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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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Living in LA


The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part II >

by Bethany

Admissions Classes Living in LA What are OS/OT?

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In a previous post, I began The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part I. So continuing right where we left off…

Occupation — Occupation is, of course, the focus of our profession and one of the focuses of our schooling. We do not compare ourselves to other professions, but rather learn how to advocate for the inherent value of our distinct perspective as OTs.

Program interconnectivity — As a BS-MA student, we get to meet a lot of OS minors through classes and the Pre-OT club. We join up with Entry-Level students for the graduate level curriculum. We get to learn alongside Post-Professional Master’s students and OTD students in our electives, and have PhD students as our TAs. From my experience, students get to interact with OTs in all programs.

Questions and answers — Questions about fieldwork? Scheduling? Applying to the OTD after finishing the Master’s? Clinical experience? Our faculty and staff (and student ambassadors!) are responsive to all of our queries. We are also paired with faculty mentors, who are matched based on our interests.

Rehab lab — In the Center for Health Professions, we have a lab for Adult Physical Rehabilitation that includes a hospital setting, a bedroom, bathroom, and fully-functional. We can practice creating and implementing interventions in a real space. You can check out the room on our virtual tour!

Shuttle — There is free transportation between campuses! The shuttle is accessible to everyone, not just students. And shuttle time is great for conversations, naps, or watching shows on your phone. One of the previous ambassadors, Noelle, recorded her shuttle trip.

Trojan Family — Whether it be cheering our team on to victory, ending up at a fieldwork site with USC alumni, or of course networking through the Trojan Network site, the Trojan Family is inclusive, extensive, and supportive.

Undergraduate Study — USC is one of the few schools to offer an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy, which helped me claim my identity as an occupational therapy student and learn to advocate better for the field. We also offer a minor in Occupational Science.

Vibrant student life — Around campus, you will find a bustle of students, whether they be grabbing food at the farmers market or Trader Joe’s or going to football games amidst a sea of cardinal and gold.

Well-established — USC’s OT program lives up to its name. We were the first Master’s degree in OT and the first PhD in OS. We developed Lifestyle Redesign, and we continue to be a top-ranked OT school.

X-amine yourself — Within our classes, we are given opportunities for introspection about how our own beliefs, communication styles, and backgrounds can affect how we come into a client-therapist relationship. For example, we complete a values checklist and share our results with our classmates, leading to (1) introspection, (2) learning to understand and listen to other perspectives, and (3) understanding the position of vulnerability we ask of our clients.

You’re not alone — Whenever I needed help, I had support from faculty. They worked with me to make sure I could participate in band for my senior year while taking classes. They looked at which fieldwork placements best suited my preferences and transportation needs. I’m happy to have resources to go to for anything I need in the program.

Zeal — One thing I have always admired about USC students is their passion. And now, I get to pursue my passion in occupational therapy alongside others who share that zeal to find ways to creatively help others do what they love.

Whew! 26 letters. Felt like a long list, but even so. It cannot sum up the passion for OT and the community that I found these past years. Regardless, I hope that I was able to give you a good glimpse into the program. 😊


Why I Chose to Attend USC >

by Savi

Admissions Classes Fieldwork Getting Involved Living in LA

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During the past few weeks, a plethora of admitted and prospective students have reached out to get a student’s perspective on why we chose to complete our Master’s degree at USC. This simple question has made me reflect on all the wonderful reasons I have enjoyed my time in the program. I have decided to create a list of the reasons I chose to complete my Master’s degree at USC below. I hope this list helps admitted students reading with your decision during this overwhelming and exciting time! This list can also be a great resource for students deciding whether or not to apply to this program in the coming years.

