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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Friendsgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food For Thought

Welcome to all, and to all are welcome. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

I can overcome anything

I can achieve everything

I will stand for something

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com
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Cookbook Review: Good and Cheap

In my last post, I wrote about how cooking can be a joyful and warming activity during the colder months. While I stand by that, I also recognize that acquiring quality ingredients can be inaccessibly expensive, and many of us are far too busy as students to find the time to make labor-intensive recipes. And perhaps, you may be at the point where you have not yet learned to cook for yourself and don’t know where to start. Why don’t they teach us this stuff in school??

At any rate, if you’re looking for some inexpensive and healthy inspiration, look no further than Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. Good and Cheap was created as a capstone project for Brown’s MA in Food Studies at New York University. Each recipe is designed so that the ingredients would be affordable to those living on SNAP, the program that used to be called food stamps. The rule of thumb is those using SNAP have about $4 per person per day to spend on food, so just about every recipe is $2 or less per serving (the most expensive recipe is a spicy broiled tilapia dish and is still only $4.50 per serving). Disclaimer: This book was originally released in 2014, so exact pricing of ingredients as well as SNAP program funding has changed. If you’re already interested in reading, there’s no need to run to the bookstore – the entire book is available as a free PDF.

Before the recipes even start, Brown spends a few pages offering tips on “eating and shopping smart”, which in my opinion might be the most impactful part of this book. It’s a very common sentiment among Millennials and older Gen Z that we wished we would have spent time in high school learning how to set a budget and cook for ourselves, rather than calculating derivatives and reading Shakespeare. That’s why I find it so wonderful when there is free and accessible content like this teaching us how to “adult”. Some of the best tips in this part of the book include “buy foods that can be used in multiple meals” and “think seasonally” when it comes to buying produce. And these aren’t just tips for survival – these tips show the reader how to create truly delicious food and indulge their senses without breaking the bank.

The recipes are broken up into a lot of different categories, including full meals like breakfast and dinner, but even includes smaller staples like different sauces and drinks. As you scroll through the pdf, the magnificent pictures on each page are filled with brilliant colors and professional-style plating that will actually make you excited about cooking these dishes. Some of my favorite recipes in this book are the banana pancakes, the smoky and spicy roasted cauliflower (shown below), and the smoothies 4 ways. The best part is that these recipes are so delightfully simple that they’re easy to tailor and customize to fit your taste and budget.

If you want to cook more but don’t know how to get started, this is a judgement-free and budget-friendly resource that EVERYONE should know about. Happy cooking!

https://books.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf
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Life as a Pre-Med Student

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Source: College Magazine

I am a senior at the University of Maryland College Park here at USG, studying Biological Sciences. Becoming a Biology major wasn’t a simple decision, and during my first two years at Montgomery College, I was very indecisive about my major and what to pursue. Though STEM was always in my mind, I was too afraid to take the challenge. Many required science and math courses made me afraid of the schooling ahead of me. But when I finally decided on biological science, I did not regret my decision at all.

As my classes progressed, I realized every STEM course worked together to prove how connected every part of life is, and they cannot live without each other, especially in health. That inspired me to follow the Biological Science path for Pre-Med.

Now, as I finish my second to last semester at USG and preparing to graduate in May 2022, I am slowly getting ready to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor working in the field of pediatrics. A specific field isn’t clear for me to pursue just yet, but I know for fact pediatrics is where my heart is.

One of the most difficult things as a pre-med student isn’t just the classes or studying for MCATS, but it’s getting internships and gaining clinical experience. Due to COVID, many opportunities have closed but as time passes, more and more are opening back up.

My tips for up-and-coming Pre-med students are these:

  • Volunteer, not only clinically but in the community
    • It shows you care about the world around you outside of your field
  • Get to know the people you work with or your professors
    • Networking and gaining connections is very useful for letters of recommendation or unknown opportunities
  • Don’t be afraid to apply to internships or other positions
    • Many students ignore an application because they feel unworthy, confidence is key because you just may be chosen for that position.
  • Stay active in volunteer or other work
    • It is important to do this constantly through your schooling, Med Schools want to see where you invest your free time and how you manage a tight schedule 
    • This prepares you for the rigorous schedules of Med School

Let’s follow our dreams and don’t get discouraged!

