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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Image by gabrielle_cc from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Candis Hidalgo from Pixabay
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Gratitude Journal

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

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

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

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

The Science of Gratitude

Main takeaways from the video:

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

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

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

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

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Movies for Mental Health

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

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

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

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

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

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

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

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(Open) Mic Check!

Last Friday, USG held a virtual Open Mic Night for anyone who might have been interested. Even though it was Friday the 13th, we didn’t have any technical issues. The night went very well, and everyone who attended had a lot of fun.

The night started at 5:00, but we didn’t get to the performances right away. First, we all wrote what the hosts called a “Hai-shoebox.” For those who have never tried this before, a Hai-shoebox is when you imagine finding a forgotten shoebox tucked away in the attic. You picture yourself opening the box and write a haiku about what’s inside it. (A haiku, by the way, is a three-line poem with a specific rhythm. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five again.) For reference, this was mine:

Mom’s old baby dolls.

Mike and Sandy. Twins, I think.

Are these things haunted?

I think we did this activity to make sure everyone had something to present, even if they decided to perform on a whim. The whole Open Mic night was built on supporting each other that way. When we did get to the performances at around 5:30, that was the number one rule: be supportive. We were all encouraged to keep our cameras on so that performers could see our positive body language. We also made liberal use of the Zoom reaction symbols. You know, the little thumbs-up and clapping emojis. I do have to say that, even though I had trouble finding my thumbs-up button, I’m so proud of everyone who performed. It took a lot of courage to volunteer, especially for an online event. Online, your WiFi connection can be your worst audience member!

Photo Credit: Aryan Singh via Unsplash

My favorite performance was by Professor Zhemukhov, who teaches European History through UMBC. He told a story about when he first moved to America and had a very illuminating trip to Designer Shoe Warehouse. I can’t retell it here–I wouldn’t do it justice–but it was so well-told and genuine that I had to mention it.

If you want to hear more about what Professor Z. is doing, and maybe get a good story out of it, check out his website at sufianz.com. Also, if you missed the Open Mic Night, take a look at the USG events calendar! I hope to see you at the next one!

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Thanksgiving is pretty much around the corner. Many people enjoy spending time with family and having a delicious meal together. It’s often a nice occasion and really gets you to be around those who love and care about you. However, we may have to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this year due to COVID. Although this is the case, it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a nice meal with your close family or friends; just be sure you follow COVID protocols to keep everyone safe. It also shouldn’t stop us from being thankful about anything. Here are somethings I am thankful for and that most people would agree with.

Family: Whether it’s your blood relatives or a family you chose for yourself, you’ll always be thankful for them and the support they give you. It’s an amazing feeling knowing you have people to lean on during any situation. Being thankful for family is something most of us agree to.

Food: Now this is something so many us are grateful for. Food is one of the things that keeps us going throughout the day whether we work a 9-5 job, work on large assignments, take care of family, etc. Having food in our systems gives us energy to keep pushing and get things done throughout the day; since there are so many types of food, there’s an unlimited amount of choices to pick from. I’m hoping for some mashed potatoes or Mac&Cheese this Thanksgiving with my family!

Good health: This is something I feel many of us take for granted. This year really made many of us worry for our health and trying to make sure we didn’t get infected with COVID. Thankfully there are still those who have made it through the year without getting infected; which is something to be thankful for. I took my health for granted many times before and these past two weeks made me realize how strong my body was when I unfortunately caught COVID. I don’t blame anyone for this, I’m just thankful to still be here and still pushing forward through thick and thin. For that, I am truly thankful for my good health.

If you want to help in giving someone else a chance with university, feel free to donate some money to the USG Assistance Fund; it’s to help those who have financially struggling to get by because of the pandemic. Here is a link and when asked what you’d like to contribute to, pick the USG Assistance Fund.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments feel free to send them my way! Happy early Thanksgiving and I’ll see you all in the next blog!

Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay
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Calming the Monkey Mind with Meditation

“Monkey Mind” refers to the unsettled or restless state that we find ourselves in – it’s a mind that jumps from thought to thought, similar to the way a monkey jumps from tree branch to tree branch. Instead of being present in the moment, it feels as though your mind is flooded with uncontrollable thoughts which insist on being heard. This creates distractions and makes it difficult to be productive and stay focused. If this sounds familiar then meditation may be worth giving a try…

I first heard of the term ‘monkey mind’ while taking a yoga class. At the end of the class the instructor led the class through a 5 minute meditation. The instructor had us take a few cleansing breaths to draw our attention into our breathing and rid us of any ‘monkey mind’. I struggled to keep my mind from wandering even in a quick five minute meditation (which felt like forever!!). This term really put into words something I have experienced not only yoga class but in classes, at work, within relationships and when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed – they are thoughts that are all over the place and make it challenging to be in the here and now. Sometimes these thoughts can even turn negative and become an inner critic that create feelings of fears, anger or guilt.

Establishing a interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds through mindfulness is the tricky part… you have to figure out what works for you. It takes a lot of self control and self awareness to recognize when you’re in this monkey mind state and to then take proactive steps to be grounded and present in the moment. Meditation is one tactic that has helped me overcome this challenge.

