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University of Southern California
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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Leah Mary

SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS! >

by Leah Mary

Admissions Life Hacks School/Life Balance

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Congratulations! You made it into USC’s Occupational Therapy Program, you should feel incredibly proud of yourself. I have no doubt you will go on and do great things.

But…. how the heck are you going to pay for this program??? Being a topic program doesn’t come cheap. I wish I had a handbook to guide me when I was first navigating this program. I was often confused from the website and overloaded with information. Because of that, I missed important deadlines for big scholarships. So I find this topic extremely important and I want to make sure that this information is easily digestible and available to students.

I’m going to highlight a couple of websites, scholarships, and strategies.

1) Scholarships and Financial Aid USC and other Scholarships and
Awards

a. https://chan.usc.edu/education/financial-aid/other-scholarships
b. This link will take you to a comprehensive list of scholarships. It will tell you the amount the award is worth and the eligibility requirements. (I USED THIS SO MUCH).

2) OT External Scholarship Opportunities Columbia University
a. https://www.vagelos.columbia.edu/education/student-resources/ 
student-financial-aid-and-planning/important-resources/external-
scholarship-opportunities/ot-external-scholarship-opportunities

b. This is another website I used from Columbia University with another comprehensive list of scholarships.

3) Town and gown of USC Scholarship
a. $15,000 for the academic year for graduate students and PP-OTD students and it is renewable! Deadline for the application is December 1st.
b. https://townandgownofusc.org/students/scholarship-information/

4) Division Internal Residencies
a. If you decided to do the PP-OTD and an internal residency, those come with a scholarship of 2/3 tuition. The deadline for the internal residencies is the end of Oct 1st.

5) Merit-Based Scholarship
a. If you decide to do the PP-OTD but do an external residency, students admitted to the program will be automatically considered for Merit-based scholarships which cover around 1/3 tuition.

6) Residencies External to the Chan Division
a.If you are a licensed and registered therapist by the time of your residency, you can negotiate with the residency sites on paid positions. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions to your site because it is important that both your educational and financial needs are met.

My biggest advice is to apply to everything and ask questions. The famous Michael Scott once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky”. It’s a funny but very true quote. I know these scholarships take a long time to complete or asking for paid positions during your residency can be an awkward conversation, however if you don’t apply or ask, I can tell you 100% you won’t get them. So I urge you to take those shots.

Mika

Life Goes On >

by Mika

Community Diversity International Living in LA School/Life Balance

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From the words of the great BTS,

“Life goes on.”

This song lyric often comes to mind while I scroll through videos online that romanticize life abroad, sometimes too much. Don’t get me wrong, having the opportunity to study abroad at a prestigious university is a great honor, especially during the pandemic. I thank the great gods of the universe for helping me manifest this dream. However, things are not always what we imagine, like anything in life. My first month in the States was a rollercoaster of emotions — 30% crying because I miss my home, 20% feels like I’ve been living like a caveman as I explore the wonders of Trader Joe’s and Bath and Body Works, and a great 50% being an absolute FOB* (or in my case, a FOP — Fresh Off the Plane) trying to learn and adapt quickly to an entirely new culture. Believe me, it takes a great deal of cognitive power to constantly convert Fahrenheit and miles to the metric system, understand why cars turn right at a red light, wondering why no one uses the umbrella to shade themselves from the killer heat of LA summer, and try to find the whereabouts of any celebrity visiting LA.

Kidding aside, I think the greatest adjustment I had to deal with as an international student was the grief I felt about the loss of occupations and the usual routines I performed back home. One thing I learned from the pandemic is that grief does not only come in the form of dealing with death; it is also what you feel when you lose anything — a person, a pet, an activity, or an object — that is of value to you. I felt grief because I could no longer walk my dogs and play with them after coming home from work. I could no longer drive to my favorite coffee shops back at home anytime I wanted nor randomly messaged my friends to bike around with me in our neighborhood. I struggled with this feeling mostly when I realized I would no longer see my child clients weekly and feared losing friendships since I’ll be in a time zone different from those I valued most. I often doubted my decision to move and worried that I was wasting my energy, time, and resources.

My perspective of things changed when I recalled one of my favorite quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” My why — my patients and the desire to be a better Occupational Therapist for them — pushed me to refocus my energy back on this ordeal and take things day by day. Slowly, those nights of grief and loneliness turned into nights of endless laughter and amusement as I got into the rhythm of new routines here in LA. Pushing myself to go out of my comfort zone and develop new friendships eventually led me to meet the kindest people. Somehow, they felt like home even if I had just met them.

My first month here in the States taught me that we are where we’re supposed to be and that everything will eventually work out as it should. Life does go on for the better, and if we choose to see the beauty of everyday despite the little adjustments and changes, we move one step closer to who we are meant to be.

*FOB — Fresh off the Boat, A slang term used for someone who recently moved to America

White Coat Ceremony picture

My classmates and I in our white coat ceremony!

