I am about to finish my second year of graduate school for my masters of occupational therapy. After graduating college and working for 5 years, in 2010 I quit my job at a web-based company and decided to switch paths and pursue a degree in occupational therapy. After taking the prerequisite classes I needed and before attending grad school however, I decided to fulfill a deep-rooted dream of mine to backpack through Asia & Australia.
In 2011, I made my way through China, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Australia. It opened up my eyes and my heart to the differences amongst cultures, but also to the similarities of humanity. It jolted my perspective when I heard young people tell me how their only dream was to someday go to the U.S. It quelled in me the restlessness that I had felt as yet another one of those bourgeois Americans having a quarter life crisis. It showed me indelibly who I was, what I wanted, and what to value in life. I saw poverty and misunderstanding. I heard stories of political corruption. I was cheated for my money. But I experienced the most amazing camaraderie, hospitality, kindness, humor, and willingness to help a silly foreigner brazen enough to waltz into worlds that she knew practically nothing about which has forever touched me and that has helped refine me.
Last summer I spent 4 weeks with the NAPA-OT Field School in Antigua, Guatemala, where anthropology and occupational therapy students come together to study Spanish, research, learn how to apply the things they’ve learned in a different cultural context, and collaborate to help promote social justice through enabling occupations. The project at the field school that I was involved in more specifically was working with the local population on pediatric nutrition and development in a country whose history is rife with corruption, poverty, violence and malnutrition.
I hope to continue this trend of promoting occupational justice as an OT throughout the world and here in the U.S. through advocacy of the field and by breaking down the borders – physical, mental, geographical, economic, emotional, and/or political – that keep people from pursuing meaningful occupations in their lives…an occupational therapist without borders.