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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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Inner Child in the Snow

Well, the holidays certainly weren’t as normal as we were expecting, and now we’re suddenly back to teleworking, so joy and cheer have been seriously hard to come by. But, in the middle of this dreary, turbulent January, we have been given a gift: several beautiful snowfalls. Now, I tell everyone I know how much I hate winter – hate the cold, hate the dark, hate the dry air. But when it snows, I can forget all of my qualms with the winter season for a few magical moments. It’s simply a sight like no other, and even if it no longer means I get out of school (or even work as we work from home), I still feel a rush of exhilaration as I see the flakes tumble down. I think the main reason I still feel this exuberance at the sight of snow is the fact that it really brings out my inner child.

The Baltimore Museum of Art on a snowy evening.

As the past two years have stolen so much joy from us and made us deny ourselves so many things that make us happy, it is essential that we take any chance we get to allow our inner child to come out and bring some whimsy into our day. And I think the best time to let out that youthful spirit is in the snow! Visions of snow-covered yards and hills bring back memories of so many fun activities:

  • Looking up with your mouth as wide as possible to catch a few snowflakes on your tongue.
  • Sledding down a hill and feeling the wind on your face.
  • Finding some friends and having a crazy snowball fight – complete with giant snow forts!
  • Plopping down and waving your arms and legs like a maniac to get the biggest snow angel.
  • Crafting a cheery (but inevitably lopsided) snowman and holding a sliver of hope that he’ll come alive.
A snowy sidewalk at Wyman Park Dell.

Even if going out and playing in the snow isn’t your thing, snow days are the perfect excuse to stay in your fuzziest, comfiest loungewear and make some hot tea or cocoa and really get in the spirit of coziness. Finding whimsy and allowing ourselves moments to be truly carefree can be so healing for all of the stress and burnout that everyone has been experiencing. So next time it snows, don’t be afraid to let your inner child out and go a little crazy! You’ll be better off for it.

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Keeping up with your connections

Source: MAP

As future professionals, we all know the importance networking and making connections have for our career paths, but maintaining your connections is just as important as gaining them.

So what is needed to maintain your connections?

Well, first of all, networking is about building relationships and learning how to them while they help you while sharing mutual respect.

These are a few ways to keep your bond and maintain your connections.

  1. Take notes during your conversations and follow up with them afterward. 
  • This shows your interest.
  1. Send them an article or news about something you know is important to them. 
  • This shows you consider them and acknowledge their interests.
  1. Remember the names of people important to them. 
  • When having a conversation with them, remembering the names of people important to them shows you listen and are very attentive.
  1. Come up with a solution to a problem they shared with you. This is a great way to bond and great material for a letter of recommendation. 
  • For example, a doctor I interpret for needed help finding a used CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) machine for an uninsured patient, and I was able to guide them in locating reasonably priced equipment to help.
  1. Let them know you are searching for a job or an internship. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  1. Let your connections know that you appreciate their time and how much they have helped you grow.
    • Especially if you achieved the desired job or internship.
  1. Lastly, stay in touch! 

Remember Networking is not just about getting a job or an internship. It’s about your ongoing career development and the support necessary to maintain your success.

Source: Dreamtime
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Two Purple Lines

COVID-19 Testing
photo from Evergreen Health

I sat in my office, my head slightly spinning, as I pushed through page after page of COVID testing sites, anxiously hoping to find an opening within the next few days. The words “filled” and “unavailable” had seared themselves into my retinas at that point, and I could seem to blink away their after images. I felt fine, other than the usual lethargy that comes after a vacation, but as always I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t risking anyone’s life. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a positive test come back, but I also couldn’t sit around and pretend I hadn’t been risky with my own physical safety during my time away for winter break.

