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By sophieheard

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This weekend it was my turn to play tour guide. A close friend of mine, who I met whilst she was studying abroad at King’s College last year had come down from Philly to catch up and check out DC. Her timing could not have been more perfect as the temperature reached up to 75°F (24°C) and the cherry blossoms came out in bloom. We have been so fortunate with the weather this year, the winter has been extremely mild and spring has arrived early. This time last year it was snowing and now people were out sunbathing. As I hate the cold I am so glad I have not spent the semester freezing my arse off.

 

 

We grabbed lunch, headed down to the National Mall and spent the afternoon sitting at the edge of the Reflecting Pool basking in the sun and catching up on all the events of the past year. To escape the heat we went and checked out the Renwick Gallery before heading to Georgetown for dinner. After eating way too much pizza we decided that we still weren’t full and went to the famous Georgetown Cupcakes for dessert. I had only tried the Baked and Wired cupcakes before but I definitely prefer the Georgetown ones. As the sun set on Georgetown and as the Oscars were in a couple of days we went and checked out the film Lion at the AMC cinema.

 

The next day we headed across town to Eastern Market. Although it is only a small market they still had a decent selection of food stalls. We had Mexican street food for lunch followed up by mini doughnuts. As the weather changed we decided to make the most of the free museums in DC and explored the Air and Space Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The holocaust memorial was particularly sobering and extremely poignant in the current political climate. It was unsettling to recognise certain parallels between past and present events as the museum also makes connections between past cases and potential future risks of genocide.

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Once again we hit up 14th Street for dinner. This time around we headed to Thip Khao, which specialises in Laos food. I had never tried Laos food before as it is not something that is commonly available in London. However, it is definitely something I will be searching for when I return home. We devoured a range of dishes from chicken hearts to pig ears (trust me it tastes better than it sounds!) before finishing the night off at Eighteenth Street Lounge.

It was great to be able to catch up with an old friend and show her around the city. As we explored DC I realised how much I had come to know and love my new home.

By audrey

On the surface, DC is the epitome of a metropolitan city with its ceaseless bustling activity, surrounding marble and concrete buildings. Dive a little deeper, and you'll find it's so much more than that. Incredibly lucky to have relatively good weather over the weekend, going to national parks became a whole lot easier.

Rock Creek Park

Of all the national parks, Rock Creek Park is easily the most accessible from GW (it's a twenty-minute walk from K Street in the direction towards Georgetown). We made our way to the creek and was treated to a pretty fantastic view of what mother nature has to offer. Rock Creek is a tributary (a stream) of the Potomac River, which then connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Chesapeake Bay.

Besides the great outdoors, the park has plenty to offer: there's a Horse Center which offers riding lessons to the public as well as pony rides. While I didn't get a chance to get on a horse due to time (and budget) constraints, I would highly encourage others to try it out. Other than the center, there's also Pierce Mill, which is a very old building. It used to grind grain into flour and is powered entirely on water. Today, it is home to a mini museum informing the public about the milling process.

It is also home to the Rock Creek Park planetarium - so if there're any astronomy enthusiasts, this is the place for you. Inside, you will find a huge image of the night sky projected onto a dome-shaped ceiling. If you're lucky, there will be park rangers on break to engage you in a lively discussion of stars, the planets and the galaxy. Tip: don't bring up star wars like I did.

 

By sophieheard

As it was President’s Day, we decided to make the most of the long weekend and head up to New York for a couple of days. After class on Thursday we all hopped on the Megabus and within four short hours were in New York City. We were staying on the top floor of an Airbnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with views overlooking the Manhattan skyline from the Empire State building to the World Trade Center.

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As this was my second time in New York I had already seen the Statue of Liberty, toured the MoMA and the Met, and taken a picture in Times Square. This time around I was able to skip all the tourist attractions and experience the city as a local. The best way to travel around New York is by subway. Although it cannot compare to the London Underground, the subway still gets you everywhere you need to be. My first visit to New York I avoided the subway and went everywhere by taxi or walking. This time around I wanted to be able to do as true New Yorkers do.

