Finding your A-teams >
April 23, 2021
When you get to graduate school, you will quickly realize that you cannot succeed alone. You will gravitate towards and lean on all types of people throughout your two years and you will form long-lasting friendships. As graduation soon approaches, I have had to face the fact that I will no longer be blessed with the opportunity to work with all these wonderful people on a daily basis. I have formed a variety of different teams depending on the class, club, job, or activity I’m in and I wanted to thank all the people who have helped me succeed as a student, friend, classmate, and practitioner. Below I have included some pictures of my various teams. This is most definitely NOT a comprehensive list, because there are so many more wonderful people who have helped me along the way that are not pictured below. To those who are not pictured…you know who you are…I appreciate you all!
- To those who got me through my first summer semester: I truly do not know how I would have made it through without ya’ll. Whether you were a friendly face to me on the first day (shout out to Lamoni for being the kindest to me when we were seated next to each other on the first day of class), a late-night study partner in Currie Hall, or a lab partner who tolerated me asking too many questions and talking everything out loud, you made the transition into graduate school a little less stressful.
- To the MANY group project teams: Thank you for helping me expand my creativity. Time and time again I found myself researching topics I would have never come up with on my own. Whether that was focusing on the effectiveness of the sequential oral sensory approach with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in OT 518 Quantitative Reasoning, or developing a wellness program for undergraduate college students in OT 537 Occupation for Community, I got the opportunity to surround myself by people with varying interests and skillsets which allowed me to grow as a practitioner.
- My cohort: Shoutout to cohort B for being the best cohort I could EVER ask for. Your knowledge about and passion for OT inspired me daily and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to hang out with all day every day.
- My roommates: These people have seen it all! Shoutout to these gals for dealing with me at my best and my worst, for always being a shoulder to lean on, and for listening to all my crazy rants. I appreciate you both for making the little parts of life fun, for being my “OT practice patients” during this pandemic, and for supporting me always. I couldn’t have done these two years without you!
- To my ambassador team: You all are my rocks. Thank you for having faith in my capabilities, for always stepping up to the plate, and for helping me out when you can see that I am stressed. You all always know the right thing to do and say, and it has been an honor working with and learning from all of you.
- To the adventure buddies: Thank you for taking my mind off the craziness that is graduate school and helping me re-focus on my energy on meaningful occupations. You are the silent heroes in my life. Thank you for supporting me both inside and outside of the classroom. You are able to read me like a book by this point and understand when I need to take a break and just enjoy the outdoors. You are the ones to text me a funny joke when you know I am having a hard workday or to organize an event when it is time to celebrate even the smallest success. Thank you for pushing me outside of my comfort zone, surrounding me with love and celebration, and for being there through the tough times.
- To my family…my lifelong team: There are not enough thank you’s to show how grateful I am for you three. To my sister, life mentor, and OT guide, I do not know where I would be without your wisdom and guidance. You always know the right thing to say and do and I will forever be thankful for you. Mom and Dad – you are my biggest support system. Without out you none of this success would have been possible. You are my biggest cheerleaders and I know that you two are what motivate me to push harder every day.
Preparing for Graduate School >
March 31, 2021
As an ambassador, I have had the privilege of communicating with a large group of admitted Entry-Level Master’s students over the past few weeks. These students have expressed that they are both excited and nervous about what is to come. I definitely shared the same kind of emotions back when I was admitted. As an admitted student, you don’t know exactly what the future holds. For that reason, I have been receiving a lot of questions regarding how to best prepare for graduate school.
My biggest piece of advice is to forget about the idea of “preparing yourself” for the program in the typical way you may imagine.
Do not try to cram in as much reading about anatomy and physiology as possible before you enter into your summer session like I did. I promise you that it is not necessary (really…I’m not lying to you)! All I did by studying that material in my free time was tire myself out before I even sat down for my first day of class. Your professors have designed each course to cater to a wide range of prior knowledge levels, so don’t focus your time on studying material that will either be reviewed or is unnecessary to know.
Instead, take the next few months (or whatever time you have remaining before the start of the program) and relax as much as you can. Enjoy and appreciate every aspect of the life you are currently living and use the remaining hours you have in the day to participate in restorative occupations. Read that book you’ve always wanted to read, go on that hike you’ve been eyeing on the All Trails app, or watch that movie you’ve had saved on “your list” on Netflix because soon your life will become a lot busier. A lot of the free time you may have after work, on the weekends, or in between undergraduate classes will soon turn into time focused on finishing your homework, reviewing textbook readings, completing an essay or group project, or studying for the exam you have the next week.
The best way to prepare yourself for what is to come is by focusing on doing things you enjoy in your free time and acknowledging that the routine you are currently following will be drastically changed in a few short months.
