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By Taylor Garland

It’s been roughly 4 months since I’ve gotten to Singapore, and I’ve just begun the end of my stay. Having experiencing this “ending” twice before, you’d think I’d have a handle on how to say goodbye BUT…this sucks.

This was the first place I’d gone completely alone, knowing absolutely no one and absolutely nothing about Singapore (to be honest, if you had asked me to point it out on a map it would have taken quite some time and quite some guesses). It was a challenge to understand, to feel like I was doing it “right” (ie. not sweating every time I went outside), and to feel like I was making the right friends for the right reasons. I wanted meaningful, genuine relationships, and it was about a month ago when I realized I’d made just that.

I threw myself into Singapore with few resources to keep afloat, only knowing that I wanted local friends to leave behind, with the promise of a return in the future.

I was on the rugby team, I went to local art events, I went to screenings of movies with my friends and traveled and went dancing and got ice cream after class and dim sum at midnight. I rode bikes under the moon along the beach, went to concerts where I was on a first name basis with the band members, discovered the superior messaging app Telegram, and made myself a little space in a way I hadn’t in Shanghai or Milan.

I hadn’t been to anywhere tourists were until this week, on my way to a show I saw the Merlion. Weird how I can exist on such a small island for so long and just never come into contact to the Singapore that it presents itself to be. I feel like a local.

I wasn’t sure which pictures to include in this post, so here’s just a couple of what my life has looked like in the past few months:

By Julia McNally

The second stop of mid-semester break was Christchurch, positioned on the east coast of the South Island. Recently struck by devastating earthquakes, Christchurch is a city in the midst of rebuilding all that it has lost. Even the church for which the city was named was destroyed by the earthquakes, leaving it open to the elements but still on display for passers by to see. As our first day in Christchurch was rainy, we hit the Museum of Canterbury, one of the many arts and culture museums in the city  and explored a bit of the well-known street art downtown.

As Christchurch city center is a mess of construction, we opted for busing to the neighboring towns of Lyttleton and Sumner for our couple of sunny days in the region. The first stop was Lyttleton, from which we took a small ferry to Diamond Harbour, a popular hiking spot in the area. To our dismay, the main hiking trail was closed due to lambing season, an effort New Zealand conservation makes to protect its wildlife during their mating season. We opted to string together a series of shorter routes around the island to satiate our hiking needs for the day. Along our route we found beautiful wildflowers and views, along with some new friends: the famed sheep of New Zealand. New Zealand is known for having a ratio of 7 sheep per person inhabiting the country. Although we had been in the country for two months at this point, it was the first time either I or my travel partner  had seen sheep this close up. We watched babies chase after their mothers and some young ones try to get underneath the fence to get closer to us. After our hike and a brief stay on the beach, absorbing the ever so rare sun, we headed back to Lyttleton and enjoyed a banoffee pie at Glamour Cakes, a New Zealand specialty and a famous little cake shop.

The following day we once again took the city bus to a neighboring town, this time it was Sumner. We hiked up quite a ways to get the full view of Sumner Beach and downtown. The hike was through a grassy pasture that stretched for miles, across steep hills and back down and around to the beginning. Stopping to rest along the way we enjoyed views of the east coastline one can only observe from such a height, ultimately ending up on the beach for a relaxing barefoot walk before heading back to Christchurch.

Christchurch is one of the major cities in the South Island, drawing lovers of art, nature, and students alike it left me wanting more. Whether this feeling is a product of the destruction from the earthquakes or the poor weather we encountered on two of our four days, I wish I had found something to love in Christchurch -- although the banoffee pie was lovely. Although disappointed with the city center in its current state,  it is still a major landmark for anyone who finds themselves traveling the south island of New Zealand and after a few more years of rebuilding I’m certain it will be just as vibrant and magnetic as before.


By Megan Gardner

If there’s anything I’ve learned from traveling, it’s that Murphy’s Law is very real. Everything that could possibly go wrong, will go wrong. However, it teaches lessons that can’t be taught in any other way. You learn quickly that nothing is solved by being passively apathetic. Unexpected challenges will pop up and all you can do is adapt to the new circumstances. It can be difficult to accept a certain turn of events, but it is necessary to overcome particular obstacles. Besides, these road bumps often end up being the most memorable parts of the journey. They make something that was supposed to be mundane become an adventure.

