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By zelenkal

Everybody must have noticed that Gelman has become the busiest place on campus. The reason is simple – midterm exams are close and students are submitting a lot of papers these days. For most of us, classes involve more than just the lively discussions we have been having during the first weeks of the semester. It has become quite a stressful period of time. However, even in light of this information, I can still praise the classes and the learning environment generally.

I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to all the professors at George Washington University. All of the them are willing to help anytime and are never annoyed or bothered by our questions. In contrast to my home university, they all want to make sure we are doing our best, are curious about our work, and interested in its progress. Taking courses from two different departments – English and Woman Studies – showed me that it is the University code, not the departmental one.

Quite a new experience for me is having teaching assistants in our classes. Again, I think it is a great idea. They are mostly PhD students, therefore one is less intimidated to approach them. Moreover, it makes professors more relaxed since the assistants are very helpful to them as well. Mostly it means that the professors do not have to worry about some technical issues, and thus can fully concentrate on the class and discussions.

Outside of class it is crucial to find a good spot for studying. The above mentioned Gelman library, located just two blocks from my residence hall, is certainly very helpful, mostly because it is open 24 hours a day all week long. Starbucks (“Gelbucks” in the campus slang) situated right next door is open all day long as well; one can certainly use a cup of joe, when finishing a paper the night before it is due (unfortunately, I know what I am talking about). Other than the hours, Gelman's main advantage is the possibility to reserve a small study room for yourself and your friends in advance. This is what I have found very useful. You are not disturbed by others and at the same time you don't have to be afraid of disturbing them, when talking to your friends. When encountering any troubles, you can always talk to a person in charge, most of them are very nice and willing to help despite the late hours. After spending a night in Gelman writing a paper, I recommend printing it right there in the library, so that a tangible proof of your accomplishment is in your hands and makes stepping out to the empty street awaiting the sunrise more pleasant.

I believe I am not the only one who is counting the days to Spring Break. This has been a couple of stressful days and some more are to come. However, when finishing the work and having it marked, you can tell the effort pays. But I guess that this is quite a universal aspect of studying.

By amrawi

February 22nd marks a very important day in my history book, it is not only the birthday of the 1st president of the United States, but it is the first time that I laid eye on what the Americans call “s’mores”.bonfire

Gathering around a bonfire, in honor of Mr. President, I was handed a s’mores pack that come with no instructions. However with a stick, one marshmallow, two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate there really was no instruction needed. Observing the people around me, I began toasting my marshmallows and then unwrapping a piece of Hershey chocolate and putting it all in between the two graham crackers. However, my first attempt at making s’mores was not so successful, a little birdie forgot to tell me that I was supposed to use the two graham cracker to pull the marshmallows out, instead of trying to do that with my own hands. So yeah, quite messy, but it was honestly delicious! Definitely going to load up on graham cracker as I’m leaving so I can make some in Egypt. After the excitement over the s’mores dozed off, we were now ready for the apple cider.













Again a totally new drink for me, apple cider is what the Americans and Canadians call a warm unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverage made from apples. I was not a big fan of that drink myself; it was a bit too sour for my liking. After the drinks and s’mores it was time for Mr. President’s birthday cake! A scrumptious vanilla cake with vanilla flavored icing and the words “Happy Birthday George Washington” written on the top, was devoured within minutes. After the food was done, the “Freemason” group at GW performed a small chant. I was a little confused. What happened to singing to big G? What happened to blowing out the candles? So I was left singing the words to Happy Birthday to our 281-year-old president in my head. I guess because it was beginning to rain outside they had to cut the celebrations short, and unfortunately we missed out on the pie eating contest.

Well whether rain or shine, we were still able to celebrate George Washington’s birthday! S’mores you sure did earn a spot on my favorite desserts list here in the US!

By claudiadev

One aspect of America that has always been clear to me, but emphasized since I’ve been in DC, is the pride it has in it’s past. No more so than the pride it has in it’s Founding Fathers and the documents they wrote that set the course for the country the United States has become.