A friend of mine that I met on a previous exchange in South Korea had recently moved to New York and so was able to show me how locals do it. Living on opposite sides of the pond it was great to catch up, hang out and explore the city together. That’s what so great about studying abroad, you meet people from all over the world and get to travel together. From travelling both individually and in a group I have learnt that it is the people you share these experiences that truly makes it.

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On Saturday I joined my friend to go rock climbing in Long Island City. Although I am not the athletic type I decided that when in New York is a good time to climb a sixty-foot wall. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a good idea and I managed to make it all the way to the top. I figured studying abroad is a great opportunity to try anything new.

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As I didn’t have class on Tuesday, I decided to stay an extra day in the city. We headed across town to catch the East River Ferry. The East River Ferry is a commuter ferry that only costs $4 ($7 on weekends) and takes you from midtown down to Pier 11. It gives you the most amazing views of Manhattan, all the bridges and the Statue of Liberty. From Pier 11 we walked up through the city, stopped for lunch in ChinaTown, I tried my first cannoli in Little Italy went shopping in SoHo.

It was great to experience the hustle and bustle of New York. The city is the embodiment of the melting pot that is America. Endless cultures, languages, food and ethnicities it genuinely is a city where anything goes. Spending a week away in New York, it was finally time to return to home. Leaving DC made me realise how much the city has become my home.

By audrey

While most of my friends are exploring the East Coast over the President's Day weekend, I stayed behind in DC to do some sightseeing and bring some friends around who were visiting from out of town. Sun's out guns out - woolly coats and puffy jackets were replaced by shorts and dresses in the sunny 70 degree weather.

Recreating some of the magic I experienced at the Monuments by Moonlight Walk during orientation, we did it in the daytime this time round. National Mall was bathed in sunlight with plenty of people playing casual baseball, football and having picnics. Crowds milled by the reflecting pool and filled the steps outside the Lincoln Memorial - it was a challenge trying to get a good picture. Word of advice - if you're planning on photographing the monuments on the national mall, it would be a better bet to go later at night. Not only will you be able to get an unobstructed view, you will also enjoy a breathtaking rush of unparalleled tranquility in the company of historical heavyweights.

Food dedication

Remember how last week the spot I was planning on having brunch at had an hour's wait? Well, I remembered to make reservations this time round and went during dinner hour.

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Medium Rare is a steak diner located in the chic Capitol Hill neighborhood. The menu boasts a grand total of 1 main dish which is served in 3 courses: baked bread, rocket salad and 2 sets of steak and fries (refillable). It also has a great wine menu and whenever in doubt, ask the waiter for tips on how to get the best wine-steak combo. The best part is, it only costs 20 dollars (minus tax)!

Also, if the night is still young and you desperately don't want to go back to good ol' Foggy Bottom just yet, head across the street to Banana cafe and piano bar for some sweet treats. Located on the second floor of a yellow building by the road, the puerto-rican and cuban style diner serves up some fancy cocktails (and mocktails if you're not of age) and there's always a jazz pianist available to entertain. On the weekends, pop piano is available at certain hours.

Midterm week is coming up so all the best everyone! Don't forget to study and play hard.

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By sophieheard

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This week I got to relive one of my favourite British pastimes - talking about the weather! When coming to DC I expected freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. However, the winter has been extremely mild and this past week people were walking around in shorts and a t-shirt as temperatures reached up to 21°C (70°F). The good weather did not last long and there were reports of a snowstorm hitting the East Coast. DC was relatively unscathed compared to up north but temperatures still dropped below zero and there were a few snow flurries. As my professor observed in class, ‘it’s February and I’m not wearing a jacket - but hey, climate change doesn’t exist’.

