Welcome 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.
Thinking of something positive to write about this week is really hard. So instead of pretending that things are okay, I’m going to write about how important it is to prioritize your own well-being when things don’t feel okay.
Prioritizing your own wellness can seem very selfish, especially in the face of widespread hardship. You might think that you have no right to relax or treat yourself because you should be contributing to the world in some meaningful way at all times. But that notion is not only false, but also incredibly harmful. It is impossible to sustain a constant schedule of productivity without completely running yourself into the ground, at which point you’ll be no good to anybody. It’s okay to slow down.
If you need someone to give you permission, here it is: you’re allowed to prioritize your wellness. Even if you think you don’t deserve it, or someone else deserves it more. You not only deserve it, you NEED it to keep doing the amazing things that you are doing. So there, you have permission.
Now, this is not to say that you have permission to ignore what is going on around you and completely disregard the needs of others. Rather, this is just a reminder that if your plan doesn’t include rest and recovery, then that is a plan destined to fail.
If you’re like me, and still have a hard time prioritizing your wellness – or you’re just not sure what that even looks like – here are a few examples for insipration:
- Take a sick day
I actually wrote an entire post about this one a few months ago – read it here!
- Go shopping – locally, of course!
Did you know that retail therapy can also help your community? If you focus on shopping at small businesses in your area, you can treat yourself while also stimulating the local economy!
- Minimize media overload
Staying informed on current events is extremely important, but if your phone is constantly pinging with headlines and newsclips, it can be impossible to relax or focus. There are a lot of ways to minimize your media intake to healthy level, ranging from deleting all news and social apps, to turning off notifications, to setting specific times of day where you allow yourself to look at the news. Experiment with different levels to find a balance between up-to-date and calm state.
- Talk with safe people
It’s great to be able to discuss significant topics and events with diverse groups that may have different ideas and opinions, but if you’re worried that talking to someone about a certain topic could be emotionally triggering, or even just exasperating, it’s okay to only seek out like-minded folk. Talking to someone you know won’t be judgmental or reactionary is really important for processing your thoughts and feelings.
It’s okay to slow down and look after yourself. Stay strong.
A cool breeze broke through the warming air, drifting the skirt of my dress to the side. I crossed my legs to try and cover myself some and shifted so the sun may not reach the pale winter skin I had forgotten to cover in sunscreen. In my hands a little pamphlet sat a bit crooked, its pages bookmarked as if by an owner before me, though I was nearly sure the perforation came from how it had been hastily stored in the box I grabbed it from. The pamphlet was important as it would be the first of many to bare my little brother’s name; the first of many to congratulate him for completing his school. And while I was proud of him, proud to be sitting in this stadium and listening to the growing crowd of excited families around me, I couldn’t bare to open the little packet or to see his name myself.
I didn’t consider it much when I graduated, first high school, then undergrad. It was the end, I thought both times, the end of an era and the beginning of another. I had the same thought there on the little fold-out stool at the stadium; an end of an era for sure, but not one I was all too excited to accept.
My little brother may not think it, but for years at a time, I have considered him one of my best friends. He has always been someone I can talk to about anything, and who would understand me just as I am. He was always there as a shoulder, as a confidant, or as a sounding board. And as we both became older and we spent more time together, the more I considered him so. My heart stung a bit as I sat in the stadium at his graduation waiting for him to take his seat and cross the stage. It stung cause I knew that, even though he would always be my brother, there was no telling that after this era if he would ever be as close of a friend.
I knew he would leave in August for school, and then that was that.
I couldn’t bring myself to open the book. I couldn’t bring myself to see his name there, to know when he would cross the stage. I couldn’t bring myself, even as I sat there happy and excited and so incredibly proud of my little brother, to accept that this was the end of an era. That he wasn’t my little brother, not really, anymore.
The short buzz of a text message pulled my eyes from the cover of the pamphlet and toward my phone.
“I don’t know if this is still your number,” I read through the harsh reflection on the screen, “but are you at graduation today?”
