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America 2.0

By gjmacdougall

Hi everyone! My name is Grace MacDougall and I’m from the small (but beautiful) city of Norwich in England, though for the last two years I’ve been studying English and Scottish Literature at the University of Edinburgh. I’m very excited and grateful to be spending the third year of my degree studying at GW and living in Washington, D.C.

As I prepare for my departure, I’m feeling the usual mixture of excitement slightly tempered by nerves, but also something a little different. Any expectations for my start at GW are altered by the fact that I’ve actually previously spent some time in the US – when I was thirteen I lived in New Jersey for a year, but it wasn’t a very positive experience. At an age where you’re beginning to mature and haven’t yet developed a sense of self, I struggled with the displacement and the cliquey atmosphere of my middle school, and left America with a vow never to return. However, in the seven years that have passed, this has been replaced with a great desire to do exactly the opposite: to live my ‘comeback’ sequel and do things ‘right’ this time. I’m aware that memories can fade and alter but I want to see if impressions match up and how much things have changed – how I’ve changed – between my two American experiences. I’d like to think that my time in New Jersey will help give me a degree of familiarity and realism that will reduce the culture shock I’ll no doubt experience, as well as pushing me to fully embrace every opportunity given to me this second time around.

And there are so many opportunities and possibilities. From participating in some of the societies from the vast lists I’ve scrolled through, to taking classes which feature the authors my American friends have raved about, yet who don’t feature on British reading lists, I have high expectations for all the new experiences that await me. The thing I’ve loved most at university is having my eyes opened to completely new viewpoints through listening and talking to others of different nationalities and backgrounds, and I can only see this occurring to the fullest extent at GW.

However, it is not only the university but also the location for which I am excited. Studying in D.C. in the run-up to an election will be an incredible experience – observing and participating in the Scottish independence referendum taught me so much about Scotland as a nation that I’d never have learnt from a history book and I can’t wait to experience the same with American politics, on a politically engaged campus.

Anyway, that’s a brief introduction to me and my thoughts regarding my year abroad at GW! I look forward to seeing how they change with the time I spend and the things I try there, and I hope you’ll enjoy and maybe learn something from them too.



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