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By ilakes2015

Once again, last week turned to be a fantastic exhausted weird week. With an average of five hours of sleep, the balance between obligations and entertainment transformed my week in one that I would never forget.

Problem Sets, papers, group meetings and two midterms. Until Thursday my life was only numbers, readings and writings but a particular moment was about to change my mood for the rest of the week.

On Monday morning one of my friends back home sent me an article about the Argentinian Soccer Team followed with a “Tell Messi that I love him”. Apparently, that weekend Argentina was going to play against El Salvador here in Washington. My friends convinced that my priority in life had to be “meet the Players!” insisted that I had to stop studying or attending classes just to go to the Hotel or find out where they were practicing to achieve the goal. To be honest, if I hadn’t had two exams on Thursday, I would have probably gone to Georgetown to see them play.

And even though I believed that I had the same possibilities of meeting them than any other person, I was absolutely mad that I couldn’t even try to change that. I’m not like the rest of the fans here; I’m an Argentinian that cares about the team not only about Messi. My anger increased when I realized that the Hotel where they were staying was only five blocks away from our campus. I knew they were so close and at the same time I couldn’t do anything. My two exams and papers were my real priority. I had class so I finally drop it when I realized that I’ve been living four blocks away from The White House for almost three months and I never got the chance to see Obama, so why was I pretending that if I hadn’t have the exams I would have had coffee with Messi? (No, I’m not saying Messi and Obama are equals but their popularity around the world is pretty similar)

That night I had a meeting with my GW Women in Business group where we discuss a few relevant issues for the annual conference that was going to take place on campus that Saturday. It was around 9pm and after a really long day, I was finally walking back home when I run into two guys that I glanced at their jackets by chance and I recognize the logo; it was the Argentinian AFA logo. I didn’t realize but I turned around in a weird way that made the two guys stop running and look at me. A Hi followed by my “Hola” started the conversation that was going to change my week completely. Damian and Juan, asked a few questions about GW, DC and my experience here so far while I asked about the trips and the training until we concluded that we were all having a really nice time, that we were all really blessed people. Our 20 minutes conversation in the street ended with a warm “it was really nice to meet you and also you should come to the game” There. My chances of meeting the players, the chances that an Argentinian in DC could possibly have of getting tickets to a game, the difference between me and any other person in the world was a matter of time and place. I walked by the right street, at the right moment, JUST THAT. After a few conversations, I finally went to the Ritz Carlton Hotel to pick up my two free tickets. When I got there a lot of fans were surrounding the street. At that time the team was about to leave to train in the field and apparently I was not the only one that knew that. After telling two security guards that I had tickets on my name waiting for me in the lobby, they let me in. Even if my name was misspelled, the idea of receiving and envelop with the AFA logo addressed to me was something I can’t even describe. After the lady gave me my packet and like if she knew the way I got my tickets, a nice “Lucky you, have fun in the game” draw a smile in my face on my way out. I had two tickets in my hands and the question was “Who wants to go with me?” I realized that my brother was coming back to DC by the time of the game. He took me to see Ginobili, I thought it was fair to take him to see Messi.

On Saturday afternoon, I met my brother next to the metro station that was going to take us to the FedEx Field. It was absolutely cold but the energy of the people while I was arriving made me forget about it. My seats were also fantastic even though everyone around me was cheering for the rival team. I realized that the entrance of the players to the field was right next to me so I got the chance to see them pretty well. After 40 minutes the game finally started with the hymn of The US followed with the Argentinian’s one and then El Salvador’s hymn. This time Messi didn’t play and some fans were really disappointed and even if I wanted to see him play, I also had Higuain, Di Maria and Lavezzi so there was no real complain. The score was 2-0 in our favor and even if I didn’t really have someone around to scream it, except from my brother, I celebrate it and hoped not to be killed.

When I got back to Foggy Bottom I had dinner with some relatives that came from Canada and then we went to the Kennedy Center to hear a Jazz concert. The differences between the game and the theater were absolutely recognizable; at first was kind of shocking to jump right to this type of event but the play was so relaxing and nice that that I finally enjoyed it as much as the game. That night, before going to sleep, I tried to remember every feeling. I had lived two fantastic experiences in the same day; watch my home country team play soccer and hear one of the best concerts of Jazz I’ve ever heard. Two different scenarios, both perfect. I ended not only absolutely exhausted, like if I had the performances, but also with one of my biggest smiles. I was wrong, I didn’t have the same probabilities of meeting my temporary neighbors than the rest of the world. Who knows? Maybe I’ll run into Obama next time. Spring Time is coming and everything can happen, right?

