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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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Leadership Externship in Ghana ⟩
, by Clarissa

Externships International

In the Spring semester of your second year, we take a Leadership Capstone class, where we learn how to be leaders and advocates for our beloved profession. This class includes a 2 week leadership externship where go to different sites to learn the necessary skills that aligns with their goals. Thus, it’s a very personalized experience. It’s also different from fieldwork in that we’re not trying to learn clinical skills — we are building that extra set of skills to help our own careers as well as OT flourish.

As you can imagine, the externships can look very different — I know people who have gone to the American Occupational Therapy Association’s headquarters in Washington DC to learn about legislation and another who went to New York to learn the administrative side of running a private practice. Some stayed local in Los Angeles while some went abroad.

I chose to go to Ghana! International advocacy and improving my cultural competency has always been an interest of mine. Ghana is a great program and is organized by a USC OT professor, Dr. Bonnie Nakasuji. There were 32 students that attended and 11 practicing therapists. We stayed at a boarding school for children with disabilities and we came up with vocational activities for them to determine which vocation in Ghana is best matched with their strengths — we focused on sewing, woodworking, and leatherworking. This was so valuable because I learned how to gear activities to a low-resource population — we used rocks and sticks that we found at the school for some of these activities. Here’s a picture of me and one of my assigned kids Francis doing some woodworking!

Another role that the students had in Ghana was to pair with Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) workers. These were students at the local university whose job is to go into the community, identify those with disabilities that need intervention, ensure they access resources, and also encourage them to follow through with therapist recommendations at home after discharge from therapy. We educated them about the scope of OT and taught them basics in assessment and treatment. It was great just making new friends too! I did some student ambassador work off the job and gave them some OT buttons so they can spread the word about OT!

The externship occurs right before our spring break so I had some time to travel with 5 of my close friends. We flew to Northern Ghana and spent time in a national park, where we saw wild savannah elephants up close. Disclaimer: these elephants are not mating — that is a baby elephant playing with its friend!

I learned so much about myself on this trip. I’m still missing the kids in Ghana and am hoping that I’ll get to see them again.


We Are Back!!! ⟩
, by Ryan

Classes Externships School/Life Balance

I can’t believe it has been a month already, full of relaxing and enjoying friends and family. I had a pretty good break, but it sure went by fast. I am from the area so I was able to work in the Admissions office a couple of days. I was so glad to be helpful to the Admissions team during the busy time of the holidays and admitting students for fall 2014. Then I went to Tucson, Arizona for the Christmas holiday to visit my uncle, aunt, cousins, and my cousin’s kids. The weather was great and I enjoyed spending time with family that I don’t get to see very often. I watched a good amount of television as well. I caught up on some movies and shows that I never get to watch during the semester. I also took a lot of yoga during the break which was an awesome way to relax over the break after such a jam backed fall semester. However, I am excited to be back at school. This semester is my last semester (Holy Cow?!!!), and as second year students in our spring semester we are able to choose between 12-18 units of electives within areas of interest. I chose 12 units giving me a lighter schedule this semester and I chose a variety of classes that I am excited to learn more about. For example, I am taking Sensory Integration theory course which can count towards a certification if I am interested in continuing after I graduate. Also, I am taking an Acute Care course where I am able to observe OTs at Keck Hospital within the acute setting. I am so excited to get more experience in this area to prepare me for my summer Level II Fieldwork. Well I look forward to sharing more experiences this semester . . . like the Leadership Externship!

Here is the Admission team and Student Ambasssdors for our holiday lunch, Sabino Canyon in Tucson, and my new pencil to start off my last semester!


Goodwill and OT ⟩
, by Kendra

Externships What are OS/OT?

These last few weeks I have had several transformative experiences, but more on those later. Last weekend was the OT Extravaganza, an event hosted each year by the Division of OS and OT and put together by members of PTE (the student honor society). This year’s theme was Leadership, and as part of the event students were allowed to enter their Leadership Externship experiences into a competition.