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Source: Giphy
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Lessons Learned, Time Earned

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Study Tips To Get You Through Finals

The fall semester is in full-swing, and we are nearing what will probably be the most stressful time for most students: final exams. Oh, that bitter-sweet end of semester. You know that the end is so close, but you have to take a series of exams (and do well, of course) in order to reach the finish line. Since I started my graduate school experience last year during the pandemic, it just dawned on me that every exam I have taken has been online and open book/open notes. I was studying for a quiz over the weekend and realized that this will be the first test I will take in this program where I will not have my notes to help me out if I happen to forget some useful information. Prior to enrolling at UMD for my MBA, it had been 10 years since I was in a classroom. I had to re-learn how to study. Here are some studying tips to get you through finals season.

Take regular breaks

I know that it’s easy to want to sit down and study until you feel comfortable enough with the information, but research shows that you should space out your studying in order for your brain to retain information. Too much information at once can cause an overload and you won’t remember a lot of what you have read.

Diversify your materials

Don’t just rely on textbooks and other readings. Utilize other sources like case studies, videos, and you can even try to find practice questions and work on those. With this method, you are less likely to get bored with the material.

Understand concepts

Understanding the concept behind frameworks will aid your understanding and ensure that you are well-versed in said concept. Taking the extra time to do this will help you in the long run.

I hope these tips help as we approach the end of the semester. Now I will get back to studying for this quiz. Wish me luck!

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How to Survive Black Friday: Deals and Steals for 2021

It is just around this time of November every year that I begin to get mildly anxious about the looming Black Friday. Every year I find myself lined up behind freezing hoards of sleep-deprived shoppers, rubbing my eyes and hoping that the ten minutes till midnight could disappear so I may finally enter the warmth and fluorescent lighting of Macys. Black Friday is a tradition in my family; one that we never skip or miss (unless a pandemic gets in the way of course). After a break last year from the destined chaos, I once again foresee in my future a long night next Friday, filled with Starbucks and vending machine visits. And so, as is always tradition (at least for me), the two weeks prior, I work on prep for my fated night, scouring ads and articles for the best deals I can find, hoping to make it go as smooth as possible. I thought I would share my aggregated list as it might be of some use for those like me who look towards Black Friday like an omen. Here is what to expect for those expecting an extra long Thanksgiving weekend; a list of presents for others or yourself, curated perfectly for the college kid:


UPDATE: Holiday Shopping is On! See Which Hot Deals Guests are Bringing Home
Photo from A Bullseye Review (2017)

Target

Target’s Black Friday technically begins on November 21st online this year, and runs till the 27th. Of course, the store will be having in-person deals on Black Friday, but Target seems to be pushing for a more virtual Black Friday option this year. Though, their ad seems to hint at new offers specifically on Thursday.

The biggest deals this year seem to be on headphones, televisions, and kid’s toys. Most of the deals include gift cards to Target, like the Oculus Quest VR Headset ($299.99) which includes a $50 gift card when purchased. Nearly all headphones are $100 off, and Disney toys are Bogo 50% off. For those slowly furnishing first apartments, cookware, toasters, hand mixers, stand mixers, blenders, and pressure cookers are all joining the shopping madness with up to $25 off some items.

Hitting Target is always a must for my family, but that is less for the deals and more because there’s always something to find there. For the new Black Friday shopper or for the college kid on a budget, I would be wary of the Black Friday Target; it is hard to leave the store without buying something on a normal day, and this is Black Friday we are talking about. I would say to only go there in person if you see something specific on their ad that you are 100% committed to seeing and buying in person, otherwise shop online. I’d recommend the pressure cooker deal and of course Target’s infamous gift card deal though for those looking for a good bang for your buck.


Walmart plans to be fully stocked for Black Friday | Fortune
Photo from Gunnar Rathbun in Fortune (2015)

Walmart

Walmart seems to be doing a similar set-up to Target for their Black Friday shenanigans. Online deals begin on November 22nd at 7pm and go through Black Friday, whereas the in-person Black Friday deals begin at 5 am. Interestingly though, the beginning day of their online deals (November 22nd) has some exclusives, similar to the exclusive items for Black Friday itself.

Exclusively on November 22nd, the Xbox series X and the PlayStation 5 are both going separately for $499 (a big deal since these have been so hard to get ahold of recently). Otherwise, the big deals here seem to be on Roombas, iPhones, and videogames (emphasis on those for Nintendo switch).

I am not a big Walmart fan, and my family usually tends to skip this one for Black Friday. However, this year’s deal on Nintendo switch games has peaked my interest. With the normal price on switch games fluctuating anywhere from $15 to $60 per game, their $35 each deal does seem like something I might find myself nosing around on come November 22nd. Notebly though, Walmart members seem to get first dibs this year, so there is a chance many of these deals will be gone before they open to the general public.