 

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By carlyfisher4

As always, this week was another crazy busy one as I prepared for assessments, exams…and a weekend trip to New York (again). Post-Spring Break the workload has definitely picked up again as many of the courses I am taking have approaching deadlines and with a few weekend trips coming up, I certainly am doing my best to get ahead on my work.

"I think that an important piece of advice that I would give to exchange students on their way here is to not let yourself drop the ball on all your assignments, etc in lieu of trips."

Whilst I think that it is really important to go and take advantage of being in such a central location and having the opportunity to go and see as much of America as is possible, in the end, if you get behind on the work it is only going to prohibit you from doing something else you may really want to do as you will have to catch up. In saying that, if you can get ahead on some things and leave others to do as they are due, you should find that you have plenty of time to do well in your classes AND really explore DC, as well as more of America. I think that whilst on exchange this is probably the toughest thing to balance in terms of time management but it really is so worth it because this country has so many awesome places to visit and explore!

Whilst this week I didn’t have as much time to sight-see DC (well not since the White House visit that I wrote about last week at least), I did make enough time for myself to squeeze in a New York trip this weekend - which is where I am writing to you from now!

Although I came to New York at the beginning of last month with two of the other exchange students, as a mad theater lover, another trip was totally required (and I’m coming back another couple times before leaving the US as well), especially because one of my closest friends lives in the city.

Despite my mantra being to try something new each week, I decided this time to also try and re-visit something old, and so, on Friday, I headed over to W 45th Street to the Broadway Dance Centre. Having not taken a dance class in the last few years I decided that it was time to revisit – I used to dance a lot – and challenge myself in a theatre dance class. Coincidentally it was also world theatre day and so it seemed to me to be an appropriate way to celebrate! The class was great – we learnt the original choreography to Chorus Line finale, ‘Once,’ and whilst I had a great time doing it, I certainly felt how out of practice I was. And now, two days later, my body is still feeling the pain! Apparently going straight into jumping high leg kicks ala Rockettes after years without practicing will hurt every muscle in your body – especially the ones that hadn’t been used for too many years! Despite the fact that I can barely walk now (okay, I’m exaggerating – but still…), it was totally worth it and I loved getting back into class – I definitely need to try and do it more often.

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That night I tried my something new as I entrusted my friend to pick a restaurant and found myself in an Indian restaurant that looked as though it had come straight off a Bollywood set. The place was hilarious and we had a great night before continuing to explore the village area and then finishing the night with a good How I Met Your Mother Marathon – when in New York, right!

On Saturday morning I went and lined up for rush tickets to see a show (that I will talk about in a minute), which is a great tip to anyone coming to New York who wants to see a Broadway show but is on a budget. Many of the shows here have what they call ‘student rush’ or ‘general rush’ tickets which means that if you line up before the box office opens you can often get a ticket at a significantly discounted price (like $39 often) for the show that day/night. It’s totally worth it if you don’t mind waiting around for like an hour!

My friend and I then began our morning in total New York fashion with some delicious bagels and a subway trip downtown. We went to check out Eataly – because its amazing and delicious! – and then walked from there down to the Chelsea Markets to go for a little wonder. After a long day of walking and having fun, we finished the night at the theatre – the best way to end a night in my opinion! We went to see ‘The Audience’ starring Helen Mirren as the Queen – WOW!!! It was fantastic – a very interesting view into the relationship between the Queen and her Prime Ministers. Helen Mirren is completely mesmerizing – what an unbelievably skilled actress…and we got to meet her at the end of the play! Highlight = being told that we are “beautiful young ladies” by an English Dame/Academy Award Winner/Total Hero!

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Sunday morning and we enjoyed a bottomless brunch at a beautiful little restaurant called Vice Versa – so delicious! eggI then went off to see another show – a new musical called ‘Fun Home’ – which is an incredibly unique show that doesn’t have the ‘glitz and glam’ that is often expected of Broadway shows but that left not a dry eye in the audience by the end of the performance. The intimacy of the theatre (Circle in a Square) made the storyline that much more heart breaking as you felt as though you were in the home of these characters as they come to life changing decisions and revelations about one another. The child actress who played the young version of the main character was a stand out which is always nice to see – she was brilliant!

Sadly, after a How I Met Your Mother marathon with my friend, it was time to say goodbye to her and to the city as my weekend of Broadway fun was at an end. And so now, I’m writing this from my very delayed Amtrak – must admit, I think that the Greyhound was easier in this case!

I’m so excited for the next couple weeks coming up as my mum is flying in from Australia to visit and I cannot wait to see her! There will definitely be a lot of showing her around campus and DC.

