All About That Quarantine Life (Experiences + Study tips) >
November 27, 2020
Studying in quarantine is something that none of us has ever done before, so for those of you who are feeling lost, well, you are not alone! As I have mentioned in my previous blog, this has brought me feelings of anxiety too as I was about to take my final exams (which all went pretty well by the way, yay!). As I have spent a whole semester of figuring out how to navigate this new setup (all while trying my best to look like I have it all together…lol), I have picked up a few hacks that some of you may find beneficial:
Develop healthy habits and routines
- One of the benefits that many of us have found from doing remote learning is getting to skip the extra steps of having to prepare for and travel to school. With classes being held online, you really only have to worry about being presentable from the chest up (because they’re never going to find out if you’re still in your jammies anyway, right?) and traveling from your bed to your study desk right beside it. I am not even going to lie, I enjoyed being able to just roll out of bed and go straight to class whenever I don’t feel like getting up early. While this might have given me extra hours of precious sleep, in the long run, I realized it became an unhealthy habit I had adopted. I started from waking up at least an hour before class, to 30 minutes prior, to 5 minutes before, and there was even a time that I was late because I overslept (a huge shout out to my dear classmates who noticed I was missing and immediately gave me a wakeup call)! I mean, yeah, everyone has those down days when you’re just feeling extra tired and in need of more sleep; but I realized I had overused this benefit to the point that I had been skipping breakfast altogether for consecutive days. Over time, I found my everyday routine drastically changing — eating habits were disrupted and irregular sleeping patterns have developed — ultimately affecting my study habits because the lack of routine often left me feeling all over the place and unable to focus. And so, I really would suggest waking up a little bit earlier before class to give you some time to eat a good breakfast, savor your cup of coffee, take a shower, maybe do some reading on the materials, and really, to just get your mind oriented and ready for class. And honestly, who doesn’t love just getting a moment to yourself at the start of the day? Besides, how you begin your day kind of sets the stage of how the rest of your day is going to look like, so try your best not to start it in such a rush.
Set up your space neatly
- Not only do you need to set up your mind, you also need to set up your space all ready for work. A cluttered environment = a cluttered mind! I ended up getting a new desk and chair that’s ergonomically correct for my workstation to facilitate proper posture, but this really isn’t a necessity. There are many ways to adapt and work with what you currently have (using pillows for your back, step stool for feet support, etc.) — we as OTs know all about this! I’ve had to experiment a couple times playing with different positioning of my desk that works best for me in relation to lighting, room temperature, and appearance on Zoom background (making sure the space behind me has low traffic to avoid bloopers during class, LOL).
- I know, you’re probably already tired of hearing this; but truth be told, this new setup has got us sitting in front of our computers for most of the day — without us even realizing it! I admit, I, too, am a victim of this. The advent of technology has advanced the speed of information processing by a ton, that it’s getting harder and harder for us, humans, to keep up. Nevertheless, we still try our best to answer emails as soon as they get to our inboxes, and accomplish any other task that needs to be done “just to get it out of the way,” am I right? The to-do list goes on and the next thing you know, you had already been working for hours straight. And when you finally decide to take a minute to pause, that’s when you’re going to feel them all at once — strained eyes, pain from the neck all the way to your lower back, hungry stomach, tired arms and fingers from hours of typing with poor posture. This is why I really appreciate our professors who sees to it that they allot some time during the class to give us multiple breaks as our chance to stretch, hydrate, go to the restroom, or grab something to eat (to be honest, sometimes I even take a nap — just make sure you wake up in time!). You can also set up your own physical activity reminders at different points throughout the day using your smartphone or watch.
- In relation to my previous tip, I found it helpful to incorporate exercise in my weekly routine as my form of physical activity to battle this increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Of course, it’s not like I just woke up one day deciding to start working out and then consistently did it. New routines take time to develop, so don’t be too hard on yourself! You really don’t want this to be another source of pressure for you aside from other responsibilities that you already have. What definitely helped me get motivated and stick to the schedule was doing it with my friends, who also happened to be in the same program as mine — leaving us with pretty much similar class schedules and free time to exercise.
