Student BlogsWelcome to Around the Grove, the official student blog of The Universities at Shady Grove! Students are able to blog about their college experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom. Read about their triumphs, trials and everyday lives that makes being a college student so uniquely life changing — and challenging. Feel free to connect with them by leaving a comment or asking them questions.

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My Musical Winter Break 

Source: TV Guide

Winter break is always a good time for things like unwinding after the fall semester, preparing for the upcoming semester, and spending time with family/friends. I did do all three things this winter. In my spare time, I watched a ton of TV shows like Alice in Borderland and Degrassi, but I also watched a lot of movies like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022), Missing (2023), and Donnie Darko (2001). I bought new notebooks for my spring semester classes and reviewed some syllabi. Of course, I also I spent a lot of time with my family, which was fun (most of the time). 

But I think the most interesting thing I did over break is probably taking a class called “American Popular Music”. It’s a class about the history of a wide variety of music genres like rap, soul, rock, and jazz. I was excited to take it because I genuinely love music and pretty much listen to it every day. It was a fun class to take because of discussions where I was able to hear about my classmates’ perspectives on topics like the controversy of rap, artists that have influenced them, and songs that reach them emotionally. 

Source: Billboard

One of the assignments that I really enjoyed doing was a lyrical analysis essay about a song that speaks to me personally and to society. I chose “Juicy” by the Notorious B.I.G. It’s a song that I’ve loved for years and doing the essay actually allowed me to put what I love about the song into words. “Juicy” was one of the first mainstream rap songs about a rapper’s rise to the top and to me, it’s a song that represents a sort of victory lap. 

Source: Rolling Stone

Overall, I think the class has given me a greater appreciation for the evolution of music and how it’s led to the current era we’re in. I also got a lot of music recommendations out of it, so it’s safe to say I got plenty out of the experience. 

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New Year, New Goals

With this being my first blog of 2023, I felt it fitting to discuss fitness, goals, and my journey within the two. Many people’s new year’s resolutions tend to be to go to the gym more or to be healthier, which is an amazing goal! From my experience, it is better and easier to stay consistent with fitness goals, or any goals for that matter, when you find ways to enjoy the process. 

For me, I always struggled in finding an exact workout routine I enjoyed that coincided with my goals. I later realized a big reason for that was that I did not have the right goals as my mindset. After I began enjoying my workouts, I was able to stay more consistent- and consistency is the only way to see progress in the gym.

Initially, I fell in love with cardio for the release of endorphins and the feeling of a “runners high”. Afterwards, in my freshman year of college I grew to love lifting as a way to gain strength and build my physique. This type of training also coincided well with my lifestyle at the time, because it was during the pandemic/online classes world, where my body craved movement and I had the time and energy to push myself more. Currently, I am either training for a run I have planned for this summer, or I do whatever feels best that day.


Some Advice:

The main piece of advice I have is to find a workout routine you genuinely enjoy. As seen from my personal timeline, people’s preferences and goals change all the time; but it is very important to like what you do. There are countless different ways to get physically active, so try anything you desire! 

My second main piece of advice is to make fitness a part of your lifestyle, but not your entire life. Balance is key in everything someone does. So making sure to balance fitness goals with social, professional, or educational goals is extremely important. 

Which brings me to what I initially said about my advice for goals in general. Setting realistic goals and mini goals to achieve them is critically important. No one can wake up one day and do a complete 180 degree change in their life. Everything good takes time and patience, and keeping that in mind when setting your goals will save you a lot of both. You truly can accomplish anything you set your mind to, so just be kind to yourself! Overall, just enjoy the process- whatever your goal may be! 

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A Fresh Start

Happy first day of the Spring Semester! It’s a new year, a new semester, and the perfect time for a new start, a fresh one.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing break, however, it’s time to keep hustling! As the first day has approached us all, let’s take a quick moment to the overview a few new additions to USG:

  1. The new 24/7 Grab & Go in the Building 3 Green Grove Cafe has officially opened. It’s accessible to all students who’d like to drop by and grab a snack, coffee, or heat-to-eat meal anytime while at USG! There will be a second addition in the BSE (Building 4) in the near future.
  1. The Career and Internships Services Center is now providing individual career coaching! With this service, you can get resume reviews, cover letter reviews, interview prep, and more. Be sure to activate your account with the following link:


  1. Welcome Back Coffee Hours will provide you with free coffee, tea, giveaways, and more! There will be several events this year but the upcoming event will be held on Monday, January 30th at 9am-10am outside of Building 4, Suite 1322

I encourage you to plug-in as much as possible this semester. If you felt like you didn’t get involved as much as you would’ve liked, now is the time. Find a new club to join, start a new club, introduce yourself to new faces, join a Coffee Hour, get your resume reviewed, and most of all, have fun. I have a good feeling about this semester and I hope you do too. 

