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USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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What are OS/OT?

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Leah

Tips for Your Personal Statement >

by Leah

Admissions Life Hacks What are OS/OT?

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Here are some tips and tricks on what helped me write my personal statement 😊

1. Reflect on what matters to you and see how it aligns with the school’s mission

I thought, why do I want to be an OT? I read through the division’s mission and most resonated with its commitment to inclusion. I then jotted down experiences and parts of my life that I most valued and thought related to this theme of inclusion.

2. Try finding a theme between your experiences to create a cohesive story.

This was a piece of advice I received from a previous mentor. I knew I had valuable experiences volunteering at an oncology camp, working in permanent supportive housing, and then working at a multiple sclerosis clinic. Still, these all felt like such different populations, so I needed to figure out how to share my story without feeling like I was jumping all over the place.

My mentor asked me questions such as:

How did one experience influence or lead to another?
What did you value in each of these experiences?
How did you continue to grow throughout these experiences?
Is there a commonality in how these experiences made you want to be an OT?

3. Get other eyes on your writing!

I know it can feel uncomfortable or even embarrassing to have other people look at what you have written. Still, I found it helpful to overcome that fear and get other people’s input. I wanted to see if my writing was conveying the message I wanted to share. For my statement, I had willing co-workers, mentors, and even roommates read through my essay. I received input such as: “this section is confusing” and “wow, I loved this story, focus more on that!” The most helpful thing I did was read my statement out loud with my roommate. I could identify awkward phrases, grammatical errors, and unnecessary words. Reading out loud was the most helpful in cutting my statement down to the required character count.

For all those applying this cycle, you got this!!

Mika

10 Things I Hate About Occupational Therapy >

by Mika

International What are OS/OT?

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The other night I was watching the classic romantic comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You, featuring the spunky Julia Stiles and the ever-so-charming Heath Ledger. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the scene of Patrick (Heath) dancing to Can’t Take My Eyes off You to swoon Kat (Julia), I think my favorite scene would still be the one where a tearful Kat lists down the 10 things she hates about Patrick in front of their whole class.

This scene got me thinking of a new idea for a blog post; and since World OT Day is coming, why not write a blog about 10 things I hate about OT?! Ironic, I know, but bear with me in this one.

So, without further ado, here are 10 things I hate about occupational therapy:

1. I hate that there is a lack of OTs.

2. I hate how OT services are viewed as a “privilege,” creating a lack of accessibility, especially for clients living in rural areas.

Back home in the Philippines, occupational therapy is deemed to be a profession in demand as there are more patients compared to the number of OTs. Although this may be a good thing for us in terms of job security, it is not quite ideal since a lot of patients who need our services are not receiving them immediately due to long waitlists and financial constraints. Most especially in rural areas, a lot of clients are usually left at home without proper care due to these issues. It is definitely not the best feeling to know how to help these clients but unable to do so due to lack of resources, time, and energy.

3. I hate how most OT principles are mostly based on Western perspectives.
Currently, I am taking a class in Occupational Science where my classmates and I are divided into small groups to discuss common issues in the practice of OT. One issue we discussed was that OT principles, frameworks, and models were mostly based on Western perspectives, making it difficult at times to adapt to non-Western cultures. With this, I think OTs, especially those who come from non-Western countries, should strive to adapt and promote their own culture and expertise to make the current knowledge more global.

4. I hate when some patients think OT is “magic” like a prescribed drug.
I say this not with the intention to put blame or shame on anyone, but rather, to put to light how a medical perspective is still favored over a more holistic one. Because of this, I strive to educate the caregivers of my pediatric clients to trust the process, to be patient with themselves and their children, and to always be mindful of the little wins they have in therapy.

5. I hate it when the profession is not known and often confused with Physical Therapy or with “Over Time.”

6. I hate how I get a professional identity crisis from time to time.

Numbers 5 and 6 are basically how you tell someone is an OT without saying you’re an OT. I would like to continue emphasizing the need and importance of Occupational Science to address these very common issues we face as a profession.

7. I hate when I was baptized by fire on my first day in my first job as a pediatric OT with tantrums, bites, and projectile vomit.
Honestly, I don’t hate it as much because I just think of it as a very funny fake-it-till-you-make-it story from my first years as a young professional. Looking back, I’m proud of myself for my growth as an OT in handling these situations and I thank my mentors in my pediatric centers (Shoutout to Therabilities South Therapy Center!) for guiding me.

Halloween celebration in the pediatric clinic I worked in!

Halloween celebration in the pediatric clinic I worked in!

