Humble pie

Working and studying in the field of history, I’ve slowly realized how important it is to approach the process of creating history with a healthy dose of humility. I guess that’s true of any area of study, actually, but I’ll stick with history for now. It’s a field where it can be very easy to fall into the mindset of trying to impress people with your knowledge, put forward a confident face, and emphasize what you do know, glossing over what you don’t. People may think this will get them a job – and maybe it will – but ultimately the ability to be a historian comes in the moments where you know that you don’t know…instead you have to find out.

Beyond that, you need to have a gratefulness for the people around you who make it possible for you to do your work – the business people in your museum, the custodians, the people whose history you capitalize on. You have to be willing to sometimes say, “I don’t know…Can you tell me more?” As I’ve been working on this fellowship, it’s been tough to step outside of my comfort bubble and share half-formed thoughts or guess at the use of bits of ceramics sitting on a table in front of me. I’ve felt stupid. Then I’ve realized that this is not about knowing everything, it’s about being willing to learn. And to learn, you have to take risks and sometimes end up humbled.

You have to listen as much as you talk. You have to be willing to sit and listen to long stories and source the public for their knowledge, because ultimately you’re telling this story for them and from their past. You can’t have the attitude that you’re above people because at the end of the day you depend on them. Historians only exist because there are people to write history about, and we need to have a sense of gratefulness to and appreciation for those people who we use to create our academic and professional careers. Writing my senior thesis was humbling in that I realized that the paper was not about me impressing my peers or a grad school program – it was about bringing to light and giving a voice to people who previously didn’t have one, letting them be as much a part of the historical narrative as the famous people who have dominated it for so long.

I guess I wish we approached history the way I wish we approached parties: instead of showing off and getting wrapped up in peacocking and telling our own stories, we would better serve the world by seeking out those not included in the conversation and asking them to share their own experiences. We should realize it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to do what we do – there are so many factors that have enabled us to be doing whatever we are doing. Not everyone gets the chance to pursue their passion as a career. Lots of amateur historians and history lovers who by some turn of fate or another didn’t get to pursue a career in history would love to be where we are, delving into archives and seeing behind the scenes.

I was humbled the other day to see a comment from a community member on a photo of my fellowship class asking whether the program accepts people 55 and older. It made me realize that while I’ve been whining about my schedule, other people would be more than happy to take my place. Since then, it’s reminded me to be grateful for the chance to be here. When working in and studying history are exasperating, I wish we would remember how privileged we are. And I wish we would remember how many people have stories we still need to tell.

One foot in front of the other

The entire car ride up here, I felt my stomach churning with anxiety, my chest tightening with every thought of the unknown that lay ahead. By the time the car turned onto Main Street, I had tears in my eyes from the stress and I thought I was going to blow chunks.

Once we pulled into the small gravel lot though, it was time for action. The next few minutes were a blur of new faces and signing papers and trying to think of something clever to say but drawing a complete blank. I took the keys and said thank you and hopped back into my parents’ car to drive to my new summer lodgings, a weathered, wood-paneled addition onto the back of a brick Federalist house, bookending the finish of a tree-lined street.

My excitement picked up as I ran up and down the stairs, exploring the nooks and crannies of my new home and deciding which room to pick. We hauled my obscene amount of newly purchased professional clothes and bags of tattered “I guess these are still nice enough” shoes into the spacious, if a bit run-down, room. Then my parents suggested we go for a walk through the historic district before they said good-bye for the night.

As we headed back down the road, underneath the shade of the trees, I turned to my mom and said I missed her and dad already. My stomach squeezed at the thought of going back to have a proper conversation with my new co-workers. I’m not famous for talking well in groups, and while I’ve made vast improvements in my social anxiety, the pressure of making a good impression on people I need to get along well with for nine weeks was a bit overwhelming.

But somehow, I hugged my parents, and went to have an awkward but interesting conversation with my newfound colleagues. Little did I know I would be laughing until I cried with some of them, swapping stories about crushes, and staying up way too late for recent college students who now have to wake up at 7:30am.

