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By kaandle

With only a few weeks left in Berlin, finding the balance between work and play has been a bit difficult.  Assignments from our excursion to Russia, term papers and final exams are tasks that require attention, but the thought of spending my last few weeks inside instead of out and about in newly-warm Berlin is a less than desirable trade off.  But when work must get done and cultural experiences must be had there is always a way to find that happy medium.

At GW, weekends are my savior.  Almost everything that could or should be done can easily be compiled into a Saturday morning and Sunday evening.  However in Berlin weekends are filled with parks, markets and adventures during the day and Berlin nightlife is famous for extending into the late hours of the morning, so it's safe to assume those three days won't be the most productive of your week.  This means that the weekday - emphasis on day - has become my most productive time and it's wonderful. I believe this is partly to do with the structure of my class schedule, which allows me large chunks of time to be productive rather than short and scattered 30 to 60 minute time slots.

Also, while Gelbucks and Tryst hold special places in my study spot heart, I have discovered the study cafe to end all study cafes.  Named St. Oberholtz, it is filled with large tables, plenty of outlets, fast wifi, good food and lots and lots of coffee. After nine pm its atmosphere changes into more of a bar vibe and if a well-priced glass of good Reisling with friends is a positive motivator for you to get off Facebook and actually get your work done you can end your productive day on a socible and relaxing note.

Thankfully, most of my finals this semester are papers so my last week won't be entirely occupied with studying for exams.  But even as satisfying as it is to cross things off my to do list, I know when all this work is done and the pressure of exams has lifted I'll be sad since that will mean my time in Berlin will be over and I'm not quite ready to go.

Peace Gates of Seoul Olympic Park

안녕하세요 (hello)! Week 9 was the hardest week here so far because of midterms. But before the midterm week started, that Friday before massive hours of studying, I decided to take a personal fun day and explore parts of Seoul I really wanted to. Seoul Olympic Park was the first place on my list.

That Friday morning, I woke up at 8 am to go on a run at the Olympic Park. I arrived there rather early and it was a beautiful day. The entrance to the park was called the Peace Gate and had the Olympic rings on it. I stopped a group of Korean women to take my photo and then happily started my run inside. The statues were foreign and the views were green and gorgeous. My favorite statue was of these Greek half-faces that were angled towards each other. I saw a wedding, elderly Korean hikers, and a giant skin care festival. However, the coolest part was the fact that I was running through an actual Olympic Park where the worlds best athletes once competed. I am just so used to watching the Olympics on TV that  never in a million years would I have imagined going on a long run through the park in Seoul, South Korea. I took a total of three hours to peacefully run and explore the park as a whole. I even stopped at the museum to read about some of the events that took place at this specific park.

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Half-Face Olympic Park statues

After the park I decided to try a random stop on the metro called Garak Market. Garak market is a giant market where farmers go to sell fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and other organic good. It was outside near two giant warehouses and was made of many long rows in which old Korean farmers sold their veggies. I don’t think many foreigners go to that market because people were staring at me more so than usual. I had a great cucumber and tried dried persimmons. After this, I went to Seoul Grand Park with Mike, John, Jesper, and our new friend Georgia. We went to a Korean Zoo. At the zoo we got to see animals that were from North Korea and my favorite animals were the red pandas. After the zoo we went back to Anam and got Korean BBQ with the rest of our friends.

Midterms here in Seoul were a challenge and took place outside of the normal class times. I had a midterm from 7-9pm on a Friday, putting a damper on my class-less Friday. My sister’s birthday was on Monday of midterm week and we caught up on life over Kakao talk. Kakao Talk is the Korean What’s App and that is how most of the Koreans communicate with each other.  After the 4 midterms I took, we did the typical things and went out in Anam for Soju and food. I tried a new flavor of Makgeolli, it was chestnut. That Saturday we spent all day in Korean Malls. Lotte is a huge company here in Korea. The name is on Lotte Hotel World, Lotte World Adventure, Lotte supermarket, and we were at Lotte Mall. We got to see a Korean fashion show and take photos with models. We got the impression that we were allowed in the show because we were foreigners and photographers took photos of us. Later, we accidentally ended up at a mall that sold the clothes of the designers of the fashion show and I ended up buying a big tan trench coat, which are really popular here.