8. I hate when parents or patients forget the big picture and get frustrated with their performance toward their goals.
I have worked with a lot of amazing parents who would move mountains for their children if they could. I would at times witness them (or even my patient) frustrated when their children are having bad days and would blame themselves for it. With this, I always reminded them that progress in therapy is not linear. There will be good days and there will be bad days. I would be the proudest therapist when my clients don’t let these bad days define their worth.

9. I hate when I could not hide my ugly-cry when I had to say goodbye to my clients before moving here to the States.
I would definitely say that my toxic trait is being a clingy therapist. It was absolutely the greatest honor to have been a therapist to my amazing, sassy, and silly kiddos whom I miss everyday.

My client and I during our last session before I left for the States.

My client and I during our last session before I left for the States. (Picture taken and posted with consent from the caregiver.)

Telehealth Halloween celebration with my clients!

Telehealth Halloween celebration with my clients! (Picture taken and posted with consent from the caregiver.)

10. (And in the most dramatic Julia-Stiles-performance I can give) “But mostly, I hate the way, I don’t hate [OT]. Not even close. Not even a little bit. Not even at all!”
I love my job and I believe that I have found my niche, my ikigai, in OT. Cheers to the profession that has helped me find purpose and meaning in my own life! <3

Advanced Happy World OT Day, everybody!

Aisha

My Grandma and Why I Chose OT >

by Aisha

Admissions Diversity What are OS/OT?

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When my aunt first told me about OT, I was intrigued! I still didn’t quite know what OT was, but I liked the idea of a profession that considers a person’s mental and physical well-being. As a high school student, psychology captivated me because it emphasized the importance of mental health. At the time, I had concerns for my mental health and wellness. However, my mom was apprehensive about sending me to a therapist whose values didn’t align with ours. It was the catalyst that inspired me to strive towards becoming that person for people in my community. In college, my OS minor courses taught me how occupations could impact all aspects of an individual’s health.

I first witnessed the power of occupation with my grandma. She suffered a stroke several years ago, and I observed this lively woman, who loved to belly dance and cook, develop symptoms of depression and decline in function. I vividly remember bringing her to the dance floor at my cousin’s wedding. We were spinning around, dancing, and having a good time. From behind her wheelchair, I saw she was moving BOTH of her arms and raising them higher than she had in a long time! When I looked at the pictures later that evening, I saw the pure joy on her face. That picture reminded me how powerful meaningful activities could be in motivating people and supporting health and well-being.

My grandma and me on the dance floor

My grandma and me at my cousin’s wedding!

After her stroke, my grandma was sent home from the hospital with no rehab services. The disparities in the healthcare system and the limited access to resources impacted her recovery. I want to help ensure underserved communities have access and the knowledge to advocate for resources/services. OT, a profession that holistically considers the person, their environment, and the occupation and focuses on what matters to the patient, is the perfect way for me to pursue that goal. I want to be that person my younger self and individuals like my grandmother needed while consistently practicing cultural humility and respecting unique cultures.

Yoojin

From Enemies to Friends . . . to Lovers: My Occupational Therapy Journey! >

by Yoojin

Admissions First-Gen What are OS/OT?

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(Spoiler: they fall in love at the end!)

When I tell folks that I’ve known about OT since before I even knew how to spell the words, they tell me how lucky I am to have discovered my passion at a very young age, especially in such a niche profession.

And don’t get me wrong, they’re totally right! I see how there is a perfect plan for me, part of which is to attend OT school to become an occupational therapist. However, like most people outside of the healthcare community who know what OT are: there’s a good chance it’s because they or a loved one have experience with receiving therapy services.

My love story with OT starts like this: OT wasn’t always a great passion of mine. In fact, at one point in my life I despised it so much I didn’t want to go into the healthcare field at all! (Here’s some context about me now: those around me can attest that OT is one of my favorite things to blabber about. In fact, someone I met recently asked, “So, is OT just like, your thing, Yoojin?” after I spent a good chunk of our conversation talking about my first Level II fieldwork this past summer. Well, maybe I should’ve dialed it down…he was a physical therapist after all 🤔).

Similar to a relationship between a pair of friends or lovers, it’s hard to remember the rockier parts of my relationship with OT because it’s at such a healthy state right now. But as I look back on my journey of grace, forgiveness, and love in my relationship with OT, I know it’s one that I really want to share. So here it goes….

I wouldn’t exactly say that I “discovered” OT, because that would imply that I was in search of something of the sort. Hm. So would it be more like I was “inescapably, involuntarily compelled into learning about OT”? That makes it sound like someone committed a crime against me. Well, that’s exactly how I felt throughout my childhood as a family member of someone who’s receiving OT services. I was too young to stay home alone, so I was forced to tag along. To almost every. Single. Appointment.

