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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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Student Blog


Closing Time ⟩
May 4, 2021, by Liz

Beginnings and Endings Diversity What are OS/OT?

I knew this time was coming — final blog post and graduation! I cannot believe next week is graduation. These two years flew by so fast and I’ve seen myself grow so much. I’ve met lifelong friends, who can’t get rid of me now because they know far too much about me at this point. I am so excited to see where life takes us and all the amazing things we will do as OTs soon.

I never imagined getting a Master’s degree. If you took a poll at the schools I attended from elementary school to high school and asked “Which student in this classroom can you see in USC’s OT program one day?” it certainly wouldn’t have been me. I am grateful for all of my mentors from elementary school until now who encouraged me and believed in me when I didn’t. I am also thankful for my family, my amazing partner, and friends who’ve been there for me throughout this journey! I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Pictures speak volumes, so here are some of my favorites captured these past two years that make me happy. Prepare for photo dump!

Celebrating with Stephanie Gomez-Rubalcava, Raquel Rios, Renee Reinberg, and Lorelei Ritter

Pictured: the future’s greatest OTs and my best friends! From left to right — Stephanie Gomez-Rubalcava, Raquel Rios, Renee Reinberg, and Lorelei Ritter. We did it! We went from crying in the hot tub of our apartment complex after only knowing each other for one week our first summer to crying tears of laughter. Go us! We’ve shared so many beautiful memories together and I am beyond grateful for each and every one of you. Cheers to us!

Group photo with student ambassadors (and Kim)

The greatest team in the world! Bethany, Calvin, Savi, Daniel, Yna, Lamoni — you are all such kind souls and I really wish we could just work together forever. Special thanks to the amazing Kim Kho — Kim, you are a gem. Ya’ll need to stand behind me on this one. Kim should honestly host a TED talk. You’ve pushed me to be myself, stay creative, and have always made our mental health a priority. A million times thank you! I will miss you all so much.

Liz with boyfriend Josh at Disneyland

A FAQ I received this past year was “will I have time for a personal life?”. My answer is always, yes! Sometimes it’ll be a little challenging, but it’s very doable. Personal life consists of so many things — for me, it was making time to spend with my favorite person in the world. A very special shout out to a very special, patient, and goofball of a man my boyfriend, Josh. Thank you for being so supportive and working with my wild schedule!

Liz with her mom and dad

Liz with her sister

Pictured: my motivation for everything that I do! My mom, dad, and little sister. Which brings me to the point: anyone else agree it should be illegal for younger siblings to be taller? Anyway, thank you for shaping me into the woman that I am today. You came to this country with nothing, only to give me everything. You painted my wings, we did it.

Liz's dad with USC flag

Bonus picture of my dad. He sent me this picture during my first week in the program — proudly posing at work with his boss’s USC flag. This picture keeps me going. You’ll have your own soon, pa!

Now, the terrifying, yet exciting question: What’s next?! After thinking long and hard, I decided not to go through with the OTD. Financially, it is not within my reach at this moment in time. And, I think it’s time I help my family. So, although I REALLY hope to teach some day, now’s not my time. But, I am hopeful that I will find my way back to reach this goal. For now, I am excited to help provide my parents with health insurance and lift some weight off their shoulders.

My fieldwork educator from the Spring mentioned he may have a position available for me after I get my license, so I will be staying in touch with him. As you all know, I had a blast! So, I am looking forward to going back and some day taking in a fieldwork student 😉 I am excited for what’s to come. And lastly, thank you to all the faculty at Chan whose made my experience truly unforgettable. Fight on!

Liz as a girl, with cat ears


CA Fun — Yosemite Edition ⟩
April 14, 2021, by Liz

Living in LA

Restorative occupations week was exactly one month ago. At the time fieldwork kept my roommates and me super busy. Yes, we did do things that were restorative — however, this weekend we decided to take part in a belated restorative occupations weekend! As you all know USC is located in the best state in the world, California. We are lucky enough to have amazing weather nearly all year round!

For our restorative occupations weekend we decided to take a day trip to Yosemite National Park. California is full of beautiful national parks. So, if you decide USC is the right fit for you — definitely take time to enjoy nature’s beauty!

The drive to Yosemite from LA took us around 5 hours. Of course this included making a pit stop for food and several bathroom breaks. Our first stop was paddle boarding at Bass Lake. This was close to the city of Oakhurst, which is where we were staying for the night. After a fun afternoon in the water, we checked into our Airbnb and went stargazing later that night.

The following day we were back on the road at 7 AM to head to the national park. There was barely any snow left, but the views were breathtaking! We hiked to Mirror Lake and Lower Yosemite falls. By 3 PM we were listening to our girls trip playlist as we drove back to LA.

As the school year comes to an end and everyone in my friend group is worried about the OTD/getting started with work, it was nice to take a break from the stress and enjoy ourselves. Here are some pictures from the trip!

