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By anuhyabobba

Time went excruciatingly slow in the first month and a half of studying abroad, or what I want to say was my adjustment period to living in Argentina. Soon after having one of the most beautiful times in San Pedro de Atacama, the last two months flew past like none other. I always saw myself on the last few days to have this urge to do all that I did not do in these four months. But, my last week in the city was a bit more peaceful. I was content with what I had done, and I spent that week -- in my own way -- saying bye to Buenos Aires.
I found myself starting to miss the routine of it all. Waiting for the 10 or 59 colectivo, walking to Havanna and buying myself a coffee "para llevar" before class, heading to Pollo Trak for a Suprema de Pollo sandwich for lunch, and then walking home to have dinner with my host mom -- I will miss it all. I lived a block away from the haunting but beautiful Recoleta Cemetery as well as the gorgeous greenery that surrounds it. I walked there every weekend to soak in the sun or I headed over to Palermo to spend time with my friend who lives there. Regardless what I had done, these actions constituted my life here. Actions that I did not see as particularly significant in the moment are the ones I see myself already yearning for.I still have a month left on this continent, however. I will be traveling independently to Patagonia. Then, I am headed off to Peru. But, what I am most looking forward to returning to the US is seeing my family. Without a stable way of getting a hold of them or with connection cutting off when I am able to speak to them has made me miss them dearly. Having my mother's tomato and egg curry alongside her will bring me so much love (already asked her to have that prepared by the time I land), and relaxing in the apartment as it snows outside watching Netflix will be all the more comforting. Returning to DC and that first hug with a friend I have not seen in months is also what I am eagerly looking forward to as well.Buenos Aires has given me four months of happiness, internal growth, and a lot of meaningful friendships. Even if it is time to say bye, all I can say is that I hope to return one day.

Thank you so much, and I apologize for the inconvenience caused.

By zamorse

Well, this is it. My last blog post. I can't believe the semester is almost over, but it is. I'm a weird space right now---I still have over a week left of the semester, 2 papers and 2 exams standing in my way of academic freedom, but I've already begun reflecting on my semester. I said my first goodbye already to a friend who had to go home for medical reasons, I just came back from my last day trip with the international school (we went to the Lebanese border, a Druze village for lunch, the Syrian border in the Golan Heights, and wine tasting).
This is going to be a week of lasts. Last trip to the shouk (market), last weekend in the holy land, etc, and as more people start to leave, it feels even more real.
January seems like only yesterday--when I was scared and nervous as to what this semester would have in store for me. I had quite the semester and quite the adventure in the fall in Korea, and I was worried this semester would be a let down compared to the adventure I had in Seoul. I didn't speak any Korean, knew nothing of the culture, and knew nobody there, but ended up having an amazing semester.
Israel was the opposite. I speak Hebrew, I have family and friends here, and I had been here three times previously. I was worried it wouldn't be an adventure---it would just feel like school.
That's definitely not what happened.
Studying in Haifa was a great decision. I got out of the mercaz (center) of the country and went to a working city. I got to explore the culture in Israel like I had never seen it before, met some great friends along the way, and had an amazing semester in the process.
Now it's back to DC and off to my next adventure---senior year.

By catrionaschwartz

The Last Supper Part II: My Last Week in Rome

I am now at my final week in Rome. After approximately four months in the Eternal City I barely feel I know it at all. There are bits and pieces—routes I’ve carved out in my mind; the course of the 870 bus up Gianicolo Hill, a thread of direction in the tangled streets of the Centro Storico, between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, the route between restless crowds in Trastevere after nightfall—but Rome was so much bigger than I expected.

There have been other places I’ve touched; Monti with its ivy curtain on the corner of Via Panisperna, Pigneto with its little bungalows and street art and Testaccio, just slightly rough around the edges. It’s not the same as really living somewhere, when you study abroad. It’s a taste of it but four months is just drop in the ocean.

I think I’ve said this before but I’m reminded of the thought now that I’m in my final days here: I could live in Rome a lifetime and never know it fully. To think that four months would suffice—it’s nowhere near enough time. Still I was inspired reading Julia’s blog post about her host brother asking her what she actually liked about Buenos Aires. It made me think about what I really know about Rome, beyond its founding myth and the boundary lines of certain neighborhoods and the price of a ticket to the Vatican Museum.

