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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


Rocky Starts ⟩
May 6, 2020, by Noelle

Life Hacks

I recently revisited my journal because as I approach graduation and the beginning of a new chapter, I wanted to remind myself where I was when I started this one.

I did not start grad school the way I wanted to.  I was recovering from a difficult breakup, I wasn’t living with my long-term roommate anymore, my relationship with my parents was strained, and I just didn’t feel like I had the right energy going into the year.  On top of that, I was entering a class of people that had bonded over the summer and it was intimidating, even for an extrovert like me.  I have always prided myself on my resilience and adaptability, but it took me longer than I expected to adjust to all of the changes, and I wasn’t happy.

And then at some point, I had enough.  I realized I was putting way too much pressure on myself to have the perfect year and the resulting disappointment was a weight that was preventing me from fully enjoying the things that were going right.  So I let go.  I let go of the year I wanted and accepted the year I was having.  And while that didn’t change things over night, it was liberating.

This is not to say that I threw in the towel and gave up on having a good year. Quite the opposite.  By letting go of what I thought I wanted and needed, I was free to define my path as I walked it—to pursue unexpected opportunities, take risks, and better recover from setbacks.  I’m not going to lie, not having a definite destination was scary at times.  But I look at where my path has led me and it’s nothing I could have planned for or expected.  And it’s wonderful.

Looking ahead, I’m still not certain of the destination I am heading towards.  And for me that’s still a little scary, but also exciting.  These past two years have taught me that it’s ok not to have a perfect plan and stick to it.  There will be rocky starts and disappointments.  But if the past is any indicator of the future, there will also be many happy accidents, surprising victories, and unanticipated joy just around the corner.

So after endlessly scrolling through my playlists, I think I found the perfect song for this entry and for my final song recommendation.  “Sisyphus” by Andrew Bird.  Enjoy!


A Taste of Telehealth ⟩
April 8, 2020, by Noelle

Classes What are OS/OT?

This semester, I decided to take OT 574 Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation as one of my electives. While not super related to my interest in primary care, I chose it because I had previously enjoyed learning about motor control during the Adult Rehabilitation Immersion and thought it was a good idea to diversify my course load. What I was really drawn to though, was the chance to work with patients and refine my “therapeutic touch”. Trust me when I say that there is a huge difference between watching a demonstration or discussing a case study and actually being the one touching and working with a patient. You have to be confident, firm, but not too firm! It’s a really delicate balance that I was able to practice each week while mobilizing and facilitating movements with my client during the lab portion of this class.

This course was the definition of hands on learning. So when the move to online classes was made, I was very concerned and disappointed that I was no longer going to be able to see my client.

Luckily, my professors are experts in modifying tasks and coming up with creative solutions in their clinical work. Turning lemons into lemonade, they arranged for us to continue treating our clients through Zoom, allowing us to give telehealth a try. Given the hands-on nature of neurorehabilitation, there are limitations to what we can do remotely. But there are also a lot of things we can do.

So far, I’ve had two sessions with my client. My team and I are focused on designing a home exercise program that will reduce his abnormal tone and help keep him on track to making progress towards his goals. One of the advantages of using Zoom, is that we get to see his living environment “in person”. This helps us problem solve in real time around obstacles that he faces in doing some of the exercises and activities we recommend. I’m hopeful that we are making a well-tailored program for him.

There are challenges to this method. Sometimes it’s hard to see the specific movements through the camera, or it’s tricky to demonstrate and explain an exercise on a screen. But I am proud of the way both my team and our client are adjusting and making the most of the situation. This is a great exercise for us as OT students to think on our feet, be creative, adapt. Those are core skills to our profession, and I am thankful to be getting this experience and unique opportunity to practice them. Here’s to the silver linings! 

For this week’s song rec, I’m sharing one of my all time favorites — “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles . . . fitting don’t you think?


9 to 5? Working in Grad School ⟩
February 10, 2020, by Noelle

Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

Whether you are looking to earn a little spending money or pay next month’s rent, having a part-time job in grad school is definitely a possibility and reality for students here at Chan. On top of managing their coursework, I know babysitters, bartenders, and tutors, people who teach tennis lessons, pick up ride-sharers on their daily commute, and run their own businesses (check out Kevin’s side hustle if you haven’t already). Amazing right?!