First weeks are always incredibly stressful, especially if you’re an already anxious person; meeting people whose names you can’t remember, navigating new relationships, figuring out how to answer all the “nice to meet you” questions. Even worse is hearing the laundry list of assignments, rules, and protocol and wondering how on earth you’re going to accomplish this all without crying yourself to sleep every night. This week was no different, but I was incredibly blessed to be able to connect with the people around me like I’ve never been able to do before. This meant that, while my chest still felt like caving in at times, I was able to stretch myself rather than just feeling completely overwhelmed and defeated. I guess the following is a stream-of-consciousness collection of lessons I’ve been learning over the start of this journey:

Other people are stressed too. I tend to assume that because I struggle with anxiety, I’m the only one who’s having a tough time, but that’s not true. People might only give you little glimpses of it, but if you pay attention, or maybe just even put yourself in their shoes, you might realize that other people are overwhelmed too. It can be helpful to be understanding and cut people a break, and to feel less alone, like you’re the only one struggling. Similarly, I think sometimes you need to open up and let people know you’re overwhelmed – nothing major, but just a bit of honesty with someone who you think might understand. You might receive an obnoxious pat reply, you might get some encouragement, you might find you’re not alone. But it’s good to be genuine. In my opinion, people can’t hate genuine. And it does more good than pretending you’re superior to others.

Stretching yourself to your limits is terrifying, but it really does help you to grow.

Don’t approach life trying to prove yourself to other people, but be humble and willing to ask about what you don’t know and remember how much we all have left to learn. Classmate and colleagues can sometimes, admittedly, feel like competition, but we’re all here to learn from one another. We all bring unique experiences and backgrounds to the table, so it’s worth learning from each other rather than, a) beating ourselves up for not knowing enough, or b) dropping names and dates to prove we’re hot stuff.

It’s not about being the best, but doing the best you can.

At the end of the day, whatever work you do isn’t about furthering your career, but rather contributing to your field, and ultimately to the world. Approaching work with this kind of attitude is humbling, and can help take the pressure of impressing people off of projects and let us reconnect with the joy of doing what we’re passionate about.

It’s okay to be a quiet person. Some times this week, I’ve felt guilty for not talking enough or not volunteering an answer because I was too nervous or not being able to think of something to ask a person I found myself standing next to. I’ve felt bad for having a quiet voice that gets talked over instead of commanding attention, for being tentative instead of self-assured. But then I contrast my experience with the self-assured people who seem to have it all together with the down-to-earth, vulnerable, relatable people who connect with you without pretenses, and I realize that, while it’s always good to continue pushing myself to be less tentative and fearful, I don’t need to be ashamed of being someone who listens more than she talks. We need people like that in the world to create safe havens where we can be ourselves, not be judged, and feel understood and comfortable.

And I have to cut myself some slack some times…we can’t do everything perfectly. If I don’t say much at a meal, that’s okay. I’m not one for small talk; I’d rather have a one-on-one or small group conversation where we really get to know each other or come up with inside jokes or really, genuinely laugh until I cry…the kind of laugh where you look ridiculous but are in such good company you don’t even care because you know they won’t judge you.

Even when I make “mistakes,” what matters is that I’m trying. I’m stretching myself a little further every day to overcome fear, push through anxiety, and dismiss hesitancy. While other people, myself included, may only see my shortcomings compared to an ideal of gregariousness and forthrightness, I know how far I’ve come. They don’t know that I used to never speak in class. They don’t know that two years ago, I considered quitting college. It’s easy to let shame darken our hearts because of societal stigma or bad reactions we’ve gotten in the past. Celebrate the obstacles you have overcome; let them remind you of the strength you have built and the mileage you have traveled to get to this place. The things that have cut you up inside (or perhaps even out) and left you broken have given your a story, made you wiser, stronger, more loving. The world needs broken people to pour love out into lives of others. I supposed there’s a time and place for a confident facade, but more and more I wish we made more room for an honest conversation.

More importantly, I firmly believe that, as cheesy as it sounds, empathy and humility can make a big difference in communities, relationships, group dynamics, and our lives if we let them. If we’re vulnerable, we can have deeper, more satisfying relationships, but we have to open up if we want others to see who we are so they can love us. We have to be present if we want to make connections that make an experience rich and fulfilling.

Summer Kick-Off

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove’s student blog Around the Grove on May 22, 2017. You can read my other posts here. You can also browse my Public History and Museum internships blog for design, marketing, education, library science, archival, curatorial internship and fellowship opportunities at historic sites and museums. 

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…)

dwight house

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.

800px-Wells-Thorn-House_Deerfield

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!

