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University of Southern California
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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Natalie

OT Didn’t Choose Me, I Chose OT ⟩
January 19, 2024, by Natalie

First-Gen What are OS/OT?

Now this isn’t one of those admirable stories where the storyteller explains how occupational therapy has always been a part of their life — in fact, I did not know OT existed almost until the end of my undergraduate career. This story is one about unexpected chances [coincidences instead of unexpected chances?] and for that, I am forever grateful.

From a very early age, I was taught the importance of higher education and encouraged to know what career path I wanted to take. For the longest time, I saw myself pursuing medical school to become a pediatrician, until I also saw myself as a firefighter, a police officer, a lawyer, a teacher . . . the list goes on. I was coming up towards the end of my junior year of college when I felt the impending need to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. *cue the internal panic*

At the time, I was taking a course titled “Psychology of Aging” and one of our assignments was to find and research a profession that works closely with older adults. I completed my assignment, talking about how cool art therapy sounds. I was so excited to have found a potential career path that would allow me to help people through art. My partner then recommended I speak to his sister, who “probably has experience with art therapy but I think also does a whole bunch of other cool things with her clients as an occupational therapist?. . .” I was so curious to learn more about this “occupational therapy” so I spoke to his sister and she shared all her knowledge and experiences with me. And the rest is history from there . . . (just kidding, is it ever that easy?)

As I learned more and more about OT and what it is, what it looks like, and how broad the profession is, I felt both thrilled and confused. There was so much to learn (which still applies now), and the more I searched, the more I found. The best part of this process — and most telling — was that every time I learned something new, I felt further captivated by OT. I soon realized that this is THE profession for me — it gives endless possibilities for what populations and practice settings I can work with/in and blends my interests for art and science well.

Additionally, despite all of the information I found about the profession when I went digging for it, I was baffled to discover how widely unknown OT is. It seemed as if having a personal experience with OT was the only way people knew about it. I mean, I only learned about it by chance. I quickly realized this lack of recognition of the field meant underserved populations likely have limited-to-no access to the types of services occupational therapy can provide, and that didn’t sit well with me. Because of this, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in OT where I can work within those underserved communities and hopefully serve as an advocate for both my clients and the profession.

Yoojin

23 Truths for 2023 ⟩
January 18, 2023, by Yoojin

Community First-Gen School/Life Balance

Happy New Year Chan! I compiled some of my favorite quotes. There’s a good mix of bookmarked lines from cherished books, reminders for when life is a little rough, and encouragements to live a compassionate and sacrificial life.

  1. “To me, there was magic in learning.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
  2. “Occupational therapy is more than a job. For many it is a calling. We felt drawn to it.” — Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA
  3. “Do what is good. Advocate for what is right. And fight for what is important.” — Bryan Morales
  4. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. “There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” — John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
  6. “It always seems impossible until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela
  7. “I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
  8. “We don’t do all our growing up between birth and adolescence or even our twenties. If we’re fortunate, we never stop.” — Diane Guerrero, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided
  9. “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional.” — Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World
  10. “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” — Bob Kerrey
  11. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” — Plato
  12. “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up.” — 2 Corinthians 4:8
  13. “An education is not so much about making a living as making a person.” — Tara Westover, Educated
  14. “Why can’t I just eat my waffle?” — Barack Obama
  15. “Listening to an underserved population is how you begin to understand them and serve them better.” — Constance Wu
  16. “Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.” — Proverbs 17:17
  17. “Being yourself is all it takes. If you want to impress someone don’t be someone else just be yourself.” — Selena Gomez
  18. “Living without passion is like being dead.” — Jungkook
  19. “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” — Eleanor Brownn
  20. “Family is the most important thing in the world.” — Princess Diana
  21. “It was possible, I knew, to live on two planes at once — to have one’s feet planted in reality but pointed in the direction of progress.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
  22. “Fall seven times, get up eight.” — Naoki Higashida
  23. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy

Tania

New Year, New Me? ⟩
January 17, 2023, by Tania

Classes Community Diversity First-Gen School/Life Balance

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 haves and could haves 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!

Tania

Latinx Heritage Month Celebration ⟩
November 29, 2022, by Tania

Community Diversity First-Gen Getting Involved

Asociación Hispanohablante de Terapia Ocupacional (AHTO) is a student organization in the Chan Division, with the goals to improve the educational experience of Latinx students and to provide care/resources to the Spanish-speaking community. We are a group of aspiring OTs passionate about working with underrepresented and underserved communities. AHTO hopes to support the retention of students of color within the division and to advocate for the needs that our community requires. AHTO is a student organization made by the students and for the students.

We all know the importance of representation in higher education and healthcare. Therefore, the AHTO board worked together to create several events in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.