So I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve come to know about Rome. Some of them are things I’ve loved, and some of them are things I’m ready to be done with, but all of them are tiny facets of my time here. They’re part of this experience here which has been something that I can’t assign any sort of value to, positive or negative, and that can only be remembered in moments rather than with any sort of overarching sentiment or conclusion.

So here it is, Rome, and what I’ve come to know of it:

The confetti that littered the ground around the time of Carnevale.

The aspens and the palm trees and the honeysuckle and purple flowers which came with spring.

The local bars without any of the fuss of cafes back home but with equally good and exponentially cheaper fare. I can’t believe the days of 1 euro cappuccinos are soon to be behind me!

The painful cobblestones. They’re beautiful and I have to believe they’ve made me a stronger person. Or at least my feet.

The old water fountains, at first a mystery to me, and which I’ve finally mastered. Knowing how to use one correctly is a quick and easy way to feel like less of a tourist.

The pain of a 2 euro charge for still water at almost every restaurant in Rome.

The nuns and the priests throughout the city.

Even better: the monks and the friars. Where else in the world would you see Franciscan friars (with their long brown robes and the white rope around their waists) walking down the street as you go to catch the bus home?

The piazzas at night filled with people and bottles of wine, somehow lively and quiet at the same time.

The comparative din around places such as Bar San Calisto where American students, Italian high-schoolers, and locals anywhere from twenty-two to sixty-two will spend an evening drinking and talking to strangers.

Shops and restaurants with no names at all.

The opulent antique stores along Via dei Coronari.

The way the city is filled to the brim for Catholic holidays.

The prevalence of take away pizzerias and gelaterias.

The absence of any other kind of take away.

The utter dearth of food trucks.

The fact that the only people eating in a restaurant before 8:30 are Americans.

A satisfying aperitvo where you can get a whole meal and a drink for under 12 euros if you know the right places to go.

How medicines are all sold at old school pharmacies where almost everything is behind the counter.

The fact that many people dry their clothes on lines and without a dryer.

The way people wear down coats even when it is sixty degrees out because it is still March.

The way you stand out as an American when you wear temperature appropriate, season-inappropriate clothes, or too many bright colors.

The diminutive but welcoming religious minority communities.

The incongruous Egyptian obelisks throughout the city (and the one pyramid).

The Pantheon, a temple which became a church, and then inspired Baroque architects to construct churches that looked like temples.

How easy it is to take a plane to somewhere with a completely different language and culture.

How easy it is to take a train to a quiet medieval fortress town and look out at the iconic Italian countryside.

Having the chance to visit the Forum before the hordes of tourists arrive, when it can feel just a bit more like a ghost town and not a tourist attraction.

The sense of achievement after any successful interaction conducted in Italian, no matter how minor.

The sense of accomplishment at having a list like this, and of being able to write more. Of having some way to account for an experience which was too unwieldy to put any sort of conclusion to.

The next entry I write will be after I’ve been home for a few days. I can’t imagine how I will be feeling then but I know no matter what I’m thankful that I’ve been able to have this experience.

By maxikaplan

photo (1)

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 nlgyon

This is it you guys--my last post. It's a strange feeling. I'm so excited to see my family, friends, and pets and experience all the creature comforts I left in the states. But I've also just started to really get comfortable here; I've gained a decent grasp of conversational dialect, a good number of Jordanian friends, and several professional contacts. I've spent so many hours establishing a home away from home here, it feels very strange to just leave it all. Plus, there's still so much regional travel I would do if I had the time and the means. But I'll leave on Thursday with no regrets. I've seen, done and learned so much hear that it's impossible for me to leave with anything but gratitude in my heart--for the Jordanians who made me feel at home, for my DPS homies, and for all my professors and advisers.

And on that note, I'd like to thank the people who gave their money and support so that I could experience this rare adventure--my parents. Especially you, mom. I know this hasn't been easy for you, especially with Megan being in the Philippines and all, and I appreciate everything you've done to make this trip as great as it has been, even though I know you just want me to come home. I'm sorry I couldn't make the time to update you on everything that has been going in in my Jordan life, and I can't wait to come home and tell you about everything I forgot to during our Skype conversations. But this probably isn't the last time I'll be away. Until I settle down and start a family of my own, I'm going to keep traveling because the world has too many lessons in it to stay in one place. But just like this semester, I'll always call home, and I'll always come back, hopefully a better person than when I left--a person that you can continue to be proud of. I love you and dad lots, and I can't wait to come home.


