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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Student Blog | Liz

Liz

I’m waitlisted…now what?
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Prior to being admitted into the program, like several other applicants, I was waitlisted. After feeling as though I had tried my very best to look like a competitive applicant, it was definitely discouraging to know that I didn’t make the cut. Not to mention, being placed on the waitlist feels like you are waiting a lifetime. After religiously checking my email with the hopes of receiving some good news, a spot did not become available for me that year. So, that meant a whole year of “what now?!”. I had just graduated from CSUF, quit my tutoring and campus bookstore jobs, and felt completely lost. I was supposed to get into grad school—that was the plan! After about a week of feeling upset and wondering what I was going to do, I decided to take a closer look at how I could improve and strengthen my application for the following cycle.

First, I decided to find a job. I looked into OT related jobs that would give me more experience. Working with kids was something I was interested in besides hand therapy, so I applied for a job as a behavior therapist. Although ABA is not the same as OT, I thought it would be a good way to get more comfortable working with kids and their families. My experience working for that company was amazing! I worked with kiddos 1:1, joined in on OT consults and was also able to lead a social skills group for children of different ages. Fortunately, I was also able to get a second job working as an occupational therapy aide for a hand therapy clinic. If you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll know I have a personal connection to working with individuals with hand injuries. Getting some hands on experience (pun intended) by working at that hand clinic really solidified my passion for that area of practice! If I would have been admitted when I applied, I wouldn’t have had either experience. So, long story short—you never know what you’ll learn! You may discover a new passion within OT that you didn’t know was for you or a passion you already had can become that much stronger.

Another tip is to reach out to the admissions team and talk to them about your application. I personally didn’t reach out, mostly because I didn’t know it was a thing. As I’ve mentioned before my parents never pursued a higher education, so unfortunately they couldn’t provide much guidance there. However, my good friend Calvin, was able to get in touch with admissions when he was waitlisted himself. Feel free to connect with him to speak to him more about his experience with that.

Although you may be feeling a mix of emotions, don’t be discouraged! Take this as an opportunity to grow and keep working towards your goal. As cheesy as it sounds, everything happens for a reason. Another thing I should mention is that the first time I applied for the program I applied with one of my great friends from undergrad. We spent hours working on applications and our personal statements together. To my dismay I was waitlisted, but my friend was admitted. Although I was happy for her I couldn’t help but feel sad! However, what I later discovered was that there was a reason we didn’t get admitted together. There was a chance we would have felt comfortable with each other and closed off socializing with new people. Now that I have started my second year in the program I couldn’t be more grateful! I met some of my best friends from not being admitted the first time and I will be moving in with them this fall.

It’s important to note that everyone’s situation is different. Marilyn put together a wonderful video featuring two other students, one of them being Daniel Padilla—who is now our OTD student ambassador! Feel free to check out her video. And again, don’t hesitate to send me an email if you have any questions or would like to connect!

Liz

First Gen Problems
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Ever since COVID-19 happened I’m sure we’ve all had to make some changes in several aspects of our lives. One major change I made, like so many other students, was switching to remote learning. Whether you’re about to start classes soon this summer here at Chan, or completing some prerequisite courses elsewhere, don’t be afraid…IT WILL BE OKAY!

When this whole thing started, I decided to move back home with my parents in Santa Ana. I was afraid the loneliness would get to me if I stayed at my apartment in LA all alone and remote learning seemed like a good opportunity to move back home for a bit. At first, moving back was fine. It was great to spend more time with my family and enjoy my mom’s home cooked meals. BUT, what I didn’t know was that being back home would actually result in me feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than ever.

Like many other first generation students, one of the reasons I chose to pursue a higher education (other than my love for OT, of course) was because I want to take care of my parents at some point. I don’t want my mom cleaning houses or my dad taking care of people’s landscaping forever! So, when I moved back home that stressor that had been stored somewhere in the back of my mind, made itself very visible again. My family lives in a small apartment, so when I would hear my dad get up at 4 AM to get ready to get to work it felt almost impossible to fall asleep again. I was constantly thinking about how much older he’s getting and how much I wished he could just stay in bed and drink his coffee when the sun was actually out. Seeing my mom come home exhausted and complain about her back pain didn’t make things any better. That pressure and stress I was able to almost forget about when I was in LA just didn’t go away, and I could feel how it was taking a toll on me emotionally.

