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Living in LA

Marvyn

So You’re in LA. What To Do? >

by Marvyn

Life Hacks Living in LA

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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!

#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!)

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!

#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!

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!

Silvia

MA-2, Year 2 >

by Silvia

Classes Living in LA What are OS/OT?

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2022 is around the corner and so is the end of my time as a student in the Entry-level Master’s program. It is bittersweet to think that just in a couple of months I will be graduating with a master’s degree in occupational therapy and on my way to my second level-2 fieldwork, before prepping for/taking the NBCOT exam and hopefully becoming an *official* OT.

—Woah. Woah. Woah—

Let’s take it back because that still feels very much unreal. Time truly flies by when you’re having fun…and when you’re not, tbh. But anyway, I would like this blog to focus on the now, and that is entering my second semester of year 2 of grad school. Like many of us often do with a new year though, I first want to reflect on what last semester was like before sharing what I hope for and look forward to in the upcoming one.

Year 2, Semester 1 (Fall 2021):
Last semester tried me, and it almost won. But it didn’t.

You know when you start a new routine and things feel off, but you tell yourself you just have to get into the swing of things, and eventually, you’ll get your mojo back? Well, that’s exactly what the entire Fall 2021 semester felt like, except I never got into the swing of things, nor did I get my mojo back. Was it the classes or the switch to being fully in-person? Idk, but we pulled through and in the process realizations and reevaluations were made. Here are the 2 that stand out to me:

  1. A marker of last semester was applying to the OTD program. This was an interesting time because as I was completing the application, which meant staying one more year for another degree, I was complaining about how I had no more school left in me. So, why was I doing that to myself? I came to the realization that I was on “student autopilot” mode and needed to turn it off to figure out what it was that I truly wanted. I am not sure that I completely know yet, but I realize that I don’t have to keep going to prove myself to anyone (including myself).
  2. Priorities—I spent a lot of time reevaluating these. Before even starting this program, I remember telling my boyfriend that when I’m in school, school is my #1 priority and everything else comes after, but that is definitely not true today. Understanding the importance of meaningful occupations and their impact on my mental health has helped me shift my priorities around. Last semester I spent less time worrying about school and more time loving on my family, spending quality time with friends, and focusing on my physical health.

Though I felt lost most of last semester, I think I actually found myself.

Year 2, Semester 2 (Spring 2022):
We’re ringing in the new year and new semester with a remote start. Back to Zoom we go, but I am not mad about it. Fingers crossed that it is only temporary! I have a good feeling about the Spring 2022 semester, and I am looking forward to 2 things in particular: electives and spending more time with friends before we part our ways after graduation.

  1. Did you know that the electives are graded CREDIT/NO CREDIT? I didn’t. But now that I do, it is a game-changer. The semester hasn’t even started, but I am already not stressed. *Knock on wood and fingers crossed this stays the same* Also, this semester we are no longer taking classes as cohorts, which means I get to mingle with the rest of our class :’). I am most excited about the pediatric-based courses that I will be taking because that is the area of practice that I am interested in. I’ll be taking OT 567 (Contemporary Issues: Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention), OT 575 (Dysphasia Across the Lifespan: Pediatrics Through Geriatrics), and OT 578 (Therapeutic Communication: Facilitating Change in Clients)—I will let you all know how it goes!
  2. One of my meaningful occupations is spending time with friends. From study dates to Friendsgiving dinners, I cherish all the memories made. This upcoming semester it is important for me to spend quality time with friends because before we know it, we will be taking different paths—we’ll be at different fieldwork sites, some will be going onto the doctoral program, others will be moving back home, etc. The point is, I want to make the most of next semester with my friends and future colleagues. ❤️

And like that, in the blink of an eye, two years will have flown by.

Marvyn

7 BEST Photos from my PP-MA Classmates >

by Marvyn

Diversity International Living in LA

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In light of the 7th day of Blog-mas, I decided to show off 7 of my wonderful classmates who make our class as unique as it could be. I am so honored to be part of their class, and I figured they needed to be highlighted as well. I asked them what their BEST photo is here in LA so far, and why they think they chose that photo. Check it out!

Cindy Teow: “I really enjoy nature, so hiking at Eaton Canyon with my classmates was the highlight of this season for me! They made hiking enjoyable though the hike was tougher than expected. The same could be said for this semester, their cheerful and helpful disposition made this semester manageable.”

Nandita Raman: “This picture was taken at a place I recently visited place called ‘The Last Bookstore’. It is truly a paradise for book lovers like me. The atmosphere is so warm and cozy, and it brings out the magic of books. This is one of the best places I have been to in LA!”

Tristenne Ocampo: “This photo captures what life has been as an international student in LA — so much life, art, and color! this applies to the food, places, and people I have encountered.”

Florence Yang: “Exploring nature, practicing yoga, and taking photos are all things that bring me joy and energy, and this photo encapsulated my most joyful moment. I took this photo while I was hiking through Switzer falls trail with my friends. I love how this trunk was lying beside the trail, which created the perfect spot for a split!”

