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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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The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part II ⟩
March 22, 2021, by Bethany

Admissions Classes Living in LA What are OS/OT?

In a previous post, I began The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part I. So continuing right where we left off . . .

Occupation — Occupation is, of course, the focus of our profession and one of the focuses of our schooling. We do not compare ourselves to other professions, but rather learn how to advocate for the inherent value of our distinct perspective as OTs.

Program interconnectivity — As a BS-MA student, we get to meet a lot of OS minors through classes and the Pre-OT club. We join up with Entry-Level students for the graduate level curriculum. We get to learn alongside Post-Professional Master’s students and OTD students in our electives, and have PhD students as our TAs. From my experience, students get to interact with OTs in all programs.

Questions and answers — Questions about fieldwork? Scheduling? Applying to the OTD after finishing the Master’s? Clinical experience? Our faculty and staff (and student ambassadors!) are responsive to all of our queries. We are also paired with faculty mentors, who are matched based on our interests.

Rehab lab — In the Center for Health Professions, we have a lab for Adult Physical Rehabilitation that includes a hospital setting, a bedroom, bathroom, and fully-functional. We can practice creating and implementing interventions in a real space. You can check out the room on our virtual tour!

Shuttle — There is free transportation between campuses! The shuttle is accessible to everyone, not just students. And shuttle time is great for conversations, naps, or watching shows on your phone. One of the previous ambassadors, Noelle, recorded her shuttle trip.

Trojan Family — Whether it be cheering our team on to victory, ending up at a fieldwork site with USC alumni, or of course networking through the Trojan Network site, the Trojan Family is inclusive, extensive, and supportive.

Undergraduate Study — USC is one of the few schools to offer an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy, which helped me claim my identity as an occupational therapy student and learn to advocate better for the field. We also offer a minor in Occupational Science.

Vibrant student life — Around campus, you will find a bustle of students, whether they be grabbing food at the farmers market or Trader Joe’s or going to football games amidst a sea of cardinal and gold.

Well-established — USC’s OT program lives up to its name. We were the first Master’s degree in OT and the first PhD in OS. We developed Lifestyle Redesign, and we continue to be a top-ranked OT school.

X-amine yourself — Within our classes, we are given opportunities for introspection about how our own beliefs, communication styles, and backgrounds can affect how we come into a client-therapist relationship. For example, we complete a values checklist and share our results with our classmates, leading to (1) introspection, (2) learning to understand and listen to other perspectives, and (3) understanding the position of vulnerability we ask of our clients.

You’re not alone — Whenever I needed help, I had support from faculty. They worked with me to make sure I could participate in band for my senior year while taking classes. They looked at which fieldwork placements best suited my preferences and transportation needs. I’m happy to have resources to go to for anything I need in the program.

Zeal — One thing I have always admired about USC students is their passion. And now, I get to pursue my passion in occupational therapy alongside others who share that zeal to find ways to creatively help others do what they love.

Whew! 26 letters. Felt like a long list, but even so. It cannot sum up the passion for OT and the community that I found these past years. Regardless, I hope that I was able to give you a good glimpse into the program. 😊

How USC helped me get through this pandemic, virtually ⟩
March 14, 2021, by Global Initiatives Team

Admissions International

By Wafaa Khairallah
Post-Professional Master’s student


Wafaa Khairallah

Thinking back to 2020 and how it started, I never thought my educational and professional goals would work out the way I wanted, but after all it happily did!! I gladly think that being enrolled at USC as a Post-Professional Master’s (MA1) student has helped me get through those difficult times — not only by keeping me busy, but rather by socially connecting me on a high intellectual level with people with shared interests and ambitions. From a very personal experience, these are some aspects of how I felt USC has helped me to get through the pandemic.

