[3 minute read]

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.

My program even encourages the study and promotion of occupational therapy abroad through a leadership capstone course that involves a two-week independent professional internship. Many students take that opportunity to travel across the country and to other parts of the world to develop various skills and learn about public policy. USC’s Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy also actively advances their Global Initiatives to support international students. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in Global Initiative programming through a virtual pen-pal program with OT students at schools like National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. Our Chan Division also does a great job of fostering global collaboration and worldwide connections which I have also seen while working at a research lab on the Health Sciences campus. We hosted students from partnered programs in Asia, and I got the chance to speak with them about our work. I could tell that it was a very rewarding experience for all parties involved!

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No matter what it is referred to or where it is practiced, there is something important to consider about occupational therapy: the relevance of culture! Each client will be impacted differently by their personal background and cultural heritage. Occupational therapists need to be aware of this to be effective and accessible practitioners. I mentioned that I developed my passion for my major even further this past year, and that has a lot to do with these values that I learned more about in my recent upper division courses. If possible, I recommend taking OT courses at USC! They can be very helpful in making efficient adjustments to your lifestyle, and since these classes are quite popular, they are also a good opportunity to meet lots of people from diverse backgrounds, majors, and ages.

Of course, meeting new people and truly getting to know them has been a challenge for us all given social distancing and virtual learning protocols. However, occupational therapy is all about adapting; it has been interesting to see the transitions and compromises made within the field. Many have taken advantage of teletherapy (online therapy services), including USC, which now offers that service for students. These services, even just a one-time consultation, could be helpful for you in considering your own health and wellbeing. Occupational therapy is ultimately evolving here and abroad, which I invite you to take part in by exploring OT academics and programming at USC!

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Trisha is a student studying Occupational Therapy. She was raised abroad in Asia and Europe before eventually moving with her family to settle in northeast Florida. She has had exposure to several languages, from Filipino dialects, to intermediate Spanish, and even basic Korean. She has been heavily involved in Troy Philippines and various USC dance teams. In her free time, she enjoys branching out to experience and appreciate other cultures through music, food, and entertainment. She also has experience adjusting to Los Angeles and USC culture and likes to discuss adaptation to broader American culture as well.