Study in groups
- Since we’ve already set up workout sessions, might as well extend it to study sessions with friends too! I know, you’re practically already in Zoom most of the day for classes so you might ask: why choose to add more hours on the screen? Well, for me, seeing other people (albeit virtually) so focused on studying gives me the boost to do my own studying too. Basically, one of us sets up a meeting and keeps it open for several hours where people are free to come and go. This gives everyone a little bit of flexibility since we all have other responsibilities in our own busy lives. As a bonus, if we do a great job focusing for a couple hours, we reward ourselves with a few minutes to chill and casually talk with each other (someone’s gotta be responsible in making sure we go back to studying, though!)
In addition to these, you can also check out Savi’s blog and find some tips on staying organized! I hope you find these useful for your own studying, especially those who will be taking their comprehensive exams next month. You got this! Best of luck to you all, and Fight On!
You didn’t come this far to only come this far >
November 13, 2020
It’s Friday! Should I dare say “TGIF” when I’ll be facing final exams next week? Probably not! It’s incredibly hard to believe that we’re only a week away before the fall semester comes to a close. It’s been roughly a 3-month long semester of online classes, asynchronous lectures, countless readings, presentations, and assignments. I was so caught up in juggling all these requirements for weeks on end (plus a part-time job as a student ambassador on top of it all), that they all just seemed endless—and yet here I am, already working on completing all the final requirements for the courses I enrolled myself in. As I try to let this reality sink in, various mixed feelings inevitably surface.
Do I feel ready for the finals? Did I really learn everything that I needed to in class? To be honest, I have spent the last few weeks feeling anxious about this upcoming exam week. I had always been this very organized person who likes to stay on top of things; however, the rigorous workload oftentimes just left me feeling overwhelmed. Adding to this are feelings of loss of control brought about by the myriad of things happening in the outside world that I cannot simply detach myself from, despite just being cooped up in my room practically all day.
Somehow, I managed to pull through one day, week, and month after the other; that I had barely noticed the time swiftly passing by. As I was starting to prepare myself to study for the exams, sifting through all the course materials, I couldn’t help but question myself if I had really absorbed a whole semester’s worth of learning (I guess we’ll find out in a week or so, right? Stay tuned for my next entry!).
A little reassurance for myself (and anyone of you who needs it) would have to do for now: you didn’t come this far to only come this far! I personally find it helpful when I remind myself of the time I was in this same fearful state as I was just about to enter the program a couple months ago: being a new immigrant to this country, struggling to find a support system, adjusting to the remote learning setup—all while having to deal with problems concerning personal relationships. It wasn’t exactly the ideal way to start the semester; nevertheless, here I am, halfway done through the program!
This is not to say that I made it here all on my own, though. My ever-supportive family, my very encouraging professors who are always willing to support their students in any way, my MA1 classmates whom I constantly meet with virtually whether it’s to create reviewers together or simply hang out, and the amazing friends I met at USC Chan along the way—all have brought me here. I encourage everyone to draw strength from your support systems, most especially when the going gets tough.
Good luck to all those students taking their final exams next week! As always, Fight On!
Life as a Student Worker >
November 2, 2020
“Is it possible to work while studying?” This is one question that frequently comes up and understandably so, given the full-time enrollment and the intensive nature of the academic programs at USC Chan. The answer to this question is yes, it is a possibility for one to work while studying. Although it really depends a lot on the individual, I would say roughly about 10-12 hours per week is recommended. To give you a better idea on how this is dispersed throughout the week, I am going to share with you my typical work-study schedule and some of my duties as a student ambassador.
As a Post-Professional Master’s student, I am currently taking a total of 18 units for this fall semester, comprised of 3 core courses (8 units) and 3 elective courses (10 units). For a better visualization, here’s a table showing how my weekly class schedule looks like.
As you can see, you really only spend a few hours of your day sitting in class. However, do note that for each course, there are out-of-class activities and requirements that need to be worked on, which could take up a substantial portion of your time.
I schedule my work hours as a student ambassador around my class schedule, so I typically work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the morning before my class, totaling to 10 hours per week. One thing that I really like about being a student worker at USC Chan is the flexibility in scheduling that they give students that allow us to move our time around in case we have exams or other requirements to prepare for. This is also made possible by the amazing team of student ambassadors who are always willing to help out whenever one of us is having trouble fulfilling our duties. Our supervisor, Kim, never fails to remind us on every team meeting to prioritize our academics and also take care of our health.