Feeling of inclusion
I imagined that I wouldn’t be able to attend any school in the U.S. as an immigrant who wants to study here while my Green Card application was still pending. Certain universities were even unable to proceed with my admission process because of their policies and limited understanding of how to proceed with my circumstance. It was a little hard for me to navigate this, but fortunately USC was able to go through this process in a much clearer way. This definitely proves USC’s compliance in embracing inclusion for all and with little time to wait, greatly impacted my pursuit through my professional journey.

As an MA-1 student at USC and a part of the USC Chan Global Initiatives team, I have been impressed by the amount of effort the Division puts into developing collaborative, international partnerships. Specifically, I was very pleased to know that USC has partnered with my home school, Bethlehem University (Palestine), through the Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion program. Being able to connect with global occupational therapists has not only improved my knowledge in many areas related to OT, but has pushed me to also reflect more on how such connections will foster multiple opportunities for many novice, passionate occupational therapists around the globe.

Making new friends
Frankly and as expected, it was not easy for me to move from one country to establish my life in another. I still need to develop new relationships and friendships. As we know, COVID did not make it any easier with all the lockdowns and safety regulations. However, this opportunity was definitely delivered by USC. Now, I am able to say that I have new colleagues and future friends in the program. Although our communication is virtual, we are still able to connect on a personal level; hoping to meet in person in the near future!

Global Initiatives hangout night for international students

Global Initiatives hangout night for international students


The First Summer ⟩
March 12, 2021, by Lamoni

Admissions Classes

After acceptance letters went out, I have received lots and lots of questions about the first summer of the entry-level Master’s program. This is the time of a major transition — it may be your first time having a graduate school workload and you are wondering how to tackle it, perhaps you want to know if you can have a job during this period, or you are curious about how to maintain a social life. Before starting the program, I had these questions too. Now that I have completed that summer, I would like to talk about what it was like and answer some of those questions. Hopefully, this will ease some nerves! *note — this blog describes the layout of my summer but the program/your schedule may shift.

“How intense is the first summer?”
The initial summer is quite busy. I think it would be helpful to first explain what that summer looks like. For the first half of the summer, you will take Foundations: Kinesiology. This course reviews joint and muscle functions and teaches students how to apply biomechanical principles to everyday activities. For the second half of the summer, you will take Foundations: Neuroscience. Here, you will learn how to analyze daily living tasks through the lens of neural function. This course also reviews pathological conditions that interfere with performance. During the entire length of the summer, you will take Foundations: Occupation and Foundations: Creativity, Craft, and Activity Analysis. The Occupation course is an introduction to occupational therapy history and practice. During the Creativity course, you will have the opportunity to engage in craft projects, explore your creativity and analyze performance.

In total, you will be taking four courses in an 8 week timespan.  Only three courses will happen at once due to Kinesiology and Neuroscience being split into first and second half. The class times are three hours long. Kinesiology and Neuroscience happens during the mornings while Occupation and Creativity takes place during the afternoons. In addition to the Kinesiology and Neuroscience lectures, there will be labs. This is where you will complete activities and worksheets as well as receive direct support from teaching assistants. This time is used to clear up any confusion you have about the material.

I explained the schedule to give a picture of what weeks will look like during the summer. As you can imagine, you will be frontloaded with a lot of information. These courses will serve as your foundation as you move through the program. Many classes will draw on the information that you learn here to introduce you to new and more in-depth concepts.

All in all, I would say that the initial summer is intense. Personally, I believe it is the busiest semester of the entire program. Not only are you learning a lot in your classes, you are navigating life as a graduate student which may come with new responsibilities, you are forming connections with professors, and you are creating new friendships. There are many things going on at once. 

“Do you recommend working during this period?”
I chose not to work during my first summer. I made this decision because I did not want to overwhelm myself. I wanted to be sure that I had enough time to study AND rest. It helped me to review the material that we learned each day. I took an hour or two off once I got home to simply de-stress and relax. Then, I would review my notes. I know that I would feel exhausted if I did not take that time to rest and I would feel unprepared for the next class if I did not have the time to review my notes at the end of each day. I also needed my weekends to re-energize. Therefore, working was not feasible for me.

