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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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Student Blog

A spicy podcast from the land of spices! >

by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity International

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By Prutha Satpute, OTD USC alumni; Cohost and editor of HOTP
By Sakshi Tickoo, BOTh, Personal Counselor; Cohost and PR head of HOTP
By Varada Pisharody, MsOT, OTR/L; Cohost and CEO of HOTP

Editors Brittany Inouye and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Who are we?
We’re the three best friends
that anybody could have
We’re the three best friends
that anybody could have
And we’ll never ever ever ever
leave each other!

We are three OTs from India, who are at different phases in our (professional) lives, with three completely different personalities, living in 3 different time zones (east coast, west coast, and India). Regardless of these differences we have one thing in common — our love for each other and what we do.

We decked up for a long-distance photoshoot for the launch of the podcast. For more details on who we are check out our website: hornotplease.com

What do we do?
Well, throughout our Bachelor degree years we found ourselves within the grasp of knowing what OT was but never really being able to pinpoint how the core values and fundamentals of our profession related to the everyday lives of people. At the same time, when we would watch Netflix shows or social media trends, we would find these amazing links back to the things we were learning in our textbooks about environmental context and human behavior. The more evidence we found of such links, the more we felt the need to create a platform that would appeal to the minds of OTs who were tired of their mid 20th century Western world-view textbooks. So, in June 2021, we founded Horn OT Please — a student friendly podcast that uses Occupational Science as its backbone to understand OT practices, values, and principles with the help of modern-day educational perspectives. Horn OT Please ended up being the first ever Indian OT podcast available on all listener platforms; this was not only special but it added to the sense of value and responsibility for the work we are doing. So, every week despite our busy schedules and unkind time zone differences (I complain because I wake up at 7am on a Saturday!) we hop on Zoom to study, research, and record our sessions. We try to cover a wide range of topics like:

  • Student life
    • Ups-downs, perks-disappointments, joys, and wonders of being an OT
    • What is OT education like in India and other countries?
  • OT Education
    • Reforms in OT books and teaching methods
    • OT soft skills
    • Prepping for the big scary world
  • OT Practice
    • Non-traditional settings, areas of practice, and interventions
    • Personal anecdotes

How do we do it?
Simply reading words on paper did not challenge us to think critically in a client-specific scenario. On the other hand, watching the Oscar winning movie ‘The Father’ gave a visual, auditory, cognitive, mental, and emotional character to the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, making it more real and relatable. We are constantly in search of narratives and stories fictional/non-fictional that can act as a medium for learning and understanding OT concepts. We use scientific manuscripts, journal articles, movies, documentaries, history, art, trends on Instagram, TikTok, and other non-traditional media to blur the line between academic and non-academic learning materials.

Horn OT Please logo

Check out our podcast episodes on Anchor or Spotify.

Why do we do it?
Because we can. For a long time we waited for OT professionals who could answer our questions and make sense of our fanatical ideas. As the three of us have started diverging into different practice areas and settings, our inquisitiveness has only led to more questions that remain unanswered. Horn OT Please is our safe haven. And we hope that it becomes a space where disparate worlds of thought can come together; challenging OTs globally to think outside the box, and further advance our profession.

If you have any questions or would like to know more you can reach us through our socials — email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Instagram: @hornotplease, website: hornotplease.com.


You’re Welcome >

by Silvia

Admissions Diversity First-Gen

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I say that in the most humble way.

Here’s the thing about being first-gen—or maybe just about me—we’ve been conditioned to feel and express nothing but thankfulness when we’re given anything (an opportunity, admissions acceptance, a scholarship, etc.), rather than saying what we truly know.

“That’s right, I EARNED that, and I DESERVE it. You didn’t just HAND it to me…and if we’re being honest, you kinda need me.” Try saying that with your chest next time…maybe after you say thank you—but you get what I mean.

As I write this blog, I find myself deleting and rephrasing because I think to myself, “other college students feel that way too,” and that’s the problem. We minimize and sometimes dismiss our feelings trying to be considerate of others. All the typical college student feelz are valid, I am not trying to take that away. What I am saying is that they are compounded by being first-gen—that’s the power of intersectionality.

I don’t just exist as a student. I exist as the first-born and female daughter of Mexican parents—parents who brought me with them when they immigrated so that I could be “first-generation,” though I don’t think that’s what they intended. Mi mamá me dice, “Yo nunca imaginé que ibas a llegar hasta aquí,” and it’s not because she didn’t believe in me, she believes in me more than I believe in myself, it’s because we come from having nothing and knowing nothing. This matters because while many of my peers were enrolled in extracurriculars, sports, being tutored, etc., in the years preceding college applications, I was cleaning houses with my mom. The moment I learned to write and speak English, which was in 3rd grade, I was making my mom’s business cards on a 3x5 piece of paper and answering the phone when people called to inquire about her services. I cleaned houses with my mom from elementary to high school, up until I left for college.

