FINAL FOUR BABY

For the first time EVER, a team from UMBC has made it to the Final Four of a Division 1 NCAA tournament!! The men’s soccer team beat Creighton last week in penalty kicks (at Creighton) to move on to the NCAA semifinals. The game was amazing – it ended in a 0-0 tie before penalty kicks, but both teams had chances to score. UMBC managed to hang on, however, and now the soccer team going to Cary, North Carolina to face the University of Virginia.

Before facing Creighton, UMBC beat three other ranked teams in the tournament. In the first round, they beat Wake Forest, also in penalty kicks. The second round game is the one I remember the best, because we beat that school from College Park, at College Park! We won 1-0, and after the game was over, we all stormed the field. So far, that’s been the highlight of this tournament for me. The next weekend, we also beat Louisville, at Louisville, 1-0, behind an early penalty kick.

UMBC's men's soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

UMBC’s men’s soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

After all this, the season is down to one game. The University of Virginia is one of the top college soccer teams in the nation, but we’ve beaten top teams before. There are many viewing parties throughout campus, and I’m going to watch the game on a big screen at the Commons. If we win and make it to the final, my friend Nick and I are driving five hours to North Carolina to watch the final on Sunday afternoon. I can’t wait to cheer my team on tonight, and hopefully we can bring a trophy back home to UMBC!

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UMBC Debates

Yesterday, I was able to attend my first debate hosted by the Biology Council of Majors. I am not a part of BioCoM, as they’re known, but I am very interested in what they do. In addition to having meetings for Biology students, one of their most popular events is a B-ethical debate series. They bring in faculty speakers, and sometimes speakers from outside UMBC, to debate interesting topics that have some relation to Biology. They hosted a debate on Euthanasia earlier in this semester, as well as debates on genetic modification and cloning in previous semesters.

However, the debate yesterday was by far the most interesting to me. It considered the question of “Are Humanoids Inevitable in the Universe?” That is, given life on another Earth-like planet, somewhere in the universe, would something with human-like intelligence eventually appear? Two of my favorite professors at UMBC, Dr. Kevin Omland (whose lab I currently work in) and Dr. Stephen Freeland (the Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies program) argued this point, and while there was no clear winner, there were many interesting and thought-provoking points provided by both speakers.

There were over 100 people at the talk, and since I am very interested in these topics of evolution and astrobiology, I was excited that such a large number of people would come and show their interest in this subject. On an even deeper note, this debate series is something unique to college life. Here on campus, we truly do have the unique opportunity to listen to world-class experts, such as Dr. Freeland and Dr. Omland, talk about the subjects they are most passionate about. While this talk may come across as a stuffy academia presentation by two professors, I believe that debates such as these are important because they spread ideas and allow us, as students, to think about these questions. Not everyone has that chance, so I am grateful to have it here at UMBC.

Here Comes Christmas!

For the last two weekends, my little sister has controlled the single TV at my house. Normally, my brother and I take it over so we can watch sports or action movies (but mostly sports). However, my sister is extremely obsessed with the Hallmark Channel, and especially with the Christmas movies that are a part of the November/December calendar. There is a new movie every Saturday and Sunday night, every weekend until Christmas, and she appears determined to watch them all.

Hallmark Channel isn’t the only sign that winter is quickly coming. There are Christmas commercials out, most of them involving beautiful people driving beautiful cars down snowy roads. Michaels, the crafts superstore, is covered with Christmas decorations and little crafty ornaments. Even Chick-fil-a has returned with its peppermint milkshake!

It tastes like Christmas!

It tastes like Christmas!

Along with all these holiday movies and crafts and milkshakes comes the final few days of school. As I’m sure you have heard, the last month of a college semester is extremely busy and often very challenging. Nearly every class has some form of final project or final exam that synthesizes what you have learned throughout the semester. Keeping on top of everything requires not only a lot of work, but also very good time management. I know that I like to find time to relax and actually enjoy the run up to Christmas, so I have to make sure I have time for myself, in addition to finding time for school.

But, regardless of all the craziness that goes on in the last three weeks of the semester, I’m glad that when its all over I will get a chance to relax with a peppermint milkshake and tolerate my sister as she binge watches Hallmark Channel. I’m looking forward to that.

Job Search. Whoo!

I’m going to graduate in the spring. That is crazy just to type – I feel like I just began at UMBC! But its actually been over three years, and I have to somehow go out into the world. A lot of my friends are applying to graduate school to get a professional degree (Ph.D, M.D., etc…), but I’m not there quite yet. As much as I like college, I don’t want to jump straight to another 4+ years of school. Instead, I’m beginning to look for real jobs.