I am thrilled to say my partner Jane and I won for our work with Mujeres Fuertes along with two other amazing gals who went to Costa Rica.

This was such a HUGE honor and a source of immense pride for Jane and myself because we have also been awarded the Extraordinary Engagement Award by USC for our work with Mujeres Fuertes. It feels like here at the end of our education that things are falling into place, that our education has helped us to become not just advocates for OT, but for women, health, and the community. And that’s just one program!

My heart was near to bursting on Sunday, after so much good will from our school, when we returned to the group to lead a stress management session. Every. Single. Time that I work with the women, share with them, learn from them I feel transformed. I forgot in my desire to help others make positive change, that their lives can have a tremendous impact on my own. I feel that I have a new community of support bonded by the simple fact that we are women and we want to feel better about our lives.

Above we are “releasing” the stress we cannot control by tying it to a balloon and letting go. Such a simple exercise carried so much weight and meaning to all of us.

Occupational therapy is so powerful, not just for the client but for the therapist as well. I feel an enormous wealth of positivity surrounding me as I make my transition from school to the workforce.


Externship in Thailand ⟩
, by Alisa

Externships International School/Life Balance

I can’t believe I got a rare opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Thailand. Of course, I took it and ran with it. 2 weeks of externship and a week of spring break. The goal of the externship was to learn leadership skills, so I reached out to my aunt who is the owner of Sammie and Sandy Beauty Spa and the chairperson of a non-profit organization, Zonta International (Bangkok 7 region). Some of the highlights of my externship were that I got to table a booth for my aunt’s company at the Bangkok International Hair Show and a golf course. Those were two different populations, but I had to utilize my people skills to engage potential customers in our services and products. It was a tough crowd I have to say, but it was still a valuable experience. Zonta International had a Rose Day, where all of the regions met up to represent different ASEAN countries. I got to dress up in Thai traditional clothing and networked with the members through an evening of great food and music while learning about ASEAN countries and potential business opportunities there.


Goodbye, February! ⟩
, by Paula

Externships Fieldwork School/Life Balance

So here we are, Week 7 of the semester! The Division has been buzzing with visits from AOTA Leadership visits, the AOTA Assembly of Student Delegate elections, and many exciting things coming up. This week is the week-long fieldwork experience for the first years. For the next two weeks, the second years will be out on their externship assignments. After that, we have spring break and then we are nearly to April (Occupational Therapy month) which is jam-packed with events, assignments, presentations and finally, the 2013 AOTA Conference! There are just so many things to look forward to and we all know that the time is going to fly by.

For the externship, many of the second years will be going out of the area, some are returning to the home-state while others are travelling to entirely new places. There is a group of students travelling to Ghana, another group to Costa Rica, and other students will be travelling to China, Thailand, Scotland and Canada. I will be staying in the Los Angeles area and learning more about how occupational therapy services can be better integrated into the palliative care services within an acute pediatric hematology-oncology population. I am very excited to take this opportunity to widen my scope of experience within this population and to find more ways of helping the families involved in such life-changing experiences.

Although it is a challenge, it is so important to not get ahead of yourself (balance, right??). I always take a moment to be sure to be present and appreciative of what is happening today. This has always been something that I need to work on since I tend to be a ‘planner.’ So instead of becoming stressed about “will everything in my externship turn out just as I hope it will?”, or “what will my schedule be during the two weeks away from class?”, I think back on the semester and on the year, and I just slow myself down. This year has been a year of growth for all of my peers. It is awesome to see how everyone interacts in class and in clinical scenarios now that we have gone through the practice immersions and are investigating the elective courses. It has also been amazing to see how viewpoints and career goals change. The different things which I see inspire passion within my classmates is so refreshing. Imagine if we were each interested in the exact same thing. Our practice would never grow and flourish as OT has had the opportunity to do.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire — W. B. Yeats

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