Making History: UMBC @ USG’s Public History Minor

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove’s student blog Around the Grove on April 28, 2017. You can read my other posts here. You can also browse my Public History and Museum internships blog for design, marketing, education, library science, archival, curatorial internships and more at historic sites and museums. 

The highlight of my time attending the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s undergraduate program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) has been completing a minor in Public History. Many people have never heard of public history before, but it essentially means any work people or organizations do to make historical information more available to ordinary people instead of just academic historians. This could be anything from designing a museum exhibit to creating interactive websites about history to leading history-themed summer camps for kids.

The neat thing about public history is that it allows you to combine other interests or skill sets you might have – theater, writing, designing, programming, working with kids, music, cooking, etc. – with history. There are so many creative avenues to use to study and share history with other people. Public history is also great in that it aims to bring more diversity and depth to the study of history, and a big focus of our program is trying to represent more people in the history we tell.

20170428_110319

Students investigating a house dating back to 1797 on a field trip in Baltimore. (Photo: Rebecca Gale)

The public history minor is open to anyone who is enrolled in UMBC’s program at USG. It’s only 18 credits, so it’s really easy to complete in addition to your major. The professor in charge of the public history minor, Dr. Melissa Blair, is not only a great teacher who is extremely knowledgeable, but also so helpful and approachable when it comes to getting advice about your future career. The classes I’ve taken for public history have been my favorite – really interesting, thought-provoking, and helpful in planning what I want to do after I leave Shady Grove.

Something I often hear when I tell people I’m a history major is, “You’re going to have a hard time getting a job with that!” The Public History minor allows you to explore the different career options available to people who are interested in doing work related to history. A major element of the Introduction to Public History course is learning about the huge variety of careers related to history, which can intersect with other areas of interest too. I like to think of public history as a chance to get your hands dirty and think about how you would use the things you read in your textbooks in other classes in the real world. If you’re a person like me who likes to get out and do projects, not just study things, this is a great program.

One really exciting opportunity the public history minor provides in this regard is the Service Learning in Public History course, which is offered every spring to people who have taken Intro to Public History. Each year, the class works with a local African American historic site, Pleasant View, about ten minutes from campus, which has a church, school, and cemetery that was crucial to the African American community in the Gaithersburg area after the Civil War and into the Civil Rights era. Each class has a central project they work on to help preserve the site and educate the public about its history.

RG_3-9-17_34

Pleasant View Methodist Church, part of the historic site public history students help work to preserve. One exciting part of public history is taking field trips, and we visit this fascinating site many times! (Photo: Rebecca Gale)

This semester, we have been working on researching more about Pleasant View’s history and nominating it to be on the National Register of historic places. We also created designs for signs telling about the site that will hopefully be put up in the future to raise awareness about the site. With schoolwork, we don’t often get to make an impact on the community around us, so it’s been exciting to do work that is so meaningful.

One last major element of the public history minor is doing an internshipI completed mine last summer and fall and learned so much from it. It also gave me inspiration for my senior thesis paper topic, a requirement for all of us history majors. You can read about the internships UMBC public history students have done on our blog Retrieving the Past.

IMG_20160731_003311The historic Japanese pagoda at National Park Seminary historic district, where I completed my internship. (Photo: Rebecca Gale)

If you’re interested in the public history minor, consider signing up for Intro to Public History (History 300) this fall and seeing what this is all about! It’s a fun class (and includes field trips!) and is open to any major.

Endings and Beginnings

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on May 12, 2017.

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.

20161107_120646

Looking ahead and behind (Photo by author)

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 completing at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts. Stay tuned and best of luck with finals!

Girl talk.

Last week, I was expressing my discouragement over the immaturity of the men I interact with to a mentor of mine and was met with advice I’ve heard time and again, “While you’re waiting for a good guy, invest in your female friendships.” I completely see the merit in saying this, but I also stand by my reply to this woman: “Yeah, well the problem is that those are pretty crappy too.” Those words have continued to ring true in my life since I spoke them, so I figured I would share some of my brewing thoughts on the subject, as intimidating as it is so broach such a personal – and political – subject, where it’s so easy to say one wrong thing and set all of social media ablaze.

