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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Student Blog | Kaho

Kaho

My First Level 2 Fieldwork (#TBT?)
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I know it’s November and summer feels like ages ago, but with wish-lists for the Summer 2020 level 2 fieldwork about to open up to 1st and 2nd year students, I wanted to reflect and share with you about my fieldwork experience from last summer.

For 12 weeks, I was in an inpatient acute care setting in a hospital in San Diego. As you’d imagine, it was very fast paced, challenging, exciting, etc. and I. Loved. It. Every day looked different and I was constantly learning new things. My clinical instructor (CI) has been an OT for tens of years and working at that specific hospital for over 5 years, but she mentioned that she still learns something new every day. Because the hospital didn’t have a large OT team, the OTs didn’t have an assigned area or floor. The patients in the entire hospital were distributed among the OTs randomly and equally, so I got to see everything from a person with cancer to a patient in neurology to a person with a new hip or a new knee. I was all over the floors, including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was definitely overwhelming at first with so many things to keep in mind and be aware of, and I was nervous to touch anything because it is a setting where careless mistakes could be unforgiving. Also, my level 1 fieldwork was in hand therapy, so this was my first time performing transfers on real patients. However, my CI was amazing at gradually increasing my responsibility and easing me into the bustling hospital halls. She talked me through every treatment session and constantly provided me feedback on my performance. Despite my doubts, I was independently evaluating, treating, and documenting patients by the end of the summer.

My days started at 7:00am and ended at 3:30pm. The first hour of my day consisted of looking up patients’ medical history, condition, precautions, and anything else that was relevant. I was usually up on the floors by 8:00am. I saw about 6-9 patients each day with my CI, depending on how many of them were evaluations since those take longer than regular treatment sessions. In the inpatient acute care setting, your schedule revolves around the patients’ schedules, so documentation occurred during gaps when none of my patients were available or at the end of the day.

One of my favorite things about working in the hospital was that there were many opportunities for collaboration across health care professions. I got to talk to and sometimes treat with physical therapists (PTs), speech language pathologists (SLPs), nurses, and even medical doctors (MDs). We would all bounce ideas off of each other to come up with a holistic treatment plan for each unique patient. With collaboration came opportunities for advocacy, as well. I can’t tell you how many times other health professionals and patients referred to me as PT during my fieldwork experience. Patients would say to me, “What, I just had PT. Why are you back?” or “Why are you taking me to the bathroom? I thought you were going to take me walking down the hallways.” Notes from the nurses or MDs would state things like, “Patient walked to bathroom with PT today.” It was frustrating, but it was a great opportunity for me to practice promoting OT and sharing my elevator speech about what OT is and why we’re great. 😊

Another exciting aspect of having fieldwork in acute care was watching surgeries. I got to watch four surgeries over the summer: a total hip replacement, a total knee replacement, spine surgery, and a deep brain stimulation. It was an incredible learning experience and it deepened my understanding of what surgical patients go through and how much pain they may be experiencing afterwards. It made seeing the patients’ joys of taking their first shower after surgery or being able to get to the edge of their bed and sit without support that much more meaningful.

Whether this is your first level 2 fieldwork or your second, consider the inpatient acute care setting at any hospital if all or any of this sounds intriguing to you. I had a very positive experience and I highly recommend it!

Kaho

Challenge Accepted
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Growing up, I did a lot of individual sports. I ran my first 10k when I was five and from there, I participated in cross country, track, and swimming throughout my school years. I would get so much anxiety the night before a race that I often would not be able to sleep and it felt like my heart would literally flutter out of my chest. Nervous thoughts would flood my brain like, “Am I ready?” “Have I trained enough?” “What if I finish last?” “What if I don’t finish at all?” My mom, who is also an experienced athlete, would sit me down before each race and give me a little pep talk to calm my nerves. She would say various things each time, but one phrase that she repeatedly included and therefore stuck with me is, “無理やと思ってからが本当の勝負” For all of my non-Japanese speaking readers out there, it roughly translates to, “The real battle begins after you think you’ve reached your limit.” This sentence has become so engraved into me that I still hear my mom’s voice in my head every time I’m challenged or stressed to the point that I think I can’t/don’t want to try any further. It has translated over from sports to all aspects of my life and has become my life motto. It has truly helped me throughout numerous stages of my life. (Side note: it’s my mom’s milestone birthday on Monday, so quick shout out to her 🎉 )

