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By: Patrick Horstmeier

When psychologists mix cultural differences and fruits

When you tell your family and friends that you will leave the old continent to visit the United States for a year, you are covered with more or less fruitful advice. Some seem coherent, others demonstrate more goodwill than real help. Still others surprise us in their originality...

A friend who had undertaken the opposite journey: from the West Atlantic to the East Atlantic, shared with me a metaphor that a trainer had suggested to her during a preparatory class for her departure. This metaphor compared Americans to mangoes, and Europeans to coconuts. Surprised?

No European visiting the United States can remain indifferent to the friendliness of the Americans. From the very first exchanges everyone is enthusiastic, everyone is adorable. Those who are not used to it will feel like they are best friends with the person they just met after only a few minutes.

This is where mangoes come into play: meeting someone in the United States is like eating a mango. Let me explain. Eat a mango and you will have immediate access to the best side of the fruit. However, you will quickly come across a very hard core. Few people continue to explore this fruit further than this core. Conversely, enjoy a coconut and you will come across an undesirable, dry and hard exterior. Drilling this first layer will not be easy, but once you have passed it, then the whole fruit will offer itself to you.

While as a European I have been used all my life to confronting people who were very hard at first, but whose confidence is quickly earned, the challenge has been reversed here. In comparison, people are much more accessible, but it is perfectly possible to stay in a cordial relationship under a friendly appearance for a long time. During my first few weeks, that surprised me: You may feel like you're dealing with dishonest relationships. However, the more time goes by, the more I think it may be the right way to proceed: Let's be nice to everyone, but let's only trust those who really deserve it.

Be warned American reader! If you were to travel to Europe, don't be surprised to suddenly be confronted with coconuts rather than mangoes...

 

 

That's how my first semester in the United States is slowly coming to an end. I will have already spent half of my time on the other side of the Atlantic. The previous story is no exception: I get used to - and enjoy - American culture. It's true: in my country of origin I could probably be accused of cultural violation for eating bacon and eggs for breakfast!

The icing on the cake of the American cultural experience? Thanksgiving. One more celebration I've never experienced combined with a long weekend? What more could you ask for...

I wish you all a great Thanksgiving break!

 

By: Muzna Hatmi

Brace yourselves, because this post is about to get a little emotional (as I can’t think of happy times without filling myself up with a whole lot of nostalgia, duh). Ok so, here I take a deep breath. I don’t know where to begin.

It only feels like yesterday that I got here, after what seemed like forever (yes, months of planning, working, applying, accepting, and not to forget the 24 hours of travelling). After all that, it’s almost uncomfortable to think that there is only less than a month left of my time at GW. And I’m probably not ready for this to end so soon.

I don’t know when blazing hot summers days turned into winter cold evenings, and when Peet’s iced latte’s turned into peppermint hot mochas (extra hot, please). It’s funny to think that American students I have met here dream of going to Europe for their semester abroad, whereas I, a European student, dreamt all this time to come to the US – to Washington DC. And I’m so lucky to have had that experience. I have to say, I worked hard for it, which is why I wanted to make sure to enjoy each moment.

As I have said before, I’m originally a Pakistani citizen studying in the Netherlands, and so obviously, Urdu and English being my first and second languages, Dutch posed to be an automatic barrier when I first moved abroad for university. And it’s safe to say that some of that still exists. So, when I came here, I felt thrilled that everyone around me spoke English and every website ever didn’t require me to fight my computer for the translation widget to literally do its job (study abroad 101). I’ll probably miss everyone understanding everything I ever said without asking me to wait while they got someone else who knew the word “drain opener,” only that they didn’t know and handed me dishwashing soap instead (student sharing problems 101). Trader Joe’s didn’t play me like that. Also, while we’re speaking of the best grocery store in the world, let’s take a moment to appreciate Trader Joe’s dried mangoes. And also thank America for flaming hot Cheetos; which I have totally not stocked up on to take back home (I should probably do a post on my favorite American junk food because that list is worthwhile, trust me).