As much as I’ve agonized over the poor treatment I’ve received at the hands of men over the past few years, I would say that the hurt I’ve experienced at the hands of female friends has been equally, if not more, devastating. I spend a good chunk of my time lamenting with other women about the lameness of guys — how on and off again their affection is, how judgmental and condescending they can be, and how they can fixate on another woman who isn’t as good of a person as you. But if I think about it, I’ve experienced all these same types of betrayals by many of my female friends as well.

As what I predict might one day be called a Third Wave of Feminism has exploded in the past several months, it’s been interesting to see how some women I know will post photos at marches and then cut me down in a text a few weeks later. I’m a big believer in the mantra that “actions speak louder than words” — as much as I love words and the power of written language, if your actions contradict your fine phrases, your declarations really mean nothing. I’ve seen a lot of what my sister dubbed “Instagram Feminism” in the past months; women who make a show of decrying institutional injustice, but return to real life, if you will, the next day and cut down, ignore, and mistreat their fellow woman. What is especially baffling to me is when women pour their efforts and energy into the men in their life at the neglect – or even expense – of supporting their female friends and coworkers.

I’m not one to say that I’m super happy to be a woman or anything — I’ve had my period too many times for that. But I will say there is something special when you get together and really bond over the shared experience of the uniqueness of the female life cycle (including a good complaining session about the menstrual cycle.) We all have some common ground in terms of our experience and outlook on life that men will never understand. I think there’s something really beautiful that happens when we come together and open up about our hearts and lives and embrace and support one another through the unique trials and triumphs of womanhood, helping each other find our way and our identity as our own perspectives shift and the world around us evolves.

I know I’m as guilty as anyone of the aforementioned critiques. I’ve never been much into politics, and I’m guessing some women I know have judged me at one point or another for not marching or sharing op-eds on social media or ranting about the news. I’ve had my share of anger about the comings and goings of this election cycle and its aftermath, but I’ve ultimately decided that it’s not worth risking my mental health to get worked up about things I feel I have no control over. I’m not judging others who do, but I will say I’ve found more fulfillment in looking around me and seeing the individual needs of the people in my own life and doing what small things I can to try and support them.

I can do even more in this regard, but I think this is how change happens — little actions and words of encouragement. Asking people to meals. Forming small groups of friends to create solidarity to support one another in the face of both larger political and cultural trends as well as the “small” barrages of life. I’ve experienced some tough crap in my life, and it’s only been made worse when my fellow women have not stood by me, or have even judged and mocked me.

I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every woman you meet; you should evaluate people based on their character and actions and break off friendships that are more toxic than uplifting. But if you call yourself a feminist (or even if you don’t), take time to consider how well your actions and attitudes align with that label. Think about how you can better support other women. If we believe that we are not treated fairly by society, then we need to be the first ones to set the tone by treating one another with respect, appreciation, sacrificial kindness, attentiveness, and dignity.

Presentations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The following is another piece I wrote for the student life blog of the Universities at Shady Grove, Around the Grove, originally published on April 14, 2017 at this link.

I recently signed up to give a presentation on the research I’m doing for my senior thesis at the University of Maryland Baltimore County‘s undergraduate research day. Presentations are pretty nerve-wracking – if not downright terrifying – for most people, but giving a good presentation is a really important skill to have both in academics and in the work place.

If you get the chance to practice this skill in your own school’s program or in clubs, I definitely recommend taking the risk to build up your courage. The Universities at Shady Grove also has a Toastmasters club where you can practice public speaking in a supportive, informal environment to help overcome public speaking fear.

doge presentation

Made using dogr.io

So what should you do if you have class presentations coming up at the end of this semester? I’m no expert, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  • Start working on your presentation early. The biggest mistake people make is being underprepared or doing a rush job. If possible, start working on your PowerPoint as you’re writing your paper or doing your project so you can create it while the info is fresh in your mind. Start sooner rather than later. You’ll be less nervous if you’re more prepared.
  • Plan out what you’re going to say. A few people are good at speaking on the fly, but most people ramble, blank on information, etc. if they don’t prepare. Spare yourself and your audience and plan ahead of time the major points you want to make or even write out a script. You don’t have to follow your plan exactly or read it word-for-word, but thinking through your presentation will make it ten times better and help you feel more prepared.
  • Practice, practice, practice! It’s always easy to figure out who rehearsed a speech and who didn’t. Last semester, I would rehearse in my room, for my family, and even while I drove to school. It felt silly at the time, but it really helped me iron out what I wanted to say and make sure I was meeting the time limit. I also felt more confident going into the presentation.

