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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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Elle Woods and the Art of Movie-Making

One of the great things about being a communication major at USG is having access to the digital and visual communication classes. They’re interesting classes, and more useful than ever!

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is COMM 373: Digital Visual Narrative, otherwise known as Movie Directing. It’s all about the basic building blocks of making movies: different camera angles, storytelling guidelines, choosing background music, and so on. Taking this class has changed the way I’ve been watching movies lately and I’d like to share the experience with you. It’s kind of like digging for buried treasure!

Let’s have a look at this clip from Legally Blonde:

Video courtesy of Movie Clips: https://youtu.be/rLcAQVgMTSY

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has gotten into Harvard Law School and just walked into her ex-boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis). If you haven’t seen Legally Blonde before, Warner dumped Elle because he didn’t believe that a girl who likes fashion as much as Elle could be “serious” enough for him. She studied her brains out and got into Harvard to convince him to take her back. Knowing that, what do we see in how this scene is constructed?

1. Color! Color psychology is my favorite movie magic trick. Here we see Elle as the only student in the building wearing green (sparkly green, at that), while everyone else is wearing muted colors like khaki and gray. According to Colorpsychology.org, green represents growth, balance, and soul-searching. It’s the perfect color for a character who discovers her self-worth like Elle!

2. Cinematography! Elle’s conversation with Warner is filmed at a medium close-up. Medium close-up shots are designed to be vaguely uncomfortable, just like the characters. Elle may look calm and collected—I know a few people who would love to have confidence like that—but inside, she’s doing several dozen cartwheels and Warner doesn’t need to see that. Warner, meanwhile, is not collected. Not one bit.

3. Music! Listen to the background score. It stops while Elle and Warner are talking and doesn’t pick back up until she walks away. When the music does come back, it starts with a low horn sound before jumping back into the happy music. It’s like even the score is holding its breath during an awkward conversation, then exhales as Elle leaves: “Whew! Glad that’s over. Girl, you nailed that!”

“You got into Harvard Law?”

“What, like it’s hard?”

-The best comeback in the history of ever

See what I mean? The more you know about how movies are made, the more you can appreciate the little touches. If you’re a communication major, and you thought this was interesting, ask your advisor about taking Professor Nixon’s courses this Spring! Registration opens up on November 12th. If you’re not a communication major, ask your advisor anyway. There’s no harm in trying! You can also check out Understanding Movies by Louis Giannetti. There are several editions available online for only a few dollars, and the older versions are just as good as the newest one. Have fun!

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Weight Loss Journey

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

A lot of people have made these kinds of resolutions: “I will lose weight this year”, “I’m going to eat healthier this year”. Most people don’t stick with these resolutions for long which can be a huge bummer for those who truly want to lose weight and stay fit. I wasn’t one who really cared for things like that since I felt that my weight was at the right range for my age. However, COVID came through and I couldn’t maintain my weight as I used to; thus I began gaining pounds quickly which got me very upset and feeling very insecure of myself. Soon enough I decided that I needed to lose this extra weight and ensure I get back in shape.

Here are somethings I’ve done to lose the weight and keep myself going.

  1. Have a reasonable weight goal and time frame: Something a lot of people don’t do is establish a weight goal to reach and when they plan to reach that goal. Having a goal can motivate you to stay on your workout routine. My goal is to lose ten pounds by the end of this year and I’ve lost about five pounds so far and it’s gotten me very motivated to keep going. Even if you hit your goal, keep going so you don’t gain the weight back.
  2. Moderate my food intake: A lot of us have started eating more since we have been stuck at home due to COVID. I’d recommend changing your eating habits to match your lifestyle. Say if you eat a whole medium pizza, try eating only half a medium pizza and decrease as you go. I often ate half a medium pizza, now I eat three pieces of pizza and plan to eat less over time.
  3. Drink lots of water: Water can really help with weight loss. You may need to use the bathroom a lot but it will be worth it towards your weight goal. I drink a bottle of water with every meal I eat to help maintain my weight and it has helped me stay hydrated throughout the day.
  4. Have a workout routine: Having a workout routine can help your body lose weight and help strengthen different parts of your body. I do a lot of abdominal workouts like squats, crunches, planks and more. I focus on that area of my body since that’s the area I feel a little uncomfortable about but it has been getting better. So make sure you find a workout routine that works for you and your schedule.

