Welcome

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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Routine is medicine

A routine is, “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”(Definition from Oxford Languages)

Next week is the start of a new semester. Winter break was great! Getting to relax and do things that normally I wouldn’t have the time to do because of classes. Rather than abandoning all the activities that have brought me joy over break, I am going to try to incorporate them into my routine. Making it a priority to workout, paint, cook, bake, go for a hike… I already am constantly making “to-do lists” or scribbling things down on sticky notes. A routine creates a bit more of a structured outline to the mundane tasks, hobbies, and big projects day-to-day. Before the full workload of classes begins try to establish a routine, a plan of action to be successful while also maintaining your relationships and your emotional and physical well-being. Let’s start the semester off strong!

Image taken by Cathryn Lavery on unsplash.com

A routine is kind of like a rough draft – sometimes the final draft steers off in another direction and that’s okay! It’s not about perfectionism. The rough draft provides a skeleton of how you envision your day or what you’d like to prioritize in that day or week.

Steps to create your routine to have productive days:

Step #1: Find a notepad, journal or calendar

Start off with getting a a notepad, journal and/or calendar to jot down your routines each week.

Step #2: Brain dump

Create a list of all the things you’d like to accomplish in that day/week. It doesn’t have to be organized. Just list whatever would make you feel fulfilled and productive in that day/week.

What to include? Small tedious tasks to big projects. You could include brushing your teeth, watching a show, reading, attending a class, coffee date, cooking a meal, going for a bike ride, calling your mom… whatever will lead you to accomplishing your personal and professional goals, maintaining your well-being, and nourishing relationships. What creates balance in your day?

Step #3: Structure out your day

Beginning, middle & end. What does that look like? For my routine, I’ve included the amount of time that I would like to work on said task and I try to stay within that framework. It can be as detailed or broad as you would like. It may look like something similar to this…

Morning

7:30am – wake-up, brush teeth, skincare, shower, coffee

8 am – breakfast, walk dog

9am – class til 10:15am, work on 12pm classwork

Afternoon

12pm – class til 1:15pm, lunch

2pm – run, listen to podcast

etc…

But remember no matter how planned out and detailed your routine may be – leave room for flexibility because life happens! (Tip when planning out your week – highlight or star things that are important and need to get done THAT week. For example if you have a big test coming up the following week – prioritize getting in that studying… or you need to get an oil change on your car ASAP highlight that. These are things that take priority and are time sensitize).

Image taken by Emma Matthews on unsplash.com

Step #4: Test it out

After a week or two check in with yourself. How do you feel? Would you like to add anything or take something away from your daily routine? Is something consuming too much of your time? Is there a balance or do you feel burned out? Maybe keep track of your thoughts and feelings at the end of each week in order to reflect back on. Make necessary tweaks and apply them.

Personally when classes start up I typically spend all my time working on classes and leave little time for other activities or hobbies. Typically this results in a burnout about mid way through the semester. I am going to try to stick to routines this Spring semester and I encourage you to give it a try as well. Start off the semester strong and set-up your days and weeks for success in all aspects of your life!

Routine: The Unexpected Power of Habits, Practices, and Rituals – Jan Stanley
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Valentines Day Gift Guide

I have always loved Valentine’s Day ever since I was kid. Valentines Day does not have to be just for those with significant others! This is just a day to express love and appreciation. So let’s talk about different ways to gift your loved ones based on their love language!

Physical Touch: If their love language is touch they feel immense comfort from physical things. Some things this person might enjoy as a gift may be a massage. You could think get a couples massage together or you could give them a gift certificate to get one on their own! Another nice gift for them may be a weighted blanket. These blankets feel as if someone is hugging you. Another way to personalize this gift is by getting it custom made with a picture on it! 

Words of Affirmation: If their love language is words of affirmation they enjoy others expressing their affection for them. Some great gifts for this group would be handwritten letters. You could make a few with themes such as one titled “when you’re having a bad day” or “when you’re doubting yourself”. Another gift idea for this group could be a jar filled with reasons why you love them. One more special idea for this group would be making them a playlist of songs that makes you think of them.

Quality Time: If their love language is quality time they enjoy not only being in your presence but doing activities where you’re actually together. Some fun valentines day gifts for this group would be a get away day/night. Take them on a get away to a cabin or a new environment just the two of you. This group may also enjoy doing something challenging together such as going to an escape room!