This meant I missed out on playdates and hanging out on the playground after class, both foolish, yet simple pleasures for a little selfish, elementary-aged Yoojin. But, I mean, why was I forced to play the third parent and the unpaid translator (shoutout to us first-gen children of immigrants!) rather than play tag or house? I cringe now at my shallow desires, but my years of frustration from holding such roles grew into a seed of bitterness in my heart toward OT and the clinic, the place where my childish dreams laid to rest. As much as I knew how much it strained my parents to be caregivers and parents, I pushed them away and continued to wallow in my self-pity.

It wasn’t until years later when it came to applying for college when things finally started to shift, and I took several weeks to reflect on what I really wanted to do. After countless talks with my mentors, late nights thinking, and tears spilled over wondering if I was destined to do nothing, I realized that OT was the only profession that I’d spent hundreds of hours observing and knew for a fact what I’d be getting myself into: a selfless, fulfilling, individual-oriented profession that works to improve the lives of clients by helping them achieve their personal goals.

During this time, my family and I exchanged so much grace and forgiveness. I fell more in love with OT as I rediscovered it on my own terms. Since applying and getting into the BS-MA (now the BS-OTD) program right here at USC, I’ve grown so much appreciation and love for this profession and never looked back. Love truly does conquer all! In my case, I was able to loosen my hardened heart filled with misplaced hatred for OT and foster it into a deepened empathy for my future clients’ needs. Give me all those cheesy pins and notepads that say “I ❤️ OT,” because I really, really do!

Me, over-the-world at the Admitted Student Reception in 2018!

Me, over-the-world at the Admitted Student Reception in 2018!

Bryan M.

My Two Left Feet >

by Bryan M.

Getting Involved What are OS/OT?

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A common experience for burgeoning occupational therapists is the difficulty in explaining what OT is and why “occupations” are significant. Rather than giving you my “elevator pitch” definition, I thought I’d show you one of the ways I came to discover the superpower that is “occupation”.

Admittedly, I have two left feet. I am no dancer, and those closest to me can attest to that. Sure, I can find a rhythm, but you will never catch me impressing a crowd with my movement abilities. However, a key part of my undergraduate experiences, shaping me into the occupational therapy student I am today, was a dance performance that I took part in on USC’s largest stage in front of hundreds of people.

For context, I was a part of a student-run nonprofit organization in undergrad at USC called Troy Camp, which worked with elementary, middle, and high school students in the Greater Los Angeles Area, providing mentorship, leadership experiences, and academic support. Through this organization, I was able to put on a weekly creativity workshop for 3rd-5th graders at Vermont Elementary School. Modeling after a creativity-based course I took as a part of USC’s Occupational Science Minor, I developed a curriculum to provide an outlet for my students to express their creativity through mediums like filmmaking, dancing, engineering, crafting, and storytelling, among others.

One of my campers and me at the pool during our summer camp

One of my campers and me at the pool during our summer camp

The ending event for this program was a live performance of Zedd’s “The Middle” in front of an audience at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, being a guest to one of USC’s premiere dance groups. The troupe came into the classroom to teach the students and counselors the choreography to the song, and then they gave us the opportunity to showcase our abilities at their yearly showcase.

I remember the night well, but what stands out the most was my interactions with one of my students, Vladimir. A bright, more reserved 3rd grader was attached at my hip for the night. When I first met Vlad, he showed a lot of apprehension and discomfort when exploring the various creative media. He did not feel comfortable expressing his creativity, and he had a lot of trouble connecting with his peers. However, over the course of the 5 months, his confidence had grown immensely, juxtaposing how timid he was when we first met. His attitude changed every week, with phrases like “I don’t want to…” turning into “When are we going to start?” Despite my own uneasiness in performing (because, as a reminder, I am not a dancer), Vlad’s newfound eagerness was heartening. We joined the rest of our group on stage, as Zedd’s “The Middle” came on through the speakers…

This experience, especially my work with Vladimir, serves as a testament to occupation. Vladimir’s disposition exemplifies how occupational opportunities can impact individual lives and inspires me to make my own mark in the field of occupational therapy. Though my program with Vladimir only lasted a year, I saw how his opportunity to engage in new creative occupations drastically improved his demeanor. I want to be an occupational therapist to empower individuals, especially those in marginalized communities, to live rich, fulfilling, meaningful lives, dancing alongside them with my two left feet.

My Creativity Class in front of Bovard Auditorium after our dance performance

My Creativity Class in front of Bovard Auditorium after our dance performance

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