Two weeks ago, my program was returning to Tunisia from an excursion in Italy. The entire journey was only supposed to take an hour. But, it did not go as planned. We were scattered across the airport terminal for hours before learning the flight was cancelled. We sat in plastic blue seats, shared overpriced snacks, and swapped stories for our last grand Italian feast together.

Last semester, my friends and I planned a weekend hiking trip in the north of China. We traveled overnight for hours by bike, metro, taxi, bus, plane, and train to get to the mountains. What we didn’t plan, however, was a hostel. We thought that there was a town full of hostels at the top of the mountain. After hours of late night trains and planes, we hiked for 10 hours up the mountain with all of our bags to find beautiful views, but no town and no hostels. We wandered around tiny villages until we stumbled upon a woman who offered us rooms and a hot dinner. At the time, we were all exhausted and starving and thirsty, but it ended up being the best meal of my life and one of the most memorable experiences in China.

The trips themselves were incredible, but these happy accidents are what made them so memorable. I never would have remembered a canceled flight or basic hostel, but memories of sitting in the airport swapping stories with friends over the cheapest bottle of airport wine and memories of wandering around small Chinese villages will stick with me forever.

So cheers to the missed flights, the late trains, the broken down cars, and the poorly planned plans because they are what make travel worthwhile.

By Zachary Brumback

With the semester coming to an end, I have successfully completed two of my four classes. Unlike my experience with classes at GW, USYD offers several classes consisting of only written assessments. As a result, I only have two exams this semester- International Organisations and Media Politics and Political Communication. Here at USYD, all students receive a week off from school to study for their upcoming finals. This break is known as STUVAC, which is an acronym for “Study Vacation.” My first final, International Organisations, is this coming Friday. My last final, Media Politics and Political Communication, is on Thursday, November 22nd.

As I prepare for my two finals, I thought it was most appropriate to blog about how Australia’s grading scale differs from the United States. Unlike the A-F scale, Australia uses HD-F. A High Distinction (HD) is a “mark” between an 85-100. A Distinction is a 75-84. A Credit is a 65-74, and a Pass is a 50-64. Although it seems that receiving a High Distinction would be fairly easy to obtain, I can confirm that it is not. For instance a HD converts to an A+ at GW. With that said a Distinction converts to an A, a Credit to a B, and a Pass to a C.

After turning in my first assignment, I was discouraged when I did not receive a HD. According to the Government Department at USYD, a student will only receive a 90 or higher if their assessment is deemed publishable in an academic journal. Therefore, a student is doing well if they receive Credits or Distinctions (a 65-84) on their assignments. Speaking from experience, it takes a while to get used to the “harsh” grading system.  So far I have only received three HDs on my assignments.

Also, when registering for classes in Australia it is important to remember that the number of credit hours differ from GW. Currently, I am taking 24 Australian Credits. When transfering my credits back to GW, this will count as 16 credit hours. In addition, it is important to remember that during your time abroad you are on a Pass/Fail grading scale. Therefore, students must receive a 50 or higher in all of their classes to receive credit. Also, prior to studying abroad and registering for classes, students should obtain course approvals from GW using the CATS system.

Since students are on a Pass/Fail scale, the grades received abroad do not factor into your GPA at GW. Due to this, I decided not to take electives while abroad. Instead, I registered for classes that are required for my degree that I deemed to be the hardest. As a result, I was under less pressure and could enjoy other elements of studying abroad. However, due to the academic rigor, I was unable to check-off everything on my Australian bucket list.  Although I was unable to check-off everything, I have had a wonderful time in Australia and have had a number of unforgettable adventures. Speaking of adventures, my next blog will consist of my most recent journeys around Sydney.

With an exam in less than four days I have to get back to studying. Till next time.

By Rachel Blair

As I write this, I currently have about two weeks left in Paris. That being said, I have one more last trip to Prague next weekend that I am very excited for. Since the last time I blogged, I had been traveling around and had a whole lot going on. This past week or two has been the total opposite. I’ve been taking it easy and trying to enjoy and take in Paris. I’ve had some wine nights with my friends, and some walks in new areas.