Acts of Service: If their love language is acts of service they enjoy feeling taken care of. Some gift ideas for this group are items that will help make their lives easier. This group of people would enjoy a gift card to places they visit often. If they have been mentioning something they have been needing or wanting such as a coffee maker this would be a great gift for them. This group will enjoy the little things such as cleaning the house for them as well. 

Receiving Gifts: If their love language is gift giving this does not necessarily mean they like materialistic things. This group of people enjoy the thought and visual representation of your love. Some nice gifts for this group of people may be jewlery. This allows them to wear it regularly and think of how you got it for them. You can personalize the jewelry by engraving something special such as the date you met. They may also enjoy something as simple as flowers. You can take this gift the extra mile by getting them one of those chocolate covered strawberry boxes that are trending on social media.

My best friend gave me this for my birthday and I felt so special

It’s honestly just about the thought and genuine love that’s put into the gift. I hope you all have a happy Valentines Day taken or single. Comment your love language and a gift you would like to receive!

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Spring (Semester) Cleaning Time

Welcome, one and all, to Spring semester 2021! For some, it’s time for a new chapter at a new school. For others, it’s time to look ahead to their next steps. However, for all of us, it’s time for a fresh start. And what better way to begin 2021 than by cleaning out your closet? It sounds like a chore (because it is), but cleaning is beneficial for your mental health. Organizing your closet is a healthy practice for avoiding “should” thinking. (Such as, “I should keep this because I don’t like shopping.”) Plus, it feels much more relaxing to be in an organized space than a cluttered one, even if you’re only in there long enough to grab your favorite pair of jeans. So, here are my tips for spring cleaning in January.

My closet, with clothes organized by type. The top shelves hold my luggage, backpacks, hats, and sweaters. There is also much more space in here than there was two weeks ago.
Image: My closet, now with clothes and accessories organized by type. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t even step foot in here without having to move something!

Plan your time wisely.

If you’re like me, it could take one or two days to get through everything, so make sure to carve out enough time and stay focused. I promise you it’s worth it.

Utilize all of your space, including furniture.

Make the bed, then pull all of your stuff out and organize it into categories. Maybe you stack your t-shirts near your pillow, then dresses (if you wear those) near the foot of the bed, etcetera. This way, you can see what’s ahead of you and tackle the “Keep or Not Keep” debate in chunks.

If you aren’t sure whether to keep something, don’t.

I don’t mean this in the “I can’t remember the last time I went out in this” way because that’s partly #quarantinevibes. I mean, if you aren’t sure whether you feel good wearing something, then you probably aren’t going to wear it in the future. Save that space for something you need (like a go-to job interview outfit) or something you love and will use.

Organize the clothes you keep into outfits.

No muss, no fuss, no last-minute realizations that you had the perfect tie to wear to work, but it clashes with your shoes, and you’re running late. While you’ve got organization on the brain, save Future You the hassle and coordinate outfits now. I had the idea to label my hangers with little cards that say things like, “Work outfit. Summer. Pair with a white skirt.” Alternatively, just hang the elements of your outfits next to each other.

Donate or sell your clothes afterward.

If you’re looking to donate what you give up, check out Charity Navigator and find an organization you feel you can trust. If you’re short on money, try selling your things on sites like eBay or thredUP. You can also find secondhand stores that give cash for clothes, but these places only buy what they can sell, so check their websites to see what they want.

All the stuff I decided to donate, including 2 boxes of assorted objects and 3 garbage bags worth of clothes. On top of the bags sits a play conveniently titled You Can't Take it With You.
Image: all the stuff I decided to donate, including 2 boxes of assorted objects and 3 garbage bags worth of clothes. On top of the bags sits a play conveniently titled You Can’t Take it With You.

That’s all I have! Best of luck, and may the year 2021 be a bit kinder to you all.

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Starting Up Again

Hello everyone and welcome back to the “Around the Grove Blogs” We all missed you very much and are happy to be resuming the biweekly blogs! We finally made it to 2021 and many of us will be starting the spring semester by the end of this month. We’ve all probably decided that we will do our best to make this year better than the last so here are some things you can focus on to try and make your year better.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Academic Goals: Students like myself will always try to set goals for their academic semesters. If you intend on improving something like using the correct citation format for papers or how to use certain applications for classes, the Priddy Library often has workshops on how to cite in certain formats like APA and can tell you where you need to go if you have other questions.