So, until next week…

By train1110

One of the great things about US, especially in the big cities in the east coast is the museums. Whether they be art, science, history or other areas, the museums in US seem to be very well organized and managed. A well-managed museum can play an important role in the people’s cultural lives, a great means for education and also, an efficient way to provide the place where people can easily spend leisure time in, not to mention being able to meet their cultural necessities.

Among all other types of museums, I like art museums the most. Looking at the different pieces of work done by famous, various artists, it leaves a vast room for interpretation and impression. There is no set answer for how you appreciate the art work; what matters is how you feel and how you interact with the art work that you liked or which inspired you in any way.

During my stay in US, I’ve been to several famous art museums in the US: The Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Museum of Modern Arts in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the American Art Museum Portrait Gallery in DC. I am intending to visit the rest of the Smithsonian museums, especially those of art; National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, African Art Museum, Freer & Sackler Gallery of Art and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. During the times I spent in DC, I had the excuse of the weather being too cold, but now that the weather is clearly beginning to resemble those of the typical spring weather, I know I would be walking around the various museums of the Smithsonian pretty soon enough.

One of the things I felt while visiting the many museums in different cities in US is that art is never distant from our daily lives. This thought came to my mind quite clearly when I was walking around the Museum of Modern Arts in New York just one or two weeks ago. Whereas ‘art’ stayed in the picture frame of the 2 dimension paintings (usually of oil painting) hanging on the wall, they popped out from the 2 dimension into the 3 dimension real life, into the daily objects that we use. It was as if they were crying out “Even the most mundane repetitious life of yours are not separated from art; Life is art!” One of the interesting, memorable artworks I found in the Museum of Modern Arts was the Kikkoman bottle for soy sauce, made in Japan. Acknowledged for its design which suits the convenience for usage and artistic beauty itself, it was the very bottle of soy sauce that I still am keeping in my dorm room kitchen drawer.

Inspired by all these artworks that are so easy to go and appreciate in US, including DC, and in our daily lives, as suggested by the modern art works, one of my friend and I began to start drawing for our pastime. Whether you have a talent in drawing or not does not seem to matter that much; a well-drawn painting does not necessarily mean you have to actually ‘draw’ well – an impressive delivery of your thoughts and feelings into the paper or canvas seems to be what really matters. It has only been 2 weeks since I started drawing, yet it seems a very good hobby to have. I am especially looking forward to the cherry blossoms to bloom in the DC, and when that time comes I would dash out from my dorm to the streets and all sorts of fine places in DC with my paper, pencil and a set of my oil pastels.

 

By ilakes2015

Two important things in my life happened last week. First of all, my best friend from Argentina, Nico, came a few days to visit me. Second, I got the chance to visit the inside of The White House!!! I was looking forward for both things since I got here in The US when those also looked really far from that moment. Now it’s over, it already happened and I just want the time to slow down a little bit.

My friend Nico was staying in Miami with my other friend David before he travelled to DC. He had never been here before so he was really excited that I was going to show him around and the idea of involving in a campus life at least for 3 days. He had a lot of work to do but he also spent time with me meeting my new friends, the nightclubs and the neighborhood in general. The day he arrived I waited for him in the metro station so we walked around the GW Campus Area. I still had class so he went for a walk by his own stopping in every important monument from the Lincoln memorial to the Obelisco! We met for dinner and I decided to introduce him to my friend Vicky that is the other Argentinian. We had a really nice night together, we cached up about different concerns and important issues going on in our country, we talked about our experiences here and after that we met in one of my friends place to go together to the first bar I went when I arrived two months ago. It was a really nice night and we were laughing about going back home around 2am when we are used to go out at that time!

The following day, we decided to go to the National Museum of American History that was a really beautiful museum. We got the chance to see the First Lady area and the fantastic and different dresses that some of them used, we learnt about Graham Bell and also about the first car that was driven across the continent and the original Abraham Lincoln’s Barouche. The guided tour was really interesting and the museum was so big that I would definitely go back soon. After that we had lunch/dinner around 5pm with some of my friends in a new place (for us) where we had a tasty steak and cheese sandwich. We walked around a little more and that night we had a small party in my building. Nico met a few of my exchange friends, enjoyed the real American University party and the best part was that I only had to use the elevator to get to my apartment 🙂

The last day was a really long day because was sunny and warm so we decided to walk and visit further places. After my visit to the White House, we went to a Thai Place to have lunch with my best friends of DC. Even though the food didn’t look really tasty I ended up having a fantastic dish. After that we walked to the National Air and Space Museum and after two and a half hours of a guided tour, my head was exploding of information! It was a marvelous afternoon so we took a million pictures next to the Capitol and Monument and the sunset on the back. It was a beautiful night so instead of coming back home we walked around new neighborhoods; we went to Union Station and also around the Verizon Center on our way back. After 10 hours of walking without stopping, my feet were screaming for help so we stayed home, ordered a pizza and had a chocolate volcano with ice cream for dessert. It was a fantastic last day and we enjoyed each other’s company like always. Unfortunately we realized that we are not going to see again until August so we hugged and wished the best for the new adventures that are waiting for both of us.

