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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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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!

Delicious tacos and a bunch more food at Grand Central Market!

Delicious tacos and a bunch more food at Grand Central Market!

#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!)

With my friends Dustin, Vanessa and Gill at the iconic LA Coliseum!

Go Trojans! With my friends Dustin, Vanessa and Gill at the iconic LA Coliseum!

#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.

Bonding with my fellow ambassadors, Seth, Teresa, Silvia, and Alyssa!

Bonding with my fellow ambassadors, Seth, Teresa, Silvia, and Alyssa!

#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!

Looking over at the fantastic view in Angeles National Forest with my friends Vivien, Florence, and Josh!

Looking over at the fantastic view in Angeles National Forest with my friends Vivien, Florence, and Josh!

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

Life Hacks

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

Diversity Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

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!


SETH: “As I look back on 2021 what I’ve learned is that no matter how much you grow and transplant yourself, you always have your roots. Up until this past year, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown and escape to the big LA city, but after a couple of months of quarantine, I really began to discover a newfound and indescribable appreciation for the place and people that raised me. When we slowly began to transition back to in-person classes I realized how much I missed the peace and quiet, the dinners with my family, and the pace of life. After five years, I felt like, for the first time, I had feet firmly planted in both places. At a point in my life where I am figuring out the next steps, it is nice to know that I have it in me to be adaptable, but also that I have a place that fits the stereotype of a home is where the heart is.

As I look forward to 2022 my top goal is to spend more time doing the things that mean the most to me and to find more small moments of joy throughout my day. It is easy to fall into a slump or get busy or to focus on what might not be going as planned, but being able to feel those things, quickly shift perspective, and take action is a philosophy that I’d like to more seriously put into practice. I always come around eventually, but by being more mindful, more present, and more intentional I believe I could enrich my 2022 experience. Big things are on the horizon and I want to give them, and myself, the love and attention they deserve! Here’s to the new year and new habits, roles, and routines!”


KAYLA: “While this year has taught me a lot, more than anything I learned how to enjoy the journey. When faced with difficult situations I am always anticipating something going wrong, and pre-stressing about fixing problems. This year I really tried to change my thinking from “what if it goes wrong” to embrace the ideology of “what if it goes right”. This subtle change has helped me be more present for the huge changes happening in my life, allowed me to be more mindful, and have the capacity to enjoy my experiences in the moment rather than having to reflect on them later down the line.

During this next year I want to be really intentional with what I do and how I spend my time. I am a self-proclaimed “sleepy girl” and will choose sleep over anything 9 times out of 10. In 2022, I want to take advantage of more opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone. I want to go new places, try new things, and have new experiences all 2022!”


TERESA: “Looking back, I accomplished each goal I set for myself in 2021, which is not something I’ve been able to say in a while. I think this was due in part to my primary goal for the year, which was to accept that so many things in life are out of my control and to learn to be okay with that. However, I can be in control of the way I act and react to situations. With this approach, it allowed me to tackle goals which were internally motivated but contingent on an external source and completely out of my control.

In 2022, my only resolution is to show more self-compassion and for some reason, that seems more daunting a task than prior years. I am my own worst critic because I always thought if you’re self-aware of every single one of your flaws, then no one else can use them against you . . . right? Except in 2021, I realized that I tend to use them against myself. As a student and future OT, I’m always reminding myself that I can’t pour from an empty cup but I also need to remember that outside of those roles, I am also human. As a human, I’m inevitably going to mess up but despite these mistakes, the person I need forgiveness and validation from most is myself. Also, the members of BTS said to “Love Yourself” so, in 2022, I will be. I’m going to accept love from the world, from those I love, from myself, and return that love tenfold.”


SILVIA: There’s more to life than ___.
For a long time, my life has revolved around school and family, two very important things to me. From wanting to perform at the top of my class to trying to mediate family tensions, these two aspects of my life have also brought the most stress and anxiety. This year, I have found myself sitting in the ugly and telling myself, “There has got to be more to life than this.” “This” stands for the feelings, the worries, the distress — everything that is making me unhappy at that given moment. This reminder has allowed me to sit, feel, and embrace my emotions . . . and then let them go so that I too can keep going.

Top Goal for 2022: Learn to Adult.
Some may say that I entered adulthood a couple years ago, but that is fake news. Truth is, I am turning 26 this year (next month actually) and that means going through the rite of passage that marks my transition into adulthood: getting kicked off my parents’ health insurance. In light of this, I have made a list of “important things I must learn to do as an adult.”
1. Learn to budget. Shoutout to Kimberly Kho for sharing some of her tips and tricks with me—the Mint App will be my best friend in 2022.
2. Learn to do my own taxes. I’ve heard TurboTax can help me get the job done, but I have a feeling that my father will sit me down for a 3-hour explanation instead.
3. Figure out my health insurance situation. Bless the student health insurance, for now. After graduation, I have a feeling I will be listening to another 3-hour explanation from my father on how to do this.”


ALYSSA: “In the spirit of blogmas lists, here’s my list of what I learned in 2021: (1) I’m a podcast person now. (2) There’s more to life than the coasts! I’ve flown between NJ and CA so many times and this summer I had the opportunity to explore in between via road trip from Chicago back to LA. 10/10 recommend. (3) Living with your best friends is the best way to live.