To make matters worse, it was extremely difficult to focus on getting my work done for class. My family was constantly trying to hang out (don’t get me wrong I love them, but COME ON I have some work to do!). I started to feel bad because I felt like family time was what they looked forward to since we were all staying home, and I wanted to cater to their needs. It almost made me feel selfish to tell them I had work to do for school. So, I ended up staying up WAY past my usual bedtime just to get my work done because my family was so distracting.

It finally got to the point where I was too overwhelmed by my stressors of being back home and my school work. So, I decided I had to make some changes. My first step was to talk to my parents and my sister about how I was feeling. I had to explain that my school work was not something I could continue to put off and complete late at night. I don’t know if anyone else’s parents are like this, but my parents seem to think going to school is an easy job. Which honestly, is kind of understandable. Compared to their taxing jobs I’m sure sitting at home on a computer seems easy peasy. But, it’s still unfair to me and my feelings. So, I decided to show them more of what I was doing. I translated what I was learning and why it was important.

Second, I thought about how I could still spend some time with them while also being able to take care of myself and my responsibilities. I ended up taking virtual zumba classes with my mom in order to make her feel like she was still a priority to me. Let me tell you, zumba is not easy and my mom is a lot more coordinated than I am—embarrassing, I know. I would also run small errands with my dad whenever possible. If he had to run to the grocery store and I needed a study break, I would spend my study break with him. Finding these little ways to make time for my family helped so much and gave me more room to get my work done.

As for my emotional stressors, every night before bed I would think about three reasons why I was proud of myself. This helped me see that there’s so much to be happy about and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. So, if you are a first generation student feeling overwhelmed by all of the things you feel like you have to do, don’t. You are already on the right track. You’re here (or on your way), and you can do this! And also, show and explain to your parents what you’re working towards. I am 100% sure they would be so happy to see it and learn about what you’re doing. Summer is right around the corner and you will be amazing. Check out Savi’s blog post on the benefits of remote learning next! Fight on!

Liz

Why OT?
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As I reflect about my time thus far at USC Chan, I come to appreciate the diversity in the program and everyone’s unique story in finding occupational therapy. It’s always great to know that no matter the “why,” we all hold a special love for OT. Some learned about OT through their family members, others have had loved ones receive OT services, and some have personal stories about their journey as the recipient. As for me, the story is a little different!

As the proud daughter of a landscaping gardener and housekeeper, growing up I wasn’t introduced to professions outside of what my family knew. However, when I was about 12 years old, my grandmother obtained a traumatic hand injury while in the passenger’s seat of a terrible car accident. She was an undocumented, uninsured individual in our country and could not afford the care she needed. Due to these barriers, my family could only afford to pay for her pain medication. Over time her injury healed, but her wrist permanently remained curving in towards her thumb — radial deviation. The accident negatively impacted my grandmother’s ability to engage in activities she found meaningful. She found it challenging to dress herself independently, make tamales, and walk her dog. This took a toll on my grandma’s self-esteem and created a deep feeling of frustration. I took it upon myself to help my grandma by doing some of those things for her, but what I discovered was that she wanted to do them herself. So, I tried helping my grandma find ways to participate in those activities as best as she could. Sure, it wasn’t the work a 12-year-old should be doing, but it was so fun! I loved seeing my grandma smile every time she was able to put on her favorite red lipstick by herself. Of course, we still had a bit of cleaning up to do around the edges, but it was amazing!

Years later, I ended up at CSUF with the hopes of pursuing a career as a Spanish teacher. I was taking a kinesiology course to fulfill one of my GE requirements and one day a few seniors came in to present on their internship experience. One of those presentations spoke about occupational therapy! Of course, I went home and did my research and was immediately converted when I knew I could work with individuals recovering from hand injuries. However, as time went on, I discovered that my passion went beyond wanting to help people recover from such injuries. My interest flourished into a love for wanting to provide culturally sensitive care for those from lower-socioeconomic statuses, a barrier faced by my grandmother and many others from similar communities. I am grateful that OT provides me with the opportunity to do so. The best part is that I get to work towards my goal with the support of my amazing academic mentors and supportive peers. I look forward to continue representing the Latinx community and am excited to continue growing as a future OT!