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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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Aisha

Hidden Gems and Resources ⟩
, by Aisha

Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

Several resources and perks that come with being a USC student aren’t widely advertised. Here is a list of things I accidentally stumbled upon or heard by word of mouth that all students on the health sciences campus (HSC) should know about.

1. One Stop at HSC: Here, you can find discounted movie tickets, theme park tickets, and more! I love going to the movies with my friends and family, but as many of you know, movie tickets can be expensive in LA. At One Stop at HSC, you can purchase discounted movie tickets that don’t expire at Regal Cinemas, AMC Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, etc. My favorite is getting AMC tickets for $10.75 and going to the theater near Universal Studios, with comfy reclining seats!

2. Free HBO Max Subscription: If you love watching movies and TV, I recommend utilizing this free resource for all USC students to help de-stress or when you need a study break! Here are some step-by-step instructions on accessing your HBO max subscription through USC.

3. Cheap food at the Keck Cafeteria: On the days you didn’t eat breakfast or pack a lunch, you can find affordable food at the Keck Cafeteria. You will need to show your student ID to enter the building. You can find the cafeteria on San Pablo St. near the Eric Cohen Student Health Center.

4. Farmers Market: Every Thursday, from around 10 am until 2 pm, there is a mini farmers market on the corner of Alcazar and San Pablo. Several vendors are selling fresh fruit, delicious food, and drinks such as pupusa, shawarma sandwiches, popcorn, and Aguas Frescas! I look forward to being on campus on Thursdays to get a tasty treat from the farmers market.

Leah Mary

Practice What You Preach (Seriously) ⟩
, by Leah Mary

Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

In school, we are told that participating in meaningful occupations, such as playing music, dancing, hanging out with our friends, or eating, is critical for people’s physical, emotional, and mental health. However, as OTs and students, we SUCK at this! I don’t know about you, but my OT balance wheel was always filled with productive hours rather than leisure or play, and I was often burnt out by the middle of the semester.

So last year, I picked up a meaningful hobby . . . hiking! Growing up, I was always big into the outdoors. I would go camping, biking, and cannoning around the Midwest. But, in high school and college, I lost touch with that side because “I didn’t have time.” I often was studying or working and had to prioritize those occupations.

However, when COVID-19 happened, I prioritized my meaningful occupations for my well-being. During my second year in the Master’s Program, I overheard a couple of classmates talking about hiking in Santa Monica. I gravitated toward that conversation and said, “could I possibly join????” During that hike, we shared our love for the outdoors and how much hiking there is in California. We prioritized a hike every weekend and came up with the name “Trailmixers” for our hiking group. And that’s what we did. With intentional planning, we could hike almost every week and still finish our schoolwork. Because of this, I had some of the most meaningful experiences of my life with my best friends. We’ve hiked Mt Baldy, Cucamonga, San Fran, Santa Barbara, Sedona, Pinnacles National Park, Zion, camped in Big Sur, and backpacked in Catalina Island.

My “productive work” has gotten a bit busier now that I’m balancing courses, residency, and campus jobs. However, no matter what, I always make sure I have a hike planned for the weekend. I hope each and every one of you prioritize your meaningful occupations throughout this semester and in life. Because for us to be great OTs, we must practice what we preach and lead by example.

There are excellent resources to start your hiking journey. The AllTrails app can help you plan trips, Airbnb or Recreation.gov to book housing/campsites, the REI store to buy gear, and “Peaks and Professors,” an outdoors club at USC to find a community.

Yoojin

An OT (student) Needs Her Occupations! ⟩
, by Yoojin

Fieldwork Living in LA School/Life Balance

I have a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, and I’ve known what OT was for more years of my life than I have not, but this summer I rediscovered the importance of engaging in meaningful activities to add purpose to each day, especially in the midst of stressful life changes (permission granted to say “Duh!” at this point).

This summer was one of the most challenging yet rewarding summers of my life. I spent it completing my Level II fieldwork at a fast-paced outpatient pediatric clinic. Just three days after graduation, I was learning terminology that sounded like a new language, loading up on snacks and interesting podcasts for my 1.5-hour commute, and stomaching my new identity as a post-grad without a real break in between the semesters.