“Once the seed of faith takes root, it cannot be blown away, even by the strongest wind – Now that’s a blessing.” – Rumi

An Inspirational Short Film
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The History in Losing The Briar Patch

Photo From: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/magic-kingdom/

When I was little, it scared me; the screaming, the billows of vapor soaking the cement bridge that crossed over it. I would watch from afar as boats came careening down the cliff’s edge, their passenger’s arms high, their pleas for help echoing off the nearby lake. It scared me to watch them dive into the patch of thorns under them, and it mystified me to see them bobble out on the other side of the bridge, giggling and shaking the wet from their hair.

I watched them go down the mountainside year after year, making sure to pause every time I passed to watch each rider dive from the heights and wobble their way out from under the bridge. Everyone was soaking wet; everyone was happy.

As time progressed, I grew enough courage to creep closer to the railing, to watch in awe as the briars took each log down into their depth. At one point, I found myself in the splash zone, and the breeze of cool water vapor in the middle of summer was a blessing on my skin.

I grew tall enough with time, and one day I was in line, waddling myself toward the logs, toward the cliff’s edge, and toward the briars. Each sign I passed told me to turn back, and each second grew heavier with anxiety as the line twisted its way to the water’s edge. I don’t know how I managed to make it into the log that first time, barely able to see over the wooden seats, but I did, and I joined the wobbling crowd I had watched for years, on my slow march toward the edge of the mountain.

It was more than I expected, though I couldn’t tell you what it was that I expected in the first place. Bears and rabbits and frogs all waved from the water’s edge, singing and running, each with their own story to tell and their own gimmicks to bout. On the first fall of the ride, I had begun to regret my decision to brave the boats, but the laughing of my new rabbit friends eased my mind.

And then he was trapped, to be made into dinner. And my heart clenched. The ride grew hot and dark, and the vultures overhead beckoned for me to lose all hope, to do what would end in their dinners. My rabbit friend was tied, his voice jumping in fear as he was hauled up the mountainside with the gleam of the fire on which he was to roast the only thing to light his path. The log buffered underneath me, and the ticking of the lift cemented the fear in my heart. It felt like years since my rabbit friend and I were dragged up the mountainside, and at the top, my log boat teetered on the cliff edge to show a bed of thorns waiting like a forgotten responsibility.

And then, together, we fell.

At the bottom, I was dripping from the waves of park water that waited at the bottom of the mountainside. Our boat wobbled along like every other had, though now I was able to look up at those around me who were just brave enough to touch the railing of the bridge and watch our fall. I was the wet one, and I was supposed to be happy.

But something was off. it didn’t feel right. No amount of singing chickens at the end of the ride, now whistling could make the ride make sense to me. As I stepped out of the gift shop that tail-ended my first time on Splash Mountain, I stopped to stare at the sign I had only walked under an hour earlier. And I stared at the tower of characters I hadn’t realized that I didn’t know. The rabbit, my friend, I had never seen him before that day. And after then, I only could visit him on the ride. Why wasn’t he free to wander the park, like all the other characters of the lands were. Why was he trapped in his cycle of torment? What was wrong with him?

It does seem ironic to me that I remember this first ride so vividly; a memory that has had over 15 years to mature. It’s ironic in that my very first thought was that the briar patch was never spoken about outside the briar patch and that its creatures never showed their face outside the ride. Even 15 years ago, everyone knew that these creatures could not exist outside of the space they were bound to, and yet no one seemed to see Splash Mountain’s closing as inevitable. But then again, I guess irony has its own way of being forgotten over time.

Yesterday was the last day Splash Mountain was open. Today Splash Mountain is no more. Yesterday, the ride hosted thousands of its fans of their final drop. Today, the water is being drained, and walls resurrected around the mountain face. And all over social media, at least my social media, people wail about its closing, about the memories they are losing, and about how suddenly they lost the ride.

