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

Tips to Survive the #1 OT School >

by Leah Mary

Classes Life Hacks

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1. Study with friends at the library, café, or home
As they say, misery loves company! But in all seriousness, studying with my friends was the number one thing that helped motivate me to study. It was a great way for us to have hands-on practice for labs (like transfers or motor control), quiz each other, or ask questions. My favorite places to study are Dulce, Doheny Library, and the USC Village.

2. Visit office hours
Whenever I didn’t know something or was anxious about a test, I always went to open hours. Our professors want us to go to those office hours. They structure it in an engaging way, especially when there are multiple students. This is an excellent chance for you to answer other students’ questions with the confirmation of our professors.

3. Kahoot
I used Kahoot for every test in the Entry Level Master’s Program. Classes like OT501, OT538, OT534, and even the Comprehensive Exam, Kahoot was a great study tool to help me conceptualize topics, create questions, and understand big-picture ideas.

4. Microsoft OneNote for note taking
Imagine having multiple color-coded binders that classes, topics, and weeks can organize but all on your computer. I knew I was overwhelmed with the number of courses, PowerPoint slides, research articles, and loose papers we get during the program. Having one application to organize everything made it easier to study and later use during my fieldwork and residency.

5. PDF Expert for the iPad
During the program, there were some classes where I liked to type my notes and others that I wanted to handwrite. PDF Expert is a free application that allows you to download your PDF slides to your tablet, write directly on the slides, and save them on your computer.

6. Gym shoes
Especially for classes such as Adult Rehabilitation and Motor Control, gym shoes are a must for optimal ergonomic support. Both Adult Rehabilitation and Motor Control labs involve lifting and practicing transfers with patients and students. Therefore, wearing the proper shoes is essential for your overall physical health.

Tania

New Year, New Me? >

by Tania

Classes Community Diversity First-Gen School/Life Balance

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Starting a new year can feel weird at times because there is this weird societal pressure of being the best new version of yourself. However, if you ask me, I am already a different person from 5 months ago. In fact, each day we evolve. At times, we sit reminiscing on the things we didn’t accomplish the years before. Our minds go on and on about the should ofs and could ofs but we don’t have control over those anymore.

Maybe this year is not about reinventing or being the newest best version of yourself but instead about being patient, caring, and loving to the person you are right now. I invite you to instead or in conjunction with writing new year’s resolutions, take the time to celebrate ALL your accomplishments (big and small) and appreciate your life’s journey. This year block the outside noise!

This is because as first-generation, low-income, Latinx students we usually carry the weight of our families. We are forced to create our paths, we navigate unknown territories and we receive plenty of no’s along the way. Being the first in the family to do something different requires many “mistakes” that later turn into lessons for those that come after us. However, the beauty of being a first-generation, low-income, Latinx student is that we don’t take NO for an answer. It may take us longer, it may take us a few tears, and it may take us finding different ways to get there, but we are determined to accomplish what our heads and hearts set themselves to do because our families already sacrifice too much. We know how it was before so the only direction is forward. In my case, little Tania didn’t wake up every day at 3 am to commute across the US-Mexico border for 10 years for today’s Tania to give up now.

Little me would be so proud to see what was once a dream is now a reality. Present day Tania is working towards becoming a doctor in occupational therapy and accepted a paid residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)!

This 2023 there is no newest best version of me and there is no need for the newest best version of yourself either. So as hard as it can be, appreciate the now and be patient with who you are because past you once dreamed of who and where you are today. I’m sure little you is proud of how far you have come and your validation is the one that matters!

Aisha

Silver Linings >

by Aisha

Classes Community Diversity

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On Thursday, my team and I presented a poster on our community program proposal for our OT 537 course. I felt incredibly proud of the hard work we put into developing a justice-based occupational therapy program called Silver Linings to help previously incarcerated youth successfully reintegrate into the community. Using an occupational therapy lens, we aim to reduce recidivism which is the likelihood of rearrests, and occupational deprivation, which is when external circumstances restrict or limit people’s ability to engage in meaningful activities that promote health and well-being. As many of you may know, youth of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and treated worse than their white counterparts (Gigante et al., 2022). Although this is a proposal for a class project, my team members and I are passionate about increasing access for marginalized groups and promoting occupational justice. Therefore, we would like to see programs like this implemented in the future. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, one of our inspirations and role models in this field, tell us we should make this happen. That moment was invigorating and reignited the drive I felt when I began OT school!