Paddle boarding

Paddle boarding

Liz and Lorelei

Liz and Lorelei

Liz and Stephy

Liz and Stephy


Level II Fieldwork Part I: Almost Complete! ⟩
March 26, 2021, by Liz


I am so bummed that level II fieldwork is almost over—one week to go! 12 weeks literally flew by. If you read my previous blog post about my level II fieldwork placement, I’ve been having a blast the past 3 months. I can confidently say that I feel prepared to practice in a hand therapy setting! Here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned these past three months:

How to complete an initial evaluation
This is so important y’all. Not only is it key for knowing why the patient is coming in/what their primary complaint is, but it is the first interaction that you have with them. This is your chance to begin creating that relationship. At first I was a little nervous. I was so grateful for masks because it made it that much easier to hide how nervous I felt! But, I’ve done so many initial evals that now it’s a piece of cake. There’s so many important questions to ask: have you had surgery? Any steroid injections? How does this affect your ability to do things every day? Do you currently own a splint? Take measurements as needed. And yes, these are all super important, but so is the impression you make. This will determine how comfortable the patient will feel with—can they trust you?

How to explain to patients what in the world is going on
A lot of times patients will come in and have no clue what’s going on. This is why knowing your anatomy and familiarizing yourself with diagnoses is critical. You also have to keep in mind that patients will not usually know what in the world extensor carpi radialis brevis is. Explain in a way that the patient will actually understand! Practicing this is super helpful for when patients say “what is tennis elbow, I don’t even play tennis!”

Prioritize occupations!
I’ve seen folks who come in post surgery and also those who are trying to take care of their condition conservatively. In both cases, I’ve had people ask if they need to stop doing things they love. In some cases, the goal is to get them back to doing those things. I had a client who fractured one of his carpal bones and hasn’t been able to surf for months. Attempting to surf right now probably wouldn’t be the best idea. But, what we’ve been working on is getting his range of motion back and slowly working towards weight bearing so he can push off on his surfboard, wax it, put on his wetsuit, etc. 

We learned a little bit about this in the hands electives and in adult rehab as well. This is super important for noting what you did with the patient, how they responded to treatment/modalities, what happened, why do they need to continue coming to OT. This looks differently at each site, but to date I’ve written so many SOAP notes I already lost count! SOAP notes are used in several OT settings. It stands for: Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. These provide information about what the patient said/what they’re reporting, what you observed/measured as a skilled clinician, why they still need to continue seeing you, how are they progressing?, and what the plan is for the next session. You’ll learned more about this when you practice writing SOAP notes in class. 😊 

How to actually treat people
Anyone can Google what a trigger finger is. But, what do you actually do when a client comes in with one? This is when I was super grateful for my fieldwork educator. There’s a reason why practicing in a hands setting is considered advanced practice. There’s so much! There’s a lot to know, and everyone’s conditions may present similarly but also be very different. I’ve had the chance to independently treat so many diagnoses including: trigger fingers, wrist fractures, Dupytren’s contractures, carpal tunnel, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cubital tunnel, tennis elbow and even a couple folks who have had amputations—to name a few. I am very happy to say that I’ve felt completely comfortable treating these conditions.

Splints 101
Making splints is tough y’all! It is literally art. For one, there’s different materials to choose from. Some cool faster than others, some are more comfortable for night wear, others are more restrictive. I had the chance to make a couple short opponens splints and a few trigger finger splints as well. My fieldwork educator has so much experience and I’ve seen him create some amazing splints for different people. Making splints is great, but with that comes some client education. Can they bathe with it? Should they sleep with it? Skin checks! Tip #1: Don’t leave it in your car—it might lose its shape with the heat!

Being confident in myself
It’s okay to not know everything. It’s literally been only three months! At first it was rough to come to terms that I wasn’t an expert. But, now that I’ve really got the hang of everything I am so sad that this placement is coming to an end! I’ve learned that it’s okay not to know everything and asking questions is fine. My fieldwork educator once told me, “You might not know it all, but you definitely know more than the patient so believe in yourself”.

So, this is all just a fraction of what I’ve learned so far. After nearly a year of learning from behind a screen, I am so grateful for this experience. It exceeded my expectations of what level II fieldwork would be like. If you have any questions about my placement or want to know more about my experience please feel free to shoot me an email!


Reframing Negativity ⟩
March 4, 2021, by Liz

Admissions Life Hacks

After receiving my acceptance letter into the program I was super excited. I remember being out having a burger with a friend and getting an email notification from the department. I instantly felt my heart drop. At first, I didn’t even read the entire email — I literally saw the “congratulations” and felt so much joy. After actually reading the entire email (I had to make sure it was real), I called my parents, my sister, and my boyfriend to let them know the good news! They were so excited for me as they knew how much I wanted to get into the program. As weeks went by I continued to share the news with friends and family when I spent time with them. Being admitted to USC is a huge accomplishment and worth celebrating. We have the number one OT program — I mean, come on!

