What I Wish I Knew When I Started the Program ⟩
April 28, 2020, by Kaho
– I belong.
Immediately after starting the OT program at USC, I was astounded by my classmates and future colleagues’ fiery passion for occupational therapy. I was inspired, motivated, excited, and grateful to be learning with them and growing alongside them. However, at some point along the way, it began to make me question my own passion. Perhaps it was because I was going through the adult rehabilitation immersion – the most rigorous immersion in my opinion – in my first semester of grad school and I was losing confidence in my capabilities. On top of that, anyone that has sat through lecture with me would know that I am not one to raise my hand and share my thoughts in front of the whole class. I don’t have a problem with public speaking or small group discussions, but I am reserved when it comes to my opinions and prefer to learn just by listening. I have found that I focus and absorb the material better this way anyway. While American culture often values traits of extroverts, I grew up in a culture that values the opposite. This quiet characteristic of mine made me feel like I was somehow inferior to my more vocal classmates. I wondered if I preferred not to speak up because I didn’t care enough about the topic, because I lacked passion.
Additionally, I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider when I entered the program because I faced financial hardships, as well as a complicated and difficult past. Committing to USC was a tough decision, but I still chose this program because it was my top choice, it was highly ranked (#1 in the US woohoo), and I believed it was worth the additional loans. As a financially independent first-generation immigrant and first-generation graduate student, I had difficulty finding community and people that were in or had been in similar situations. I couldn’t find a community that I identified with or related to because my situation and the challenges I faced differed from typical international students. I had difficulty finding a space that I felt comfortable discussing various topics about being Asian in the United States. Now as I reflect, I figure I just didn’t look hard enough or give existing resources a chance. I was internally perpetuating the model minority stereotype by assuming that there were no supports for Asian Americans, who are “supposed to be” successful and well off. I isolated myself by refusing to share my insecurities and thoughts with others. I felt alone and confused. “Should I have gone to a more affordable school?” “Am I here by mistake?” “Am I the only one that’s struggling?” I would get hit by waves of self-doubt.
As I approach the end of my last semester and prepare to graduate with a master’s degree, I wish I could tell myself from 2 years ago to relax and look up because I belong. My passion for OT has been reaffirmed and I can confidently say that I chose the right career path for myself, whatever my learning style may be. Even if I may not be the most outspoken participant in class, I found my own way of expressing my love for OT through the student ambassador position. Two years may seem short, but there’s a lot of growth that can happen within it. Furthermore, there are resources for everyone and anyone who seeks support, regardless of race, background, etc. I have access to friends, faculty, and alumni in the Trojan family that come from diverse backgrounds and have various experiences. I wish I knew to open up more, break down my walls, and seek support because needing help does not make me incompetent or less deserving of my admission to USC. I am extremely grateful for my friends, coworkers, professors, and mentors for their continued support and guidance, and helping me to come to these realizations. Whether you’re applying to the program, starting the program, going through the program, or finishing the program like me, I hope you know and believe this to be true: you belong too.
Once I finish finals and take the comprehensive exam, I have one last level 2 fieldwork this summer for the master’s program. Then, I am continuing on to pursue my doctorate degree and completing a clinical residency at Keck Medicine of USC. As sad as I am that my role as a student ambassador is coming to an end and I have to say goodbye to some friends/classmates, I’m super excited for this opportunity and to see what all is in store for my OT journey. I’m also happy that I get to stick around campus for another year. Thanks for reading my blog or blogs this past year and I hope to see you all around. 😊
Checking In ⟩
March 31, 2020, by Kaho
First of all, I’d like to start off by saying that it’s good to be “back!” It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog and been back on my regular class and work schedule. For the second years, the first 2 weeks of March were allocated to our Leadership Externship and the week after that was spring break, so I hadn’t been in classes for 3 weeks. Now, I’m “in class” virtually and it’s different, but we’re all making it work.
March has been a wild ride. It began with my externship to Ghana being cancelled and scrambling to find an alternative experience. That all honestly feels like months ago, as I’ve been sitting at my work-from-home set up in my living room for 2 weeks now with all sense of time or day of the week gone. In the past several weeks, I’ve come across so many tips and resources on how to stay healthy mentally and physically during this difficult time for everyone and I’m sure you have too. I want to add to your resource list by connecting you to blogs written by USC students outside of the Chan Division, because I’ve gotten questions on how USC students are handling the situation!