The job search feels a lot like searching for colleges, surprisingly. There are resources out there that you initially don’t know about, there are a million choices, and you hope there is a “best fit” for you. It can be slightly overwhelming at times too. That’s why I’ve taken advantage of the services UMBC has to offer to help me out. I went to the Career Services Center a few weeks ago in order to fix my resume. They helped me so much that I was approached by a fellow student at a job fair, who asked me how my resume looked so good!

Thats not all I’ve done either – I’ve made a profile on LinkedIn on the advice of a friend, and have started to build a strong professional network. I’ve made profiles on various job search sites (such as USAjobs and Indeed), and have even sent a few resumes out. Its going to be a long search and I hope I’ll find that one job that fits right, but hopefully I’m getting started in the right direction!

Election Time!

It’s that time of year again. No, not Halloween (even though that was two days ago) and not the start of Christmas commercials (I’ve already seen two – one for cars and another for Best Buy). It’s election time!

Its easy to be insulated at college and not keep up with the “outside” world. The national news is definitely noticed, especially when it involves Ebola or social issues. Even the race for the Senate majority has been brought up in class. But a local Maryland election? That is easily passed over.

I’ve been lucky because I do live at home, so I have access to local Maryland newspapers which cover the elections in fairly close detail. I know the race for Governor between Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan is closer than expected, as is the race for County Executive between Steve Schuh and George Johnson. While it may seem unimportant, these local elections do matter for college students since the government in Annapolis is who ultimately controls the tuition for Maryland public colleges, UMBC included.

So, election day is this Tuesday. I would encourage every person who is registered to either get to their polling place, or (since its really hard for college students to get home on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester) send in an absentee ballot. Voting is one of the most important things we can do as American citizens, and I hope everyone gets a chance to do so!

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Just a normal Friday (NOT)

Before I came to UMBC, I considered myself to be an adventurer. I had been up and down the East Coast, and had even been to California and Russia! I thought I knew what it was like to try new things and experience different cultures, and nearly all of it involved going somewhere outside of Maryland. However, once I came to college I realized there were so many experiences within my own state that I had overlooked. Its been over three years since then, and I’m still in the process of finding everything!

Last Friday, I took two more steps in my quest to experience Maryland. I did two things I thought I never would have – I went skydiving (OMG!) in Aberdeen and took a hot yoga class in downtown Baltimore. Skydive Baltimore, a small company in Harford County, offered a deal for skydiving and my girlfriend and I couldn’t resist. The staff was amazing, and the jump was perfect. The pictures tell it better than I can though!

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I was so relieved the parachute opened up!

I was so relieved the parachute opened up!

My friend and I after we landed :)

My girlfriend and I after we landed ๐Ÿ™‚ plus JD, who had done this about 10,000 times.

Then after we landed (safely…I really was worried about that parachute), we went to Bikram yoga studio in Locust Point. I have been taking yoga classes at UMBC for the last year, and I was curious about hot yoga. Honestly, it was a good workout and an even better meditation tool. The stereotypes of hot yoga in commercials don’t fit at all, and I will definitely go back there.

So why am I telling you about these really cool things I did? Well, this is all right in Maryland. Its all within an hour of UMBC! There are so many things near our campus that are just waiting for you. I thought I had to leave Maryland to get these types of experiences, and I was definitely wrong. Its been here the whole time and I’m glad I realized it.

We Will Miss You Cindy!

One of my favorite people at UMBC is leaving this week. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Cindy Paige-Desi is the Community Development Coordinator in the Office of Residential Life. As I am commuter, you would initially think we would not have a chance to interact at all, but fortunately, she is also in charge of the UMBC Woolie program. The Woolies are the Welcome Week ambassadors – we help freshmen and transfers move in and spend the rest of Welcome Week introducing these new students to UMBC. The position involves a lot of excitement and energy, since our entire goal is to get new students excited about their school. It truly takes someone special to take care of all these excited Woolies, and we have been extremely lucky to have Cindy.

I have been a Woolie for the last three years, and a Lead Woolie this year, so I’ve gotten to know Cindy well. She is very committed to the students who come to her, and will always go out of her way to talk with them. She is also extremely dedicated to Welcome Week, and puts in 18-hour days along with her Woolies in order to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Unfortunately, she is leaving UMBC this week, and her dedication to Residential Life and especially to Welcome Week will be missed. Personally, I know I will miss her, and I know the rest of the Woolies who have worked with her will miss her as well.

Cindy Paige-Desi, UMBC Community Development Coordinator

Cindy Paige-Desi, UMBC Community Development Coordinator

LeadingOrgs 2014

Yesterday, I spent my entire Saturday at a leadership retreat called LeadingOrgs. It was put on by UMBC’s Office of Student Life and was designed specifically for officers in student organizations on campus. I was asked to be a peer facilitator to help out with the retreat, so I put on my student life t-shirt and helped to lead the leaders of UMBC.

