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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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9 Perfect Strangers: A Cohort’s Connection


December 21, 2021
by Seth

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Here at USC, we often talk a lot about the Trojan Family, but when you arrive on campus as a first-year that sentiment can feel intangible. But the truth is, for me, I found my family before my first semester had started, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Traditionally, fall move-in day takes place on the Wednesday before the first day of classes and is followed by six weeks of welcome week programming. During this time many students rekindle friendships with people they met at orientation, attend Visions and Voices events, or just settle into the place they will be calling home for the next couple of years. In the case of the Class of ‘21 and ‘22 BS-MA OT students, we attended the USC Chan Division’s First-Year Welcome Dinner.

I may not remember all of the details from that dinner, but some things have stuck with me over the years. 1) I chose a completely hairless action shot of me swimming to showcase my favourite occupation as my grand debut 2) Back and forth O-H!, I-O!-ing with Dr. Samia Rafeedie and Dr. Shawn Roll whenever any of us brought up our experiences in Ohio and 3) the first spark of connection I felt when meeting my cohort for the first time.

Ten bachelor's to master's students huddled together at a welcome dinner for a picture

The Class of ’21 and ’22 taking their first picture together at the USC Chan Division’s First-Year Welcome Dinner

Over time that connection has grown thanks to the design of the BS-OT program. Despite the program having a built-in buddy system, it didn’t feel forced. As an undergraduate OT student, you’re granted a lot of freedom to explore what college has to offer, while also knowing you have Chan to come back to. The course sequence is laid out in a way that slowly scaffolds your knowledge of OT. This is done not only through the complexity of the content but also through the number of classes you’re taking. This all culminates when you’re fully immersed in the graduate program. But this also means that you can scaffold the cohort experience too (More details about the progressive program in a blog coming soon so say tuned)! Some OT courses allow you to select the date and time so you may see some folks one semester and the others the next (like OT 250 and OT251), while there are other courses that most of the cohort will take at the same time (often anatomy and physiology). As time goes on, you’ll also start coordinating all of these together and commuting between campuses and before you know it, you’re no longer classmates, but full-on friends! From these bus rides to hiking, and rollerskating, and museum trips together with Dr. Amber Bennett, you’ll develop a support system as you head into the graduate program together. For me, this is when these friends became family.

Six bachelor’s to master's students wearing roller-skates at a neon roller rink

One of Dr. Bennett’s famous BS-OT outings, skaters gonna skate! 😎

Suddenly you go from the OT foundation courses that were just your cohort to the full grandeur of the 145 other OT graduate students, you’re navigating graduate-level courses full-time, commuting to the health science campus, and trying to grapple with the occupational transition. It can feel like a lot to tackle all at once, but find solace in the fact that there are anywhere from nine to fourteen other BS-OT students who are going through the same thing, not to mention the BS-OT students a year ahead of you! When I have a question I turn to my cohort first in the GroupMe we’ve had since that first welcome dinner. When discussing challenging course content, we debrief together on the shuttle. And when we want to have fun and catch up before finals, we head to brunch! Every step of the way, we’ve been on this journey together and come so far. From a welcome dinner to a COVID-19 graduation to our white coat ceremony reunion and our upcoming master’s ceremony, I couldn’t have asked for better people to be at my side. As I look towards the future, I know that no matter where our professional paths take us that together we will #FightOn forever. ✌️

Right Picture: Eight Bachelor’s to Master’s students at their graduation; Left: Nine Bachelor’s to Master’s students at their white coat ceremony

My cohort celebrating our accomplishments together, one more to go! (Yes, I am photoshopped into the COVID-19 Graduation picture)