Mariam El-Temtamy

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

About halfway through my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I was doing some research into the various different types of careers that I could pursue. At that point, I had volunteered and worked mostly in pediatrics, with children diagnosed with various types of intellectual and developmental disabilities. From these opportunities, I was lucky enough to witness the uniqueness and strengths that each child had, and I knew I wanted to be someone that can prove to the world that their acceptance supersedes any misconceptions society chooses to place on them. So, I began to research into many different career paths – which lasted months! Finally, I came across Occupational Therapy, and I became very interested. Occupational therapists strive to help individuals maintain their participation in a variety of tasks that are very important for them, whilst recognizing each person’s value, and facilitating their independence in the process. The profession is also extremely holistic in the sense that it can address the individuals psychological, cognitive, and emotional well-being, as well as their physical needs – helping to improve their client’s life in all aspects. As a psychology major graduate, this immediately appealed to me, as I wanted to continue to use this knowledge. Taking all of this into consideration, I knew becoming an Occupational Therapist was something I really wanted to be. I began to read into the requirements to become an OT, one of which included the completion of a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. So, I decided to go for it, and honestly, it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

Because I was starting a new chapter in my life, I really wanted to challenge myself, and have a change in location and surroundings. I have studied in Ontario for about 4 years and although I really enjoyed my time there, nothing can really beat the spectacular views, scenery and lifestyle that Vancouver has to offer! I also decided that I wanted to be closer to my home and my family, who also live in the west-coast. In addition, UBC’s Master of Occupational Therapy program is ranked one of the highest in Canada, and UBC is also one of the best universities in the world. Taking all of this into consideration, UBC was definitely at the top of my list.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

Aside from being ranked as one of the best programs in Canada, what really attracted me was the small class sizes in the MOT program. In my university experiences, I’ve been in classes that have ranged from having more than 800 people to having less than 50. I remembered benefiting a lot from having a smaller class size, as it allowed me to have more individual support from my professors as well as build stronger and more personal relationships with my fellow classmates. When I saw that the UBC MOT class size was relatively smaller compared to other OT programs in Canada, it reminded me of these positive experiences that I have had in the past, all of which I wanted to have in my graduate school experience. On top of this, the MOT program also offers amazing fieldwork placement opportunities throughout the two years, which is something that is very unique to program at UBC.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

When I first arrived in August, I was in complete awe regarding the amount of beautiful gardens, museums and beaches that are available right on campus. I have heard that UBC was beautiful, but I didn’t know that it had all of these amazing amenities. I haven’t been able to get around to exploring all of the facilities, but hopefully as the situation gets better pertaining to COVID, I only hope to be able to cross everything off my list!

Aside from being ranked as one of the best programs in Canada, what really attracted me was the small class sizes in the MOT program. On top of this, [it] also offers amazing fieldwork placement opportunities throughout the two years, which is something that is very unique to the program at UBC.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

There are many challenges that occupational therapists have to face, one of which is the lack of recognition of the distinct value that occupational therapy can bring to the health-care team. Occupational Therapy as a profession has indeed had a lack of awareness, to the extent that many individuals, including those on the healthcare team, don’t know what the profession entails. Many misinterpret the term ‘occupation’ as being only related to work, when instead it means any activity that brings meaning and value to the individual. This can include work, but can also include leisure activities, and also basic daily activities such as dressing, and feeding. These are activities that we do every day and are associated with improved life satisfaction and enhanced health outcomes. Thus, it’s extremely important that individuals recognize what this profession entails, so that no one misses out on its potential. In addition, it’s also extremely important for the healthcare team to recognize each other’s value and professions, so that they may work together to benefit their clients.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

The program has been doing an amazing job at giving us the chance to work with other students in other healthcare professions, so that we may educate each other regarding what our own profession involves. Through several Integrated Curriculum sessions to having the opportunity to taking part in Health Mentors, these occasions provide the chance for us to know what inter-professionalism is and its importance. It also gives us the chance to learn from each other and gain knowledge about the value that other health professions are able to give in the process, but also allows you to communicate to them and advocate about what your own profession entails. In each of these circumstances, I have had the amazing chance to learn new things, but also teach others what occupational therapy is and what value it brings to the healthcare team. In addition, our classes do such an amazing job at educating us in regards to how to become leaders of change, so that as OT’s we are able to advocate for our profession and raise awareness as well as break the status quo, so that we can ensure that there are equitable OT services across Canada for any individual who may need it.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Surprisingly, it was by not ‘doing well’ or not being successful, that I learnt some of the best strategies that I still continue to use. Throughout my life and education, I have tried several studying habits and developed new time-management strategies that sometimes worked, but they also sometimes didn’t – and it took me while to realize that this is completely normal. If it wasn’t for those moments, I wouldn’t have discovered what strategies work best for me, including those that I currently still use, which have brought me to where I am now. I am still in that process and always continuing to try out new things, but I now use the moments where things don’t work out so well, as a great learning opportunity.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Always remember to put your physical and mental health first! Starting your graduate studies can already bring on some stress, especially during a pandemic, so it’s very important to make sure that all aspects of your health is in check - whether that is practicing some good self-care and coping strategies, and also utilizing the resources and support around you. Something I would also like to point out from personal experience, is don’t feel afraid to reach out to your professors. They care about you and want to see you succeed!


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