Why I Decided to Run a Half Marathon ⟩
July 9, 2020, by Savi
Making time for something other than work during graduate school can seem like a daunting task. Your days are filled with classes, exams, projects, essays, and more. I quickly found myself stuck in an unhealthy routine of going to class all day, driving directly to work, eating late at night, and staying up late to finish assignments and readings. After transitioning to studying and working from home, I found myself not only justifying my lack of self-care engagement to myself but also my extremely caring and somewhat concerned roommates. Although I had gained more time because I no longer had to commute, I continued to convince myself that wasting time on non-school or work-related endeavors was lazy and not worthwhile. After a few weeks of using this mentality, I gradually noticed my productivity declining and my energy depleting. As occupational therapists, we are supposed to help our clients engage in adequate self-care in order to live a more balanced, healthy, and productive lifestyle. I, therefore, knew deep down that it was time to make a change! I needed to enjoy my daily occupations and find ways to feel accomplished and energized once again, so I decided to train for a half marathon.
This was a practical decision for me, but it was not an easy one. To say it bluntly, I do not like running. I know what you might be wondering…why would you voluntarily decide to run a half marathon then Savi? Great question! I needed to change my tiring routine and add in an occupation that would increase my energy and productivity. As Dr. Laura Cox and Dr. Kelcie Kadowaki taught me in our OT 534: Health Promotion and Wellness course this semester, physical activity can promote psychological wellbeing, elevate cognitive functioning, and enhance self-esteem. In hopes of improving my overall wellbeing, I decided to listen to my professors’ advice and embark on a journey that I wasn’t initially enthusiastic about.
I created a strict training schedule and I sought out the advice of my friends who had already run a few half marathons. If I’m being completely honest, the first four runs were tough. I was out of shape and I was still in the mindset that training was taking time away from my studying. By the end of the second week, I had become so used to integrating the runs into my schedule that I would immediately stand up after class to go put on my running gear. My runs became easier and they allowed me more time to step away from my computer, breathe some fresh air, and listen to good music. Every time I came back home I felt as though I had more energy to engage in schoolwork and even socialize with my roommates during dinner. Checking the run off of my to-do list gave me a sense of accomplishment and increased my motivation to tackle the next item on my list. I found myself counting down the minutes before I could go on my run in order to increase my self-esteem and drive.
Many of you reading this currently work or want to work in the healthcare field and are, therefore, laughing at this epiphany of mine. You may be saying to yourself…well of course you are feeling this way! Exercise has proven to have many physiological and psychological health benefits. My response is that you are right! Although I knew the benefits all along, I had trouble finding a way to integrate it into my hectic lifestyle. I soon came to realize, though, that by adding this time for self-care, I was even more productive than before. I felt more confident in my ability to succeed academically, and I was more excited to engage in all my other occupations. So to those who need to hear it: Self-care is important and should not be left out of your schedule due to time constraints. The time you spend working on yourself allows you to tackle any obstacle in your way with more confidence and enthusiasm, so find the occupation that reminds you how strong, hard-working, and successful you truly are. Take the leap and “run that half-marathon” because I promise that you won’t regret it. I’ll meet you at the finish line!
An A+ Doesn’t Define You ⟩
June 25, 2020, by Savi
As a current student earning an Entry-Level Master’s Degree, many people find it easy to assume things about me before getting to know me. These may include that I am very smart, that I love to study, that school is easy for me, and that I am a master of maintaining an appropriate work-life balance. I understand why these are common assumptions since I decided to voluntarily enroll in at least six more years of school after graduating from high school. Although I appreciate that these assumptions are positive, I continuously feel an immense amount of pressure to live up to them every day. Whether that be by taking two extra hours to study instead of sleep, reading over an article more than once to ensure that I have not missed anything for a class discussion, or over-committing myself to various research and other academic pursuits, I make sure that I fulfill the expectations I feel society has placed on me as a graduate student. I spent all of high school and college continuously pushing myself to get the best grades possible and to take on a variety of leadership roles and extracurricular pursuits while acting as though I was never overwhelmed. I convinced myself that being perfect was the only way I could achieve my dream of getting into USC’s occupational therapy master’s program. Now I made it…phew! I got into my dream program, and I am pursuing a career that I am extremely passionate about.
You would think that I would allow myself to take a deep breath and relax right? Unfortunately, that was not the case. As I entered into my first summer I hit the ground running. I spent all day and night studying to make sure that I would maintain good grades. I was tired. I had graduated from college a few days before moving to LA to start at USC, and I pretended like I was not exhausted every day. Everyone around me seemed so driven, smart, accomplished, and motivated. I told myself that everyone was an “A+” student and that I had to be one too. As the summer semester ended and the official school year began, I was worried that my energy had depleted so much that I would not be able to make it through the semester. This was the first time I had to ask myself if I had made a mistake choosing to pursue this career. Was I cut out to be an OT? Was I smart enough? Would I fall behind my peers? Could I keep up with the curriculum?
These doubts overwhelmed me until I confided in a professor for advice. In this meeting, I was taught some of the most important lessons that have helped me not only get through but also enjoy my first year of OT school. Here is what I have learned:
- You have been admitted into this program for a reason. You worked hard to get here, and you deserve to be here. A team of skilled OTs decided that you were well equipped to become an amazing OT, so remind yourself that you deserve to be here with everyone else.
- Your skills speak volumes and your grades do not. The wonderful grades you received in your undergraduate career allowed you to be admitted to this program but now you must focus on the learning process, not the end result. You are here to learn and harness the skills to become a great OT.
- You are going to be a graduate of the top occupational therapy educational program in the country, according to the U.S. News & World Report, and you will become a licensed OT after you pass the NBCOT exam. 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. Focus on what you can learn in the field, from your peers, from your faculty, and from your mentors. These will be your colleagues for life so spend more time learning from them than focusing on getting the perfect letter grade.