Yesterday, Alissa and I went to Noryangjin Fish Market again and we both tried live squid. This was the point we realized that we have become one with the Koreans. Essentially, as stated in a previous blog, we went down into the fish market and chose a red snapper that was cooked on a grill, sashimi, and 4 live octopi. These octopi were sashimied for us at a restaurant and were still moving, even though they were in pieces, when we ate them. You would pick up the Octopi with your chopsticks and the tentaces would suction on to the chopsticks and squirm as you dipped them into the oil and salt mixture. Alissa and I both actually liked the taste of it even though it looked gross. We also had the pleasure of sitting next to a middle-aged Korean couple that taught us how to eat the food at our table and shared their Makgeolli with us. After our lovely meal, we got a tandem bike and went Han River biking. It was a perfect day. Stay tuned next week as I start my travels into Thailand and Hong Kong! 안녕(goodbye)!

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Live octopi we ate


By bevvy2212

This upcoming week is going to be rough, seeing as how most of my finals and papers are due this week so here are a few tips for you future youngsters to avoid being snowed under seven feet of work, like me.

1. Time management. Ok, I exaggerated in the previous sentence. I do have a lot of work due this week but since I'm a little bit of a control freak so I had everything sort of planned out ahead of time. That's the key: keep a planner/calender. I don't think I need to stress the importance of having a planner as you are all probably used to doing that back at GW. The thing is, the last week here at Sciences Po generally contain some make-up class periods. Some time during the semester, if your professor had decided to cancel class, they will generally be made up during this week and the schedule does get a bit hectic because depending on the time and availability of the rooms, your make-up class might not be at the same time/room as your normal class period. So keeping a planner will definitely help you keep track of what's due on what day.

2. Some classes will have their finals during the last week of classes. Actually I think most electives and seminars do. (Hence the importance of having a planner and knowing when your classes are during this week) But the lectures usually have exams during a designated week after classes are done, kind of similar to GW. So bear that in mind when making travel plans.

3. The second half of November, starting December is generally hell-ish for a lot of the students here at Sciences Po. Exchange students generally take a lot less classes than those who are actually enrolled in the school. I have quite a number of friends who are doing their Masters at ScPo and their schedule is just, overwhelming. Whereas I am only taking six classes, they usually take up to 10 or 12. So when they say they really don't have time, it really is, because they are dying from all the work, not because they don't like you. Which brings me to my fourth point:

4. If you can, stay a little bit after your semester is done in Paris, catch up with friends who are too busy to meet up with you during finals weeks or do the things that you haven't done yet in Paris. I regret not doing as much as I could back in September/ October when I still had a lot of free time on my hands. I always thought, oh I'll have time for that later when the tourist season thins out but now I only have a week left and I have all these things on my bucket list that I have yet to cross off.

Final rant: for as much as I've complained about Paris through my #dailyrant statuses on Facebook, it is very depressing to be leaving Paris in like, a week. Especially with all the Christmas lights up and going. Paris truly is magical.

By Hannah Radner

It is week eight of ten in the Michaelmas term at LSE, and I am truly feeling the effects of a direct enrollment program as opposed to a provider program. The LSE General Course, while it is made up of all study abroad students, provides no special accommodation; at times, our status as General Course students puts even more pressure on us, as the formative work we do throughout the term actually factors into our class grade, while for regular LSE students it does not. Aside from this, we are otherwise considered regular LSE students.

This is clearly the week where everyone is stressed. Essays are due, and everyone regrets not starting them several weeks ago. I am no exception; I had a paper due last Friday, the following Sunday, this Friday, and next Friday, on top of a presentation I am currently working on for the class in which I had a paper due on Sunday. It is all hitting me at once, and I am coping because I have to, but this leads me to my number one piece of advice for current and future General Course students: time management is key. Starting as a freshman at GW, we are amazed at how little time we spend in class compared to high school - only a few hours a day? What do I do with all this free time? You soon figure out that free time is not free until you've used up a great deal of it doing work outside the classroom. At LSE, we have even less class time - eight hours per week, total. I have found that what they lack in contact hours, they make up for in reading and essays.