Oh America, how I love you. As I’m writing this on a road trip to Chicago, passing by Pennsylvania, glaring at fall trees around me; red, yellow, orange, I’m thinking of the opportunities this place has given me. Studying and courses have been somewhat of a challenge because of differences in education systems, but I have truly learnt from a diversity of professors, students, and teaching styles. DC as a city and GW prides itself for its diverseness, which I admire so much as an international student. From offering prayer rooms on the 4thfloor in Marvin Centre, to hosting thanksgiving dinners in dorms of our orientation-week leaders, I have always felt incredibly welcomed and right at home. Not to forget the incredible shopping and black Friday sales for my shopaholic soul, also the perfect time to buy presents for friends, family and let’s not forget yourself – so that you can tell them you got something for them from the greatest cities in the world, Washington DC.

 

To be continued…

By: Patrick Horstmeier

The discovery of a new country implies the discovery of cultural differences. As a Frenchman, this starts as soon as I want to say "hello" to someone...

France, like any country, has its own cultural specificities. However, France being "the land of love" (from what I've heard here), the French have a very special way of greeting each other. While in the United States a simple "Hey" is enough when joining a group, it is considered rude not to say hello individually to all the people in France. The situation becomes more complex when it comes to…

la bise!

French President Macron doing "La bise"

France is world famous for the French kiss, but most of the time, French people kiss in a more friendly way. In France, to greet someone, you quickly kiss both of his or her cheeks. But even French people do not agree on how to do la bise… As Youtube-star Paul Taylor likes to say it: “What the f*** France?!”

Here is a quick guide on how to greet French people without upsetting everyone:

1/ Make sure you are not in a formal meeting. If you are, just shake hands like you would in the US.
2/ If you are a girl: you greet everyone by having la bise.
3/ If you are a guy: you greet only girls by having la bise.
3.1/ Exceptions to this rule are:
- You greet good friend -even boys- by having la bise.
- If you are in the south of France, you do la bise with everyone.

4/ In most parts of the France (including Paris, because let’s be honest, if you visit France, you are most likely to start with Paris), you do two kisses when having la bise. One on each cheek (starting on the left one). But depending on where you are in France, the number of required kisses can be somewhere between one and four. Locals will have great fun correcting you… Alternatively, If you don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of the locals, some French geniuses have developed a site that will allow you to determine how many kisses you will need to make depending on where you are in France (no joke). To give you an overview, these data are summarized in the following map:

4.1/ With some good friends, especially if you are a boy and your friend is a boy too, you can do more kisses to express your affection.
5/ If you leave, remember to say goodbye to everyone by following the same rules.

Now you know the basics. Kind off.

Obviously, some American friends warned me that I should not attempt, IN ANY CASE, to kiss a stranger here. And obviously, I forgot.

Before you file a complaint against me, let me tell you the details of the story. I obviously didn't forget that I shouldn't kiss Americans on my first day. It was only when the atmosphere became more friendly that my habits resurfaced. I didn't kiss a stranger either, I just looked stupid by tilting my head towards someone who did not know the 5 rules of la bise (you would have known!). We had a good laugh and now, thanks to this incident, some of the students on campus know the five rules of la bise…

By: Muzna Hatmi

While this blog post is titled a good old ‘A Day at the Museum,’ (for the catchy Night at the Museum vibe, which by the way, was also filmed in DC), it can also be read as ‘a day (or days) at the most underrated museums in DC.’

I’m saying this now, I’m a great big art lover. I studied history of art in high school, and I can spend entire days at art exhibitions, yes, even the boring ones. So, disclaimer: this post is mainly about where to see underrated art in Washington DC.  However, if you're an insta-freak like me, stay tuned, I got you.

To get the most important information out of the way, all Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are absolutely free! And that is just one of the many things I love about living here and probably the only reason why I leave my warm bed on weekends.

Freer and Sackler Gallery – Where Asia Meets America

Or should I say, where America meets Asia? Because that is technically the case, Freer Sackler.

