Welcome

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

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Embracing the Unknown

Have you ever waited for something for weeks or months? A letter of acceptance from your first choice college, a call for an interview at a dream job, and so on…

I have a job right after graduation: to serve as a Peace Corps Community Health Volunteer in Cambodia for 27 months. However, my actual departure for work depends on my medical clearance. This is something I have been waiting for since the end of February.

To those who are unfamiliar with Peace Corps:

“The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. Peace Corps’ work includes providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries.”

I was accepted as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) since December 2016. My departure date is Just 14th, 2017.

Today is June 19th, which means I have less than a month to pack my life away for 27 months, defer my loans, figure out my payment plans, say goodbye to people, etc.

Since I don’t know if I will receive my medical clearance or not, I can’t start packing or start looking for other jobs.

If I start packing and purchasing things I may need for my time in Cambodia, it would be a waste if I don’t end up going. If I start looking for jobs in the US, I may lose time that I could be spending with my family if I ended up receiving my medical clearence.

Not receiving medical clearance would make me sad, but I would try to move on right away. Receiving medical clearance means I can start preparing for my departure. Either option would be fine with me.

It’s just that this “unknown” stage of “Will I receive clearance or not?” is the most frustrating part for me because I feel like my life is paused. I feel even more stressed because I don’t know where my life is headed.

I started to look for silver linings, and I found a few. Whether I’ll leave in July or not, I would still become busy through the Peace Corps job or looking for jobs. This is my time to relax, unwind, read some books, catch up with friends, and spend time with my loved ones. This is truly the first break I’ve had from school since I started kindergarten, and I have now planned to make the best out of it.

To those stragglers out there like me, don’t lose faith! I personally believe that things will fall into place and work out for the best. That one thing you really want? It will come if you’re meant to have it.

Meanwhile… embrace the unknown and try to see the silver lining! 🙂

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Day One

Today, I started my fellowship at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts at full speed with a series of tours and talks orientating myself and the five other undergraduate fellows to the museum. I’ve never been to Historic Deerfield before or even this part of Massachusetts, but it’s a huge change of pace from the D.C. suburbs. Things are very quiet and scenic, and we fellows are living in historic houses on the main street that comprises the museum. It’s lined with houses from the 1700s and 1800s and surrounded by small towns and green landscapes.

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For lunch today, we climbed to the top of a local mountain (ironically named Sugarloaf, just like one of our mountains in Maryland) to look out on the landscape below, the Connecticut River Valley. We learned that in Native American folklore, the mountain was made by a beaver deity whose head was decapitated and fell in the middle of a lake. Apparently, from above, the mountain looks like a beaver’s head and body, bordered by the Connecticut River!

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We also had a tour of the museum’s exhibition center and a look behind the scenes at the collection, where we will be doing the bulk of our work during the fellowship, learning how to handle historic objects and learn about the past from them. Then we ended the day with a tour of a tavern from the 1700s, learning about how taverns were one of the important centers of town life and socialization in colonial America.

We also went on a brief walking tour of the town. As you can imagine, it was pretty hot out, but we learned about the history of the raid of Deerfield in 1704, where French and Native Americans invaded the town and killed and captured people as part of an ongoing war between the French and English settlers and various Native American tribes. This raid is one of the town’s claims to fame, but has been told in a very skewed manner over the years, so we discussed the importance of examining how history is told and representing a variety of points of view.

DSC01111.JPGThe start of a new job in a new place, with new people is admittedly very overwhelming, especially with such a packed schedule, but my motto has become “one hour at a time.” Just take things as they come, don’t look too far ahead and stress too much about the future, because you never know what is coming up ahead, and you’ll get too overwhelmed.

A few more things I’ve been learning in these overwhelming beginning days: Trust your skills and capabilities. Be willing to admit when you don’t know something, and approach your work and learning humbly. Don’t stress about trying to impress people or be the one who knows everything. And push yourself out of your comfort zone, but also have compassion on yourself; you’re only human and we each have our own things that are tougher to do.

DSC01104.JPGPat yourself on the back for the things you accomplish, big and little, and don’t get hung up over little mistakes, mix-ups and places where you don’t seem as accomplished as others. Be patient with yourself; learning and developing professional skills is a process!

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Summer Projects

Hi everyone,

It feels so good to finally be on summer break! Like many people I know, I am working during the summer. This is partially to keep me busy, and partially to earn some cash over the break. But what else is there to do during my free time?

Many of us face the overwhelming challenge of keeping ourselves busy during the summer. Sure, we can sleep as late as we want to (as long as it doesn’t interfere with work). What happens after waking up? I often find myself wondering “What am I going to do today?”

This summer I have decided to challenge myself, and further skills I already possess. As a UB student in the Simulation & Digital Entertainment program here at USG, I have decided to perfect my 3D modelling skills, so I can add some interesting projects to my portfolio.