I was happy that everyone I love and care about was celebrating with me. But, on the road to starting the program (and still to this day), I get some really annoying comments about being a part of this program. After chatting with so many of you these past couple of weeks, I wanted to share the top 2 annoying comments that seem to pop up for so many of us. I want to share how I’ve reframed those two comments into something more positive.

Annoying comment #1: You’re spending THAT much money???
This also includes comments like “how much are you paying?”, “You’re going to be in debt”, “That’s so much money I could never do that”. I was once enjoying a night out with a group of friends and I remember ordering a brussels sprouts taco. A friend of a friend was there and asked me how much it was and I responded “$5”. He literally said “You shouldn’t be spending that much money on a taco when you’re in such heavy debt with your Master’s program”. My first instinct was to be like “what’s it to you???”. It was pretty annoying. It’s so hard to ignore comments that are constantly reminding you about things like this. I feel you guys when you share your concerns about the finances.

I have started reframing the way I think/feel about comments regarding money. First, it’s my dream!!! I really really want to be an OT. I am learning from the absolute best. And honestly, it’s really no one’s business how much money you or I are spending on it. Another plus: occupational therapy is recession proof! I am doing this for me.

Annoying comment #2: USC stands for — University of Spoiled Children
One time I was at the supermarket wearing my USC t-shirt and as I was shopping a man felt the need to say “Ha, university of spoiled children”. Sir, I am a brown woman that worked HARD to get here!!! Now, whether or not you’re a person of color and you get this comment — you worked hard.

I’ve reframed this by repeating a list of things I had to do to get here. I worked two jobs as an undergrad, I paid for summer sessions out of pocket to work on prerequisites, I stayed up numerous nights studying for school/the GRE, I spent countless hours at coffee shops working on personal statements. Another thing that helps is reminding myself that my parents are counting on me. They’ve worked far too much to support my goal of obtaining a higher education. They never ask for a single thing, but I am their retirement. So, no being spoiled did not get me here. It was my dedication and the support that I had from my family, friends, mentors, and professors.

So, yes there’s so many great things about being a USC student. But, let’s be real — someone always has something to say. Don’t let those things get to you. I cannot imagine anyone ever saying “Ugh, great. Got into USC”. You did this. So, reframe those comments. Wear your USC merch proudly, be excited, and fight on!


Imposter Syndrome: Undergrad Edition ⟩
February 10, 2021, by Liz

Admissions Diversity

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best parts of being a student ambassador is connecting with students—students that have been recently admitted, students interested in applying, and current students. Last night I had a video call with a recently admitted student, and they asked me something that really stood out to me. She asked me about imposter syndrome, but it wasn’t about how I related to it as a person of color. It was about how I felt when I was first admitted coming from Cal State Fullerton. Now, this person did not mean to make Cal State Fullerton sound inferior to other campuses and I certainly have nothing negative to say about CSUF at all. But, I thought it was a great question.

I remember being very proud and excited when I first received my acceptance letter to the program. But, as summer slowly approached, I started to worry about whether or not I would be just as “smart” or just as “prepared” as all of the other students in my class. I didn’t mean to doubt myself or feel as though I was competing with everyone else, but I just wanted to be good enough and feel like I deserved to be there.

On the first day of class, we all introduced ourselves. The faculty put together a PowerPoint that stated what our names were, our hometown, and the universities we attended. My last name begins with an R so you can only imagine how nervous I felt as they went through everyone leading up to my turn. As people walked up to introduce themselves, I saw UCLA, UC Berkley, San Diego State, UC Davis, USC, Chapman—all of these highly respected universities on people’s slides. And again, I don’t mean to say CSUF is any less than these institutions, but the schools on those slides definitely come with a reputation of being some of the best. It took some time for me to feel confident and know that I was just as good a student as everyone who came from these other highly respected schools. I have to say that everyone in my classes has had amazing ideas and thoughts to share these past two years—people from divrse backgrounds who’ve attended different universities.

That’s the point I hope to get across with this post. It’s completely normal to feel nervous and scared that you may not be as good as everyone else around you in class. I’m sure everyone that gets admitted feels this in some way! But, I want you to know that you deserve to be here and there’s a reason you were admitted and it’s because the admissions team saw something in you that made them believe you would be a great OT. That’s the great thing about the holistic admissions process. There’s bright people on every campus and we want people with different backgrounds to share their experiences in the classroom.  I also thought this was something that students who are currently at community colleges could relate to as well. Continue to push yourself and work towards getting that bachelor’s degree in order to one day apply for OT school!

At the end of the day, we’re all working towards being occupational therapists. You’ll get a chance to develop your clinical reasoning skills and discover your therapeutic use of self along the rest of your peers. We’re all on this journey together. So, congratulations to all those students who just recently got admitted into our program. Take some time to celebrate all of the hard work you did to get here. And if you’re still preparing to apply or try again, you also got this! As always, feel free to shoot me an email if you would like to chat more about this or anything at all. Fight on!

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