I do these things on my own, however, if you’re comfortable with having someone guiding you or being in a group, the Campus Recreation Center is having virtual fitness classes and you can learn more at their page on the USG website.

If you have more questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know and I’ll take then into consideration! Hope you enjoyed this blog and I will see you in the next one!

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Simple Fall Recipes

This time of year the sun goes down earlier and temperatures begin to drop… This calls for some warm comforting meals and treats! As a full-time student and also working full-time, its a necessity to have simple go to meals that aren’t super time consuming and are (for the most part) healthy and nutritious. Here are a few recipes I have either tried in the past or plan to try this fall season.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: I am a big fan of sweet potatoes – they are very versatile! The recipes linked give some good inspiration for your own sweet potato creation. It makes an easy, filling lunch. Typically it takes about an hour to bake them. If you bake several at time you can store them in the fridge and throw one in the microwave when you’re ready to eat one. Add whatever toppings you prefer and enjoy! (The sweet potato burrito – with guac, salsa, lime juice and black beans is the one I am going to give a try!)

photo credit – Jordan at Smile Sandwich

Bacon Butternut Squash Soup: This is a new recipe I discovered this year. I have made my own butternut squash soup before, but this has an interesting spin with the bacon. If your in a time crunch it may not be the best option. Prepping and roasting the butternut squash is a bit time consuming. Buying the pre-cut squash saves quite a bit of time! A few things I did differentIy… I added cinnamon and nutmeg and used full fat coconut milk to make in a bit more creamy. Super delicious combination with the sweet butternut squash and savory bacon.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili: If you have a slower cooker – this seems like a great recipe! Only 20 minutes to prep and then the rest of the work is for the slow cooker. The recipe yields 8 people so plenty for your family or to save for left overs. You can really customize it to your personal preferences – Swap out or add veggies that you prefer, change the meat (or no meat and make it a vegetarian chili) or make it thicker by cooking it with the lid off for 30 mins.

photo credit – Laura from JoyFoodSunshine

Peanut Butter Cookies: This is a super simple, 3 ingredients recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth. I grew up making these except we would get the Betty Crocker bag, which calls for loads of sugar and butter. This is the healthier alternative with fewer ingredients. I would definitely recommend adding chocolate kisses to the center of each cookie if you are a chocolate lover!

Sautéed Cinnamon Apples: I made these a few weeks ago. Not only were they really yummy but while they were sautéing, they made my entire apartment smell like cinnamon apples! These can be used as a side or add some vanilla bean ice cream and make it dessert.

If you do give any of the recipes a try please let me know how it turns out in the comments… Or share your own go-to recipes! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Mental Health Check

Hello, my friends! I can not believe it is already spooky season. It has been such a rollercoaster year for me. As I was changing my calendar to October I reflected on how this year has affected my mental health and the actions I took to ensure I sustained mental stability. Let’s be honest, we could always do better in regards to our mental health. So let’s talk about some coping skills that are commonly overlooked!  

  1. Venting: This can be a great technique for those of us who like to bottle things up. Let the frustrations out! If you need just a simple venting session where you just want to speak without receiving advice, communicate this to the person you are venting to. It is okay to explain to others the kind of communication you need at the moment. You don’t even have to vent to a real person, write your feelings in a journal. I think we all know the relief of finally getting things off our chest, let’s learn how to stop keeping ourselves from doing it.
  2. Working Out: This is an awesome killing two birds with one stone technique. By working out our mental tolls through physical activity we are taking care of our entire well-being. This is my personal favorite for when I am feeling angry or anxious. There is truly something special about releasing endorphins. 
  3. Taking a Time Out: Sometimes I just need to step away from a situation and breath. I have learned that going on drives or walks by myself listening to music I can sing my heart out to is very therapeutic. Sometimes taking a break allows me to remember the things that are frustrating me are simply temporary and to focus on the bigger picture. 
  4. Trying New Things: Sometimes we grow out of techniques. Counting to ten may have worked for me when I was younger, but today it just makes me even more worked up. Coping skills are only useful if we utilize them. If we say we can color when we feel overwhelmed but we take out our frustrations on someone else instead of coloring, coloring is not a coping skill for us. Ask your friends what is their go-to technique for calming down you may find something that works wonders for you. 
photo via unsplash.com

