Life Goes On >
September 27, 2022
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
This Summer with the Community >
August 12, 2022
Throughout this summer I was able to volunteer in the Vivir con Diabetes and Vivir con Dolor programs. Alongside the guidance and leadership of current OT residents Daniela Flores-Madriaga and Elaina Rodriguez Garza, we were able to reach Spanish-speaking community members to help educate those with chronic conditions.
During my time as a volunteer, I helped lead discussions, exercise activities, and educate about habits and routines to participants. The education and culturally sensitive strategies through a lifestyle redesign lens provided by Daniela and Eliana helped support the journeys of participants with diabetes and chronic pain.
Daniela shares her experience with Vivir Con Diabetes as a rewarding experience that has shaped the way she interacts with chronic conditions. One of the biggest lessons she learned in facilitating these classes was to be attentive to the needs expressed by the participants. She found that “in order to make an impact in their lives, I had to provide strategies that were reasonable and applicable to fit their routines, habits, and roles.”
Since 2019, Elaina has volunteered to be a part of Vivir con Diabetes. Like myself and Daniela have expressed Eliana has found fulfillment in the program. “Not only is it an opportunity for me as a facilitator to connect with community members, but it is an opportunity to facilitate new connections between community members and create a space for them to bond over shared experiences living with diabetes and navigating problem-solving barriers around their health,” Elaina shares.
What is unique about the classes is the accessibility for community members to ask facilitators slightly more tailored questions they may not be able to ask in their primary care appointments. The tight community within these classes is something I found beneficial not only to myself as a volunteer but to participants as well. For example, during one of our classes on physical activity, I modeled examples of low-intensity exercises and lead a group discussion on participants’ current physical activity. In our discussion, a participant expressed their desire to walk more but is limited due to their arthritis. Another participant shared another program offered by the wellness center that can help their concern with exercising. Such interaction demonstrates the collaborative community fostered through the program.
Being a part of this program this summer was a learning experience, one that allowed me to observe OT in practice and for us to tangibly serve our community.
Fight On Forever >
May 31, 2022
The moment five years in the making has finally arrived: graduation day! These sorts of entries are particularly challenging for me. Growing up, I was the type of yearbook writer who would ruminate for days about how to capture a year in review. But this is not that. It’s not one year, it’s not just five years, it’s an attempt to capture a life that I had built, that I built with all of you reading this. From my biological to my found and chosen, and my Chan and Trojan families, I am who I am today because of your guidance and kindness. A person who is closer to the one I wish I could’ve been five years ago.
I am writing to you now from my childhood bedroom back in Ohio a couple weeks after the dust of the pomp and circumstance, followed by a cross country move has begun to settle and I am thinking about the things I will miss in an attempt to keep that dust away. I’ll miss catching the sunrises on countless intercampus shuttle rides and filling the time catching up with my fellow BS-OTs. I’ll miss trying to get a laugh in OS Minor presentations by calling Chan’s social media “hip, fun, funky, and fresh” because it is, our Chan ambassador team meetings, and especially making holiday baskets with Ambassador Alyssa for our campus partners.
Then there are those moments where I would try to convince some poor classmate to skip or duck walk down the hallways of CHP with me during breaks just to catch them crack a smile by the time we make it to the door, picnics in the quad grass during lunch, and every single time I ran into faculty in the hallway because no matter which semester you took a class with them they left the impression that you just couldn’t wait to talk to them again. Every bi-semester BS-OT gathering, every conversation about OS and OT current affairs (yes, even the one during our end of the year celebration), every CHP fashion runway event, and every single second spent with all of you is a treasure worth more than I could express.
I know that, hard as I try, the dust will settle. II also know that with time it will become rosy instead of grey. Change can be challenging, but it is the only thing that happens without fail. We can only hope to face it head-on and with our loved ones not just beside us, but within our hearts. After all, we’ve been working toward change for so long. So here is to the next journey. And no matter the twists and turns that the universe has in store for us, we will fight on and we will do so forever.
I am sending so much love to you all and hoping you can feel it!
Magic of GI >
May 4, 2022
by Global Initiatives Team
By Maggie Goodfellow MA ’21, OTD ’22
Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
If I told you there was magic behind one of the doors in CHP, would you believe me? Well, no — not the traditional type of ‘magic’ that involves playing cards or bunnies appearing out of hats, but rather, something even better. Behind the doors of CHP 161, you’ll find the magic of a global community, the magic of pushing boundaries, and the magic of discovering what it means to “grow together”. In case you couldn’t tell, the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Global Initiatives is…. Magic (surprise!).