As for me, I was a waitress during my first year and now work as a student ambassador. I remember applying for the waitressing job back in September 2018, nervous about having never held a tray in my life before, but more so, unsure of how I was going to maintain both a job and school. My only prior work experience was a low key student worker position that fit nicely into my flexible undergrad schedule, so I felt way in over my head just a couple weeks into grad school.

I was hired and started right as my first level one fieldwork began (great timing I know 😬). It was definitely a challenge at first to find a reasonable schedule and really, to learn how to be a waitress from scratch. But once I started getting into the groove (stopped spilling drinks and forgetting orders), it got way easier and dare I say fun? I worked on the school nights before fieldwork (because no homework was due the next day), weekends, and picked up extra shifts if it was a slower week at school. It was helpful that the restaurant was close to home/shuttle stop and my employers were pretty flexible about my schedule.

Waiting tables

Taken on my last day of work . . . doing my best not to spill!

And I LOVED it. It was a great fit for my personality, gave me a little break from my student identity, and provided a whole different education and skill set. Second to my Level II fieldwork, it is my most prized bullet point on my résumé. It wasn’t all peaches and cream though. There were lots of late nights, crammed weekends, missed events, and several moments I had to remind myself that school was the priority. But I am so glad to have done it . . . and not just for the tips!

Of course, working during grad school looks very different from person to person. And my experience is just one example of how to make it work.

For this week’s song rec, let’s throw it back to 1973 with “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays, a song I would frequently blast on my way home after a long day at the restaurant.


Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes! ⟩
January 24, 2020, by Noelle

Life Hacks

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. They make me nervous . . . too much pressure. I prefer to take a much softer, guilt-free approach. At the start of every new year (and/or birthday), I take out my journal and sift through past entries, making sure to check out my predictions from the last new year. See, instead of resolutions, I write general but confident predictions for the year ahead. I don’t know how to describe it, but I have a kind of future vision — no, not like That’s So Raven — let’s just call it an intuition and its usually pretty spot on.

This year is a bit different though, because it doesn’t take a psychic or even intuition to know 2020 is going to be a big one. Graduation, the board exam, beginning my OTD residency . . . I mean really! So I’d be naïve and lying if I didn’t say I have a few goals that are on my mind at the start of this semester, and very important year.

The first one is basic: To keep up with my readings. This is not to say that I didn’t do 100% of all my readings thus far 😏, but that I feel it is especially important as to get the most out of my elective courses. I also want to get into the habit of reading scholarly things on a regular basis so that I am an OT who stays current and curious to learn.

Another, more exciting goal is to cook more frequently and to accumulate more dishes for my domestic resumé. If you know me, you know I live on Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese, Trader Joe’s butter chicken, and pot stickers. And you know what, if that is your lifestyle too no judgment here! But I’m 22 years old and it has occurred to me that not only do I not enjoy/know how to cook, I do not know how to grocery shop! Luckily, I have a “therapist” (a fellow OTS) in my Lifestyle Redesign® elective to help me master this IADL.

My first homemade soup!

This was my first dish of the semester that I’m super proud of . . . Tomato and roasted red pepper soup with ground beef, potatoes, and carrots! I’ll confess that Trader Joe was the one who made the base but hey! I browned beef, sliced and boiled vegetables, expertly sprinkled some extra seasoning in the pot, AND did all the dishes afterwards so BABY STEPS! (my therapist is really proud)

The last goal I’ll mention because this is getting long, is to find a nice place to live after graduation. As much as I love the OT house, I think its time to explore another area and experience what its like to live apart from a university. I have never had to go apartment hunting before, so that’s going to be new. We’ll see how that goes, I’ll probably blog about it once I get closer to making a decision.

So that’s where I am at this semester. Stay tuned for new recipes, LA apartment hunting adventures, and more!

I’m hoping you already know David Bowie’s “Changes” as referenced in the title of this blog so here’s a song I’ve just added to my Venti Vibes playlist (AKA my study songs): “Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins. Enjoy!


OT in the HOUSE ⟩
November 14, 2019, by Noelle

Housing and Transportation Living in LA Videos

Warning: time lapsed commute may cause motion sickness. 😬 Skip to 2:00 for just the apartment.

I want everyone to know that I made this on iMovie ON MY PHONE and I am not the most tech savvy so bear with me. 😊

I originally wanted the background music to double as my song recommendation (”Home” by Dan Croll), but alas, couldn’t make it happen. The background music is “Extra Jolly” by Mark Mothersbaugh.

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