- It is OK to not get an A. It is engrained in you that grades are what measure your level of success since it is a big part of what got you to where you are today. You made it here, so now you can breathe and just focus on passing and learning all that you can.
- Have fun because this is the first time you have the chance to immerse yourself in classes focused on your passion! You are surrounded by people that share the same enthusiasm for OT as you so appreciate this unique and special opportunity.
So friends and colleagues…it’s OK to not be perfect. Continue to remind yourself that you deserve to be here. Getting a perfect letter grade will not make or break your career so breathe and enjoy the ride. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. YOU made it.
The Benefits of Remote Learning ⟩
June 8, 2020, by Savi
Pursuing my Entry-Level Professional Master of Arts Degree at USC in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has provided me with a plethora of opportunities to grow as a student and as a future OT. I have been challenged by the curriculum, by my peers, and by my professors to think outside of the box and develop innovative ways to overcome a variety of barriers and challenges. Out of all these challenges, one of the biggest was transitioning our curriculum to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many who know me would agree, I am not particularly tech-savvy, I am an extremely hands-on learner, and I thrive in social settings. For those reasons, the transition to remote learning seemed somewhat daunting to me. In order to overcome the frustration and fear I had, I decided to develop a list of the benefits of remote learning that I discovered over the last few months. This helped me focus on the positive aspects of remote learning and find the motivation to overcome the hurdles I faced in order to succeed both academically and socially under the circumstances.
For those of you reading this who are about to start their first semester with us at USC in the Chan Division, I know that this is not the same beginning you might have envisioned. For many, that may be frustrating and sad and for some, this may be great news! Whatever you are feeling is valid and I wanted to provide you with the list of the positive aspects I have discovered about taking my courses remotely. I hope that these help you to better enjoy your first semester with us! To those of you already in the program, I hope that this list also helps you if you ever feel like you’re viewing these circumstances in an extremely negative light. On that note…. here comes my list!
The Benefits of Remote Learning:
- No commute: You can roll right out of bed and into class, plus you can wear your pajamas to school!
- Creativity Boost: As an OT, the number one skill we utilize is creativity. Transitioning to an online format has challenged us to become more creative. Whether that is altering an in-person group therapy session to fit a video conference format, discovering the best way to present a group research paper to our class online, or discovering occupations to utilize during, in between or before class that help us sustain engagement in class, we will all become more well-rounded OTs because of these experiences.
- A better understanding of who your professors are outside of the classroom: I know what you might be thinking…how would you get to know someone better through a virtual format than you would in person? Great question! This was the first time I got to see some of my professors and other faculty outside of a true classroom setting. I was able to meet my professors’ family members, animals, and friends and see them in their “comfy clothes” during our one-on-one meetings. These experiences made them even more relatable than before!
- Greater access to office hours: Because I no longer have to travel to school to meet with my professors, I can meet with them ANY TIME! While on campus my professors would make themselves extremely accessible. Now that neither of us has to commute, it has become easier to squeeze in more meetings throughout the day.
- Building relationships with other faculty in the division: Shout out to IT Helpdesk and A/V Technician David Xie, Webmaster Paul Bailey, and the rest of the IT team for helping me overcome the many hurdles I have faced as a student who is not tech-savvy.
- Hearing from more students in your class: Because students can utilize both the chat and the unmute feature, more students can respond to a question posed by the professor during class. Although there is limited time to hear from students during lectures, the chat feature allows for an unlimited amount of responses. This has given me the opportunity to learn from a lot of my classmates’ opinions and experiences.
- Enjoying yoga, meditation, or even a quick nap during a class break! I promise these are very revitalizing occupations, so I urge you to take advantage of them while you can.
Why Occupational Therapy? ⟩
June 2, 2020, by Savi
From a young age, I have been passionate about a range of interests, including sports, graphic design, leadership, and academic pursuits. When applying to college, I had to focus on which activities would interest me most in a future career. Prioritizing a narrower set of interests was challenging for me since I enjoy exploring new experiences, applying my knowledge in novel ways, and having the opportunity to continuously challenge myself to develop innovative and creative approaches to a problem. These desires, coupled with my personal experiences interacting with occupational therapists in a variety of settings, influenced me to pursue a career in occupational therapy (OT).
After injuring both my thumbs playing as a goalie for my soccer team, I worked with an OT hand therapist during my rehabilitation process. This interaction highlighted to me the importance of creativity in an OT’s approach to designing a treatment plan. My OT worked with me to set goals and develop a treatment plan that best suited my occupational needs. This OT gave me anatomy lessons to help me better understand my injuries and demonstrated ingenuity when developing activities she knew would pique my interest and motivate me. This first hand (or thumb haha) experience taught me that pursuing a career in OT would allow me to continuously challenge myself by developing specialized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each of my clients, and provide clients with autonomy during their rehabilitation journey.
A few years later, I watched my sister conduct fieldwork immersions while completing her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at USC, and was further convinced that pursuing this profession would allow me to continue to develop innovative approaches to overcome challenging problems in a variety of settings. I witnessed her ability to work with college students to build a foundation of sustainable and healthy routines using Lifestyle Redesign® in the USC Chan Division Faculty Practice, with adults recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and amputations in an inpatient rehabilitation setting, and with children with varying abilities in a sensory integration pediatric practice.
I came to better understand the opportunity OTs have to work in diverse environments including mental health, adult rehabilitation or pediatric settings. By choosing a career in OT, I will be equipped with the skills to develop innovative approaches to address specific occupational needs of individuals across the lifespan. I decided to pursue this career to empower the individuals I work with to feel like they can conquer everyday, every task, and every meaningful occupation with confidence and increased independence.