On Friday it was George Washington’s 281st Birthday, and to celebrate the day GWU had organized a free trip to his Mt. Vernon estate and gardens on the Potomac River, around 40 minutes from campus. 40 or so years after General Washington passed away, the Washington family went to Congress, asking them to buy the property, as the family could not maintain it. Congress refused, but the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association was formed by a group of women who saw the need to preserve General Washington’s home and to this day they own and manage the Estate. Over 80 million people have visited the Estate since 1860, when it was first opened to the public.

Washington's homestead

Mt. Vernon sits on a beautiful part of the Potomac, with the Mansion itself looking across the river to a National Park in Maryland. The Estate, including formal and informal gardens, Mansion, outbuildings, woods and farmland is kept as it would have been during Washington’s lifetime.  There was even a man in character as a gardener in the Conservatory when we were wandering the gardens! I gather in the summer there are may more people in character  around the property. Their attention to historical accuracy is so detailed that currently they are restoring the formal dining room in the mansion because they have discovered there was a slight error with the wallpaper borders they had previously. Gardens at Mount Vernon

Though the weather was a little gloomy and grey, it was lovely to wander the grounds and see a place where history was made. A guide in the Mansion told us they planned the Battle of Yorktown in the dining room currently being restored, and the banister we held as we walked up the stairs has been touched not just by Washington himself, but by other founding fathers like Jefferson and Adams.

The central activity of the afternoon at Mt. Vernon was at his Tomb, adjacent to the unmarked graves of the slaves who worked there, and the more recent plaque acknowledging those graves, in the middle of some of the woodland. GW students were able to participate in a special "wreath laying ceremony," in commemoration of General Washington’s birth, life, and death. As well as an introduction by an Assistant Curator there (a GW alumni too), we had students read the pledge of allegiance, and General Washington’s prayer and a member of the GW faculty lay the wreath within the Tomb.

It was a peaceful moment, along the banks of the Potomac River, remembering a man who died so long ago, whose legacy lives on not just in the story of GWU, or of DC, but in the story of America more generally.

After the bus trip home, I made a quick visit to the Bonfire at U-Yard in commemoration of George Washington and had my first S’more, which was a delicious end to a lovely day.


By amrawi

What was supposed to be a college road trip to Boston, soon ended up in an under-snow mission against “ finding nemo”. With the new blizzard called “Nemo” cornering in on New England, we had to put on hold our various plans of duck tours, boat cruises and walks down the freedom

Having booked our trip over a month ago, we were determined to make the most of it. With an eight-hour train ride and a diverse group of exchange students we were ready for whatever “Nemo” had in store for us. Of course I was a little too excited and didn’t understand why everyone was worried about the snow. But little did I know. Nemo you are lost, I don’t even see you. With the sun shining bright, and whole day of sightseeing ahead of us, we were very excited to see this college town. Chowder

The first stop out of the train, was to head to the Quincy Market; the first open market in America. It was absolutely lovely; with different food options and deserts, the nine of us were running around each point at a different food stations. Well can you blame us? After an 8 hour train ride, I bet you would be hungry too? After observing the locals all enjoying seafood soup and shrimp flavored bread, I decided to settle for nothing less than “Boston Chowda”; voted Bostons' best clam chowder for 2 years in a row. And after enjoying the Calm chowder, I would definitely give it my vote! Absolutely amazing, and this coming from a Middle Eastern girl who her family is obsessed with seafood, you bet it was tasty!

After spending a little too much time there we then decided to take a trip down little Italy. Wicannolith the three Italians traveling with us, they kept reminiscing at the various Italian deserts and coffee offered down this street. “OMG! Cannolini, that’s the national desert of Naples, Italy” yelled Dilletta, an exchange student from Italy. This waffle crusted chocolate chip roll was something I had never had before. Very crispy and really hard to eat! After little Italy we decided to rest a bit and then go have a nice early dinner at Mother Anne’s, so that we were ready for our long day tomorrow.


