As a current senior at USC, I am nearing the end of a busy collegiate career as a pre-medical student in neuroscience. As such, I am beginning to reflect on what I’ve done throughout college not only to achieve my academic and extracurricular goals, but also to enjoy the journey. Even though much of my time has been devoted to my studies and extracurricular interests aligning with my intent to follow the pre-med track, I remember one of my most valuable experiences that allowed me to take a break from my routine. Recently, I took a class in Ballroom Dancing with the USC Kaufman School of Dance, an unforgettable semester-long experience that will stay with me beyond college. You might be wondering why this was such an impactful experience for me, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and delve into why I enjoyed this class so much and why you might want to consider taking this course.
When I came to my first ballroom class, I had absolutely no experience with dancing. Sure, I had danced at parties and at home before, but ballroom dancing? To me, this was movie material, with attractive Hollywood actors dressed like there’s no tomorrow, moving about with grace and elegance. So needless to say, the bar was high. But what made it more challenging was that boys and girls had to partner with each other. The prospect of close contact with one another made us all shy at first, as none of us knew each other and ballroom dancing was uncharted territory for us. Fortunately, we had a remarkably warm and welcoming teacher who put us at ease through his humor and many activities encouraging us to get to know each other. We’d gather in circles and would regularly switch partners so as to feel comfortable working with everyone.
Teamwork was really important in this class. As we learned new dances, from the waltz to the tango, getting used to the moves demanded collaboration between students. The first step was to hear the teacher describe the moves, but it was easier to watch him perform them with the TA. It required a whole new level of understanding to repeat the moves on my own. Surprisingly, it felt particularly difficult to repeat my moves alone but easier to do it jointly with my partners. It was a bit like when math rules are easier to apply in calculations rather than to recite word for word. Mutual understanding between partners helped us make faster progress and, before we knew it, we were making each other spin, bend, dip, and jump at a head-spinning speed. Full choreographies were exhausting, but the endorphins and the mental satisfaction were worth it. As a group, upon attaining a certain level, we even acquired the taste of ballroom dancing so much that we’d organize to practice and have fun outside of class, which produced some memorable moments.
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.
For many people, quarantine has made it difficult to establish a regular routine that resembles a normal lifestyle. This can lead many of us, myself included, to feel overwhelmed by work. Finding time to spend in nature is of the utmost importance, but depending on where you live, it can be difficult to incorporate time outdoors into your everyday schedule. Two ALI Conversation Partners, Alyssa Delarosa and Elizabeth Goodman, reflect on ways to get outside during quarantine and list places to visit in Los Angeles that provide some peace and respite from Zoom and online classes.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
[7 minute read]
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES DURING QUARANTINE
By Alyssa Delarosa
During this time of quarantine where zoom calls, Netflix binges, and a non-existent sleep schedule threaten to take over our lives, there are many wonderful resources and guides on activities to keep us busy on the internet. Some of these resources recommend completing at-home workouts, recipes, meditation, and other hobbies that are beneficial for your mental health. Out of all these wonderful resources and guides, I want to specifically highlight sources that encourage outdoor activities, as I believe that outdoor activities are vital to our mental health, physical health, and general well-being.
While there are plenty of activities to do indoors that can prove very effective for our mental and physical health, we are doing these activities in the exact same environment each time.At the start of quarantine this was not necessarily a bad thing, but in the long-run this practice can prove somewhat damaging for our mental health. We are being constantly exposed to the same environment for hours and days on end, which can have a “prison-like” effect on our minds and make us feel trapped and gradually begin to lose interest in finding meaning and enjoyment in our lives. This is why I do not simply recommend outdoor activities, I strongly encourage them as a necessity.
The complete and total change of scenery that outdoor activities provide can be blissful beyond imagination. I currently reside in Ventura, California (a rural beach town about an hour North of the USC campus) and I am always sure to allot some time to make the ten minute drive to the beach, where I can spend the whole day surfing, walking, or merely observing the beauty around me. I often find myself standing in complete awe with my feet in the sand, the wind caressing my cheek, the sound of the waves swelling and breaking, and the smell of the salt in the air. The restlessness I may feel indoors does not matter as long as I escape the clutches of my house and run into the embrace of nature.
When you’re done reading this, I want you to go to your calendar or planner, digital or physical, and start marking the time(s) within your schedule that you are able to engage in any outdoor activities. It does not matter your location; the main objective here is to simply get outside! If you live in the city, this could look like simply taking a walk in the streets nearby your house or apartment. You also do not necessarily need to leave your home or dorm area, as you can relax with a good book in hand on your porch, patio, balcony, or any other accessible outdoor area.
The USC campus itself is a beautiful place to take walks outdoors, with numerous parks located on campus such as Alumni Park and the EF Hutton Park. If you do not live near or on USC campus and do not have access to any parks or trails, keep in mind that the objective is to simply produce a short change in your environment so when you leave your everyday desk and living space, you can re-enter more recharged and refreshed than you were when you left.
Just because we’re in quarantine does not mean that life has to lose color, meaning, and enjoyment. Exchanging our daily home scenery for the beauty outside can help encourage all of us to live happier lives. One day our lives will resume but in the meanwhile, let’s appreciate the time we have now and continue to live and thrive in the nature surrounding us.
FOUR OF THE BEST PANORAMIC VIEWS OF LOS ANGELES
By Elizabeth Goodman
From the skylines of Downtown and Century City, to the Santa Monica Mountains, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the views from atop the city of Los Angeles are hard to beat. When city life, crowds, and traffic get you down, take some time to rejuvenate by visiting some of LA’s most breathtaking panoramic views without a long hike. Here are some of my favorite scenic views from various lookouts in LA, all of which are accessible to students and most of which are free (although you might have to pay for parking if you drive). All of these outdoor spots also provide a great escape for anyone seeking some time outdoors during quarantine! Go on your own or with a friend for a socially distanced hike to a great view.
“Top of the World” – Pacific Palisades
This lookout in Pacific Palisades has rightly earned its name with views that stretch from Downtown Los Angeles to the left, to Catalina Island on the right. It is unique to be able to see where the sand meets the sea while enjoying the immediate surrounding greenery and mountains. An easy less-than-five-minute walk after parking will lead you to this stunning view, and there are many other hiking trails to explore in this area if you want to spend more time here.
Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel– Santa Monica
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant at the top floor of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica offers an unparalleled dining experience. The rooftop on the 18th floor boasts a panoramic ocean view from every table in the restaurant. Between the gourmet cuisine and superb view, this is an exclusive experience you won’t want to miss out on. Note that this restaurant is currently closed due to recent quarantine mandates, but when restaurants begin reopening, be sure to include this one on your bucket list!