Every thought of my brother dropped and I read and reread the message again. I couldn’t believe it, staring at the short little question. It was my childhood best friend, reaching out for the first time in five years, since our very own High School graduation. The contact picture was still Mulan from when we went to Disney World together for our senior trip, the very last time I saw her, or even spoke to her for that matter. Her contact still held the poem she had sent me for my 18th birthday, and the list of her favorite things just in case her birthday came out of the blue. I had thought she had changed her number when she left Maryland, gone for good, but here she was, in bright blue buzzing my phone.
“Yes!” I responded as quickly as I could, hoping to keep her attention. “Are you here?”
She had moved out almost immediately after graduation. She wanted to be a Pixar animator, and she had the talent for it. She could draw anything you could think of solely from memory. When I was really little, she was the one who got me entirely fascinated by art and entirely enraptured in reading. She is who I blame for my need to write, and my goals for the future; she is a prime reason for who I am today. And when she left for college, I was devastated, but I knew she wouldn’t be who she wanted to be staying where she was. I knew she needed to go.
“I am here for my boyfriend’s sister,” Her message was almost instant. “I saw your brother’s name in the pamphlet.”
My last moments with her were on the flight home from Disney. We had been friends at that point for over 10 years. We had spent time living at each other’s houses and going places together. We had grown up side by side and helped each other get through elementary school and middle school and high school. Our parents still sent each other Christmas cards. And then one day, she was gone, off to art school in South Carolina.
“Would it be weird if I came and found you?” I asked after a brief pause. I could feel my anxiety surfacing a bit.
When she left, I did my best to keep in touch. I would reach out when she posted something new on Instagram. I wanted to congratulate her on every accomplishment, to be a voice of encouragement even if I was five states away. But life gets hard, and no one ever says college is easy, and soon my goal evaporated as my own struggles blinded me. By the time undergrad had ended, I tried to reach back out, but it wasn’t the same. I sadly accepted the fact that I had lost it, what I had, and I hadn’t even realized it.
“Of course not,” her reply took some time. “I am heading to the bathrooms, so we can meet there?”
I shot up from my seat, gave a few quick words to my mom, and made my way back up the stadium. The breeze seemed to push me from behind, excited for my encounter, anxious to see the reunion. I held the bottom of my dress down with one hand as I rushed up the stairs and looked around the stands for her, for any semblance of the best friend I had known.
“What are you wearing?” I rushed out a message, and she responded just as quick. “I am wearing blue.”
Everyone needs to accept that time will do its thing and dull the world around it. Every flower wilts and every rock turns to sand. And every friendship, if given enough time, will lose its strength. That was what I was so worried about with my brother, that we too would dull with time. That he wouldn’t smile at our stupid inside jokes anymore, or that I wouldn’t get to hear his snide remarks about mundane things. That we would lose that like I had lost with my friend. College taught me how much letting people go hurt, and how exhausted it made me. And an end to an era always means letting go.
A long blue dress made its way toward me, topped with the memorable curly bob of blonde hair. I could feel the smile on my face grow as she got closer. She hadn’t changed a bit. She still wore her clothes like a costume, still paraded herself like an actress. She still wore the smile of confidence I knew from elementary school and was as expressive as she was when we did theater. She hadn’t changed a bit, except for the tattoo that wrapped her arm, the heels she took extra time to walk in, and the way she grabbed at the waist of her dress when she didn’t know what to say. She was still there though, and she still gave me the biggest hug she could when I ran her way.
I cannot say the conversation was easy, but I guess years will do that; dull what was. But it was there when it didn’t have to be. And she was there when she didn’t have to be. And she found me when she didn’t have to. Five years were still five years, but somehow less than it had been before.
My brother was about to have the same day we did, and it was wild to even consider. This was the last day we saw each other, and the first day we saw each other again. And I realized that my brother would have many similar days that I would get to see and be proud of. He would be there, no matter the time. Good friends are always there, no matter the time.