I kept turning my head to look at the little drawer in the back of my office, and considered solving my anxiety-filled query right then and there, but I kept telling myself I had to wait. As someone working in a mental health office, it was protocol to keep COVID-19 tests for those who may need them, and my freshly used one sat just inside that drawer, curating for its determined 15 minutes. I was lucky, I know, that I had the convenience of a rapid test right at my finger tips, and I swore to myself that I would only use it when absolutely necessary; today felt like one of those days. As more and more pages, filled with “unavailable,” and “ filled,” and “closed,” crossed my screen, I couldn’t help but find myself staring longer and longer at the drawer behind me.

“I’m fine,” I bargained to myself. “Sure, there’s a tickle in my throat, and my head is a bit out of it, but that always happens after I come home from vacation. I’m fine.” And yet, my eyes were glued to the drawer, and my heart was beating fast, and my mind began to race through scenarios where those little test strips came back positive. It was playing games with me, and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop it; “but what if you aren’t fine.”

I tried to imagine what it would be like to have a positive, and to determine everything I had done in the recent days that I might need to solve. I felt like I was running behind myself, trying to pick up the pieces of my life that I had so freely thrown around without a care in the world. How could I have been so reckless with myself? How could I have been so unabashed with the possibilities of the future. I had pretended we weren’t in pandemic times, and finally had let the worries of sickness off my shoulders for a few days, and now I could possibly end up paying the price. My inaction, my desire to let go for a few days could have ruined lives, could ruin lives still, and I could do nothing to fix it other than sit in my little office, alone, and wait for my test.

It was a long 15 minutes, as my brain battled itself, and my heart raged against my ribcage. My mind was torn between the importance of a mental break and the responsibility of a pandemic. I just wanted a break, and that was okay. But you can’t take a break during a pandemic. You can’t just pretend it all doesn’t exist. I couldn’t help constantly refreshing the CVS website for PCR test openings, and looking back at the little drawer in my office. The minutes sat like lead on the back of my tongue, heavy and metallic, like I was swallowing blood. 

I jumped when the alarm on my phone went off, and bolted to the drawer, ripping the pink booklet out from inside. My little lollipop of a test was done, and my eyes scanned it over and over and over again. The lead was gone from my tongue, now lodged in the lowest part of my throat. My arms shook, and my eyes quivered. I had just needed a break, but everything has consequences. You can’t take a break sometimes, regardless of what the therapists and mental health advocates tell you. Some things, you just can’t let off your shoulders. This one should have been mine.

Staring back at me were two little purple lines, one line more than I was praying for. It was positive, proof of my misgivings and that the guilt I felt was rightly placed. This was my burden to bear.

Looking back now, cleared and ready to reenter society, my battle is still one I find problem deciphering. How can one person be so entirely alone in guilt like that, when an entire world has the same exact issue to shoulder? How can you manage the shame of slacking responsibility when everyone is telling you that it is okay to take a break? This pandemic has been difficult for many reasons, and it’s crazy that this mental conundrum is a part of that. I don’t think I should have done what I did, slacking, but I don’t know if I could have avoided the outcome. Should I carry this guilt with me? Or shrug it off? Where should I stand now, afterwards, a survivor of their own burden? I struggle to comprehend my situation, as the world pulls me two separate ways. I pray, like I did then, for an answer, but I doubt mine will be as clear as two purple lines.

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The Last Lap

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The Rise of “Cozy Games”

I have never considered myself much of a “gamer”, but in hindsight I have been an avid player of videogames since I was a young child. I got my first Nintendo DS at 8 years old, I played on the Wii throughout all of middle school and even into high school, and I was able to save up and get my own Switch in 2019. Video games have been a salient part of my life for a really long time, so why have I never considered myself a true gamer?

In retrospect, it’s because I never played what I saw as “real games” – competitive and typically combative games like Call of Duty or Overwatch. I have always played less competitive games like Nintendogs, Cooking Mama, and Animal Crossing, which gave me the lesser title of “casual gamer”. My younger self, along with most of the gaming community, traditionally viewed these games as less serious than more combative ones, therefore my experience with videogames felt insignificant in comparison. But over the past few years, these games that I have always loved have seriously risen in popularity and even gained a more complementary genre title – Cozy Games.

