational therapists from New York who were looking to hire, so opportunities all around!


Ghana Part 2 — Facilitating OT and CBR Collaboration ⟩
April 8, 2019, by Joyce

Diversity Externships International

One of the coolest parts of this externship was the fact that we, USC students, were able to participate in one of the leader’s, Jenna Kobara, OTD project. As part of her OTD, Kobara is pushing for interprofessional collaboration between OT students/OTs and community based rehabilitation workers (CBRs). An equivalent of a CBR in the states are the Community Health Workers, many of whom work with spanish-speaking communities, promotores de salud, to support health education and prevention efforts. Similarly, in Ghana, CBRs venture out into the communities, identify individuals with disabilities, and work on educating and building rapport with the community to facilitate inclusivity throughout the village. The community in Ghana is not only the immediate family but also their neighbors!

On the first day of this collaboration, USC students met with the Ghanaian OTs and the CBR students. I worked with my partner, Liliian, to facilitate a discussion about scope of practice and definitions around independence and therapy. Our job was not to lead the discussions but to open the doors for the Ghanaian students to participate and converse with one another. We were able to touch upon several points including the definition of independence, function, and ways for future collaborations.

After about 30 minutes of thoughtful conversation, we moved onto completing a task analysis of tie dying. For the CBR students, this was the first time engaging in task analysis.

I realized that the Ghanaian students were grappling with this novice task of tie dying shirts! It was a new activity for both of them and I believe that while it was new, the students worked well together to task analyze the tying of the rubber bands around the t-shirts.  After task-analyzing together, the MTC students came out to complete the activity with us! This was a great time for the Ghanaian OT and CBR students to interact with MTC students, not to mention, they were a lot more fluent in the local language of Fante so communication was so much smoother!

Seeing all of this unfold, I was in awe and have come to fully understood Bonnie’s mission, “To be out of a job”. Bonnie truly wants to plant the seed of collaboration between Ghanaian professionals to create the sustainability without the help of obrunis.

The next few days, my partner and I worked together with our matched CBR students in their specific community attachments to explore and learn about CBR work. As we engaged and problem solved with different individuals with various diagnosis (ie. CP, lower extremity pain), we made it a point to provide education that can carry with the CBRs for their future clients and to encourage the strength of collaborating with Ghanaian OTs.

It has been such a great experience to get to know our CBR students and how they have come to this profession. For some, it was not their first choice. In their univiersities, they may be placed into a major like occupational therapy or CBR. But even though it wasn’t their first choice to study this specific major, I have heard that many hearts were changed throughout their studies. It allowed students to change their perspectives on what the definition of disability, community integration, and function. I truly enjoyed and was inspired by the work of these students and the passion that they hold to increase awareness and acceptability of individuals with disabilities or illness into their communities. I even have pen-pals from Ghana to continue discussing about OT, CBR, scholarship, funding, NGOs through email.  😊


Ghana Part 1 — Cultural Exposure ⟩
March 26, 2019, by Joyce

Diversity Externships International

Hello everybody! It feels weird blogging again because of the long hiatus but boy do I have things to share with you! As you probably have read about already, the second years were away on externships + spring break these past few weeks. While Jessica and Serena went to Australia, Melissa stayed local, I decided to go to Ghana.

I’m splitting this topic of externship into various posts because there are just so much that I want to highlight about this experience and I want to make sure to create the time and space that they deserve. To talk about my experience, I need to go a few years back to the beginning of it all . . .

Alumni and therapist, Bonnie Nakasuji has been coming to Ghana for two decades. In partnership with the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC), a school and vocational training center for children with disabilities, Bonnie has garnered a close relationship to bring USC OT students. It was once a level 1 fieldwork opportunity now a leadership externship location.

So what was our purpose there? Firstly, Cultural Exposure.

Bonnie as well as the other co-leading therapists, Jenna Kobara and Mariko Yamazaki, have taught us about the importance of sustainability and empowerment. We all have this righting reflex embedded within us, especially as future healthcare professionals, to fix things, whether that’s through offering advice or materials. Instead, the therapists encouraged us to be comfortable in the stillness of the uncomfortable. As Americans, regardless of whether we were Asian or Hispanic, etc. as Americans, we are all called “obrunis”, to which the term has evolved from meaning white person to a privileged, educated, rich person. It is our responsibility to acknowledge that privilege and the cultural differences when stepping into into another culture.