    presentation

    Get out from behind the podium and show them who’s boss! (But maybe don’t use Wikipedia as a source…) Standing at the right place in the room can help you engage attention. (Photo: Beatrice Murch/Wikimedia)

  • Command the room. When you feel nervous about a speech, it’s easy to look nervous and undermine the hard work you’ve put in. I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker, but I’ve noticed it helps to come out from behind the computer and stand beside the PowerPoint screen, facing the class. You can’t hide and you look a lot more confident!
  • Don’t second guess yourself. Once you leave the podium, leave your presentation there too. If your professor gives you feedback, file it away for next time, but don’t obsess over how you did in your head…This will make public speaking more intimidating. Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing yet another task and overcoming your fear, and move forward! (Easier said than done, I know!)

Best of luck with all of your end-of-the-semester assignments! We’ve got this!

 

Read more of my Around the Grove posts here.

Talk it Out

This was posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 31, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

One amazing resource at the Universities at Shady Grove is the Center for Counseling and Consultation, which offers free individual and couple’s counseling of any student taking classes at USG. As the pressure of life and school are building to a peek at this point in the semester, now may be a great time to start taking advantage of this amazing resource.

Personally, I started talking to a counselor three years ago this month at my previous college and have continued doing so ever since. Therapy has had such a huge impact on my life, helping me through a lot of tough times and helping me to improve my perspective on life, myself, and the world around me.

A lot of people have the idea that therapy is only for people who are “crazy” or who are grieving, but I believe everyone can benefit from going to counseling. Personally, I waited to see a counselor until I was in a really difficult place in my life, but I wish I had started even sooner. We can all benefit from getting to know ourselves better and think about ways we can enhance our lives. There are so many harmful ways of thinking about ourselves and communicating with others that we pick up along the way in life that can sabotage our well-being and relationships.

mantra2

From To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com)

Many students on campus don’t know about USG’s counseling center, which is a shame because it’s an incredible resource. And let me highlight again that it’s free! Therapy is not cheap, so I highly recommend taking advantage of this resource while you can. Here’s some more quick information about the center and its offerings:

  • The Center is located in the Priddy Library (a little random, I know). When you walk in the library doors, go to the left and walk to the far side of the room where the computers are. The door to the center is on this wall. You’ll walk into a super zen waiting room and you can talk with the receptionist about making an appointment.
  • The center offers individual counseling, career and major counseling, couple’s counseling (your partner doesn’t have to be a student at USG to attend), and free hour-long workshops on well-being.
  • The hours are 9am to 9pm on Mondays through Thursdays and 9am to 5pm on Fridays. The center tries to accommodate everyone’s schedule so even if you’re only on campus at night or once a week, you should be able to see someone.
  • To make an appointment, call 301-738-6273 or stop by and talk to the receptionist.
  • You can find a list of counselors with a description of the issues they specialize in dealing with, their approach to helping people, and the days and times they are at the center to see who might be a good match for you.
  • Counseling sessions last 45 minutes and are typically done once weekly but can be done more or less often, according to your needs and schedule.

Counseling is a safe space to share your struggles, past and present experiences, insecurities, frustrations, and hurts without being judged. USG’s counselors are friendly, welcoming, and non-judgmental and are trained to work sensitively and respectfully with people from all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious traditions, and socio-economic levels.

The center staff can work with you to help you find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Counseling is all about your needs, so if you think you could benefit from talking to someone in a safe space where you won’t be judged, given advice, or pushed towards a certain path (as friends and family can tend to do), then try it out!

For more information about the Center for Counseling and Consultation and its offerings, click here to visit its website.

If you or a loved one needs counseling help right away, visit this page for emergency hotlines and services you can contact or send a text message to Crisis Text Line at 741-741 for free, immediate anonymous help.

Gear up for grad school apps!

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 17, 2017. Read my other posts here.