For 3D modelling, I use Autodesk Maya, a 3D modelling program. It is available on both PC and Mac computers and laptops. When you initially open up the program, you get a screen that looks like this:

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I am still getting the hang of Maya’s many features. The great thing about this program is that you can create anything you want. Many people use this software for creating epic models and videos. For example, Disney’s Zootopia was created using Maya.

 

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Fortunately, if you are a beginner like myself, you can look up various tutorials on youtube. One of the projects I want to create this summer is a tree. It is in its beginning stage, but hopefully will be complete by the end of the summer. Here is what it looks like currently:

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After I am satisfied with the model, I will apply textures and lighting. I plan to work hard on this, so it can be a portfolio worthy piece. Feel free to leave any suggestions on what I can do to improve this project.

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Transitioning to a Post-Grad life

Hey everyone, guess what?!?!?!?

I RECEIVED MY MASTERS IN PUBLIC HEALTH!!!!!!!

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This is definitely a big change for me. As you all know, changes are hard. Even a minor change like taking an alternate route to work can take a toll on you.

Well, for me, my graduation marks the biggest change of my life, and it just happens to have the most difficult transitions too.

Here are some of them:

  1. Graduating with a Master of Public Health, which means that I will be out of school for the first time since Kindergarten.
  2. My work contract with UMD ended, which marks the first time I don’t have a regular job in 10 years. I feel so aloof and free.
  3. I have been accepted to serve in the Peace Corps in Cambodia, which I will leave for on July 14th once/if I get my medical clearance. Leaving itself is hard because the service in Cambodia will be 27 months. I will also be in rural parts of Cambodia so life sure will be different from my first world experiences in Maryland. There are also differences in time zone, language, culture, weather, food, and so much more! Most of all, I will be away from everyone I love.
  4. My family and I moved to a new house this month right around the time of finals and graduation. This has been extra exhausting because we have family from Myanmar visiting and staying with us for my graduation and a few weeks following it. We finished installing carpets on the day of their arrival, put door knobs on doors two days into their stay, and so on.
  5. I am constantly dealing with my diabetes and hypertension. Due to the stress of finals, graduation, finishing up my job, and renovating and moving to the new house, I haven’t been able to focus on exercise and food control for the past 2 weeks (finals week + week after graduation) and my weight gain has been apparent (thanks to unfortunate genes)! This is bad for my diabetes and hypertension. This is also bad for my medical clearance for the Peace Corps!

Becoming a post-grad is like leaving a comfortable nest. It’s definitely an exciting and nerve-wrecking time in my life, but I see it as an adventure. Makes life more interesting that way, I suppose.

I don’t feel ready to become a full time “adult”, but I guess we all feel this way when we are done with school. I don’t think any of us are truly prepared to go into “the real world” once we graduate, but I guess that’s part of growing up!

To those who are about to start their new jobs after college, congratulations!

To those who are still on a job search or waiting on that grad school acceptance, best of luck!

To those who are in an “aloof” state like me, hang in there! Things will fall into place in time. 🙂

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Proud to be a staff member of the UMD School of Public Health for the past 4 years

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Summer Kick-Off!

It’s a bit weird to write this post because my summer hasn’t officially started yet (us UMBC retrievers are still working away at finals!) But I am very excited to kick off our Around the Grove summer posts by giving you a brief introduction to the fellowship program I’m going to be participating in this June, July, and August!

Starting in mid-June, I will be one of a group of six undergraduate students working in Historic Deerfield’s 61st Summer Fellowship Program in early American material culture studies. During my time as a history major at Shady Grove, I was introduced to the concept of material culture studies, which is basically the process of looking at historic objects to learn about the past that documents might not tell us.

Historic Deerfield is a small town in Massachusetts filled with houses built in the 1700s and 1800s. Some of the houses are now privately owned homes while others are historic house museums open to the public to visit…basically it’s a history nerd’s paradise! I’ve never been to Historic Deerfield, so I’m excited to experience living in a different place for nine weeks. Thankfully, the fellowship program provides me with housing. In fact, I’ll get to live in one of the historic houses with the other fellows, right in the historic district! (Don’t worry – there are bathrooms and A/C units…)

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Dwight House in Historic Deerfield, framed by New England’s famous fall foliage! Courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism Flickr 

Taking summer internships and fellowships away from home can be an awesome way to explore a different region to see if it would be a good fit for you to live there after graduating. It’s also nice to just get a change of scenery for a while (especially for those of us commuters living at home…#realtalk.) An awesome thing about museum internships is that they sometimes offer housing for interns because they own multiple properties, which can be a big help for us poor college students who can’t afford to relocate.