Black Friday Best Buy: Sales ad, when it starts & best deals | Windows  Central
Photo from Alex Smith (2020)

BestBuy

For this big box store, the sales have already begun, with new deals starting on November 19th through Cyber Monday. BestBuy is also running a “deals guaranteed” program where, if a price drops after you purchased an item, they plan to refund you that dropped amount. They will be having in-person offers on Black Friday, but it seems many of the deals will be online between the 19th and Thanksgiving.

Some of the big offers include $100 of the Dyson cord-free vacuum, $50 gift card to BestBuy with the purchase of the Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset (similar to Target’s deal), and tons of offers on laptops, Fitbits and TVs.

We always tend to stop by BestBuy during Black Friday, but seldom do we walk out with a purchase. A lot of the deals BestBuy offers are the same as other, more versatile places, and when it comes to having so little time for shopping, I tend to not want to go anywhere where I might not buy something. If you are to take advantage of anything on BestBuy’s deal list, I’d recommend the dyson deal, and BestBuy usually has some good prices on videogames too.


Customers make their way to the mall during black Friday sales at the King of Prussia Mall, In King of Prussia, Pa. Friday, November 27, 2020.
Photo from Jose Moreno (2020)

Rapid Round

Some of the best deals I have found from the smaller Black Friday stores:

  • Costco
    • Up to $500 off diamond and 24k gold jewelry
    • Around 50% off the Samsung ChromeBook
  • Kohls
    • An extra 15% off everything for the Black Friday sale
    • Half off air fryers, instant pots and Keurigs
  • Macy’s
    • 60% to 70% off Women’s Coats
    • Extra 20% off all Black Friday Sales
    • $200 diamond earrings free with a $25 purchase
    • 60% to 70% off bedding and sheets
  • Home Depot
    • Over $50 off most power tool kits
    • Over 50% off most furniture and décor
  • Ulta
    • 50% off nearly all doorbusters (Morphe, NYX, perfume, etc.)
    • Free gift of a plush robe or Marc Jacobs fragrance with $60 purchases
  • Nordstrom
    • 65% off men’s coats and jackets
    • 60% off bags, wallets, jewelry, and women’s tops
    • Big deals on Free People, Nike, Tory Burch, Levi’s, and NorthFace

While I don’t usually spend too much time at the big Black Friday stores, the stores with the smaller, less advertised sales are the one’s I really try to capitalize on. Every year, without fail, we hit up GameStop, Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Home Depot, Ulta, Aeropostale, American Eagle, and the local outlet stores; these are our big hunting grounds. I would, time and time again, recommend these over the bigger stores. You always can find something unique at an amazing price. I am incredibly excited for Ulta this year, and anyone with a makeup or perfume-loving individual in their life should too. Nordstrom looks like a huge hit for men’s apparel, and I can’t help but look forward to seeing what my local mall has in store. A lot of these stores don’t let out all of their secrets before the fated day, and that is where the true fun really lies.


Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Photo from Jack Taylor (2018)

Conclusion

In total, the secret for any new Black Friday shopper is to go somewhere unexpected. If you are looking to partake in the chaos of Black Friday, go to your favorite stores, not the ones you have seen the most on TV. A lot of the places that don’t advertise as much are the ones that have the best presents and the best deals (they also tend to have less crowds). Keep an eye out for anything 50% off or more when searching, and don’t be afraid to go where you don’t expect to find a deal. The true secret is not to treat the day like a chore; treat it like an opportunity, and you will most certainly find something fun.

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A Menu of Cold-Weather Hobbies

Hoo boy, does anyone else feel like this colder weather showed up like a slap in the face? I am 100% more of a summer person, so these dropping temperatures come with a serious drop in my mood and energy. If you’re like me and you’re already missing some of your favorite sunny day adventures, it might help to find some joy in some of the following activities. They’re sure to warm you right up!

Some of my projects from years past.

Knitting or Crocheting

This one is a personal favorite of mine – I’ve been crocheting since 2017, and while it makes me look like a total grandma, it has quickly become one of my favorite hobbies. It’s super easy to teach yourself some simple patterns online, it’s easy to find cheap yarn at Michael’s or thrift stores, and the biggest benefit of all – you end up a cute warm, fuzzy accessory like a scarf or hat! AND they make great gifts. What’s not to love?