If you are feeling overwhelmed or not like yourself you are not alone. USG students, we are blessed to have the Center for Counseling and Consultation available to us for free.   I have a couple of challenges for you guys. Take a moment and think to yourself, what am I doing to take care of my mental health? If you know you are in tip-top shape, text a friend right now saying “Mental health check” to let them know you care about their mental health and you are there for them.

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Broadening Horizons — Part 1

America has a bigotry problem.

            Yes, I realize the phrase “bigotry problem” borders on redundancy, but that’s also a bit too simple. What does prejudice look like? How does it impact people? More importantly, what can we do about it?

            I hope you’re not reading this blog for The Answer to World Peace because I have no idea. Racism, homophobia, and intolerance’s other numerous forms are all complex, layered issues, and I certainly haven’t learned everything.

            Which brings me to the Diversity Learning Series at USG. This is a series of workshops that will be held by the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF). On the first Monday of the month, every month through December, a bunch of students from various backgrounds will meet to discuss hot-topic issues, practice self-awareness, and learn cultural competence. This past Monday was the first session, where we voted on what we wanted to talk about going forward. The consensus, though, was that no matter what two main topics we chose, other aspects of diversity would probably come up. After all, people contain multitudes!

            Just based on a first impression, I’m really glad I signed up for this. See, I know I can’t fix everything that is going on in the world today. What I can do, however, is get educated! Anyone can! It’s a very interesting experience, having your personal biases pushed in front of your face. (Of course, “interesting” does not necessarily mean “comfortable,” but I expected that going in.) There’s also something empowering about being in an environment like this. Self-improvement, as the name implies, is entirely an individual act. Someone else might have, say, written a relevant book, but nobody can make anybody else read that book. The CSEF set up the workshop series in the first place, but I sent in my application. I chose to sign up. That’s a great feeling! I chose to do the small thing so I could learn more and maybe do a big thing someday, and you can too! I believe in you!

            Oh, and there’s a certificate. Those are fun.

            Unfortunately, the application deadline for this semester has passed. That said, you can contact the CSEF if you’re curious about next semester. Also, if you want to get educated about diversity in other ways, there are plenty of great resources out there! You can ask USG Diversity Matters to point you in the right direction.

Photos via Unsplash.com

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Midterm Blues

Once again we have made it to the halfway point of another semester. I am honestly feeling a bit overwhelmed with the assignments around this time; papers and presentations due around the same time, assignments being pushed on us, and the exams as the cherry on top. Most of us dread this time of the academic year since it feels as if everything is coming at you with an immense force and we get very little time to prepare for it. My stress levels are through the roof during this time so I get a bit panicky over how I’m going to get these assignments done for exams begin. I have been doing somethings to calm myself after completing some assignments.

Playing some video games: Something I enjoy doing is playing some video games to ease my mind during this intense time. I recently picked up on the trending game ‘Among Us’. My friends and I decided that we would try the game to see what the hype was about and sure enough, we were sold. This game made me forget that I was even stressed in the first place; except now you’re stressing about completing tasks and not dying as a crew mate or sabotaging and wiping out the crew mates as the imposter. I used my phone for this game as this game can only be played through Windows and I use a MacBook Pro but the game is still fun through the phone like on a PC.

This is one of the styles I picked for my character at one point. Felt cheesy that day! XD

Continuing my time management: I have made a schedule based on the classes I’m taking and the importance of the assignments in the classes. I do this to ensure that I get everything done and on time so I can spend my day resting and preparing for the next assignments. Sometimes assignments get pushed back a couple of weeks which makes it feel as if my schedule got disrupted; but I figure out how to make the best of it and still get assignments in on time. For any of you needing help with time management, go check out the Macklin Center for Academic Success (CAS); they have virtual hours and can assist you with many academic related issues.