  1. The USC community and connections: Going to USC immediately connects you to a very large group of OTs around the world. With around 130 OT students graduating from the Master’s program each year, the quantity of USC OT alumni is exuberant. This allows current USC students the opportunity to have resources and connections both within and outside the division. Whether you are looking to find a job after graduating or get advice about your career path, you have an extremely high chance of finding USC alumni in your field of choice. This can be really helpful since OTs can work in such a wide range of practice settings and it can get tricky deciding what path may be right for you. During your various fieldwork placements, you are also bound to run into or be mentored by USC alumni and it is great to make those connections with other trojans who understand the curriculum, program structure, etc.
  2. The faculty and resources: As a student, you get the opportunity to learn from some of the most amazing and world-renowned OTs. All of the faculty members have dedicated their lives to OT through clinical work, teaching, and research. These clinicians, researchers, and educators all have an open door policy and capitalize on any opportunity to chat with and get to know students. You can go to them for casual conversation, assistance with schoolwork, guidance in life and your career, and more. This team, along with all of the outstanding cutting-edge research being conducted within our division, gives us the unique opportunity to be some of the first to learn about the most up-and-coming techniques and discoveries. This environment encourages every student to challenge themselves, work hard, and become a leader in the OT field.
  3. The students: As mentioned before, USC admits around 130 students into their Master’s program. This larger class size has given me the opportunity to meet a plethora of different learners and future practitioners. After spending the first summer semester learning from all of these different perspectives in a larger class setting, everyone is split up into three different cohorts of about 40-50 students. The cohorts are small so you get to know everyone really well, but you also get the chance to socialize with the larger group of around 130 students outside of the classroom to learn about their experience in different practice immersions before you take them. The cohorts are further split into 2 groups to make lectures and labs even smaller. The two groups will switch off the order in which they attend lectures and labs, which allows for more individualized attention from the professors during class.
  4. Hands-on work: USC integrates fieldwork into each semester. As an extremely hands-on learner, I was really excited to discover that USC allows students to work at a fieldwork I site once a week during each practice immersion semester. We, therefore, get the chance to go into class three times a week and then apply what we learn in real-time with clients. We can come back each week and debrief with each other and our professors. By doing so, I didn’t feel like I was just a student sitting in class trying to absorb information. I really got the chance to take that knowledge and apply it every week. On top of that, we also are provided with the typical fieldwork II experience, in which we work as full-time OTs for 12-weeks during each summer in a setting of your choice. We have connections with over 950 fieldwork sites across the globe, so the opportunities to work in any field of your choice before graduating are endless. Students also have access to Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital Occupational Therapy and the Faculty Practice, which is the birthplace of Lifestyle Redesign®. Students, therefore, have the opportunity to be mentored in a number of existing and developing practice areas at the outstanding USC hospitals and at the Faculty Practice in order to gain clinical experiences during their program of study.
  5. Los Angeles: Los Angeles is a city with endless OT opportunities. Whatever you may be passionate about in the OT realm…you can find it in LA. Outside of OT opportunities, LA is an amazing place to live. Anything you want to do, see, or eat is in this city. You can go hiking in the morning, sit on the beach in the afternoon, and grab a bite to eat in downtown all in one day! Comedy shows, outdoor adventures, etc…It is ALL here.

#NoRegrets >

by Calvin

Admissions Getting Involved International Life Hacks Living in LA

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Since OT school wasn’t an option for me right out of undergrad, I thought, “Well, I guess it’s time for plan B: to take a gap year.” Except, as time went by, it started to feel less like a back-up plan and more like the decision I should’ve gone with all along!

My gap year happened pretty unintentionally, but I’m honestly so glad that I took that time off. After 4 years of undergrad, I felt burnt out! A change of pace was something I needed and taking a year off to rest and try new things ended up serving me really well. It was because of my gap year that I was able to pursue research in another country, visit family and friends back in Hong Kong, travel around the world, build my professional experiences, study for the GRE, and just overall, take a break from school! Even though I wasn’t on vacation 24/7, my schedule definitely allowed for a lot more flexibility. I also want to emphasize that taking time off before heading to graduate school is completely normal. I might even suggest it because it gave me the time to reflect, mature, and refocus my goals.

I know what it’s like to feel the pressure of securing something for yourself after undergrad. I also know what it’s like when that doesn’t work out. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is a scary thing, but it’s also an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow in ways that we might not have imagined before. So, do what you need to do before starting grad school, and know that you don’t need to jump into it right away. Take the time to think about what’s best for you and your future.

My Gap Year Memories in Photos

Work Tags

I was able to find opportunities to work and volunteer during my gap year 👔

Hawaii Temple

The Byodo-In Temple — Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii Sunset

Chill sunset vibes 🌅

San Diego Tacos

Friends and Tacos El Gordo 🌮 🤤

Messing Around

Spot the difference 🧐

Hong Kong Temple

Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) — Lantau Island, Hong Kong

My Grandparents

Visited my grandpa (公公) and grandma (婆婆) in Hong Kong ☺️

Salm Prings Trip

haha “candid” photo with friends on our annual trip 🤪


Ring In the Season >

by Bethany

Living in LA

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It’s December! The holiday season means it’s time for some of my favorite occupations. Personally, my family and I celebrate Christmas. I wanted to share some of the ways we start setting up for the holiday! Enjoy this poem about how I celebrate Christmas with my family:

The time has come to decorate,
Bring out the boxes. Yes, all eight.
The garland, wreaths, and Christmas tree, 🎄
And in the background: Mariah Carey
Sings her song with jingle bells. 🎶

So deck the halls, enjoy the smell
Of evergreen and peppermint.
Have hot chocolate with the remnants ☕
Of candy canes, whipped cream on top.
Because 70 is cold. Don’t tell me it’s not. ❄️

Take off the lids, open the box. 🎁
Untangle the snafu of Christmas stuff.
Lay out the garlands, row by row,
And check the lights! Make sure they glow. 🌟
The wreaths and garland are put up in style
Giving everyone who walks by a smile.