Essays are different here. In my American classes, we had page requirements, standardised prompts, and even requirements for how many sources we should use for our essays. After having written a few here, I have decided that I like the UK system better. Here, there is a maximum word limit which, according to professor discretion, may or may not include footnotes and the bibliography. They do not care which citation system you use, nor do they care how many sources you have, as long as you make an effective argument. I quite appreciate this as it lets me focus much more on the content of my essay rather than trying to find more sources to which I can attribute my facts, just for the sake of having enough sources. I also don't have to worry about meeting a minimum length; as long as I have not gone over the maximum, I am safe. I am sure everyone at some point in the US has known the struggle of having a minimum of fifteen pages assigned - "but what if I have no more to say after ten?" The only struggle now is making your argument as concise as possible.

The other effect of being in the General Course is the fact that I haven't been able to travel as much as I thought I would. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I came here with the goal of feeling like a Londoner and a fully integrated student. I have been on some trips; weekends in Scotland and Ireland and a day trip to Bath have all been fantastic. I enjoy having time to explore London because that is why I am here. Vacations are for traveling; I am going to Spain for a week in December, and it will be a much welcome reward.

I love my program and not a day goes by when I think about how happy I am with my choice. I know at the end of this year, I will be able to say it is the hardest thing I did in college, but it made me a better student and a more well-rounded human being.

By maxikaplan

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With my days left at LSE numbering in the teens, it is somewhat unfortunate that my daily routine has turned into waking up, studying, and going to sleep. With finals just around the corner, I don’t think that the other GW students here are doing much else with their time either, and the same definitely applies to the other LSE students for that matter. I did get a bit of a study break last weekend when I went bungee jumping north of London in what turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day (see photo). Of course, just as I am preparing to leave London, my friends and I discover that the site of our bungee is actually on an enormous lake only 40 minutes north, where you can also rent kayaks and canoes for the day. If we had known earlier we most certainly would have been out there more than this one time, but it is amazing nonetheless that such a place even exists so close to the city center where we live. Unfortunately, I never made my way to many other areas in the UK north of London, but from what I have heard it is very mountainous and picturesque.

As I’ve mentioned before, my exit from the study abroad world will not be made with parties and fun, but will instead take place the day after my most difficult exam. This is going to make for a very interesting packing experience, considering there is not much time for me to spare as of right now to pack beforehand, and I can’t picture much coming my way before then either. Somewhat ironically I am looking forward most to that Friday night that I can come home after my exam to pack up my things and be ready to get on my way. In hoping to not sound too dramatic I will leave it there, but it will be a great mix of emotion when I say bye to many I will not see again for a long time amidst a flurry of stress and fear of exams. This would be much harder, however, if I were not looking forward to returning home so much. Nine months is a long time, and from talking to a lot of my friends I think we are all beginning to really miss home. I love London, and I would maybe even move here one day, but for right now I have had my fix—there is no doubt that I miss the little things. Most of all, I think, I am ready to leave this mini bed that my residence has provided for my oversized body to sleep in.

Luckily, I am not the type to drown myself in coffee during finals season—I am more of a slow and steady studier, over preparing information that I will likely not use. This has made this finals season less hard than I thought it would be so far, but in terms of study time, LSE is not messing around—I have definitely spent more time studying for these finals than I have in my two years of studying combined at GW. No longer is there the one-week of cramming a semester worth of information. This six-week study period exists for a reason, I have realized, but as I’ve mentioned before, the GW students do not have it as nearly as bad as the other kids studying abroad here do, since their grades are carrying over. I must have mentioned this 4 or 5 times by now, but when you realize how difficult these exams can be, it is NOT something that you take for granted. I will leave this blog at that, and speak to all of you next week for my last post.

By msotomayor12

I knew that the final week in Madrid would be bittersweet. However, there has yet to be a moment in my life where the end of a chapter is in plain sight. Not only will leaving this grand city mark the beginning of my last summer as a student, but also my final year in college.

Looking back on my study abroad experience, I have really seen myself grow in the classroom. Studying in a different country gives you a natural impulse to explain and compare your knowledge about U.S. affairs with professors who are trying to relay similar information about their country. In this way, I have become a more active participant in class because everyone is interested in understanding new points of view.

Learning, and most importantly, respecting the political and social views of Spanish citizens has increased my desire to know more about other societies and why they act like they do. Studying in Europe gives one to the opportunity to discover various cultures, which are all neighboring each other. It’s amazing to see how one morning you are surrounded by people speaking French and after a short two hours plane ride, you have to remind yourself to speak Spanish with the locals.