If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions on what I should blog about next let me know and I’ll answer back as quickly as possible and take your words into consideration! Thank you for reading and I will see you all in the next blog!!

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Stressed Out?

Every now and then we get overwhelmed and stressed about the millions of things we have going on or need to get done. I definitely do. It can be the little things like homework or doing laundry (which add up!) or a single large thing that seems to weigh you down. This past weekend I bought a car, which is super exciting and all but man is it a energy draining process. This car buying experience made me reflect on ways that truly help me to relax and deal with anxiety or stress.

Whether its the little things or the big things in life that are stressing you out, it’s important to take a step back and reset. Here are a few ways that have helped me to handle stress…

  1. Get outside – Being outdoors recharges us. We spend so much of our time indoors behind screens. According to the Harvard Health Medical school, “calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response”. Crazy! When I am feeling super anxious or overwhelmed I’ll go for a walk or hike Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s essential to get outdoors and get some fresh air.
  2. Move your body – As a former athlete this has always been my way to get out of my head and to release any negative emotions. Just 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your mental clarity. No matter the intensity of the workout, exercise makes changes in parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety for the better. Recently, during COVID I’ve been doing a lot of workouts streamed online like Yoga With Adriane or POPSUGAR Fitness. USG also has some group exercise classes streamed via Zoom. Getting some sort of movement in the day is a great stress reliever!
  3. Workshops & Journaling – USG has some great free workshops that focus on mindfulness and psychological well-being. The Mindfulness Skills for Successful Living is coming to an end this upcoming week… Don’t miss out on the final workshop, “Handle Things Better,” held on 10/7 @12PM! The workshop utilizes evidence-based skills that help handling big emotions and feelings. When I have a lot on my mind, writing it out through journaling is a great release. It feels like once I’ve gotten my thoughts out onto paper – it’s no longer juggling around in my mind creating stress. It feels as though I am sorting the files in my head.

Coping with stress and/or anxiety is different for everyone. These are just a few ways that have helped me and improved how I approach and handle stress. It’s okay to take time out to recharge. You can’t pour from an empty cup! So make it a priority to take time for yourself and develop good coping methods when dealing with stress.

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Senior Season

Was anyone else under the impression senioritis was only a thing in high school? Well if so, let me be the first to let you know, it is just as real in college! 

With classes online and graduation around the corner, it’s become a little more difficult to stay motivated academically. Although I am experiencing senioritis I am still dedicated to maintaining a high GPA. So let’s talk about some things that allow me to reach my goals in the least motivating times!

Time Management: This can be the hardest thing to master not only because of the unfortunate fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, but that sometimes we have to experience poor time management to achieve well time management. Remember, this is a workaholic speaking. I like to schedule more time than I know it will take for me to do an assignment to give myself wiggle room. Also, I am not only an excessive planner user but I use a whiteboard calendar and weekly whiteboard calendar. Anytime I receive a date I write it down immediately!

Color Coding: If there is one method I cannot live without, it is color-coding. I use the same colors for all my items everywhere. For example, my work schedule is written in green, my assignments are written in pink, and leisure is written in purple. Color coding allows me to see what my week entails more clearly. 

example of how I color code to plan my week

Staying Motivated: College is no doubt challenging. It can be so easy to lose motivation when things become overwhelming. I’m so thankful that I am passionate about what I’m studying and about my future career. Staying passionate and remembering what you’re doing this for will help you as well. Keep your vision clear even in the most overwhelming times. 

Use Your Support Systems: I will be first to admit I can be a little too independent sometimes. Before my junior year, I had a bad habit of wanting to get through challenges all on my own. Breaking this habit was the best thing I could have done for my academic goals. Leaning on my friends, creating study groups, and using school services regularly has helped me tremendously. Tip: every semester when you receive your syllabi, plan to finish your papers at least 5 days before the due date so you can take them to the writing center! 

I am so thankful for USG. Not only do they provide a tremendous amount of support services for students but the environment is also supportive. If you are feeling overwhelmed academically I strongly encourage you to make an appointment at the Macklin Center for Academic Success.

