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

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Around the World…Or a Little Corner

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Now that I’m in my senior year, nearing the end, it’s made me think about the years preceding, and how my life has changed for the better even if everything hadn’t been according to plan. Strange almost, to look back at myself and realize yes, my major and career, and every meeting in between had been different than what I imagined, but there are no regrets. In fact, I’m happy to be here where I am, and happy to be able to write about my thoughts and experiences.

Being an accounting major, my personality had always been one where I had to plan everything out to the time and date, and anything deviating from it seemed uneasy. I imagined myself studying abroad and seeing new countries and sights, photos to record every moment, and growing from the experience. Perhaps I had been naive, but I thought that was the way to truly expand and grow during college. Raised in Frederick, it seemed so small compared to the world, and I hadn’t given much thought to the little details that made up my hometown, always looking outwards and to the beyond, to places unfamiliar and dreamt of.

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Instead of studying abroad, I was able to realize through my college career that no, not everything to be learned is outside of one’s home, outside of what is familiar and nostalgic. The USG campus in particular, in a little corner of the world, subtle in a way you might miss it for the larger campuses, is a wonderful example. After exams, it’s the hours at the Green Grove Cafe with the new friends you’ve made on campus, the shared rooms at the Priddy Library with doodles on the whiteboard when procrastination settles in like an old friend. Maybe it was growing older, or the experiences of transitioning from community college, but I’ve realized it was the little things that matter in the end, that stick with us in the form of memories. USG encompasses that more than larger campuses I believe, my junior year having been a spectacular one with so many memories. Though this campus may feel small, it’s dense with excitement and events in store for all students. Good luck to everyone!

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The Benefits of Getting Involved on Campus

What are the benefits of getting involved on your campus, you say? Being a leader and role model to your peers, making a difference in your community, discovering your strengths and passion, and a bonus to building your resume. You must be wondering, so what or I don’t need these experiences, I work full time and I just don’t have the time. As students, we know that attending a program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a place where you can get an affordable education while being committed to your other obligations such as personal life, family and work. But school is much more than sitting in class and listening to professors lecture! “What you may not know is that getting involved on campus comes with its own set of major perks. It’s not just about meeting other students, although that’s definitely one appeal of joining college clubs and organizations. But that’s not the only benefit of getting involved.” (Source: http://www.css.edu/the-sentinel-blog/the-importance-of-community-participation-why-college-clubs-and-organizations-matter.html )

Studies have shown that getting involved in student organizations and student life:

1. Have higher graduation rates.
2. Report higher levels of satisfaction with their college experience.
3. Are more effective in their educational involvement, career planning, lifestyle planning, cultural participation and academic autonomy.
4. Develop effective interpersonal relationship skills.
5. Develop increased self-confidence and tolerance of and acceptance for other

Source: https://shadygrove.umd.edu/student-services/csef/student-organizations

“The importance of community participation: Why college clubs & organizations matter,” provides 7 reasons as to why you should get involved on campus:

1. It’s a chance to build your skillset

2. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your time management

3. It helps you become more collaborative

4. It can lead to great friendships and new networking opportunities

5. It can build your self-confidence

6. It can provide you with a well-rounded college experience

7. It can increase your marketability

Source: http://www.css.edu/the-sentinel-blog/the-importance-of-community-participation-why-college-clubs-and-organizations-matter.html

Get out there and get involved

When you get involved, employers will see that you have the required experiences while not having to worry about acquiring those resume items. Having been involved on my campus, I know that my impressive skills and hands-on experience will catch the eye of hiring managers.

Based on the many benefits listed above, it’s clear that getting involved on your campus matters to your personal growth and to your future employers. The next time you plan on arriving to USG, remind yourself to get out and explore all of the opportunities USG has to offer! It also helps when you attend a college that offers a robust assortment of on-campus opportunities. Be sure to check out all the clubs and organizations.