The idea of visiting the White House was something I always wanted to do. After checking my information with 6 different security guards, my friends and I had the chance to get inside and check the famous rooms and halls that the most important people of this country, and also other countries, have walked. From the red room to the salon where I decided I want to get married in, the house couldn’t be more beautiful. Chandeliers in every room, details in curtains or furniture with the symbol of the eagle everywhere and also the hall full of pictures. The visit was really short and it was not guided so I barely know more than I knew before I got there but my friend Sam and I decided to talk with the security guards that were with us so the visit ended up being more interesting than the way it started. They knew a lot of facts and history that fortunately decided to share with us. The dream was to see Obama but the closest we got to that was the big teeth of the fluffy police dog. I cannot complain, I had the opportunity of standing in a place were history was made. Where some people has to wait more than 6 months to visit and where a lot of  Americans still didn’t go. We couldn’t take any pictures of the inside so the only thing I have is the memories of such a fantastic and unforgettable afternoon.

By train1110

After a long winter, finally the spring has come. The first day of class after spring break, the weather is without doubt, the best I’ve been through in DC. They say that GW’s spring break is usually a week ahead of that of other schools nearby, yet still it is very pleasant to have come back from the spring break (which I’ve spent on a cruise in the Bahamas) and find out that spring has already visited DC.

A week on the cruise to the Bahamas was much better than I had expected prior to our leaving, and was totally worth the cost. The itinerary of the cruise started from New York, spending 2 days in the sea before reaching Orlando, then 2 days in the Bahamas, and another 2 days in the sea before coming back to New York. My first impression of the cruise was: too many old people (not that I haven’t expected this). I erased my hopes of meeting and getting to know other new, young people on the cruise (which turned out to be quite the opposite; we did get to meet and be friends with other people within our age group later on during our trip). Everything, every activities were planned for us, and we only had to make choices. The cruise seemed a perfect holiday plan for those who just wished to relax, to break away from the rest of the world (no free wifi on the ship available), without thinking nor any sort of activeness. It was like an all-inclusive hotel floating around the Caribbean. There were also quite a lot of things to do on the ship. On the top floor of the ship, there were some pools, hot tubs and water slides. You could also play ping-pong, rock climbing, mini golf or other sports activities. There were also shows, movies, clubs and parties going on every day. There were 4 or 5 restaurants where one could have meals without paying extra fees, and overall, the food was satisfactory. People could play board games in the game room, and listen to music (piano, bands, songs etc.) while having a drink or do some shopping. On the side deck or front deck, one could see the ocean, or at clear nights, the starry night sky.

Yet I always preferred the days when we could step out of the ship and spend time on the beach, playing water sports or look around the nearby villages. The beach in Orlando was also beautiful, but the islands of Bahamas and the Caribbean were exquisite. Snorkeling is definitely recommended in this part of the sea, and other activities such as kayaking or jet skiing must have been fun too (some of the activities we planned got canceled due to the windy weather). The small village we visited in Orlando also made quite an impression, with pretty houses and shops, streets, perfectly suiting my favorite style of trip: walking through a tiny village looking around the small houses and shops built in their own unique style. The only aspect that I did not like much about in the Bahamas was that the island seemed too commercialized to suit the needs and conveniences of American tourists. I felt the same way about the islands that I felt when I visited Cancun, Mexico last year with my family and thought that it seemed literally impossible to discern whether I was in Mexico or in the US. The whole island seemed to exist solely for the Norwegian Breakaway (the cruise we took).

It was an unforgettable experience though. It was great to be away from the freezing cold weather of DC and to spend a week in a completely different environment, feel the sun and breathe the sea breeze. And now, back in DC, the one thing that I am desperately waiting to see is the scenery of fully bloomed cherry blossoms filling DC.

 

By carlyfisher4

As we continue to get to know DC better and better, the exchange office decided it was about time that we got to know our neighbors. Ordinarily this may not seem like the most exciting idea, but when you go to GW and your neighbors live at THE WHITE HOUSE, yeah, the excitement builds!