Okay Nemo I think we are close.  A little bit colder, and more layers to add on, Harvard make room for us we are coming in! With loud noises and excitement we stepped into what is known as one of the best universities in the world.  “4.5 GPA, 2200 SAT score and president of the Chess club, that’s how I got In” explained Jordan, a freshman at Harvard. So I guess that’s what it takes to get in Harvard! Anyone make the list? Honestly it was a beautiful campus but it was just missing something, to me it seemed pretty haunted.  If there is one thing you have to do at Harvard apart from talking to the genius students, it’s to rub the left foot of John Harvard; the founder of the university. It has been said that with a little rub, good luck would be coming your way.  Harvard2

With a trip down Harvard square, and mingling with the students in hopes of getting a little smarter, we were now off to do some shopping! Newbury street, our new favorite shopping destinations. With endless amounts of stores and restaurants it literally took us the rest of the day before we were ready for dinner. While waiting two hours to get seated at Joe’s American Grill (one of the best restaurants in town), a 35 percent off definitely put a smile on our faces as we left this delicious restaurant!

Nemo. We found you.  Snow, snow and snow. I know now why Americans dread the snow. I understand, I really do. With heavy winds and snow smacking our face, it truly was not a pleasant feeling in the morning. The wind was so strong that we kept losing our balance.  “I am Mediterranean! I am not made for this kind of weather” yelled Dina, an exchange student from Egypt. Our third day pretty much consisted of us trying to ease our way across the dense snow and winds and trying to keep warm. Adding the rest of the layers didn’t help, with -9 degrees Celsius, nothing was going to help. Thank you Nemo for not letting us go on the duck tour or go to the freedom trail. Payback will be soon.snowsnow2

At last we were back to DC, now when 1 degrees Celsius seems “warm”, then you can imagine what Nemo was all about. Despite Nemo and the coldness it was great seeing Boston and be able to see the difference between a college city and densely political state.

By zelenkal

In the last week I've had my first visitor here, which gave me a chance to play a tour guide in Washington for the first time. There were still a couple of things I myself got to try for the first time. After seeing the monuments in DC at night, during which I was amazed once again, we went to the The Kennedy Center. It has both a national and an international side to it – when entering you will either step into the Hall of States, the ceiling of which is bordered with the flags of all the American States, or the Hall of Nations, parallel to the first Hall, bordered with flags of other countries.

Hall of Nations
Hall of Nations

Apart from the wonderful view from the terrace, The Kennedy Center offers a truly remarkable interior, including the bronze JFK Bust, according to the website designed and created by Robert Berks. This sculpture is a worthy memorial to the 35th president accompanied by an exhibit devoted to this important figure as well.

The following events are very likely to be far less profound – I am going to talk about food. I had the opportunity to have the very first cupcake in my life (I know, it is shocking, how could I live before!) in one of the lovely Georgetown bakeries.Cupcakes My choice was Chocolate Cupcake of Doom, which is actually quite a fitting description. However, that was not the end of all the treats. After cupcakes we decided to taste a frozen yogurt. Again, this was the first time I have ever had a legendary froyo in my life and it was worth it.

The following day our tour changed its sweet character – we went for half-smokes to Ben's Chili Bowl. Having known the history behind it certainly made me appreciate the place more, however, it would have been quite an experience even without it. I enjoyed the mural painting outside as well as the witty saying that Bill Cosby and President Obama (including his family) exclusively eat for free. 2002-12-08 12.00.00-5-7The place certainly lives up to its fame and everybody seems to respect and enjoy its tradition. I guess people even enjoy the famous half-smokes, which is sort of impossible for a person, who barely eats meat (even finishing it was an accomplishment and I did my best to pay honor to Ben's Chili Bowl).

Another thing I have come to appreciate about US – donuts. It was no surprise, having watched every single Simpsons' episode I was looking forward to this. America sure runs on Dunkin'. And if not on Dunkin', then on Krispy Kreme. Personally, I prefer Dunkin' to Krispy Kreme, probably because Dunkin' is located just around the corner in the Ivory Tower food court, and because they offer a pumpkin latte, a really exotic coffee for me. Well, I am certainly enjoying the unhealthy food here.Krispy Kreme

Overall, having walked around Washington sights again, feeling more familiar with the place, I have to say, there is a lot more it has to offer then the renowned places. Moreover, there is a lot more even to the legendary places. And most importantly, there is something special in the fact that one is able to walk around these places whenever one wants. We are more than tourists now, we are coming back to places we have already gotten used to and it sure feels great.