Tania

My road to OT and its many detours >

by Tania

Admissions Diversity First-Gen School/Life Balance

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Growing up, education was always seen as a privilege. I knew I needed to do something with my life but never knew exactly what that could be.

So, I decided to fully explore everything I was ever interested in because what better way to spend my 20s? I tried EMT, but the gender dynamics and the low pay made me run away quickly. I tried CNA in an attempt to be an RN, but the burnout is real. I moved to an oncology lab, but the hyper fixation of looking at cells didn’t last too long. My all-time favorite was working at a morgue performing autopsies, but to my surprise, I do enjoy working with people who are alive. Then I decided to be an internship and career advisor but reading resumes and talking to different corporations entail long working hours. I also created a small business decorating sugar cookies, but I had to pause because the repetitive movements of piping exacerbated my carpal tunnel pain. Finally, I was a university counselor and while I enjoyed helping students navigate higher education, something was missing. I loved all my previous jobs but none of them fully cover what I was looking for. I thought to myself if only there was one career that could allow me to be in health care, allow me to be creative, and allow me to teach…

Covid sugar cookies

Here is an example of sugar cookies I decorated

It wasn’t until my grandfather had hip replacement surgery that I learned about OT. As his medical director, I approved an occupational therapist to come over for a home visit. The OT came over and guess what was the first thing she pointed out during the inspection? If you thought RUG, then you are correct! The rug in the living room was a tripping hazard. As she inspected the home, I took the opportunity to have a conversation with her about her job. I remember her saying “think of OT as a combination between a doctor and a teacher.” My brain immediately lit up! Oh, what! my two favorite professions in one? She had very convincing arguments regarding having a profession in OT because well here I am today. I am so glad for my journey because finding what you love and loving what you do is amazing.

I know the pressure of needing to figure life out, especially as a first-generation student, but I am here to tell you that taking a break in between undergrad and graduate school is fine, changing careers is fine, not getting all A’s in school is fine, and not knowing what specific area of OT you want to work in is fine! Don’t place extra stress on yourself thinking that you must figure every single detail out. I’ll let you in on a secret, no one has everything figured out in life, some are just better at pretending!

First-year students, you will have the next few years to decide what you would like to focus on and second-year students you will have your career to figure that out. Give yourself grace because being in grad school at USC is already stressful enough.

Teresa

Are You New Here? >

by Teresa

Getting Involved School/Life Balance

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Yeah? Thinking about what you want your time here to look like? Then this one’s for you.

Growing up, I was that kid–the ASB, class president, honor society, involved in anything and everything type of kid. In undergrad, I took the complete opposite approach: focused my efforts on academics and dedicated any remaining time to a select few organizations I felt truly passionate about. Going into this program, I knew I wanted to maximize my two years here but was still figuring out what that meant and how it would be affected by… well, let’s just call them unprecedented times for old time’s sake.

I’ve held several roles in several student organizations and programs here, including this one as student ambassador. I came into all of them during these infamous times and with that came a unique set of challenges, as I’m sure many of my fellow student leaders can relate to. So as I step out of my formal roles, here are some questions I’ve frequently gotten…

  1. How do I know what to get involved with? Obviously, the answer to this varies person to person. For me, I chose to get involved with things I felt aligned with my personal values, experiences, and goals which include advocacy, working with underserved communities, and mentorship. Identifying these are important because 1) no one can ever take their importance away from you and 2) they can be used to ground yourself if you ever lose sight of why you started the work in the first place. Working toward things you care about is always going to be a stronger motivator than doing things only because it’s what you think you’re supposed to be doing. This is not to say that you can only get involved with something you have a personal stake in. You can still be a strong ally, leader, and resource as long as you’re committed to putting in the work to understand and uplift larger causes.
  2. When should I get involved? With how short this program is, it may feel tempting to hit the ground running and take on everything all at once. Take the entire first semester to focus on school and establish a strong foundation so that you’re better able to gauge how much more you can take on. Take on more slowly over time if you are willing and able, but recognize your limitations. Becoming a leader is realizing that you are but a small, yet mighty, cog in a much larger machine. If you are no longer working, the entire system doesn’t work and the cause you serve pays the price. That being said, being proactive and reaching out to student organizations early doesn’t hurt! However, they will certainly provide you with more information to get involved when the time comes.
  3. What about the things I struggle with? They are inevitable growing pains, which hopefully subside as you progress and develop into your role(s). Be committed to receiving and applying feedback and getting out of your comfort zone. For me, this was role delegation and for several reasons: being hesitant to add more onto someone else’s plate, unlearning perfectionism, and learning to ask for help. I believe the hallmark feature of a great leader is the ability to empower others to become leaders themselves. This doesn’t happen when one person takes on everything, alone, operating in a silo. It happens when the dissemination of roles provides opportunities for emerging leaders to learn and grow.
  4. How do you stay organized? Definitely not without trial-and-error. In this age of technology and coupled with the pandemic, doing everything digitized became the new norm. While it works for some, I can say with confidence that it doesn’t work for me. Setting reminders, alarms, and notifications is sometimes effective but other times, I will simply swipe away or have my phone silenced and forget about tasks altogether. Out of sight, out of mind. I opt for paper-and-pencil because there’s just something so gratifying about physically crossing items off a list! This way, I am also setting spatial boundaries in addition to the temporal boundaries I will describe in #5. My phone is associated with leisure and social participation while my computer and planner are associated with work and productivity. Every person is different, try out various things and find what works for you!
  5. How do you balance involvement, academics, and your personal life? At the start of this program, I was determined to make the most out of an unfortunate situation so I did hit the ground running and poured myself into involvement and academics. During a presentation from the USC Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity, we completed a Balance Wheel activity and mine was largely dominated by one color (work) and minimally by another color (sleep). Seeing this visual representation of myself as a two-dimensional occupational being forced me to assess whether I wanted my life to be a never-ending cycle of work, sleep, work, work, work, sleep, work. I did not, so I put boundaries in place. This included making a list of prioritized work instead of always tackling an endless and ever-growing “to do list.” This was followed by dedicating regular and reasonable hours toward these priorities and once these hours elapsed for the day, I would stop even if the work wasn’t finished. It’s fine–the work can wait. Stop and take the time to engage in your meaningful occupations–the ones which will re-energize you and keep you going.