Personal Goals: Many of us have probably made a goal or two that is meant to help improve our well-being; I, for one, have been doing so since mid 2020. Always set a reasonable timeline of how you want to improve your well-being. For example, “I want to lose five pounds by February 20th of this year” this will motivate you to try and keep going and once you get to that ideal weight before then, you’d be more proud of yourself. I made the goal to lose ten pounds before 2021 began and I was able to achieve that goal and more since I made it clear to myself when I wanted to get to that goal.

Workplace Goals: Work is something that many of us will have to take on in order to sustain ourselves and the ones we live with, love, and care for in our lives. Maybe you have a bunch of projects to complete and you’re unsure where to begin or maybe you might be trying to work with co-workers on a task and you might not know too much about them. Rank the importance of your tasks so you know which tasks need more attention; also be sure that you connect with your co-workers so that you could have a team to guide and help you with anything that is if they too are willing to help.

The USG community can be a community that can help you with any goals that you have now or in your future and that truly is something to use during 2021. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, please let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible! Thank you for reading and I’ll see you all in the next blog!!

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What to watch over winter break?

At this point we are amidst the chaotic time in the fall semester with finals, research papers and group projects – these past couple weeks have felt nonstop just go, go, go. As we wrap up the semester, we are already planning for the spring semester; signing up for courses, internships, etc. The spring semester means jumping into new classes, routines, schedules or even graduating for some!

BUT before then we have a bit of a break. I am definitely looking forward for winter break to reset and take a breather before taking on the spring semester. I’ve compiled a few of shows, movies and documentaries to get into over break – to relax, unwind and take a mental break from classes. Most aren’t holiday themed just shows, movies and documentaries I’ve enjoyed throughout the year!

Schitt’s Creek – This is definitely a good laugh! The storyline is based in a small town called Schitts Creek, where the once wealthy Rose family ends up. They are forced to leave their high maintenance lives in NYC and rebuild their lives in a small town. If you haven’t already watched it… its a quick watch, lighthearted and humorous!

Schitts Creek cast

The Queens Gambit – This is a must watch whether you are into chess or not. Its a story about a young orphan girl who discovers her intense love of the game of chess. Beth Harmon, a young chess prodigy, plays the lead role of the series. Through the course of the show we follow Beth’s journey of becoming the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with past trauma, emotional problems and unhealthy dependencies.

Behind the Scenes of creating The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix

The Social Dilemma – This is a 2020 American documentary. It examines the serious issues of social media and the effects on mental health. Its definitely worth watching and will definitely have you reflecting on your own online and social media habits. The documentary goes into themes surrounding social media addiction, depression, fake news and the effects of the algorithms. What I liked about the documentary was that we get the perspectives of individuals who previously worked at big tech companies (like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc). The individuals didn’t realize the impact of social media and the negative impacts it would have on the world. The documentary explores the dark side of social media and how these big tech companies control and monitor the information we are being fed.

The Social Dilemma – Official Trailer

Holidate & Happiest Season – If you’re in the mood for a christmasy romcom… These are a couple chick flicks I’ve watched to get in the holiday season mood!

Holidate – Its about a women (Kristen Stuart) who plans to propose to her girlfriend at her girlfriends families annual holiday party. Little does she know her partner hasn’t come out to her conservative family yet.

Happiest Season – Another romcom! Its a about two strangers who make an agreement to be each others platonic plus-one for holiday parties and festivities throughout the year – until they both start to catch feelings…

Best of luck to everyone on their end of semester finals, projects and research papers! I hope everyone enjoys their winter break and takes some time to relax and reset for next semester. If you have any show, movie or documentary recommendations please comment them below 🙂

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Happy Winter Break

I can’t decide if I feel as if this semester felt longer or shorter? Either way, it was a tough semester! I have been ready for winter break to begin since midterms, who’s with me? I’m personally going to use this winter break to refresh. Some serious self-care is instore this winter break. Let’s look at some different forms of self-care!

Physical: This form of self-care is where we take care of our bodies. This can be practiced in many ways such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. This winter break I will be practicing physical self-care by having a healthy sleep routine. I will be working on my sleep hygiene majorly!


