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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 msotomayor12

It’s hard to believe that I am writing this post during my packing break. With each article of clothing I am putting away, I become more and more aware that my study abroad experience is reaching its end. While I am more than excited to be going back to the U.S., I am leaving with a heavy heart filled with too many good memories.

When I first came to Madrid, I told everyone that I was on my way to “get my heart back” after leaving it there when I first visited in 2010. Of all the cities I ever visited before then, Madrid felt like home immediately. I felt as if I had lived there in a past life. Since I did not have enough time to uncover the city back then, I knew I had to come back. I’m so grateful I did.

Madrid is the liveliest city I have ever visited in Europe. There are constantly people laughing and talking on the streets, even at 6 am. It is a vibrant place where the people are kind hearted and willing to have a conversation with you regardless of where you’re from. Even though generational differences are obvious, at the end of the day, Spaniards, specifically Madrileños, are so diverse they try to understand your position in life and try to guide you if you let them.

Not to mention that Spain itself is fascinating. Every city I went to was completely different than the other because the Arab, Muslim, Spanish, Jewish, and Italian cultures all influenced each region differently throughout history. Yet the Spanish culture links them all, with their delicious jamon or the ceramic tiles lining old palaces. In other words, traveling within Spain is like visiting a new country, which is an amazing learning experience that I am so fortunate to have indulged in.

Studying abroad is one of the best decisions anyone can make because you develop a new perspective of the world. I believe that I can criticize and also praise the things some governments do right or wrong, which I hope will make me a more proactive citizen.

It also makes the world much smaller. It amazes me that in the time it takes me to travel from Tampa, FL to New York City, I am exposed to a completely distinct culture where people are speaking their own language. This was my favorite part about travelling because you realize that people are completely different based on their culture, but at the end of the day we’re all humans who interact in a similar manner.

Yet every time I travelled, I was so happy that Madrid was my home base. I was easily able to transition to their way of life, which made me more open to new opportunities. Since Madrid has no much to offer, I still feel as if I need to do to more to know it fully. I guess this means I must come back in the (hopefully near) future.

And now I must close my study abroad experience as I zip up my suitcases, each carrying trinkets, memoirs, and ticket stubs that simply represent the plethora of memories I’ve made.

¡Hasta pronto Madrid! Te tendré en mí corazón siempre.

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 anishag22

A week ago today, I finally returned back to Bristol after a month of traveling. Ironically, even after seeing so many beautiful places throughout Europe, this past week in Bristol has been my favorite week yet. The reason is simple: Returning to Bristol felt like I was returning home. I've seen six countries and 10 cities in 30 days, but Bristol is still my favorite of them all. I suppose it's a cliche, because almost everyone I know who studies abroad ends up loving wherever they go. But strolling in the sun along the harborside this weekend made me realize just how livable this city really is.

I'm absolutely emotionally attached to Bristol - but mostly because of its people. My flatmates have become family to me, and I've truly met some of the kindest people in my life here. There's a communal friendliness in the air that's unlike anything I've ever experienced. Bristol also has such a distinct culture: it's Banksy's hometown, of course, but the street art is just one example of a general laid-back, cool vibe pulsing through the city's veins.

The truth is that since I've been traveling so much recently, I haven't really had the time to properly explore Bristol like I want to. We are too often caught in the trap of school to gym to dorm and back again without making it a point to see all there is to see. That's why I am so looking forward to the end of exams:  May 30th. I get two whole weeks of leisure before heading back to California on June 14th, and I intend to do a whole lot of local sightseeing before I get on that plane to America. Even thinking about leaving Bristol so soon is devastating because I know that if I had the option to stay another semester I would do it in a heartbeat, but I just have too much to attend to stateside, academically and otherwise. Before I left America, I remember people telling me about how sometimes a semester abroad is too short - how people get attached and wish they did a whole year abroad. Well, add me to the list. My advice for prospective study abroad students is this: If you can make a year abroad fit into your academic requirements, jump in with both feet and just go for it. I promise you won't regret it.


Until next time-

Xx, Anisha

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 billienkatz

This post marks my last weekend in Barcelona, my last blog post while I can say that I am studying abroad, and the last moments where I can experience and not just reflect. As of Thursday I am boarding a flight headed towards JFK and I cannot even begin to grapple with how quickly this semester has flown by. There isn't a single bone in my body that is ready to part with this city, and I'm also really unsure of what I'm going to encounter when I return home.