And here’s a pro-tip: Museum internships aren’t just for history majors! Museums need graphic design, marketing, business, administration, visitor services, management, retail, writing, social media, gardening, and education interns…and sometimes more! They welcome people with different skill sets from the traditional history major, so if history or art interest you, consider that as another potential area to look for internships (or even careers) in.

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Wells-Thorn House at Historic Deerfield…Aren’t you excited?! No? Okay, maybe it’s just me… Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Penny Leveritt for Historic Deerfield

Anyways, I’m psyched for the chance to push myself in terms of building skills and growing as a person, but also to meet new people, explore a new place, and continue to pursue my passion of studying unique historic topics using unorthodox source material. My main tasks this summer will be writing a 25-page paper (ahhh!) about items in the museum’s archives as well as giving tours to visitors. I’ll also get the chance to participate in seminars, workshops, and field trips (whoo-hoo!) with my fellow fellows as we learn more about museum work and material culture.

Ultimately, I’m so grateful that my time at the Universities at Shady Grove allowed me to learn about new developments in my field of study and connect with my passion – material culture. Since then, school has been so much more interesting and I’ve taken ownership of my education.

Stay tuned throughout this summer to hear every Monday from myself and two of our other incredible Around the Grove bloggers – Joel and Christine – as we keep you updated on our summer adventures…Good luck and safe travels on all of your own endeavors!

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Finishing Strong!

Good morning everyone,

I am writing this blog to congratulate the graduates (both Undergrad and Grad)! They put everything they had into finishing strong. In honor of the occasion, graduates enjoyed 2 separate celebrations – one for undergraduate students and one for graduate students.

The graduates were greeted with a video, displaying many students’ accomplishments over the course of their time here. Here is the video:

Although this is only my Junior year, I had the pleasure to meet and work with some of the graduates. Each one of them has a promising future, and will go on to do great things!

Students that are continuing their studies in the fall will undoubtedly reach the point of their graduations. I know it will happen sooner than you realize!

I am sorry for the short post, but I wanted to acknowledge the graduating students, and congratulate them. In the coming weeks, I will make sure to write more for you viewers!

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Never stop moving forward. Your life depends on it

In 2008, while I was still active serving in the Navy, I decided that if I was ever going to leave the service and work a regular job that I should get a college degree. Now, it’s nearly a decade later, and after moving five times, changing jobs twice, getting married, buying a house, starting a business, and taking up bicycle touring, I’m done. With this step. Tomorrow is my commencement ceremony. In the next couple of days, I’ll complete my application to the MBA program at Hood College in Frederick MD.

Maybe you’re just thinking about going to college. Or maybe you’re taking a semester because you didn’t have a job lined up and your parents told you that you needed to go to school if you want to live at home. Or maybe you’re a senior, and you’ve got it all figured out, and you’re working towards a degree in supply chain management or public policy.

Whatever your goals are, whatever your motivations, reach for them. And even if you have to take a day off, or the details of your plans change because you meet the love of your life, keep reaching. Keep coming back. Keep walking forward. Only you can prevent you from achieving your goals.

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What happened at Graduation

First of, I will like to say congratulations to my peers who will be graduating with me this Spring. It was rough, it was tough, but it was all worth it and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Now that the formalities are done, oh my God!!! My whole being is still vibrating from what I have seen and witnessed. I really thought I was ready or that it would not be that big of a deal but I stand corrected.

The Graduation Celebration started at six o’clock with a little “aperitif.” People were bonding, the conversation was varied, from the incessant rain, to appreciating each other attire, congratulating each others achievements, and showing how proud and happy they were to be there. All this around a well garnished table.

Around seven, everyone was invited into the MPR where the ceremony started.
Dr. Stewart Edelstein DJ skills woke up the crowd but I think that is an understatement actually. Instead, I would say he electrified the crowd and sprayed his good vibrant personality across the room. The energy continued throughout the program. The panel of speakers were amazing starting with my homegirl much appreciated and respected Jessica Fuentes who slayed the national anthem like there was no tomorrow!

However, she was not the only star. The student speaker Menaza Fernando also showed us that life is always a knot and through hard work and motivation we can make it. Her story was heartfelt and edifying. She shared a part of her soul with us and a lot of us graduates related to her and was able to reminisce on all the time we had to sacrifice and the sweat and tears that came with every semester. Yet, she reminded us that, that although we struggle we must stay focused and remember from where we came.

Faith Kamei, President of the Student Council then introduced Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III President of UMBC. It was as if he embodied Dr. Stewart Edelstein, Jessica Fuentes, Menaza Fernando, Faith Kamei, Sara Manfredi in one body. It was vibrant! His speech was anchoring and soul touching yet, it had a relaxed and humorous tone. He was not the uptight type I had thought a president of a university would be like. Instead, he brought with him a time machine. He took us throughout time, through the struggles we have forgotten, and reminded us that within each of us lays a story. That we have just finished writing a chapter and now beginning a new one.

