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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things >

by Mika

Housing and Transportation International Life Hacks Living in LA School/Life Balance

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Hello again and Happy New Year, my friends!

I wanted to start off the year with a blogpost about one my favorite childhood songs from the movie, The Sound of Music. If you have watched the movie, you might have remembered the scene where Fräulein Maria comforts the children amidst a storm. She tells them (or rather, sings to them) that whenever she feels scared or sad, she remembers her favorite things to help herself cheer up. Now, as a material girl, I kind of used this coping strategy as well to help me adapt to life here in Los Angeles. With that, I present to you some of my favorite things or must-have’s that helped me the past months.

1. Water Filter Pitcher
Moving to a new country requires you to find ways on how locals get their basics, like food or water. Based on the suggestions of some friends and family living in the States, they recommended me to get the Brita water filter pitcher. So far, I don’t have any problems with this brand that I bought; however, you can also opt to buy cheaper brands. These water filters also come in different sizes (even in a dispenser) and are available in local supermarkets like Target and Walmart.

2. Tide Pods
This has been a game changer for me doing laundry since it makes everything more efficient and quicker. This was not a common product back at home so when I discovered this, I really felt like a caveman discovering new technology.

3. Sink Garbage Disposal Unit
Okay, this device got me shouting U.S.A., U.S.A.! to my friends back at home LOL. Again, we don’t have this technology so I was happy to discover this in most American households since it made washing the dishes more convenient.

4. Air Fryer
This is not new technology for me but it definitely helped me save time in cooking meals in between studying. Shoutout to my lovely roommate for sharing this with all of us in the apartment!

5. Tabo (Dipper)
The Filipino in me is definitely showing with this one. I definitely cannot do my self-care occupations or other household chores without my beloved tabo or dipper. Although you can purchase these through Amazon or in Filipino supermarkets, I was able to buy a portable one (it was made of a rubber-like material so I could fold it to fit in my luggage) back home in the Philippines.

6. Dustpan
From what I understand, most locals use vacuum cleaners to clean their floors. However, I like to go Filipino old school and use a broom and a dustpan to clean some of my floors. For those who prefer cleaning this way like me, I wanted to share that I bought a detachable dustpan back at home and brought it here since most of the dustpans here were hand-held and quite-small, which often triggered my back pain when cleaning.

7. Mobile Applications
I found several mobile applications that had made my stay here in L.A. more convenient. Here are a few I found helpful:

  • Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft
  • Public transportation apps like Transit and Tap
  • Online shopping apps like Amazon (As a student, you can get Amazon Prime for free for 6 months!)
  • Food and grocery delivery apps like Door Dash, Uber Eats, Amazon Fresh and Wee! (an Asian grocery delivery application)
  • Yelp to find recommendations of places to eat around the area
  • USC Gateway mobile app to help you know everything that’s happening in campus and to navigate your university life

8. Gifts (and snacks!) from home
Moving out of your comfort zone to a new country will bring about bouts of homesickness and loneliness from time to time. That is normal — it’s okay not to feel okay sometimes! To help me get through those moments, I’m blessed to have a good set of family and friends who sent some gifts and snacks to help me remember home. It definitely also helped that social media made keeping in touch with them possible!

And that’s the end of my list! What about you, what are your favorite things that get you by?

16 Hour Flight to Hang Out With my Occupational Therapy Pen Pal >

by Global Initiatives Team

Getting Involved International

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By Jared Bague (he/him), OTD ’25
Edited by Christelli Carmona, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student

Jared Bague

Jared Bague

There is a certain charm and chaos that comes with the final days of the year — the simple change of a single digit after 365 days sends people into a frenzy of ending the calendar year living life to its fullest. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I too subscribed to this “final frenzy” by meeting up with my pen pal . . . that lives on the other side of the world.