Anyway, while Freer and Sackler is not exactly a museum, it is still somewhere in that category for its wonderful collection from the beautiful and diverse region of… you guessed it! Asia!

The first time that I visited the gallery was with my South Asian Art class from GWU. Fun fact (and to be more specific): I had always been interested in western European art, so automatically, I never even considered learning about art from my own region (reminder: I’m Pakistani) because I think I did not value it enough until I enrolled in this class and really understood the meaning behind some of its symbols and all that (not getting too technical, y’alls).

My favorite area in Freer and Sackler Gallery is The Peacock Room, and also the nature-filled courtyard to just sit and chill, and take it all in. If you go, a must see is the current exhibition called]My Iran: Six Women Photographers. Not giving much away, but the exhibition deals with a picture beyond what we know about the beautiful country of Iran – both moving and powerful!

National Portrait Gallery

The name says it. This was one of the first I visited in DC and I was in awe! Another fun fact: I’m a portrait photographer, and so I was obviously and extremely excited to see all the great works of art on display here. The museum offers a wide range of collections in sculpture form, photography, and painting. It also hosts portraits of some of the most iconic figures of all times like Charlie Chaplin, George Washington (because that's important for obvious reasons) and even Bill Gates. Speaking of which, the must see and my favorite part of the gallery is the Hall of President’s which contains portraits of nearly all-American presidents, the largest collection after the White House itself. The museum has other cool stuff as well, like portraits of Barbie. Yes, Barbie.

29Rooms

You can still catch 29Rooms in New York, LA, or even Tokyo. Perhaps again in DC? Because it is literally the Instagram museums of your dreams! Not free unlike the other two, 29Rooms is the brainchild of Refinery 29 which features 29 different art exhibits, visually appealing and creative rooms, like a ‘teenager bedroom,’ and interactive spaces so you can dance, paint, sing, selfie. I covered the event a few days ago on Instagram, so if you’re looking to see what I mean when I say it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, check it out!

 

By: Muzna Hatmi

When you miss mom’s food and let’s face it, need to move on from dorm food for once.

Union Market is the place to go. You can find just about any kind of cuisine, from South Indian Dosa’s to Italian pasta, fresh bread, dumplings, a million kinds of teas, ice-cream like you’ve never tried before, Ethiopian food, sea food, good food, great food, and I can go forever but I’m out of breath – you name it, And it’s there. All cravings sorted. Open seven days a week, Union Market is a super cool and creative culinary experience. The food hall is located in a very hip little area with lots of graffiti and wall-art for your Instagram feeds.  The outer wall on east side is permanent home to a huge mural by Yoko Ono.

When you need to be a tourist because who doesn’t?

Hop on the metro, get off at the Smithsonian station and walk your way to the Washington Monument. What?! The Washington Monument?? Yes, pretty basic, I know. But, the doors to the Egyptian obelisk have been re-opened to public after three whole years! This means that you can now get to the top and reminisce over some pretty stunning panoramic views of Washington DC. Spoiler: The White House is not THAT big…

The Lincoln Memorial is a few minutes’ walk from the monument and can be easily checked off from the list if you haven’t seen the big guy already (read: sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, duh).

When you’ve procrastinating all this time and it hits you, (you need coffee)

At this point, being far away from distractions would be a good idea, which probably means being off campus for most of you. I like to hit the books at cafes because the vibe relaxes me, I think it has something to do with the coffee-aroma because trust me, I’m an addict by now. Kidding. Not. Anyway, Ballston is the place to be. I usually study at DIRT, a new health food eatery in Arlington that serves some good fuel to get work done. Vegan options available!

When you’re feeling adventurous, or in other words, when you just want to get on a roller-coaster

Go to King’s Dominion! A theme park close to Richmond, Virginia (almost 2 hours from DC, but definitely worth that time), King’s Dominion has plenty of rides to choose from – thrillers and family rides alike (suitable for adults who are scaredy-cats). Lucky for exchange students this semester, the park is going to be hosting Halloween related activities like haunted mazes, scare zones and fright shows for most of October and early November. A perfect weekend trip with your friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Patrick Horstmeier

Day 0

It's 21:43 in my hometown Lyon, 15:43 in Washington and 16:43 on the plane. The shadow of the night has already cast itself on my hometown but will not catch up with me for a little over 6 hours. For the next 365 days, I will be far from home, but getting closer to my future. I'm excited. I'm smiling.