One of my tasks as a student ambassador is to liaise with Global Initiatives for certain projects. This is another area where I find the flexibility in scheduling really helpful, especially for time-sensitive projects, because you can choose to dedicate most of your work time to accomplishing it or even work on the weekend if you’re willing to. For example, for the recent World OT Day last October 27, we created a video that shows how people all over the world have reimagined their doings. Check it out below!
Sometimes, I also give informational presentations together with the admissions team, as part of our role to help raise awareness about occupational therapy and our programs at USC. Other ways we can disseminate information and share our experiences as current students and student workers is by posting to Chan Division social media accounts (check us out on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!), writing blog posts about our experiences, and answering questions from prospective students. Lastly, student ambassadors also partake in certain steps of the admissions process, with the guidance of our Director of Admissions, Dr. Anvarizadeh.
Start Your Applications Early! >
October 16, 2020
It is now mid-October and I could hardly believe that it’s already been a year since I submitted my application for the Post-Professional Master’s Program at USC! It seems like it was only yesterday that I was browsing the USC Chan admissions website for hours on end, feeling anxious about my application. Luckily for me, the whole process went by smoothly and didn’t turn out to be as stressful as I had anticipated; and I’m about to share with you some tips that made my application hassle-free:
- Do your research. First and foremost, know what you’re getting into. The Chan Admissions page is a great resource where you can find all the information that you need. I know at first glance it could feel overwhelmingly packed with a lot of information from every tab, so what I did to help myself get organized was I created a document containing all the essential information about the program—location of the school, program duration, admission criteria, etc. Having this document handy makes it a lot easier whenever questions pop up at any time. Venturing onto something new always seems daunting at first, especially if you’ll be coming from a different country, but being informed helps you stay on top of things and consequently alleviate some anxiety you may be having about the application.
- Develop a plan. The application process entails a lot of steps that you can’t just complete all in one sitting. Once you’ve done your research and more or less get a sense of the requirements that you need to complete, it’s now time to create a checklist that will help you better track where you are at, and what else needs to be done. It is of course vital to take note of important deadlines so you don’t miss them. Should you need to take any exams, such as English proficiency, make sure to schedule them as soon as possible to give you some leeway for any potential delays. In doing so, take into consideration not only the length of time you need to prepare for the exam, but also the amount of time it takes for the results to come back (and if the results are going to be sent to you, consider also the time it’ll take you to mail the results to the university, if need be).
- Have your documents ready. This is particularly important if you’ll be coming from a different country—you want to make sure that you have everything that you need on hand before moving. Needless to say, it takes up more time, effort, and resources to be requesting for documents remotely; so before you go, request all the documents you think you may need, and get extra copies! Also keep in mind that for any document that is not in the English language, you may need to have them translated.
- Take time to create your personal statement. Irrespective of how good of a writer you are, really put much thought and effort into crafting your personal statement. Read and absorb the prompt, then answer it with honesty and in a manner that reflects who you are. Don’t feel pressured trying to figure out what they’re looking to read from your essay; instead, draw on your experiences that will make your application stand out. Last but not the least, stay within the word limit and be careful not to overlook any typographical and grammatical errors.
- Explore financial resources. Funding for graduate school can be quite challenging, so take advantage of the many financial resources being offered at USC. Aside from scholarships and awards, there are also student worker positions that you can apply for, with work hours that can adjust to fit around your class schedule. You can find more information in the Scholarships and Financial Aid page.
- Don’t hesitate to ask! If, at any step during the process, you find yourself in need of some clarification about anything, the student ambassadors Bethany, Calvin, Daniel, Lamoni, Liz, Savi, and myself are always willing to provide support!
My first time on campus >
October 2, 2020
From the time I enrolled in my Master’s program at USC, one thing I had really been looking forward to was getting to visit the beautiful campus that I have only been seeing in pictures. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and in efforts to socially distance, I have not been able to do this since most of our classes had to be held remotely. One of the courses I was enrolled in, however, entailed an on-campus lab class which gave me the opportunity to finally visit the campus for the first time!
If you’d like to see my experiences during my first time on campus and are curious about the safety protocols in place to keep the Trojan community safe and healthy, check out my video below!
[Credits to Elmo Nicolas for some of the video clips]