In October of 2022, Global Initiatives announced that they were organizing a “Global Pen Pal Program” where they connected USC Chan students with other OT students from around the world. With OT schools spanning South Korea, Palestine, Poland, and more, the Global Initiatives team matched Chan students to OT schools abroad according to their interests found in their application. For me personally, I’ve always felt a deep calling to be a bridge for the dissemination of knowledge in a place where my roots run deep — the Philippines.

A few days after I submitted my application, I was overjoyed to see that I was paired with the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. Even more so, I was excited to see that my roommate, Joseph Quiambao, was also paired with the same school. After we shared a few embarrassing cheers of excitement in our living room, I received my first email from my pen pal, Jose Maria Miguel Burgos (Miggy for short). We immediately began emailing back and forth introducing ourselves, which eventually evolved into direct messaging each other on Instagram, which eventually evolved into Zoom calls. Despite the 16-hour time difference, Miggy and I’s friendship grew quickly over the span of 2.5 months.

I gifted Miggy with a USC Chan shirt as a Christmas/New Year's gift

I gifted Miggy with a USC Chan shirt as a Christmas/New Year’s gift.

Prior to applying for the Global Pen Pals program, I was planning on taking my first international solo trip to spend New Year with my grandma in Sison, Philippines. In full honesty, the idea of navigating the stresses of international travel by myself was deterring me from following through with my plans. But after thinking about the possibility of having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet up with my pen pal, I knew I had to book the 15-hour flight. I pitched the idea to Miggy and Ray Torres (my roommate’s pen pal who I also got to know), and they were on board. After a few weeks of planning, we all settled on meeting up on December 28th.

It was only when I was surrounded by hundreds of balikbayan boxes (gifts that overseas Filipino families send home to the Philippines) at LAX that I realized how crazy of a plan this was. I began thinking to myself, “Jared, you just spontaneously booked a solo flight overseas to meet up with someone you had only seen the upper half of on Zoom.” But as the great philosopher, Drake, once said, “. . . you already know though. You only live once, that’s the motto.” With that song on repeat in my head for the entire duration of the flight, I finally touched down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on December 27th.

At 7:00 am on December 28th, Miggy and his childhood friend, Raffy, picked me up from my hotel in Bonifacio Global City. We went on a short road trip to Tagaytay where they took me to their favorite food spot, and then we headed back towards Makati where we grabbed coffee, went sightseeing, and shopping.

Miggy experienced my first taste of 'sinigang na baboy' and 'puto bong bong,' which are Filipino dishes

Miggy experienced my first taste of “sinigang na baboy” and “puto bong bong,” which are Filipino dishes.

Our first stop in Tagaytay was this lookout point. Tagaytay is located an hour and a half outside of Metro Manila

Our first stop in Tagaytay was this lookout point. Tagaytay is located an hour and a half outside of Metro Manila.

Apart from the amazing views, food, and shopping malls, the part that I enjoyed most was the conversations we had in our downtime. I got to learn a lot about Miggy — he is a big fan of Florence Clark and Erna Blanche, and he eventually wants to work in the mental health setting as a life coach, he and Ray Torres put on “Camp Kabahagi” which aims to enable children with disabilities through play, and so much more. While talking about our passion for OT, I was able to see how different yet similar the profession looks in our own respective experiences as OT students in different countries. We shared moments where we talked about Sensory Processing, therapeutic use of self, dysphasia, and other OT-related topics that sparked our interests. Overall, it was inspiring to witness OT students outside the United States sharing the same desire to make a difference in the world, one intervention at a time.

Going to Tagaytay was a special experience because Miggy and Raffy expressed how COVID has restricted them from leaving their houses too often

Going to Tagaytay was a special experience because Miggy and Raffy expressed how COVID has restricted them from leaving their houses too often.

We ate at 'Balay Dako' in Tagaytay. The restaurant had a beautiful view of Taal Lake in Batangas!

We ate at “Balay Dako” in Tagaytay. The restaurant had a beautiful view of Taal Lake in Batangas!

