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Experienced Retriever advises: push yourself; know your limits

Wake up at 4:15 a.m.  Catch the carpool by 4:30 a.m. Crew practice from 5-7 a.m., then team breakfast.  Go to class, meetings, class again, work.  Repeat.

Welcome to the daily routine of Jood Ali, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering who is widely involved on campus. In the summer of 2016, Ali began working as an Orientation Peer Advisor at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation; she now is also a Student Assistant and Tour Guide in the same office. She is a note-taker for the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services and works as a peer for the Introduction to an Honors University Seminars.

Ali is also the Resident Assistant of the Discovery Scholars Living-Learning Community in Patapsco Hall. Ali is an active member of the crew (rowing) team, serving as its treasurer, and is often involved with events for the Center for Women in Technology program and the Society of Women Engineers.

Despite her extensive involvement, Ali notes she’s actually naturally a very quiet person.

“I’ve picked jobs that are all not in my nature. They all push me out of my comfort zone, and make me grow,” she says.

Ali has found that even though she enjoys her alone time, jobs that require “doing things that are ‘in your face’ with people are the best kind of positions because they help me work on my weaknesses.”

It’s these chances to promote personal growth that inspire Ali. She recalls when she was working at the front desk in admissions, where “I was my own boss and I was really in my zone,” but afterwards she realized that without someone to push her out of her comfort zone she didn’t find the work as rewarding.

In addition to the chance to grow, UMBC has helped Ali follow her passion. When she was younger, she was interested in studying neurosurgery, but carpal tunnel and tendonitis spurred her to take a different path. Inspired by her high school physics teacher, Ali decided to pursue assistive technology, adding several pre-med classes to her mechanical engineering course load. She says that she was drawn to physics and medicine because the former explained how the world worked and the latter explained how people work. She hopes to work in assistive technology to make everyday life easier for people with disabilities.

It seems like Ali has it all figured out. She’d be the first to tell you that’s not true, however, and admits that she has struggled.

“My advice to new students wouldn’t necessarily be ‘get involved,’ because you can get over-involved,” she says.

Ali started as a part-time student and thought she could handle a more strenuous schedule. The next year as a full-time student, however, Ali said she overwhelmed herself with classes, jobs and clubs, and had to retake a class over the summer.  Her real advice to new students would be to not fear failure, because once you have failed, then you know your limits.

And her key to success?  “Self discipline! You have the capability, the resources, the time, everything you need, you just need the self discipline to get stuff done.”