Here is the link on how to join an organization at USG and what USG offers for leadership opportunities:

https://shadygrove.umd.edu/student-services/csef/student-

organizationshttps://shadygrove.umd.edu/student-services/csef/leadership-opportunities

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Movie Magic at USG

After a much busy summer, it was refreshing to come back to USG. With many missing faces among my class mates (they graduated last May) I looked forward to spending time with some old and some new faces. As expected the Communication program brings an array of talented students among us and so far I am enjoying, working on various projects with some new and some old faces. It’s going to be my last semester and the feelings are mixed, I am going to miss this place, but somehow the idea of this being my last semester is making me feel inspired. I feel like it’s a now or never moment. I among many of my classes that I am taking two film classes that are teaching me to think about movies in a different way. From class lectures, I get to learn a much detail history of what techniques were used historically and how are things done now in the moving making business. As I am learning I can’t help but learn about the filming style of the famous movie directors and producers. I have seen movies from the 90s, some 2000s but not many before them. I had seen my share of rom-coms, drama action and sci-fi, and comedies. I would see great movies accepting Oscars and various awards and would always think of my experience while watching them. Now as I am studying about them and learning what actually was to them to make them Oscar worthy? In our class we would talk about the great works of Steven Spielberg, Martian Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino and many more. Our professor would talk about the kind of shots they would take to create more drama, or the usage of Camera work or how much of a game changer they were in their times. This semester I decided that I am going to watch movies of one of the directors and see what they did. So I decided to go with Quentin Tarantino. What made me choose him was that he recently released “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” with Oscar winning Leonardo Di Caprio  and Brad Pitt. Audience were able to see world’s famous actors in their element and they sure outdid themselves. I was able to see class Tarantino style Camera work and the quirks of his stories, which would enhance his characters. The fun of it all was that it was based on a true story.

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After watching the scene from when (spoiler alert!) Leo roasted one of the characters with a blow torch and I could not help but un-see the whole scene I understood why Tarantino was the king of nonlinear story lines and satirical drama. I wanted more of this and decided to go to good old Netflix. I found out few of more of his movies and decided to go with the classic “Pulp Fiction’.  There’s wasn’t a moment in the movie that was not thought about in detail. From the costumes to dialogues and story line, it was Tarantino’s masterpiece. I have a few more inline but time is the essence these days with semester.

Sharing a favorite scene from the movie

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Welcome Back!

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How has everyone’s summer been? The summer can be a great time to do so much. Many of my peers had successfully completed internships at accounting firms, while others had taken classes to get ahead. How you manage a vacation is up to you, but definitely remember to check in with your respective advisors to plan ahead. At the same time however, a break is a break, a time to relax and enjoy life to the fullest. I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer, and is ready to tackle on the new semester! 

Before anything, I would like to give a warm welcome to the new students here at USG as well as a welcome back to returning students! It has already been a month since the fall semester has begun, and already exams are approaching, papers are due, and the library will be full of students working their hardest to succeed. When you stop by the Priddy Library, take a look to your left and see what fellow students have written and drawn on the board. For instance, when I was walking to the quiet area to study for the week, there was a question on why you like USG. Answers varied from saving money to the close-knit community you can find unique to a smaller campus. The questions change frequently, so make sure to take a look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised each time! 

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As my second year has started at USG, it is so incredible to see faces that had once been unknown become familiar, people who had once been strangers become the closest of friends who I can depend on. I still remember vividly how nervous I had been during my first day at USG as a junior, the transition straight from community college one that seemed too frightening. Looking back on it now, it has become a fond memory, and almost feels a little silly too! Because the USG campus and all the people in it have become a home, every little corner one that I know and have passed by countless of times already. There’s a comfort to the familiar, and it has made me love USG all the more. 

But remember as well, that while you are primarily a student at USG, you are also a student of your respective main campus. Last week I had been at the University of Maryland, College Park campus to take senior portraits, and it’s always such a change of environment. Exciting as it had been, USG is always my home to return to. Whether you have just transferred to USG or are returning to continue your studies, you have a home here. Good luck, students!