I’ve learned that whenever I think I’ve reached my limit, how far I’m able to push myself from that point after is the real test in my strength and character. It has helped me to reframe stressful, sometimes seemingly hopeless situations. When I feel tempted to give up, I pause, reflect, and reset my thoughts. I think, “Okay, I’ve made it to the edge of familiar grounds. This is where things get interesting and exciting because I’m now entering new territory. This is only the beginning of a new self-improvement opportunity.” Think of it this way: you’re playing a video game and you lose a life at level 15. It makes you start back at level 1, but this time, level 1-15 is a piece of cake because you’ve already experienced those levels. No acquirement of a new skill happens here. When you reach level 15 again, you feel a little adrenaline because this was where you fell last time. You’re about to enter a level that you have yet to successfully overcome. This time, you’re able to conquer the challenge and move on to level 16, then level 17. Your limit is now level 17 and you’ve pushed yourself further than what you were familiar with or could tolerate before. How I see it, it’s the same with life. Each time you push yourself past your perceived breaking point, your capacity grows that much more.

Every day, we’re faced with new challenges and I completely understand that it all becomes too overwhelming sometimes. However, something as simple as reframing your thoughts can switch up your mood and give you the courage to keep advancing. Next time you’re faced with a situation that makes you want to give up, try taking a different perspective and get excited! It’s an opportunity to grow and become an even better version of yourself. I don’t know who or if anyone needs to hear this right now, but you’re much more capable than you may think. Fight On!

Kaho

To Be, or Not to Be, a Trojan
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As students begin to apply to different occupational therapy programs and the Chan Division’s November 30th deadline creeps up, one of the most common questions I’ve been receiving is, “why did you choose USC?” “Is it worth it?” A former student ambassador wrote a blog that briefly shares her reasons for choosing USC and it also has helpful tips on how to finance. Graduate schools are not cheap and it’s no secret that even among them, USC is on the pricier side. I understand that finance is a huge factor for everyone when making decisions about their future and no one looks forward to the multi-digit loans they’re about to take on. The financial burden was an immense worry for me as well, and it still is. However, there are pros and cons to everything in life. It helps to weigh both sides and look at the bigger picture. So, to answer your question, attending USC has been worth it for me personally and I’ll explain my reasons why. Before I do that though, I’d like to note that everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s values are different, and only you can make the best decision for yourself because ultimately, you’ll thrive most in an environment that you’re whole-heartedly committed to.

  • The school itself, the students, and its faculty
    There’s a reason that the Chan Division has been ranked as one of the top OT programs in the world repeatedly. There are numerous, cutting edge research projects going on at any given time and graduates of the program go out to be leaders in the world of OT every year. Being in an environment like that, where I’m surrounded by intelligent, motivated, passionate, and dedicated students and faculty, I’m inspired to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone to be the best OT that I could be. The professors that I have met are all so personal and genuine. I can sense that they truly care about my learning and success. Despite the large student body compared to other OT programs, I feel that my individual needs are heard and met and that I am fully supported in my education.
  • my cohort of about 45 students

    My cohort after a Thanksgiving potluck

  • The size
    While some people may prefer a small class of 25 students, I appreciate the fact that there are 136 other students going through the program with me at the Chan Division. It has given me the opportunity to meet a variety of people with different passions and styles. Personally, the big class keeps things interesting because each individual brings a new perspective. Each graduating class is also divided into 3 cohorts of about 40-45 for most lectures and in labs, the cohort is further split into 2, so I still get the benefits of a small class like individualized attention from professors and close relationships with classmates as well.

