Living in LA
Chika with Mika: Life as a Post-Professional Master’s Student 2022 Edition >
November 18, 2022
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!
A Week in the Life! >
November 17, 2022
As a student ambassador, one of the questions I get the most is how my weekly schedule looks like. Do I have time for a part-time job? What about hobbies? Hanging out with friends and family? Basically, when I enroll in this program, will I have a life outside of school? The short answer is yes. I have a great balance of academics and engaging in my favorite occupations.
With that being said, here’s a little glance into a typical week:
Monday: aside from class from 1:30 PM – 5:30 PM, I go to the gym, go grocery shopping, or just sleep in. In the evening, I try to catch the sunset (at least I did before Daylight Savings ended) on one of my favorite short hikes near HSC, Ascot Hills. All USC students have a free membership for the three gyms on UPC and one at HSC.
Tuesday: Level I Fieldwork, a once-a-week hands-on experience at a site in the community (ex. hospital, private clinic, community center, permanent supportive housing, school). I’m here from 10 AM – 4 PM, but your hours will depend on your specific site.
Wednesday: class from 9 AM – 4:30 PM, with a 1.5-hour lunch break to eat lunch and work on a drawing in the craft restorative classroom with my friends. Throughout the semester, there are events led by various student organizations. This week, I attended an open forum with students and Chan leadership to discuss the recent administrative changes in Chan admissions leadership regarding holistic admissions and diversity.
Thursday: class from 9 AM – 4:30 PM, with a 1.5-hour lunch break where I usually work and grab Dunkin’ Donuts from on campus and attend a meeting. Global Initiatives (GI), USC Occupational Therapy and Science Council (OTSC), and Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) are hosting a Friendsgiving dinner.
Friday: I have no class or fieldwork, so I run errands. In the evening, I go out with friends. LA has so many things to do. Here’s a previous student blog about some activities.
I’ve also picked up a handful of occupations over the summer that I mentioned in my previous blog. Work-life balance needs active effort to achieve, but it’s definitely doable in OT school.
Hidden Gems and Resources >
November 8, 2022
Several resources and perks that come with being a USC student aren’t widely advertised. Here is a list of things I accidentally stumbled upon or heard by word of mouth that all students on the health sciences campus (HSC) should know about.
1. One Stop at HSC: Here, you can find discounted movie tickets, theme park tickets, and more! I love going to the movies with my friends and family, but as many of you know, movie tickets can be expensive in LA. At One Stop at HSC, you can purchase discounted movie tickets that don’t expire at Regal Cinemas, AMC Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, etc. My favorite is getting AMC tickets for $10.75 and going to the theater near Universal Studios, with comfy reclining seats!
2. Free HBO Max Subscription: If you love watching movies and TV, I recommend utilizing this free resource for all USC students to help de-stress or when you need a study break! Here are some step-by-step instructions on accessing your HBO max subscription through USC.
3. Cheap food at the Keck Cafeteria: On the days you didn’t eat breakfast or pack a lunch, you can find affordable food at the Keck Cafeteria. You will need to show your student ID to enter the building. You can find the cafeteria on San Pablo St. near the Eric Cohen Student Health Center.
4. Farmers Market: Every Thursday, from around 10 am until 2 pm, there is a mini farmers market on the corner of Alcazar and San Pablo. Several vendors are selling fresh fruit, delicious food, and drinks such as pupusa, shawarma sandwiches, popcorn, and Aguas Frescas! I look forward to being on campus on Thursdays to get a tasty treat from the farmers market.
Practice What You Preach (Seriously) >
November 1, 2022
by Leah Mary
In school, we are told that participating in meaningful occupations, such as playing music, dancing, hanging out with our friends, or eating, is critical for people’s physical, emotional, and mental health. However, as OTs and students, we SUCK at this! I don’t know about you, but my OT balance wheel was always filled with productive hours rather than leisure or play, and I was often burnt out by the middle of the semester.
So last year, I picked up a meaningful hobby . . . hiking! Growing up, I was always big into the outdoors. I would go camping, biking, and cannoning around the Midwest. But, in high school and college, I lost touch with that side because “I didn’t have time.” I often was studying or working and had to prioritize those occupations.
However, when COVID-19 happened, I prioritized my meaningful occupations for my well-being. During my second year in the Master’s Program, I overheard a couple of classmates talking about hiking in Santa Monica. I gravitated toward that conversation and said, “could I possibly join????” During that hike, we shared our love for the outdoors and how much hiking there is in California. We prioritized a hike every weekend and came up with the name “Trailmixers” for our hiking group. And that’s what we did. With intentional planning, we could hike almost every week and still finish our schoolwork. Because of this, I had some of the most meaningful experiences of my life with my best friends. We’ve hiked Mt Baldy, Cucamonga, San Fran, Santa Barbara, Sedona, Pinnacles National Park, Zion, camped in Big Sur, and backpacked in Catalina Island.
My “productive work” has gotten a bit busier now that I’m balancing courses, residency, and campus jobs. However, no matter what, I always make sure I have a hike planned for the weekend. I hope each and every one of you prioritize your meaningful occupations throughout this semester and in life. Because for us to be great OTs, we must practice what we preach and lead by example.
There are excellent resources to start your hiking journey. The AllTrails app can help you plan trips, Airbnb or Recreation.gov to book housing/campsites, the REI store to buy gear, and “Peaks and Professors,” an outdoors club at USC to find a community.
An OT (student) Needs Her Occupations! >
October 31, 2022
I have a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, and I’ve known what OT was for more years of my life than I have not, but this summer I rediscovered the importance of engaging in meaningful activities to add purpose to each day, especially in the midst of stressful life changes (permission granted to say “Duh!” at this point).
This summer was one of the most challenging yet rewarding summers of my life. I spent it completing my Level II fieldwork at a fast-paced outpatient pediatric clinic. Just three days after graduation, I was learning terminology that sounded like a new language, loading up on snacks and interesting podcasts for my 1.5-hour commute, and stomaching my new identity as a post-grad without a real break in between the semesters.
Unsurprisingly, I was burnt out and questioning my competency as an OT student and future clinician. To say the very least, I was exhausted at the end of each day. I felt fulfillment providing care to the (most adorable) kiddos at the clinic, but everyday I was sighing along to the exhaust pipe on my car as Henry (my car) and I made the trip each day. Though only 12 weeks, I knew this current lifestyle was not sustainable for even a short summer. More naps and cups of coffee were not going to cut it for me. I wanted to practice the healthy habits I was taught (and am teaching others) to instill a lifestyle I was proud of and could carry with me to when I am working.
Even though I knew the OT principles and research behind engaging in occupations, it was a little hard to get started. Nothing could beat the thought of being at home, but I remembered how I felt after I forced myself to go on a short run at the park after an especially difficult day at fieldwork. It was an amazing way to decompress and I didn’t even feel significantly more tired!
I thought of my favorite restorative occupations, and reached out to my friends to join me! I spent the remainder of my summer balancing school and life: hiking, making clay ring dishes, running, going to concerts, and trying out new restaurants are some of my fondest memories. I still engage in all these occupations and they bring so much more meaning into my everyday life.
Here’s a little photo recap of my summer!