So to all the admitted students out there reading this blog…know that it is OK to use this time to focus on taking care of yourself in order to be energized and mentally ready to take on whatever the next two years have in store for you. After you sit down for your first day of OT school, you can never go back to the place you are right now in your life. Take a deep breath and know that you will be able to tackle anything and overcome any hurdle that may come your way…but only if you focus on taking care of yourself before you start! I promise you’ll thank me later 😉
Fieldwork II: Saying YES to Taking on New Challenges >
March 10, 2021
As I enter into the third week of my level II pediatric fieldwork at Hiller Therapy, I am shocked by how much I have already grown as a practitioner. I was extremely nervous coming into this fieldwork placement because pediatrics had been the most difficult practice immersion for me. I never felt fully comfortable with the material and I didn’t believe that I had the right character traits to work with kids (creativity being an important one!).
Now I am sitting here, writing this blog post and realizing that I had underestimated myself. I feel as though I can create fun and engaging treatment sessions, help children meet their goals, and develop appropriate goals after doing an evaluation. All of this after just two weeks! You might be thinking…Savi…how is that possible? All it took was saying YES to any opportunity to be hands-on with clients and leaning on the professionals around me to look over my work and give me honest reviews.
In the first week, I said yes to taking on half a client load filled with children of all ages. This forced me to quickly pick up on developmental milestones and differing interests. After a few days, I became familiar with my resources and began developing more and more creative treatment plans. I said yes to running evaluations I had never tried before and taking on new projects – such as developing a school-based OT assessment. These were not things I was comfortable with initially, but by being honest with my OT about my perceived skillset and having her there to help me if I ever became confused or overwhelmed, I felt more confident taking on challenges in my first few weeks.
By saying yes to these opportunities, I quickly realized that I knew more than I thought I did and that I was WAY more competent than I had initially believed.
Do I have a ways to go to become a proficient pediatric OT…Yes of course I do! Although I have a lot to work on and a lot more to learn, I am now excited and not nervous walking into the clinic each day. I am becoming more comfortable with treatment planning and going with the flow because kids can be kids and you can’t always micromanage and control each session.
I say yes to opportunities I have time for and I am honest with my OT if I am feeling overwhelmed. This has taught me how to communicate openly with my co-workers and to learn from their years of pediatric OT experience to become an asset to them whenever I can.
If you are reading this before a Level II fieldwork experience in a setting that you might not be extremely comfortable in, know that it is ok to feel nervous and maybe even scared to fail. This is a learning experience so take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, say YES to taking on challenges you may not feel capable of overcoming, and lean on the brilliant OTs (or other healthcare practitioners) around you to get a few words of wisdom and support whenever you need it. You are more capable than you believe…trust yourself and enjoy the ride!
Why I Chose to Attend USC >
February 17, 2021
During the past few weeks, a plethora of admitted and prospective students have reached out to get a student’s perspective on why we chose to complete our Master’s degree at USC. This simple question has made me reflect on all the wonderful reasons I have enjoyed my time in the program. I have decided to create a list of the reasons I chose to complete my Master’s degree at USC below. I hope this list helps admitted students reading with your decision during this overwhelming and exciting time! This list can also be a great resource for students deciding whether or not to apply to this program in the coming years.
- The USC community and connections: Going to USC immediately connects you to a very large group of OTs around the world. With around 130 OT students graduating from the Master’s program each year, the quantity of USC OT alumni is exuberant. This allows current USC students the opportunity to have resources and connections both within and outside the division. Whether you are looking to find a job after graduating or get advice about your career path, you have an extremely high chance of finding USC alumni in your field of choice. This can be really helpful since OTs can work in such a wide range of practice settings and it can get tricky deciding what path may be right for you. During your various fieldwork placements, you are also bound to run into or be mentored by USC alumni and it is great to make those connections with other trojans who understand the curriculum, program structure, etc.
- The faculty and resources: As a student, you get the opportunity to learn from some of the most amazing and world-renowned OTs. All of the faculty members have dedicated their lives to OT through clinical work, teaching, and research. These clinicians, researchers, and educators all have an open door policy and capitalize on any opportunity to chat with and get to know students. You can go to them for casual conversation, assistance with schoolwork, guidance in life and your career, and more. This team, along with all of the outstanding cutting-edge research being conducted within our division, gives us the unique opportunity to be some of the first to learn about the most up-and-coming techniques and discoveries. This environment encourages every student to challenge themselves, work hard, and become a leader in the OT field.
- The students: As mentioned before, USC admits around 130 students into their Master’s program. This larger class size has given me the opportunity to meet a plethora of different learners and future practitioners. After spending the first summer semester learning from all of these different perspectives in a larger class setting, everyone is split up into three different cohorts of about 40-50 students. The cohorts are small so you get to know everyone really well, but you also get the chance to socialize with the larger group of around 130 students outside of the classroom to learn about their experience in different practice immersions before you take them. The cohorts are further split into 2 groups to make lectures and labs even smaller. The two groups will switch off the order in which they attend lectures and labs, which allows for more individualized attention from the professors during class.