To me though, even 15 years ago, this ending was expected. Its songs had been slowly pulled from the park for years, its characters removed from the celebrations, its story hidden from the public. Even its name, Splash Mountain, had nothing to do with the ride itself. People cry about the death of a classic, but don’t realize it was built decades after Walt Disney died. I had seen most of its life as it was, and almost immediately at its birth, the Disney company had begun to silence its existence.

I had walked past the ride in 2019 and paused for a moment to check the waters for filled logs that made it through the briars safe. This was before they announced the ride’s removal; before they announced the halfbaked concept to take its place. And again I noticed how little of the ride existed outside of its covers. A statue stood at its entrance, and the briars stood at the drop, but only a light whistled toon seemed to make it out of the briar patch unscathed, and even then only the melody could be found in the park. The ride, one of the biggest of the Disney company, one of the most well-known, the one that people boasted on T-shirts, bragging to have braved its 50-foot drop, didn’t exist anywhere else but here at its mountainside; here where its water fell.

Sometimes, irony beats us all I guess. Sometimes, it hides in shadows behind big proud banners, and sometimes it sneaks its way into the melody of half-forgotten songs. The irony here is that Disney wanted the ride forgotten as much as it could before the ride was pulled away from the world. And yet, everyone now screams for its justice without realizing how long this decision was coming for. Though it is baffling how much people seem to blind themselves with memory, caught in the cycle of nostalgia so much that they couldn’t see the end coming. Maybe that is the irony as well, that nostalgia was born more from the death of a story that no one would know today had a ride in Disney not immortalized it. Maybe in 10 years, no one will know of the briar patch; that the melody, the blue bird on my shoulder, will be only a set of classic notes without words to accompany them.

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De-stress and Mental Health

As we are approaching the end of the semester and the holiday season, the days get short and the nights longer. Even with a break from school and spending time with loved ones, we may not be in our best mental well-being.

Since this is the last article of the semester, I thought it would be appropriate to write about de-stressing the mind and taking care of our well-being. This past week was De-Stress Week at USG where several events were held to have students take a break from studies and realize some stress that most, if all of us may have. Some events included yoga and deep breathing, watching a movie, and petting dogs.

On December 7, Student Leadership Advisory Council (SLAC) had our De-Stress Week event on journaling while snacking on donuts. I volunteered to host the event and my purpose was not only for students to take time to write out their thoughts but to (re)introduce them to journaling. Journaling, whether that is with pen or paper or typing, I find this habit to be useful to reduce my anxiety and overthinking.

A slideshow of journal prompts (Source: Aisha Sowe)

The following day, both the international and film club had a movie night where we watched the 2019 Korean film Parasite. I have been stressed with schoolwork ever since we got back from Thanksgiving break, but I thought what better way to watch a movie and have a discussion. I had seen Parasite shortly after the film became the first non-English langue film to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2020, so watching the film again was more of a refresher especially knowing all of the messages portrayed.

Movie poster of Korean film Parasite (2019) (Source: IMDb)

Even though De-Stress Week may be over, you can still find ways to relax your mind and emotional well-being before, during, and even after finals. Once those exams are over and you have turned in that final paper, you can treat yourself to a job well done this semester. The example I gave of journaling or watching movies can be the best way to treat yourself after this semester, but don’t limit yourself to those ideas. Buy yourself the gift you’ve always wanted for yourself. Go out with friends, family, or even by yourself. Have your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. The possibilities are endless.

I know these past few weeks have been difficult. Maybe this semester as a whole was tough but just know that you have completed half the school year is completed. You now have a month off from school and you deserve that time to finally unwind from all the studies and assignments.

With that being said, I hope you all have a great break, enjoy the holidays if you celebrate any, and have a happy new year.

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Have Yourself A Meditative Little Christmas

It’s time for hot chocolate and candy canes. It’s time for Christmas pine scents, warm cinnamon, clove, and sweet orange. Our neighborhoods, workplaces, and even grocery stores are more vibrant, expressive, and brilliant than they will be in a long time. We are in that sweet, tender moment of the year where everything that glitters is….well, not gold but still really pretty! Driving past the beautiful scenery these last couple of days I started to think. What a wonderful time to be still and take in the beauty of the season with intentionality. A time to take meditative pauses and reflect in this magical season.