Flyer for LeadingOrgs 2014!

Flyer for LeadingOrgs 2014!

Before you read any further, I should tell you that UMBC has very unique ideas on leadership. We believe that EVERYONE can be a leader, and that leadership is not something you can do on your own. Leadership has to be co-created with others in order to be effective. This idea is so pervasive within UMBC that the main blog of Student Life, written by Dr. David Hoffman and Craig Berger, is named Co-Created UMBC.

This idea extends to our student organizations. At LeadingOrgs, we in Student Life attempted to help campus leaders create a network, through group activities, in order to co-create with other organizations. We also helped them understand why their organization exists in the first place, in order for them to create a vision of how to approach the future of their organization.

Essentially, LeadingOrgs was not your normal leadership retreat. We had speakers and some stereotypical leadership retreat things, but the focus was on growing the student leaders we have at UMBC through including them. I had a fantastic time being a peer facilitator, and I know the student participants had an amazing time as well.

We also had dessert from Dangerously Delicious Pies from Baltimore! This is a Baltimore Bomb pie - it has Berger cookies in it!

We also had dessert from Dangerously Delicious Pies from Baltimore! This is a Baltimore Bomb pie – it has Berger cookies in it!

What To Do With an Impossible Class

Last night, I did something I’ve never done at UMBC before. It was unexpected, and to be honest, a little scary.

I dropped a class. WHOA. Now, I’ve dropped classes before. But I’ve never dropped after the official add/drop date, which is about 2 weeks into the semester. Here at UMBC, you can still drop a class after the add/drop day, but the class stays listed on your transcript with a “W” grade (for withdraw). I’ve always been worried about dropping classes, since I’ve heard a “W” can be bad for you. However, this class, Statistical Computing, was too much for me. I needed a much stronger foundation in statistics than I currently have, and I simply did not have the time to teach myself the background knowledge I need to succeed.

So, I talked to my friends and professors that I know, particularly Dr. Kelber-Kaye in the Honors College. They said I shouldn’t be scared of a “W” (it actually doesn’t affect much at all), but more importantly, they said struggling in a class because you don’t have the knowledge for it isn’t worth it.

They said there is a different between struggling to learn and struggling because you don’t know what the professor is writing on the board. If you are in a hard class now, I am not saying you should just drop it and get out. Learning is challenging, and sometimes you have to struggle. But if you are struggling to comprehend topics that are taken for granted as common knowledge, that may be too much.

I’m glad have a support network I was able to ask for advice, and I’m glad I did eventually drop. It was a little scary, but now I know I’ll be able to succeed in all my other classes, without constantly worrying about one class in particular. ๐Ÿ™‚

Its a great time to be in Maryland

As I’m sure you have heard, the last week has been a big deal for Maryland. Baltimore hosted the Star-Spangled 200 celebration over the weekend in honor of the 200th anniversary of the writing of our National Anthem by Francis Scott Key. There was a lot of history downtown, such as 18th and 19th century wooden ships, in addition to festivities at Ft. McHenry. The Blue Angels, the US Navy’s flight demonstration team (which is a fancy way of saying they do really awesome tricks in planes while flying within 20 feet of each other), performed above the Inner Harbor, and even flew over UMBC!

The Kalmer Nyckel, one of the ships in Baltimore Harbor

The Kalmer Nyckel, one of the ships in Baltimore Harbor

Now you and I know that every day is a good day to be in Maryland. We have crabs, we have Old Bay, we have Thrasher’s fries on the OC Boardwalk (and if you’re doing Maryland right, you have all three at once). What makes this Star-Spangled 200 celebration special to me, however, is the fact that I wasn’t in Maryland all summer. I spent the summer in Madison, Wisconsin, working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It was a fantastic time (there will be posts about Wisconsin soon!), but I missed my home state. I brought Old Bay with me to the Midwest, and even did the stereotypical Maryland college thing and bought a state flag for my apartment, and told everyone who walked in how awesome it was. I tried to bring Maryland to Wisconsin, and while I partly succeeded, it is weekends like the Star-Spangled 200 that make me realize how special my state really is. It was a fantastic weekend to be in Baltimore and to be a part of Maryland!

Capt. Brandon Cordill, left wingman of the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, flies an F/A-18 Hornet over Baltimore during the Star Spangled Sailabration, which coincides with Baltimore Fleet Week 2012 and commemorates the War of 1812 and the writing of the โ€œStar Spangled Banner.โ€ (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Johnson)

Capt. Brandon Cordill, left wingman of the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, flies an F/A-18 Hornet over Baltimore during the Star Spangled Sailabration, which coincides with Baltimore Fleet Week 2012 and commemorates the War of 1812 and the writing of the โ€œStar Spangled Banner.โ€ (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Johnson)