On Tuesday, we went to the Opera, as part of the program, to see a ballet and it was so beautiful. First of all, the Opera itself was a masterpiece, what a beautiful place. But then the ballet was lovely. It was titled “Hommage À Jerome Robbins” and it was broken up into 4 short ballets and all of them were beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the last one the most. The seats weren’t the best, but the ballet made up for it.

Through the program, today they took us to the Picasso Museum and took us to get falafel for lunch. I really enjoyed going to the Picasso Museum to see a lot of his work. I found it very interesting because he’s such a well-known artist, but I’ve only seen a few pieces, and getting to see a collection helped create my image of him. It’s different to actually see things than to hear them.

The falafel after was very good. I’ve never really had much falafel, but the one thing I don’t do is turn down free food, so I went. It was really good and authentic, and it was a new experience I was able to have here in Paris. However, it was very cold out today.

As you know, I’m from New York, so I’m used to the cold, but it’s been so much warmer here that I forgot what the cold is like. I haven’t worn my winter jacket yet since being here, but I’ve had a look at the weather and I think I’m going to have to start wearing it sadly.

Sadly, I’ve been doing some studying because I have two final exams on Tuesday, but then I’m done with assignments. I have my last finance class on Tuesday, which is one of the finals, and then I also have my French final. Wednesday, I have Econ class, but I have no more work in that class and the Ambassador of Spain is coming to speak to my class, so I’m very excited for that. Then the following Tuesday and Wednesday I have my last French & Econ classes, which will be so sad.

If you’re doing this program, I highly suggest the Econ class. I hate Econ and I’ll admit I’m actually terrible at Econ, but this one is not like a typical Econ class at GW. The professor is amazing and hilarious, and I really wish he worked at GW, so I could take another class with him. He doesn’t give tests, just case studies and a project (all group work), but without the tests, I feel like I can actually learn. He just sits down and talks for 3 hours, but we can lead the conversation and ask questions and he’s so intelligent and knows so much. He also gives very good movie recommendations. Since being in college, he is one of my favorite professors (after Professor Tara Scully if any of you have had her).

After my finals on Tuesday, I’m using whatever number of days left I have in this beautiful city to explore and find as many hidden gems as possible. I know that I will come back to Paris again, it has my heart. But, I’ve got to enjoy what I can, while I can. Waking up in the morning and not seeing the Eiffel Tower is something I’m really going to have to get use to when I get back home. I miss Paris already and I haven’t even left.

Above: The first picture I took at my metro stop this morning, and the second one I took inside the Picasso Museum (which is funny because you would think I would’ve posted a picture of his art).

Above: The Opera

Above: It was really foggy the other day, so you could barely see the Eiffel Tower, I thought it was cool.


By Stefania Tutra

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to one of the cities I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember – Paris, France! Paris was everything I imagined it would be and more.

I arrived in Paris at about 9 in the morning on Friday. We immediately went to our AirBnb which could not be in a more perfect location; it was in the Trocadero neighborhood, which is right across the Seine River in front of the Eiffel Tower. Because of our proximity to the Eiffel Tower, we could not wait to see it so it was our first stop. Walking towards the tower was an indescribable feeling – from seeing it in pictures and television from when I was young, to finally seeing it in person, right in front of me, felt unreal. Realizing we had yet to eat breakfast, we decided to stop at a romantic little Parisian restaurant across the street where we had the classic French breakfast filled with lots of croissants, baguettes, butter, fresh jam, coffee, and juice. The hype over the French croissants is so real. It was better than any croissant I had ever eaten – just the perfect amount of buttery and flaky.

After the Eiffel Tower, we walked to the Arc de Triomph which was only about 20 minutes away. Passing by the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona all the time, it was cool to see how the one in Paris compares to the one in Barcelona. Although the same structure, the color and design of each are so different and fit the vibe of the different cities. For example, putting Barcelona’s brown Arc de Triomf in Paris would look SO out of place, and vice versa.