Now, I’m not a meditation fanatic, not to knock those who are, I definitely think it has its place. But, there’s something unique and cozy about the idea of using the season as grounds for mindfulness and relaxation. Think about it, what other time do you have to be surrounded by extravagant lights, nostalgic music, and melodies, all with the world telling us “to be of good cheer”, “joy to the world” and “goodwill towards men”? It is a unique and charming time of the year. Maybe you’ve always enjoyed the holidays and focused on the little details. So, why don’t we use these same little details to put our minds at ease and hone into this once-in-a-year holiday peace before things get crazy again?

I know finals, final projects, last-minute grade changes, etc. get us down and stressed. But what better time to escape for a brief moment into the joys of the season than now? I’m not saying neglect your responsibilities with only “Tis the season” as your tagline/justification for your jolly disposition.


I’m simply saying be the wonderful student you’re working to be while being as reflective and present as you can be in this beautiful time. How can one do so you may ask? Like so:


You’ve put on the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack for some peace and soft mental stimulation. The delicate mix of jazz and familiar Christmas songs have you at ease. You’ve just made a hot chocolate fit for the season. The luxurious feel of the rich chocolate and sweet beverage warms your whole body and boosts your dopamine right up! Your lights are low because you have some Christmas-scented candles flickering in the dark and the aromatics fill the space. You watch the flames sway back and forth from the subtle breeze in your cozy space. All your senses are ignited and in this sweet moment, you’ve ceased the season and are soaking in its delights.

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Two Truths and a Lie

With finals starting next week and the fall semester coming to an end, what better way to de-stress than testing (pun intended!) your knowledge on the very campus you’re studying at? I’ll present you with 2 facts and a lie associated with the Universities at Shady Grove. Your job is to decide which story is the false one, good luck and remember no cheating!

Source: Tumblr.com

(1) The University was originally founded in 2001, developed to provide both undergraduate and graduate degrees to students coming from nine different universities in Maryland. Located in central Rockville, the campus offers the same courses and curriculum as the student’s main campuses, with the actual classes taken at the USG campus. After completing their courses, students will receive their degree from their main campus, which is especially convenient for those that want to study in an atmosphere with smaller class sizes and more inclusive opportunities. 

Source: Tenor

(2) Opened 3 years ago, the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) building contributes to the enhancement of students’ learning by creating spaces for advancement in healthcare, mathematics, biosciences, computer science, and more. In an industry demanding these skills, the university hopes to provide students with the tools necessary to receive real-world experiences and develop their knowledge. Towering over 6 stories, the facility consists of 220,000 sq feet of space and has almost 12 well-furnished laboratories for teaching and researching. It is also equipped with clinical settings and an entrepreneurship center where students can make the most usage of the building’s facilities. 

Source: PrimoGif

(3) USG offers around 80 undergraduate and graduate programs. With approximately 4,000 students currently attending the campus, the number is expected to go up much higher in the future. Ranging from Bioscience/Public Health to Business/Communications to Engineering/Information Technology and more, there are various fields for students to venture into. 

Source: makeagif

As a junior studying Public Health at the campus, this was my first semester here and I realized that there was still so much that I didn’t know about the university. If you were able to guess the false scenario, kudos to you! But I also hope that like me, you were able to learn something new from it too. 

ʇuǝɯǝʇɐʇs ǝslɐɟ ǝɥʇ sᴉ ǝuo

About USG. About USG | The Universities at Shady Grove. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://shadygrove.umd.edu/about-usg 

The opening of USG’s Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility | The Universities at Shady Grove. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://shadygrove.umd.edu/news-events/news/opening-usgs-biomedical-sciences-and-engineering-education-facility 

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Moving Forward

I cannot believe how fast this semester has flown by. Only one month left. But what a great month to end on, it being the most wonderful time of the year! I have had many great experiences this semester and look forward to even more next semester. So, for my last blog post, I’d like to reflect on these experiences and set new goals for the spring.

Starting the Translational Life Science Technology(TLST) major was intimidating. The TLST program is based on Applied Biotechnology. Although I got my Associate in Biological Science, there have definitely been things I missed by not getting an Associate in Biotechnology. Thankfully, my professors have been fantastic in teaching the lectures. Still, the one major part I have seen myself struggle with is the labs. My experience in Biological Science labs did not fully prepare me for the labs in this major. But this has actually been positive. My shortcomings have brought me closer to my classmates as they shared their knowledge with me. Our continuous communication over academics has opened the way to more personal topics. And now the entire class now feels like a small family. Just the other day, after a class field trip to Fredrick, we all went to see Sailing Through the Winter Solstice. Here, there were beautifully lit boats all along the canal. And fun fact, Kanye apparently was there that day too (no I did not see him).