Cozy Games don’t require a lot of mental energy or competition to succeed, and in fact are typically designed to be relaxing. These games face a lot of scrutiny from the larger gaming community because players typically can’t “win” these games. But it’s impossible to ignore the misogyny wrapped up in the perception of cozy games, as these games are typically more popular with women and feminine people. Videogames have historically been a male-dominated hobby, which is why more aggressive games have the reputation of being better than more casual ones. To be clear, I have no problem with competitive/combative videogames, in fact I play a few myself, but where I take issue is the rhetoric in the gaming community that reduces cozy games to a lower value than violent games because they are viewed as more feminine.

My main point is that people who prefer cozy games belong in the gaming community just as much as more competitive players. Cozy games are for everyone, and I believe their rise in popularity can be attributed to the collective need for a peaceful escape from the world we’re all living in. Staying tapped in to current events can be exhausting and distressing, so playing a game with violence or high-stress scenarios is not nearly as cathartic as designing a cute little island or exploring beautiful landscapes and solving puzzles. Watching the rise of cozy games as a valid gaming genre has allowed me to connect more deeply with the gaming community, and isn’t connection what we all need most right now?

Okay, now that I’ve stepped off my soapbox, here’s my list of top cozy games for the Nintendo Switch (all of these except for Animal Crossing are also available on PC):

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (above left) – develop an island town with cute animal neighbors!
  2. Stardew Valley (above right) – manage a farm, connect with townspeople, and discover magical secrets!
  3. Spiritfarer (below left) – Build your boat and set sail to to help spirits cross to “the other side”!
  4. AER: Memories of Old (below right) – transform into a bird and fly around a floating kingdom to solve ancient puzzles!
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WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MCAT?!

Source: AAMC

If you are like me, then your knowledge of the MCAT is very scarce.
Even though my dream is to become a pediatric doctor (specific field pending ;)) MCAT was always something I would do in the future, and now that the time is approaching I have sought out as much help and information as I can.

First, what is the MCAT?
The MCAT stands for The Medical College Admission Test and it is crucial for your acceptance to your dream university!


It contains the following:

  • Four Sections: Chem/Phys (C/P), Bio/Biochem (B/B), Psych/Soc (P/S), Critical Analysis & Reasoning (CARS)
  • In each section: 44 passage-related questions, 15 standalone questions, 59 total
  • 7.5 hours long: 8 min examinee agreement, 10 min tutorial, 95 min C/P, 10 min break, 90 min CARS, 30 min break, 95 min B/B, 10 min break, 95 min P/S, 5 min void question, 5 min optional satisfaction survey
  • All multiple choice, computer based
  • Each section scored 118-132, for a total of 472-528
  • Exam dates Jan-Sept,

What topics will be included?

  • Biology: DNA, genetics, evolution, biotechnology, eukaryotic cell, prokaryotes vs. eukaryotes, viruses, reproductive system, embryology, nervous system, endocrine system, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, immune system, lymphatic system, muscular system, skin system and skeletal system
  • Biochemistry: Enzymes, bioenergetics, metabolic regulation, pentose phosphate pathway, lipid metabolism, glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, citric acid cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, nucleotides and nucleic acids, amino acids, peptides, proteins, protein structure and function, carbohydrates and lipids
  • Physics: Translational motion, force, equilibrium, work, energy, periodic motion, fluids, electrostatics, electromagnetic radiation, electrical circuits, circuit elements, light, magnetism, sound, matter, atoms, nuclear decay, electronic structure, atomic and chemical behavior, thermodynamics, optics
  • Organic chem: Key functional groups/compounds, nomenclature, stereochemistry, hybridization, nucleophilic substitution (not elimination), molecular structure and absorption spectra, aldehydes and ketones, alcohols, carboxylic acids, acid derivatives, mass spectrometry, polycyclic and heterocyclic aromatic compounds, phenols, separations and purification
  • General chem: Gas phase, electrochemistry, molecular structure, stoichiometry, acid/base equilibria, solubility, ions in solutions, titration, covalent bond, liquid phase, intermolecular forces, kinetics, equilibrium, water, molecules, thermochemistry
  • Psych & Soc: Sensory processing, the senses, perception, attention, cognition, consciousness, memory, language, emotion, stress, personality, psychological disorders, motivation, attitudes, beliefs, psychological, biological and social factors that affect behavior, personality, self and identity formation, prejudice and bias, stereotypes, social class, stratification, social mobility, poverty, culture, and health and healthcare disparities

