As NYU Steinhardt researchers have concluded, diversity in the classroom is a strength – students gain a broader perspective when they are exposed to people with ideas, assumptions, and experiences that are different than their own.
The NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy encapsulates this sentiment, with students and alums from over 20 countries around the world. International students most often join the Department to pursue a post-professional MA degree, which offers an opportunity to advance their knowledge of the field after earning a bachelor’s in occupational therapy outside the US.
We sat down with the most recently graduated MA cohort, composed of students from the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Saudi Arabia, China, Israel, and beyond, to discuss their experience joining together in New York City as classmates.
“We were quiet at the start, but now we’re like a big family,” said Tara Brennan, a student from Northern Ireland, as her peers laughed in agreement.
After overcoming their initial shyness, students in the cohort connected while studying OT theory, research, clinical practice, and the US health system – and talking about course materials through the lenses of their previous work experiences and backgrounds.
As a result, many class discussions resulted in students learning about parts of the OT profession that they were not previously familiar with.
Said Denise Manago, who is from the Philippines, “Being here in school with [students] from everywhere, you realize how many opportunities you have outside of what you’re used to back home.”
Jose Garcia, who is also from the Philippines, chimed in. “It has opened my eyes beyond the borders of occupational therapy practice [at home].”
In addition to collectively expanding the group’s perception of occupational therapy theory and practice, students in the cohort noted how their international peers better equipped them to provide optimal care to patients within their own cultural context.
For example, a student described an instance in which the class discussed how various cultures perceive communication with the family versus the individual in the context of medical care.
“In India, the family comes first, and then we tell the patient [the news],” said Jesslene Jacob, who is from India. “It’s good to know how different cultures see the importance of family in the health profession.”
The class noted a similar exchange of cultural perspectives surrounding a conversation of death and assisted suicide, with students coming down on both sides of the issue – and some changing their minds after being exposed to their peers’ perspectives.
When asked about which lessons learned from the program will be top of mind upon graduating, the cohort was quick to reference conversations about having a “strength-based approach” to occupational therapy focused on patients’ abilities rather than perceived limitations.
Said Esther Neuhar from Israel, “To look at the people we work with, to look at their strengths in order to help them continue, is one of the strongest things I’m leaving with. To really look at people’s strengths more than anything else.” Many students repeated this sentiment.
Now having earned their degrees, the NYU Steinhardt OT MA cohort of the 2018-2019 academic year will continue to be connected by their shared time in the program and the ways in which they shaped each other academically and professionally.
“I am so glad I came here because if I had intended to learn this much, I actually ended up gaining so much more – especially with the class being from different cultures and being different from each other,” said Janvi Vasani from India.
Explore the MA in Occupational Therapy
This one-year master’s degree gives professionals the opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge in occupational therapy.