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One of the top recommendations I received upon arriving in DC was to visit the monuments at midnight. Exploring a city at night is a completely different experience. There are no workers around, no tourists and only the occasional security guard. Being only a few blocks away from the National Mall we decided to make the most of the warm weather and head down to the Lincoln Memorial. It’s one of the most iconic views both historically and politically and one that I have seen countless times before moving to DC. Sitting at the bottom of the memorial with a view stretching the length of the reflecting pool and reaching all the way up to the Washington Monument in the early hours of the morning is perhaps one of my favourite moments thus far. It was nice to have a peaceful moment to fully take in being in DC.

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Later on in the week we attended a basketball game between the George Washington Colonials and the VCU Rams. According to full-time students, GW is not big on school spirit especially compared to other universities. Coming from the UK I find that hard to believe. The game fulfilled all my expectations of a school sports game. There were cheerleaders, a school band, free t-shirts, chants and a mascot (George, The Colonial). We were neck and neck the whole game. With twelve seconds left on the clock, we were trailing 52-50. Just as a win seemed impossible number 12 scored a three-pointer pushing us into the lead and winning the game (at least so we thought). The whole stadium erupted, the band started playing and we jumped and cheered in celebration. It was like something out of a movie. The game was not yet over. 0.4 seconds were put back on the clock in order to finish out the game. In less than a second GW received a foul, sending the Rams to the free throw line to score four more points and win the game.

By audrey

Be warned: this is a post dedicated exclusively to food.

My ability to cook has been severely restricted; got a really bad cut on my finger after my very valiant attempt at multi-tasking - cutting potatoes and watching Youtube videos at the same time. Big mistake.

So, besides 2 assignments and 2 tests due, I had a pretty relaxing week that saw me on a desperate hunt for food after Thursday.

Food stop 1: Kung Fu Tea

It really wasn't easy finding bubble tea in DC - I had to take the metro to Virginia and finally found the object of my dreams: Kung Fu Tea. Being the glutton that I was and keeping in mind the huge distance, I bought 2. 1 was for drinking immediately, the other was for the fridge at home. (Tip: if it's to-go, separate the beverage and the boba, and ask for no ice).

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Food stop 2: DC Noodles

Huddled in a cozy corner on U Street, this place serves South Asian noodle dishes. I got the store special: Red Miso Ramen (despite what the menu says, it's really not spicy) while my friends ordered a mix of Pad Thai, Curry noodles and Beef bowls. They were all really good! The restaurant has a really unique decor and ambiance - oriental-influenced, but also a fusion of Mediterranean and American styles as well. There's also an in-house bar so be sure to visit during happy hour to get the best deals!

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Food stop 3: Eastern Market

After 2 days of cold spells in DC, the sun finally emerged on Saturday. I decided that was the day to visit the hyped Eastern Market. Situated in the scenic Capitol Hill neighborhood, everything in Eastern Market was exceptionally colorful and quaint, even during the walk there. Upon walking in, you'll be greeted by a variety of vendors selling very different crafts and fresh produce. Many of them even put out mini samples for visitors before committing to their purchase. Continue walking, and you'll see an old red-brick building - this is where they keep the food. You'll be able to buy fresh poultry, vegetables and a wide variety of cheeses all in one place. There is also a cafe in the building: The Market Lunch. Be sure to get the Blueberry Pancakes and the Crabcake Egg Benedict (Note: these are only available on the weekend).

A reminder though - many stalls in the market only accept cash, so you can make use of the ATMs located at the building entrance to withdraw some cash before going all out on your shopping spree.

To be really honest, we made a detour back to the market because the brunch spot where we were hoping to dine at had a wait time of an hour. This makes for an important lesson: if it's a weekend and it's a popular brunch spot, definitely be sure to make a reservation several days in advance to avoid waiting outside in the cold. Brunch hour in DC is serious business.

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Hang tight everyone...President Day weekend is near!

Ciao!

