Category Archives: Identity

USC Student voices on Occupational Therapy

By Leah King and Trisha Willie

Editor’s Note

Many of the Conversation Partners and Conversation Leaders at the American Language Institute study in widely different areas, and many have also noticed how their respective fields relate to the global community. Here, two ALI Conversation Partners, Leah King and Trisha Willie, lend their thoughts on the field of Occupational Therapy, how it has impacted their lives, and what it may signify for cultural awareness and learning on a larger scale.

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

[7 minute read]

CULTURAL AWARENESS AND OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY

By Leah King

Currently, I am a first-year graduate student at USC’s Chan Division of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science program. Occupational therapy is a discipline in which therapists have a goal to help individuals better participate in meaningful activities. These activities include eating, going to the bathroom, socializing, leisure activities, cleaning, and other daily activities that they are currently encountering difficulty with due to injury, chronic conditions, or other sets of circumstances. I love occupational therapy because I get to help people compensate or restore their ability to engage in meaningful occupations. Something I have noticed throughout my time studying Occupational Therapy is that meaningful occupations are defined differently between cultures.

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I was raised in a multicultural family interested in learning cultural nuances, hence my Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Area Studies. However, I never thought that my two degrees could work together until now. I gained a deep respect for the practice of cultural awareness from this degree, and I gained relatable experience in cultural responsiveness through various abroad programs and Global Initiatives. As part of a collaborative and diverse team, we continuously develop programs to support the international OT students and Angelenos. Through this experience, I have been able to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures as well as creating cultural awareness amongst others.

Through Global Initiatives I collaborate with the Peer Exchange and Strategic Planning Committee to orchestrate and facilitate various programs and events for the community, such as the Lunar New Year event, Peer Exchange meetings, and Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion Program. Further, I used my role to take it a step further and look for potential collaborations with other organizations such as Front Porch and OTSC Philanthropy to help serve international students and improve the community in Los Angeles.

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

I also get to learn about culture through USC’s American Language Institute as a conversational partner. As a Conversation Partner, I view my role as more than teaching English; I see that the international students have an ultimate goal to integrate into a new culture, and I am committed to helping them achieve this. In addition, I see being a Conversation Partner as also a great opportunity to have a cultural exchange. Whether I’m answering questions about aspects of American culture or learning about Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese culture (to name a few), the cultural exchange that occurs is invaluable.  OT is a career that can have profound impacts on others. I recognize that part of this impact is understanding the need to exercise cultural awareness in not only my practice but also the collective Occupational Therapy profession. My duty as an OT is to help patients lead meaningful lives, which is achieved by learning about different cultures to be an ally and a global citizen.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY HERE AND ABROAD

by Trisha Willie

This past year, I have had the chance to refine one of my passions: Occupational Therapy, my undergraduate major. Many individuals are inhibited in fulfilling their occupations (their meaningful daily and personal activities) because of various circumstances—old age, a neurological disorder, mental illness, or even stress accumulated throughout this pandemic. Occupational therapists help these individuals gain as much independence as possible through rehabilitation, lifestyle modifications, and adjustment strategies.

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If you’ve never heard of OT, you are not alone! Although it is a growing field, I still find myself explaining it to people I meet, and even to my friends and family members who wonder what exactly it is I study at USC. However, you may have heard of it by a different name depending on where you’re from. “Occupational therapy” can be translated in many ways, but even other English-speaking countries call it something different. I learned in one of my classes last semester that some refer to OT as “ergotherapy.” There are also other models of occupational therapy abroad, such as the Kawa Model developed by OTs in Japan. There is even a World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) that sets standards for international OT practice! The WFOT also advocates for global education, research, and leadership, all of which are important for developing the profession. I also learned about this organization in my coursework this past year, and I’ve been really inspired by the idea of promoting OT internationally. The WFOT even has an annual World Occupational Therapy Day (October 27 if you’re interested!) intended for practitioners in all of the organization’s 105 member countries to raise awareness about and celebrate OT.