It has also been an enlightening experience seeing U.S. politics develop from a different point of view, whether it’s from a Spanish narrative on a newscast or opinions shared at the dinner table. My exposure to all this has made me more confident in explaining my opinions, something that was a little shaky before.

It is in these last stages of studying abroad that I find myself reflecting…and preparing for finals. Surprisingly, I feel the same pressure to do well just as if I were at GW. Even though I have a rough week ahead of me, I know that my grades on these exams will not matter in the long run. The little nuggets of wisdom, learning by experiencing, and the pursuit to immerse myself in various cultures has taught me the most about the world and also, myself.

By maxikaplan

This weekend will be my second go at bungee jumping here in the UK, where the weather has a tendency to cancel your first bungee attempt. I can’t think of a better way than jumping from a cliff to blow off stress while I get through this study period. Anyway, in my last blog I think that I wrote all there is to say about my study party here, so I’ll try to avoid it all together. It will do everyone some good to just not think about it, right? It will suffice to say that it is hard.

I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have gotten the chance to stay here for a year as I say goodbye to my friends who arrived for study abroad in January and are now leaving before I am. It is a really weird feeling because these are my friends from home home (New Jersey), and it is as if I am living here and they are just visiting, when in reality I leave in under a month. That is definitely weird, but what’s even weirder to me is when I take a day off to explore and find more and more places that I never knew existed in my nine months here. If anything, this is a lesson to myself to never stop exploring the city that you live in, because there is almost always something new that you haven’t seen before. London has old alleyways lined with pubs and townhouses in the way that Washington tries to have old alleyways, except the ones here are actually breathtaking. When I say that I explored a new area, it could be something as simple as a couple blocks that happen to have great food and great scenery. Many of the townhouses in London will have blue plaques on them indicating that a famous person once lived there. Around the corner from me last weekend I found the old residence of “Monty Python”—I didn’t even know that Monty Python was a real person.

I think that the perfect definition of how I feel about leaving London is undoubtedly bittersweet. I am past ready to leave this prison cell of a room that I currently occupy—while on a trip to Dublin my friends and I visited an old prison, and upon walking into a cell we quickly realized that it was just about the size of our bedrooms at LSE. I am definitely not ready to leave my friends here though, with whom I’ve spent my entire junior year. That is 1/20th of my life, to be dramatic. I have so much to look forward to when I get back (like returning to GW) that I really feel a combination of bittersweet and conflicted. Either way, I am excited for what lies ahead.

By maxikaplan

With no time left to travel in this month long study period of mine, I’ve had to re-explore parts of my own neighborhood to keep myself entertained. Fortunately, it turns out that London is quite a big city, and that after 8 months of living here there remain parts of the city only a few blocks from me that I didn’t know existed. What is unfortunate, however, is the good weather that’s come to London just as I’m beginning to stay inside week after week to study. It’s as though my last eight months of fun were all at the expense of this study period, but as I’ve said before, if somebody would have told me this would be the case I would have come to London for the year regardless of study time. Whereas before the study period I had decided to take a few days a week off to explore, now I cherish my Saturday’s as my one vacation day, and so far they’ve been incredible. This past weekend there was a food festival of sorts in central London along the Thames, and since I’d never miss a food festival, I quickly made my way down there with my friends. These day breaks are proving to be the best way to re-energize for the week ahead of studying—one day of fooling around helps to keep me focused for 6 days it seems like.

With an exam on May 30th and my flight back to New Jersey booked for the 31st, my friends and I are beginning to realize that this year won’t be ending with much of a blast. Most students in the General Course here who are American would of course be used to the semester ending in excitement, but this program has flipped this idea on its head, and I’m not too happy about it. Surprisingly complaining won’t make it any better so I will stop here, but after 4 semesters at GW ending with partying, it will be interesting to see what it feels like to just take an exam and leave. In a sense it feels like I’ll be leaving London without a proper goodbye, but oh well—I will be back one day I am sure.

Now that I’ve painted this picture of all the fun being over and life going back to a regular schedule, I should say that I’m still having fun—just not as much fun that I was used to having over the past few months. That level of entertainment and freedom is very hard to beat, but once everyone makes it through these exams I am sure life will be good again. Until then, I’ll remain studying.

