So You’re in LA. What To Do? ⟩
January 17, 2022, by Marvyn
Life Hacks Living in LA
Here we go, my first blog of the year! If you read my last blog (which was the last blog of 2021), I said that one of my new year’s resolutions is to take more photos around Los Angeles and to explore new places. I would like to preface this blog by saying that I am an international student and by no means am I a pro at being an LA person. You may be reading this because you’re also an international student, or maybe not even an LA native, but I hope this list can help build your experience here in LA. Personally, as an international student, this is my first time staying in LA for as long as I have. Now while I am still trying to navigate the logistics for 2022 (being sensitive that there is still very much a pandemic going on), I am privileged to have been able to experience LA, even just a tiny bit. Allow me to show you some of my favorite experiences that I have had so far, and how YOU can do it too!
#1: Having a yummy meal in Downtown LA
In LA, there’s a bunch of food spots that you can go try. All I did was hit Google with the keywords, “top places to eat in LA”. From there, you can find a ton of places to eat with food that can be both inexpensive and delicious! Food blogs and YouTube videos have helped me find out cool spots too!
#2: Watching a USC football game with friends
Nothing screams America more than American Football. And don’t worry if you don’t understand the sport. You’ll be surprised to find that there are a bunch of people who watch and yet do not understand what’s going on. I do encourage you to just go in the stadium and feel the school spirit looming around. It’s one of the best feelings to experience as a Trojan! I will say, it’s been quite helpful to watch with someone who actually knows the sport so they can explain things as they happen. (I did my homework prior, and it has been helpful too!)
#3: Experience the social activities (safely, of course)
As an international student, it is also crucial to create good relationships with your fellow students here in Chan. I am so lucky to be working with such a fun, diverse group of people who share the same passion as I have in occupational therapy. Attend events organized by amazing offices such as Global Initiatives. Just put yourself out there, and you’ll quickly realize that there are a bunch of similar-minded people in LA that’s for sure will make you have the best time.
#4: Hike with your friends
You may or may not like physical activity, but I highly recommend you do at least one hike in LA. Wherever you hike, there are fantastic views and sights to see. You can easily look up fantastic places to hike up and you will be rewarded (almost always) with a breathtaking view of either California or even Los Angeles!
I can go on and on about the things I did so far in Los Angeles and things I recommend doing. And even for me, as I write this, I still have an abundance of activities I have yet to do! My mantra throughout this experience is that: “You are responsible for your own memories. Craft them, and let your stories paint the colors of your life.” You’ll thank yourself down the road with all the stories and memories you have made.
Let me know what you think! If you need more recommendations, keep in touch with me and the rest of the ambassadors at our social media @USCChanOSOT on Instagram. Looking forward to hearing from you! Until then, Fight On!
When In Doubt, OT it Out! ⟩
January 13, 2022, by Kayla
The holidays were amazing, not only because I got to travel back home to California, spend lots of time with my family, and see some of my friends. But also because it came with a much needed break. A break from classes, assignments, presentations and from residency. As amazing as this journey is, sometimes the load does get heavy. This past Monday, the spring semester started and I was admittedly feeling less than inspired logging into my first zoom class of 2022. As an occupational therapist, constantly surrounded by other occupational therapists, sometimes a light bulb goes off to practice what I preach. I call it “OT’ing myself”. While settling back into my typical workflow I’ve decided to focus on engaging in some of my most meaningful occupations to fill my cup and replenish my energy so I can be the best version of myself. This week I’ve been more intentional with:
Listening to Music:
My days have been filled with music and singing and dancing (badly) around my house after work. I play my favorite playlist when I wake up in the morning, look for new songs in my free time, and play my go-to feel good songs when I’m sitting in traffic.
As an ex-college athlete, I have recently found myself missing my playing days a lot more than usual. And although I can’t go to the gym and play pick-up games because of covid, I have been more diligent with getting some form of exercise everyday. Taking online cycling classes with my favorite instructor and a few friends has been helping to keep me in the right mindset!
I absolutely LOVE cooking, and I love trying to make new recipes even more-so. This week I searched my saved videos on TikTok to find those recipes that I saved and forgot about… and actually made one! It was delicious, if I do say so myself, and exactly what I needed.
I’m also starting to write down all of my favorite recipes to make and making my own personal cookbook. So stay tuned for that in a book store near you. 😉
New year, same me. Like I may have mentioned before, I am a self-proclaimed sleepy girl. I love love love sleep, but I am also a night owl so I can never seem to get enough of it. So this week I made it a priority to go to sleep earlier to hopefully set myself up to have more peaceful mornings and have more energy throughout the day. Next skill to master, waking up on time.
As we head into the first Friday of the semester, I am feeling more ready to take on the semester thanks to this wonderful profession that I get to practice everyday, and remember, when in doubt, OT it out!