By claudiadev

One of the big differences I've noticed since being in America is the language barrier. Not the same barrier the other exchange students’ experience - I'm hopeless with languages and so impressed with their bilingual abilities! The language barrier I'm experiencing is the different words and terminology. To illustrate, here's a list of Australian words (and abbreviations) I say, and the American words I'm learning to say. I’ve also put the words in a conversation, just to hopefully illustrate the confusion.

Corridor/Hallway or Hall – “My friend Rhiannon lives down the Corridor.” “You mean down the hallway?”

Lift/Elevator – “Why are you catching the elevator, you live on the second floor.” “I’m not catching the elevator, I’m catching the lift…”

Ground Floor/First Floor – “The mailboxes are on the Ground Floor right?” “Uhh, they’re on the first floor?”

Bin/Trash – “Throw the leftovers in the Bin” “The bin? I was thinking of just putting them in the trash?”

Runners/Sneakers – “Let me just pull my runners on and then I’m ready for the gym.” “Okay…oh, you mean your sneakers!”

Jumper/Sweater – “I need to buy a new jumper, it’s freezing here.” “Why would a dress help” “I mean a sweater!”

Keen/Interested or excited – “I’m keen to go for Sweet Green for lunch, are you?” “Keen? Oh, you mean excited! Sure, that sounds good”

Sunnies/Sunglasses – “My sunnies have broken!”

Arvo/Afternoon – “Want to go to Bourbon for a coffee in the Arvo?” “The arvo? When’s that?”

Kilometers/Miles – “The airport is about 20 miles away.” “…how many kilometers is that?”

Grams/Ounces – “The recipe says I need 125 grams of butter…but this is in ounces…I’m going to need to Google this!”

Centimeters and Meters/Inches and Feet – “The mail box is around 15 meters away” “…and in feet that is?”

Celsius/Fahrenheit – “It’s 2 degrees outside!” “Oh my gosh that’s freezing…wait, you’re speaking in Celsius right?” ”It’s still freezing in Celsius!”

Arvo isn’t the only word I shorten. It’s become highly amusing to my roommates when they hear a new word in my laziness I’ve decided to shorten. My roommate Jesse is now Jess, and the Library is the Libs. Luckily DC and GW are full of acronyms, so my abbreviations aren’t too out of place amongst the FoBoGro and HelWel nicknames thrown around.

The other language nuance that I find amusing is the spelling. Aluminium is spelt Aluminum here, whereas I would write standardise, here it’s standardize. Not to mention the colour/color spelling discrepancy thanks to Noah Webster (of the dictionary fame). He was a proponent spelling reform, and some of his advocated changes caught on, like removing the u from –our spellings, and the aforementioned Aluminium/Aluminum difference.

Luckily, so far the different terminology and nuances of language have caused amusement rather than confusion, but it’s only a matter of time before there’s a real cultural clash!

By zelenkal

I recently experienced a true New England snow storm. You may have heard in the news that it was one of the biggest on record. Witnessing it from start to finish I truly believe it was. The snow was falling for hours and digging out took almost as long. The day before the stores were sold out of all sorts of items from food to survival gear. The evening before one could really feel the calm before the storm. Roadways were more or less empty as people braced for Nemo to arrive.snow

Much of the snow fall happened over night so we woke up to a winter wonderland. Two plus feet of snow had fallen and was continuing to cover the scene. When the snow finally finished in the mid-morning, it was time to clean up. Hours of back breaking and tedious shoveling was in store for the residents. As people were shoveling their driveways the state was doing their best to keep the roads clean, but given the amount of snow that had fallen this proved to be a monumental task. While the main roads were soon passable it was not until days later that the secondary roads were fully cleared.