I strongly believe that short term trips like this are not served to drastically change a community, let alone a country’s way of life. Moreover, we as visitors are actually disruptive to this school’s daily routine. For two weeks, they had to accommodate the meals and living arrangement of a team of 40 Americans. I believe that this experience was meant for students to experience and become exposed to the different occupations in a different culture.

Bonnie gave a great example which made me reflect and think about how the things we do as Americans can make waves of effects that are often unseen. She told us how sometimes she feels uncomfortable bringing shoe donations to MTC. While it’s great that the students receive often new shoes to wear for free, we are disrupting the economic flow. Now these students and their families are not spending money at their local shoemakers and these shoemakers will feel the effects, challenging their ability to make money. In addition, how long can one pair of shoes sustain a child? It’s more powerful to work with individuals with what they have and where they are at, something that I have learned must be applied when working in a client-centered profession, meet your clients where they are at, not where you want them to be at!

When observing both the occupational therapists and physical therapists community consultations, I realized that they were very intentional in using assessments that could be understood regardless of culture and language barriers. They also provide education to the child, parent, caregiver, brother, sister, aunt, etc. so that this training and education can sustain the therapy even when they weren’t there.

In addition, I love how we as tourists were able to contribute to the economy. First, a sister of the principal of MTC, a seamstress came by MTC with her measuring tape and differently patterned fabrics. All students and therapists bought fabric and service in creating us individualized pieces. I was so excited for this part . . . to have a dress that will fit me all in the right places is something I have never experienced before!

Secondly, at the end of our externship, we went shopping at the local crafts village. I bought some cute earrings and leather sandals. It was also fun to participate in their cultural norm of bargaining to which Bonnie added, “It would be rude to not bargain!” I had so much fun conversing with store owners, asking them where they got/made the items, learning their language, and bargaining for a lower price. What an experience!!


#socialmedia ⟩
February 12, 2019, by Joyce

Getting Involved

Have you ever wondered who manages the Chan Instagram and Facebook profiles? How about our Twitter and YouTube handles?

Did you even KNOW we have those platforms? Many people get access to our channels, accounts, and platforms. But it’s been a great joy and opportunity to take the lead on a majority of the content that gets posted on our social media.

So . . . what is it that I really do? Do I just go around taking pictures of people and posting online? To a certain degree YES that is exactly what I do! One of my duties as a student ambassador is to post various events that happen in school. This can range from special speakers to student-led philanthropy events. What I really enjoy about this part of the job is the fact that I can use my love for social media for school and get paid for it!

Snap, Edit, Post!
A majority of the social media is done on the go. When there is an event that’s going on at school, I’ll try to sneak into it for a split second to snap some pictures. If I can’t be at the event physically, I’ll reach out to a classmate who is at the event to take some pictures for me. Then it’s about using editing apps like Snapseed or VCSO to create a cohesive theme like this:

Then straight to posting we go! Sometimes, I enjoy using InstaStory to feature multiple photos rather than posting all of them in one post. I’ll also have other ambassadors or my boss texting me throughout the week asking me if I can post something to our social media handles. I love being on the go because social media is something that I enjoy partaking in.

My camera roll will end up looking like this:

And I’ll receive messages like this LOL:

For students who submitted their information and pictures to an email address and found themselves on the Chan website . . . well that’s me! I love participating in this project because I get to read a myriad of students’ journey to occupational therapy as well as fun and quirky facts about them. Our program is filled with over 100 students alone in the entry level master’s program! It’s hard to meet everyone but in this way I get to see a little snippet of the people I study with!

It’s all about the Insights
A hidden part of my social media role is pulling data from all the posts that we publish on both Instagram and Facebook. This is done mainly behind the scenes through each handle’s specific analytic software. By pulling the information, I have a clear idea of the kinds of posts that receive the most attention / likes / comments / shares. Then I can focus my energy in creating similar kinds of content!

I never thought that I could get paid to do social media stuff in OT school! It truly has been a fun journey!! Through my interaction with the official Instagram and Facebook handles, I have also been able to speak with people all over the world who are interested in our program!


January 28, 2019, by Joyce

Housing and Transportation Living in LA

You got accepted into the program.
You committed. 
But now you need to start putting this dream into action.