The Christmas cards are ready, too,
For all our family and friends to peruse. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦
We tell them what happened in our year
And send them a little Christmas cheer.
Sealing all the envelopes ✉️
To exchange some love and hope.

When the cards are done, we snuggle up.
With flannel pajamas and another cup
Of hot chocolate. It’s movie time. 🎅
We argue between “Elf” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The movie starts and brings that wonderful feeling.
That Christmas is here. So ring in the season. 🔔

Hope this gets you in the mood. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ❤️


What I Miss on Campus >

by Bethany

Living in LA

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Now that I’m back home, I find myself often reminiscing about my home away from home. I spent three years on the University Park Campus (UPC) and a fourth year commuting between UPC and the Health Science Campus (HSC), and now I miss both of them. Some places, though, bring back more memories than others. Here are a few of the places I miss going to:

Tommy’s Place — Hidden in the basement of the Tutor Campus Center on UPC, this chill little hideaway is where the pool tables are. I played a few games with friends, and although I’m not that great of a player, I still had a lot of fun. Tommy’s Place is also where the flute section members who had stayed home would gather on away game days to watch the game together.

Adult Rehab Lab — Adult Physical Rehabilitation was one of my first classes in the Master’s Program. Inside the Rehab Lab, I had some of the most physically challenging OT experiences. We worked with standardized patients to help us learn how to best position ourselves to get our clients up and walking after a hip replacement. We also made hand splints. This past semester, I got to enjoy seeing Instagram stories of my friends who are in Adult Physical Rehab go to the lab in masks and face shields to learn how to do transfers to wheelchairs or how to put on a gait belt.

Cromwell Field — From freshman to senior year, I spent so much of my fall semester on Cromwell Field practicing shows. After a long day of classes, I’d run to practice, pull out my piccolo, and play and de-stress. I may have given myself some minor hearing damage (Note to self: use earplugs with a piccolo!), but it was worth it. There’s nothing like saluting the real, live Traveler with “Conquest.” Or running through one last set and realizing Alan Silvestri is there. At your 7am practice. Conducting the finale of the Marvel show. The 2019 Flute Seniors also made a pyramid during band camp. Unforgettable memories.

Cromwell Field

Photo credit: Ben Chua

Bookstore at HSC — It’s a small little store, tucked away in the corner by the food court on the Health Science Campus. But the best part about it: they have OT gear! Get hats, license plate frames, mugs, the whole shebang representing the Division and OT. Sure, the UPC Bookstore may have a Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, but it’s at the HSC Bookstore that you can buy the best gear (Though, I have to admit, this statement is slightly biased).

The Great Lawn — Located in the USC Village, the Great Lawn is conveniently right behind Trader Joe’s. On those nice spring days that aren’t too hot or too cold, where you can see the blue sky above the trees, you’ll find many people sitting out on the lawn to play spike ball or just talk. I have enjoyed a great many picnics out on the Great Lawn, including one where a friendly dog came by and made us throw a frisbee. Multiple times. My own dog preferers belly rubs and napping to catching frisbees, so it was a nice change of pace.

The Great Lawn

Photo credit: USC Flickr

Keck Cafeteria — During lunch, my friend and I would always head over to the cafeteria. They make some amazing, decently-priced quesadillas and wraps. So we would often head over on days where I had not packed a lunch. Another friend of mine took classes nearby and would occasionally meet us there for lunch to talk about life and classes. The cafeteria was a great place to take a break and enjoy some good eats, as well!

Mt. McCarthy — There is a well-known quad right outside of Leavey Library called McCarthy Quad, the center of many school events and our weekly farmer’s market. And right next to this quad, is a hill: the highest point of elevation on the University Park Campus. Many students study, hammock, or both in the shade of the trees. It’s a great spot to get together for lunch with friends, and it’s right next to the weekly farmer’s market.

McCarthy Quad

Photo credit: USC Flickr

Coming back to all of these memories of campus is bittersweet. I miss being on campus. I miss being in each of these places. I miss spending time with people I care about. But for now, it’s enough to reminisce and meet up on Zoom. And hopefully, once things open back up, then, reader, you’ll have some ideas on how to make new memories.

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