We stayed and talked until the graduates began to make their walk to their seats and we had to go. I made my way back down to my seat knowing I may never see her again, with her living in California now, and yet a smile was still stuck on my face. It had been enough for me, for now.
My pamphlet was waiting on my chair when I got there, and with both hands lightly on the pages, I found my brother’s name. Bright and bold, he was there too, as he would always be.
Nothing kills your social life like a two-year global pandemic. Not only was it virtually impossible to meet new people, but keeping up with existing friends could at times be an emotionally exhausting task. Can anyone else relate? The good news is, things continue to become progressively safer (knock on wood) and we as a society can go back to facing the greatest challenge of adult life – making new friends.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting someone new through a mutual friend. All we did was get lunch and chat a bit, but it was such a wonderful feeling to make a connection with someone I had never known before. We were lucky – by sheer coincidence we agreed on many things and shared similar interests and passions, so getting to know this person was a breeze. By the end of the interaction we had shared phone numbers and were already calling each other friends – even though we had only met about two hours ago! In reality, it was a very mundane event, but I left with such a pleasant spark in my chest that I knew something very meaningful had just occurred. I made a new friend.
Coincidentally, I work at a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to create relationships across lines of difference in order to strengthen communities, so I quite literally help people become friends for a living. But my organization works with the knowledge that relationships like friendships aren’t just pleasant – they can make real impacts in people’s lives, as well as larger communities. In my work, I’ve identified some key tools for making and maintaining authentic relationships:
- Find common interests – even if that’s just a TV show or sport that you both like, it can lay the groundwork for finding a deeper connection
- Be physically and authentically present – when you meet someone new, try to be your truest self, and give them your full attention. That’s the quickest way to find out if you are actually compatible.
- Find the humor – most people say that a shared sense of humor is the most important thing they value in a friendship, so try to laugh as much as possible! Even if you’re just laughing at how awkward things are.
- Be patient, and be resilient – most meaningful connections don’t happen overnight. If a prospective friend isn’t being super responsive, just give it time. And don’t give up!
There! Now you’re fully set up to go forth and make some friends. Good luck!
I am a graduating senior, and I am both frightened and eager about what lies ahead. I’m sure many of us graduating seniors feel the same way. We’ll all follow different paths some, will continue their studies, while others may take a gap year or perhaps travel the world. Whatever we do, we must strive to be the greatest versions of ourselves and continue on our paths to self-discovery and achievement. All of our journeys have been different, some of us have taken longer to figure out what to do or have had to handle personal issues all while being college students. So many accomplishments within this graduating class, and it’s all worth celebrating. No victory is too small (especially not receiving a degree!).
Graduation is the cherry on top, especially after a difficult few years. I started my Junior year during the COVID-19 pandemic when everything was at a halt, and we were all virtual with no hope in sight. It was a scary time and we students were put up with the challenge of maintaining our grades and sanity in an unimaginable circumstance. We didn’t get to start our senior year enjoying or exploring the lovely campus at USG as much as the seniors before us and we had to deal with everything ourselves. But this final year, I made up for that lost time, and I’m sure most of us have grown to love this campus as much as I do. This year has been fantastic. I met incredible individuals and instructors, had a great time at events, and most importantly, I will be receiving my bachelor’s degree in science.
When I think about my accomplishments and the accomplishments of others, I realized how we all managed to strive through the unthinkable, and for that, I congratulate each and every one of you. No matter what degree or path you take, may you succeed and keep on fighting. I’ll miss USG and its beautiful campus, but it is time to move on to the next chapter of our lives.
CONGRATS GRADUATING CLASS OF 2022!!!
P.S. Don’t forget to share your USG experiences with others because this campus is full of so many opportunities! Anyways, LET’S CELEBRATE!
