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Student BlogsWelcome to Around the Grove, the official student blog of The Universities at Shady Grove!

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Scenic Biking Adventure

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My biking adventure is ongoing. This was a 4th of July weekend. Instead of going to the beach, I decided to do some ‘stay-cay-tion’. To be honest, with my husband’s crazy DMV 270/495 commute to Herndon or Crystal City, Virginia area on weekdays since last few months, I didn’t wanted him to drive more, and to go anywhere. So this weekend was a perfect opportunity to take it easy and relax. July 4th passed in a traditional way, with evening bar-bqs with close friends and family; and fireworks. It has been a little rainy in past few days. The rainy days are than balanced with pockets of hot weather and humid days. We managed to find a perfect day to test our biking rack and yes finally go on a real biking adventure. We decided to go to a campground in Brunswick, Maryland. Not being a family that camps, we do know family which goes camping and we had spent a day with them over there while they were camping there for few days last year. The Brunswick camp is located near Potomac River and C & O Canal and one can do tubing, biking, kayaking and canoeing there besides camping. We decided to just stick with biking that day. Upon arrival we found out that there are two routes for biking and both are kid and family friendly. We decided to take the route which would take us towards Harper’s Ferry; a small town in West Virginia with well-preserved history of Civil war. Our route was 5.2 miles each way, with C &O Canal running on one side and Potomac River sometimes calmly floating and sometimes raging onto the other side. As I started biking I realized that the breeze is much cooler and we have a canopy of trees over our bike path to protect us from the sun. The sun would only come through those dense branches of tress on rare occasions. We would bike and stop to take breaks and enjoy the scenic Potomac River till we reached the bridge that would take us to Harper’s Ferry.

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Photo Credit : By the Author- Harper’s Ferry Bridge 

 

Our initial thought was to take our bikes up to the stairs with us on the top of the bridge, but then we decided it would be easier to chain our bikes and just walk across. So we did that. We were rewarded with the scenic view of raging Potomac on either side and could see Harper’s Ferry Town on the other side. As we reached the town, tired and wanting to sit in a cool place we decided to have lunch in one of the historic town buildings from Civil War era that were converted into modern day restaurant. It was much needed break for us as we splashed our faces with cold water in the restrooms and then had a good burger, with fries of course. With our bellies full, we decided to head back.

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Go get on a bike!

Recently I had a bike latch installed in my SUV. It had been a plan for years to have a bike latch installed for me, my husband’s bike and our 2 kids, but did not happen for one or the other reason. Now we are itching to give it a try. We usually just grab our bikes and go for biking. I must say during summer me and my family become avid bikers; but it usually happens just around the neighborhood. We had a fro-yo shop at our nearest shopping plaza and that would be a reason for all four of us to bike together, get to the frozen-yogurt store, HAVE some frozen-yogurt and bike back. We would take all the longest, winding routs and being fairly new in the area, it was exciting. The store closed after just 2 years and my kids are now in pre-teens and teens, and the idea for them biking with mom and dad versus with their friends is more appealing, so we had to revisit the idea of the latch getting installed again to mix things up i.e. get back into the ‘we are still cool parents that you might wanna hangout with’ zone. With that I had to think about another interesting aspect of biking which I had to take care of. You see, I DO NOT  like BUGS! Yes the bugs that come with the whole idea of being outdoors in a foresty kind of parks. We had done those and I drench my self with bugs repellent spray before any outdoorsy activity. Living in American suburbs have spoiled me I must admit! Who would say I grew up in a third world country where bugs were a norm. I can’t help but think that all this greenery we are surrounded with in Maryland we are not bitten by bugs that much. One more thing I thought about is to have a fellow family that bikes, just like us. It not only eliminated the whining(mostly by kids) and eye rolling, but a family that bikes regularly might be able to  guide us to where we should bike, the fun spots to bike and of course any kinds of challenging are easily over come. With all of that in mind we are ready to bike! I am going to share more adventures related to that for next time. So stay tuned!

 

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Neuroscience and Learning

As a part of one of my summer courses, we are in charge of 15 hours of our own learning excursions. Since I’m still working full time, taking credits on campus, and tutoring, I decided to make these excursions web-based.

