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By yassineaourid

Do you remember my trip to New York when I said that it was the best week of my semester abroad? Well, I think we have a competitor.

This week, I have been through so many situations and experienced so many things about the American culture that I truly felt I was in the USA. This week, Americans celebrated one of the most important holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. As a foreigner, I didn't know much about this holiday since we don't celebrate it abroad. All I knew is that the whole family is gathered and everybody eats a lot. But first, let me tell you about how the week started.

On Monday, most of my classmates didn't come. In fact, they took advantage of the long holiday to go abroad or go see their families earlier. Classes were pretty tiny and I felt weird being with a professor and two or three other classmates. On Tuesday, no one came to the Yoga class, thus I had a private yoga session only for me. It was much harder than usual because all of my professor's focus was on me so I had to make sure to make some pretty decent poses. Also, it was an opportunity for me to get know my professor since we talked a lot about my experience and about my country.

Wednesday was off so I went golfing with an exchange student at the East Potomac Golf Course (where I usually go for my Golf class) and we played 9 holes. The weather was amazing and our swings were perfect.

The following day was the big day. For those who follow me for a while, you must know that I was going to have a great Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, a few weeks ago, I received an email from the President's Office saying that students staying on campus for the holiday were welcome to have Thanksgiving Dinner with president LeBlanc and his wife at F Street.

When I knocked on the door, I was expecting a housekeeper or someone working in the presidential residence to open the door. Against all the expectations, it was president LeBlanc who opened the door and welcomed me. I was surprised and fascinated by the interior beauty of the house. It was warm and several students were already there. I had a discussion with the president who asked me a few questions about my background and my origins. Also, I had a discussion with Mrs. LeBlanc, a wonderful woman that I admire. I loved having a conversation and sharing my thoughts with her. What can I tell you more about this dinner? Oh yeah! Food! The dinner was remarkably succulent. I have never tasted such great turkey and Mac and Cheese. Everything was delicious, we even had Kobe beef, a very tasty kind of beef from Japan. We ate marshmallows with the president who showed us how to make a particular type of sandwich made of marshmallows, dark chocolate, and biscuits.

Overall, the dinner was great. I had a really good time at LeBlanc's and I told myself I wish it was Thanksgiving every day. To finish in beauty, I had a beautiful picture with my Thanksgiving hosts and I'm very grateful to them.

 

I was sad that Thanksgiving was over but when we talk about Thanksgiving, we also talk about Black Friday. My wallet hated me on Black Friday because I made some great deals that day. I would never regret my purchases. All the big brands had 40% even 50% off!

In conclusion, I loved this week a lot. No work, a lot of fun, a lot of food what else do we need? Although the weather was very cold this weekend, I went with a friend to the Zoo Lights at the National Zoo on Saturday night and it was very beautiful!

 

See you next week

By angusmack101

Thanksgiving doesn't exist outside the US. That isn't too much of a revelation for most of us, but I've got to've had a half-dozen Americans ask me about it this week. Black Friday does exist—kinda. You could probably get up at noon in Australia and still make it to the sale for your OLED TV or cut-price shoes. Here ends my PSA.

All that said, Thanksgiving in the US was a great time. I shipped off to New Jersey for the holiday to spend it with my friend Fraser and his family, and I was more than happy to experience it for all it's worth. We joined another American family and did the whole dinner with them; It was a wholesome night of giving thanks, eating turkey & pumpkin pie, and dodging political conversations. There was one close call when someone brought up Brexit, but it was swiftly dismissed and a merry evening was had by all.

01 - thanksgiving

Wholesome family fun... No further questions.

The rest of the weekend was just as good. New Jersey isn't drastically different from the rest of the North East, so Fraser and I were initially at a loss for what to do in my limited time there. He suggested we take a half-hour drive to a nearby beach in the hopes it'd be empty for the holiday. We were quickly proven right, and after a bit of confusion walking through the cold and the wind it became apparent what we were really there for; an abandoned military base on the southern tip of the New York harbor.

02 - exterior

Please don't jump this waist-high fence. Please.

