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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.

By kyuyoun0702

As there are continuous waves of earthquakes these days, I would like to recount my experience during the earthquake of 2011 in Japan.

I have a confession to make. The particular view I hold on certain people or objects literally last forever. One of the strongest and the most negative bias I had was towards the Japanese people. It is not because of the sad history that Korea and Japan went through few decades ago; I just simply disliked them. The smile that prevails through my chubby face was actually upside down when I was living in Japan. I always complained that I had to live with the human species that I disliked the most, and blamed my father for being in Japan to work. However, my bias towards Japanese people was totally reversed when I experienced the world’s biggest earthquake, Tohoku Earthquake. No clue had I ever had at that moment that this life-threatening earthquake would also shake my life up and down.

The primary reason to my negative view towards Japanese people is their appearances. Their eyes are matt black that I can’t perceive anything out of it, and their mouth draws a straight line without any sign of emotion. On my way to school, the busy pedestrians looked down and avoided any eye contact as if they had something to hide. Once, I conducted my own experiment to see how they would react if I were to smile at them. The reaction was as boring as they themselves were. They just simply stared at me, and some of them made a face that said ‘Are you crazy?’ However, within few seconds, all of them walked by with their own robotic posture as if nothing had happened. When I arrived at school, my first period Japanese teacher greeted me with mechanic, monotone voice that was far from euphonious. His inhumanly stable voice blocked the students from guessing what mood he was in that particular day. From their physical traits, I came up with a hasty conclusion that they were heartless robots, and restrained interaction as much as possible.

March 11th of year 2011 was just an ordinary day. Even though winter’s harshness hadn’t completely gone away, the delicate scent of flower permeated through the air as if it was foreshadowing spring’s arrival. I clearly recall that I had an English presentation that day. I also remember that my presentation had left my English teacher’s mouth agape with confusion with frowns that came afterwards which made her wrinkles thicken and double in number. Her expression was so memorable in a way that it is so deeply engraved in my mind. This was due all to my adventurous mind to start making the slides at 4AM. Therefore, due to my complete lack of sleep, I was yearning for the end of the school hour. Since pass or fail choir was my last class at school, I completely relaxed, and let the atmosphere absorb my body. My mind had already gotten on the train back to home, and my body just had to follow along after this class. However, since I am a dedicated student, I moved my mouth up and down show the minimal effort.

While I was constantly moving my mouth at the state of complete relaxation, my friend suddenly muttered “I feel something” I, too lazy to even respond, pretended I couldn’t hear her. Then, she tapped my shoulder and said “Don’t you feel it?” I answered “No, do you?” and she said “Yes, it’s getting bigger.” Out of blue, students around me started to mumble and question what was going on. The meager trembling became bigger and bigger that I, the numbest person on earth, could even feel its growing amplitude. Then, it went to the point where the whole earth began to shake fiercely. The euphonious harmony of our choir abruptly transformed to shrieks as the ruthless trembling reached its climax. It was as if the chapel floor was on its anger catharsis. The floor roared like a hungry beast and furiously moved back and forth as if it was searching for its prey. The trembling was so intense that this was the first time I actually thought I might die. The violent trembling made me kneel down to along with the floor’s fury. The hands that supported my entire body from kissing the floor weren’t stable enough to help me stand up. The artworks in our school chapel fell helplessly, and the generous face of Jesus tilted as if He was wondering what was going on. Everyone was frozen in place, paralyzed with fear. As the entire floor continued on with its cruel dance, several people screamed their supposed-to-be last prayers. Some people collapsed and embraced their heads with shaky hands. I, unsure of what to do and how to react to such situation, just stood there, unable to move. My mind was completely blank and colorless. Unable to process my thoughts, I just kept on asking myself “What’s going on?” This earthquake ceased within few minutes, while a normal earthquake only lasts for few seconds, and the screaming became less frequent as time passed.

When the overall atmosphere seemed to be sedated, the principle gave a concise announcement about what to do. First of all, we had to gather our belongings to leave the main building in case of possible earthquakes. Secondly, we all had to swiftly move to the gym to prepare ourselves for the night. All the trains and subways had stopped, and long-awaited buses never arrived at the station. However, the school decided that it didn’t want the students to spend the night in the gym. It almost forcefully ordered the students to find the place to stay. Fortunately, I had a friend who lived about five minutes away from school. She kindly offered me a place to stay. Even though I yearned to stay with my younger siblings, they were taken to their homeroom teachers’ house for better protection. After I made sure that they were receiving decent protection, my friend and I headed to her house.

Five minutes felt like five years while I was walking to her house. Even though it was already March, arrogant coldness engulfed our helpless selves without any mercy. The sharp howling of the wind sung its own melody as if it was scorning our grief. The knives of coldness attacked every single part of our body, and we reacted like helpless infants. The abysmal situation got even worse when my friend groped her pocket for her key and quietly muttered “I think I left it at my home.”