Godfrey Lok: “This photo is my personal best in MA-1. It was taken when we had an Halloween celebration event. All of our class dressed up and we were having so much fun in the patio! Could you tell what characters are we mimicking?”

Vanessa Mesa: “This is my best photo because it reminds me of the good days that spontaneity can bring about. Saying yes to last minute events can sometimes turn out to be one of the bests I can look back to!”

Jean Chen: “My new life in LA has become brighter because of getting to know new friends at USC. We could freely share our ups and downs together. Here we are enjoying a meal at my house.”

I would like to thank my classmates for participating in my blog! Living in LA has been a blast for us, international students, and I believe there will be much more adventures to be found along our journey.

Teresa

Fight, Fight, Fight On! >

by Teresa

Admissions Classes Diversity Living in LA

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Tomorrow is the big game and with it comes the long-standing question of Los Angeles: “USC or UCLA?” Forget sideline reporters, say goodbye to sports commentators, play-by-play who? I believe I am the most qualified individual to provide an answer for these reasons:

  1. I went to UCLA
  2. I go to USC
  3. Refer back to reasons 1 and 2

All jokes aside, when I committed to USC for graduate school, I had some concerns about how I would transition from the nation’s #1 public university into the #1 occupational therapy program. Without further ado, here is one Brojan (Bruin turned Trojan, or vice versa)’s totally impartial, and absolutely not at all biased, take on my experiences at both schools.

Quarter System vs. Semester System
At UCLA, we followed a quarter system, meaning each term was 10 weeks long, three terms each academic year. Because of how fast-paced this was, I thought a semester system would be an easy adjustment but sometimes, it still feels like my mind functions on 10 weeks’ time. Kind of like when you return from traveling somewhere really far and have to readjust to the time difference. Yeah — just like that, but for a much longer period of time. For example, I am currently entering week 14 out of 16 and my mind is saying to the semester, “...You’re done. You’re done. You should be three weeks into the next term already.” Because 16 weeks and NOT 10? The math is just not mathing for me. What does make sense for me, however, is how nice it feels to have time to sit with content, follow up about anything I need clarification on, and really feel like I’m learning and not just regurgitating. And it doesn’t hurt that with the longer terms come longer breaks!

Public University vs. Private University
Growing up, the words “private school” sounded so elite and since public school was all I had known, attending a public university like UCLA after high school felt like the natural progression, so I didn’t even bother applying to USC.

A photo of Teresa in May 2012 standing in the USC Bookstore. She has superimposed a bear emoji on top of her face. She is wearing a UCLA shirt and gesturing to the USC shirts hanging in the store.

Sophomore me visiting the USC Bookstore on a high school field trip in May 2012. The irony is not lost on me that I now have the sweater in the background, which I am currently wearing while writing this.

When applying to OT school, a part of me still held the notion that private = elite and public = diversity, but that myth was quickly dispelled when I met my classmates, who are each so different and unique in their backgrounds, life perspectives, age, appearance, and interests, thanks to the holistic admissions process implemented at USC Chan. The insights shared by my classmates both in and out of the classroom have been quintessential to facilitate my learning as I continue to develop my clinical identity. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that my classmates will be entering practice as some of the most culturally responsive clinicians this field has to offer and that their clients and future generations will be able to see themselves in their providers.

My family always emphasized that education is an investment to give myself the best chance at life, so when deciding which program to attend, what better is there than the best? I could think of no better place to invest in myself than at USC Chan, which, in case you forgot, is the #1 occupational therapy program in the nation, and it shows. It’s pretty surreal to walk the halls of the Center for Health Professions (CHP) and know that it’s the birthplace of sensory integration, occupational science, Lifestyle Redesign, and so much more. Occupational therapy students all over the world are learning through textbooks written by the same professors you get to see face-to-face everyday. Since starting this program, it’s been clear that our faculty, staff, ambassadors, student leaders, and alumni are committed to fostering a space where the next generation of occupational therapists can both advocate for our profession while challenging it to change to meet client needs.

Undergraduate Degree vs. Graduate Degree
The pursuit of my undergraduate degree was filled with twists and turns regarding what career I wanted that degree to lead to — pediatrician, lawyer, software engineer, teacher, and at one point, even paleontologist! I am always amazed (and slightly jealous) when I hear Bachelor’s to Master’s students share why they chose to pursue OT when they were a senior in high school, because I didn’t know about OT until I was 20. While I don’t regret my journey because it’s what led me here today, I will say school was so much harder when I didn’t know what I was meant to do. It was also so much harder when I couldn’t imagine myself ever using organic chemistry or multivariable calculus in my career, yet still had to take those classes in order to get my degree. To this day, the fact that I know how to draw molecular structures using benzene rings or chair conformations has not served me. Not once!

Entering graduate school provided an opportunity for a clean slate. I was able to start over as a student at a new school but this time, as a student with a strong understanding of what I wanted while taking courses focused on what I was interested in. By acknowledging that all of the content I learn in the classroom could be applied to practice, being a student has become a more engaging and meaningful experience.

