Some advice for those on their way and applying
Having now lived in DC for almost two months, I thought I would use this blog to write about some of my experiences to give those who are reading this blog wondering what to expect if they apply/have been accepted to GW a better idea of what life here is like. Before I begin though, if you are reading this trying to decide if you should apply here – DO! It’s such a fantastic school in an awesome city with lovely people. And if you have just been accepted, congratulations! Get ready for some of the best months of your life thus far!
As well as this week marking my two months here, it is also the week before midterms which means stress levels are a little bit higher. This has definitely meant that the amount of time studying has increased (although somehow the amount of Netflix watching time has not decreased…), the trips to the library are more frequent (apparently it’s the most productive place to work although I have found it to be the most social place to study) and the line at the Gelman Starbucks definitely seems even longer. In saying all of this, although there is a fair amount of work assigned, it is definitely manageable!
Perhaps the most difficult part of living here is the conflict you face when you know you need to get your work done but also really want to go and explore the city. I think that many of us are aware that our time here is really going to continue flying by, as it has been, and therefore are mindful of how much DC as a city has to offer, whilst still not wanting to leave ourselves with too many late night cramming sessions either. It is definitely tough sometimes trying to find the right balance between getting the work done, seeing the city and just socializing with friends.
So – to those on their way – if you are rolling your eyes or laughing at this thinking ‘as if, I’m never going to even see the inside of that library – I’m going to have fun’ – don’t worry! I totally understand because I said the same thing! But I think that a more realistic view of what to expect would be this – I get the work done (often last minute but still…) and still have plenty of time to socialize and travel on the weekends. The truth is that once you are surrounded by others who are working, you will too. Furthermore, no matter how much or how little your grades count when you go back home, there is no one that I’ve met here - from any school – that doesn’t at least require you to pass and therefore you have to make some time for the work.
I think people will also be surprised by the dorms. To be totally honest, when I found out that I was going to have to share a room I was nervous! I am an only child so the idea of having no space of my own was a strange concept to try and wrap my head around. Yet somehow it just seems to work so naturally – which I definitely think is aided by the fact that all my roommates are lovely and so we all get along really well. So, if you are nervous about that – don’t be! Just cross your fingers for a really nice group of roommates – and don’t be afraid to reach out to them before you get here – I did and it made the meeting process that much smoother.
But now to the things that you really care about – the fun parts! DC life is awesome! You get all the benefits of being at college – like friends and social activities – whilst being in a fantastic city that has so much on offer! If you are into museums – this is the city for you, if you like cool bars and nice restaurants – this is the city for you, if you are interested in history – this is the city for you, if you like city living but don’t want to be overcrowded - this is the city for you – basically if you want to have a good time living on a city campus – this is the city for you!
I think something else that most people on their way here want to know about is the ability to travel. Can you leave the city and explore on the weekends? Absolutely! DC is really conveniently positioned and with a couple of airports and a big train/bus station, which makes getting in and out of the city is really easy. There are so many places to go and see in America and if you are anything like my friends and I here, you will definitely want to go and see as much as you can! Most of us are lucky and we have Fridays off - which definitely helps – but irrespective of this, picking places that are not too far from here still leaves you with enumerate options and awesome places to go and see. We are all currently planning more weekend and after exam trips so there are definitely plenty of opportunities to go exploring and traveling with the friends that you meet.
On that note – I think that it is important to mention that if you are interested in this aspect of the exchange experience, it is important to make friends with the other exchange students. This is not to suggest that your exchange group should stop you from making American friends too – it definitely shouldn’t! However, the other exchange students are the ones who will also want to see DC and travel around on the weekends too. Having made an amazing group of exchange friends as well, it is definitely nice knowing that I always have people to do things with!
For those coming in the Spring semester like we are in now, you will be here for Spring Break – which is not next week (exams, remember) but the week after. Deciding on where to go and who else was going to go, was tricky. If I have any advice on that process I would definitely recommend finding a little group first and picking a place and price together. Then, if you want to travel with a larger group, have a big meeting altogether but go in with a place and some research already done. We started off trying to go away together in a large group of 14 people, however, we quickly realized it wasn’t going to work and so we split off into smaller groups. I think that this is the most realistic situation of what will happen but that doesn’t discredit how excited we all are for Spring Break and for the adventures we each chose. My group is off to sit by the pool in Cancun for the week and I couldn’t be more excited!
That’s another piece of advice for Spring Semester students – It’s cold –like really cold! Bring lots of warm clothing because it’s now nearly March and we are still getting snow and freezing temperatures. We had a lot of snow the other day so Wilson, a Singaporian exchange student, and I tried to build a snow man - it was a bit of a fail but we tried :). So, my advice – bring a coat…or three!
There is so much about your upcoming experience to tell you but if I shared it all now I would have nothing for a final blog later this semester. I hope this has helped you decide whether or not this experience is for you! I can only recommend it with the highest regard – I absolutely love it here and its only been two months so far!
So, until next time…