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By: Daniel Ray

Greetings from DC!

My name’s Daniel Ray and I’ll be blogging during the Spring Semester 2020. A few things about me: I’m studying towards a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in English and Gender Studies) at the Australian National University, located in Canberra (Australia’s capital). I live just outside Canberra’s border in New South Wales. I already miss my golden retriever, the sound of wind in eucalypts, gumnuts popping against my bedroom window and the metallic caw of Glossy Blacks and the proud fire-headed Gang-gang Cockatoos. But I’m excited for a semester of creative writing and reading in vibrant DC.

I hope to write honest accounts of my time here at GW.

See you in a few weeks!

—Daniel

By: HyunSoo Lee

I cannot exaggerate how much I am excited for this semester at GW! My name is Hyunsoo Lee. I come from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and this is my second and last semester in D.C. To be honest, it took me the whole semester to adapt to life at GW. Speaking English all the time was the most difficult part; I had to deal with my poor cooking skills, which, thank god, is improving now. Being away from my family and friends for a long time was definitely a big problem, too. In fact, the chill-out life that I had expected for my exchange life turned about to be a huge challenge for me!

But why am I still so excited? I would have to say that the fact that I joined Balance, the GW dance team, thrills me the most. I used to do ballet almost every day until middle school, but I had to give it up because I had to focus on studying in crazy Korean education system. After entering university, I am trying to dance again as much as I can. And I know dancing in Balance would be an experience that I would never have again; I am excited to try out different approaches to dancing and to perform ballet and contemporary dance here in America!

The courses that I’m taking this semester are exciting, too. I am still in the process of narrowing down what I want to do in the future, but I am interested in urban policies at the moment. So I’m currently taking courses related to policy making in different fields and from diverse perspectives; for example, one of my favorite courses is Gender, Conflict, and Security, where I can learn about the role of gender in policy making process. Also, State and Urban Policy is a course that I am enjoying very much, where I’m learning about the U.S. system of policy making in state and local levels. At the same time, I am also taking Design Fundamentals, just because I wanted to learn how to design and use Adobe programs. I am trying to give myself chances to learn different things and find out what I really want to do, here at GW.

Last but not least, meeting new exchange students this semester is so much fun, while at the same time, I am already so thankful for the friends that I made last semester. I am becoming friends with people from so many different countries that I would never have met if it weren’t for this exchange experience. Getting to know how much alike we are and how much we can love each other despite the differences of the places we come from is amazing.

My English is still not perfect; nor is my cooking skill. I still miss my family and friends A LOT. But I am certain that this semester at GW will make me grow and become a part of me that I will always want to remember.

By: Muzna Hatmi

Some of you may have seen my insta-takeover in New York City a couple of weeks ago {lucky for you because I happened to have saved everything in the highlights section (along with every other cool thing ever), so if you’re as obsessed with NYC as me, you know where to go!}. I’m just here to say that I’m still not over it.

So, one of the many times I thanked being in DC also happened to be on the bus to New York City, as soon as my eyes witnessed the glorious skyline, I knew dreams were coming true. I have been wanting to visit NYC for as long as I can remember, and even though I’ve been to the US a few times before, I never had the chance to visit the big apple (and here I can tell you I’ve been to the Niagara Falls, so please go call my parents and ask them what they were thinking). Anyway, what matters now is that I can finally say I have been to NYC, and that too on my semester abroad (because that also just sounds cooler).

I remember googling and searching through the entire internet for the top things to do in the city for a weekend, which I will break down here so that if you happen to study abroad at GW and want to visit New York, this blog post can be your go to.

If you’re a train kinda gal/guy, way to go, but I preferred taking a bus because it was cheaper/fit the student budget and more convenient. There are quite a few options for the bus, if you’re European you’re probably familiar with the good old Flixbus, but I wanted to experience being in America (just kidding), so I booked Vamoos – pretty much Flixbus with a new name. so, no difference there.

Bus departed around 10AM from Rosslyn, and I was officially a tourist in NYC by 2PM, and I say that because I was lost in the metro station.

We booked Moxy Hotels in downtown, which is the student version of Marriot hotels, but I also know other people who booked months in advance to get cheaper Airbnb’s.