However, I would not say that it is impossible to work. My one piece of advice would be to limit your hours and, if you can, work some place that is flexible and might allow you to study.

“Am I expected to join student organizations during the summer semester?”
You are NOT expected to join any student organizations at this time. I received several emails from new students that were worried about how it would look if they were not “involved.” People typically begin to join student organizations during the Fall and I would say that most of my class did not join until the Spring. I did not know of anyone that was a part of a student organization during the summer. Maybe, the most that they did was get on the email list. Do not stress about this!

“Did you have time for a social life?”
This is probably the most common question that I received as it relates to the first summer. I would answer this by saying — You will have time for a social life if you make time for a social life. We often push leisure and pleasure off to the side and start to focus only on the work that we need to get done. That will easily set yourself up for burnout.

Did I take weekend trips out of state without ever looking at my notebook? No. But, did I have movie nights, go out for dinner, participate in game nights, and meet up with friends? Yes! It is so important to do this! You are human and you are not meant to work, work, work. Do not deprive yourself of simple pleasures. Even if you cannot take an entire day off to relax, fit it in at some point. You can set aside time to meet with your study group on Sunday morning and as a reward, you all can all head to the beach afterwards. You can study chapters 16-18 then go watch an episode of something with your roommate then return to chapter 19 when you are done. Do not feel guilty about taking a break. I promise that it is beneficial. Time to rest and/or socialize is productive too!

I hope that this blog post gave you a better idea of what the summer will look like and what you can expect. Yes, it is very busy. But, it doesn’t have to take over all facets of your life. There will still be time for play as long as you make it a priority (and you absolutely should)!


Reframing Negativity ⟩
March 4, 2021, by Liz

Admissions Life Hacks

After receiving my acceptance letter into the program I was super excited. I remember being out having a burger with a friend and getting an email notification from the department. I instantly felt my heart drop. At first, I didn’t even read the entire email — I literally saw the “congratulations” and felt so much joy. After actually reading the entire email (I had to make sure it was real), I called my parents, my sister, and my boyfriend to let them know the good news! They were so excited for me as they knew how much I wanted to get into the program. As weeks went by I continued to share the news with friends and family when I spent time with them. Being admitted to USC is a huge accomplishment and worth celebrating. We have the number one OT program — I mean, come on!

I was happy that everyone I love and care about was celebrating with me. But, on the road to starting the program (and still to this day), I get some really annoying comments about being a part of this program. After chatting with so many of you these past couple of weeks, I wanted to share the top 2 annoying comments that seem to pop up for so many of us. I want to share how I’ve reframed those two comments into something more positive.

Annoying comment #1: You’re spending THAT much money???
This also includes comments like “how much are you paying?”, “You’re going to be in debt”, “That’s so much money I could never do that”. I was once enjoying a night out with a group of friends and I remember ordering a brussels sprouts taco. A friend of a friend was there and asked me how much it was and I responded “$5”. He literally said “You shouldn’t be spending that much money on a taco when you’re in such heavy debt with your Master’s program”. My first instinct was to be like “what’s it to you???”. It was pretty annoying. It’s so hard to ignore comments that are constantly reminding you about things like this. I feel you guys when you share your concerns about the finances.

I have started reframing the way I think/feel about comments regarding money. First, it’s my dream!!! I really really want to be an OT. I am learning from the absolute best. And honestly, it’s really no one’s business how much money you or I are spending on it. Another plus: occupational therapy is recession proof! I am doing this for me.

Annoying comment #2: USC stands for — University of Spoiled Children
One time I was at the supermarket wearing my USC t-shirt and as I was shopping a man felt the need to say “Ha, university of spoiled children”. Sir, I am a brown woman that worked HARD to get here!!! Now, whether or not you’re a person of color and you get this comment — you worked hard.