This Saturday, as one of the activities organized for the exchange student group (of which there are a few scattered throughout the semester), we went on the tour inside the White House – something that has definitely been on my bucket list for a while and an event I was very excited about! Simply getting to go beyond the gates and take photos of the building was awesome!

Inside the tour is self-guided allowing you to move at your own pace throughout the corridors and rooms. Whilst only a small number of rooms are available for public viewing, the rooms do not disappoint as they are elegantly decorated in a timeless fashion with reminders in every corner of the importance of the house in which you are standing. From the details of the eagle on every chair in a room, to the larger-than-life portraits of American presidents through history, there is certainly no questioning the historical value and significance of each item within each room.

The rooms that you can walk through (as opposed to the ones you can only see from the doorways) are certainly highlights and as a history buff, I couldn’t help but imagine what, and who for that matter, these walls have seen. We went into the east room – the room where both Lincoln and Kennedy’s bodies lay following their assassinations – and which is decorated in gold with multiple elaborate chandeliers. The Green, Blue and Red rooms, all now, I believe, used to entertain guests, were also rooms that we got to go into and learn the history of – each one decorated by and used for a different purpose by each president.

At the conclusion of the tour we were able to take some photos before having to leave which was really cool! I have included some here:

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Getting into the White House is certainly no easy task as it takes months often to get approved if you are an international student as you normally have to apply through your embassy, etc. It was awesome getting to go in and having it all organized by the exchange office here at GW – both because, I mean, we went into the White House – how cool is that! And also because it meant that we all got to go together which was an added bonus.

So meeting your neighbors at home may not be the most thrilling of tasks, but at GW…well, its something that I would highly recommend!

The day before our White House adventure, I continued my exploring of DC by visiting the Newseum with Katie – an English exchange student. The Newseum is unbelievable! From the beginning of the suggested path, immediately you are confronted with both pieces of history and an indication of the importance of the media and of journalism within history. ‘Pieces’ is actually a perfect word to explain this first exhibit as in the basement of the Newseum are parts of the Berlin Wall – literal pieces of history. Also on the basement level was an exhibit on Baby Boomers that we enjoyed, and an entire room devoted to the FBI which was really really interesting and probably my favorite individual exhibition we saw. I saw a number of people skipping that particular room so I have to say that my advice to anyone going to the Newseum is not to skip it!

As we ventured upstairs and ascended the levels gradually, stopping at each exhibit on the way, the enormity of what this museum has successfully achieved certainly weighed on us, especially as we are both interested in both history and journalism as potential future career paths. As we moved higher and higher through up the levels, we became more and more inspired. One quote in particular that I saw on the wall of the exhibit featuring original front page news clippings from some of the most important dates in history, really summed up the museum for me; “journalism is the first rough draft of history.”

As well as the FBI exhibition, some of the other exhibits that I particularly enjoyed included the Pulitzer Prize Photography exhibit, the modern technology exhibit – in particular, the large movie that they play that left the Australian and British audience members (ie. Katie and I) teary as we felt incredibly patriotic for a country that isn’t technically our own (awkward), and the 9/11 room which was my other favorite exhibit of the day.

This particular exhibit was so tastefully done, in my opinion, as the emotional value was in no way contrived but rather left you in a position where you both felt the unbelievable weight of sadness that I find accompanies all 9/11 exhibits and memorials, but simultaneously appreciated, celebrated even, the power of journalism and the wonderful people who risked their lives in order to bring news, images and hope to the world in a time of great sorrow. I learnt of one individual photographer who grabbed his cameras after seeing the plane hit the building and ran to the towers, approaching closer and closer snapping as many photos as possible. Unfortunately, this man perished after the tower collapsed, but a colleague and friend of his was able to retrieve his camera and the images he lost his life trying to share with the world. To see the pictures and an interview with his wife where she explains what it is like to see the last hour and a half of her husband’s life through his eyes was like, was a very powerful experience. There was a quote on the wall in this exhibition that really underpinned the amazing work of journalists to me; “there are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.”

Perhaps the most fun we had in the Newseum was in the interactive News Room where we tried our hand at reading from the teleprompters and presenting the news. We each tried two different scripts and had a lot of fun…and realized that we both need a little more practice! To future exchange students - although this is one of the few museums I know of that you pay to enter in DC, I would definitely tell all who visit DC that it is one not to be missed – it’s worth every cent!

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As spring is finally beginning and the cold is dying down (YAY!), DC seems to be transforming completely. I cannot wait to continue exploring the city, but with a fresh look as even the monuments I have visited countless times look totally different in their new spring glow.