Resources

  1. AAMC Material 
    1. Stands for American Medical College Application Service (AAMC), they are a service dedicated to help medical students and provide study material to applicants. So be sure to apply.
  2. Kaplan Books
    1. Primary content review for C/P, B/B. Additional questions organized by chapter available online.
    2. General chem: 12 chapters
    3. Organic chem: 12 chapters
    4. Biochem: 12 chapters
    5. Biology: 12 chapters
    6. Physics and math: 12 chapters
  3. Jack Westin CARS
    1. Most representative practice passages and questions for CARS section other than official AAMC question packs
  4. Pre-made decks specialized for MCAT via Reddit
    • u/penguin pajama: corresponds to Kaplan chapters
    • u/MileDown: great for all sections, ~3k cards, includes 300 pg KA P/S doc, equations
    • u/Cubene: corresponds to 300 page KA document (psych)

Lastly don’t forget to schedule your time and organize your studying, don’t over overwork yourself!

Also, it is better to study 4 months prior to the exam date to help you retain your information correctly. Creating a schedule and taking necessary breaks is key to acing the exam!

I know it is a threatening exam BUT it is going to be a SUCESS and we will be the doctors of TOMORROW!

From premed to physician: Pursuing a medical career : Career Outlook : U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: Bureau of Labor
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Staying Positive Throughout the Holidays

It’s the end of the year, and while it is a joyous time of year, it can also be a stressful time for some. Companies are closing out their fiscal years, students are getting ready for finals, and there is holiday shopping and travel to do. This year, I am the “some” I mentioned. As I’ve previously written, I am in the process of buying a home and am actually preparing to close and move in tomorrow! Although I am the most excited that I have been in a very long time, I still have my normal responsibilities to take care of during this time. This makes for a busy and tired Patrice. The Thanksgiving break was great, but life went back to normal right after. Back to work, back to classes and assignments, and back to this move.

One thing I always strive to do is be as positive as possible, because I believe that the energy you put out into the universe is what you get back. I practice daily affirmations to keep me focused and grounded in creativity. Here are some daily affirmations you can recite in order to keep positive energy in your life.

  1. I am confident and powerful.
  2. Money comes to me easily and is ever-flowing.
  3. I attract and live in abundance.
  4. I am aligned on my path and whatever I am destined for will come to me.
  5. I am not defined by my past and look forward to the future.

These are just a few affirmations, but feel free to make your own with what applies to you. Stay safe, healthy, and abundant this holiday season!

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I Made Bingo

My 21st birthday was a month after COVID began. Stuck in my room, I spent it watching YouTube videos and going on a walk through the woods; my plans for a big birthday brunch out the window. For years, I had been anticipating the moment where my entire life would culminate to a big group of friends cheering for me as I blew out those fated twenty one candles. I had been patiently waiting for years for my turn to be welcomed into adulthood, and I had so many plans for that day. And in the end, none of them ever happened. I had a cake, and I blew out some candles, and I went to bed.

COVID’s greedy removal of the final 3 semesters of my undergraduate degree taught me something; you must appreciate every moment you have. Had I known I wouldn’t have the final year of my bachelor’s degree, would I have done more? Would I have focused on social life more than academics and work? I am not sure.