I’ve reframed this by repeating a list of things I had to do to get here. I worked two jobs as an undergrad, I paid for summer sessions out of pocket to work on prerequisites, I stayed up numerous nights studying for school/the GRE, I spent countless hours at coffee shops working on personal statements. Another thing that helps is reminding myself that my parents are counting on me. They’ve worked far too much to support my goal of obtaining a higher education. They never ask for a single thing, but I am their retirement. So, no being spoiled did not get me here. It was my dedication and the support that I had from my family, friends, mentors, and professors.

So, yes there’s so many great things about being a USC student. But, let’s be real — someone always has something to say. Don’t let those things get to you. I cannot imagine anyone ever saying “Ugh, great. Got into USC”. You did this. So, reframe those comments. Wear your USC merch proudly, be excited, and fight on!


You Don’t Need to Be Perfect, You’re Still Learning ⟩
March 1, 2021, by Daniel

Admissions Classes Fieldwork Life Hacks

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been talking to students that find themselves at different points in their OT journey. This is a busy time as many wait for updates from admissions, some still deciding whether to pursue the OTD, and others wondering what field of OT to pursue as they find themselves in the final year of their program. Being able to connect with students from different backgrounds is my favorite part of this position and it is a privilege to learn all your stories. Around this time in 2018, I was waitlisted for the Entry-Level Master’s program, and to be honest I did not have high hopes that I would get in because of my GRE scores. At the same time, I was working a lot and still trying to finish my Bachelor’s degree while struggling to do well in Chemistry (I know, what a fun last semester!). When I have these conversations with students it takes me back to these days, the good and the bad times. This is a time in my life when I thought I had to be perfect in order to be successful. Whether you are waitlisted, deciding on an OT program, just discovering OT and not knowing if this is the right choice or feeling overwhelmed with the overload of information coming at you, remember that you are not perfect. None of us are.

Make sure you are taking the time to breathe and engage in things you love to do, even if it’s a few minutes of your day. Take those minutes to spend it with loved ones, call someone, and eat! Remember to practice what we preach and try to find a balance. You cannot control everything, so focus on the things you can and take care of yourself. We want you to be at your best during class, when studying, at fieldwork, and with clients. You should always strive to give it your best, but it’s okay to not be perfect. When you know you gave it your best despite the circumstances, I believe you can be at peace with the results. This way of thinking and restructuring my thoughts has helped me cope with the demands of grad school. Remember that part of learning is to fail and try it again. Dwelling on it will not change anything, but what you can do is learn from those shortcomings. Maybe you had a practical that didn’t go as planned, perhaps a rough fieldwork or residency day, you know, it happens! And often those are the times that stay with you the most, when you make a mistake, when you failed at something, or when you didn’t know what to do.

I recently read a quote from my assigned class reading about an immigrant woman that says, “I may not remember everything I have learned, but it has made me who I am today”.  This is the quote I needed last week as I found myself struggling through my busy days. The long days and nights, assignment deadlines that feel impossible to meet, back-to-back meetings, the endless information introduced every week, etc. At times, it may feel like you’re just on autopilot, going through the motions. We can get so caught up in not knowing enough for an upcoming exam, for fieldwork, or for your residency setting. And of course, I do not know every single thing that was ever taught to me in school, but I have learned lessons from it all along the way. The Master’s program and now the OTD program, they have both challenged me in different ways. They have both made me question my abilities and have tested my motivation.

If you are reading this now and find yourself with doubts about what to do next, remember that you don’t need to be perfect. As you proceed to the next step in your journey, remind yourself that perfection is an unrealistic expectation that should not be put on anyone, you are a person and student that is still LEARNING. Take the necessary steps to learn from the particular experience you find yourself in, and with a little perseverance just keep going. Use the resources available to you, reach out for help, and don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. Lastly my virtual door is always open for those that may relate to this notion of perfection or if you have questions about OT and higher education (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). I also invite you to make comments below if you would like 😊

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