Emotional: This form of self-care is where we recognize our feelings and cope with them in healthy ways. This can be practiced by journaling, learning to express how we feel in healthy ways, and recognizing what we can be grateful for. I am planning to practice this by picking one thing I am grateful for each day and writing it in my planner each day. This worked well for me in the past, and I sadly broke the routine. I am excited to get back into it!

Intellectual: This form of self-care is where we expand our knowledge and intelligence. This form of self-care is also about having a positive mindset. This may be practiced by reading, finding new hobbies, or learning new things. I plan to practice this form of self-care by reading books related to my future career and creating New Year resolutions that will help me grow intellectually. This can also be practiced by attending USG events such as De-Stress Week which kicks off today!

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Social: This form of self-care is where we manage our social relationships. This type of self-care will look different for different people. This form is where we manage our social boundaries, ensure we have good support systems, and are using social media positively and healthily. For my workaholics, this form of self-care gets pushed to the side severely. We don’t get to see our friends as much as we like, but making time for friends is important so we don’t feel burnout. I will be practicing this form of self-care by spending more time with my friends and family. This is most likely the form of self-care I am most excited to work on!

Self-care should always be a continuous practice but it’s easy to think that because we are busy we should sacrifice it. Although it was a tough semester I’m thankful I didn’t completely sacrifice my self-care. I made it to the end without burning out. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for any of us, but we made it everyone! Comment how you’ll be spending your winter break 🙂

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The How-To’s of Interviews

So, you’ve decided what you want to do with your degree. Great! However, you have no idea how to get there. Not great. Enter your peace-of-mind saver, the informational interview. Here are five tips to nail it.

Photo Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via Unsplash

Respect the other person’s time.

Let’s start with something that you probably know already. If you’re asking someone to meet with you, you should respect that they’re doing you a favor. Arrive to the meeting on time, be polite, and use active listening skills. Your interviewee likely has plenty of other responsibilities to get to, so if they’re going to take time for you, show them that you value that time.

Ask lots of questions.

We’ve covered the interview part of informational interview, but the information is the most important. Make sure to ask open-ended questions and take notes if you feel like you’ll need them. You can start with basic questions:

“Why did you enter this field?”

“What do you (dis)like about your job/graduate program/etc.?”

“What does a typical day look like for you?”

“If you could start over, what would you do differently?”

Then, build from there. If you feel the interview wrapping up, try asking, “Is there anything that you’d like to add before I go?” I love this question because it gives the interviewee the opportunity to discuss what they consider important, and it may be something you never considered.

Photo Credit: Emily Morter via Unsplash

Build rapport.

People are more than their career prospects. If a common hobby or brief memory naturally comes up, it can help to build rapport between you and your interviewee. That said, the operative word is “brief.” Even if it’s so cool that you both like the same sports team, you didn’t set up this meeting just to talk about basketball. Remember to get back on track.

Pick up a business card.

Informational interviews are great opportunities for networking. Make sure to capitalize on that and ask for a business card as the interview ends. These are great to have if you realize that you have more questions. It’s also important to get the person’s email address because you should always…

Send a thank-you email afterward.

Of course, you already thanked the interviewee in person as you were leaving, but it’s polite to send a follow-up email, too. It doesn’t need to be long. I’ve been using Kelly Williams Brown’s formula for thank-you notes for years:

  1. Start with “you,” if possible. (“You were so helpful during our interview today!”).
  2. Give a few specific examples of what you appreciated.
  3. Tell the person how you benefitted. (“I feel more confident now that we’ve talked.”)
  4. End with a simple thank you.
Photo Credit: Manuel Cosentino via Unsplash

That’s all I have. Now, go out and learn something! If you want more advice about interviews, applications, or responsibility in general, check out Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 535 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown. I cannot recommend this book enough. Good luck!

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Resolutions

Image by gabrielle_cc from Pixabay

As 2020 comes to a close, most of us are wanting to get some goals prepared for 2021. So pretty soon we are going to be creating our New Years resolutions and hopefully sticking to them. I’ve began the process of creating some resolutions for 2021 since 2021 is going to be a huge year in my life and I want to get a lot done so I can continue moving forward. With that, here are some resolutions I have for 2021.