- Hands-on work: USC integrates fieldwork into each semester. As an extremely hands-on learner, I was really excited to discover that USC allows students to work at a fieldwork I site once a week during each practice immersion semester. We, therefore, get the chance to go into class three times a week and then apply what we learn in real-time with clients. We can come back each week and debrief with each other and our professors. By doing so, I didn’t feel like I was just a student sitting in class trying to absorb information. I really got the chance to take that knowledge and apply it every week. On top of that, we also are provided with the typical fieldwork II experience, in which we work as full-time OTs for 12-weeks during each summer in a setting of your choice. We have connections with over 950 fieldwork sites across the globe, so the opportunities to work in any field of your choice before graduating are endless. Students also have access to Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital Occupational Therapy and the Faculty Practice, which is the birthplace of Lifestyle Redesign®. Students, therefore, have the opportunity to be mentored in a number of existing and developing practice areas at the outstanding USC hospitals and at the Faculty Practice in order to gain clinical experiences during their program of study.
- Los Angeles: Los Angeles is a city with endless OT opportunities. Whatever you may be passionate about in the OT realm…you can find it in LA. Outside of OT opportunities, LA is an amazing place to live. Anything you want to do, see, or eat is in this city. You can go hiking in the morning, sit on the beach in the afternoon, and grab a bite to eat in downtown all in one day! Comedy shows, outdoor adventures, etc…It is ALL here.
Advice for Incoming Occupational Therapy Students >
January 21, 2021
Before beginning my journey as a student in the Entry-Level Master’s program, I remember being extremely overwhelmed. I, therefore, wanted to dedicate this blog to giving incoming students some advice I wish I would’ve known. To those who will be receiving their acceptance letters soon…congratulations on this huge achievement! I hope you keep these pieces of advice with you throughout your time at USC.
- A’s aren’t everything. Although it may be ingrained in you that grades are what measure your level of success, you must now focus more on the learning process instead of the grade outcome. The deciding factor for whether you will get hired over another candidate is your ability to be personable, your experience in the field, and the skills you are equipped with. You made it here, so now you can breathe and just focus on passing and learning all that you can! I speak more about this in my blog An A+ Doesn’t Define You, so be sure to visit this blog for more information.
- Lean on your classmates. This master’s program is not a competition so do not try to make it one. Your fellow classmates are most likely struggling with the same or similar things as you, so reach out to them and be honest. You will find that developing a study group can be VERY beneficial for your mental wellbeing as well as your ability to retain information. By saying things out loud, explaining a concept to a classmate, or hearing your classmate explain a concept to you in their own words, you will find yourself memorizing everything you need or want to know without having to study alone. This is also good practice for the clinical setting as you will be required to work with a variety of colleagues who have different strengths and weaknesses than your own. You can learn how to not only work together but also uplift each other. Build that foundation of support so that studying becomes easier and your coursework has more meaning.
- Take all the time you need to decide what organizations you want to join. Time is valuable in this program and you must make the most of it. Although it may be tempting, try not to join every single organization that you may be slightly interested in. Take your time learning about each opportunity and commit yourself to one or two. Throughout your two years, a variety of opportunities will arise for you to take advantage of. For example, becoming an ambassador was an opportunity that presented itself at the end of my first year in the master’s program. You want to give yourself enough time to fully engage in the organizations you choose to join, while also leaving time for future opportunities that may become available later on. Pick things because you are passionate about them not because they will look good on a resume. To learn more about the student organization options check out my blog What Student Organization Should I Join?
- Get to know your professors. The faculty members in the Chan Division are unbelievable. Each professor or instructor you will have is passionate about a different topic. Learn and ask about their passions and their experience pursuing OT in their field of choice. Most of their journeys were not straightforward and many may surprise you. This is an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the most distinguished OTs in the world…so take advantage of it. Ask them questions both inside and outside of the classroom and build relationships with them. These professors can and will be your mentors for the rest of your life.
- Be open to any opportunity that may come your way. During your fieldwork I clinical experiences, you will get the chance to practice OT once a week in three different settings (mental health, pediatrics, and adult rehabilitation) throughout your two years in the master’s program. You will also have the chance to choose two of these settings to focus on for 12 weeks as a full-time fieldwork II student each summer. Although one or two of these settings may not be ones that you are extremely passionate about, you must take advantage of the learning opportunities you are given by the fieldwork team. Maybe the fieldwork placement will teach you how to deal with conflict, become an independent practitioner, listen more intently, or stay organized. You may even surprise yourself and fall in love with a practice setting you never expected to enjoy! Whether or not you can see yourself as a practicing OT in this setting, make sure to walk into each placement with an open mind and your best foot forward. If you do not do so, then you will not only waste your time but also the time and resources of the clinical setting that has allowed you to come and work with their patients. Instead, use these opportunities to build relationships with the practitioners around you and harness the skills needed to be successful in your future dream job.
- Schedule in time for revitalizing occupations. Whether these occupations are as exciting as going to the beach, hanging out with friends, or skateboarding, or as “simple” as showering and sleeping, be sure to find time for what makes you feel happy and more like yourself. You will not be able to succeed in this program unless you take care of yourself because you will quickly lose steam (take it from the girl who worked two jobs and barely slept for two semesters in a row). Your grades will begin to suffer but more importantly, your ability to retain important and valuable information, be present in class, and maintain your mental and physical health will most likely begin to deteriorate. If that means that you have to block off time in your schedule to shower, eat, go on a walk, or phone a friend to ensure that it is included in your daily routine…do it. You will thank me later!