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The Vessel

I did not wanted my NYC trip to be a cliche’! Which is to visit Times Square, see the Brooklyn Bridge, and visit Statue of Liberty. They are what NY stands for; but I want to see lots of places which are newer and less heard of. I had always wanted to vist Soho area;so we decided to do a little but of that, and I got a glimpse of it! We walked alot…Soho was cute, and we knew there was more to it and this weekend trip isn’t gonna cut it! So its “until next time for Soho”. As we proceeded to lunch and were discussing what to do next. A lady sitting with her daughter next to our table advised us to visit Hudson Yards and “the Vessel”. One of my friend had heard of it and with the quick google search, we made up our mind to go there. We had our cars with us that day and had to pass through the midtown. The traffic we encountered and of course to find ‘a street parking’ was an achievement for us. As we arrived we were quickly got a glimps of the structure. Nestled between the skyscrapers of Hudson Yards area, it’s the most intricately designed building, which is also considered as a piece of art. Facing the Hudson River, it consists of 154 flight of stairs which are connected with each other with the help of a honeycomb structure. The whole building is shaped like a Vessel. We reached there in the evening and by the time we got on top of the building we had enough time to see the sunset. There are tickets to enter the building which can be bought with the quick scan of the “QR” code which will lead you to the Vessel website, near the building.

After visit one can grab a quick bite from the shops and restaurants inside the mall near the building.

For more pictures of “NYC” follow me on my Instagram @bnb4life.

I’m on Instagram as @bnb4life. Install the app to follow my photos and videos. https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=1jtlq7jfg3yx5&utm_content=3negdm

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A taste of home, in NYC

Every summer a must thing that I do with my family is plan a weekend visit to NYC. Its a little escape from DMV area. Okay…. Yes I AM one of those people who love the urban jungle and the city vibes. What can I tell you? I grew up in the biggest city of Pakistan, called Karachi which is the 7th largest city and urban population in the world, currently bustling with 16.62 million people. So the quiet suburbs of Maryland sometimes become… well too quite. This time the plan was a little different. My best friend who is originally from New York and now lives in Maryland was visiting her parents in New York and so we decided to meet up with her and then another friend of mine also decided to join us. So with this spontaneous program we decided to meet each other and have a crazy fun filled weekend in NYC. I always go to the same places; The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and ofcourse Times Square. So this time, my idea was to visit places that we have not been to. My friend suggested we should hit Soho area in lower Manhattan and check out this cute little Pakistani tea place called ‘The Chai Spot’ . Upon looking up and finding more about the spot with a quick Instagram search, we were all game for it. Just like in United States no one works and sustain without coffee, Pakistanis do not work and sustain without tea. I am not talking about the usual chamomile tea, which is intended to put one to sleep. The south asian ‘Chai’ is actually black tea, as strong as coffee and full of caffeine, prepared in different ways in different parts of Pakistan.

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Photos by the author: Entrance

As we enjoyed our walk in lower Manhattan area, we were not disappointed when we arrived at ‘The Chai Spot’ nestled among other restaurants. The truck art is familiar to me as I grew up seeing this kind of truck art all over the public transportation, i.e. trucks, lorries, rickshaws and public buses in Karachi. Those eyes that were drawn on the spot are usually drawn at the back of the truck with a funny couplets, or an important message written which would never failed to amuse anyone who is driving and is stuck behind those trucks in a traffic jam. The colorful sitting bamboo stools and the vibe reminded me of home. As we entered we were greeted by even more truck art.

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Truck Art by PhoolPatti

The place is owned by a Balochi woman Khalida Barohi and her husband David Barron. I think I spotted David at the front desk with some other people who work there, as we ordered our chai(tea) and got busy taking more pictures. The chai menu had some unusual choices. The Chais made here are like the one I am accustomed to drinking, but with some interesting twists. I ordered for myself a coconut rose chai. As we went inside we were welcomed by the traditional floor seating arrangement. Ofcourse, we had to take off our shoes, just like any other Pakistani household, the place has the tradition; and we sat on the corner. The room was not that lit, but there was enough light to create a cool ambiance, with beautiful cushions on the floor and on the wall. The place was very easy going and eclectic. It was like a Starbucks with more Pakistani touch! One can sit at any corner with the laptop and a cup of chai with some cookies to go with it and work away, or curl up in the corner to read a book. I also spotted a basket of yoga mats and assumed that they might also have yoga classes as well. There were 2 bookshelves with books and board games. Our group consisted of atleast 15 people and we took a whole corner of the chai spot. As my chai arrived I could not help but notice a little extra touch as the cups were beautifully decorated with handcrafted ribbons.