#1. The Magic of a Global Community. The door (and room) of CHP 161 can be quite deceiving at first glance. However, upon opening the door, you’ll immediately find a friendly face who will welcome you in and ask you about your day. As someone whose home is across the world in South Korea, the GI office quickly became my home away from home, somewhere I could go when I needed a break in between classes, somewhere I could trust would be welcoming and safe, and somewhere I knew a friend would be. The irony of our small office is that inside it lives a global community. Everyone’s culture is welcomed and the mundane interactions, such as sharing snacks from our respective countries or creating a poster for a holiday, become the building blocks of lifelong friendships. There’s something very special about the friendships built through GI, as they are grounded in our shared love for celebrating each other’s cultural differences and upbringings. Through Global Initiatives, I’ve seen the magic that can happen when you not only keep the door open for others, but also provide them with a seat, listen to what they have to say, and recognize there is always an opportunity to learn from them.
#2. The Magic of Pushing Boundaries. When it comes to magic tricks, you typically see the outcome but rarely see the hard work and determination that’s required to master them. More importantly, it takes confidence and the belief in yourself that you can do something that seems impossible. While it seems silly to compare the projects of GI to a magic trick, quite frankly, some of the projects did seem impossible at first. To name a few, just over the past 3 years our team has implemented Frientorship Circles, a global poster exchange, a global Pen Pal program, a “Global Citizenship” thread in the new Entry-Level OTD curriculum, and so much more. I’m incredibly grateful to this team who has time after time shared their creativity and demonstrated the power of creating something with their hearts and the intention to uplift others. Moreover, none of this would be possible without Danny Park, who empowers each member of our team to take their ideas and transform them into reality. Together, this is what creates the magic to push and continue pushing boundaries.
#3. The Magic of “Growing Together”. When I first joined Global Initiatives as a student worker, I was a first year MA-2 student who was eager to learn yet shy in voicing my opinions. It’s funny how, in just three years, I’m able to see so much growth in myself, both personally and professionally. Thank you, Global Initiatives, for being part of my journey and showing me that growth rarely happens alone — it happens through the mentorship and support of others. From celebrating birthdays to accomplishing various professional milestones together, I could not have asked for a better team to grow with by my side.
AHTO: An Introductory Retrospective >
April 27, 2022
by Global Initiatives Team
By Carly Martinez MA ’23
Editors Abraham Ramirez and Michelle Plevack
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students
When I received my acceptance email to USC, I — like many others before me — wondered how I was going to do it. I knew that I would need a support system to keep me going. My family and I were not communicating, so I was scared. I felt alone.
Partway through the fall semester of my first year, I learned about a new organization through Global Initiatives aimed at the Spanish-speaking community — Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional, or “AHTO.” I was thrilled, and looked forward to being around people who spoke Spanish, which was reminiscent of my late grandmother who helped raise me.
However, I was concerned that I might not be “Mexican enough” to participate, despite speaking Spanish. ‘Was that enough?’ ‘Was my Spanish good enough?’
I anxiously brought this up during an early interaction with AHTO. When I shared my concern, this sentiment was echoed by other members who also questioned their identities due to imposed cultural markers, which can feel a lot like gatekeeping. I learned that, like me, they too were in this in-between place, where we were left asking ourselves where we belong and if we were enough.
I recently told a friend that the reason why microaggressions are so insidious, is that they’re often so small that they can make you question whether you are overreacting to a situation or if it even took place the way you remember. This has been my experience as a member of a minoritized group — the feeling that I am living through a continuous microaggression, and left wondering if I am making things up or should be happy with the way things are. Or, are there legitimate reasons to be unhappy and should I ask for more? It’s a bit like being in a toxic relationship, and it can mess with your head, particularly when it weighs on you alongside class assignments.
As I began compiling stories of my fellow students’ experiences, the triumphs and challenges overheard at AHTO meetings at socials and at conferences, I began to see connections that had not been previously apparent to me. That’s not only amongst Latine* students at Chan, but other minoritized students as well. Conversations have taken place that require action and advocacy. They still are, and they probably always will, leaving a need to ask for more on an ongoing basis.
This is why I am glad organizations like AHTO exist. They serve as places where I and others can verbalize our experiences and share them with others, allowing the space to process them in a way that leads to validation and support. My hope for AHTO is that it will continue to provide a platform for students to demand change from the university and express their needs in a way that will continue to elicit change, not only for the Latine population, but everyone who feels like they need to make themselves seen, heard and understood.
I hope AHTO will serve as a model for, and collaborator with students seeking empowerment and resources. It is important for us to realize our power, particularly when we work together, because it is only when we feel acknowledgement and action on the part of the division that we will be able to create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based). Isn’t that OK to want?
*I prefer to use Latine over Latinx or Latin@ because it works in both Spanish and English and is more inclusive. Latinx does not work in Spanish, so it is not the preferred term by some Spanish-speakers; instead it is looked down upon by many people living in the US and Latin America as a forced idea contrived by non-Latine, white folks. Please see this comic for more information and explanation.