Unsurprisingly, I was burnt out and questioning my competency as an OT student and future clinician. To say the very least, I was exhausted at the end of each day. I felt fulfillment providing care to the (most adorable) kiddos at the clinic, but everyday I was sighing along to the exhaust pipe on my car as Henry (my car) and I made the trip each day. Though only 12 weeks, I knew this current lifestyle was not sustainable for even a short summer. More naps and cups of coffee were not going to cut it for me. I wanted to practice the healthy habits I was taught (and am teaching others) to instill a lifestyle I was proud of and could carry with me to when I am working.

Even though I knew the OT principles and research behind engaging in occupations, it was a little hard to get started. Nothing could beat the thought of being at home, but I remembered how I felt after I forced myself to go on a short run at the park after an especially difficult day at fieldwork. It was an amazing way to decompress and I didn’t even feel significantly more tired!

I thought of my favorite restorative occupations, and reached out to my friends to join me! I spent the remainder of my summer balancing school and life: hiking, making clay ring dishes, running, going to concerts, and trying out new restaurants are some of my fondest memories. I still engage in all these occupations and they bring so much more meaning into my everyday life.

Here’s a little photo recap of my summer!

One of my favorite hikes in LA!

One of my favorite hikes in LA!

At Barcari in Silver Lake

At Barcari in Silver Lake!

Running a short race after a summer of running

Running a short race after a summer of running!

Leah

OT school helped me get diagnosed with ADHD (and gain tools to thrive in grad school!) ⟩
, by Leah

Community Life Hacks School/Life Balance

I have been called “spacey” my entire life. I had a big imagination and could spend hours enjoying my daydreaming, even at the dinner table or in class. I would get lost trying to go to my best friend’s house around the corner, lose everything I owned, and frequently come home from school with bruises I had no idea how I got. But I was also an extremely hard worker and teacher’s pet and did everything to get straight As and every gold star growing up (while being a professional procrastinator). I felt a bit misunderstood by my peers, impacting my mental health, but I continued to blast through life, mostly successful.

When I started OT school, I was shocked at how much harder it felt to manage my education and life with my classic, procrastinate to the last second, memorize everything, and write a paper in 2 hours routine. Graduate school requires a significant amount of self-management and structure for larger, more complex projects.

Of course, at the time, ADHD was getting a lot of attention on social media, and I was shocked at how much it resonated with me, especially ADHD inattentive type in women. A few peers and I began to discuss our shared experiences, bonding over our lifelong “quirks” and growing difficulties managing graduate school. We collectively agreed to contact the student health center. From there, I received a referral for an ADHD evaluation with a psychologist and Lifestyle Redesign.

Firstly, I did get diagnosed with ADHD, inattentive type, woohoo! But more importantly, I began receiving Lifestyle Redesign services, which are covered by student health insurance. There, I learned how to build supportive routines for my eating, sleeping, and home management tasks. We completed activity analyses of my coursework and jobs so I could better plan out my weeks. We discussed environmental supports that I needed to be able to pay attention to tasks and use the Pomodoro method to manage my time. Furthermore, my OT helped my explore my options for accommodations with the USC office of student accommodations. Not only did I get to help develop habits and routines to support my role as a graduate student and young adult navigating a new diagnosis, but I was also able to see how powerful OT can be on the receiving end.

I am grateful for the support USC offers its students, and I highly recommend asking for help when you need it and seeing what resources may be available to you as a student.

Leah Mary

SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS! ⟩
, by Leah Mary

Admissions Life Hacks School/Life Balance

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.

  • Scholarships and awards from USC and other bodies
    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.)
  • OT External Scholarship Opportunities, from Columbia University
    This is another website I used from Columbia University with another comprehensive list of scholarships.
  • Town and gown of USC Scholarship
    $15,000 for the academic year for graduate students and PP-OTD students and it is renewable! Deadline for the application is December 1st.
  • Division Internal Residencies
    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.
  • Merit-Based Scholarship
    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.
  • Residencies External to the Chan Division
    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.

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