Until next time…

By ilakes2015

I arrived Miami Florida on Sunday morning and my friend David was waiting for me at the airport. I hadn’t seen him for 7months so we planned last week to spend time together and catch up a little. That week we did a few things like having lunch in one of my favorite places: “The Cheesecake Factory”, walked by Lincoln Road at night which is one of the most beautiful streets and we also found time to walk in the beach. It was really nice to see him again and I’m glad that the physical distance didn’t break our 12 years of friendship. red

On Monday night I hung out with some of my friends from GW and we went to a bar near my place called Blue Martini. An Australian, two Germans, an Austrian and an Argentinian in Miami, what else do I have to say? My 4 sexy boys made all the women in that bar envied me! And I definitely don’t regret 🙂 The bar was a really cool place with latin music and a great view so we had a fantastic time together. We laugh, we talked about the World cup, we compared our cultures and we ended the night talking about food. I couldn’t see them again but we will definitely hang out here in DC once everyone is back from their amazing Spring Breaks. jakob

There is nothing like the feeling of being at home. Of being welcome wherever you are. Last week I had the pleasure of staying in warm Miami with two fantastic people that I consider part of my family. From the beginning of this trip until the last minute I felt relaxed and comfortable spending time with Gabi and Joli. Even though they are friends of my parents, they treated me like their own daughter and I had the best week of my year so far.

For most students Spring Break represents the moment of the semester where the underage travel outside the country to drink as much as possible while for the overage represents the same but just doesn’t matter where they go. For me was the moment to go back home. I didn’t plan it this way but was exactly what I needed. Not because I missed home but I did miss being “mimada” and was also being in a Spanish environment, where in some places was even weird to find someone speaking in English, what made me feel in my natural habitat.home

It was not my first time in Miami but after this trip I can really say that I’ve been there. I spent most of my other trips doing shopping rather than knowing Miami but this time I did both.

Every day I spent with them had something special, something particularly different and beautiful and that’s why I cannot define which one was my favorite day. The amazing view I had from my room, the five different types of cuisines that I tried and meeting the beautiful 5months years old Dylan where some of the highlights of the trip. I enjoyed everything I did or visited: the Wynwood Walls, 8 Street (the Cuban neighborhood), the night that I had my traditional Argentinian food: Asado and Dulce de leche pancakes for dessert and even the days that I relaxed on the pool. My week was a perfect balance between family, friends, fun, cultural learning, sun and study moments. And now a chaotic week is approaching but I couldn’t be more happy for what I just lived. Coming back to my beautiful E street, to my roomates, my friends and also my study is not too bad. As my father reminded me, “Live the present, you are exactly were you wanted to be. Don’t loose the focus of your experience, relax and enjoy. Tomorrow would be too late” And this is exactly what I’m doing. I couldn’t be more thankful about the fantastic experience, the amazing life, this 2015 is giving me. hat

By carlyfisher4

After nearly three months in sub-freezing temperatures and constant jacket wearing, it was finally time to trade in the snow boots for swimsuits and head to Cancun, Mexico for a week soaking up the sun and the sand. Spring Break seemingly calls on the mass exodus of a campus worth of college students as they head for some sun, some time at home, some volunteering experiences or some time to tour new destinations. And so, in keeping with tradition, I, alongside three of the other Australian exchange students, boarded a flight to Mexico early Monday morning.

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Cancun for Spring Break definitely implies some element of craziness and real ‘Spring Break’ activity/behaviour. To be honest, and I’m sure this is the case with any Spring Break destination, it really is what you make of it. We decided that we didn’t want to have a ‘crazy intense’ Spring Break just because that was what was expected of Spring Breakers. Instead, the week was filled predominately with lounging by the pool, hanging out on the beach, enjoying the sun and taking in the tropical climate we were all craving so!

One of the main reasons for my wanting to go to Cancun in particular was the mixture of beach time fun and history. I have been interested in seeing the ruins in Mexico for some time now so to be that close to one of the wonders of the world, an incredible Mayan ruin called Chichen Itza, was definitely a major draw card. Accordingly, one of the first things we did once arriving at our resort for the week was go ahead and book a tour to take in some of the ancient wonders of Mexico. Three of us decided to go and the tour – which I will talk about in just a moment – was amazing and totally up our alley (which makes sense when you consider that we had two history students – one whose focus is ancient worlds – and an architecture student visiting an incredible ruin that really proves how the ancient world defied often even modern building capabilities).