My experience has not been nearly as rough as some others. I would say I am lucky that the only thing I lost to the pandemic was the last year and a half of my undergraduate degree. But I can’t pretend that the time trapped inside, away from the promises of my final years of college, hadn’t changed me. Everyone has their own regrets, and not using my time is one of mine.

How many things can you say you have done? I have been asking myself this question over and over again for the last few months. I keep forgetting things, remembering things, almost as if my brain has filed away these experiences just for a quick reminiscence. Yes I have done things, but have they been truly done if I barely can remember doing them?

I have spent my time on this blog page writing much of the same thought; that time is precious, and the movement of time is pervasive. Every moment is one that will not last, and watching them leave without a second glance hinders the uncertain time we have here. I don’t think I thought like this before COVID, but I certainly do now.

So, this summer I made a Bingo chart. I had missed out on my favorite time of year the year before. I was determined to make sure I spent my time wisely and did the things that brought me joy during the fall season. I made a Bingo chart; 25 boxes filled with things I had to get done by the last day of fall. And I made a promise to myself to finish every single one. No cheating. No skipping. But this promise was more than just that. It was a promise to myself to make the most of my favorite season, to make the most of the time I had.

My Bingo had silly things on it; bake homemade apple dumplings, visit a haunted house, watch Nightmare Before Christmas. None of them were anything special or unique, but all of them were things I had missed during our time inside. I gave myself the entire season of fall to get the Bingo done, from September 22nd till December 21st. There must be something to purpose that makes actions visceral; that makes actions stay. I can remember every one of my Bingo activities right down to the flavor of each Starbucks drink. This weekend, I finished my 25 days with a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and I checked off the final box, to visit a museum.

I am not sure about the science behind the concept of bucket lists. For me, the time frame is too large to fully comprehend. Sure, I would love to visit Rome before I die, but I doubt that will be in the next decade. It is hard to work toward something like that without getting discouraged by the eons of time between now and when that could possibly happen. But, for me, three months is doable, and finding time to make a pressure cooker dinner or spend a weekend away is much easier when you can see the time ahead.

But I have reached the end of my Bingo now, and I feel a bit lost with myself. Do I make another; create a cycle of perpetual lists for my future and plan everything I want to do for forever? I feel like that misses the point of my exercise; to find time to do something unpredictable and to make it happen no matter what. I could make a new Bingo, one that is for winter or for the holidays, but then would it still be as exciting as the first one? Or would it become a monotony of endless tasks? Would I become a slave to my own time? I have no clue. I worry that this would be the extreme opposite of my time in COVID; pursuing everything so fervently that it is all I can possibly do.

For now, I am happy to think back on my 2021 Fall Bingo with pride, and not look to do another. Maybe I will one day, but I don’t think I will right now. I made sure I did 25 specific things I missed during COVID, and every single one of those things was something I did with excitement. I am very proud to say I did them all. And I think that is enough for now. To have done my best to do everything I could.

And if anything, my time pursuing the words on a piece of paper has only made my lesson stronger; you can make time to do the things you want, to find joy in every aspect of an experience. It just has to be something you set your mind to do.

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Friendsgiving

What is Thanksgiving? It’s usually a day you spend celebrating with the people who you’re very thankful for having in your life. Now who are you thankful for having in your life? Family and friends. Since we usually spend our Thanksgiving dinner with our family, there should be a way to celebrate it with our friends, especially the new friends that we made this year! So, my cohort took our opportunity to take the chance in being able to enjoy some time together outside of campus during a time when it’s not school and just be having fun together! That’s why we decided we get together and have a dinner together, being able to celebrate as new friends we all became over the past few months! We called this one Friendsgiving, because it was just us new friends (along with a few family members or other loved ones) and celebrate about the new thing that we’re all thankful about: our friendship!

