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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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Looking Beyond


May 13, 2020

Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

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On April 22nd, I woke up feeling the usual stress of a graduate student during the “Stay at Home order.” My dad greeted me with a small envelope, which left me perplexed and confused. This envelope was addressed to me in my handwriting. What could this be? I opened the envelope and revealed a handwritten letter that I wrote to myself in Fall 2018 on 11/26/18 in the OT 511 Therapeutic Use of Self Course. It was 1st year OT Grad student Marilyn. You see, Dr. Kristin Nxumalo instructed the class to write a letter to ourselves that would be mailed to us closer to graduation day.

The infamous envelope

The infamous envelope!

Upon opening the letter, I did not know what to expect, but the first line stated, “You made it to graduation day!” I immediately had a flashback of sitting next to my peers in class as we engaged in this activity. I had no idea of the power of my words until I read the letter. It gave me hope and strength to carry on studying for the comprehensive exam that I took this morning.

Class of 2020

Class of 2020 — we made it!

In my letter, I wrote “I pray that you are feeling peace at this moment knowing that you’ve made it this far! There is nothing that you cannot do, nothing that you cannot conquer because God makes the impossible possible. I’m not sure what you have lost within these past two years as you’ve sacrificed plenty to get to this point but remain present in the moment. Celebrate this milestone with your loved ones because you deserve it. Moving forward remember to find balance in your personal and professional life. Do not compromise your character currency for no one or nothing. Speak honestly, think with sincerity, and act with integrity. Now give your parents a big hug and tell them congrats! Your successes are not your own. Remember the village that helped you make it this far because they continue to spur you towards your goals” . . . Live out your God given purpose!

Rodriguez parents next to the Salvadoran and Guatemalan

Thank you Dad and Mom for making the decision to chase the American dream, in order for your children to pursue higher education. I love you both and I am proud to be Salvadoran and Guatemalan!

My siblings

To my siblings — thank you for believing in me and reminding me that pursuing higher education is not a depreciating asset.

My amazing village

Thank you to my phenomenal village for spurring me on and reminding me that we rise by lifting others.

As I re-read this letter at the end of taking the comprehensive exam this morning, I immediately asked my husband and parents for a giant hug. There were many times throughout my master’s educational journey that I allowed fear, failure, hopelessness, or unmet expectations to become my primary focus. However, I have been reminded by my loved ones and mentors to redirect my focus right back where it belongs — on my faith and passion for being of service to others. 

Moving forward letter writing will be an activity that I will continue to practice. I will continue to act on my plans and visions but will remain open to new opportunities. I will trust in my abilities and make sure to increase access and decrease barriers for marginalized communities. I will move on to complete my summer level 2 fieldwork at the USC Occupational Faculty Practice under the supervision of Dr. Ashley Halle. Lastly, but certainly not least, I will become Dr. Thompson as I will pursue my doctoral degree and complete my clinical residency in a primary care setting at Kaiser Permanente.

Thanks for reading my blogs this past year and I hope I have the opportunity to interact with you in the near future!

Ambassador team

To the 2019-2020 Ambassador team thank you for inspiring me to be innovative and reminding that there is no I in team!