Beyond just being a student at USG, I have had the wonderful opportunity of also being a Student Ambassador. I may have been paid for the job, but it honestly felt like being part of a club. Our meetings have included icebreaker games and problem-solving as teams, where we have all gotten to bond. It has been a fantastic opportunity to meet many incredible people outside my major. And although stressful at times having to host significant events on campus, I have felt safe knowing I can rely on my fellow Ambassadors. Especially for giving campus tours, the Senior Ambassadors have gone above and beyond to help us newbies feel comfortable. Going out of my comfort zone and joining the program has made me want to try even more opportunities on campus.

USG Ambassadors at Open House

I plan to join other clubs and check out the entrepreneurship lab in the spring. And if I’m lucky, I may be accepted into the USGLeads Emerging Leadership Program. Whatever the future holds, I feel confident I’ll be able to make the most of it!

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Reflecting on My Journey at USG

For my last blog post this semester, I thought it’d be a good idea to talk about the past year I’ve spent at USG. Even though USG has been around even before I was born, I hadn’t heard about it until I was getting ready to leave high school. This was back in 2019, and I was introduced to it through a program I was in at school: the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program. I also got to visit the campus for a few days during an ACES summer event the summer before my senior year. At the time, I had my sights set on other colleges, so I really wasn’t considering the MC/USG pathway.  

Source: Maryland Matters

However, things don’t usually go as planned, and I started the journey towards my associate degree at MC in the Fall of 2020. I’d always heard it was never too early to start your transfer plan. That’s when I discovered that there was a new undergraduate program added at USG: a degree in Computer Science with a Cybersecurity track, offered by UMBC. It just seemed like it was meant to be, and I decided that I wanted to transfer there.

I graduated from MC in the Fall of 2021, and I finally got to start attending classes here this January.  It was nerve-wracking to start classes at a new school, especially in the Spring as that was a first for me. It was also a little daunting to be on a campus that offers as many programs as USG. But the small class sizes and kind professors quickly reminded me of why I chose to go here. And on top of that, the facilities and buildings here are full of great resources. Specifically, the new BSE building, which is where I spend most of my time on campus. 

Source: Greenroofs.com

It’s nice to look back at the past and see how everything worked out as I wanted to, if not even better. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities because I transferred here, and I can’t wait to see what USG has to offer in the next year. It’s so crazy to think that by this time next year, I’ll be finishing my last semester here. 

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Get Involved!

Somehow, this semester is almost over! In a matter of weeks it will be 2023, and that means the start of the spring semester. If there is anything I could advise anyone of any year to do, it would be to get as involved in college as possible. Beginning the spring semester, we all have the chance to join any and every extracurricular available. So, I wanted to use this opportunity to express how valuable getting involved in clubs and jobs in school has been for me!

For my first year and a half of my undergraduate studies, when I was only at University of Maryland, I joined Engineers Without Borders, Alpha Omega Epsilon, Women in Engineering, and Intern for a Day. My involvement with Engineers Without Borders actually allowed me to have my first internship after freshman year, which taught me more about the research and engineering process than a typical academic environment could. This experience taught me a lot about myself and my preferences for my future career.

Alpha Omega Epsilon is a half social and half professional sorority which brought me many close friends with like minded goals to mine. Furthermore, the professional aspect of this organization provided me countless opportunities, including connections and information which lead me to my internship for this upcoming summer- which I am beyond excited for! 

Women in Engineering gave me the chance to mentor a student, and Intern for a Day gave me the chance to connect with an accomplished individual who became my mentor. Both of these experiences gave me insight in so many ways- they taught me so much!

Since coming to Universities at Shady Grove, I additionally got involved in Control AI, OnCampus Advertising, and of course USG Blogging! Control AI is a new club where Biocomputational Engineering students started to explore more machine learning methods. Oncampus Advertising allows me to be an ambassador for various companies which pushed me past my comfort zone and taught me a lot about myself and communication in general. Finally, being a blogger allowed me to develop my communication skills, as well, and gave me an outlet for creativity. 

All of these experiences contributed greatly to who I am today. Being in touch with campus and student life builds countless opportunities and connections which are the fundamentals for growth. Personally, I learned and thus grew so much these past 2 years, and from my experiences which is why I encourage everyone else to get as involved as possible!

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