Mediation was difficult for me at first. Initially I felt like I was doing it wrong because my mind was still racing. I couldn’t stop random thoughts from coming in. A couple misconception that I had (that I think many people have) was that the goal was to stop thoughts from happening. This is not the case. Thoughts cannot simply just be turned on and off. When a thoughts arise “during meditation, it provides a chance to cultivate skills to work with the energies of thinking. Without pulling the thought in or pushing it away, your job is to simply notice its existence. Observe the thought, and stay present with any judgments that arise. Then, gently guide your attention back to your point of focus. That might be your breath, a mantra, or whatever guided meditation you’re listening to”(Well+Good, Kait Hurley). The ultimate goal is to be fully present, allowing your thoughts to slow down.

Taming the Monkey Mind with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo – explains basic meditation techniques to calm the mind. This is a bit of a longer video, but I enjoyed listening to her perspective and hearing the useful techniques that she uses to tame the monkey mind.

Headspace and Calm are a couple apps I have tried in the past that have hundreds of guided meditations, mini meditations, sleep sounds, nature sounds and breathing exercises for someone just getting into meditation or someone well rehearsed in meditation. They both offer free trials I believe, which is always great! The Mayo Clinic has some awesome suggestions on how to begin meditating and ways to build your meditation skills.

AsapSCIENE – The Scientific Power of Meditation

I think everyone could benefit from slowing down and being a bit more present. Like most things I think it takes practice and it’s important to not be judgmental about how it goes. The apps are a great place to start for either guided sessions or mini sessions. Meditation is something that I’m definitely interested in and I believe there are a lot of benefits that can help you being in the present and managing stress with upcoming midterms, projects, work, etc. Meditation may or may not be the way that helps you handle stress during these overwhelming times, but it’s definitely worth trying!

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Comfort Zones vs. Self-Growth

“Comfort, the enemy of progress” -P.T. Barnum

Breaking out of your comfort zone is hard. It’s scary and uncomfortable but the greatest growth comes from stepping outside our comfort zones. Think to yourself when you experienced the most personal growth, were you comfortable? Most likely not! My biggest self-growth was last year when I transferred to UMBC at USG. Before transferring, I stayed away from extracurriculars, but all that changed when I transferred to USG. 

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Within a week of transferring to USG, I applied to become a Student Ambassador. As a Student Ambassador, I have the opportunity to educate prospective students about the programs at USG as well as share my personal experience as a student. Becoming a student ambassador has allowed me to gain great self-confidence in public speaking and grow in my interpersonal skills. Now as a second-year ambassador, I am a Tour Trainer and a Student Engagement Chair. Stepping into these leadership roles have allowed me to learn new teaching techniques and fun new engagement strategies.

In addition to becoming a student ambassador, I became an active member of the Social Work Student Association (SWSA). In SWSA we engage in community service and educational events. Becoming involved in SWSA allowed me to meet people with similar interests as me and to learn new ways to help my community. Now as Vice President, I have also strengthened my outreach skills.

I have always been insecure about my writing, which is unfortunate for a social work major. When I saw the opportunity to become a student blogger for USG I thought “why not?” and applied. I truly thought I wouldn’t be offered the position because of the insecurities of my writing but sure enough here I am! Blogging has become an incentive for me to enjoy writing!

Photo by Diana Schröder-Bode on Unsplash

As exciting as becoming a part of all of this was, it was also scary. I was scared of being rejected or not being good enough. I am so grateful for listening to the little part of me that said I should try. Breaking out of my comfort zone allowed me to grow in so many ways. Once I learned to try new things, I fell in love with it. Now, things that seem scary excite me. Realizing I grew tremendously from trying new things has led me to love breaking out of my comfort zone. “Life begins when you break out of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch

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Broadening Horizons — Part 2

This past Monday was the second session of the CSEF Diversity Learning Workshop. If you missed my last post about it and would rather start from the beginning, here you go! Otherwise, let’s dive right in.

This month, the group discussed Cancel Culture. For those who don’t know, Cancel Culture refers to the reaction when a celebrity or business owner behaves offensively. “Canceling” is when the general public demands that said famous person lose their platform because of their behavior. For example, “Don’t buy from So-and-So Inc. anymore! The CEO made a racist statement in their interview with XYZ Magazine. We shouldn’t give people like that our money!” On paper, this holds the people who were canceled accountable and forces them to apologize. In practice, as I’m sure anyone who has spent five minutes on Twitter knows, it’s more complicated than that.

Photo Credit: Markus Winkler via Unsplash

During the workshop, we broke into groups to discuss whether we were “pro” or “against” Cancel Culture. Then we regrouped, and everyone changed their name on Zoom to reflect their beliefs. Upon being asked, a few people argued that Cancel Culture holds the more privileged accountable. Others said that it takes away the opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes.

The vast majority of people said, “It depends.” Including me.