I was overwhelmed when I first began this process. I was late to the OT house registration deadline and scrambled for housing in the first 2 months of the program. Picture this, 22 year old female moving from NYC to LA with 2 suitcases and no housing. Atrocious mess? You betcha. Luckily I had a few friends out here who let me crash on their couch for a couple of weeks. I moved 5 times before settling on a place for my first year of grad school and moved again for my second year of grad school.

So I get it. Housing is important and if your housing situation is stressful, honestly, it’s impossible to study effectively. So here are some of the tips that I gained from my experience and would like to share with you all:

  1. OT House — this is the most commonly discussed housing option. There are a few blog posts about it already so I won’t cover it but check out Caroline’s Post if you’re interested.
  2. Currie Hall — also another highly popular living space that is a 5 minute walk from classes. There are few blog posts about it here so I won’t waste your time on these.

Now that we covered those, here are some housing options that are not as widely discussed. Note — I personally chose to live near the main campus (UPC) as I found it more accessible to stores like Trader Joe’s and Target. So most of the following information will be for housing near the main campus. I broke it down by budget:

ICON PLAZA, 3584 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Most commonly rented by undergraduate students, I did find a community of graduate students here. If you’re all about the amenities then this place might be the place for you. There is an indoor gym, game room, and multiple study rooms to utilize. Most commonly, students will have their own bedroom while sharing the living space, bathroom, and kitchen area with others. There are various floorplans available so you can browse if this is a place of interest!

~$900/month for a SINGLE BED SPACE or ~$1810/month for a PRIVATE 1 bed/1 bath
UNIVERSITY GATEWAY, 3335 S Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90007

This is another popular housing choice for students who want to be near campus. The pricing will really depend on your preference of having a private single bedroom apartment or if you’re open to sharing a room with another student (2 beds in 1 room) which will cut down costs. This complex also has a variety of amenities including a fitness center, study rooms, rooftop terraces, and a sun & soak deck. Underneath the apartment buildings you’ll find places to eat like Subways, Blaze Pizza, Cream, and a CVS. I lived here for about a month throughout the summer program. But their leasing comes to an end at the end of July and I didn’t feel like living here with other undergraduate students during my grad school year. But I will admit that the amenities and location was great.

Starting $899/month
The Lorenzo, 325 W Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007

Similar to the University Gateway, The Lorenzo is another popular student housing option mainly for undergraduate students though I have had met many graduate students who opt to live here. The pricing depends on whether you want a bed space vs. a private bedroom, the latter being more pricey. The Lorenzo also comes with a variety of amenities including a fitness center, study rooms, rooftop sundeck, and swimming pools.

The three apartment complexes above all come furnished.

The following information is now other leasing companies that many USC students use, both undergrad and grad students alike. Some may be furnished while others aren’t.

STUHO manages many different buildings with a variety of floorplans. This is also the leasing company that I am currently leasing from! With this company I found a private bedroom with a small kitchenette. I share bathrooms with other students on the floor but avoid roommate drama about cleaning because the company has a cleaning team that comes in once a week to tidy up all shared spaces. This company has a variety of options that you can explore to find a space that you’re comfortable with. All properties are located close to main campus. In my house alone, I found undergraduate, graduate, and even PhD students.

First Choice Housing 
Though I have never leased from this company, I have met with many students who do rent from them. Similar to the STUHO there are a variety of properties to look into. If you can recruit other graduate students you can land a property to share together!

If you’re not interested in living near any of the campuses, getting to school can still be doable especially if you are without a car (like me!). Just make sure to live near a metro line (preferable the Red or Purple) that will take you to Union Station. Because from Union Station, you can take the USC shuttle bus directly to campus (both main and HSC campus). A few popular areas are Silverlake/EchoPark, Koreatown, and Downtown LA. If you do have a car and don’t mind the commute, many students elect to live in Pasadena/Alhambra. To find these housing spots, I have found that apartments.com and zillow.com have some great listings to explore. Of course these are spots that you would most likely want to check out before signing a lease. If you can create some free time in your schedule before you start the program and you’re in the LA area, I would highly suggest blocking out a day just to explore housing options. It’s could be chaotic in a sense where you’ll probably be driving/walking a lot but you can have many viewings in one day (many which last 5-10 min).

Housing can be a stressful thing to deal with. If you have any specific questions/concerns, I am more than happy to discuss details with you! Feel free to email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Don’t be afraid to reach out as I definitely wished I did when I started the program . . . would have been in the same situation but less stressed with more information. Good luck!

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