Despite it being obviously deserted, we clearly weren't the first ones to have wandered through the old complex. The pitifully-short fence had been trampled down in multiple places and the bolts on the doors had long-since been busted open. We steered clear of the buildings that warned of prosecution for trespassing, but what remained gave us plenty of opportunity to explore and escape the cold. The signage and the design seemed to indicate it was an old gun battery and fort for guarding the harbor, and the sturdy construction had kept it structurally sound in spite of intermittent hurricanes and a half-century of salt and rain. Stalactites of salt had formed in most of the cavernous rooms, and thankfully the litter and graffiti hadn't ruined the experience of scoping it all out.

03 - interior

Grave Encounters hmu

The remainder of the weekend was spent hanging out with Fraser's friends, playing old Playstation games, and generally avoiding the multiple assignments I've been given in the last week. We're coming up on the end of semester, but I'm confident I'll get through the finals unscathed and can make the most of what I've got left to experience at GW. That Bernie ticket I waited two hours for is finally going to come in useful this week. Stay tuned.

By yassineaourid

This week was particularly amazing. I have witnessed so many changes again in many aspects. First of all, I can tell that winter has officially arrived in DC. It was one of the most pleasant surprises of this semester. I woke up and I found this:

It's not a lot of snow but still, how could I miss this during one night? The weather is surprisingly strange in DC. Sunrise is around 7:00 am and sunset is around 5:00pm. We can enjoy only ten little hours of light.

With the end of the semester coming, there is much pressure in class because of the projects due and the exams. However, it was a pretty charming study week. In fact, I tried for the first time team group as our professors suggested it. I got to know people from my class which is huge (more than 80 people). After hard work at Gelman, it was time for us to enjoy a good lunch. We went to Founding Farmers and although it's only my second time, I can tell that food is incredibly amazing. I had a great steak with vegetables (sorry vegans).

Furthermore, because of the amount of study I had this week, a funny anecdote happened to me this week. I was in my yoga class and at the end of the class, we are supposed to stretch and relax. Our professor always puts some nice music in the background, so I completely slept for about twenty minutes, and when I woke up all my classmates were about to leave the classroom while I was sleeping on my mat comfortably. My professor said that I must have been really tired.

Also, I decided to work a lot this week because next week is a holiday week and I don't want to feel any pressure next week. I got rid of the chores of the week such as sending a package to my family in Morocco full of presents and gifts, going to the office hours...

I am really looking forward to experiencing Thanksgiving here in Washington at the president's house. I think it is going to be on of the great opportunities of this semester.

See you next week!

 

 

By angusmack101

It's become a recurring theme of my time in DC; plan for one experience and stumble into another. It happened last week with Catharsis on the Mall, and it happened this week outside the Anthem.

A friend and I had bought tickets to the Young The Giant gig on Friday night and decided to roll in to the wharf early to take advantage of a local happy hour. I'm not sure if it was the happy hour or the quality of the bar, but the place was packed when we arrived at around 6:45. After fighting our way to the front of the mass we'd bought drinks and my friend had struck up a conversation with a guy seated at the bar. I went over and joined the convo, where we quickly found out he was the president of the local yacht club on the wharf. Turns out he lives full-time on his boat, presumably splitting his time between the water and the club.

After a solid half-hour conversation the happy hour had ended and he offered to show us the club. Since it was outside the Anthem and the gig didn't start for another hour, we agreed. I also sensed the possibility of free drinks, so I didn't need much convincing. It was a bizarre turn-of-events for sure, and we were genuinely impressed with the setup this guy had going. He said his was one of the only yacht clubs in the country with an average age trending down, and it wasn't hard to see why when we saw the place and met the people. I spoke to one guy for 15 minutes about Australian politics before he revealed he was a congressman from Oregon. If the president is to be believed they have a bunch of members with high-profile jobs on Capitol Hill. By the time we left for the gig my friend was already trying to network her way into a membership. Is this one of the #onlyatGW experiences I keep hearing about?

Young The Giant was another highlight, and by the evenings-end we were exhausted. I managed to spend a couple hours at a party in E street, but eventually called it in to try and get a few hours before Saturday. I'd booked another hike with TRAiLS, and I wasn't looking forward to the 8 a.m. wakeup.

YTG - picture 1

One of those openers that's good enough to remember but not enough to look for more of their stuff

The wakeup on Saturday was definitely rough, but not enough to ruin the day. I'd loaned out another DSLR for the trip; I needed more footage for my next video production assignment. This ended up being a great decision as the town we went to had some of the best scenery I've ever seen. Historic Harpers Ferry indeed. We were lucky to catch it at the brief intersection of Fall & Winter.