The first of the webinars is on a combination of teaching pedagogy and neuroscience. While teaching pedagogy is not really relevant to all USG students, a lot of the points made by Judy Willis, the neuroscientist presenting, can be utilized by graduate students to enhance their own learning or even day to day activities. One of the most interesting takeaways was on dopamine and the power of prediction.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by our brains. In other words…it’s what boosts happiness. I’ve referred to it as the “happiness chemical” when having discussions with my students. The first half of the webinar is a discussion about how the brain seeks pleasure that awards accurate predictions. Our minds want to be right, but in general, we just generally want to know the answer! Of all the different type of stimuli that cause a release of dopamine, making a prediction or achieving a challenge are two of the biggest.

What does this mean for a USG student?

View goals as predictions! Our minds are powered and motivated by clear goals. It can recognize when faced with a challenge that can be achieved through hard work or persistence. Let’s say I begin a new class and predict I end the semester with a 92% or higher. I’ll be driven and motivated to the end of the semester to see if I actually achieve that goal, rather than just saying “I’d like to pass” or “I’d like to get an A.”

There was another section on neuroplasticity. The idea here is that our minds are flexible and can be built “stronger” through frequent use. Though this section of the webinar focused more on teacher pedagogy, the main idea is still relevant to students and people of all walks of life. Our minds are never set.

The webinar focused heavily on how to get students to remember things. The big message here was that creating a durable memory requires consistent activation. The best type of activation? Applications that are personally relevant performance tasks. For example, if I’m trying to memorize the different learning theories and who came up with them, I may try to apply those learning theories to my own classroom.

With one hour down and 14 more to go, I’m excited to see what else I (and you!) can learn from these webinars.

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Memorial Day

As the pictures of my fellow graduate students roll upon my social media feed, I could not help but reflect on the past semester and the future. I still have one more semester to go till I graduate. I felt very proud of my fellow class mates as I saw them in their graduation gowns smiling back at the camera with my professors. I texted the ones whose numbers I had saved up in my phone and was a bit shocked and amazed by myself not to have numbers of those with whom I would sit with everyday and did not exchange phone numbers with. I added many on my social media and felt happy that at least they want to keep in touch with me after graduation.

As the graduation weekend turned into Memorial day weekend it announces the official start of summer.  Our neighborhood pool is opened and my Saturday started with the sound of lawn mower in one of my neighborhood lawns. As the weekend progressed I could see people cleaning their cars,  doing more yard work, kids running with skateboards and with smell of bar b q in the air. It looks like a traditional memorial day weekend; the stay-cation, at its best! As evening approached, sitting in front of T.V, I flipped channels, and decided to see some memorial day programs. The event was being held in Washington D.C. The even shed light in heart wrenching stories of Veterans who sacrificed their lives for US in Vietnam War. The stories of these war veterans were narrated by academy award winning actors like Sam Elliot and Danzel Washington, were heart wrenching as one could not help but shed tear with them. The stories helped remember the veterans ,that they would never forget the day when they lost their friends and family members in the war. The program also had many award winning performers like Patti Labelle  whose voices and the song they sang consoled the hearts of every wet eye in the audience. The program truly reminded me of the significance and a the sacrifice of these solders, whose sacrifice and heroism helped this country sustain peace for the future generations. If you didn’t had a chance to see the concert you can see it here.

 

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 
 

 

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Gaithersburg Book Festival

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my 5th-grade class wrote a play with John Morigello, a member of Best Medicine Rep. This play was chosen to be performed by Best Medicine Rep at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, and John had invited me and members of my school community to come to see the play.

As a Howard County native and someone who now lives on the opposite end of Montgomery County compared to Gaithersburg, I had not heard of the Gaithersburg Book Festival until now. I had no idea what to expect, so I expected nothing.

So, on May 18th, in the blazing sun (welcome, summer-y weather), I wandered over to Gaithersburg with two of my team teachers. As soon as we crossed from Gaithersburg High to the festival grounds, I knew we were in for an adventure.