By kathleenmccarthy1

I can’t believe that I’ve already reached this point, but my semester in Galway has come to an end. My last week in Ireland was probably the hardest for me because it consisted of a long, drawn out series of goodbyes. I also had exams up until the morning before I left so I faced the challenge of making the most out of my last few days in Ireland while also studying and packing. During my last full week, I made two trips out of Galway. The first was to Cork, one of Ireland’s largest cities, which is located in the far south of Ireland. My second trip was to my Irish roommate Laura’s home in Offaly. Although the trip to Cork was thrown together at the last minute with two of my American friends, it actually ended up being one of my favorite places in Ireland. Our first stop in Cork was the Crawford Municipal Gallery, which we went to mostly because there was no admission fee. This spot ended up being a great find because not only did they have works from artists like Salvador Dali on display, but they also had a temporary exhibit on Michael Farrell, arguably Ireland’s most celebrated artist. We enjoyed the Michael Farrell exhibit so much that we decided to take advantage of the lecture on Farrell’s work that was being given in the museum’s auditorium by Robert Ballagh, another well-renowned Irish artist. Even though we were hesitant to take advantage of the opportunity because we thought we would lose too much time, we actually ended up learning a great deal about what it means to be an artist in Ireland and about what was behind a lot of the Irish art that was produced in the 20th century. Going to the gallery ended up being the best spot that we hit in Cork, and we didn’t even have to pay for it!

Two days later, my American roommate and I went to visit Laura in Offaly. Laura had gone home because there was a space of over a week between two of her exams so she didn’t see the need to stay in Galway. Laura picked the two of us up in her car from the train station and gave us a tour of the biggest town in Offaly and then of the smaller town where she lives. She also showed us the place where she has worked the past two summers, Bord na Mona. Bord na Mona is a peat harvesting company that extracts turf from the boglands that it sits on. Several years ago, a sculpture garden with pieces inspired by Offaly’s unique landscape was built on the boglands as well.  In the midland of the park is a sculpture that features a large stone brought from Ellis Island surrounded by four large stones representing the four provinces of Ireland. This sculpture is meant to represent and celebrate the Irish presence abroad as well as Ireland’s role as a homeland. After hearing about Offaly so much from Laura throughout the semester, I couldn’t believe that I was finally seeing all the places that she had told us about in person. It was actually kind of a surreal experience to ride around in Laura’s car listening to the radio like I would with my friends back home. It was then that I really became awestruck at how comfortable I had become in Ireland.

Another thing that I made sure that I did during my last week in Ireland was say goodbye to my family that lives in Ireland. Because some of my cousins live in Galway, I was able to spend a good deal of time with them while I was abroad. This really enhanced my experience because it was a lot like having a host family whenever I needed one and helped me to get way more immersed in the culture than I would have had otherwise. Before I came to Ireland, I had been hesitant about studying abroad in a place where I had family because I felt like I would be staying in my comfort zone too much. However, if I hadn’t come to Galway for the semester, I wouldn’t have formed the relationship with my family in Ireland that I have now. At the beginning of the semester, I thought that I would only get to meet members of my extended family in Ireland. Instead, I was actually able to get to know them and now they really feel like family.

Saying goodbye to Galway was an experience with many layers. It involved saying goodbye to my family, saying goodbye to my Irish friends from college, saying goodbye to my roommates and finally, saying goodbye to the Americans on my program that had been with me this whole semester. There was also the matter of saying goodbye to NUIG and Galway itself. By the time that I got on the bus to Dublin, I fell asleep immediately because I was so exhausted from everything that was going on in the preceding days. I also had a bit of misfortune with my flight back to the states. Because the plane was fully booked, all of the overhead compartments were full by the time I was barding and I had to surrender one of my carry-on items to be checked beneath the plane. As I made my way back to my seat, I was stopped by a stewardess who told me that my remaining carry-on bag would need to be stowed below as well.  I frantically tried to remove my personal items from this bag because departure time had already passed and I was one of very few passengers not  seated yet. The anxiety of surrendering my bags to the staff at such shot notice and making sure that they were tagged while holding up the flight as little as possible must have really sent me over the edge because when I finally made it to my seat I just began sobbing uncontrollably. I must say, however, that I don’t think my emotional outburst was simply the result of this baggage nightmare but rather an expression of how overwhelmed I was at the idea of leaving Ireland. I had become an entirely new person in Galway. I had met the Taoiseach, learned how to play Irish sports, kayaked between classes, met and got to know my family, took my grandmother back to her home, completed group projects with people who had never been to the United States and learned how to live on my own in a foreign country. The people sitting next to me on the plane probably just thought I was upset at having my luggage taken away from me when, in reality, I was leaving home in a way that was far more complicated than the type of leaving home that I had done in August.