Having decided to gather in one of my friend’s house who offered her place since she had enough space, the dinner began around 5 p.m, even though we didn’t start eating until for maybe another hour until we all arrived. Not everyone in our cohort was able to come, which was very unfortunate. I would say, if everyone was able to come that day, it would’ve been much more fun since this dinner was meant for us all. Still, everyone who was able to come all chipped in by having brought along our own dishes or having helped in making the dinner. This dinner was unique and so exotic, and very international, since they were dishes all of us usually cook for our own family Thanksgiving.

Before we started to eat, we all said something that we were thankful for, and of course everyone was very thankful for having met each other, how much we’ve helped each other out, and the fact that we’ve been there for each other since the beginning. The dinner was really fun, because it was during this time that as we talked that we also learned more about each other.

We continued the night by playing it with group games like Uno and Heads Up! There’s no better way to finish off the night old school style by having us all gather around and be playing it the way we all used to when we were younger! Of course, we needed a cell phone to play Heads Up, but we were still playing it the same way that we would if we were playing charades, and we still managed to have fun by doing it together.

Even though not everyone in our cohort was there, there was still enough of us for everyone to be able to have a blast! I will say that if there is any other better way you want to spend time with a group of new friends who also feel like a second family to you, it will be by getting together for a dinner similar to Thanksgiving!

I hope that all of you also had a chance like this to get together with your own friends and had a friendsgiving of your own, as well as having celebrated your Thanksgiving with the people you love! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Food For Thought

Welcome to all, and to all are welcome. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

We are 24 hours away from enjoying the best meal of the year. There’s nothing better than a holiday filled with the Mt. Rushmore of f words: football, food, friends, and family. It is something about that feeling I get while indulging in some of my favorite foods with all of my loved ones that reassures me just how special this life is.

Each year I try to remember how this magical day came about in our society. It all started with a group of people giving another group of people the most valuable thing we can get give to one another, generosity and kindness. It was understood then that the differences they had were not what really mattered. What really mattered was coming together and helping each other in times of need. That lesson from centuries ago still holds so much influence in us to this very day.  Whether we dress differently or come from completely different parts of the world, any groups of people can still come together while celebrating all the things that make us special. Love truly can conquer all. Although we may not eat turkey and macaroni & cheese, or have a giant parade, knowing that we all share this bond of love makes every day a day of thanks.

I for one am also so amazed at that the difference a year can make. Last year we all faced one of the most difficult challenges of our lives. Part of the adversity we experienced was being apart from the ones we loved on day meant to celebrate the ones we love. Ironic isn’t it! I remember having some version of a Thanksgiving last year, and although I was so thankful for my loved ones being safe and doing what minimal we could do, I so longed to experience the holiday it its entirety. Being apart on Thanksgiving last year sucked, but it really made me realize just how blessed I am to have my amazing family. I guess it’s true what they say, absence does make the heart grown fonder. I am so happy that we are close to getting back to some normality and that this year I can tell each one of my family members just how thankful I am for them to their face, while also trying to steal the last piece of cake.

With everyone getting back on track this year, I am excited to get back to our normal holiday routine. On Thanksgiving morning, my mom wakes us all up and we watch the Macy’s Day Parade while getting out all the Christmas decorations. After a few hoorahs and hoorays, my mom leaves for my grandmother’s house to help with getting everything prepared. I personally don’t eat anything during that entire morning, so I’ll have enough room to have huge dinner. (I know this is probably not smart or scientifically correct, but I still do it) After hours of eagerly waiting, me and my siblings get that call from my mom to head over to my grandmother’s house because everything is ready. At my grandmother’s house, I am charge of greeting all the family members when they arrive and collecting their jackets. When I was kid, they told me I was the only one responsible enough for this job, so I thought it was cool. Now, I am starting to think I was bamboozled. Once everybody arrives, we have family grace and each say what we are thankful. Then, its go time!

I just wanted to say that I am thankful for all of you. I did not know what to expect when doing this blog, but it has been so amazing. So thank you and over the holiday break remember to say:    

I can overcome anything

I can achieve everything

I will stand for something

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com
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