TwentyTwenty-ONE: The Ambassador Year Round-Up ⟩
December 31, 2021, by Marvyn
Happy DAY ONE (and sadly last) day of Blog-mas! It has been such a blast reading everyone’s blog entries over the past 2 weeks. I hope that this Blog-mas helped you in any shape or form during the holidays! But if you come across this blog at a random point in time in the future, welcome!
For the last blog post of 2021, I decided to round up all the current ambassadors to create this collaboration blog! Call it “The Avengers” of blogs if you will. Crossover blog of the year! While I don’t get carried away, I asked each ambassador the following questions: “What have you learned in life from 2021?” and “What is your TOP GOAL for 2022?” Let’s see everyone’s responses!
And that’s a wrap! Thank you all for a wonderful 2021 and for reading our fun series of blogs over the past few days. New Years is tomorrow, and we here at the student ambassador team are so excited to greet 2022 with you.
Ranking 4 Tools I’ve Tried to Organize My Life ⟩
December 28, 2021, by Alyssa
I love to organize. I find it so interesting to see how other people organize their daily schedules and to-do lists, so I’ve decided to share my planner tool journey with all of you in two parts. Part 1 (this blog) is ranking my experience with every tool I’ve tried to use in the past few years. Part 2 (coming soon in 2022) will break down my current planner system.
Note: As with any occupation, the method for organizing and planning has to fit the person. This is my personal ranking, no hate to anyone who uses these.
#4 Paper Planners
Coming in absolute last for me is using a paper planner. I really wanted to like using one — I love the ✨ aesthetic ✨ of a nice paper planner. I tried hard to make it work and spent… too many dollars in the process. Sometimes buying an organizational tool feels like you’re getting organized, even if you don’t actually use it*. I was convinced I just hadn’t found the right planner set up, so I’d buy another one. This was an expensive self-misunderstanding.
My main qualm with paper planners is the commitment to keeping it with you. Unless I need to bring my laptop somewhere, I never carry anything except my phone. I ended up writing down random notes in my phone to then add to the planner, which was too many steps. In the same vein, I couldn’t check my to-do lists/calendar if I was on the go.
I wanted to color code it and make it pleasing to look at. The thing that got in the way of this was… me — (1) I didn’t dedicate any time to it, (2) My handwriting is not neat enough for that, and (3) I’m lucky if I have two pens on me at any time. Forget about carrying multiple colors.
Alas, my dreams of having a #bulletjournal instagram account were for naught. I moved into the acceptance phase of grief and transitioned to trying out digital systems for getting my life together.
#3 Computer Stickies
For two years in undergrad, I kept all of my to-do lists in the Mac built-in stickies program. I set up my stickies with due date lists for each class for the whole semester. I then had one master schedule that I would type out and copy/paste tasks from the other sticky notes. I realized I liked my schedule in list format, and I wasn’t as interested in the visual blocks of time on a calendar.
This solved my issues with my often illegible handwriting, and I figured I needed to be on my computer for most of my tasks. But of course, I couldn’t access my lists without my computer so I was back to making random phone notes when I was on-the-go. I phased this program out when I discovered my current system.
#2 Google Calendar
I keep a Google calendar for a visual of my class schedule, but it never made sense to me for managing tasks. I like to schedule things even if they only take 5-10 minutes, and I couldn’t see the details of those “events” on the calendar without clicking on them.
Nonetheless, I’ve included it on this list out of respect for its interface. Lots of color options, repeating events, cross-device syncing — all beautiful features.
I live laugh love ride and die by my Trello boards. I was introduced to Trello in a coding class in undergrad for the classic use of “to do” “doing” and “done” lists. As someone whose work style leans toward start-to-finish in one sitting, this workflow doesn’t really work for me. BUT I realized Trello had a lot to offer. I’ll get into it more in my next blog, but in summary, it combines everything I liked about Google calendar and my stickies system. ✨ Stay tuned! ✨
* Since Trello has been by my side for the last 3 years, I sometimes miss the thrill of setting up a new personal organization system. If this resonates with you, I highly recommend playing organizing video games (e.g. Unpacking, Wilmot’s Warehouse) to fill that void 🎮
8 things I 8 this year that I used to love, but now h8 ⟩
December 22, 2021, by Teresa
Life Hacks What are OS/OT?
As we heard more and more about a novel “coronavirus” with each day, I was working full-time as a rehab aide at a nursing home – which at the time, were severely ill-equipped to handle a pandemic with respect to manpower and physical resources. One morning in April 2020, I woke up for another day of work when I realized that overnight, I had been robbed of 2 out of the 5 primary ways I interact with this world.
The anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste) lasted about 3-4 weeks, but fast forward to 20 months later, nearly TWO YEARS, and I still experience parosmia and dysgeusia, which means those 2 senses returned but that my perception of how things taste and smell is incorrect compared to my memory of them. So without further ado, here are 8 things I have consumed during this pandemic that I used to love, as well as some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way so I can continue to enjoy them as I adapt to this new and strange sensory experience.
- I’ll start off with the one that makes me saddest – potatoes 🥔. Yup, that wonderful versatile vegetable. Like a diamond, she thrives under pressure – she can be mashed, she can be fried, she can be baked and loaded. We all know and love her! My comfort food was always french fries, so you can imagine my disappointment when my teeth first pierced through that crispy exterior and I immediately wanted to spit it back out. Where I used to taste salty, crunchy goodness, I now perceive an enhanced chemical flavor of starch. My workaround? Sweet potato fries! My perception of sweet foods didn’t change much, so sweet potatoes still taste the same and even though it’s not exactly the same, I still get the oral gratification from the textures.
- Speaking of enhanced chemical flavor, you know that very distinct artificial banana flavor they put in candy, like with banana-flavored Laffy Taffy? Well, all bananas 🍌 taste like that to me now. While it’s not the same, I am reminded of what a banana used to taste like when it’s mixed among other fruits, like in a smoothie or açaí bowl! The banana flavor is still most prominent in those mixtures, but the “artificial” flavor is dampened some by other fruits, yogurts, and juices.
- If I could only have one food for the rest of my life, it would be either phở or tacos but an essential garnish to both is onion. However, I can tell the distortion of onion is resolving with time because at first, the smell of it was unbearable and truly smelled like the secretion from axillary nodes (aka B.O. 😅) but now, if I cook the onion slices before adding it to my bowl of phở or ask the taquero for grilled onions instead, I’m still able to enjoy my favorite foods.
- Along with #3, garlic is a staple in Asian cuisine. Growing up, I knew I needed to finish up my homework soon the moment the delicious smell of garlic filled the house because it meant my mom was about to complete the last step of dinner: sautéing vegetables. I remember the stunned look on my mom’s face as I regained my senses when I entered her kitchen and went, “What’s that awful smell?!” to which she responded, “...I was making your favorite, garlic green beans.” But luckily, as with onion, this is something that seems to be resolving with time as well.
- I touched on this a bit earlier, but fried foods… and that includes chips. This has been a tough one because I love the feeling of a good *crunch*. My workaround? SAUCES! Using my favorite sauces, while discovering new ones in the process, has been such a blessing and helps mask the distorted tastes.
- You may have heard of this one: meats. What you might not know is that the distortion can happen on a spectrum. For me, chicken 🍗 tastes the most similar to before and is the least pungent. Then comes beef, which I can’t stand to eat on its own, like as a steak 🥩, but still tastes gr8 within a mixture of other flavors, like in a burger! The most pungent taste is pork 🥓, which has been a difficult workaround because so many recipes in my culture call for a pork-based broth.
- Not that I (will admit I) eat this, but an honorable mention is toothpaste, since it was my first indicator which alerted me to immediately self-isolate and prevented me from spreading it to my loved ones. Shout out to toothpaste, making your BADLs and COVID prevention possible since 1824! Toothpaste companies–feel free to recruit me for your next marketing campaign. Move aside, “recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists,” “potential early coronavirus detection tool” coming through! In all seriousness, all toothpaste tastes like what onion used to taste like, while mint and mint-flavors still taste the same. This COVID symptom is most mysterious, indeed.
- And last but definitely not least, coffee ☕. Every cup of coffee I’ve had in the last 20 months tastes burnt but I’ve found that using a dairy alternative really helps. My favorite has been oat milk, because its strong flavor overpowers and masks the burnt taste really well. However, I’ll let you in on the true caffeinated nectar of life which has sustained this tired graduate student so far–Guayaki’s organic yerba mate, but ONLY the flavor Enlighten Mint and ONLY in the can, NOT the bottle. Thank me later.
This experience, while something I would never wish upon anyone, deepened my appreciation for occupational therapy. The child labeled as a picky eater, the adult whose high perceived pain has them labeled as a malingerer, the older adult who resists polypharmacy… We are unable to fully understand other people’s very subjective experiences, so we cannot say with absolute certainty that there is one right way to experience this world. As OTs, we approach this subjectivity by making our care occupation-based. We make it client-centered, in order to figure out how to best meet unique needs and experiences.
The way we taste and smell is so closely tied to how we engage in our occupations and in life, in regards to nutrition, mindful eating, social participation, weight management, and mental health. But in a similar way to our perceived sensations, time is also subjective. I started something called “smell retraining therapy” and was often frustrated at how little my sensory gains were in comparison to the literature and testimonials. But I continue to remind myself that recovery is not linear and everyone’s trajectory will look different, including my own, so instead of rushing my progress, I’ve come to appreci8 the process.
(But still, the return of 🍟 could not come sooner.)