Despite of all this trouble I was able to see a few historical and cultural aspects of Connecticut. When the roads became safe we ventured forth into the state capital, Hartford, the home of Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and insurance companies. Unfortunately because of the snow, we were not able to get into the houses of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the attached museum. However, we were able to see the grounds and the surrounding neighborhood. The houses provided an interesting contrast between old and new architecture, living conditions, and style.

Outside Mark Twain's house!
Outside Mark Twain's house!
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Reverse painting of George Washington at the Museum of American Art

Our travels then took us to the Museum of American Art in New Britain, a quaint city just outside the capital. Here we were forced to take a detour as the National Guard, called to Connecticut by President Obama in this state of emergency, cleared snow from bridges and major roadways. Here, we saw a number of old Victorian style houses, that have been converted into small businesses like doctors and law offices. We finally arrived at the Museum and saw a comprehensive sampling of both contemporary and older art, mainly paintings, but also some sculptures and installation pieces. There were two highlighted exhibits: Chasing Moby Dick, a series of works in various mediums portraying Melville's epic, and works by Toulouse-Lautrec, mainly sketches and lithographs by the famous French artist.

All in all, my trip north showed me that even “boring” states can rise above their reputation and offer something to the nation and, in fact, the world. It also gave me a glimpse into life outside of a major metropolitan city, and what life is like in a typical suburban setting. My next trip will, however, take me to another great American city, the former capital of the United States: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

By claudiadev

In many ways the differences between academics at Australian and American universities are few and far between. But there are also some stark differences that have taken some adjusting to.

For one thing, during lectures at home we’d rarely be asked questions and never would the class just be given free reign to discuss the topic at hand. Partly this is due to the size of the lectures, but even in a lecture of 16 students last semester at home we didn’t often have discussions in the lectures. I gather in some underclassmen classes here they have a similar set up to home, with large lectures and smaller discussion classes (what we call tutorials at home). But here, in upperclassmen classes, I’ve sat in a philosophy class where for a good 20 minutes we went off on a tangent discussing if aliens feel pain (there was no clear answer, as it turns out!). My Health Law class is 2 and a half hours of analyzing cases, raising issues and brainstorming as a class when the answer isn’t immediately clear. My Modern Architecture professor is a fan of randomly selecting a name off the class list, and quickly asking a question you have no hope of knowing unless you’ve properly read the readings. The benefit of class discussions, and being asked questions (and asking some of our own) is that there’s far less chance of getting bored, and it makes the longer classes take far less time.

Another big difference I’m finding a little challenging is the assessments here in the US. Generally, in classes at home we’ll have two big assessments a semester – one long mid-semester essay and one final essay or exam. Here, one of my subjects has 5 short essays as well as the final exam! The advantage of the approach at home is that you have fewer assignments to worry about overall, but you also have no way of knowing your progress until quite late in the semester. As much as I’m dreading all the assignments I have due over the next two weeks I can see the benefit in knowing my progress at this point in the semester, and being able to evaluate what my strengths and weaknesses are in each subject, and how I should best address these in future assignments.

One thing that hasn't changed, despite the hundreds of miles and 16 hour time difference, is the mountain of readings I need to get through each week. Mostly this is because I picked two reading intensive majors but I'm finding it a struggle to fit in readings in between the actual assignments, exploring DC and having fun! Hopefully I'm doing enough...

The truth will tell once this batch of assignments are marked and I get my results!

By amrawi

What’s the present value of 12,500? What are the different forms of public communications? Can you say “how much” in French? Yup my week has been pretty much work, work, and work. With midterm exams coming up and papers to submit, there really was no time for to me do any adventures. However with seven days a week I was able to squeeze in some yummy delicious food down at U-Street.IMG_0177

You know how Italians are famous for their pizzas? And the Spanish are famous for their Paella? Well the people of DC are famous for Ben’s Chili Bowl! (Some people refer to the hot dogs served there, as their local DC dish). With a study break and a big appetite I was ready to lay may hands on one of those famous “half-smoked hot dogs “. However I was disappointed when I found out that the half-smoked is half beef/half pork. Since I don’t eat pork, I had to opt for their specialty dish and instead have the Beef hot dog.