Day 1

Everything is bigger here in the US. The campus is huge, way bigger than my SciencesPo Paris campus. The streets are broader, the cars are louder, and the meals are bigger. Welcome to the land of superlatives. My first day at GWU starts tomorrow. I can’t wait to meet some locals and to get to know the city. As I often said: Our differences will be our common point. I can’t wait to discover the culture, the museums; I can’t wait to run around the National Mall (and to run up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial while listening to the theme of Rocky the boxer); I can’t wait to embrace the opportunities that the university will offer me: to meet outstanding professors, to look for an internship, to be in the heart of Washington. I can’t wait to – as they would say – raise high!

Day 6

Remember how we made fun about how I will miss French wine and French bread when I would be in the US? Well it’s the case now! Where are my croissants? I wish they were here (at least as much as I wish you were here!)…

Day 10

Classes have begun. Some teachers already captivated my attention. I’m gonna have a great time studying philosophy, international relations, political sciences and way more… The only “negative” point here is that I must sometimes walk 15 minutes between two classrooms. As I said: everything is HUGE!

I already had the opportunity to visit the Capitol, the Smithsonian’s, Georgetown, the Waterfront and more. I am surprised by everything Washington has to offer. You remember my phones wallpaper? Yes, Pollock. Well I have seen one of his drawings in real for the first time at the Hirshhorn museum. You know how I love Jazz? Well I have seen a life show in a small Jazz club. I’m sure that I still have lots of places to discover. I can't wait to show you around! I hope you are doing well in France, can’t wait to see you here!

Day 18

“My names in Bond, James Bond”. Every morning I drive along the Pentagon (Yes, THE Pentagon), the National Mall and the White House. I don’t get used to it: isn’t that a secret-agent itinerary to work…? Well here it’s my way to GWU!

Day 21

Do you remember the riverside in our hometown Lyon in France where I used to take pictures when I was young? Wasn’t it lovely? I have found a gorgeous spot down by the water here in DC too. I would love to take you there to enjoy the golden light of the sun going to sleep behind Rosslyn, the ducks and the swans. Here I am, writing this letter. Behind me a street artist plays Jazz and some kids dance, in front of me boats ride up and down the Potomac. Looking over to the other river I am once again wondering: the river is huge!

Day 35

You are going to be proud of me today… I applied as a volunteer at the IMF. It’s just around the corner of the classrooms. That’s why I’m here: the opportunities here in Foggy Bottom are endless. And I have so much time left to seize them! One thing is for sure: I will have a lot to tell you when I get home!

 

To be continued...

By anthonyscheergwu

Summer is right around the corner. This Thursday I’ll be done with my final exams and all my papers and I’m really excited so I’m going to take a break from studying and write about my summer plans!

From May 11 to 15, I’ll fly from DC to Denver and back. While I’m in Denver I’ll be meeting up with a childhood friend who I haven’t seen since 2014. I have no idea what we are going to do apart from a 14er hike, but I’m super excited to see him!

On May 17, I’ll officially say bye to DC and head to York in Pennsylvania again. I’ll be spending Friday night with my cousin to celebrate the end of my semester!

On May 18, I’ll take the train and arrive in NYC just in time to celebrate the birthday of a couple of friends. I’ll be in NYC till the 27th. During this time a bunch of my high-school friends are flying in and it’ll be fun to have a mini reunion in NYC. I’ll make sure to get a bagel while I’m there because I’ve never had one and apparently that’s weird.

On May 27 I’ll be flying out to Miami, and if you’re looking for me, I’ll be spending most of my time on the beach till June 3. Hopefully I’ll get a tan because that just isn’t possible in DC. 