Next to the Arc is the iconic Champs de Elysse street, lined with infinite shops and restaurants (kind of like Paris’s version of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas). We wandered around the stores, wishing we could afford that 6,000 euro watch from Cartier. Paris is for dreaming, right?!

After dinner and more croissants, we decided to explore Paris’ nightlife by checking out the Oberkampf and Bastille neighborhoods. The nightlife scene in these districts was a very unique, “underground” vibe. However, Parisians also LOVE their Spanish music, so we ended our night dancing at a club to the same songs we would hear in Barcelona.

On Saturday, we spent the majority of our day at the Louvre museum. Pro-tip: if you show a copy of your EU student visa, entry is free! We marveled at all different works of art, from the Ancient Greeks to Egyptians to the Mona Lisa (which is way smaller in person than I ever imagined it would be!). Afterwards, we took the metro to the Notre Dame Cathedral where we marveled at its beauty and French Gothic architecture, while munching on delicious warm Nutella-coconut crepes. Saturday night we went back to the Eiffel Tower, but this time we squeezed on a crowded elevator which brought us to the very top. Seeing Paris from the top of the tower at night felt like an absolute dream and the view was incredible.

Since our flight back to Barcelona was in the early afternoon on Sunday, we had just enough time to squeeze in one last tourist activity in Paris, so we decided to visit the Sacre Couer Basilica. The basilica sits at the top of Montmarte Hill which is the highest point in the city. We could have taken a funicular to the top, however being the cheap travelers we are, we decided to climb the stairs to the top. Although we were out of breath, the views at the top were fantastic and well worth the hike. Before making our way back to Orly airport, we explored the Montmarte neighborhood as we made our way down the hill, and picked up some macaroons while we were at it. It was a sweet ending to a dreamy trip in the city of love. Je t’aime Paris, until next time xoxo

By Megan Gardner

There’s always a moment when a new place starts to feel like home. It happens slowly and it’s often too difficult to notice until it’s done. Eventually, the sight of a coffee shop near your apartment starts to be comforting. The broken sidewalks feel familiar. The chipped paint on the outside of the building is inviting.

However, it’s not only the place that composes the home. The community creates a sense of belonging within that place. The people who surround you make the unfamiliar environment feel welcoming. Inevitably, there are moments when you’re abroad where you’re completely and utterly confused about everything, but it’s the people that help in these moments who become family. It’s moments like fighting off wild monkeys on a mountain peak in Zhangjiajie or bartering with merchants in the middle of the Sahara or being stranded and starving in an Italian airport for hours that help to build these relationships. Retrospectively, these moments are the most cherished.

The first home away from home that I found was in DC, but thanks to the Global Bachelor’s program, I feel like I have dozens of homes scattered across the world. Paris, Shanghai, Palermo, Sidi Bou Saïd, and Tunis are all my homes away from home. Each study abroad group has felt like a family that I can reach out to for help no matter where we are in the whole wide world. Initially, they help you sail confidently into the unknown until you’re able to navigate them yourself. Eventually, those unfamiliar waters become a home.

By Mikayla Brody

My stomach is bouncing somewhere above Greenland, already corroded by anxiety.

My lungs already dried and compressed by the recycled ‘air’.

My eyes soured by the batallions of tiny glowing screens. And yet, I’m really okay.

Maybe its the eleven men who rose at daybreak to gather their tfillin and recite their morning prayers, because God still exists on an airplane.

Maybe its seeing everybody's untied shoes scattered between the aisles and everybody's scrunched up foreheads as they desperately try to get just 5 minutes more sleep because they have a life to live when they land.

Maybe its my complimentary, Maple syrup cookies that make me happy because someone tried to make something different and make me sad because the difference wasn’t good and I just wanted chocolate chip. Maybe these things make me feel a little bit better, a little less alone on my voyage.

I tried listening to a bunch of different podcasts to pass the time. I figured that going hour by hour on podcast would seem faster than minute by minute songs. I am on a giant metal bird, soaring through the sky and I am trying to pass time. Make things move quicker than they already are at 626 miles per hour at 37,000 feet.

Rush to the good part, Mikayla.