On this website, you’ll find more tips on how to stay healthy, connected, engaged, and successful in school, regardless of whether you’re an undergraduate student or graduate student and what program you’re in.
Specifically, for me as a student in the OT program, I’ve dealt with the situation similarly to other people. I’m engaging in indoor activities such as board games, puzzles, cooking, reading, and journaling. I go on a run or walk outside at least once a day, while making sure to maintain at least 6 ft between myself and whoever I cross paths with. Home workout videos have also been a huge help. I’m trying to exceed last year’s running mile count of 550 this year and am planning on signing up for my second half marathon once this lockdown is over, so that I have a goal to work towards during this time I don’t feel as productive and I have something to keep propelling me forward. I attend lectures through Zoom and for classes that require a hands-on clinical experience, the professors have come up with alternative assignments such as case studies and video analyses. I make sure to only spend 10-15 min each morning to read up on COVID-19 news and I’ve found that to be sufficient to stay informed and updated, but not overwhelmed. I’ve also cut back on my screen time on my phone by setting time limits on all social media apps. That has helped control the flooding of information and kept me active. Lastly, I’ve been using Zoom and other webcam apps to stay connected with friends and family. With family in Japan, calling over webcam isn’t new for me, but it’s been especially important in these recent weeks.
Many things that I’ve learned in OT school such as ergonomics, creativity, and the effects of occupational deprivation have been challenged and tested during this lockdown, so it’s been an interesting first-hand learning experience. I’ve also gotten to see the essential role of OT in a global pandemic, which has further deepened my love and appreciation for the profession. I hope you all are staying healthy and like many, I am looking forward to the day I can study and roam around campus again with all of my old and new (congrats to the class of 2022!) colleagues. Student ambassadors are still working regularly remotely so as always, email us with any questions or concerns!
Throwback Thursday ⟩
February 20, 2020, by Kaho
As I was brainstorming what to write for my upcoming blog posts, I found myself at a complete blank. Nothing came to mind. I thought, what unique information can I provide as a student? As an ambassador? Social media chair? Then, a lightbulb switched on. Why don’t I take advantage of the data I’ve learned to analyze this year and make a compilation of other amazing blog posts? So, here we are. Here are the top 10 most popular blog posts from past and current student ambassadors (from Jan 1, 2015 through today), according to page views by you all! There are some oldies but goodies and they’re all definitely worth a read, so check them out.
- How to write a personal statement
- How to explain what occupational therapy is
- A Leadership Externship experience in South Korea
- A breakdown of the workload/life of an OT student
- Pros and cons of living at Currie Hall
- Pros of living in OT House vs. Pros of living somewhere else
- A different Leadership Externship experience in South Korea
- Pros and Cons of living in OT House
- Incorporating yoga into occupational therapy
- The role of occupational therapy in oncology
Hope you find these helpful!
What’s a Student Ambassador? ⟩
February 10, 2020, by Kaho
Tis the exciting season of student ambassador application and interviews for the 2020-2021 academic year! In that spirit, I thought I’d share a little bit about what I do and what I’ve enjoyed while fulfilling my role as one of this year’s student ambassadors. There are several responsibilities that are shared among the entire team and some that I am specifically responsible for.
All of the student ambassadors take turns writing and posting blogs, such as this one. We’re free to write about anything, as long as it’s appropriate. I was nervous at first because I don’t consider myself a writer, but it’s a really fun way to share your thoughts/experiences and get creative while you’re at it. Some ambassadors have shared blogs in the form of videos, pictures, interviews, etc. It’s also exciting when friends, family, or even strangers tell you that they read and enjoyed one of your blogs. 😊
We’re assigned to give tours to prospective students depending on who is in the office when needed. Usually, we take the students to the main campus (UPC) and tour them around the Division’s Center for Occupation and Lifestyle Redesign and OT House, and then tour them around the Health Sciences Campus. I love getting to know different prospective students, hearing about their passion, and getting to share my experiences as a USC student too. I also enjoyed learning about the Chan Division’s history in order to prepare for the tours. I now have random interesting facts about USC stored in my back pocket if I ever need a topic for conversation.
- Info Sessions / Big Events
If you’ve ever signed up for an info session, you most likely met a student ambassador sitting in on the session. We get to chime in about what each course in the MA2 program covers, our experiences, and student life. This is another opportunity to meet all kinds of prospective students. At big events where a lot of helping hands are needed, we all work, like the admitted students reception and white coat ceremony. Though it’s a busy day, it’s exciting and fun to be working with the whole team. I love the feeling I get after finishing a successful event and sharing it with everyone.