By audrey

I think it is fair to say that the 51st Super Bowl is one of the most exciting I've ever watched - or the second half at least. Today, the New England Patriots played against the Atlanta Falcons and came out on top.

It wasn't a smooth victory though; the Falcons had an excellent first half, leading 28-3 before Lady Gaga took the house down with her halftime show. Magic happened midway in the third quarter, with 2 touchdowns by the Patriots before bringing the game to an eventual tie in the 4th quarter, thereby going into overtime.

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Besides watching the game, I was feasting delightfully on the different dishes brought by the exchange students. There were tons of cakes, cookies and pastries as well as tacos and a magnificent tray of Mac and Cheese. In fact, the food distracted me so much I didn't really know what was going on till Lady Gaga took the stage. (Yes, I have no self-discipline when it comes to food).

 

This week went past pretty quickly - classes are beginning to increase in intensity and pace. Assignment deadlines and midterms are round the corner and I have barely started studying for those. It was great meeting up with the other exchange students and orientation leaders though; I got to know about everyone's plans for spring break and the President Day weekend and everything seems really exciting!

For now, I'll be starting my rounds in the different libraries and be on the hunt for great studying spots (will keep everyone informed if there're really good ones). I think it's safe to say my room is filled with too many distractions aka my bed and there's no greater motivation than watching others study. Hoping to survive the next 2 weeks of classes and club activities!

Till then, counting down to the long weekend and spring break!

P.S Apologies for the lack of pictures as my iPhone has failed me this week by turning itself off constantly in the cold weather.

By sophieheard

Crowds took to the streets of Boston, not in protest but celebration, as the New England Patriots celebrated their fifth Super Bowl win. A pinnacle of American culture, the Super Bowl is an event not to be missed. Last year I spent the Super Bowl in a NY hotel room, eating pizza and wondering what on earth was going on. This Sunday was not a lot different. There was a lot of eating and a lot of confusion. Once we had established the difference between ‘football football’ and ‘american football’ we could enjoy the Super Bowl for the spectacle that it is. Something of this scale could only exist in the United States. Like so many other events in America, the Super Bowl is a performance from start to finish.

We headed uptown to a restaurant on 14th street where we made ourselves comfortable for the next three hours. The game seemed over in the first five minutes as the Falcons had scored two touchdowns, eventually leaving the Patriots trailing by 25 points. Never before in Super Bowl history had a team recovered from a lead that great. Assuming that the sports portion of the evening was over, we left the football on in the background and dug into several rounds of sliders. Whilst I am not a big sports fan, any excuse to celebrate with friends over food and beverages is okay with me.

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Halftime is when things got interesting. Lady Gaga was perhaps the greatest performance of the night. She flung herself off of the roof of the stadium and then proceeded to sing a medley of her greatest hits. Her performance was not as overtly political as people were expecting. However, it possessed a general message of inclusion in response to recent events as she performed ‘This Land is Your Land’ and ‘Born This Way’.

The Patriots went into the game as one of the most successful and most widely loathed teams in the league. With the exception of Pats fans, public support was for the underdogs - the Atlanta Falcons. However, the roles remained reversed for the majority of the game and the Patriots entered the final quarter with an impossible win as they were still 19 points behind. Just as the game was about to end the Patriots had achieved a two-point play, tying the game and making it the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

No team had ever come back from a three-touchdown deficit in the history of the Super Bowl and now everything came down to the next few moments. Although I did not fully understand what had happened, after three hours I was invested. New England won the overtime coin toss and suddenly everything looked bleak for the Falcons. After a few quick plays, the Patriots had scored the final touchdown and won yet another Super Bowl title. A group of foreigners, unaware of the exact specifics, erupted in celebration as another moment of history was witnessed.