There were white tents, food trucks, and people everywhere. One of the best parts? The first thing I passed through was a stand from Book Crossing, which was giving away free books. It’s kind of like a “traveling books” company. I was able to bring four novels home, excited for some beach reads.

We were running late for the performance and managed to run in halfway through scene 1. It was fantastic, especially seeing a few of my students in the front tables chomping on festival food, watching their parents performed by professionals.

After our play and another class’s play was over, we wandered around. The festival was so much bigger than I could ever expect. Tents featured things such as:

  • Guest authors speaking about their novels.
  • Dozens of local authors with their books. They were so lovely to talk to. We were not expecting to buy any but alas, two of us left with a new local read.
  • Performances!
  • The Politics and Prose Bookstore
  • Kid-friendly activities. One of my favorites was a multi-lingual story-time station.
  • So much food.

I sincerely wish I took more pictures, but I’m also thankful I had the opportunity to take it all in. With phones, Reddit, and Kindles seemingly taking over the world, it felt good to see that there were so many people attending a festival fully dedicated to books. I’ll be sure to attend next year.

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Thank you, Next

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People do NOT notice this, but when you are about to graduate, you tense up and feel nervous. I certainly do!
Did I forget to mention the cost of graduation? Yes, graduation costs $170, but this memorable occasion only happens once, so……yeah.

Am I happy to graduate? Um..suure. It feels like the time just vanished! I remember that I wanted to get out when I was in school, and now that I am almost out, I don’t want to leave. Dead o Dear. ‘Everyone’s gotta grow up right?’

Since this may be my last blog, I want to use this opportunity to thank:
All my classmates who struggled with me. Its been too real.
My employers who knew that as a student, I cannot be working all the time and was patient with me.
Teachers! Thanks for the support.
The cafeteria for feeding me.
The snow days that gave me breathing space. Whew, I needed that.
My credit card for all the support.

And USG for putting students first!

I will now proceed to the next chapter of my life. Thank you, Next
ma

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Graduation is comin’!

Hiya! This is the last blog of the semester and I get to write it! I have been following all other bloggers at Universities at Shady Grove website, who are sharing their experiences of this semester and getting geared up for graduation. I must admit, I am feeling a bitter sweet now,since I know many students in my classes, with whom I have bonded with in the last two years and I believe, have acquired  lifelong friendships. As I feel happy for them, as they are graduating, I will miss their presence in class rooms. Its not just the students, I must admit even the professors. Even though I have one more semester to go I am done with most of my classes and I will be seeing some of those professors passing along the hallways, as I am done with their classes.

For students who are graduating USG is celebrating graduation gala today , you can check out the flyer below.Graduation Celebration final-front

Last week, communication department hosted the annual film festival at USG, which, showcases the films and photography. Students received special certificate in the field of acting, directing, producing, screenwriting, editing, and photography. USG will be posting the latest creative work every Friday, of the winning movies.  You will be surprised with the raw talent and creativity that my fellow class mates poured into these movies. So, if you want to see us comm majors in our element, go ahead and watch it here. Please don’t forget to subscribe and hit like button.

It has been an amazing, crazy semester for me, I am sure it is for you as well. I have one more class next week and than a final push for the exams. Till then, I am like, all you exam-o-phelleic people hanging in there, as its just few more days. 24djve

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National Biking Month!

Yes, we’ve all heard: it’s the end of the semester, and for many, this is the last push before a glorious one or two months off of school work, exams, and long hours at the library. This final push can also be exhausting, as we can feel incredibly burnt out by now.

Best way to deal with this? Incorporate something new! Luckily, May is national biking month!