That was interesting to me. I noticed that it was easy for me to promise that I would look for a broader context first. I wondered, “How many times have I done that in real life?” Aside from Cancel Culture, what about in general? Do I have a hypocritical streak that I don’t know about?

Needless to say, Monday was not comfortable. But, as I said last time, that’s the point. If I don’t leave these Diversity Learning workshops without taking a hard look in the mirror afterward, then I’m squandering the opportunity. Why would I spend my time going to something if I’m not going to do what it’s teaching me how to do?

Anyway, I’m not going to ask you, dear readers, to post your thoughts on Cancel Culture in the comments. I’m posting this the week of the 2020 election, so I’m sure we’ve all had enough of debating on the Internet. However, if you’re interested, or you’ve been asking a lot of questions about yourself lately, contact CSEF about getting into a future Diversity Learning workshop. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself, too!

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Grad School Prep

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

As a senior at USG, I’ve been figuring out what I want to do once I leave. Before I know it, the spring semester has started, graduation time is just around the corner, and soon I won’t be an undergraduate anymore. Some of us may go into the workforce, others may go to grad school, or some may not know what they want to do afterwards. Ultimately, I decided that I’ll go to grad school once my time at USG is up. This process is similar to how you’d apply to your home institution for the first time as an undergraduate. There is a bit of a timeline you should follow if you want to be able to be considered for the institution of your choice. So here’s a rough timeline to ensure you turn in your grad school application on time. This process should start roughly a year before going into grad school.

Summer: I know that summer is when you want to relax but you should begin looking into what grad schools you’d want to attend. Once you find the ones you want to attend, look up the mandatory materials you need for your application(i.e resume, transcripts, GRE) This is also a good time to write a personal statement; this should highlight your skills, experiences, and what you can offer the school you want to attend.

Sept-Oct: This would be the time to ask 2-3 of your professors or supervisors to write you a letter of recommendation for grad school; be sure they’re people who know you well and can attest to your abilities in the field. You should also be taking the tests like the GRE if your grad school requires it and request your transcripts from previous institutions. Be sure to be making edits to your personal statement or resume.

Nov-Dec: Now this is where you need to start wrapping things up. Make sure you completed every single part of your application and pay the fee towards the end. Most priority deadlines fall within these months so make sure you know when the deadlines are.

Jan-Apr or May: Here is where most final deadlines occur. This time is also where you’ll hear the decisions from the institutions you’ve applied. Pick which grad school fits you best and continue the admissions process with them.

If you want to stay at USG after completing your Bachelor’s degree, check out USG’s graduate programs and see if your major has a Master’s program here.

I hope you all enjoyed this blog. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions please let me know! I’ll see you all in the next blog and remember to vote while you still can!!!

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Importance of Networking:

Yesterday I attended a Zoom Fireside Q&A chat with special guest Isabel Yanes. Isabel is a freelance Assistant Editor for scripted television based in Los Angeles. She also works as an Animation Artist for various companies. The Q&A was very informative and she gave attendees a great perspective on how to transfer a college education into a career, positives and negative of starting off in a career, mentorships and the significance of networking. The part about networking and how much she stressed the importance of it, really stood out to me. Personally I always associated networking as an awkward gathering of a bunch of random people; I imagine a lot of small talk. The fact is that networking is essential. Whether you’re trying to break into an industry or to accomplish meaningful professional connections, networking is the right step. Here are reasons why you should look into ways to network…

How To Hack Networking TED Talk: David Burkus

Finding a mentor – I have always heard that a mentor is a great tool. You just have to find someone who is successfully working in the position you want to obtain! My question is where do you find a mentor? Where do you find someone willing to invest time and energy into your success? When you are first starting out in a career, establishing a mentor is great way to figure things out and lean on for guidance. Networking meetings/events/workshops are a great place to shop around for a mentor! Finding someone that you connect with and would feel comfortable to reach out to

Exchanging and expanding ideas – Networks fosters a trade of ideas and perspectives. Its a pool of people, each with differing ideas, expertise, perspectives and outlooks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and pick peoples brains! How can one persons experiences and knowledge benefit you? And can you assist them in return by sharing knowledge of yours?

New opportunities and advancements – investing time and energy in networking opens the door to new opportunities. Potentially meeting a mentor, finding an internship and/or developing relationships with individuals superior in your field. The opportunity of advancements are endless. Its really just getting out of your comfort zone and recognizing the potential benefits of doing so. If nothing comes of it…so what! Maybe that guy or girl you were standing in line with for the restroom is an runs a marketing firm or a PR agency… you leave a good impression and that small encounter turns into dream job at the marketing firm/ PR agency (insert dream job here.)

Develop long-lasting relationships – It’s a two-way road of giving and taking. This process can build a strong relationship with people that you share similar interests with. Obviously there are some boundaries when socializing in a professional work setting, but having the mindset that networking is just a way to build relationships and make friendship makes that whole thing much less intimidating. It takes the pressure off and it feels less forced and more authentic.

Networking doesn’t have to be so intimidating or feel awkward… “It’s about understanding the network around you and acting accordingly,” in other words, “It’s about whose a friend and whose a friend of a friend.” -David Burkus

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