Every trip back home is normally the same, nothing every changes. This time however, there has been one large shift: I have changed. Yes, some of it is external. I dress slightly differently, my skin has seen more sun than normal, and I am in desperate need of a haircut; however, it extends much further than what people are able to see when they look at me. The changes are internal, and operate how I have lived every day of the past four months.

Most importantly, however, is the milestone that I have now completed: studying abroad. Study abroad, especially at a school like GW, is a right of passage through your four years at school. It was something I constantly looked forward to, and I noticed how empty campus seems at times when you return back after winter break and a large portion of that year's junior class is missing. This semester, I was part of that missing class. I not only embarked on a journey that led me to IES in Barcelona, Spain, but I have now finished taking my finals and am left with making sure my bags are under 51 pounds and remembering to print out my boarding pass.

I've promised myself that I'm making one more trip to La Boqueria, having one more dinner at my favorite restaurant around the corner from my apartment, and the most important thing, making a pact with my close knit group of friends I've formed here, that we will all be back in Barcelona, together, in the near future. The idea of putting this experience behind me is terrifying and I'm nearly ready to give it up, but I am ready to relinquish this power, the power of experiencing an alternative way of life at the age of 20/21, to another group of students.

Barcelona has stolen my heart, and I am positive that I will be back; however, it will never again be in the context of studying abroad. As of my final post next week, studying abroad, will have turned into studied's crazy how much meaning the change in tense evokes.

Hasta luego Barcelona

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

My first week of studying for finals has commenced, and I can safely say that it was not all that bad. Yes, studying is time consuming and nobody wants to do it, but it feels good to get those parts of my brain going again after no quizzes and tests for nearly 9 months. Did I spend most of my time inside this past week, doing nothing but working? Yes, but it was good practice for what's to come, and I rewarded myself by taking this weekend off, which was incredibly helpful.

On Sunday was the London marathon, which I did not participate in, but I did go to the Paul Smith museum that day, and that was equally as fun as running 26.2 miles. Paul Smith is a well known fashion designer from London whose work also spreads to car designs, snowboard designs, etc., and this museum was wonderful. Paul had taken everything that was lying around in his office and put it into this museum for display—a brave move, but I am happy he did it because it was one of my favorite museums I have ever been to. The weather outside was 65 and sunny with not a cloud in the sky, and you can’t ask for anything much better than that in London. Saturday was nearly the same, and both days I spent eating well and enjoying the weather. Thankfully it does not cost anything to breathe in London, although it might soon.

As my time abroad is slowly coming to an end (I just booked my flight home for May 31st), I am getting quite excited for things that I have been deprived of for some time now, like $1 pizza from New York, and cheap food in general. Of course I miss my family too, but it is the little things that you forget about while you’re gone that seem so sweet when you are reminded of them. And I am sure of the fact that a few months from now I will be writing in my journal of how much I miss the little things in London. The grass is always greener on the other side I suppose, so you have to enjoy these things while you have them. With that, I now have to go enjoy my homemade dinner that is waiting for me. Ciao!

My mantra as I enter my final few weeks in Barcelona is, I'll sleep when I'm back home. While this sounds a lot like it has to do with staying out late and taking advantage of the night life Barcelona is well known for, well, it's actually the quite opposite. I'm running out of time in this city I've fallen in love with and that is terrifying. I want to go back to Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. I want to wander the streets of the Barrio Gotic and get lost in medieval Barcelona. Most of all, I want my next three weeks to slow down because I'm just not prepared to say goodbye yet.

Then, on the other hand, I keep finding the urge to find some relaxing downtime because I feel as though I'm always running around. This is the paradox of being abroad - the act of having a general feeling of panic that you don't have enough time to accomplish all that you want to, but also just wanting the ability to catch up on three/four months of sleep that has been lost in the abyss of taking classes, exploring, speaking another language, traveling, and so much more. I've yet to figure out how I want to spend my lasts as and weeks in Barcelona, but I know that I'm never going to be completely ready to leave. I've grown accustomed to the slower lifestyle, the emphasis on family and friends, and a sense of adventure that I have never tapped into while in DC or back home in Connecticut.

I think I've done it. I think that I finally understand what causes study abroad students to have severe abroad withdrawal and with the biggest look of nostalgia to explain to others how it was the most amazing experience of their entire life.

Here's to making my last 24 days count,