My goal for 2022 is to enjoy exercising at home. I felt like I missed my window to get #fit with at-home workouts in 2020 but who’s to say where the pandemic is headed in 2022, so . . . time to sweat!”


GUY: “This past year I learned to cherish those close relationships I hold dear in my life. Life is short! My top goal for 2022 is to continue to spend more time with my lifelong friends celebrating and enjoying life like I did on my birthday this past year.”


MARVYN: “And as for me, 2021 has been a roller coaster of a ride. Looking back, I realized that I have achieved a lot of the goals I set for myself. I was able to pause my life as a practicing occupational therapist back at home to pursue my Master’s degree here at USC. I was able to step out of the box (mainly because of quarantine and lockdowns back in 2020), and I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zones coming here as an international student. I have become more independent than I ever was, and I became more confident in myself and my capabilities as a person and as a professional. 2021 has been such a teacher for me, in such a way that even though you are miles away from your family, I am in such a great, and importantly very safe, environment to achieve my goals in life. I am overwhelmed with pride and humility at the same time because I didn’t expect to be who I have become today. If “2020 Marvyn” saw me today as he starts his 2021, he would be in disbelief at the sheer amount of growth he has had over one year.

2022 is a promising, yet daunting year for my life. I am slated to graduate with my Master’s degree this year and that my professional life will be catapulted swiftly into the real world. If there’s anything I want to look back on by the end of 2022, it is that I want to become a licensed and practicing occupational therapist here in the USA. No matter what hurdles may come my way, I do hope Destiny and Fate agree with my goals and guide me through the right paths. I am so excited at the same time nervous for what’s to come, but I hope 2022 would be my best friend much like how 2021 was to me.
SIDENOTE: I want to take more pictures around LA too (and that’s just a side quest I’m also looking forward to doing very soon)!”

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

Life Hacks

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.

#1 Trello

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 🎮


6 Lessons from My First Semester as an OTD Resident ⟩
December 23, 2021, by Kayla

Beginnings and Endings Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

The first semester of my OTD year has come to an end, here are some lessons that it taught me. Let’s get right into it!

1. This is Not The Master’s Program Anymore
As a student in the MA-II program, I became so accustomed to (and honestly, reliant on) the structure; class four days a week and one day for fieldwork. It was so consistent that when I began the OTD and my schedule became so much more flexible it was a bit of a shock. In the OTD program, you have class 1 day a week and all other time is spent engaged at your residency site. Because I spent the majority of my time providing direct patient care, I found myself having to switch my brain from “clinical to classroom” in order to be in the right headspace for group discussions and class participation. I really had to adjust to the new flow of things . . . adapt to my new roles and routines, if you will.

2. You Won’t Feel Overwhelmed Forever
Beginning a new program, moving halfway across the country, figuring out my role as the first resident at my site, studying for boards, and tending to my mental and physical health . . . it was a lot. I remember attending a residency seminar entitled, “What Have I Gotten Myself Into”, where residents currently in their final semester of the program reflected on their first semester and assured us that even though it was going to get hectic, that we would make it through. On the other side of my first semester, about three things I am absolutely sure. First, I was 100% overwhelmed during the first few months of the semester. Second, I was not alone in feeling this way. Third, that feeling does not last forever.

For me, what helped get through the days where it felt like I had too much on my plate was to remember my why. Thinking about why I began on this journey in the first place, understanding how my current responsibilities fit into the bigger picture, and most importantly, taking a deep breath and giving my best effort.

3. Mistakes Are Going to Happen
I am no stranger to making mistakes, but over the course of this semester as I was beginning to come into my role as a new professional I, expectedly, made more than I was used to. I had to learn how to reframe my mistakes in a way that allows for growth rather than feelings of guilt and how to turn thoughts of “Why did I do that?” into, “How can I do better?” Mistakes are a part of the process of learning and I had to learn to be thankful for the new perspective I gained along the way, after all . . . perspective is everything!

4. How To Navigate The “In Between”
As an OTD resident although you are a registered and licensed therapist, you still occupy the role of a student and mentee. This semester taught me how to embrace the duality of the unique position that we as residents are in. I was faced with having to define my role as an OTD resident, especially because my site has never had one before, and learn to be confident and accepting of changes as I encountered them. Biggest takeaway: be confident in the path you’re walking and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re unsure of your next step!

5. No Two Residencies Are The Same
This lesson is rather short, sweet, and to the point. Even if you share the same area of practice with another resident, no two placements are alike. Things between residencies may be different, but yours is specific to you and your interests and THAT is what matters. Remember: comparison is the thief of joy.

6. The OTD Really is What You Make It
If you have ever met with me either via office hours or one-on-one, I always harp on this sentiment. This program is what you make it, it is YOUR experience, YOUR vision, and YOUR year. For many of us, there will never be another time in our professional career when our only goal is to observe and to learn as much as we can. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the stress and responsibility (I am by no means exempt from this), that we forget to seek out and enjoy the experiences that come along with this program. This semester challenged me to not only be more mindful and present but to truly stick to the goals I set for myself to make sure that I am taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of me.

As this semester, and year, come to an end I can’t help but look forward to all of the experiences and new knowledge that 2022 holds. More importantly, I can’t wait to share them all with you. Happy Holidays!

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