Cooking

It’s impossible to feel chilly when you’re standing over the stove stirring a nice warm pot of soup, or sautéing some fresh autumn veggies. Even if you’re the type of person that could burn water, there are plenty of easy cheap recipes that can warm you up while you’re making them AND while you’re eating them. Some great ingredients to cook with in the colder months include warming spices like cinnamon and chili powder, and seasonal veggies like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

Need some inspiration? Check out these 38 Warm and Comforting Recipes for Cold Weather!

Photography

While I hate the colder months, I can’t argue that autumn is the most beautiful time of the year. The many colors of the changing leaves, the frustratingly early but radiant sunsets, and many other beautiful scenes can be captured forever in a photo. And all you need is your phone! Experiment with perspectives, colors, filters, and subjects. Take a picture – it lasts longer!

A photo I took last autumn at Wilde Lake Park in Columbia, MD

Explore DMV Museums

We are lucky to live in a part of the country with such a rich supply of museums. Whether you love art, history, or trains – yes, trains – there are so many museums to choose from. Many museums in Maryland and Washington DC are free or discounted with a Student ID. What better way to escape the cold than to enter a big beautiful building and expand your cultural horizons?

Stay warm everybody!

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Bones Day

Source: ShutterStock

What can determine if we have a good or bad day? Usually, it could be the weather, an exam, or any news received. 

But what if it could be determined by a dog’s ability to sit straight?

A new tik tok phenomenon called “Bones Day” is taking everyone by storm. But what does this mean and what are bones? 

Let me begin by explaining how this all came to be.

TikTok influencer @Jongraz , before fame, started one of his videos trying to prop up his old pug, Noodle,  that usually enjoys laying around. He stated that Noodle’s ability to sit up would determine whether or not his day will be a good day. As he tries his best to sit up Noodle, he’ll either watch him sit straight for a good day, a bones day, or flop over for a bad day, a no bones day.

He began doing this every day and filming a TikTok while doing it. Suddenly this ‘morning routine’ went viral, having everyone talking about whether or not the day was a bones day, and how this will determine the day’s fate.

There are four ways the day can go:

  1. If you agree with the bones day and also have a great day, then take advantage of the good sign and seize the day.
  1. If it’s a bones day and you don’t feel so good, stay positive and take advantage of those bones to find strength and push through the day.
  1. If it’s a no bones day and you feel like it’s a good day, then FORGET THE BONES and do you!
  1. And lastly, if it’s a no bones day and you agree, then take your time that day and rest, it’s okay to have bad days, take it as a self-care day and be nice to yourself.

Of course, a random pug on tik tok won’t be the reason you have the best day of your life but it is fun to think about.

This Elderly Pug Has Captured TikTok's Heart With His Daily Bones  Horoscope! - HCA Barbieri News
Source: HCA News
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Does Thanksgiving Even Exist Anymore?

I went to the mall today (November 1st) and to my (not so much) surprise, Christmas decorations and Christmas music were in full swing. I said to my fiancé, “wow, they didn’t waste any time.” Just yesterday I was being entertained on Instagram and Twitter, seeing the creative costumes that people created for Halloween. We even saw a truck parked in the mall parking lot with a fake skeleton sitting in the passenger seat. After my initial spook, I remembered that Halloween was indeed just yesterday. So why does society seem to just skip over Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas?

Source

I’m sure the answer to this question stems from the capitalistic society that we live in today. Companies are trying to make money during the biggest shopping season of the year. But I miss when the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving. Nowadays, you can’t even look forward to Black Friday sales because a lot of retailers now offer pre-Black Friday deals. And don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season. It is a time to rest and spend time with your loved ones, and give and receive gifts. I also got engaged last Christmas so it now holds an even more special place in my heart. I just want Thanksgiving to get the recognition it deserves.

I don’t have time to go into the unfortunate history behind Thanksgiving, so I will talk about it as the commercial holiday it has grown to be. I look forward to Thanksgiving every year simply for the food. My family makes a Thanksgiving feast with all of the traditional dishes plus more. My family is from Barbados, so we incorporate our native dishes into the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Aside from the food, we like to reflect on what we are thankful for. At nearly two years into the pandemic, we all who have been fortunate enough to still be here have plenty to be thankful for.

I’ve said all of this to say, give Thanksgiving the recognition it deserves. Let’s save the Christmas stuff for afterwards.

P.S.- Martin is me, waiting for my plate on Thanksgiving.

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