Since those of us who are undergraduates at the Universities at Shady Grove are within at least a couple years of graduating, a lot of us have the question of what on earth we should do after graduation on our minds. One obvious path is going to grad school. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the great news is that USG has tons of resources to help with the daunting process of applying to grad programs. As I’ve talked to professors and grad school alumni, I’ve come up with a list of some of my own tips for applying:

  • Start early!!! If you are planning to enter grad school in the fall, you should probably start working on searching for, getting in contact with, and applying to grad schools at least a year (if not more) in advance from when you would start the program. So if you’re hoping to enter grad school in the fall of 2017, you should start the process in at least the fall of 2016. The earlier, the better because it’s a lot of work. Be aware that GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. can take a while to get sent. If you are starting late in the game, limit the number of schools you apply to so you don’t get overwhelmed and miss things or consider waiting till next year to apply so you can really bring your A-game.
  • Research your programs well. Comb through every part of a program’s website and read about the coursework, internships, experiences, and faculty to get a better sense of what their focus and objectives are and how well it fits with what you want in a grad program. Unlike with undergrad programs, grad programs offer you the chance to really focus on a specific area that interests you, so find something that excites you!
  • Get a GRE prep book, take practice tests, and sign up for a practice class. These books explain the test format and offer practice questions, refreshers on how to do that math you learned in high school, and more. There are also apps where you can practice answering questions on the go. Best of all is that USG offers a summer GRE prep class for students and alumni, completely free to students, run by our incredible Center for Academic Success staff.
  • Find a mentor to guide you through the process. Whether a professor, a career counselor, or a current grad student, find someone (or multiple people) who can give you insight into the process, suggest programs, give things a second look-over, and offer advice and encouragement. This is crucial!
  • Talk to your professors. Get more engaged in speaking in class and meeting with professors outside of class so they can get to know you and your work in order to write a stellar recommendation. Not to mention, profs can be a great resource to let you know about grad programs they think would fit you, as well as recommendations for how to make your application stronger. They want to see students go to awesome grad programs, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help!
  • Gain internship, work, public speaking, research, and publishing experience in your field.  Grad programs can be extremely competitive, especially funded ones. So completing internships, volunteering, working on research with a professor, presenting papers at conferences and symposiums, and publishing in journals can make you a more impressive candidate. This kind of experience proves that you are serious about working in your field, disciplined, and hard-working.

Best of luck!

Ask a profess(or)ional

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 3, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

For the first three years of my undergraduate experience, I was terrified of talking to professors. Thankfully, I was at a small school, so most of my professors knew who their students were, but I avoided ever going into office hours to talk to a prof unless I had a really urgent question.

Here at the Universities at Shady Grove, I’ve been so impressed with how helpful the staff are and what great professors we have to teach us. But I’ve also learned that it’s not just enough to take notes and pay attention in class – it’s also so important to form relationships with professors outside the classroom. Here’s just a few reasons why:

  • You will need letters of recommendation from them for jobs, internships, and grad school applications. If a professor knows you, he/she is usually a lot more willing to serve as a reference and will write a much more positive letter. I’ve been told by professors that if they don’t know a student much, they will make that clear in their recommendation.
  • They can give you advice and guidance. Professors have a lot of life experience and knowledge of the field you’re studying, so if you’re looking for career advice or tips on how to improve your performance in classes, ask a prof. They’re there to help and are usually more than happy to point students in the right direction.
  • They will be more understanding. Unfortunately, many of us will encounter some rough spots along the road of our college experience: illness, family troubles, relationship issues, or having five papers due in one day. If a professor knows you, she/he is much more likely to cut you some slack should thing arise that prevent you from meeting deadlines or doing as well in class. (Of course, it’s best to communicate with professors about these things so they know you’re struggling.)
  •  It will enrich your college experience. Knowing professors can help you feel more comfortable participating in class and more connected to school. It can also be personally enriching to have longer discussions about class material outside of lectures.

I’ve found it helpful to ask about my professor’s career path to get some guidance about my own future. I’ve also gotten advice from them on revising cover letters and finding places to apply for grad school. If you want to get more in touch with these great resources, here are some steps you can take to start to get to know your professors better:

  • Talk more in class. This can put you on a professor’s radar as someone who is engaged in class and interested in the subject. It also helps them to get to know more about you and your interests, and it can help you get more comfortable interacting with the professor.
  • Stay after class. If a professor mentions something in the lecture that you find intriguing, consider asking them a couple questions after class about that to break the ice.
  • Go into office hours. Come up with a few questions – whether it be about class material, career choices, grad school, your course selections for the coming semester, or whatever – to ask your professor and see where the conversation goes.

Professors can be great mentors. Of course, you won’t like every one you have, but if you enjoy a certain professor’s class or find them very approachable, it’s definitely worth it to forge a relationship with him or her.