HarpersFerry - picture 2

$15 well spent

I did end up getting a lot of great footage and pictures from the trip. At this point I'm seriously considering shelling out for a decent camera of my own, it might incentivize me to go out and do more of this kind of thing back in Aus.

The rest of my week wasn't eventful as those couple of days. I did go to another gig at The Black Cat on Thursday to see Alex G, which was great, but aside from that it was mostly receiving and submitting assignments. Finals are getting dangerously close—I suppose I'd better ramp up my efforts to do everything this city has to offer.

By angusmack101

It's been another good week for walking around.

The media department at GW allows students in set film classes to rent out equipment for free, which you might remember I took advantage of a few weeks ago to film my roommate Javier buying and eating the first bagel of his life.

Honestly hours of editing for this.

While it was definitely a good time, the film camera I used for that video was impractically large for my purposes this week, so I went for a more compact Nikon DSLR —a D3300 for any camera-nerd readers. After an hour-or-so of YouTube tutorials I was ready to take it out to test, and opted to do so on one of my late-night monument walks. I've been in the habit of walking around the mall at night once or twice a week, usually when I can't justify spending money, and I got a kick out of learning the tricks of the camera on the quiet streets of DC.

DC 01

Game for the more observant readers: spot the rat.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to go out and do it again on Saturday night. This was the surprising one for me, because I'd unknowingly walked right into the middle of a hippie festival camped out beside the Washington Monument. Literally camped out; they'd set up tents, art installations, a couple of dance floors, and a whole bunch of weed and LGBT flags. This was exactly the kind of weird stuff I enjoy finding, and a great opportunity to test my ability to snap pics in a bizarre low/high light environment. I even took the camera settings off auto for some of them.

hippies 02

If 8th-grade English taught me anything, it's that juxtaposition is the name of the game.

Of course after leaving my hippie comrades at about 3 a.m. I had to try and sleep, because I'd naively signed myself up for rock climbing with TRAiLS on Sunday—It was actually the reason I loaned the camera in the first place. I managed to get up on time to make the trip, and the climbing itself was a bunch of fun. After the trips I've taken with those guys this semester I've got to say that TRAiLS deserves every bit of funding they get; they never disappoint.

I've also got to conclude that, for a student, there's no need to use a bulky film camera when the college has the Nikons available. My one was easier to use, less than half the size and weight, and it could take decent photos as well as video. My professor never even mentioned it was an option, but I'd be willing to bet he won't be able to tell the difference from the footage. If you're at GW now or you're heading over for exchange, do yourself a favor and take a film class. The workload is manageable and you get access to a bunch of cool stuff for free. What's not to love about that?

By yassineaourid

"The end is right there!" Every professor said this phrase this week, thinking that it would make students happy... The idea of me leaving scares me. I just got used to this new way of life, this American lifestyle which helps you to define yourself, allows you to discover great opportunity and much more. Me leaving this and being happy? No!

Anyways, I can remember every detail of my last post which shows how fast time is flying. More changes have come to my new way of life. In fact, I believe there is a strong correlation between the amount of time left in the US and the amount of cash in my wallet. Therefore, I can say goodbye to my Vanilla Latte every morning. Instead, I started cooking nice omelets thanks to the $1,12 egg box at Trader Joe's. Also, I never knew why we associate students' diet to pasta, now I know. I make pasta every day. First, it was tedious because it took me a lot of time and the end result wasn't very good. Now, in my humble opinion, I'm a chef. Room 602 is now officially Ristorante Marrochino!

This week has been one of the most important weeks of this American political year. Although I don't understand much the American political landscape, I went to an event organized by Prof. Porter where we enjoyed discussing the outcomes of these elections while savoring some pizza slices. I knew that the Democrats had to win a lot of seats to take control of the Senate but it wasn't the case. In fact, it was a win-win situation for both parties. One of the good news of these elections is the number of women elected to the House of Representatives.

As I have a couple of exams next week, I went to several tutoring sessions at Gelman. It was particularly interesting to have someone else than the professor who re-explains the lecture in a way that I can understand. It's free, efficient and very helpful.