So, USC or UCLA?
This question is hard to answer because ultimately, I am so thankful to both. My experiences at UCLA led me here to USC, where I find myself growing professionally and personally everyday. Both allowed me to be close to home and near my family, who I wouldn’t be here without. At one, I was able to identify my weaknesses and at the other, take a strengths-based approach. This past weekend, I showed my friends Silvia and Vanessa around UCLA, where we sat next to Janss Steps and talked for hours.

This image consists of two separate images on either side. On the left side, my friend and fellow ambassador Silvia is just out of frame, sitting on the grassy knoll next to Janss Steps at UCLA. On the right side, there is a picture of three girls. From left to right is Silvia, myself, and my friend and classmate Vanessa.

Left: Sitting on the grassy knoll next to Janss Steps at UCLA. Pictured: Silvia Hernandez-Cuellar. Right: Me and my pals (and USC Chan classmates), Silvia and Vanessa ElShamy.

While walking the same paths I used to take to class, I remembered how I felt there when the thought of becoming an occupational therapist seemed like a distant, unattainable dream because I couldn’t see past who I was on paper — just another GPA, GRE score, and 1000 words. And becoming a USC Chan occupational therapist? Dream on.

Look at you now. Fight, fight, fight on. 💙🐻💛✌️❤️

Seth

Forget Fall Recess, this is a Fall Reset! >

by Seth

Living in LA

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Hello and howdy folks! Here at Chan, we are officially halfway through our semester and I think I could speak for most of my classmates and, dare I say, students everywhere that it’s time for a breather. From midterms to applying to graduate programs, or even just putting the pedal to the metal over the past eight weeks, now is a perfect time to renegotiate your time and reconnect with who you are in addition to being a student.

Before we dive in, I want to make something clear: the way you’re feeling, be it smelling the roses, being deep in the thorns, or somewhere in between, is valid. As rewarding as school is, it’s also hard work, and giving space for both of those things to coexist is important. It’s also easy to say that all of our stress is coming from school, but if I’ve learned anything about occupational therapy (and I sure hope I have!), it’s that we’re multifaceted people with unique roles, habits, and routines. Life does not go on pause because we’re enrolled in an academic program. My peers are parents and partners and more, oh my! No matter what those roles and routines are, I’m here to remind you that you are not alone. Check-in on each other, share support and resources, and sometimes make sure to give yourself a reset!

Here are some questions that I found valuable heading into, during, and after Fall Recess. I hope they can guide you through your reset too!

On the Horizon

  • How are you? This everyday question, the one most people respond to with “I’m fine” or “I’m good” can really pack a punch when you give yourself the space to reflect on an honest answer. If you feel that punch, it’s time for a reset. This question is also a perfect launchpad for the rest of these questions.
  • What is contributing to these feelings? and What do you need? Together, these questions are the first step to time management. Identifying our hierarchy of needs with our responsibilities can help address our stressors while also providing the opportunity to get back in touch with ourselves. Addressing what needs to happen paves the way for the wants. That may mean studying for the next midterm, but it may also mean sleeping in. It may even be a meal you didn’t prepare yourself or a skateboarding adventure around LA. Don’t be afraid to challenge your definition of “need” and explore what nourishes you because that is just as valuable to your well-being as being productive with your work.

Into the Thick of It

  • What is something that you’ve missed? Is there something you’ve put off or even forgotten that you’ve enjoyed because things kept piling up? That’s a reset moment. These are the sort of things you can return to time and time again. Maybe it’s the book that’s sat untouched on your nightstand for the past eight weeks. Or the embroidery project of Judy Garland that you only dedicate 12 minutes a week to between classes (Just me? Good to know). No matter what it is, find what brings you joy and make it happen! The world is your oyster, it’s time to look for your pearl.
  • When did you last have an enjoyable experience? What was it? What can you do to capture that feeling again? This is more of a one-and-done sort of moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and find it again. Sometimes the moments and experiences that are fleeting are all the more impressionable.

The Weeks Ahead

  • What will you take with you for the rest of the semester? Although it’s easier to have a reset moment when you’re given the time to do so, the little things go a long way too! Think about how you will integrate your reflections into your schedule (or just commit to spontaneity) and be the change.
  • What will you leave behind? Just as important as adding meaningful activities into your days is letting go of those that aren’t serving you as well anymore. There are only so many hours in the day so this time to explore reorganizing yours.
  • What have you learned? The questions above may be best answered by this one. Maybe your reset experience was much more abstract and you’re taking away lessons and reflections, or maybe you’re leaving behind an attitude or perspective.

How you go about your reset is up to you, but it may be helpful to journal, talk with someone, or just think to yourself. If I could leave you with anything, it’s that first and foremost, you’re a human being and it’s okay to reconnect with your humanity. Otherwise, if I see you in the halls, if you engage with Chan on social media, or if you want to comment below let me/us know how you’ve spent your Fall Recess, we’d love to hear about what brings you joy!

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