  • The resources and connections
    As you already probably know (because I mentioned it in my first reason), USC Chan’s faculty is pretty amazing. The researchers, educators, and clinicians are all passionate about what they do and they’re respected across California, the nation, and even the world. Now imagine being able to walk into any of their offices and start a casual conversation. All of the faculty have an open door policy, where students can seek for guidance, mentorship, or just a fun conversation. It’s incredibly comforting to merely know that I have access to all faculty with an array of different experiences within and outside of the profession of OT. Furthermore, students have resources outside of the division. Every fieldwork site I’ve been to, there has been at least one USC Chan alumnus working there. As soon as I say that I’m from USC, their eyes light up and I instantly feel a connection as “a fellow Trojan.” They willingly share with me about their career path and any advice they have. Because OTs can work in such a vast range of settings, everyone’s story is unique and insightful. Speaking of fieldwork, USC has connections to over 950 sites nationally and internationally. The possibilities for your professional development is endless!

With all that being said, I can’t stress enough that this is just my own experience. Everyone’s priorities are different and what makes USC worth it for me, may not be important to you. In addition, I have only experienced USC’s OT program, so I can’t compare it to other schools and speak for it. In the end, any school will be what you make of it. Talk to the people around you that know you well and can help you figure out whether what USC has to offer is what you’re looking for in a graduate program. An application process can be a stressful experience and it involves some big decisions, but I’d be happy to be a resource so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email! You can also sign up for one of our info sessions. Just remember, you’re not alone in your concerns. Good luck!

*a little disclaimer in case you were wondering: everything I’ve written is my honest opinion and I was in no way required or encouraged to say positive things about USC 😊

Kaho

Shoot Your Shot
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More often than I would prefer, I find myself setting limitations for what I can do. I’m a pretty logical person and I like to think things through. I’ve always been the type of person to meticulously plan out my life and think WAY into the future. I first decide on a goal that I want to achieve and then work my way backwards to figure out the steps that I need to take in order to achieve that goal. During this process, I always run into a roadblock. I suddenly realize that a certain step is unattainable (or at least I think it is). I begin to overthink and stress out. I convince myself that my goal is impossible to achieve. It’s over, I must give up. It wasn’t meant to be. At times like this, it helps me to verbalize my dilemma and talk it over with a person I trust. He/she pulls me out of my dramatic act and knocks some light into my tunnel vision filled with darkness. I realize that there are alternative paths that I can take that goes around the obstacle. In other cases, I’m given the courage and determination to continue down the path that I had initially planned to take and deal with the obstacle once I run into it. In past experiences, I was provided with tools to overcome the impediment right before running into it or the obstacle turned out to be much smaller than I had anticipated. As cliché as this may sound, everything really does work out in the end.

I’m sharing this with you today because I experienced another self-limiting episode very recently. The application deadline for the OTD is fast-approaching and it feels like there is a huge cloud of anxiety and uncertainty hovering over the heads of second year students. Every corner I turn and every door I open, I hear students discussing whether they want to pursue the OTD or not and where they may want to do their residency. It seems as though I can’t even use the restroom in peace. My ears are hypersensitive to this topic because I am also uncertain about what I want to do and where I want to go. Once again, I see a goal for myself, but I also saw a roadblock in my way that’s telling me to not even try because I’m unqualified or I don’t have the means. I expressed my concern with a friend and she looked at me, very confused.
“Wait… what? So you want something really badly, but what are you going to do to get it? Nothing. That makes no sense.”
Worded simply and bluntly like that, I realized how irrational I was being. I was telling myself that I should give up before even trying. There’s really no way of knowing whether I qualify or not until I try. If I don’t apply, then there definitely is zero chance. There have been numerous times throughout my life where situations that seemed impossible somehow turned out possible, and yet I still haven’t learned, apparently. 🙄 

The moral of this story is to first, find a friend, significant other, family member, mentor, or anyone that will honestly and bluntly tell you when you’re not making sense. Find someone that will validate your feelings, but will also remove your horse blinders and contribute a fresh new perspective to your situation. More importantly, however, shoot your shot. You never know if you’ll make it without trying and the worst that can happen is you miss, right? And in that case, just pick up the ball and shoot again.

Kaho

More Travelling with Less Money
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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 cheapflights.com 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.

 

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