Silvia in white coat holding hands with mom

My mother’s daughter, a proud moment.

I, like many of my fellow Latinx and first-gen brothers and sisters, had romanticized going to college and couldn’t wait to experience it. The truth is, experiencing college as a first-gen student is rewarding, but it’s even more exhausting. There’s pride and there’s guilt. We’re not just navigating academics and figuring out financial aid, we’re also simultaneously carrying out roles as our family’s’ primary interpreters, therapists, mediators, advocates, coparents (IYKYK) and so much more. There’s pride in knowing my siblings get to wear sweaters with the names of universities they actually know about and have visited. The pride in knowing that when teachers ask if said university is where they plan to attend, they get to say, “No. My sister went there for undergrad. She’s at USC getting her masters now,” is one of the many things being first-gen is all about. That, and the guilt that comes with it as we realize that this is only possible because our parents sacrificed their own dreams for ours.

I believe this is where the internalized superlative feelings of thankfulness stem from. Looking back to where we started, we can’t help but feel thankful for where we are now. But we’re not here because we paid our way in. I will always be thankful for every opportunity I have been given, but I will also acknowledge that it’s not a favor that is being done. Just as I remind myself that I worked for this, and I deserve it, I hope you do too.

A text message from dad

A reminder from my dad: “Congratulations mija for all of the hard work you put in each day. You, by yourself, with all of your effort have won your scholarship. I am very proud. I love you.”

So, to our alma matters (and future ones too, including USC), you’re welcome for choosing you. You’re welcome for our diversity, authenticity, and everything we have brought to the table.


I want to leave you with something that I was told and that I hold onto as I reflect on my journey through higher education:
“You had nothing, but at the same time you had it all.” – Dr. Rafeedie

Celebrating Lunar New Year 2022! >

by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity International

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By Yiyang (Sunny) Fang, PhD student, OTD alumni, Bachelor’s to Master’s alumni

Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Having lived in the United States for 6 consecutive years since graduating from undergraduate school, celebrating the Lunar New Year in Los Angeles has been a big part of my life! Despite ongoing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to safely gather with my partner and several other friends at home to celebrate the holiday. We went to the local Chinese grocery store, 99 Ranch, and enjoyed home-made HOT POT! Hot pot is one of the most popular meals to have on New Year’s Eve because family members and friends get to gather around the circular boiling pot, cook, and share food as a group. Some of my favorite ingredients to cook in a hot pot include beef and lamb slices, meatballs, fish cakes, spam, rice cakes, potatoes, and a variety of leafy green vegetables. While gathering around the hot pot, we also watched the Chinese New Year Gala (春晚, pronounced as “Chun Wan” in Chinese), a special variety show for New Year’s Eve featuring singing, dancing, magic shows, and drama performances. For many Chinese families, watching the New Year Gala at the New Year’s Eve has become a beloved ritual.

Celebrating Lunar New Year 2022 with home-made hot pot and Chinese New Year’s Gala.

Celebrating Lunar New Year 2022 with home-made hot pot and Chinese New Year’s Gala.

To welcome the year of the Tiger, which is the 3rd of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals (生肖 , pronounced as “Sheng Xiao”), I added decorations to both the front and back of the doors throughout my apartment. The mandarin orange plushies that I hang at the front of my door symbolize luck and fortune. The Spring Couplets on the back of my door mean “good luck everyday” and “happy everyday.” Having these decorations at home has been a tradition for not only myself, but also my family back in China. The red ornaments create a warm and festive vibe for the important holiday and hold our most genuine wish: that the new year will be a good and prosperous one. I am grateful that I was able to celebrate the Lunar New Year with my friends here in LA in a very meaningful way. I hope that the year of 2022 will bring everyone more happiness, blessings, and good health!!!

Lunar New Year decorations on the backside of the door — spring festival couplets.

Lunar New Year decorations on the backside of the door — spring festival couplets.

Lunar New Year decorations at the front of the door — mandarin orange plushies.

Lunar New Year decorations at the front of the door – mandarin orange plushies.

