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

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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

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

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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


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.


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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Thank you and Good Luck!

I cannot believe that next month is May already! Also, since this is my last post, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you and congratulations to all. For those graduating next month, congratulations on finishing your program! For those who are finishing your first year, you did it! You are half way through your program! We are all at a point of our programs where we should celebrate because we accomplished something. Whether you transferred from a community college or returning to school to obtain your master’s or doctorate degree, we all know that this transition is never easy. Luckily, USG is a well-equip campus and the different student services are dedicated to helping students achieve success. It has been a pleasure being a graduate student blogger for the last two years. I enjoyed sharing some of my stories and tips to help you during your time at USG. I hope you enjoyed my blog posts as much as I enjoyed writing them. Attending my graduate and undergraduate programs at USG was a decision that I am glad that I made. I was able to be part of the USG community and give back to the community at large. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my experiences as a graduate student at USG.

If you missed any of my blog posts or would like to revisit any of them, below are the links to all of them.

Fall 2017
Mind and Body Wellness
Life of a Graduate Student: Time Management and Organization
Work and Life Balance
Old Habits Die Hard: Procrastination and Tips to Overcome It
Grad School Application
Writing & Study Tips
Career Planning

Spring 2018
Holiday and Winter Break Highlights
Giving Back to the Community
Cultural Tea Time
Spring Break Ideas & ASB
Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week
Benefits of Having a LinkedIn Account
Owl Hours & Study Tips
Attention Soon-to-be Alumni!
Minimalism & Zero Trash Lifestyle Change

Summer 2018
Balancing Act in Grad School
Get Interested in Uninteresting Topics-Reading Strategies 
Welcome, New Students! 
Questions to Ask in Grad School
Garden of Unity and Peace
Event Planning-Wedding Bells

Fall 2018
Welcome Back!
USG Mobile Market
Cultural Awareness via Traveling
Be the Voice – GSA
Writing Tips – Short on Time or Lacking Motivation?
Customized Gifts for the Holidays
Finals Week & GSA Raffle

Spring 2019
Holiday/Winter Break – Vegan Meals
Reflective Thinking
Spread the Love
Goal Setting and Motivation 
Stress Management
Spring 2019 Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week
Overcoming Procrastination

Again, thank you and good luck to all!

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Less than a month away

For those of us graduating this spring, reality is starting to set in for us.
What am I going to do after graduation?
Where can I find a job after graduation?
Should I pursue a master’s degree?
What have I been doing before now?
What now?

As a senior, these questions are starting to look too real. I have asked myself these questions over and over, and if this is you, don’t worry, you are not alone.
If anything, here are some things that I learned. Hopefully, it might benefit you juniors and seniors before it is your time to leave.
1. Apply to jobs early, its hard.
2. Network! People you know may get you to places you never thought you can get
3. Don’t be discouraged.
4. You will fail, but that is ok.

My teacher once said, “reach for the stars and you might touch the ceiling. If you reach for the ceiling, you will never leave the ground.” Seniors, make the most of the time you have left. Start looking into your future now,and use your experiences to help people below you. You may never know what is in store for you. Become an advocate for others, and use your experiences to help someone.

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