Dr. Hrabowski was like a teacher giving his last lecture to his class. It still amazes me to know that he graduated with a Math Degree! If I was so lucky to have him as a math teacher during my formidable years I would have probably pursued working in NASA.

Lastly, Sara Manferdi, Vice President of the Student Council, introduced the class gift to the crowd and proceeded to show how influential the council is and presented a video that showed all the accomplishments students made during the year. The atmosphere was full with joy and reverence.

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I WASN’T READY

Today Thursday 11th May is the Universities at Shady Grove’s (USG) Undergrad Graduation Celebration, my final exam for the semester and also my last day of blogging for USG Around The Grove. Today, is also the day that the rain has decided that it will send showers our way all day. To be honest, I wasn’t ready for all this.

Rain, rain go away.

I did that thing where you draw your breath in quickly because you don’t know what else to do. Mumbled something to myself about how it is going to be alright, you will make new friends after your senior class graduates, you will find stuff to do during summer break to occupy your time so as to not miss being in school, and you will write mad papers next semester so won’t miss blogging. But actually, I don’t really know if I believe all of that, I’m not ready for this.

I thought to myself that it was impossible for me to be the only one feeling this way. I reached out to some of my fellow classmates that are graduating this semester to find out if they were ready for life after USG. To my surprise, it turned out that I was the only one feeling not ready.Ready

My classmates all acknowledged that life after USG will no doubt be one of the hardest transitions they have ever had to make. However, their time at USG has prepared them for life ahead. They all took the decision to stay local and attend college at the USG campus. However, there are no feelings of missed opportunities that attending a standard live in university may have provided. While attending USG, they gained many skills such as time management, money management, teamwork, multitasking and communication skills. And while they are without a doubt saddened that they will not be seeing me every week, they are confident that the skills learned and experienced gained at USG have made them ready for life ahead.

After speaking with them, I am now ready to leap into whatever is next. So with my new found confidence, I am spreading joy and well wishes today. To the graduates, congratulations on this significant milestone. The past few years may have gone by in just a blink of an eye, but you have your whole life ahead. You are brilliant, able and ambitious! Congratulations and well done. To the continuing students that have now completed another successful semester, as you cherish the fruits of your hard work, I wish that success keeps following you in everything that you do. Have a safe and enjoyable summer break and see you around campus in Fall 2017.

The USG Undergrad celebrations will go on despite the rain today, so be sure to attend!il_340x270.1108755332_t1if

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Endings and Beginnings

It’s mind-blowing to think about, but this will, sadly, be my last blog of the 2016-17 school year here on Around the Grove. Ending the school year is always bittersweet – there’s the relief that you can finally relax, the sense of accomplishment, but also the overwhelming realization that you might not get to see people again. As classes wrap up, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time at the Universities at Shady Grove and how honestly grateful I am that I was able to come here.

I never expected to go to school at Shady Grove. I spent three years at another school out-of-state and I thought it would be the perfect place for me. But circumstances led my to a crossroads in life where I realized I needed to move back home and change schools. It was really tough to make such a huge change, especially when I just had a year left at my old school, but as I wrap up here at USG, I realize I would have missed out on so many important experiences if I hadn’t ever ended up here.

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For anyone considering Shady Grove, here are some of the greatest parts of the USG campus and community:

  • Small campus. USG is a tight-knit community. You usually know everyone in your program and it’s much easier to get to know your professors.
  • Opportunities for leadership. Because the campus is so small, it’s easier to get involved in campus activities and have the opportunity to take leadership roles. I’ve had the chance to build my resume, self-confidence, and skill set through these opportunities that I didn’t have had the chance to participate in elsewhere.
  • Great staff. From the first time I set foot on USG’s campus, I was so impressed with how helpful the staff members were in making sure I had a smooth transition to a new school. When I had issues with credits transferring, a UMBC staff member here at USG spent hours calling other administrators to get help for me.
  • Student services. USG has so many great services for students – the Counseling Center, Career Services, Academic and Student services, summer GRE prep classes – and the staff are always very attentive and friendly.

USG is such a great concept, allowing people who are working or who need to live at home to have the chance to get an education in a way that fits their needs. This is so important in a society where changing careers is becoming more common and people need more and more higher education to get a job.

USG provides the individualized support you need to succeed and fills an important niche that has been overlooked. It can be very lonely being a commuter at a traditional university, so it’s refreshing to attend school where everyone is in the same boat as you.

I’ve learned so much from my fellow students and professors, and been so encouraged by the support of USG’s staff as well as the opportunities I’ve had here to grow and be involved. So I’d like to extend a thank you to the entire USG community. You guys are great and will always have a special place in my heart!

This summer, I am excited to have the chance to continue writing here on Around the Grove about a fellowship I will be working at. Stay tuned and best of luck with finals!

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