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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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What’s It Like To Be An MA1 Student?


October 20, 2017
by Linah


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One of the unique things about the Post-Professional Program in USC is its own students. Most (if not all) are international students, who either just graduated with an occupational therapy undergraduate degree, or have already worked as OT’s for a while in their own countries. It is a great opportunity for students to connect with occupational therapists from every continent, and learn about how occupational therapy is perceived globally.

Being in the MA1 program and moving to LA was definitely overwhelming in the beginning. Prior to starting this program, I had never crossed the Atlantic before! All I knew about American culture was from Hollywood movies and American media. I had no practical experience about how they do things in this part of the globe. Luckily, this program pays special attention to cultural differences and has dedicated student support programs (like Global Initiatives) to help soften the culture shock.

As soon as I arrived I was invited to a barbeque on the beach at one of the faculty’s homes. It was a great way to get to know some of the faculty who were in attendance, and get familiarized myself with fellow students. We played games on the beach and ate good food, which was wonderful. Definitely was needed after the stress of moving to LA and starting school.

Then to add to the fun, all MA1 students were invited to be part of the White Coat Ceremony. Where each student was presented with their own white coat embroidered with the Chan Division logo. This was a great gesture by the division to induct us into the profession of occupational therapy in the US. It was a cool way to include us into the OT family in USC and make us feel that we are part of it. Especially, that most MA1’s (myself included) come from countries where OT is still emerging. So, they spend more time explaining what OT is than they spend being commended for being part of it. We got to meet each other’s families and mingle with our professors and faculty, which made the day all the more wonderful.

The faculty themselves are such kind individuals, and their hard work to make sure they provide the best education possible really shows. Not only is it obvious during class, but they also invite us to socialize outside of class as well. Dr. Sharon Cermak invited us to dinner at one of her favorite Chinese restaurants in LA. It was good food, good company, and great conversation. Being offered the opportunity to have dinner with one of the 100 most influential people in occupational therapy, is surreal to say the least.

The university really tries to ensure that all of its students are catered to and heard. The support services, financial services, and the free services that students are able to access for just being part of USC! It is a wonderful program to be a part of, and I encourage anyone who sees a master’s in OT in their horizon to look into USC as an option. No need to be intimidated if you’re coming from far away, because everyone here treats you like family.