Goodbye Galway! #GWAbroad #GWU

By nmbutler3

The end has finally come…Most of my fellow abroad students have made their way back to the States by now. I cannot look at Facebook without seeing statuses about leaving various countries and returning home for Christmas, and I cannot help but be reminded that I only have a week left before I too have to make my way back across the pond. It sounds incredibly cliché, but the thought of returning home is an immensely bittersweet feeling. On the one hand knowing that I’ll be coming home to a warm Christmas-y welcome from family and friends that I have not seen or really talked to in ages, is a nice thought and I cannot help but look forward to it. It also means I’ll finally be able to catch up with friends that have also been abroad and hear all about their stories and adventures. On the other hand though, going home means leaving Edinburgh, and to be entirely honest, I don’t quite think I am ready to do that yet. Leaving means saying goodbye to good friends and fond memories, challenges and struggles, adventures and exciting experiences. It means I have to say goodbye to a new life I’ve established and return to the familiar grind of regular life.

Coming here was in many ways, like starting college all over again. I knew no one, had no idea how the system worked, but thought I knew myself and understood at least my own outlook on life. And just like freshman year, I am leaving behind wonderful new friends and taking with me a much refined perspective on the world around me, along with a much improved understanding of myself. Knowing no one and not having a program of fellow American students to fall back on for support forced me to reach out of my comfort zone and open up to new people almost immediately, which is admittedly not one of my strong suits, but I eventually managed and in addition to making close friendships with people from all over the world, I was reminded how to relate to people, especially people who come from very different backgrounds from what I am normally accustomed to. In reflection, this was probably my biggest challenge while abroad. The similarities of British and Scottish cultures to American culture, as well has my personality, made most other adjustments relatively easy, especially compared to the adjustments other study abroad students had to make; however, remembering how to make new friends and relate to diverse individuals, with whom you often have to navigate between the cultural similarities and differences, can be incredibly difficult. That being said, it can also be incredibly telling of yourself and a, albeit slightly forced, perfect opportunity to connect and relate to others.

More importantly though, studying abroad, flipped and twisted and confused, a lot of what I thought I knew about the world and myself. Living in Edinburgh reminded me how beautiful and exciting cities could be, an appreciation I had started to lose in DC, and traveling throughout the UK and Europe rehydrated my thirst for adventure and taught me to not be a traveler, rather than a tourist. Actually taking challenging classes outside of my usual focal areas led me to new academic interests and made me reconsider my future academic and career plans. Most importantly though, studying abroad has taught me to see everything as an adventure, to see even the familiar through the eyes of someone who is experiencing it for the very first time, to allow life to unfold before you rather than set expectations that constrain and limit your future, and to appreciate even the small details as something wonderful. When I think of my fondest memories here, most are of experiences I had set no expectations for or had not anticipated. From the Scottish national anthem at the national rugby matches to adventures in Belgium to traditional Swedish Christmas carols sung by friends as a St. Lucia Day surprise this past weekend, the unexpected unprecedented moments have been among the best. This is probably because when you approach a situation, not with expectations, but instead with an open mind, everything comes as a pleasant surprise and you can actually genuinely experience and engage with what’s going on around you. Looking at the world in such a way, also taught me to appreciate the smaller details. Back in DC, I walk past famous monuments, national agencies, and international institutions on a daily basis and rarely bat an eye. In Edinburgh though, since everything is this new, exciting experience abroad, every little statue, street sign, painted door and bird are each unique and beautiful details that you cannot help but notice. I have learned to look at the world around me, not has this static imposition of concrete and stone around me, but as a dynamic integration of color, history, culture and art that flow together to create an ever changing, multidimensional picture. I’ve been reminded how to see the beauty in what’s around me and not just see that beauty with my eyes but as an actual tangible experience. I suppose it can’t get much cheesier than that, but then again, that might be the point. I’ve learning this past semester, that when you are traveling, whether it be across the world, or just around the corner to the store, if you are open to the experience, the world has to much more to offer than you could possibly imagine to expect. And with that, I bid adieu to Edinburgh, at least for now.