This weekend, I went shopping and I bought some gifts for my relatives. Finally, the good news of the week is that I am invited to Mr. Leblanc's house for Thanksgiving. I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving. Cant' wait to eat that turkey tight!

Also, what's going on with the weather? Anyways, I have my solution for it:

PS: 0°C= 32°F 🙂

 

By yassineaourid

After long weeks of hot and humid weather, the beautiful Washington D.C. is getting ready for the cold weather. It embellished with the colors of Fall, making the National Mall even more amazing. Everything turned to red, yellow and orange. In fact, most of the grocery stores are selling pumpkins because guess what? It is Halloween!

Being in the US for Halloween is an incredible and joyful opportunity. This special day represents so much for me since it is reminiscent of my childhood. I have always wished to ask candies to people and wearing scary costumes but unfortunately, in Morocco, it is not a big day. Halloween reminds me of those nights where we organized pyjama parties and we get scared the whole night, it was fun but we were 8. Being 20 for Halloween suggests another atmosphere. First of all, no more scary costumes. I was told that in the US, you can wear any costume as long as it's not your normal clothes. I saw doctors, soldiers, dogs... Mine was basic but I liked it. I bought it on the 31st and I was pretty nervous because I was afraid that I couldn't find any so I went to Crystal City in a shop called Total Fright where I got a Phantom of the Opera mask and a sort of skull necklace.

Wearing the Phantom of the Opera mask I could only go to Opera that night. It was an unforgettable night.

This week, I was very happy that I could finally make my own app! It was a hard work but it paid off. The app I made is nothing lucrative or exceptional. It is a tool for DC and Arlington inhabitants to use the metro easily. Basically, given two inputs, origin and destination, it tells you which line you should take, the station you should enter and leave. I am really using it sometimes but still don't know how to include ads in it...

As usual, I always take my Sundays easy. I always go to the Mall to observe nature and have conversations with my friends and family on the phone. It was a great Sunday this week, a calm and sunny day that makes us prepare for the big event of the year: the Midterms elections.

Until then enjoy these beautiful pictures of the Mall's trees and see you next week.

By angusmack101

Halloween 2.0 was a strange week for sure; it proved to me how valuable it can be to improvise and make an effort to seek out new experiences. Halloween on Wednesday went more-or-less as expected. The costumes and the partying were great fun, but it wasn't til a late decision to go to the Rocky Horror showing on Thursday that things became genuinely memorable.

People that've been doing Rocky for years know what it's all about, but I was going off hearsay and vague recollections of the movie when I asked some friends to go to the show. The $5 investment was low enough for us not to mind the ambiguity, and it's a good thing we didn't—It really is as weird as people say. My roommate Javier thought he was going into some run-of-the-mill amateur theater production, so he was even more surprised than I was when 20 students ran out in lingerie to dance on random members of the audience. I was unlucky enough to get picked out at the start. It's definitely something worth seeing for yourself: $5 well spent.

Friday was a second Halloween party, relatively similar to the first. I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the National Archives that afternoon, which was more memorable for the number of middle-schoolers wearing MAGA hats than it was for the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Of the 30-ish students in the museum, about 10 had some sort of Trump-brand headwear. One kid had gone the extra mile with a matching MAGA hoodie. If it weren't for the ban on photography in the Archives or the creepiness of photographing 12-year-olds I'd have snapped a pic to prove it.

01 spinner

Little did I realize I'd be more offended by the gift shop

Before arriving at the the Archives we were held up getting past the White House. The entire north wing of the Mall was closed off and a crowd had formed at the south end. When we asked what was happening we were shown a huge helicopter parked on the lawn outside the White House. Turns out it was Marine One; Trump was flying out that afternoon to rallies in some midterm battleground states. We hung around long enough to see him step inside and fly off from a distance. That's probably the closest I'll get to the president while I'm in the US—excluding that time his convoy held up my Uber for 5 minutes.

02 chopper

$10 says he brought golf clubs for the trip

The final big event for the week, and the one that exceeded my expectations the most, has to be the Sunday TRAiLS trip I took to go caving in West Virginia. I'd snagged the last spot in the van when I applied on Tuesday and was hesitant on whether it'd be worth the $45 and the 3-hour drive. It absolutely was.