Rush to when we arrive, rush to move-in day, rush to going out with strangers on a Saturday night and coming back as friends, rush to classes starting, rush to me blowing off work for the classes and getting bored with the classes and getting bored with my friends and getting bored with the city, and rush to come home. 5 months. Where?

I used to think that 5 months would be a long time.

My stomach is bouncing somewhere between the ocean and the street corner I puked on two nights ago, already corroded by anxiety of how to get the most out of my time in Tel Aviv. My desperate quest to remind myself that I am in a far off land.

Overgrown jungle gardens draped over balconies of shuffled and shuttered apartment buildings; toes stretching out over the fronts of neon Havianas waiting to cross from the sand to the sidewalks; frequent eye contact, less frequent smiles.

Pregaming cocktails of Arak and Tequila with cocktails of kale and beet juice; worshiping God and praying for salvation then praying for a new dress and worshipping how you'll look in the mirror.

Sometimes I forget that I am here, sometimes I remember and start to cry.

Sometimes I forget that I am not here forever, sometimes I remember and start to cry.

By Chizuru Uko

I spent the past two weeks in very dramatic countries on fall break; started off in the Azores, stopped by London and ended the break in Iceland. The Azores and Iceland had slightly similar landscapes with natural hot springs, volcanoes, black sand beaches and stunning views. These places felt very different and familiar to Portugal at the same time, the more I travel and interact with people the more similar and connected I feel.

I have had a bit of a crisis with all my free time and realised that sometimes with study abroad programs that aren’t as demanding it’s so easy to get trapped in the beach, travel, live and party lifestyle that I often forget I am an unemployed senior graduating in the spring, lol. It is, however, so refreshing being able to meet people that care about how a place makes me feel more than my plans for after college. Being here is relaxing but I think it is important to remember that life is going on for people back home and that time does not stop while you’re abroad. My advice is to check in occasionally with loved ones and family and let your travels influence your decisions.

Hiking to this waterfall in Iceland made me realise how small I am in the grand scheme of things and made me stop and appreciate all the beauty around me.

By Rachel Blair

A key point that I have learned here in France, is learning how to actually balance everything while you’re in a different country. Yes, you have to learn how to balance while you’re away at school, but this type of balance is different. At first I thought it was going to be really easy, because all I’m doing this semester is taking classes compared to working two jobs and being in a sorority on top of classes. But, I feel like finding a balance, especially in this program is harder.

To begin, you’re in a new country, so your motivation to do work has actually gone down. Then, you don’t realize that you’re takin a class every day, that assigns homework every day, so you actually have to get the work done when you get back from class. But then you want tot explore Paris, but you have to eat and it’s already later in the day. It’s about finding what work is most important to do first and not killing yourself over the work either because at the end of the day, you’re going to do fine no matter what.

But on top of that, I think the most important balance comes from actually exploring Paris. Because you’re in Europe, & it’s so much easier to travel, you use up most of your weekends going to different countries rather than visiting different parts of Paris, let alone France. Last weekend, my mother, sister, & aunt came to visit me and it was one of the best times here in Paris. I forgot what it was like to walk around Paris and just enjoy all that it has to offer. Paris is a beautiful place & I decided to study abroad here for a reason & I have to remember that. My goal for this last month of being here is going to be to do as much as I can inside Paris & enjoy all of the little things it has to offer.

To help balance, I advise going on all of the trips that are provided through the program. I will say it over & over again, but I feel like it really helps me get to know Paris & France as a whole.

But, you also must travel. I would feel so guilty if I spent a semester in France but didn’t travel to any other country. This weekend I went to Florence. I have a friend studying abroad there, but my boyfriend is currently with me & his family is from Italy, so we figured it’d be the perfect time to go see it. It was beautiful, but also not what I was expecting. We stayed in Florence & went to Rome for half of a day. I loved it, & know that I will be going back.

I just wish that there was more time in the program. When you start, you think you have all of the time in the world, but in reality, it goes by quicker than you think, & you’re going to leave with still of list of things you want to do, but that’s okay. I am enjoying as much as I can from this experience, but I’ve also accepted the fact that I’m not going to get to go everywhere, & that I am going to come back.

Moral of the story, enjoy Paris, but don’t be afraid to travel.