Taking a leap of faith: transitioning from SOTI participant to a full-time OTD student >

by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity Getting Involved International

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By Serg Lam, Doctoral Candidate, SOTI alumni (2019)

Editors Michelle Plevack and Abraham Ramirez
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Visit to Keck Medicine of USC’s hand therapy clinic with SOTI.

I always feel privileged to participate in my patients’ recovery journey. Having the opportunity to empower and restore patients back to their daily routine is definitely a joyful experience. Since I am an integral part of my patients’ recovery journey, I strive to learn different intervention strategies, and this is how my SOTI (USC’s Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion) story began.

During the SOTI program, my classmates and I visited many advanced occupational therapy practices. Out of these, ocean therapy was definitely a highlight for me. Ocean therapy utilizes surfing as a meaningful occupation to help individuals with PTSD and/or depression to overcome barriers and enhance their confidence. For example, maintaining good posture in big waves and swimming in the current provides an adverse scenario for individuals to safely “fight for their lives,” and enables them to develop healthy coping skills in adverse situations. The life skills they developed in therapy sessions could eventually transfer into their daily lives and allow them to manage challenges and stressors in real life. Upon reflection, Ocean therapy gave me the insight to develop my career goals. Besides being an occupational therapist in a psychiatric setting, I am also a Muay Thai coach/fighter. It has always been my dream to promote health and wellness for younger adults utilizing the sport I am fond of. Through training and coaching, I have seen positive transformations in many athletes. Overcoming barriers in training not only improves physical conditions in athletes, but it also empowers them to promote psychological resilience and to adapt to difficult situations in adulthood.

Hong Kong Muay Thai Championship 2021 at Southorn Stadium, Wan Chai.

Besides enriching therapists with advanced clinical knowledge in various settings, SOTI also promotes friendship and brings people with different nationalities together. Though we are therapists from other countries, with diverse backgrounds and age ranges, there was never a dull moment in class. My roommates Naoya and Andy have always supported me in the program. Trust and intimacy were formed as classmates had given me the nickname “Uncle Serg”, as I had been assigned a senior leader in class. The bond of friendship grew as we studied and explored beautiful California together.

SOTI class visit to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

“Uncle Serg” had a wonderful time in the SOTI program, and I realized it was never too late to start chasing my dreams. Before starting my OTD program, I worked in both in-patient and community psychiatric settings in Hong Kong. OT input is crucial in a psychiatric patient’s journey. Yet, I feel like there are limitations in my practice, and patients’ needs are not always met in the psychiatric unit, especially individuals with behavioral issues and sensory issues. So, I have decided to take a leap of faith and pursue further education for the above reasons. I have just started my OTD in Spring 2022 and am doing my residency in the Insp!re (Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research) lab for Dr. Baranek. Time to fight on!

Beach day with my SOTI buddies in sunny California.

Friendtorship Circles 2021-2022 >

by Global Initiatives Team

Diversity Getting Involved

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By Brendan La Scala, OTR, Global Initiatives Doctoral Candidate

Editors Alison Chang and Vanessa ElShamy
Entry-Level Professional Master’s students

Danny Park, OTD, OTR/L (pictured on the right) and Brendan LaScala, OTD student (pictured on the left) at the ice cream social/Friendtorship mixer in November 2021

This semester, Global Initiatives hosted our first in-person Friendtorship (friendship + mentorship) Circles event for the USC Chan community. Friendtorship Circles were intentionally created with students in our Post-Professional Master’s, Entry-Level Master’s (first and second years), OTD, PhD, Bachelor’s to Master’s, and Bachelor’s to Doctorate programs. Meetings were held one time per month, with each event including large and small group discussions and activities for students to get to know each other.

The Friendtorship Circles were started in the summer of 2020 as a product of the Chan Community Commission, a student initiative that aims to help cultivate connections between incoming Master’s students. Second-year Professional Master’s students formed this commission, recognizing the importance of social connection, having received a significant portion of their education experience remotely. At the end of the summer, Global Initiatives decided to add the Friendtorship Circles to their programming with a focus on the international student population.

First virtual Friendtorship Event.

Students took the time out of their busy schedules to share moments with other students, some whom they had never met before; this represents the nature of the occupational therapy community. Our very own Josh Digao (MA-1) stated that, “Friendtorship was a way for me to connect with people I would have never met otherwise and I am grateful that Global Initiatives provided this amazing opportunity to us.” The Friendtorship Circles served our community by providing an avenue for international students to get to know local students from other cohorts in the Chan Division. Below are some pictures from our time together during the Fall semester. I am personally excited to continue this effort as a member of the Friendtorship planning committee and plan to help expand the program this Spring semester!