Now I must say it was pretty good, but not as good as I had expected. I mean when you hear of a place that Obamas go for hot dogs, your expectation would probably be as high as mine. It was decent but like Sem, an exchange student from Australia stated, “the chili hot dogs at 7-Eleven are a lot better”, I must agree! The chili sauce on the hot dog was good and overall it was enjoyable, but I have had better honestly.

IMG_0507With another much needed study break, as a group we decided again to go to U- Street, but this time to an authentic Ethiopian restaurant called “Durkum”. It’s not everyday that you get to huddle around with your friends and dig your hands into some tasty African food. While there might be no utensils to use, the bread they give is used as a spoon to pick up your food with. I must say the food was okay, but the experience was awesome! I expected the food to be spicy, but it wasn’t at all. It took us quite a bit though to figure out what we wanted to order because we didn’t understand the menu, so in the end the waiter just ordered for us.

While we hit up American food and Ethiopian food, we decided to leave Chinese food for Sunday February 10th. This day marks the lunar Chinese year. With a dense Asian population in DC, you bet that Chinatown would throw an extensive Chinese parade to celebrate the lunar new year. With excitement and a new camera, I decided to go to the parade. It was great seeing the dragon waved around and the snake, but what was the point of having Turkish airline hostesses walking down the parade? Why were their kids in card boxes walking through the parade? It was quite actually quite disappointing because I as ready for a Chinese immersion, but overall it was great getting a chance to be part of the celebration and having the opportunity to see Chinatown.

Quite a stressful week I can’t wait till its over! Boston, Massachusetts you're next on my bucket list!

By zelenkal

 This week was marked by the Super Bowl event. Most of us exchange students had difficulties grasping the importance and background. Not only did we have no idea who was playing, some of us (including me) even had to be assured that this has to do with American Football. The whole Super Bowl is an immensely popular show/sporting event. People gather and watch the biggest game of the season. I have a couple of observations from a non-US point of view.

  1. Commercials – I have never seen such a huge concentration of commercials in my life. I guess most of them featured cars, which is another topic connected to contemporary image of masculinity – let's play or watch the roughest sport ever and drive big cars! All of America is watching this event, and advertising during the game is at its most expensive point in the whole year, so companies seem to be doing their best in order to catch everybody's attention. And they are successful so as it is a habit of Americans to discuss the commercials afterwards.

  2. Half-time show – Beyonce is a huge icon here. Me and one of my Czech colleagues here were not familiar with this particular personality cult before I came to United States, however, one just cannot overlook it here. People mention her during classes, she sings the national anthem during Obama's Inauguration (and for instance The Huffington Post claims that her singing “was a capstone to the official proceedings of the inauguration”) and at last she performs during Super Bowl Half-time. Of course, these were two fundamentally different events and the performances reflect on that. I was truly surprised with the sexualized manner, and afterwards with the keen reactions of most of the people I talked to about it. In sum, it doesn't matter what Beyonce does, the majority will love it for sure.

  3. Baltimore Ravens wins the highest football title in the country  – Seems like DC is a good place to be in again, this time in thanks to being so close to the home of Ravens, therefore gaining praise from all over US.

  4. Popularity - GW organized a friendly gathering, which I appreciated because I had no idea about where else to be. Only a few people I know of did not go and watch the Super Bowl with others; nobody was indifferent to this event. I guess that is the reason why there were more performers than the actual audience at the GW Orchestra performance on Sunday; everybody was too busy preparing for Super Bowl.

It was a big event. And a noisy one, too. Being here for a month now, I have finally found the calmest place, which I might be visiting regularly after similar events. A small coffee shop at Alexandria is all an exchange student needs now. Or, even better, having a live performer there to calm you down more efficiently than silence. Despite the distance, St. Elmo's I cannot wait to be back! Even though I would hope that the next time I am going there, the weather will be more predictable than it turned out to have been last week (even the forecasts seem to have been joking)! As much as I enjoy miscellany, this week blew my mind both figuratively and literally!

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