- Answering emails
Throughout the year, we get various emails with questions regarding the application process, program overview, events, etc. Everyone checks the student ambassador email account when they come into the office to work and answer those emails or refer them to someone that can.
- Managing Social Media
I collaborate with Kim Kho (AKA our boss) weekly to come up with content to share to our social media platforms. We look up national and international holidays, month-long observances, and relevant events happening around the Division and USC. The idea is to feature students and faculty of the Division to inform the general public of what’s happening in our program. I’ve loved being able to stay up-to-date with all that’s happening at USC Chan and interviewing various students and faculty about the amazing things they’re doing. It’s also super interesting to analyze the data from social media, like who are our viewers, how many interactions are we getting per post, etc. I wasn’t a huge social media person before getting this position, but I’ve learned so much about advertising, taking the right picture, coming up with captions, and the internet in general and I’ve really enjoyed all my tasks. (Follow us on instagram! @uscchanosot)
- Meet the Trojan Family
I love being a student ambassador because I get to learn more about the program, see the hard-work that goes on behind the scenes to improve our program and admissions process, and I get to share about and advocate for our profession. It’s made me a better communicator and public speaker, polished my time-management skills, sharpened my leadership skills, and introduced me to the best ambassadors team a girl could ask for. I’m super thankful that I had the opportunity this year to help represent the Chan Division and I’m looking forward to welcoming in the new team for next year!
The 2020 (course) Elections ⟩
January 23, 2020, by Kaho
Welcome back everyone, and happy 2020! I hope you all had a restful and restoring winter break. I flew home to Japan for the full four weeks and I got to travel all over with my family. I spent some time in northern Japan, snowboarding and skiing in the snowy mountains, as well as in Japan’s southernmost tropical island, scuba diving and sightseeing! I feel like I experienced all four seasons in four weeks. Now I’m back in school, my jetlag has passed, and I am officially back on the grind. I’m beginning my last semester of classes for the master’s program, which means (as many of you may know) . . . electives! The Chan Division offers a wide variety of elective courses to choose from and these courses prepare you in specialty areas that you may want to pursue once you get out into the real world. You also have the option to take courses in other USC schools, such as the school of business, public policy, arts and sciences, etc. I’ll share with you today the courses that I’m taking, but past ambassadors have also written blog posts about what classes they took so be sure to check those out if you’re interested in learning more about what goes on in each class.
- OT 561: Occupation Therapy in Acute Care
For anyone interested in working in hospitals eventually or anyone interested in learning the more medical side of OT, this class is fantastic. This course goes over various systems of the human body and the implications for therapy when a person has issues in any of them. You get a sneak peek into the exciting and fast-paced life of an acute care OT and even get to observe it first hand through the clinical hands-on portion of the class! Similar to Level 1 fieldwork, you get paired with a clinical instructor at Keck Hospital and you get to follow them for several sessions throughout the semester. We learn the names of common illnesses and their treatments, medical devices, and so on. Even though I’ve only sat through two lectures for this course so far, I already know that it’s going to be one of my favorites.
- OT 578: Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner
This course can be beneficial for anyone, regardless of what setting you’re interested in going into. You honestly don’t even have to be pursuing OT to benefit from this course. It trains you in a skill called Motivational Interviewing, which is a therapeutic communication style that can be used to facilitate change in clients. It also covers mindfulness practices, which can be a tool for myself as well in my own daily life. I know it’s going to make me a more effective communicator and a better listener for my friends, family, and clients so I’m really excited to learn more and practice.
- OT 579: Occupation-Based Adult Neurorehabilitation
During my fieldwork experiences, I had the opportunity to work with several patients with spinal cord injuries and strokes. It can be devastating to lose function in your arms and legs and as you can imagine, OT can play a huge role in these people’s recoveries. This course teaches you and lets you practice various assessments that you may use in a neurorehab setting. We learn to analyze movement and consider how neurological impairments interfere with people’s ability to engage in meaningful occupations. It’s hands-on; students practice on each other while the professor demonstrates, and it’s all really interesting. As someone that wants to work in a variety of fields within the adult population, preferably in a hospital, this course supplies me with knowledge and skills that I know will come in handy during my career.
There are so many other classes that I was interested in taking, but time and the allowed number of units forced me to pick and choose. I’m enjoying all of my classes so far, so I know it’s going to be a fast, exciting semester. And then I graduate! 😮 Have a great semester, everyone.