Please comment if you have any questions about my methods or if you have any tips and tricks you’d like to suggest yourself!

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What’s Your Type?

Does anyone know what to do with their life at 21?

Yeah, me neither. But don’t worry friends! Guidance comes from all sorts of places, especially at USG! That’s why I’m here to tell you about the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The Strong Interest Inventory determines the top 3 types of careers you would like based on a series of questions about the work you like to do. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) measures your personality through a series of similar questions, then categorizes you into where you focus your attention, how you process information, how you make decisions, and how you deal with those decisions. You can take both tests for free through the Center for Counseling and Consultation at USG! Just make a virtual appointment.

Here’s what to expect:

The first meeting is about introducing yourself. Who are you? What’s your major? Are you satisfied with your life so far? Is there anything on your mind? Next, you’ll receive the test through email. No pressure! You can take it at your leisure. Each test takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes. When you get your results, your counselor will automatically see them. The test is interpreted by Counseling Center director Dr. Jonathan Kandell. (He’s really nice, I promise.) He takes a few days to analyze the results, then he will email you when he’s finished. You make one more appointment, go over the results together, and ta-da!

There are no essays on these tests! The Strong Interest questions are about what type of work you like to do, both generally and more specifically. For example, do you like to work alone or in groups? How do you feel about filing papers or building an engine? You rank your preference on a scale of This-is-the-greatest to I-never-want-to-do-this-again. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing.) The MBTI questions are similar, though more general; the MBTI won’t ask you about building an engine but may ask about working in teams.

The Strong Interest Inventory is great for people who have some idea of what they want to do for a living but struggle to come up with specifics. It’s not a mandated thing, but it helps to clarify what type of work you find the most satisfying. The MBTI is more useful to understand your personality better, but it can help you understand your career trajectory, too.

For what it’s worth, I got EAC on the Strong Interest Inventory and my MBTI type is ISFJ. In short, EAC means that I like to work in leadership roles with an artistic side, and I am very detail-oriented. ISFJ means that I’m an introvert, prefer straightforward information, and make decisions based on personal values and empathy. I take my responsibilities very seriously and expect the same of those I work with. Both tests indicate that I’d make a very good librarian.

What about you? Would you be a good librarian too? Please let me know your results in the comments, and best of luck!

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Beginning a New Year!

I am very excited to be starting off a brand new academic year! I am currently a senior at USG and it feels so surreal to me! This past year has gone by so quickly and pretty soon the class of 2021 will be graduating! This last year is a very important one as this will dictate whether or not you graduate on time. For me, this is the year I will be striving to maintain a high GPA and a good academic standing. I’m glad that USG allows us to have a close relationship with professors and classmates as that is something important for everyone’s success. I feel as if we all are working together to ensure that we all succeed whether we are graduating this semester, next semester, or the next year.

That’s why I wanted to show you what some of my classmates and I have done to ensure that we all succeed in our mutual classes. These actions are pretty much I feel most people should do while in school; since your classmates are most likely going through or had been in the same situation as yourself. So here are some tips to help you get by during this semester.

  1. Start a group chat: One of my classmates decided to create a WhatsApp chat for the class I shared with them. Our class meetings are split up between Mondays and Wednesdays so sometimes we’d ask each other about the meetings and what should we be on the lookout for. It also helps that you can share PDF’s so a classmate could send us all a PDF version of the textbook needed for the class which is very helpful.

2. Form groups within classes: A group of classmates can be beneficial to you in the long run. If you miss a class for some reason, you can always contact them and ask if they were in class and ask for notes as well. They can even be your go to group for group projects. I suggest making a group with at least 2-3 people to ensure that someone was in class and can give you notes.

3. Join a club or organization: Joining a club or organization can help you connect with others who can help you achieve your goals Last semester I joined the Undergraduate Communication Association (UCA) to better connect with other students like myself. They help out with networking which is very vital to many students today; they even plan to start study sessions to ensure that we are getting the necessary help for our classes. There’s also going to be days where we just hang out virtually so that we still can interact with each other as friends, not classmates. If you are interested in the UCA you can give them a follow on instagram @usg_uca

If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, let me know and I will see you all in the next post!

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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