A cool breeze had set upon me as I starred down at the lightly greyed pages of my book. A shiver made its way up my back, and with my free hand, I pulled my jacket closer around my sundress. I did my best not to stand out as much as I felt I was. Sitting alone on a little bench next to a chicken coop, I was the only person not hustling and bustling around me. As the plus one of a groomsman at a wedding for no one I knew, I felt like a sore thumb, and hoped that the strong words of Jane Austin might be able to sooth some of the nerves that where turning inside me.
It had been years since I had last been to a wedding. I was just about 14 at the last one, the wedding for my aunt, and it was a similar anxiety I felt then too. A preteen at a wedding is always an odd sight; not old enough to be allowed to fully enjoy the festivities, but also not young enough to be dotted over like the kids and babies. I felt then like a lanky mess in a dress, and little had changed in the 10 years since as I sat on my bench with my book. I still felt like a lanky mess, except this time I had dressed myself, so that was another anxious point to consider.
I felt like I should do something; help the caterers set up or maybe direct the cars where to park? I couldn’t figure it out. No one seemed to mind my reading though, out of the way of the pictures and prep. I decided it best to just stay there until the time came to find myself a chair in the aisle.
Don’t get me wrong; I was honored to be there, that my boyfriend wanted me to be around for the party and to meet everyone he knew. But as a groomsman, he had a million things to get ready for, and so I had my bench and my book and my time to reconsider every choice I had made that morning.
I’ve been trying my best to fight this social anxiety of mine for years now. I remember when I was really little the opinions of others didn’t affect me at all. I could talk to whoever, and befriend whoever, and not worry later if they actually meant what they said. My mom used to say I was the friendliest girl, and I was. I would make friends with the first kid my age I saw, even for just an hour. There was no shyness or anxiety; I was fully at the disposal of my own whims and shrugged off any poor encounter with ease. I couldn’t even imagine doing that these days. Everything has so much implication towards the future; one bad perception now could snowball, would snowball, or at least that is what always goes through my mind.
The sun had gotten stronger during the time I had spent on the bench with my book. I am not entirely sure I had even processed the last 30 pages I had read as I slyly looked at every passerby to see if I could gain any cues on how I might better spend my time. I began to sweat a little but the cool breeze was still there, so I pulled my arms from my jacket and set it on my shoulders instead. I tried to tip my mind back into my book. Mr. Darcy had done something. He gave Elizabeth a letter I think. I think I was reading that letter.
The sound of footsteps came near, and I did my best not to sigh out a breath of relief. It must be my boyfriend coming to grab me. But when I looked up, a grey beard greeted me instead, poised behind a camera lense.
“Don’t mind me. Go back to reading.” The photographer chimed as he slowly paced my side and took a few shots before going on his way.
I was shocked. I could’ve sworn I looked as much of a mess as I felt, but thinking about it then, I imagine it was a bit picturesque even. A girl on a bench, out in a field, in a sundress and a jacket draped on her shoulders, reading Jane Austin. I had no clue just how perfect that picture might be, I was so stuck in my head. To others, I imagine I looked serene, put together; the girl reading in the field, not the girl reconsidering every life choice as she sweat through her dress. They had no clue what was in my mind, and yet here I was trying desperately to get into theirs. It was silly, and honestly a waste of time even. And like that, I was okay. Maybe not entirely okay, but I was better.
The wedding was lovely, made even better by the people I did my best to introduce myself to. I was still a bit flimsy and felt like a fool, but I did my best and that was what people saw; a girl doing her best. By the time my boyfriend had finished all his obligations and could join me again for the party, I had a made a friend or two who were looking for companionship like me, and the night moved on. I could’ve been on that bench forever, in my head forever, but I wasn’t. I moved on and I am proud of that. It is one step forward, and I guess one step back, towards the little girl I had been and the person I want to be.
This morning, my partner woke up and immediately told me he’s not going to work today. He’s been feeling sick for a few days, and while he’s pretty sure it’s just allergies, he decided he needs time to rest if he doesn’t want to get burnt out. He’s lucky enough that his work has a great sick leave policy and he has plenty of hours to spend – many working people aren’t as lucky. But with COVID numbers once again on the rise, and finals season nearly upon us, I implore all of us to take a sick day when we need to – if we are able.