On June 3rd I’m going to fly out of Miami and go back to LA (during Spring Break I fell in love with LA and I just had to go back). I’ll be in LA for 2 days, and then on June 6, I’ll drive out to Las Vegas. I’ll get their just in time for my birthday on June 7 and that should be fun! Hopefully, I’ll have time to visit the Grand Canyon during my 3 days there.

On the 9th of June, I’ll be flying towards San Francisco. I’ll have 2 full days to visit this city and I’m looking forwards to squeeze in as much as possible in this time frame.

On June 12, I’ll be on my flight back to NYC. I’ll be spending my last night in the US there with a couple of friends who’ll still be around.

On June 13 (the last day of my 30 day grace period) I fly out to Paris where I’ll be spending 3 nights there before heading back to my grandparents house to attend my family reunion just in time!

If you’re interested in following my adventures while I’m visiting all these cities follow me on instagram: @Anthonyscheercuzy, cause unfortunately, my exchange semester at GWU is coming to an end and which means that so is my run with this blog!

By amrawi

Every time I sit down to write my final goodbye I just can’t seem to get myself past the first few words, before I find tears rolling down the side of my face. I guess because once this post is published, it will officially be the end of my exchange experience. The end of the most amazing five months of my life. The end of late night pizza delivery, and the end of midnight monument tours. Simply the end of GWU.

I know that my Gworld card will be deactivated and I will no longer be a resident of Philip Amsterdam hall, but the memories and friends I made here will forever be part of me.

From the Italian pasta party to the Korean birthday parties, to the amazing Latino music; we became a family. Never will I forget the feeling of sitting in a room hearing over 7 different languages at the same time and learning about everyone’s different cultures.

These 80 students have not just been friends but more of a family to me. We learned to face culture shock together, to accept everyone’s differences and by the end of the semester we had shared secrets, laughs, and tears. We become a family.

Going back home no matter what stories I share or what pictures I show to my friends and family, nobody will understand or know what I went through expect for my new family. We shared it together, went through it together, and now we only have pictures, blogs and our memories to remember those great days. I am certain though that we will meet up again, because as I said they are not just friends, but a second family.

While the experience may be over for most exchange student as they pack their bags and journey throughout the US or head back home, they have all said their goodbyes. However as for me I am traveling to Florida with a few exchange students and I’m back to DC for a whole new challenge. I managed to land an internship with the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and will be staying in DC till end of June. Not able to stay in Foggy Bottom without my exchange students, I have decided to move out of the dorms and stay in Tennlytown.

A whole new challenge, an experience I’m ready for, I’m ready to enter the real world. Goodbye GWU, thanks for having us I will still be around, but this time call me a GWU Alumni.

By kyuyoun0702

Our trip to NY was impromptu. My friend and I just talked about going to a ‘trip’ somewhere, but we never actually took action. Our lives were so busy with heavy workload and exhausting schedules. Our desire for an ‘escape-from-reality’ grew to the extent that our lazy selves were able to put together a trip plan. We thought spring break would be an excellent time for us to go to a trip, and would also be the only time our trip would work out. A week before our departure, we got a megabus ticket for ourselves and were set to go.