A photo of my team members and me at our poster presentation

My incredible team members and me at our poster presentation! Shout out to Dejaney, Zoë, and Sadie. 😊

I’m not going to lie; this semester was very challenging. I struggled with imposter syndrome, burnout, and personal issues while balancing family obligations, work, and school. All of these factors impacted my motivation and mental well-being. I’ve had one too many crying sessions while battling self-doubt and the urge to give up.

No matter how challenging a situation is, there are always silver linings. As I write this, I am grateful for my countless blessings this semester. The first is my supportive family, friends, peers, and professors, who constantly encourage me to take care of myself, produce quality work, and remind me of how far I’ve come. I am forever thankful to be surrounded by brilliant human beings who challenge and inspire me to be the best version of myself personally and professionally. Second, I discovered rock climbing, my new hobby and restorative occupation. Lastly, in the field of occupational therapy, where there is only 5% Black representation, I am filled with joy to be in the midst of incredible history in the making.

Some of my peers, a group of Black women who will be future occupational therapists, and Dr. Anvarizadeh!

Some of my peers, a group of Black women who will be future occupational therapists, and Dr. Anvarizadeh!

Gigante, C. I., Rak, K., Kaplan, A., Helmcamp, L., Otoo, C., & Sheehan, K. M. (2022). A community-based youth diversion program as an alternative to incarceration, Illinois, 2017–2019. American Journal of Public Health, 112(9), 1265–1268. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2022.306946

Leah Mary

External Residencies Are the Move >

by Leah Mary

Classes School/Life Balance

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During my 2nd year in the Entry-Level Master’s program, I felt enormous pressure to apply to the internal residency. I had my rose-colored glasses on. USC’s internal residencies are competitive, prestigious, and well-funded. Everyone was applying, so I felt compelled to apply. However, when I researched and learned about each residency site, I couldn’t see myself there. It wasn’t for me.

I didn’t think I was going to do the Post Professional OTD. It was expensive, and I didn’t want to pay for another year of school during a pandemic. I was very close to not applying until I talked to Dr. Bream. We explored the external residencies sites that suited my interests and could support me. I ended up committing to Hiller Therapy, where I am both the Occupational Therapy Resident AND a part-time employee, and I LOVE IT!

So here is a list of why I recommend getting excited about an external residency:

Schedule
You can create your own schedule! I am completing the Post-Professional OTD within a year and a half instead of one year to allow me to work part-time. In addition, you have the flexibility to defer for a semester or a full year.

Income
Oh yeah, you can work as an OT once you pass the NBCOT and obtain your license. That means you can make an income! 

Low-stress
I did not feel overwhelmed after summer fieldwork. I was able to take a couple of OTD courses and have enough time to study for the NBCOT without the pressure of 20-30 hours/week of residency.

Location Location Location
If you don’t want to stay in the LA area, you can do your OTD anywhere (nationally or internationally). The OTD courses can either be in person or over Zoom.

Advocate for your needs
I was able to ADVOCATE for what I needed and wanted from my residency site.

Ultimately, do what you want to do. Advocate for your needs, and don’t let institutions or people pressure you into things you don’t want to do!

Mika

Chika with Mika: Life as a Post-Professional Master’s Student 2022 Edition >

by Mika

Classes Community Diversity International Living in LA School/Life Balance Videos

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Hello everyone!

So in Tagalog, chika means “chit-chat”. For this month’s blog post (or rather vlog post), I wanted to chika with you what’s it like to be a post-professional master’s student here in USC Chan! Get to see the Health Science Campus where we have most of our classes and meet some of my friends here in the program. I also shared some clips of my adventures here in LA, particularly in the Grand Central Market, Griffith Park, and Venice Beach!

Happy watching!

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