It’s not a secret that most US workplaces have sick leave policies that leave much to be desired, which means that many people are forced to work when they don’t feel well. Similarly at many universities, professors have strict attendance policies with little room for making up assignments. This isn’t just rude – it’s inaccessible. People cannot choose when they get sick, or for how long, and many people have chronic illnesses that make everyday tasks a tricky tightrope walk. I believe that work and school environments should provide better accommodations when it comes to health and wellness, including providing more flexibility for sick days. And while we’re at it, here are a few extra circumstances other than acute illness that are worthy of a sick day:
- Seasonal Allergies
Even though allergies are not an acute illness, they can really take a number on the body, especially if one’s body is tired from working too hard. Symptoms can be as light as a sniffle, and severe as a high fever, but any level of severity can hinder one’s ability to work. Take a sick day!
- Mental Health
Using sick days for mental health has been a common debate in recent years, and people who are against it use the argument that “feeling sad” is not a recent to call out of work. But severe mental illness can actually manifest in physical symptoms akin to acute disease like shortness of breath, drowsiness, weakness, and a number of other ailments. Even if someone’s symptoms aren’t that severe, prioritizing mental health is essential for overall wellness. Take a sick day!
Similar to mental health, exhaustion is something that people can write off as being “not that bad”. But overworking yourself, especially if you’re also in school, can lead to more severe illnesses. Exhaustion is your body telling you that you need to slow down. Take a sick day!
I understand that taking a sick day is not possible for everyone. Whether it’s financial constraints, project deadlines, or simply having a job where people depend on your presence, choosing to stay home may not be an option. But as a society, we can be more outspoken for our need to rest, and hopefully employers, professors, and policy makers can notice and make some much needed changes so we can all take a sick day.
(typed with the help of this new kitten)
My parents have always been against pets of any kind in their homes. I always wanted =i” Z&/a pet, whether it was a cat, dog, hamster, or even a fish, but the answer was always no. I never asked for a pet because I knew the answer would be no. I assumed I’d never have any sort of pet until I moved out one day. .`2QU3TY06G5,M444 [[[0P]\
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But, a few days ago, I decided to take that risk and get a kitten. My parents have always been adamant about the no-pets rule, but how could they say no to a kitten.
She is a 2-month-old bundle of energy that we named Mochi like the traditional Japanese treat. When my dad found out about her, he was immediately against having her, but I know he’ll warm up to her soon. According to my mom when I was away in class, my dad was indeed playing with Mochi. He won’t admit it to me, fg1h3p29q;own/ls but I know he likes her.
Things seem to be looking up, even though my dad won’t admit it.
This is a new chapter in our lives and my sisters are also very thrilled. \76920d6757755575776677 They’re enjoying every moment they can with Mochi. It feels great to be establishing some great core memories and helping my sisters enjoy their childhood. A childhood with a pet, just how I wished for.
Mochi is part of the family now, and as you can all see, it’s been hard to keep her off my laptop. As I watch her finally fall asleep on my lap, I am excited about what is to come, but I am also nervous about taking care of her. It has become my job to help her live a happy and healthy. I am more than ready to take on that responsibility and love my Mochi.
My friend turned to me the other day, a sad look glazing her eyes; “I can’t believe I’m graduating.” I nodded with her, though I had graduated a year earlier. “What are you going to miss most?”
“My friends, and the parties, and maybe even class too. I just don’t know what I’ll do with myself.”
I get it. Graduating is scary, and hard, and annoying, and uncomfortable. Everything you’ve known for the last 20 years of your life is about to change. You’ll be officially classified as an adult, and that means you have to start pretending you are one. But everyone does it eventually, and just like you were able to join into the college experience in the first place, you now get to do the big step of finishing the race. And, just like everyone before you, you won’t be doing it alone. Here are three pieces of advice I wish I had before graduation began:
1.) Graduation generally is hot.