Therefore, we had no other choice than to shiver with cold on the apartment’s hallway. By then, we were joking and talking about how we could be the first victims of apocalypse and become famous. However, my mother who had continuously taken contacts with me through Kakaotalk suddenly called me. I took the call without much thought, but my mother’s voice was trembling so much that I could barely hear her. After several attempts, I could hear her mumbling “KyuYoun…I didn’t tell you about this because you might have been shocked, but now I have to tell you. Your father is at the epicenter of the earthquake, and I can’t contact him.”

My brain, which had previously refused to process the situation, suddenly started to function. The reality struck me like a grandiose tsunami, and my helpless mind was swallowed by its vigor. Tears gushed out of my mind like a fountain all out of blue. The times I spent with my father since childhood that played in front of my eyes like a fast-played videotape. I immediately hung on, and called my father. My attempt was futile; no matter how much I pressed the dial button, only the recorded voice of the phone-company lady answered me. Bunch of thoughts mingled inside my head. ‘What should I do? Why is this disaster happening to me? Will I ever meet my father again?’ My tears didn’t stop, and I wailed louder and louder as time passed. My friend didn’t know what to do, and tears started to fall on her cheek as well.

After an hour since we arrived at the apartment, this tall man who looked as if he was a college student, came out of his house which was right next next doors. The mustache was a bit unshaved, and his hair was so messy it seemed as if he had just woken up. His eyes were matt black as those of other Japanese people were, but I saw it waver a little bit when he saw us. His eyes encompassed the feeling of confusion and pity, and I was actually surprised that such emotion could be shown from the eyes of a Japanese person. However, within few seconds, he ignored us and got on the elevator. His complete disinterest in us made me think what I sensed was a delusion. I thought ‘Right, there’s no way he would ever feel anything for us.’

Time passed by as if every second was a year. I slowly decided to give up on my life. All the dreams I had, all the hopes I held on to, and all the things I had yearned for after graduation. Ordinary life never seemed to come back to me after this disastrous incident. While I was on the verge of complete despondency, a suspicious shadow approached us. Putting on our guards, we looked up to see who the stranger was. When we saw the man’s face, we both sensed the warmth on his face even though he was expressionless like typical Japanese people. Without a word, he handed each of us hot drinks and warm meals. While we were astonished with our mouth agape, he went into to his house.

I regretted that fact that I couldn’t say a word of appreciation. Few months later, I visited my friend’s apartment to look for him, but when we went, he had already moved. I blamed my friend for not paying attention to her neighbors, but she kept on arguing that nobody else noticed that he moved. This unknown man whose face is slowly fading from my memory is nowhere to be found anymore, and I feel a deep grief about this fact.

As a Korean living in Japan, I’ve always considered myself a foreigner. Even though I got along considerably well with my Japanese surroundings, I always unconsciously separated myself from them. The invisible wall I built prevented me from fully considering myself as part of the society. However, the warmth I felt from this man’s hands simply melted down the cold barrier that blocked myself from Japanese people. The bias I had that they are innately ‘hypocrites’ and the belief I had that Japanese people would only care about themselves in case of emergency evaporated all together as well. The disastrous Tohoku earthquake was not merely a physical one; the bigger earthquake took place in my heart, in my mind, as a positive one.

By sophieheard

Despite Easter not being a national holiday in America we still made the most of the weekend and celebrated with food, friends and family! A friend of mine was visiting from New York so it was the perfect opportunity to explore DC whilst making the most of the holiday.

Although we have been in DC for the good part of four months there are still so many things I have yet to see and do. When friends come to visit it gives you the perfect excuse to be a tourist in your own city. So many iconic and historical sights are situated around one area and one of the best ways to see the sights is by bike. City bikes are available all over the city and for $8 you get a 24-hour pass (although, make sure you check in every 30 mins else you will be charged an extra $2 every hour). We rented our bikes at the National Mall, checked out the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. We looped around the Tidal Basin, passed the FDR Memorial and ended up at the Jefferson Memorial.

Along with the bikes, we rented paddle boats and spent the afternoon chilling in the middle of the Tidal Basin, soaking up the sun. For only $20 you get an hour in one of the paddle boats (although, it is more if you want the electric swan!) It is definitely worth doing as it gives you stunning views of the Jefferson and the MLK Monument. Make sure you avoid weekends as you will be queuing for around an hour!

On Easter Sunday we were invited to a proper American Easter dinner. We headed up to Columbia, Maryland to a quiet suburban neighbourhood for a feast! It was our first time experiencing a true American home and it did not disappoint! After being away from home for awhile it was nice to spend some time in a familial setting.