Realistically, it would be hard for me to preach biking to work for the rest of this month or biking to USG from the other side of the county. However, there are several ways to celebrate National Biking Month that can also benefit your worn out mind…

  • That 2-5 minute drive to the grocery store? Why not bike?
  • Yes, a study marathon may be unavoidable. But a 10-15 minute break benefits your mind, body and sanity. Why not take a bike ride? Especially with the beautiful weather.
  • Don’t have a bike? There are Capital Bikeshare stations all over the place! A single 30-minute trip is only 2 dollars; if you wanted to use it for a day and bike to work or class, it’s just 8 dollars! Think of it this way: this would probably be less than the cost of gas and the daily cost for many gyms out there. You get your commute and workout all in one nice bundle.
  • Montgomery has dozens of fantastic bike trails. Take advantage of this! No need to weave in and out of traffic in the city or worry about a driver not seeing you. These trails are both safe and beautiful.
  • If you do have the opportunity to ride to work, National Ride to Work week is next week! If you just don’t have the energy to do it all day, the National Day for it is next Friday, May 17. Though some of us might not work, I’m sure nobody would be on your case for riding to class instead of work 🙂

I’m not an expert in biking. I ride around downtown Silver Spring occasionally and in the trails back at home in Howard County. However, I’ve always envied how my co-worker, who biked to work every day the first half of the year, in heat, rain, or ice (once his brakes froze!), game to work energized. He never seemed quite as tired as the rest of us.

If you are interested in learning more, the League of American Bicyclists has a page all on National Bike Month.

Happy Biking!

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For Happier Days

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With the second half of the semester so busy with exams lined up and papers abound, I lost track of time, and hadn’t even realized it was the end of the semester. Already my junior year here at USG comes to an end, and with it lies my last post for the USG blog. Endings and farewells are always bittersweet – I realize through my posts how much I’ve grown here, how much I’ve learned, and how many experiences I’ve had with both new and familiar faces.

But more than anything, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the people of the Universities at Shady Grove, the University of Maryland, from my advisors to my classmates who have made my first year here so incredible as it was. During this first year, I had been able to take courses with amazing professors who have taught me so much, had been able to intern at a public accounting firm to gain experience, and grow so much as both a student and person. It’s exciting to know what the second and final year here at USG will bring!

Whether you are currently a student about to transfer to USG, or a student graduating this year, I hope that everyone has had a wonderful experience and will continue to do so! You might be continuing your studies either here or abroad, or you might be taking your first step to a career. There’s no strict timeline or path you must take, as long as you are moving forward at your own pace.

Good luck everyone, and congratulations!

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The Faces of Depression

I work in a suburban hospital emergency room and each and every day, we care for at least two (oftentimes more) individuals who have attempted or are contemplating suicide, what we call “suicidal ideations”. Sometimes these patients come in on their own, sometimes they are brought in by the police or paramedics, and sometimes family or friends bring them in for treatment. They are assessed by the ER team and then see a hospital psychiatrist to see if they need to be admitted to an inpatient facility or can be discharged to outpatient care.

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Why is Sansa Stark here? Keep reading.

It’s a challenge to try to get to the crux of why someone would want to kill themselves. Depression is an insidious disease that will make someone feel worthless and alone. When people say how “selfish” it is for someone to commit suicide, they have no idea how the brain works and how the depths of depression are, well, so deep. Trying to lift the veil of depression can be a struggle for the clinician and patient alike and often requires therapy and perhaps even medication. All good things if they help a person feel better.

Social media has made it easy for us all to think our lives are not as exciting as someone else’s and cause us to compare ourselves to others’ job successes, school achievements, amazing vacations, children’s accomplishments, just to name a few. So when I see a high profile person come out and reveal something private about themselves in a public forum, I pay attention and wonder how their words will affect others.

In scrolling through my Facebook feed (while trying not to compare myself to others, of course), I came across this Dr. Phil podcast in which Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, reveals her depression diagnosis and that she once thought about committing suicide. Even I had these thoughts: Doesn’t she have it all? Isn’t she engaged to Joe Jonas? Isn’t she slim and beautiful? How could SHE be depressed? Even me. Me who has struggled with depression and knows that there is no rhyme or reason to how it makes a person feel.

Please take a few minutes (6 to be exact) to watch this portion of the podcast. I could not love Sophie Turner any more and am sure that she will help many by coming forward with her own struggles. And remember that there is always someone to reach out to. If you are depressed or have thoughts of killing yourself, please reach out to a friend, family member, doctor, nurse or call the hotline below. There IS help and it DOES get better. And if someone tells you they are feeling suicidal, please listen closely, provide the phone number below, and know how hard for them it was to share their personal struggle with you.

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