The “final frenzy” that I experienced led to me gaining a deeper understanding of the global community that we, as future OTs, are a part of. It is easy to forget that there are OTs around the globe that share the same hopes and dreams that we do — I find it quite beautiful. Once we set sail in our curiosity to learn more about OT beyond the borders of our own country, we can experience an exchange of knowledge that propels the profession forward. This is in hopes that OTs around the globe can provide the best quality care that we can as future practitioners.

In regards to my pen pal, Miggy, I know this isn’t the last time I will see him. His dream is to eventually attend USC Chan to pursue his PhD but until then, I’ll make sure to make a stop in Makati whenever I find myself in the Philippines again.


Chika with Mika: Life as a Post-Professional Master’s Student 2022 Edition >

by Mika

Classes Community Diversity International Living in LA School/Life Balance Videos

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Hello everyone!

So in Tagalog, chika means “chit-chat”. For this month’s blog post (or rather vlog post), I wanted to chika with you what’s it like to be a post-professional master’s student here in USC Chan! Get to see the Health Science Campus where we have most of our classes and meet some of my friends here in the program. I also shared some clips of my adventures here in LA, particularly in the Grand Central Market, Griffith Park, and Venice Beach!

Happy watching!


OT for a day! >

by Tania

Diversity Getting Involved International

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This month I had the opportunity to collaborate with another student organization on campus called Flying Samaritans. Flying Samaritans is an international volunteer organization that provides free health care for the underserved population in Tijuana, Mexico. The group meets on main campus and drives together to the border, parks on the US side, and then travels via taxi to a clinic in La Colonia Independencia in Tijuana, Mexico. I was very excited to participate in this project because I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico and having the opportunity to give back to my community feels amazing. I drove to the site and met the rest of the team there as the clinic was only a 10-minute drive from my parents’ house.

When I got there, I introduced myself to the volunteer group in Tijuana called Casa de Leones, which had partnered up with USC Flying Samaritans to run the free clinic. I helped set up tents, tables, and chairs for patients to sit in while they waited their turn for services. Patients first checked in and signed consent forms. Then they transitioned to the first room where undergraduate students will check their blood pressure, oxygen levels, insulin, height, and weight. Here, students will also collect patient history and ask questions regarding any concerns that brought the patient to the clinic. Patients will then transition to the second room to see a clinician for a general check-up and receive their free prescriptions. Finally, patients will meet with me to work on medication management, diabetes management, or lifestyle interventions.

Some of them shared that it was very hard to remember and be consistent with medication. Therefore, I created an individualized plan for each patient. For some, using a pill box and labels seemed to be the best option while for others teaching them how to put cellphone reminders was the way to go. Many of them had been told in the past that they needed to exercise more. However, their idea of exercise only consisted of running or weights. We had discussions of what typical days looked like for each patient and together we planned movement throughout their days.

Some patients had been coming for months and shared that they look forward to clinic days. Flying Samaritans have done a great job building rapport and providing free services that allow individuals to manage their chronic conditions. Being the OT for that day was extremely rewarding. It allowed me to put my classroom learning into practice. Not only that, but I was able to be part of an interdisciplinary team where we put our knowledge together making the patients our priority.

If you are interested in being part of this volunteer opportunity, please email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). You do not need to be fluent in Spanish and the team could always use more people. The next free clinic is on November 12th!

WFOT Conference: Who Am I to Even Network? >

by Global Initiatives Team


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By Christelli Carmona, MA ’23
Edited by Abby Khou, Entry-Level Professional Master’s student

Christelli Carmona

Christelli Carmona

When I hear of networking, I think of sharp blazers, stern handshakes and well-groomed speeches about how accomplished you are. Because of that, I never saw myself as someone who could go out there and network. I mean, who am I to network? I cannot consider myself established in our profession. I am not even a licensed OT yet. I have not even attempted taking the infamous NBCOT and still do not have a perfect spiel explaining what occupational therapy is. So why would they want to talk to me? I am just a student who still turns in her assignments late. I guess you can say that I show symptoms of imposter syndrome.