By sophieheard

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Based on my experiences of the past two weeks I get the impression that a protest is going to be part of my weekly routine. Ten days into the new administration, Trump has already taken action to repeal Obamacare, withdrawn from the TPP, reinstated the Mexico City policy, reopened the Keystone XL and Dakota Pipeline construction projects, proposed plans to build the wall, and denied entry to refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In response to the decisions made this week, protests have erupted across the country and across the globe. It is exciting to live in the city that makes these decisions and watch how the people react so quickly against them. On Friday, Trump implemented the ‘Muslim ban’. By Sunday, thousands had gathered outside the White House in protest.

 

 

 

I attended the protest both in support and observation. Unlike the Women’s March, the protest was spontaneous with so little time to garner support or numbers. Not expecting a huge turnout and living so close to the White House I left shortly before the event. When I arrived, people were beginning to gather around the Marquis de Lafayette Statue. As time passed, people filled up the Square to the point where we were standing shoulder to shoulder and I was unable to see beyond the sign in front of me. Even without anyone choreographing the protest, the crowd began to chant ‘no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here’, ‘hey hey, ho ho, the Muslim ban has got to go’, and my personal favourite ‘hands too small to build the wall’.

 

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An hour later and ten blocks away, there was a completely different kind of gathering. I left the protest to head over to Chinatown to check out the Chinese New Year parade. Hundreds of Taiwanese flags went hand in hand with the Stars and Stripes. Instead of protesting against divisive policies people were celebrating cultural diversity and unity. For me, the protest and the parade embody what is great about American culture.

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Prior to the inauguration, people were willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt as he had not yet had the opportunity to do anything of serious measure. One week in and people are beginning to have a different opinion. Trump has followed through on his promises and done exactly what he said he would do. It’s scary to think that this is only the beginning. However, based on the response he has so far received I wonder how far he will be able to go. Sunday’s experience proves that with every action he takes there will be an even greater reaction.

By audrey

While DC has been loads of fun, with the excitement of inauguration and protest marches still lingering in the air, I decided to make use of my long weekend to travel to Seattle for the Lunar New Year.

This would be my fourth time here, and yet it never ceases to amaze. Seattle is a seaport city and is the largest city in Washington state. People often get confused between Washington DC and Washington state — the former, also the nation's capital, is on the east coast while the latter is in the west. Upon exiting SeaTac International Airport, I was greeted by a rush of crisp, fresh air and the omnipresent rainy weather. Definitely Seattle, alright.

It's unexpected, but my favourite part of Seattle has got to be food. I religiously go to Pike Place market, a public market that overlooks the Elliott Bay waterfront. It is one of the oldest farmers' markets in America and you can always expect to find ultra fresh groceries and handmade crafts. My favorite shops would have to be the Piroshky Bakery and Ellenos yoghurt - 2 homegrown brands that are simply phenomenal in taste and price. For the former, I usually go for the salmon one, and the Marionberry flavoured yoghurt for the latter. Oh, and the market is also home to the very first Starbucks! (Heads up though, there's always a long line, even during off-peak hours).

 

 

It was Chinese New Year's Eve the day after I arrived. On this day, families get together to have a reunion dinner. Being the typical Chinese and lazy college students that we are, my friends and I decided to have hotpot, which is basically a huge pot of soup with raw stuff like fish cakes and meat thrown in and cooked to a boil. The post dinner food coma was just magnificent.

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On my last day, we drove 3 hours to Mount Baker. Alas, the picturesque view was short-lived as a snow storm hit soon after we started hiking. Thus, we didn't have a good picture of the summit. We were, however, lucky to be able to rent snow shoes on short notice as it was a popular weekend destination for the residents of Seattle, with its dual identity as a popular ski and hiking resort in the region. I honestly thought my ears/nose would fall off due to the biting wind, but thankfully, they were still intact when we trekked back to the car. Note to self: DEFINITELY BRING A BEANIE NEXT TIME.

 

Catching a flight back to DC tomorrow - in light of the recent immigration bans, I do hope my boarding process at SeaTac goes smoothly.

Adios!

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