Now that the essentials are out of the way, I will list the top student-budget-friendly things to do in NYC in a short period of time (unless well you know, you move there, and all your dreams come true. In that case, don’t forget me).

 

BROADWAY!!

Yes. I. watched. Broadway. In. New. York. City. And. I. Am. Screaming. #Goals. So, the trick to be able to afford Broadway tickets on a student budget is to not purchase them on the official website. Instead, get them last minute. The only downside is that you can’t really choose the seating location, but in my opinion all seating options are great and worth the discount. I watched Aladdin and I can tell you I cried.  It was magical.

 

Bryant Park Holiday Market

The Bryant Park holiday market was a cute little Christmas market with an ice ring and free ice skating (as long as you brought your own skates)! So, if you’re going around winter time, don’t miss the festive vibes with many food stalls and local shops. The good thing is that Bryant Park is also close to Times Square, so it’s a perfect opportunity to take a little break from all crowd. A perfect place to enjoy the city without spending too much.

 

MOMA

The Museum of Modern Art was recently reopened after a $450 million renovation! I was lucky enough to catch the Uniqlo Friday Night, which is a free entry into MOMA. All you have to do is get in line around 6PM on a Friday night, and your ticket is sponsored by Uniqlo! The lines can be really long, but they keep moving fast. Bonus: You may even get a small Uniqlo voucher to shop at the gigantic Uniqlo store just across the street. The only downside is that the museum can get really crowded, even after all the expansion. And I can tell you, the new MOMA looks great!

 

Brooklyn Bridge

A journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan on foot! Yes, walk down the picturesque bridge and catch some stunning views of the city (along with stunning insta-photos, obviously). I recommend walking towards the Manhattan direction to really take in the breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. The Brooklyn side just doesn’t do the bridge enough justice in my opinion.

 

Chinatown

Two words: cheap food.

And oh, SO Good!

 

 

By: Patrick Horstmeier

Day 124

My first semester in the United States is coming to an end. There wasn't a weekend where I got bored, not an evening where I didn't know what to do with my time. I have fuelled my mind with cultural and artistic excursions since I arrived here. And yet I still have so many streets to discover, museums to visit and events to attend. DC is still far from having told me all its secrets...

 

Day 126

Here is the last day of school of the semester. I will only see the faces with whom I shared these 4 months of classes occasionally now. In addition to a new culture and new academic knowledge I discovered new friends during this semester. I still have one more left in Washington, but some students will no longer be in DC in a few weeks. I look forward to being on vacation to enjoy these last few days with these new friends!

 

Day 127

The first snowflakes fell today. I look forward to seeing the city of DC dressed in its white dress... I can' t wait to wrap myself in a scarf and walk the national mall in winter boots while the rest of the DC residents lock themselves in their warm homes. I'll send you pictures of the city in white shades...

 

Day 130

I couldn't have imagined more fulfilling end-of-semester exams: last night, the university invited us to the "Midnight breakfast". We all gathered to relax over a nightly breakfast on campus between two papers and exams. This semester, all my courses are assessed by papers rather than on-campus exams. I am therefore spending this week writing speeches, government reports, recaps of socio-political experiences and philosophical essays. The rain knocks at my window, the smell of my black coffee perfumes the room and my neurons ignite around these subjects that fascinate me... This is also what the end-of-semester exams are about: reviewing what I have learned during this semester.

 

Day 133

Now that the semester is coming to an end, I think of the next one with enthusiasm. The various GWU buildings are now part of my daily life. The monumental Eliott School, the countless corridors of the Gelman Library, the intimate philosophy department, the geeky Tompkins Hall: I find each of these departments charming in their own way. Although I have got to know the campus, I still don't blend in: My accent doesn't go unnoticed. I smiled today when a bus driver replied "Hello" to my "Good morneenguh". Now it is time to take advantage of the Christmas holidays to continue exploring, reading and celebrating the Christmas and New Year festivities. One thing is for sure: I still have a lot to discover and I will spend long evenings telling you about the surprises and discoveries of my time here when I return this summer. I'm thinking of you on the other side of the Atlantic. As you read these lines, I will continue to "Raise High"....

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...

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