03 cave

Wholesome GW activities

We were told to pack clothes we didn't mind losing in the mud, but I had no idea the sheer quantities of it we'd be exposed to. It makes sense when you think about it; caves are formed from water flow, but the way the rocks transitioned from damp to slick to grimey to pure mud was a lot more than I was expecting. Thankfully I'd chosen to go with a Walmart flannel and $15 jeans, anything else would've been painful to lose. By the time we got out 3 hours later we were all caked in it. The tiny gaps in the rocks you have to get through down there don't allow for being precious with your clothes. You either slide along your stomach and brace your ass against muddy walls for support, or you don't get to go deeper. 

04 tight gap

Not the tightest gap we squeezed through, but the best facial expression

By angusmack101

Bernie Sanders' book tour is coming through GW next month, and the news of free tickets brought students out in droves. The box office was set to open at 12:00 on Thursday last week, but when my roommate and I arrived at 10:40 there were already over 100 people there. By noon there were closer to 1000. It's not hard to see why people are so enthusiastic about it here, my media classes are understandably packed with political discussions and the I've met several people involved with explicitly or tangentially political associations.

In my first blog post this semester I said that I was looking for exciting and unique experiences from DC, and after two months I'm confident in saying that GW has delivered. While I still think Hasan Minhaj underperformed as a comedian, I can't fault his drive to send a message. He filled a basketball arena with close to 1000 students and kept them engaged through what was essentially an hour-long anti-Trump pro-refugee lecture. A free ticket to Bernie was well worth the two hour wait for me, I look forward to writing about it.

01 fall

Damn socialists at it again

This week has also been my first real experience of Halloween. Most Americans don't know this, but Halloween basically doesn't exist for most of the world. At home in Australia there might be a handful of parties and a few kids trick-or-treating each year, but we're talking tiny numbers. It's not a national holiday by any stretch; seeing a carved pumpkin would be a bizarre novelty to most Aussies.

A handful of exchange leaders took charge and organised some stuff at 1959 last weekend. It was my first taste of a Halloween being taken seriously, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. Most of the exchange students there hadn't ever experienced it before either, so it did take a while for us to work out what the deal was. The smell of freshly-carved pumpkin is a strange thing to the uninitiated.

02 pumpkin

Solid first attempt

I'm looking forward to more Halloween fun this week. I've still got a bunch of assignments to soldier through, but I'm confident that they won't stop me getting the cultural experience I came here for. Still have to wait almost a month for Bernie though.

By yassineaourid

This is it, fall arrived. The nice weather we knew when we came here is gone now. I can't realize how fast time is flying, and I can't believe that I'm leaving the US in almost two months. It's time to review what I did so far and to make a quick assessment of my experience abroad.

From my window, I can see the leaves of the trees turning from green to a kind of yellow. But leaves aren't the only one who changed. In fact, since I am here, I noticed that a lot of things changed in my way of life. I think that living in the heart of the nation's capital and going from time to time to NYC, makes you become "American" quicker than living in any other American city. If we talk about food, I can say that food here really changed me, literally. I gained 4 pounds since I came here. Well, it's sort of understandable when you have Chick-Fil-A on campus and a Subway downstairs. Also, I have a new habit now, I can't go to class without a Vanilla Latte in my hands. Back in Morocco, I used to drink only strong coffees but here... I got Starbucksized.

From the study perspective, I am very happy that I took such great courses. On the first hand, my psychology class is really interesting and fascinating. Although the exams are not always easy, the content of the chapters allows me, now, to understand better my behavior and some of my actions. On the other hand, my computer science class, a more pragmatic approach, is by far my best class here. I get along with my classmates and my superb professor. A good thing about American people and mentality, that I noticed especially in NYC, is that they hate wasting time. They are always to the point. Even when they speak, their phrases are a sequence of shortcuts, and they love approximations. "I was like...", "sort of", "kind of", "for some reasons", "a bunch of stuff" How much is a bunch? What's a stuff? I don't know... (Gad El Maleh, American Dream)

In a nutshell, my experience is not done yet, and yet, I have learned so many things, made so many acquaintances and seen great things. I'm looking forward to knowing more about the American culture especially with the upcoming events (Halloween, the Midterms, Thanksgiving...)

P.S: Don't be surprised if I write another post about NYC, we never get tired of this city...

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