By audrey

I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper's Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour's drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park's map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you're an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather - I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn't do it justice. Here are some pictures from the day trip:

[Insert pictures]

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

By minhsuanchen

    Time really flies! I could not believe that my semester here is about to end and I did not notice that I have already uploaded so many blog posts during my time in GWU. Although I felt terribly anxious and indecisive before coming here, I felt glad that I made the right choice to apply for the exchange student program and brave myself by getting out of my comfort zone. During this journey, I learned a lot of things, met new friends, and went traveling to different places in the United States. Comparing to all those great experience and memories I got here, the efforts and hard works that I have made to come here were nothing at all.

    In the first few weeks, I could not get used to many things like people’s accents, academic environment, cultural differences, and so on. However, with time passing, I have made a great progress. As an English major, I feel satisfied that I have the opportunity to come here because my English does improve a lot while I am immersed in the whole English environment. Also, D.C is a great place for me to acquire more knowledge about American culture and history because there are a wide array of museums and galleries which allow me to visit in my free time. The convenient public transportation including the metro and bus is one of the things that I appreciate the most, for they allow me to get to any place in a short time easily.

      There are still so many things that I can share, but I guess I could only put them in my heart and do my best to share my stories with others in my home university and recommend GWU to those who want to apply for the exchange student program in the future. I am grateful that GWU provides me such a precious chance to study for a semester here and I really love D.C. I believe this short journey has already become one of the most unique experience in my life that I will never forget. I hope I can come back soon!

By audrey

Going to a college in the United States meant exposure to a wide range of co-curricular activities, such as playing sports or representing the school in the performing arts. What is unique about the American system is the existence of greek life - it comprises of fraternities for guys and sororities for the ladies. Generally, membership in a fraternity or sorority is obtained while an undergraduate student but continues, thereafter, for life. Some of these organizations can accept graduate students as well as undergraduates, per constitutional provisions. My first exposure to greek life came at the beginning of the semester, during the spring club fairs which were seeking new members. Among them, there were several greek organizations that were tabling in the hall.

 

I soon learnt there were several stages that one must undergo in order to gain full membership ie. become a brother or a sister.

  1. Rushing
    “Rushing” is when students become acquainted with the different fraternities or sororities on campus, and the process can range from very formal and structured to informal and casual. Rushing for sororities tend to be more formal, with different themes and requirements for each day. Rush events can include casual informational sessions, where potential recruits have their first interactions with those who are already members and to get a feel of what that particular greek organisation is like. Immediately following rush, members will extend a bid to successful rush-ees.
  2. Pledging
    Once a new member accepts the bid, he or she then becomes a pledge and enters the pledging process. It usually involves learning about the history of the organization, the history of the chapter, the current members, and team building/bonding among the class of new pledges through social and fundraising events. While the length of time differs for every organization, pledging usually lasts for 5 to 8 weeks in the semester before pledges are officially initiated as brothers or sisters.

Why rush a greek organisation? People do it for different reasons - networking forms a huge part of why people rush. Joining a greek organisation is a great way to widen your social network and this could help you in the future. Also, when you join a fraternity, there are many leadership opportunities within the organization to be filled - this is great if you're looking for a leadership position.

I definitely encourage those who go to school outside of the States to attend the rush events - even if you have no intention of joining. It's a great way to meet like-minded people and expand your network on campus. As an incoming exchange student, your chances of getting a bid might be lower, but it never hurts to try!

By sarajebbar

They said that life can always hide you surprises for the future. And this weekend, I got to meet my American friend that I never thought I’ll meet again. We were roommates in Morocco when she was doing her summer abroad in my university two years ago. But this weekend, we finally had the chance to meet in the US after such a long time. I went to Atlanta to visit her and her family and to get to see a different part of America which is the south.

The Atlanta airport is one of the biggest ones in the US so the flight was affordable from Washington DC. I really loved my trip there. First, I got to see my friend and spend some quality time with her family. And since she had Indian origins, I had some really great homemade Indian food. It was really great to share some moments with a family in the US and it just reminded me of home and how it’s like to be with your family.

The city was also really nice. The best part of it was Georgia Aquarium. It’s one of the largest aquariums in the world and the largest one in the US. It was really fascinating to see all these types of sea creatures that I’ve never seen before. And the dolphins and sea lions shows were really amusing and worth the whole aquarium entry ticket. Atlanta is also home of the headquarters of Coca Cola, CNN, Delta. So, it was one of the touristy attractions to go and take picture with all the logos and signs of this big multinational companies.

Since Atlanta is located in the south of America, I noticed how different is the south from the north like New York or Washington DC. People there were more open and engage into conversations more in the streets and public places. I also realized that they are slower in their relations and transactions. It just reminded me of my country Morocco. I was always used to a slow pace of life where everyone tend to smile more and talk more. It was really amazing to see how the US as a country in itself is different from a state to another and that’s why I really enjoy travelling because it opens my eyes to many new things and make me discover the different aspects of this country.

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