The first event was café con pan dulce, which allowed students to connect over some cafesito and conchitas. That same day during lunch students gathered to play Loteria, which is similar to Bingo.

The next event was Case Studies en Español, and this event was made possible with the collaboration of Dr. Celso Delgado Jr.. Our two presenters, Dr. Marilyn Thompson and Dr. Daniel Padilla reviewed two different case studies in Spanish and provided tips on how to best serve the Spanish-speaking community.

We also had a social at a local Latinx-owned restaurant, Casa Fina Restaurant, to support businesses in the community. We enjoyed good food, good music, and great company. We had over 30 people at the event. It was beautiful to see so many people in one room building community.

We closed the celebration with Dia de Los Muertos. Students enjoyed tamales, pan dulce, and crafts.

AHTO hopes to create a safe space and a home away from home for those in the division. We understand that there have been other Latinx organizations before us that maybe have not lasted, but the fact that an organization keeps arising time by time lets us know the need for support in the division and the willingness of our community.

If you are a student and you are interested in getting involved, stay on the lookout for elections next semester!

If you are staff / faculty and wonder how you can best support our student group here are a few ways:

  1. Attend our events
  2. Promote our events
  3. Advocate for funding for student orgs
  4. Ask us what we need

Special thanks to Dr. Celso Delgado Jr. and Dr. Danny Park for their collaboration and support!

Yoojin

From Enemies to Friends . . . to Lovers: My Occupational Therapy Journey! ⟩
September 22, 2022, by Yoojin

Admissions First-Gen What are OS/OT?

(Spoiler: they fall in love at the end!)

When I tell folks that I’ve known about OT since before I even knew how to spell the words, they tell me how lucky I am to have discovered my passion at a very young age, especially in such a niche profession.

And don’t get me wrong, they’re totally right! I see how there is a perfect plan for me, part of which is to attend OT school to become an occupational therapist. However, like most people outside of the healthcare community who know what OT are: there’s a good chance it’s because they or a loved one have experience with receiving therapy services.

My love story with OT starts like this: OT wasn’t always a great passion of mine. In fact, at one point in my life I despised it so much I didn’t want to go into the healthcare field at all! (Here’s some context about me now: those around me can attest that OT is one of my favorite things to blabber about. In fact, someone I met recently asked, “So, is OT just like, your thing, Yoojin?” after I spent a good chunk of our conversation talking about my first Level II fieldwork this past summer. Well, maybe I should’ve dialed it down . . . he was a physical therapist after all 🤔).

Similar to a relationship between a pair of friends or lovers, it’s hard to remember the rockier parts of my relationship with OT because it’s at such a healthy state right now. But as I look back on my journey of grace, forgiveness, and love in my relationship with OT, I know it’s one that I really want to share. So here it goes . . .

I wouldn’t exactly say that I “discovered” OT, because that would imply that I was in search of something of the sort. Hm. So would it be more like I was “inescapably, involuntarily compelled into learning about OT”? That makes it sound like someone committed a crime against me. Well, that’s exactly how I felt throughout my childhood as a family member of someone who’s receiving OT services. I was too young to stay home alone, so I was forced to tag along. To almost every. Single. Appointment.

This meant I missed out on playdates and hanging out on the playground after class, both foolish, yet simple pleasures for a little selfish, elementary-aged Yoojin. But, I mean, why was I forced to play the third parent and the unpaid translator (shoutout to us first-gen children of immigrants!) rather than play tag or house? I cringe now at my shallow desires, but my years of frustration from holding such roles grew into a seed of bitterness in my heart toward OT and the clinic, the place where my childish dreams laid to rest. As much as I knew how much it strained my parents to be caregivers and parents, I pushed them away and continued to wallow in my self-pity.

It wasn’t until years later when it came to applying for college when things finally started to shift, and I took several weeks to reflect on what I really wanted to do. After countless talks with my mentors, late nights thinking, and tears spilled over wondering if I was destined to do nothing, I realized that OT was the only profession that I’d spent hundreds of hours observing and knew for a fact what I’d be getting myself into: a selfless, fulfilling, individual-oriented profession that works to improve the lives of clients by helping them achieve their personal goals.

During this time, my family and I exchanged so much grace and forgiveness. I fell more in love with OT as I rediscovered it on my own terms. Since applying and getting into the BS-MA (now the BS-OTD) program right here at USC, I’ve grown so much appreciation and love for this profession and never looked back. Love truly does conquer all! In my case, I was able to loosen my hardened heart filled with misplaced hatred for OT and foster it into a deepened empathy for my future clients’ needs. Give me all those cheesy pins and notepads that say “I ❤️ OT,” because I really, really do!

Me, over-the-world at the Admitted Student Reception in 2018!

Me, over-the-world at the Admitted Student Reception in 2018!

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