The morning of the tour was a little rough as it meant another very early morning in a row (we had to be on the shuttle to Dulles at 4am just the day before the tour!), however, once on the bus we began the journey with our tour guide and group to a little town called Valladolid – a city that boasted architecture from three different eras and conquerors – it was very cool! The main town square definitely proved the Spanish influence on the area as there was a clear European influence both in the layout of the square, as well as in the religion of the area evidenced by the large church that stands opposite the small park in the centre. We had a look at the church, took in the bright colours of everything that filled the square and the surrounding streets and enjoyed the smiling locals that filled that park before we had to continue on in order to make it to the next stop on the tour.

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Next we went to a Cenote which is essentially a water hole and the particular one that we went to was so deep that they are yet to discover exactly how deep it is. These cenotes – or sinkholes – are sporadically seen around the area and all still join together to supply much of the areas water. Set within a cave, the water, though freezing, was incredibly refreshing and really beautiful as whilst swimming you look up through the open gap in the cave’s roof to see only the sun light imposing in. I would highly recommend a visit to a cenote during a visit to Cancun!

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We had lunch nearby to the cenote and were entertained by traditional dancers performing their way through the tables. We were also encouraged to try a really spicy sauce that is apparently a staple item of any Mexican’s daily food intake but I passed on that. I’m all about indulging in a culture and trying anything but I have my limits and my limit is chilli!

Our next stop before continuing on away from the cenote was the so-called ‘tequila museum’ next to the sinkhole. I say ‘so-called’ because museum is really just a glorified way of saying tasting – we went to a tequila tasting where they offered us our choice of fourteen different flavours of tequila to try. After tasting a couple - chocolate and mango definitely being the winners in my opinion – we continued on in pursuit of the day’s main attraction – Chichen Itza.chichenitza

Upon arriving at the site, our group split into English speakers and Spanish speakers and we went on our way – our first stop in the enormous area filed with ruins and buildings representing the traditional Maya way of life, had to of course be the star of the area, Chichen Itza. It really is a beautiful site and the symbolism of each and every detail is amazing. Our tour guide was incredibly dynamic and brought the traditions, sacrifices and way of living to life in each story and detail that he told about both the main temple and the surrounding ruins too. It was interesting too to learn about the ways in which they controlled the people, the sports that they took pleasure in (even if it did result with the winner having his head cut off as a sacrifice to the gods), their abilities in astrology, science and mathematics, and the ways in which they sacrificed their subjects (however gross and graphic the description was).

After an amazing day we began the drive back to Cancun where we all met up again and continued enjoying resort life. We picked to stay at an all-inclusive resort which I would definitely recommend to Spring Breakers – it’s a great way to firstly keep track of your budget, secondly to make decisions easier, like to where to eat, for example – it’s in everyone’s price range because its included, and it was good to know what we had already spent so that we could decide how much or how little more we were each comfortable spending. We found it to be very worth-while and good value for what we had paid and had an absolutely fantastic time!

On our last day we decided to finish off with some jet-ski riding which was so much fun! We all loved it! It was very sad to leave the gorgeous sunshine and crystal blue waters of Cancun but I will definitely be back! And so now, with a full-on week ahead, we are back in DC and ready to resume!

Until next time…

By ilakes2015

The week before Spring break is generally the most chaotic one. Most students have their midterms so a mix between stress, happiness and desire of leaving the city consumes them. This particular week also represents the middle of the exchange program and it turned to be the shortest one as well. Already more than two months in this country, who would have said that?

As the weather has been crazy, last Thursday was declared as a snow day, the second one since I got here. Is the global warning trying to tell us something or what? While on Wednesday everyone was freaking out, praying and checking the news to know if they had to stopped studying for their exams or not, I was checking my email praying to not receive a “flight cancelled” message. I did not have exams because I’m going to have them the week AFTER Spring break, what means that instead of being full relaxed, my mind eventually would be thinking about the million things I have to study. Anyway, I stayed up writing until 4am when I assumed that GW was not going to cancelled classes and I went to sleep. The light of the sun woke me up the next day. My roommate had turned off my alarm clock when she read the most expected email. At that time my flight was still not cancelled so my friends and I decided to go outside and build a snowman together before I had to leave. This time instead of going on Spring Break together, as we wanted in the first place, we ended up going to 5 different places and I was the one that was leaving first. After lunch we met in front of E Street and Dion and I started building the snowman. I must say, build a snowman is more complicated than it looks like. It was still snowing so the snow did not compact so after 4 different tries and 40 minutes later we kind of found the best way to create our little cute monster. After that, we decided to walk to the Lincoln Memorial and spend some time there. On our way we took the long walk so we saw the frozen river and the ducks lying on top. We approached a little and the ducks started walking through us so we got scared and continue walking to the memorial. When we finally made it we realized that the Washington Monument had “disappear” in the middle of the mist. Everything around us was white and everything looked nice so we ended up playing like little boys with the snow. After the snowman, the walk and the snow war, we ended up all wet and cold so we run to my place for some tea and a warm shower before I had to leave to the airport. When all of these happy things were happening I forgot the reason why I had an extra day: the snowstorm. My happiness didn’t last much. When I was saying bye to my friends and leaving my apartment, an American Airlines call destroyed the smile in my face. I had to return to my place, call the airline to change my flight to the first one available, call my family and friends waiting for me in Miami and re organize my whole week. After almost two hours and 3 different calls I finally changed my flight to Sunday morning. That meant that instead of being the first one leaving, I was now the last one. That also meant that instead of having the following week to study, I had to organize almost all my writings in two days.

