Three Weeks of OT School DOWN!

Hello, friends! Can you believe it? I made it through THREE WEEKS of my occupational therapy program! I feel like I literally just started my program, but at the same time, I also feel like I have been in school for months based on the content that I’ve been absorbing these three weeks. Honestly, I am definitely feeling the pace of graduate school. Most of my days are spent studying, digesting, and absorbing new knowledge and content learned. I would say out of my curriculum thus far, anatomy is definitely the most rigorous course I am taking. I don’t think that learning anatomy is an easy task to the everyday person, but I honestly have such a supportive classroom setup, environment, and professors that have made learning anatomy a bit less daunting. I had my first anatomy exam earlier this week which I actually did well on so thank God because I literally studied my butt off! I hope I can keep this same momentum throughout the semester, lol!

I can honestly say that I have seen a stark difference in undergrad compared to grad school. I’ve always considered myself a studier and thought that I had pretty good study habits set in undergrad. However, cramming for an exam and then forgetting about the material was more or less something that I made an unhealthy habit of. In GRAD SCHOOL though, SO much studying is required of you every day. Cramming? I don’t know her (at least I do not want to know her). The expectations are much more different. It is expected that you are responsible for interacting with the material that is presented to you so that you can critically think and apply it beyond the classroom. Because there is a lot of content to consistently interact with, I can admit that it has been pretty easy for me to forget to take care of myself and engage in constant small acts of self-care, whether this is sleeping on time, eating my dinner at a reasonable hour, or taking a break and getting some movement in. It is something that I am actively working on, I promise!

I am thankful that I have found resources and a friend group to help guide me and embark on this journey with me. Unlike in many of my undergrad classes, my grad school cohort actually looks out for each other and all want to see each other succeed! I appreciate and admire the cohesive, united, and collaborative environment that is continuously cultivated. Competing for the best grades is literally irrelevant because we are all in the same place getting the same degree, and genuine learning is MUCH more important than a letter grade! This is something that I have been actively unlearning, and it is truly liberating to reframe measures of academic success that society has shaped.

One thing that I think is SO important to my overall well-being and occupational balance is getting that social input outside of school! I realized that after all the studying I have been doing for a few weeks, I missed being social! I really have not explored the area that I am at, so I made it a point today to go out with friends and treat myself to lunch. Social input is very refreshing and rejuvenating, and sometimes it is hard to realize that when you are constantly on the grind.

Overall, grad school has been a time of critical reflection, self-awareness, unlearning, and relearning. I am glad that I am on this journey though and I am anticipating seeing where I am headed!

Peace and love,

Irene

How Did Occupational Therapy Find Me?

Hello, friends! As you may already know, I am currently a pre-OT student who will FINALLY begin pursuing my journey of obtaining my doctorate in Occupational Therapy later this year! (Well, I don’t know if I am still technically “pre-OT” because I’ve already been accepted to and committed to a program, but you get the point)

SO. How did I stumble upon this career?

As a young child, I always envisioned that being a pediatrician was the path for me because:

1) my Congolese immigrant parents highly hinted at the fact that some of the most desirable jobs to have included becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer (it is where the money is at after all, right? Anyone else can relate to this narrative?)

2) I killed it in school, thriving in all subjects including the sciences

3) I looked forward to going to my doctor’s appointments

4) Children were super cute to me, fun to play with, and always keep things interesting

5) Untold Stories of the E.R. and related shows on TLC were always strangely addicting to watch. I truly felt that if I could handle watching these shows, I would be an INVINCIBLE doctor!

However, I had NO idea what the path of going to medical school ACTUALLY consisted of. In high school, it seemed like I was already ‘late’ to start my path of getting into medical school. Compared to the aspiring high school pre-med students at my school, I was not actively seeking hospital internships, connecting and networking with local doctors, or taking a surplus of community college courses to make myself stand out for college admissions. Additionally, I personally did not see myself being content with trading in many years of higher education to pursue a career that I slowly realized I was not actually passionate about, especially considering that I really needed to be ready to invest my time and money.

Now now, no shade to current medical doctors or anyone who is on the pre-med track because all power and respect to them (after all, technically I am gonna be a doctor too, but I digress). However, what I DID know was that that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about all-things human development, education, and psychology. My parents both gravitated toward the social sciences for their college degrees, so I figured that I was bound to become a teacher or a counselor. Yet, these professions also did not seem to quite fit what truly aligned with my passions and my vision for healthcare.

As I meticulously picked out my college major (fun fact: I was a psychology major for the first two weeks of college because the thought of becoming a psychologist crossed my mind for a short period of time), I simultaneously frantically researched other health-related careers on the wonderful world of Google. There, I stumbled across a career that I had never heard of before – occupational therapy! I clicked on American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s website for the definition of occupational therapy, and the first thing that stood out to me was: Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” not, “What’s the matter with you?” What the heck did that mean?? I was intrigued, so I began to do my research.

Fast-forwarding to my college years, I finally got my first opportunity to shadow an occupational therapist at a healthcare-related internship. At the first clinic I shadowed, my shadow OTs discussed extensively with me and their patients diagnoses and anatomical terms I had no knowledge of such as carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi radialis. I was astounded by the wealth of knowledge that these OTs harbored and how confidently they did their job. I thought to myself, “How would I even BEGIN to commit all of this knowledge to memory?” Anatomy sounded like a whole other language to me. Though the explanations of the patients’ diagnoses were quite difficult to follow (at the time I did not take anatomy and physiology, so I was really lost), patients continued to rave about the tremendous impact that occupational therapy had made on their lives. The answer to the question What matters to you? now became much more transparent in how I viewed occupational therapy.

Occupations and activities that mattered to the patients I observed included writing, playing the guitar, holding a microphone to sing, and dressing. To me, these activities appeared to be seemingly simple to accomplish. Yet, I learned that being unable to do these ‘simple tasks’ can truly affect a person’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, especially if these activities influence their identities and their esteem. I initially did not understand why one patient I encountered continued to express such gratitude toward what appeared to be an OT merely helping him ‘stretch his hand muscles.’ However, him being able to use his hands to hold a guitar properly meant that he could resume his occupation as a guitar player and compose music, a passion that brought him personal life fulfillment.

So, why OT? Occupational therapy is an incomparable field that empowers people to be renewed physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually by always centering the question What matters to you? in patient care. Occupational therapy interlocks a multitude of disciplines that all excite me – biology, psychology, and sociology, to name a few. Occupational therapy truly gives people hope, purpose, fulfillment, faith, and productivity. With that being said, I personally have a lot of plans within the field of occupational therapy that I anticipate exploring, just you wait!

Peace and love,

Irene