Continue reading USC Student voices on Occupational Therapy

Soy Sauce spaghetti and Butterfly Migration: Growing Up as a Second Generation American

By Jacqueline Tran

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

My Grandpa, or “goong goong” – the Cantonese phrase for Grandfather – was a chef and grew up in Hong Kong. He obtained citizenship and immigrated with his family to the United States because of his cooking abilities, which makes me a second generation American. As a result, my family traditions have always been a unique blend of classic Asian dishes and holidays mixed with American traditions. One of these traditions is a soy sauce spaghetti dish my grandfather made all the time when I was younger. The ingredients include green onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spaghetti noodles, chicken base, ketchup, salt, oil, sugar, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. My sisters and I loved it, and it satisfied my other second generation cousins’ tastes too. Thinking about this dish makes me aware that my taste is made up of not only my ethnicity, personality, and family, but also the generation that I was born in.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Being a second generation American has allowed me to live as an American while hearing first hand accounts of growing up in another culture from both of my parents. I’ve heard stories about what it was like in Vietnam to eat raw mangoes with fish sauce- before they got ripe, so the animals wouldn’t get to them first- and what it was like to grow up there during the Vietnam war. I’ve heard what it was like for my Chinese grandparents to immigrate from China, with uncertainty and the drive to create more opportunities for their children.

There is a poet and artist named Morgan Harper Nichols, who writes: “Lessons from Monarch Butterfly Migration…Because the lifespan of the monarch butterfly is only a few weeks, it actually takes multiple generations to finally make it back to the north…The monarch butterfly is a reminder of what it means to pave the way. To carry on on a journey that you might not actually live to see the end of.” After reading this, I wondered what events would happen in the future because of the way I live my life now-at school, at work, or with friends. I recognized that I am like the monarch butterfly who makes it to the north (or in this case America) to live the American dream. I attend a university in the United States and get to study for opportunities that weren’t available to the generations before me. I’m a student at USC because of what my grandparents and parents have worked for. I am living the life I am because of ancestors I’ll never know.

Continue reading Soy Sauce spaghetti and Butterfly Migration: Growing Up as a Second Generation American

Return to Practice

By Eileen Kim

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

When I was younger, I understood the concept of practice in the context of the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”. As a child who participated in many sports and played multiple musical instruments, practice referred to the events I worked on to improve my technical skills. At practice, I would learn how to do better through acts of repetition and intentional change. 

Eventually, I chose to centralize my practice towards my passion for dance. With my goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, practice took on a whole new layer of meaning. I worked daily and repeatedly at a set of physical movements in ballet to improve and refine my technique. This repetition led to growth and mastery within ballet and my practice became understood as a necessary means that would result in self-improvement.

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As I got older, my conception of practice began to evolve. My practice became grounded in the habitual sense of coming back to something. There was still a level of mastery that I was after, but it was more so realized as a continuous and infinite pattern that I felt compelled to return to. Year after year and almost every day, I would start again at the ballet barre where I would repeat the same series of physical movements. But the sameness of this repetition never bored me, because everyday was different and I was different everyday. Every day brought its own joys and challenges, and everyday I came back with 24 more hours of lived experience. Everything surrounding me was in a constant state of change and the stability of my daily practice became like a refuge for me, one that I could always return to and find comfort in.

As I reflect on how I approach my practice in the present, I have found that in many ways, practice is similar to a routine. The habitual nature of both concepts are the same, but practice puts an intentionality to the repetition and implies a sense of growth. The contents of our daily routines can be the same as our daily practices, but approaching our daily routines as daily practices can drastically reframe how we approach our lives. For me, practice no longer only refers to the physical practice I put into my dancing body. My daily practices encompass how I approach my life, what I eat, what time I go to sleep, how I take care of my body, and how I take care of my mind.

Continue reading Return to Practice