Losing 5-10 pounds by June 2021: I’ve already mentioned that I began a weight loss journey this year and I’m about to reach my goal weight. However, I don’t want to stop there; it always appears that whenever we reach a goal weight, we stop the routine and thus gaining all the weight again. So I want to keep losing the weight to ensure that I am at the right weight for someone my height and age; and it would lessen the chances of certain diseases in my future. Once I reach that goal, I plan to maintain my weight by keeping up with my workout routine and ensuring that I don’t eat a lot in one day.

Graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park at USG in the spring and starting Grad School in the fall: As a 2021 graduate, of course my goal is to graduate in the spring and making sure I take the necessary classes to be able to do so; and making sure I have a GPA that’s higher than a 3.0. I’ve also made the goal to start grad school in the fall of 2021 so that I can obtain my Master’s Degree. I plan to turn in my application in December before the priority deadline so I can hopefully get an answer sooner (let me know if you’d like updates on that!)

Trying 5 new dishes or foods: I admit, I’m a picky eater and honestly I’ve been wanting to fix that for the longest time. So I’ve decided that for 2021 I want to try 5 new dishes or foods; doesn’t matter what they are, I just want to see what would I actually eat and hopefully expand my options when I’m going out to eat. I’ve somewhat started the process now, but in 2021 I wanna be sure I stick with this resolution and appreciate more dishes and food.

If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please let me know and I’ll get back to you on that! It’s been a wild year but lets make 2021 a better year! Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year to you all! Enjoy the holidays everyone and remember to follow COVID protocols when doing so and I will see you all in January of 2021! 🙂

Image by Candis Hidalgo from Pixabay
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Gratitude Journal

Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.

This year has been very strange and unexpected The pandemic has created a lot anxiety, fear and overwhelm. Our usual routines and ways of life have been disrupted. There is a bit of relief in that we are all facing these challenges together. We are all trying to navigate this new norm the best we can. Some days are harder than others.

I lost my job when the shut down began. Like many, I wasn’t given an idea of when I would start working again or if I would even have a job. I have rent and expenses to pay and I didn’t have a means to support that. Its easy to focus on all the negatives. The challenges and uncertainties seem to cast a shadow over the highlights and positives, which we often take for granted. I am grateful to have support from my family during this time and that my family is healthy and safe. I am grateful to have the option to have remote classes that way I can still make headway on completing my degree. And I am grateful for being able to find a new job to support myself.

Recently I’ve been trying to write in a journal everyday – writing at least 3 things I am grateful for. Sometimes its smaller scale things like being grateful for a pet or a conversation I had that day or it may be bigger scale like having a home or a job. Whatever it may be… it has helped me be more optimistic and value the things I do have!

The Science of Gratitude

Main takeaways from the video:

  • Celebrate what you have – Think about what you have rather than dwelling on what you don’t.
  • Share the love – Tell friends and family in your life something you appreciate about them.
  • Be more kind and caring – volunteer, hold the door open for someone, smile more… kindness and giving are connected to gratitude

These are a few journals that provide a template or inspiration on getting started:

Or simply use a journal or notebook you already have and write things you are grateful for each day. Below is a prompt to get you started…

Top image found on http://www.primermagazine.com. Bottom image found on http://www.kickstarter.com

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Movies for Mental Health

Last week I attended the Movies for Mental Health event here (online) at USG! This event was put together by the help of many student organizations at USG such as Social Work Student Association, Psychology Student Association, Latinx Student Association, and more! We also had several amazing outside resources join us such as people from the Montgomery County Crisis Center, Positive Strides, Serene Therapy Center, Plans for Healing, and more. 

The event began with open discussions about mental health. The discussions ranged from what mental health means, what self-care looks like, and what keeps people from opening up to people in their lives about their mental health. These open discussions were very honest and empathetic. We then moved onto the movies. The movies were all extremely unique and creative. We viewed a total of three movies. The movies featured different mental illnesses such as Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety. Each of these films highlighted the difficulties many people face when experiencing these disorders such as lack of family support and society’s negative views towards mental illness. One common theme in all three films was how the main characters felt as if the people they loved did not understand what they were going through. All of the films were beautifully produced and were truly powerful.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

After the films, we discussed how we all felt after the films. We discussed where we felt our feelings, why we felt those feelings, and our favorite parts of the films. The event ended with two USG students sharing their mental health stories. These two students were so brave and compelling. The event was an amazing therapeutic experience and I am so grateful I decided to attend!

If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. Your feelings are valid and there is help available. Here are a couple of resources if you need to talk to someone:

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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