To end this penultimate narrative, I emphasize how important mentorship is based on that which I’ve received and wished I’d received. My mentors have been both formal, through positions I’ve held and those who have guided me, as well as informal, through people I admire and who inspire me through their own work. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to what mentorship has to look like but being positioned to influence young minds is both power and responsibility and is not to be taken lightly. While it may require more effort and time on your part to invest in future generations, it is the hope that this kindness continues to be paid forward and improved upon year after year so that even once your time in the halls of CHP comes to an end, the causes you worked towards persist onward.

It appears I love leaving you with a quote of sorts, so we’re just going to go with it…

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Marvyn

Where Did the Time Go? >

by Marvyn

Life Hacks School/Life Balance

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And just like that Spring break is over. Have you ever wondered where the time went? It feels so elusive but also always so present. At one point you feel like you have had an abundance of it, but now it feels like I have so little time.

I remember back when I started in the Post-Professional Master’s program last August, my mind was comforted by the fact that I have a lot of time to spend in this program and that I will have so much to learn and experience. But while the latter remains to be true, I feel like I am now running out of time. It feels like I just landed in Los Angeles yesterday but here we are. The one year has already flown by and we are already in the last few stretches before commencement! What is this sorcery??

My first ever visit to USC Chan!

My first ever visit to USC Chan!

Can you find your time back?

All my life I knew time was precious. If you knew me, I have had a love-hate relationship with time. Every time someone asks me, “If you gain a superpower, what would it be?” My response will always be to be able to control time. I find that whenever I feel like I’m chasing after time and making the most out of my experience here at USC, I find myself creating the best memories. You have this sort of pressure to do the best and to feel the best. At least, that’s how I see it personally. Maybe, as you read this, you feel kind of the same way too! But there is also a part of me that wishes I had more time, that I can freeze/rewind and do more. Could I ever find more time?

Look back. Reflecting on your experiences in the past is your own trophy. Whatever you have done and haven’t done, these are the points that you can live by in the present. Personally, I have had the best year of my life being here at USC. I made so many new friends and lifelong connections, and I had the best experiences and memories that I will never trade anything for the world. When I look back at what I have done so far in my time here at USC, I have never been prouder with what I was able to do, and I look forward to what I will be doing in the future.

Making memories with my PP-MA class on our first Friendsgiving!

Making memories with my PP-MA class on our first Friendsgiving! Shoutout to Global Initiatives and everyone else involved!

Living in the present. While it is okay to feel like you’re chasing after time and that you have so much more things you want to do, I’ll use this opportunity to remind myself that I should live in the present experiences and bask in its warmth and joy. I have been so worried about the time I have left and the things I want to do that I forget sometimes to enjoy the things that I currently have! Like everyone says, time is something you never get back. So, while you have it, enjoy it.

Look forward to what’s to come. Now, this might contradict what I have already said but having something to look forward to is a great thing to think about as well. Maybe, in a sense, creating an objective to work towards is beneficial for your time as well! If you think about it, if you have a goal you want to achieve with the “limited” time you have left, it allows you to seize each day with the best memories.

But also, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pressure anybody to always do something. Sometimes doing nothing and really taking your time is completely fine as well! There is a fine line between healthily pressuring yourself while keeping your sanity in the midst of every choice you have.

This blog post has been, in a way, cathartic for me because of the current pressure I am feeling with the limited amount of time I have left here in my program. I am comforted by the fact that I have reflected upon my experiences and came up with the three points I mentioned. If you are feeling almost the same way as I have, I hope this helps you too.

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