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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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Winter Break! ⟩
December 17, 2014, by Leila

Classes Externships

Last week was our final week of the Fall Semester, and as exciting as it is to be one more semester closer to graduation it is also a little sad. As 2nd year students, we have now completed our final immersion in our cohorts. The Entry-Level Master’s program focuses on three different immersions: mental health, pediatrics, and adult physical rehabilitation. During our first summer semester we were split into cohorts (A, B or C). My final immersion was in pediatrics, which meant it was also my last class with cohort A-mazing. 😊 It has been a great experience getting to know the great individuals in my cohort and see them grow. I know our immersions and complementary classes have done a great job thus far in preparing us to become amazing occupational therapists.

Cohort A Photo

Cohort A Photo

Cohort A Photo

Next semester will be our final semester of classes. We will have the opportunity to take electives of our choice, as well as participate in a Leadership Externship. All 2nd year students will complete the externship in their final semester as part of the Leadership Capstone course. The externship is a two-week experience where students have the opportunity to build on their leadership skills. Students are responsible for finding and coordinating these externships. The places that you can choose to go to are diverse! I’m planning to complete my externship in a Spanish speaking country — possibly Costa Rica or Peru! I’m beyond excited and I can’t wait to share with you all about this amazing opportunity. Until then I will be enjoying my four-week winter break!

Claire as Jack Skellington

Claire as Jack Skellington


Adventures in Ireland ⟩
April 18, 2014, by Rob

Externships International

One of the unique experiences of our program is the Leadership Externship that all second-year students complete in their final semester as part of the Leadership Capstone course. The externship is a two-week experience that students have the responsibility for finding and coordinating. The diversity in places people go is astounding — from Ghana to Vietnam and from adult day health centers to medical mission trips.

I did my externship in Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork’s occupational therapy program. One of my interests is education and I wanted to see how occupational therapy was taught in other countries. I was challenged more than I expected — visiting an unfamiliar country alone without knowing anyone living there was tough. It helped me realize how much of a home I have built here in Los Angeles in the two years since I moved here from Chicago.

Despite the challenges I faced, I found even more amazing opportunities. While looking at a brochure, I came across a community art group that was building floats for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and they invited me to not only help with construction, but to be in the parade too. How many chances do you have to be in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland? I couldn’t say no.

The community art group also attracted other young adults from the surrounding countries like Italy, France, and England who came to volunteer their time, sometimes for up to eight months. My last day, a few of my Italian friends cooked me a mouth-wateringly authentic Italian dinner.

Because the externship happens right before Spring Break, there is an opportunity to spend additional time traveling. Those days were the best. I stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by an older gentleman and on my first night he invited me to hang out and have tea while watching a recap of the day’s sports results. He had some amazing stories of growing up in Ireland and living in Australia — I could have listened to his stories all night.

I also went on several day trips, where I took the picture below. I visited Ballycotton, a small, seaside fishing village, and took a long walk along the cliffs. It had been raining lightly, but I wanted to get a picture that captured the green of the land and the blue of the sea and the island with a lighthouse in the distance. In one small moment of sunshine, I set my camera up with a 10-second timer and started running down the hill. You can see how far I made it. It was the perfect moment: birds taking flight as sunshine streamed through the clouds and me running wild down the road. The rain started again as I walked back up the hill, out of breath but content.

Coastal view of road, sea, and island in Ballycotton

Coastal view of road, sea, and island in Ballycotton


Externship + Spring Break ⟩
March 26, 2014, by Kate

Externships International School/Life Balance

It’s been a whirlwind in my life the past 3 weeks. I went on my externship to Ghana (alongside 35 other OT students and fellow ambassador Clarissa) and then I spent 3 days in Berlin, Germany with one of my good friends from the OT program. My jet lag has not gone away, I must admit, and I am still confused as to when I should be hungry and when I should be tired. All in all, it was an amazing time away from school and I wish I could do a video blog to tell you all about it and share pictures and videos. I will try my best to be succinct yet thorough!

In Ghana, we stayed at the Mephibosheth Training Center in Appam, about 2 hours outside of the capital city of Accra. MTC is a boarding school for children with disabilities that come from all across Ghana, some as far as 9 hours away. About 53 children, ranging from about 5-23 years old, with physical and mental challenges, live at MTC and go to school. It is a true honor for these children to attend school because Ghanaians have traditional beliefs that disabilities stem from a curse on the family or the individual. Although this mindset is changing in the country, it is an ongoing process. Our group of USC OT students came to MTC to play and love on the kids, as well as perform 3 sets of vocational activities with them to note their skill and interest level in sewing, woodworking and leatherworking. We made a game of cornhole with bean bags and leather bracelets. It was truly amazing to spend time with these children!

We also had the opportunity to meet with OT students from the University of Ghana. They will be graduating their first class of 19 students this year, and it was really neat to share our knowledge and love of OT with them. Our group was also assigned to pair up with students from the University of Winneba in the Community-Based Rehabilitation Worker program. These students go out into the communities, find individuals with disabilities and refer them to sources. Many of the students/CBR workers are placed in schools. I was able to shadow a student placed at a primary school in a classroom of 14-16 year-old girls. They loved me and I loved them. It was magical to be surrounded by such joy.

I had the chance to relax in Berlin, where I toured the city with my friend Mona. We got on one of the hop-on, hop-off, double-decker tour buses for two days. This was the perfect choice because we were able to see all of the sites, get the history and have someone else drive! We ate pretzels, schnitzel, spaetzel and yes, drank a lot of beer. It was fun to visit such a cosmopolitan city! I was pretty happy to come home, however, despite the crazy time difference and my loads of homework due this week!!

Speaking of homework, I think I’ll get back to it. Stay tuned for more exciting developments as my fellow ambassadors and I wrap up our last 5 weeks of our grad school careers!!

Here’s a picture of one of the kiddos at MTC in Ghana and some pretzels in Germany. 😊

Kate with one of the children at MTC in Ghana

Kate eating pretzels in Germany


Leadership Externship in Ghana ⟩
March 24, 2014, 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!

Clarissa woodworking with Francis

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!

Clarissa with CBR workers

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!

Elephants playing in the river

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.


Snow Before Sun ⟩
March 2, 2014, by Clarissa

Externships International School/Life Balance

I’m about to embark on my leadership externship in Ghana where it’ll be over 90 degrees every day. I’m going from one extreme to the other because right before the trip, the socials chairs, which includes myself and a first year, of the Occupational Therapy and Science Council planned a cabin trip up in Big Bear for the OT program!

Getting there was quite the ordeal — it’s usually a 1.5 hour drive but it took my car 8 whole hours to get there. We got caught in a snow storm! So the traveling was stressful but it was worth it because, when we woke up the next morning, there was fresh, powdery snow everywhere for us to play in.

In the snow at Big Bear

It was so fun building forts and having snowball fights with one another! We also cooked, watched movies, took walks to Big Bear Lake, and just talked in our down time. Being in a house together for 2 whole days was optimal for bonding time, which I LOVE.

Group photo in shared Big Bear house

It was a great trip and I’m looking forward to the next big one coming one — Ghana! In the meantime, I’m going to stress out because I haven’t packed at all.

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