By maxikaplan

Today is the day. I have about two months left at LSE until my finals begin, but I’m beginning to study for them today due to the sheer amount of material tested. Luckily, my grades do not carry over towards my GPA directly, but I am studying hard nonetheless because equivalent grades will be displayed on my transcript. This isn’t exactly the beginning of the end for me, however, because there is only so much time that one can spend studying—eventually you need a break, and I’m hoping to take full advantage of that time. Two months is a long time to do anything, let alone study, but I suppose what I should really be talking about here is my recent trip to Switzerland.

Unfortunately, my little four-day vacation cut quite deeply into my wallet—not a surprise in a country where the minimum wage is the equivalent to 25 US dollars—but to me every penny was worth it. The contrast between Switzerland and Croatia, where I had been the week before, was immediate from the moment I walked into the airport in Zurich. Everything was pristine and every train was on time. You can imagine my excitement over their efficient public transportation considering we got stuck twice in Croatia while we were traveling because of poor bus scheduling. We were to spend two and a half days in Zurich and a couple final days in Lucerne, about an hour train ride away. Zurich was fantastic, but the beauty in Lucerne is unlike any other country I have seen thus far. We rented boats to take out onto the lake, and the weather was so incredible that we took a second boat out the very next day. With the Swiss Alps in the background and not a cloud in the sky, there wasn’t much you couldn’t love. At night, my friend from GW had invited my friends and I to dinner at her family’s apartment in Lucerne, which was placed beautifully over the city. It was maybe one of the best views that I have seen in my past few months of traveling—it compares with the top of the Eiffel tower—and these people lived there! I was instantly jealous, but it was inspiring in a sense. And just like that, all my traveling for this year came to a close. It was incredibly sad but also incredibly rewarding, a feeling I had never felt before.

At this point, I’m beginning to prepare myself mentally for the many weeks of studying that lay ahead of me. In a way I feel as though I haven’t actually studied in a very long time, since the work you do at LSE during the year can’t exactly be considered studying. You are really reading a lot of information and taking as many notes as possible so you can review them later. Now, I have to remember how to get back into the groove of studying, and although I’m not looking forward to it, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Two of my exams I’ll be taking in New York during my internship, so that should make for a very interesting experience. If you plan on coming to LSE it is important to know that their exams stretch all the way until June 20th. This is very important for students who will have internships over the summer, because it will most likely conflict. With all my traveling over and done with, it looks like my next few blogs will have to be about London and my life in this beautiful city—I cannot complain.

By zamorse

We get about a week to study for finals at GW. Once regular classes end, make-up classes from that snow day back in the beginning of the semester occupy a couple of days, then there are a few readings days, and before you know it, finals week starts. And then it's all over, about a week later. If your lucky, you'll only have a couple of finals, maybe a take home essay, a final project due well before finals week starts, something like that. If you're unlucky, you'll have four maybe five finals that week, sleep little, and live in Gelman.

In Israel, things are a bit different. Instead of finals week, Israelis have a peculiar way of ending the semester. I arrived in Haifa well over a month ago, and my roommates were studying for finals then. Fine, I thought, I'll see them when they come out of their rooms in a week or so. It's over 4 weeks later, and they're still studying for finals.

Finals here are spread out over a much longer period of time, and usually you end up studying for one final per week. You take that final and the next week you start studying for your next final. But, say you didn't do so well on your first attempt. In the U.S., you would have to live with the grade you got. In Israel, you can take the test again. So instead of maybe a three week finals period, if you opt to take two of your tests again, that quickly becomes a five week finals period. And there goes your winter break.

But it's not just the finals period. Because Israel is the Jewish state, the academic calendar is based off of the Jewish calendar, not the Gregorian calendar that we're used to. Sometimes school in the U.S. will start on August 23, sometimes on August 21st, but it doesn't vary more than a few days each year. In Israel, because the Jewish calendar is based off of the moon, not the sun, things go a bit differently. The school year in Israel starts after the Jewish high holidays. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana take up so much time in September, that there's no point in starting school before them. And thus school here starts after the high holidays and much later than in the U.S.

Is that the sort of education system you would rather go to school in, or do you like the way we do it in the United States of America?