Even if it’s 50 degrees outside that day, it is going to be warm. You’ll be sitting for a long time while your entire graduating class goes up to cross the stage, and then sitting again while the rest of your class does the same. You are in at least two layers, one of which being black, and the gown does not breathe. Bring a fan or at least something to help cool down.
2.) Take pictures of everything and everyone.
You never know when you’ll see all these people in the same place again. Take the time to record every chance you get of the people who have made your college experience. In 10 years or even 1 year, you’ll have the ability to look back and see everyone together, and remember it as it was. Your graduation can pose as a reminder of the people who helped you get there, rather than the end of your time with them.
3.) It is okay not to have a job lined up.
You have time, and you have resources at your disposal. The stress can get to be a lot, but there are so many options for your future that this one decision isn’t going to make or break anything. At the end of the day, making ends meet while you search for your dream job is okay, and so is giving yourself a few weeks after graduation if you have that option. You are not required to find your lifelong career within the 2 months leading to graduation; you have your entire life to do that. It is okay to take your time to find a job that is truly yours.
4.) Your life isn’t over just because college is.
You’ve spent 20 years in school, and now you’re looking toward a time where that may not be a thing anymore. That doesn’t mean you peaked, or that your fun has to end. You can do anything you want outside of college, even more now that you’re of age. Think of how many places you could go, how many people you could meet now that you aren’t confined to your graduating class. Go rent a car and see the world. You deserve it.
5.) If you really miss it, you can always go back.
College is never an end, really. A professor of mine likes to say “the truly knowledgeable seek out knowledge at every turn,” and that is an option too. If a doctorate or even a master’s degree is too much, you can always go for certificate programs that let you dabble in a topic for a few semesters. Or you can even take individual classes if you would really like. It won’t be exactly the same as undergrad, but then again, it’ll be pretty close. You’ll still meet people and do things you may never have expected. It is still an opportunity to do college again.
Have you ever been in a rut in life, and someone tells you to just “get yourself out there?” What does that even mean? As we’re still grappling with the pandemic, many of us continue to feel isolated and scared to start new things or go to new places. But, spring is here and it’s time to “get yourself out there”. Not sure how? Here are a few options:
- Join a new club on campus
As a college student, the easiest way to meet new people or try a new experience is to join a club! I know the semester is already halfway over, but it’s never too late to join a group on campus, or at the very least start researching clubs to join in the fall. Check out USG’s Student Organization List to see what opportunities are available on campus!
- Volunteer in your community
Another great way to participate in society that doesn’t require a lot of commitment is to volunteer! This could give you a chance to meet new people of different backgrounds, flex a passion or skill, and give back to your community. Depending on the organization, you’ll likely have a choice of volunteering regularly or just for special events. If you already know of an organization near you that recruits volunteers, try reaching out and seeing if they need extra help, or just search a website like VolunteerMatch to see who might need your help.
- Audition for a choir, play, or musical
Feel like you need to get our of your shell? Performance can be a great way to open up and express yourself, whether through, singing, acting, dancing, or playing a musical instrument. If you’re not sure where to find auditions, Facebook is a great place to start, or simply search performance groups near you and see what comes up!
- Join a hobby class
I know we’re all in school already, so maybe taking a new class is the last thing on your list. But if you want to pick up a new hobby and make some friends with the same hobby, a class might be just the thing! You could learn how to cook, knit, play guitar, salsa dance – the possibilities are endless! If you’re the kind of person that loves to be “productive” in your free time, this would be perfect for you.
- Attend a concert, festival, or convention
I recognize that this might still be out of people’s comfort zone when it comes to safety, but as the weather gets warmer there will be tons of outdoor concerts and other events all around the Baltimore-DC area. You could go see the Orioles play at Camden Yards, or catch the tail end of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Once again Facebook is a great place to find events like these, or your old pal Google can also help out.
So what the heck does it mean to get yourself out there? To me, it just means pushing through discomfort to try new things. How will you get yourself out there this spring?