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Yummmm…chai

As it was out first visit, the server provided us with brochures about the place. As I read more about the philanthropic work that was done by Khalida, with the profite from this place, and could not help but feel pride to know about her courage and her perseverance.

There is a small shop setup inside the Chai Spot with traditional handicraft work that one can easily buy and support her cause. I bought her book , which had her inspirational story. If anyone ever have a chance to visit them in NYC its a must see place. You will always leave after vising with some ‘peace, love and ofCourse some chai’

You can find out more about ‘The Chai Spot’ here

To find out and see who did the gorgeous truck art click here

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The author with Flying Queen

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Yummm

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Biking Adventure (cont—)

It had taken us 2 hours to come to Harper’s Ferry. Now we needed enough time to head back. So we decided to head back to our bikes. Crossed the bridge again got our bikes and started paddling. As we paddled I realized I felt more tired. Each push of the paddle was becoming heavier. I think my kids and husband were as well as they were not talking much. Or they could just be enjoying the breeze and the serenity. My daughter suddenly stopped the bike which made my son stop behind her and then me. My husband realizing he couldn’t hear our bikes stopped and looked behind to see us why we had stopped. I got of my bike and asked my daughter what had happened. She was off her bike as well looking at the ground, pointing, “look!”. I moved forward, “What is it?” “It’s a snail! “I couldn’t see, until I saw more closely. It was the color of the gravel and the biggest, small snail I had ever seen. It was moving as slowly, as snails do. My son rolled his eyes. Nothing impresses a teen when they’re tired. I wouldn’t blame him, the hot sun was gone, but there was still evening light and the shadowed bike path was becoming much darker. We realized we should’ve had some lights on our bikes. My husband then realized he had installed two on my son’s and he already had one on his. He took off the rear bike from my son’s bike and installed on mine’s. I was the one who was now biking slowly and was much behind. We started paddling again, till I realized my paddle was not taking the bike forward. I looked at the mechanical chain section of the bike and realized my chain was off, probably due to sudden break. My husband and kids we already gone. I decided to fix the chain myself. So got off and started to work on it. I was too tired. I took off my phone and started to call my husband, realizing his phone didn’t had enough battery and I had advised him to turn it off. So, I decided to walk. I walked for 10 minutes till I saw my husband coming back. Upon his arrival I told him what’s happening. He immediately got to work and, in a minute, fixed the chain. Relief, I decided to adjust my seat higher. I felt like I was going slow and peddling more than I must. It wasn’t even mountainous! It was a plan, flat trail. “UGH! Feeling more out of shape than ever wondering how much my weight is I started paddling.  My husband still was ahead of me, “You don’t even go to the gym with me!” I yelled after him, feeling offended, while a man, clearly in his 60’s ran alongside us. I could hear my husband’s grin as he slowed down and I joined. We saw our kids then, with concerned look on their faces as one of them asked if I was okay.

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When we started paddling again, I felt like I was a puddle of sweat. I cursed myself for missing all those cardio classes and only taking yoga, telling myself it’s a good workout. I realized more than ever that it uses be the combo of both that had always worked for me. Also, realizing that doing all those missed cardio doing in one day could be well—life threatening! “Its too late for it!” told me. I stopped and took out my cell phone, wondering how far is the campground? It was getting dark. We could see the fireflies alongside our trail and if we stop, the mosquitoes would start having buffet on us. It showed 8 more minutes. That was enough for motivation. We reached our campground territory in 8 more minutes and then the kids rushed to the final mile towards our car, while me and my husband we not so far behind. Upon reaching we were welcomed by the smell of bar-b-q as the campers had started their dinner. We hung around there for having water and loading our bikes on the SUV. We were tired, sweaty but had a blast. Looking forward to more adventures ahead. Of-course, will prep with cardio next time —NOT!

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Scenic Biking Adventure

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

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

 

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

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Go get on a bike!

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

 

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Neuroscience and Learning

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

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

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

What does this mean for a USG student?

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

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

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

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

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