However, one random interaction on a long, typical day at work selling sandwiches changed that mindset. It was a busy afternoon at work with long lines of customers when a man wearing a USC hat approached me at the counter. As a staff, we were encouraged to initiate small talk with guests. Naturally, I pointed at an easy conversation starter: “Oh you go to USC too?!” He then followed with, “Yes, I am actually the admissions officer for the school of Business.” Definitely not the response that I was expecting. As I assisted him with his order, I quickly chatted with him about his work, and he asked me about our OT program. I finished assisting him with his transaction, and we thanked each other for our time in the end.

The next day, I saw that he had connected with me via Linkedin and sent me a message thanking me for my service and the good food. He told me to reach out to him whenever I needed help with any business-related questions. Without even knowing it, I had just networked with the USC business school admissions committee. Although I do not think I will be applying to business school anytime soon, it was a connection that I valued and appreciated.

Fast-forward to the WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) conference that was held in Paris, France, this past August, I found myself in a complete 180 — the student who thinks she is not worthy to network because she turns in her assignment late and because she thinks she’s not accomplished enough was successfully networking with Japanese OTs and OT students around the world.

MA-II students Amanda Atenta, MA ’23, Jeanina Ng MA ’23, Cara Birkby MA ’23 and Christelli Carmona MA ’23 at the WFOT Conference 2022 held in Paris, France

MA-II students Amanda Atenta, MA ’23, Jeanina Ng, MA ’23, Cara Birkby, MA ’23 and Christelli Carmona, MA ’23 at the WFOT Conference 2022 held in Paris, France

I have dreamt of doing my level II fieldwork in Japan for a long time, but I did not have any connections or know of any possible placements in Japan. I was so determined and passionate about doing my fieldwork in Japan that I was willing to talk to anyone at the conference who may be able to point me in the right direction. On the first day of the conference, I scouted for people who might be able to help me. I then saw two people reading a Japanese magazine. Unassumingly, I approached them and asked what country they were from, to which they responded, “Japan.” I was so excited to hear that they were from Japan and I started to talk to them about my admiration for their country. A simple conversation sparked a lengthy and amicable conversation about OT in Japan, which ensued in a friendship between Japanese OT professors and a USC OT student who never imagined that she was even qualified to network.

At the end of our conversation, one of the OTs kindly offered to host me at her home in Japan if I ever did fieldwork there. I was astounded and touched by her kind and generous offer. She also handed me a handkerchief from Japan as a parting gift, which also warmed my heart. I will always cherish her gift, but I will treasure the connection and friendship we made even more.

Christelli Carmona MA ’23 with Dr. Yoshimi Yuri of Morinomiya University of Medical Sciences in Japan

Christelli Carmona MA ’23 with Dr. Yoshimi Yuri of Morinomiya University of Medical Sciences in Osaka, Japan

Dr. Yuri handing us a parting gift

Dr. Yuri handing us a parting gift

At the end of that day, it was not stern handshakes, crisp suits, sharp blazers or self-promoting tidbits from my Linkedin profile that connected me with these wonderful people around the world — it was kindness and a shared passion (for OT) that manifested these connections and friendships.

'Networking' at the conference, but we like to all it making global friends!

“Networking” at the conference, but we like to call it making global friends! We met friends from Switzerland, Germany and Paris!

If there is anything I learned from working at my old job selling sandwiches, it is that networking can happen anytime and during the most unexpected times. In addition, I realized that you should probably wear your USC merch more often to increase your chances of networking with people within the USC network.

In all seriousness, I learned that networking is not a task that needs to be attached to a prerequisite of having accomplishments to boast about. All that it necessitates is for you to be yourself and the desire to connect with others with kindness and a shared passion for something.

So go out there, be kind, stay passionate, and most importantly, be yourself — you are your greatest asset.

With our new friend from Ghana, Myra Tindogo who we also met and became friends with at the conference!

With our new friend from Ghana, Myra Tindogo, who we also met and became friends with at the conference!

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