But the problem was that purchasing megabits tickets were all that we did. We didn’t do anything afterwards. Expensive hotel prices demotivated us to reserve a room, and we kept on saying “later, later.” But “later” came pretty soon, much sooner than expected. Hotel prices soared up high, and we had no choice but to go to a spa to spend a night. Spa was not that cheap either; it was about $42 a person, which would almost afford us a decent steak. However, almost everything in New York was overpriced. But we didn’t have any option! “When in New York, do as the New Yorkers do.”
We weren’t tired at all Even after the lengthy five hours bus ride. After we got off the bus, we lifted our heads and counted how many buildings were just in front of us. Because we’ve been in D.C. for pretty long time, we couldn’t believe we were in NY. Skyscrapers were everywhere, and the streets were overcrowded with people. There were all kinds of people with different ethnicities, fashion, hairstyle etc. Even though this is my fourth time in NY, the special atmosphere in NY always felt new to me.
After we quickly finished our lunch at Korean Town, We went from one shop to another just like grasshoppers in order to hunt for good deals. I got one sweater from UNIQLO and an eco-bag (which used to cost $29 but then $5). Time flew as we shopped and it was already getting dark. Figuring out that the distance between our current location and Times Square was pretty walkable, we decided to walk to Times Square while observing the street musicians, artists and even the photo-rip-offs (There happens to be people dressed up as popular characters like Winnie the Pooh, Micky Mouse etc. They abruptly pose with us when we take pictures, and ask for money.)
Times Square was beautiful as always. Even though the place was such a brouhaha, we still managed to take pictures with a decent background.
(photo 1)
The reason that we look so red is that the commercial up on the screen was mainly red. Our photo quality really depends on what commercial they are showing hahaha.
We also went to the Brooklyn Bridge, the much renowned photo spot. The weather was not that great, I think the scenery itself matches well with the gloomy weather, doesn’t it?
(photo 2)
My experience up on the Brooklyn Bridge was SO AMAZING. NYC during the night is so beautiful that all of its other flaws could be neglected (The bridge is totally unreconstructed. I was so scared I would fall off but oh well).
(photo 3)
My trip to New York was short, but it made me realize how different US could be depending on the states. Even though Korea does have distinct characteristics depending on the district, I could find a lot of similarities with my own, Seoul. However, NY was nothing like DC. The color of the city, buildings, the people - there were almost no commonality except the fact that they spoke English. I truly admire how the central government operates well enough to gather the interests of these different states and maintain its status as one country.

By kyuyoun0702

The first thing I saw on the news today was 21-years-old college student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea. All he did was taking off the poster with political slogan on it, and attempting to bring it back to United States. One of the interns sitting next to me said “Bleh, I did it all the time when I was little.” This is an unbelievable incident for such trivial issue. I believe North Korea overacted a bit in response to the harshening relationship between itself and the international community. Are they going to use this as a threat to United States? If so, I am pretty sure its not gonna work.
Korean public's response to this issue were as following:
“United States is going to do something about it.”
“Why did he go there from the first place?”
“I wonder how it would feel to be released at 36 years old”
First, I disagree that United States would do something about it. It decided to  take an unforgiving policy against North Korea, including the sanctions that recently passed in United Nations with the help of China. The vote for the sanction was unanimous in the Senate, which shows that United States is determined to pursue this policy. Arrest of one American student wouldn’t make much difference, and even if they try to rescue him, it wouldn’t compromise with North Korea beyond this single issue.
Secondly, I felt the exact same thing too. The world is such a beautiful place as it is composed of many countries with distinct characteristics and colorful cultures. There are so many places to visit that it would take a lifetime to travel all of them. But out of those countries, the choice he made was North Korea, and the outcome of his choice was more than unfortunate. I wondered how he even got there, but apparently, he was able to visit North Korea through a travel agency in China. This means he did put a lot of effort into his trip, and that he was expecting something out of it, which turned out to be hard labor!
Lastly, I felt the same thing too. During his press conference, he couldn’t resist his emotion and cried like a baby. He couldn’t walk properly because the reality was so harsh to be accepted. He said he needed to take care of his siblings, and that he can’t be detained in North Korea for them. He asked for pardon as he is a human being who can make a mistake. I certainly do agree with him. He is young and curious, and even though his action turned out to be acceptable by the people in North Korea, they could’ve just considered this as a mere mistake. Would he have enough courage to start over his life from 36 years old? Are all his young days going to evaporate at an unfamiliar, alian country?
Joon Oh, an UN Ambassador from South Korea recently made an impressive statement in United Nations. In his impromptu speech, Mr. Oh, in Korean, said “As an individual with the same racial root, I urge you to stop what you’re doing.” It is time for North Korea to take another diplomatic strategy for itself, as the future ahead is pretty dark in front of them.
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