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.
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.
Growing up in a working-class family, long-distance travel was more often than not a luxury that was far out of my family’s reach. With the cost of providing kids a fruitful and fun childhood increasing by the day, it becomes exponentially harder to allow children to experience all that the world has to offer. Without a doubt, however, I will have to admit that those of us that had the opportunity to call Southern California our home for most of our life had it a fair bit better than others, as this home is also home to many other cultures hailing from different places around the globe. As a child, I was able to experience a variety of cultures that, in some shape or form, shaped Southern California in ways that I could only imagine.
Despite this fact, I was not really prepared for what I was about to witness during my first long-distance flight (that I can actually remember) during the summer of 2016. My family and I were on our way to Japan and Hong Kong and to say my current state of emotions at that time was simply excited would be an extreme understatement. I was unsure of what to expect when I got to Japan. Therefore, I landed preparing myself to be amazed by the culture and the people. And, to be frank, I was not disappointed.
Although I did not have many interactions with Japanese people outside of asking for help finding directions, they were all very helpful in trying to help us find our way despite the language barrier. But the most impressive thing I encountered on my trip existed elsewhere in Japanese society. The integration of man and nature in the design of the cities was absolutely awe-inspiring. You could be traversing Tokyo’s or Kyoto’s main streets during one moment and the next, you are exploring a vast forest leading to one of many shrines that populate the Japanese landscape. It felt so surreal that society could establish such a fluid connection between man and nature in the middle of such a well-developed city. I, for one, have never seen anything like it in cities across America, including the likes of LA, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, and Orlando. It was especially exciting to witness such a feat as I have always been quite the environmentalist myself. At the end of the Japan leg of my trip, I felt that my experiences were well above and beyond my initial expectations.
As for Hong Kong, I knew in some sense what to expect and what to look forward to as my great-uncle lives there with his family. Additionally, I have always loved Hong Kong despite the fact that I had not been there in a long time, because Hong Kong is one of the few places where nearly everyone speaks my first language, Cantonese (although I am not great at it myself). Coming from beautiful and innovative Japan to Hong Kong, the bar for awesomeness was not low, but I felt that Hong Kong, in many ways, replicated the same elements of awe in their society. With the geographical location and terrain of Hong Kong, it is no simple task to establish a vibrant community, much less a metropolis, and yet it was done. It was done in a way that didn’t seem intrusive of the natural landscape, with many large patches of woods still persisting around the city itself.
After leaving Hong Kong, I was left thinking about how different the lifestyles are between that of America and that of Hong Kong and Japan. To say the least, it was very different in many aspects; saying it in such simplified terms still feels like an understatement. At the end of the day, to truly understand what others put into words and what they have experienced, you must experience the real thing for yourself!
Iric is a recent USC graduate that majored in Electrical Engineering. His career inspiration from a very young age was on-screen robotics like Iron-Man and Gundam. He hopes to work in the aerospace industry, as that industry resembles what he wants to strive for the most. He likes to play tennis, play video games, and watch movies in his spare time.
As the United States and more of our world reopens, the societal pressure to keep up with the quickening pace of life and activities is strong. Many people are no longer wearing a mask if they are fully vaccinated and have started attending crowded clubs and events. Personally, despite this social pressure and despite the fact that I am fully vaccinated, I am remaining cautious and will continue wearing a mask and socially distancing, as both actions have worked so effectively this past year and also due to the Delta variant of Covid-19 that is spreading rapidly around the world and in the United States.
Do I feel a bit weird running around in a mask while lots of residents in my home of Ventura County ( a one hour drive North of LA) have ditched theirs? Yes, absolutely! Peer pressure and the pressure to conform to the current social environment is real. However, the thought of potentially contracting the virus or other viruses helps me keep the mask on and thankfully, I haven’t yet had any problems with staying six feet apart from strangers.
With that being said, I have started to spend more time with my family. We are not all living together but with the reopening, I have made this exception for them. I also have close friends that I’ll hang out with in my hometown, Santa Clarita (where Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park is). I’m still very hesitant to attend crowded events and places but I will spend one-on-one time with these groups of people I call “my inner circle.”
While I do want and tend to spend time with my “inner circle” of friends and family, I spend even more time absorbed in self-care practices such as meditation, journaling, and exercise. Some of the physical activities I have been engaging in are swimming, skating, and kayaking. I tend to engage in these activities either alone or with my inner circle and the fulfillment they bring is like no other.
Some other fulfilling activities I do alone to fill up my time are cooking and writing poetry. These activities allow me to express creativity which is very fulfilling – not to mention delicious! The poetry I write does tend to be more emotional because for me personally, it’s a great way to release any emotional pain/feelings I may be experiencing at the time.