By Leah King and Trisha Willie
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.
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.
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.
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