On Thursday night I had dinner with my friends and we watched a movie together. I was supposed to be travelling but instead I had Spaghettis, homemade brownies and “The Italian job”. Actually, a really good replacement. snowday

Last week I also used my time to cook. I’m not a really good chef because I never practiced but living alone makes you learn new things either you like it or not. Fortunately for me, I really enjoy cooking. The past week I decided to eat some of the things that I had on my fridge and never cooked before. Homemade hamburgers, spicy rice, tortilla de papa, calabaza rellena, chicken wok and croissants were some of the dishes I prepared. For being my first time, I must say I did a really good job. Not that someone else tasted it but for me those looked and taste really good.

food3food2

The weekend was also not as bad as I expected. It was my roommate’s birthday so I surprised her with a delicious cake and 22 candles. We spent the day studying but at night we went out to celebrate. Also, my friend Vicky and me decided to go to swim at the gym so we spent almost two hours doing some exercise. I also called my parents and my best friends with Skype and I stayed up studying until 4 am on Sunday when I had to leave to take my flight. At the airport I did the security and check in things in less than an hour so I had plenty of time to have breakfast and look into the duty free stores. At 7am I was ready to leave and I must say there was nothing as beautiful as looking the sunrise from my window. A whole week was reaching its end, a new day was starting, A city stayed behind while two hours from that moment the beautiful warm Miami was waiting for me. Spring Break is about to start and too many new adventures are waiting for me. So let’s close my eyes, sleep and wait for it.. birthday

By train1110

I can proudly say that the second snow day in GW was one of my best days in DC. To begin with, the snow day notice saved my life. I was to have a test that day that I did not prepare enough – for I had started studying for that course from after midnight on that test day – just to find out that the materials that needed studying was way too much to study overnight. I was literally going to stay up the whole night for that test when I heard of the possibility of another snow day in GW. I was quite worried though, that the snow day rumor may not be true, with my American roommate saying things like how GW is tries to avoid announcing snow day because once in the past there had been too many snow days announced in GW that a law school student sued GW for canceling classes too frequently. Anyways, the moment I got my email from GW security at 5 am, I nearly jumped with joy, closed my books and went to bed right away, and woke up past 12pm.

After cooking something for lunch, my friends and I went to the Pentagon City Mall to do some shopping for the upcoming spring break (we were going on a cruise to the Bahamas), only to find out that it was an unwise decision. It did snow a lot – even Uber charged extra $15 due to the weather – yet still we thought the shops in the Pentagon City Mall would be open because the Pentagon City Mall is an indoor shopping place. Yet our guesses proved to be wrong, and when we got there most of the shops were all closed, with only a few food stores selling food. We had no choice but to come back without any gains.

Yup, so my snow day started off not so great. Yet there’s a saying: “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase”. I guess my snow day was a day that exactly fit to those words. My friend invited me to join dinner with her friends in the dorm, where we cooked food together. I made some fried chilly shrimp and lemon cake for dessert. Most of her friends were American, GW students who already had their experiences of Study Abroad in some other countries. There even was a guy who did his studying abroad in Korea, my home country. We talked mostly about our experiences of studying abroad, and those American friends there seemed very interested in the reason I chose to do an exchange program at GW and about my current life in DC.

After dinner, at around 10pm, some fellow exchange student friends and I went out to take a walk to the monuments and have fun in the snow. It wasn’t as cold as expected, yet the roads were very slippery. We first headed to the Lincoln Memorial, where we lied down and made snow angels on the untainted, pristine white snow field. We also tried making a snowman, but the snow was too soft. We found an already made snowman and took a photo with it instead 🙂 (thanks to whoever built that snowman). It was a nice night-walk, to leave our footprints on untrodden clean snow, getting a sense of being purified mind and body by looking and touching the white snow, in the cool night air. With hot chocolate in our dormitory afterwards our stroll in the snow, there was practically nothing else that we would long for!

 

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